Chapter 32:

32: (Dis)Illusion

I was Born the Unloved Twin

It's an array.Bookmark here

The light reflects off at different parts, different angles. which makes absolutely no sense. How is it bouncing around like that? It's not that the smoke source is moving or anything.Bookmark here

At least that's what I can make sense of from my observations Bookmark here

We just don't operate much by sense anymore, not in this world. But that doesn't mean it's all hocus pocus with no rules. Bookmark here

NoBookmark here

Magic has properties and structure, it has rules, just like nature does. Bookmark here

Just because I don't possess the gift doesn't mean I don't know that much. Those rules vary per person according to their natural 'quirks' but it's all based on something and built up.Bookmark here

When I was watching Lilyanne first actively learning how to control hers, it was an absolute disaster. For years I had front row seats to the mess that were her magic lessons. Partly because I had no choice living with her, partly because I rearranged my own schedule to sideline. Watching in hopes of picking something up for my own, as if somehow I had magic that just needed activating. Yeah no, didn't work out.Bookmark here

Informative but a waste of time for the me of then, like attending a lecture to a class and major you're not even in.Bookmark here

You pick up a few things though.Bookmark here

At the very least it made me a lot less starry eyed towards magic, which is often the case towards the masses and those who don't possess it in any form. It's fantastical but it's not a baseless miracle, again there are rules and structures in accordance with each person's elements. Bookmark here

The formulaic methods, ones that taught and required the practiced ratio control of a chemist or perhaps a patisserie, just did not work out for her. Not all. Not unless you count a lot of explosions and screaming. Bookmark here

From what she explained to me previously it was like an overflow. Of what I don't know, maybe what constitutes as mana? Whatever it was or consisted of, her's was overflowing and overproducing all the time. Bookmark here

These were the terribly human early to middle years of the renowned holy maiden Lilyanne. Bookmark here

Ah great front row seats those years. Occasionally I even acted as collateral damage. Let's never do that again.Bookmark here

After a long time, my sister finally learned how to make her particular magic flow like art. The potential world her canvas using her mana as the paint. Bookmark here

Which I have to say is entirely unfair even by the standards of this world.Bookmark here

Everyone else operates according to some semblance of sense. You get a certain amount of mana, a certain element of the property unique to you. Then you figure out what to do with it, your own careful formula if you don't have an instructor to guide you. Of course with magic user rare as they are, anyone who displays such potential would be swiped right up by a wealthy patron or three. Bookmark here

What I'm saying is my little sister is a hateful cheat, a true protagonist character with a golden halo.Bookmark here

Formulas? Ratios? Conversion Principle? Law of equivalent exchange? Bookmark here

Nope! Bookmark here

Just be a princess character! Sing and paint all day while magical things just happen! Works for Lilyanne!Bookmark here

Not including the abnormality that is a heroine's halo, magic operates much like anything else does in nature. Honey bees build in combs, leaves from plants operate in an almost electrical energy cycle, snowflakes form from the shape of water molecules and other contacts. Bookmark here

Everything has a pattern, no matter how irregular.Bookmark here

That's why I'm trying to figure out the pattern to this illusion array by watching the change of light. I've been thinking about it, staring at it during the night before it went out. It looks normal during the plain night but when the sun hits something is off. Bookmark here

I know there is one, a pattern. Bookmark here

Only then can I even attempt to break it, more likely though I'd better find a way to work around it. Bookmark here

It reminds me of a mirror house. Not a carnival funhouse filled with small ones but those artsy buildings and homes that are coated in a reflective substance. Not glass, mirrors, just completely covered in mirrors on the outside. It's physically there but it reflects everything around it. Bookmark here

They were most beautiful when placed somewhere surrounded by wide open space, such as a desert or a forest such as this one. You could just walk by without ever noticing, you would just think it's part of the scenery. Bookmark here

Which may be what's happening here.Bookmark here

Of course, this is much trickier than a mirror house. Bookmark here

I never reach it because I already did, and before I know it I've passed it. There's something going on here that's throwing off my sense of direction, not just mine but anyone that would come near. Bookmark here

How interesting!Bookmark here

I've survived another night in these woods and supposedly have one more to go if grampa's note is to be believed. That's another day and night to figure this out. Worst case scenario I just hold out till I'm tracked and picked up. A bit disappointing to have an unsolved mystery but it's no skin off my back. Bookmark here

I take my time this morning to wake up and watch the sunrise. Bookmark here

This may be the first time I'm actually seeing it in this world, sleeping taking priority each dawn. It's bigger, brighter, whiter than the sunrises I've known.Bookmark here

I don't know what to make of it. Wrong size and shade aside it's a very normal looking single sun. If I let myself I could almost imagine it as the same sun and sky from home, just almost.Bookmark here

