I was Born the Unloved Twin
It's an array.
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.
At least that's what I can make sense of from my observations
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.
Magic has properties and structure, it has rules, just like nature does.
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.
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.
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.
You pick up a few things though.
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.
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.
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.
These were the terribly human early to middle years of the renowned holy maiden Lilyanne.
Ah great front row seats those years. Occasionally I even acted as collateral damage. Let's never do that again.
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.
Which I have to say is entirely unfair even by the standards of this world.
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.
What I'm saying is my little sister is a hateful cheat, a true protagonist character with a golden halo.
Formulas? Ratios? Conversion Principle? Law of equivalent exchange?
Just be a princess character! Sing and paint all day while magical things just happen! Works for Lilyanne!
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.
Everything has a pattern, no matter how irregular.
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.
I know there is one, a pattern.
Only then can I even attempt to break it, more likely though I'd better find a way to work around it.
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.
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.
Which may be what's happening here.
Of course, this is much trickier than a mirror house.
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.
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.
I take my time this morning to wake up and watch the sunrise.
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.
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.
Such thoughts shouldn't distract me from the mission on hand.
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.
So now what?
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.
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.
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.
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.
No really, I'm stuck on the tree. Not in, though that technically is correct too.
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.
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...
....Just where did all this sap come from?!?!
It's a sticky mess!
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...
...I'm stuck, literally stuck.
My downy little curls that have finally grown past my shoulders are now tangled and embedded into the tree sap. Help!
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.
Water doesn't help.
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.
And so, it is to much regret that I must act on the only option left available to me. The only path to freedom.
Cutting hair with a tooth-blade is a long and dull process. Not how I pictured my day would start.
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.
Maybe I'm just not meant to be a cool heroine character with a dramatic haircut and character development scene, shame.
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.
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.
As I see it the only way down is the most direct route.
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.
Here's to survival!!!!
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.
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?
You can't be disappointed if you expect nothing in the first place.
And if something does happen then it's a pleasant surprise.
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.
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.
A chilly morning breeze blows and I shiver and sneeze at it.
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.
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?
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.
"So they never improved the formula..."
In shock I spin around, dropping and spilling the half finished vial.
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.
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.
"So you can see me, funny."
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.
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.
"Achoo! Ah achoo!"
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?
Curses shouldn't sound so good on such a pretty face but it somehow suits him.
"Pardon my intrusion, sniff, I'm lost and had no idea the esteemed mage Gable dwelled here. Forgive me. "
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.
"Ah ah achoo!"
Ugh...never mind, I am embarrassed after all and make to keep my head low.
"....Were you sent?"
"Sniff, no. No one sent me, I was left 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?"
Is it nerves of the beginning of a cold that tightens my throat and makes my voice scratchy?
"I was truly left here with no direction esteemed sir. However, my grandfather speaks of you fondly, and very often even -."
"Your grandfather- well fucking shit, of course, it has to do with him."
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.
Oh good, he recognized grampa's handiwork so quickly. Saves me time and effort explaining myself further.
Would it be rude to blow my nose any time soon? I really do need to.
"...God damn it Ronal- shit fuck-."
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.
Another unconscious sniffle from me and another long sigh for him.
" 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."
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.
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.
"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."
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.
It's nice to finally meet you Sir Gable!
The circumstance could definitely be better though.