Such thoughts shouldn't distract me from the mission on hand. Bookmark here

The illusion/array is a trick on the senses especially the eyes. Only during the moving light of sunset and sunrise does it flicker and seem to move in the wrong spots. Bookmark here

So now what?Bookmark here

Do I just retrace my steps? knock on on every rock and tree and ask if anyone's home? Yes, I can see that being veeeeery effective.Bookmark here

I can, however, determine the general area of whatever is hidden in the mirage thing. Staying close around would be my bet. I don't mind, it could just be a relaxed day making this area my camp.Bookmark here

The moment I start to relax and take it easy though it when my luck on avoiding trouble runs out, and it has nothing to do with any illusions.Bookmark here

I was anticipating a possible minor beast encounter, an accident or fall that would require the use of the healing potions, something like that. Something more predictable but a lot less embarrassing than being stuck.Bookmark here

No really, I'm stuck on the tree. Not in, though that technically is correct too. Bookmark here

It's not that I can't 'climb' down, there's nothing wrong with my climbing skills. I'd perfectly capable if this were a normal basic tree.Bookmark here

I didn't notice anything amiss when I climbed up last night, it's a large tree with sturdy branches. A perfectly acceptable tree house spot. It's just...Bookmark here

....Just where did all this sap come from?!?!Bookmark here

It's a sticky mess!Bookmark here

Throughout the night I was kept relatively safe and dry in my nest. But when I tried to start my day after sunrise I've encountered a gooey sticky problem. In my carelessness, I sat up and rested my head against the tree...Bookmark here

...I'm stuck, literally stuck.Bookmark here

My downy little curls that have finally grown past my shoulders are now tangled and embedded into the tree sap. Help!Bookmark here

The instinctual reaction of panicking and pulling only makes it worse of course. Ack it hurts, my little head is tightly trapped here. I now understand the plight of insects and small creatures preserved in fossilized amber. Bookmark here

Water doesn't help.Bookmark here

I tried pouring out the contents of my flask but it just slides right off. The viscosity of the sap is just too much and all it does is drench me from the back of my head to my butt. Bookmark here

And so, it is to much regret that I must act on the only option left available to me. The only path to freedom.Bookmark here

Cutting hair with a tooth-blade is a long and dull process. Not how I pictured my day would start. Bookmark here

The angle is also awkward while my arms are stubby and short. Wasn't cutting your hair outside with a blade supposed to be cooler, more dramatic? It always looked epic and emotionally charged in movies and shows. This is....well it's real life I guess. Bookmark here

Maybe I'm just not meant to be a cool heroine character with a dramatic haircut and character development scene, shame. Bookmark here

In the end, it's a wet sad mess, maybe just as messy as the tree that now holds my hair as a souvenir. My head is an uneven bird nest with the back completely cropped, and even then there's still bits of sticky stuff here and there. Bookmark here

Tragic looks aside, I'm still trapped in a sticky tree. Unlike hair, I can't just cut off my hands and feet if I get stuck in the thick sap.Bookmark here

As I see it the only way down is the most direct route.Bookmark here

Emptying my nest and the inter-dimensional bag of every single leaf and cushion like substance, a sizable little mountain of leaves appeared directly on the ground below me. Hopefully, it's enough. The only thing left to do now is jump.Bookmark here

Here's to survival!!!!Bookmark here

Oooopmf!Bookmark here

....OwBookmark here

I'm ok but ow, no serious injuries though I can't seem to find my right slipper. I'm just a little banged up. It's nothing I want to waste limited a healing potion on. Let's avoid doing that again till I'm at least 3 or something. Bookmark here

My walking speed feels slower but I'm not sure. Today I don't really have a destination in mind since I'm already here. If I try to find the smoke source again I'll just go in circles. Is it odd to just wander the area? Just go in blind, expecting nothing?Bookmark here

You can't be disappointed if you expect nothing in the first place.Bookmark here

And if something does happen then it's a pleasant surprise. Bookmark here

I'm just thinking about the woods, that'sit. It doesn't mean anything deeper than that. Funny how your thoughts wander when you're alone when you're the only voice you can hear for days. Bookmark here

I don't like the direction some of my thoughts go, I don't like the whole abandoned in the woods thing in general. But it's peaceful out here. I don't have to pretend out here.Bookmark here

A chilly morning breeze blows and I shiver and sneeze at it. Bookmark here

On second thought maybe I should have a healing potion, just in case. I just can't afford to be sick and injured out here, it's too risky.Bookmark here

Retrieving a small bottle, no bigger than a little jam jar, I pop the cap and give it a curious sniff. It's not a particularly horrible taste but the funky texture is gag inducing to me. Bleck! Can't we do something about these things, aren't these the most common grade potions?Bookmark here

I can feel it slowly, mildly, warm through my shivering body. More than that though I can begin to feel the throbbing aches, from the fall, that would later form bruises slowly fade away. Magic is a really amazing thing, even if it tastes gross, the higher the level the grosser it gets.Bookmark here

"So they never improved the formula..."Bookmark here

"AH!!!"Bookmark here

In shock I spin around, dropping and spilling the half finished vial.Bookmark here

In the morning light leaned a forest spirit, lazy against the tree. Dressed in muted colors and a flowing green cloak he seemed to glow. His golden light hair was pinned back elegantly, his face made of the finest carved marble, his solid bit lithe figure tall, carried like a dancer's. Bookmark here

This kind of beauty I have only seen once before in passing, never directly, many years ago. A rush of astonishment, of awe that lingered from a previous lifetime, washes over me. I gasp.Bookmark here

"...It's you."Bookmark here

"So you can see me, funny."Bookmark here

The only expression to be seen was the slight rise in his eyebrows. Was I not meant to see him? How could I not when he's standing right there, absolutely glowing and divine. But in a way I understand, what a waste for mere mortal eyes to look upon such a celestial being.Bookmark here

The mysterious beauty makes no motion or further contact so it's up to me to keep up. But it's hard to speak in his presence. Bookmark here

"Achoo! Ah achoo!"Bookmark here

And the moment is ruined, my own lingering chill and sneezes break the mood. What a lousy ineffective healing potion! I can even feel my nose beginning to run ew ew ew. Oh, I just can't have anything nice, can I?Bookmark here

"Shit."Bookmark here

Curses shouldn't sound so good on such a pretty face but it somehow suits him.Bookmark here

"Pardon my intrusion, sniff, I'm lost and had no idea the esteemed mage Gable dwelled here. Forgive me. "Bookmark here

Though I'm a wet leafy mess of a child, I still make my best efforts to curtsy in a proper manner. If it weren't for the shock I'd find my state very unpleasant and embarrassing.Bookmark here

"Ah ah achoo!"Bookmark here

Ugh...never mind, I am embarrassed after all and make to keep my head low.Bookmark here

"....Were you sent?"Bookmark here

"Sniff, no. No one sent me, I was left here."Bookmark here

"People don't wander in this far, let alone a child such as yourself. Pray tell little one, how do you know of my name if you were not sent?"Bookmark here

Is it nerves of the beginning of a cold that tightens my throat and makes my voice scratchy? Bookmark here

"I was truly left here with no direction esteemed sir. However, my grandfather speaks of you fondly, and very often even -."Bookmark here

"Your grandfather- well fucking shit, of course, it has to do with him."Bookmark here

The beautiful man runs a pale hand, piano hands I note, through his silky hair in a frustrated manner. He looks up in the distance, an unpleasant expression marring his otherwise pristine face. He looks as if he's deciding over something painful, it's a look that often accompanies those who deal with the crazy man called my grampa.Bookmark here

Oh good, he recognized grampa's handiwork so quickly. Saves me time and effort explaining myself further. Bookmark here

SniffBookmark here

Would it be rude to blow my nose any time soon? I really do need to.Bookmark here

"...God damn it Ronal- shit fuck-."Bookmark here

He takes a long deep breathe and reigns his grimace back before turning his attention back to examine my sorry figure. I suspect that this man suffers a lot of near brain aneurysms because of grampa. Very understandable.Bookmark here

Another unconscious sniffle from me and another long sigh for him.Bookmark here

" God, what is he thinking, shit a kid, shit can't, a kid....Alright alright, come on here little one, let's go get you warmed up. Those level potions don't do sh- anything at all on viral illnesses."Bookmark here

Eh? I can come over and follow him? Before I could will my legs to do anything, his long legs swiftly make his way over to my spot. In a fluid motion, I'm wrapped in a soft brown scarf, lopped almost endlessly around my small figure. Bookmark here

He's much taller than my grampa so when he lifts me it's as if I'm back up in a tree, the view so high from up here. His mumbled complaints muffled by the scarf but since I'm so close this voice still carries. Bookmark here

"By the goddess what is he thinking, god he doesn't even think I swear...when I get my hands on him. Shit can't swear in front of a kid."Bookmark here

This beautiful stranger is no stranger at all. This is the great mage, the infamous reclusive hermit, biological brother to the Royal Northern Queen, uncle to my dreaded fiancé, and most importantly of all, the oldest and closest friend to the great Hero Roland. Bookmark here

It's nice to finally meet you Sir Gable!Bookmark here

"ah achoo!"Bookmark here

The circumstance could definitely be better though. Bookmark here

----Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.