I was Born the Unloved Twin
As Gable explains the property of his rock, the three of us children circled around him in the library, I feel like facepalming myself.
Well, that was obvious, certain materials have the potential to store magic so that even common non-magical people can use them. They can be used to form a power generator to a game like an amulet for defense.
Smaller stones and gems are quite popular among merchants and nobility, ranging from a reasonable to an absurd price depending on the quality and duration of magic charged. Being a very wealthy but non magically inclined person, Rosalia purchased many of these items in the last life.
But of course, they're just tools and need to be paired smartly to be of use. They're also not infallible despite being 'magic'. The majority of popular stones around noble circles were more for show than anything, flashy displays of play magic. Great for impressing the masses but not much use practically.
Armor and defense stones, as useful as they are, could only last so long, just like regular armor.
Against brute force and sharply enhanced weaponry, even those will wear away if attacked enough. I wonder how many times I was stabbed at my death? I lost count about after 30 something, including the sword wounds.
I could have had a much quicker death if I didn't wear any amulets but hey they definitely did the job in upping my 'defense'.
Back on the matter of stones, I just never saw one of that size, nor looking so crude. Usually, they're small polished gems to be inlaid into wearable jewelry. How much would something that large cost?
Something of that scale would be great for household or structure uses. It could even replicate modern electricity and convenient tools. Something also tells me grampa has a good amount used to upkeep his technically advanced camps.
Gable says he uses this particular one to keep his 'ice house' and forest cool to the proper temperature for those plants to survive. Makes sense.
He probably also has plenty of those in stock, for research purposes. Once in a while, depending on his travels, he needs to get certain stones recharged. They can be naturally recharged if left in the correct element for a long enough amount of time, in an area of high magical mana concentration, or manually recharged by a compatible magic user.
Lo and behold guess who is a compatible ice user here?
Sometimes answers are just obvious. Too obvious.
Why the hell didn't we figure out Lukas was essentially a baby Jack Frost earlier?
Snowy hair, pale skin, too monstrously strong to be a normal child. Of course, he's one of the minorities of magic users in this world, of course, it was be related to ice and snow. It's so obvious it might as well be on a color-coded children's show. How did I not notice something so obvious?
To be fair the boy had no idea he possessed the gift either. Right now he's bouncing up in down and absolute abandon.
"This is going to be so damn awesome!"
"Language" chided Gable immediately.
Which is absolutely rich coming from Gable. He really does try around me but his natural state is rather a colorful language. I repeatedly tell him it's alright and how I'm mentally very much an adult but that just gets me that tired look you give kids when they say they're grown.
Reincarnation or not I feel as if Gable really does see me on the same level as an actual child, not much better than the kids here. At most, it's like I'm the big kid who can be trusted to watch over the younger ones.
In the not so distant background, grampa is an annoyingly comfortable picture in his handmade sweater and fuzzy socks. Grease and leftover quiche crumbs cover his face as he loudly munches his food. He should look nothing like the intimidating 'Lord commander' and hero figure that he is but the boys seem used to such sights. Their guard is much more relaxed with him in the room.
"Hey hey I get a promotion raise now right? Do I get to go out on more raids? Oh oh oh do I get a magic weapon?! What about a-"
"How about you slow down a bit and learn a little more about what your magic entails first."
"That will be fine, I'll get it in no time."
Boasted Lukas, his excitement overflowing. I've grown to figure out he's somewhat of a naturally arrogant child but with the actual ability to back it up. In this case, I don't blame him for his overexcitement, discovering a gift is not only a great honor in this world but it's essentially a winning lottery ticket in life.
To anyone striving to be a hero or gain a powerful name, a magical gift is the best shortcut.
Gable's lip twitches up at that, it's an almost fond look. But he schools himself to an expression that I know he makes when he's not really annoyed. It's a face I often see when he's talking about grampa.
"We'll see about that kid. How about you try using your powers without the aid of this stone here."
"Eh, I said I'll get it, not that I know how to right now."
He makes a casual shrug, hands high in the air and waves them around with nothing happening. Right, ice powers, no idea how to use them. No shame, very epic. But Amar, ever the cheerleader is here to support, kind of.
"It's amazing Lukas, ahhh how nice, I want a gift too."
"Same here." I can't help but relate.
"Magic is already rare but ice? How many people can do that? Isn't that too nice?"
"It's not fair."
"Guys you're supposed to praise me, not be crying like babies!"
Watching this face is really too hateful., it makes onlookers feel like complaining even more. What more praise do you need? You won the lottery, you got magic! My fellow ungifted comrade vocalizes what I'm feeling and lets out a frustrated cry.
"Ahhh it's really not fair!"
"Right?! Such a nice power. Why him?
"He's a sword wielder too, what good is snow powers? Do you make ice swords with that?"
"And he gets super mad so easily, isn't ice supposed to keep cool?
"Oh you're right, when he gets mad wouldn't the ice just melt? What if it's a hot climate place? Can he use water?"
"I don't know if it works like that."
"Yeah, I don't see it.
"What a waste."
"Oi! Why are you two ganging up on me!?!"
Team no magic here. Earlier Amar and I had taken huddling away from a certain someone's hyperactive victory dance. We're bonding over our depression and disappointment in this life. Lukas can afford to take this much teasing. We need to vent our complaints here. We want to be cool magic wielders too!
"Don't worry, magic isn't everything. There are lots of people with powers who are still weaklings! Absolutely useless!"
Grampa pats both of us on the head with his version of comforting. Great job gramps, now we feel even worse. Us normal people are even below these useless magic users.
I'm happy for Lukas and all and I'm sure Amar is even more excited for him but childish envy is definitely running through us right now. Instead of pats I'd rather have magic and cheat powers. Even if it's a minor ability, it's better than having nothing. Please oh great gods or goddesses of this world, pretty please.
"Heh, useless huh? Not me, I'll show everyone, I'm going to master this ice and be a better hero than you in no time flat!"
Exclaimed Lukas, finger pointing straight to grampa in an overly dramatic pose. What an innocent child... watching Lukas just makes me even more depressed though, why him?
"It's not fair." sighs Amar once again.
Grampa just keeps smiling encouragingly while patting our heads. So depressing, I can't even put up a fight. Just comfort me more as I cry internally.
"Don't worry, magic or no magic your fate depends on yourself. Besides there's plenty of time for you two to present."
"That's nice sir but how would we even know in the first place. You either have it or you don't."
I agree with my new brother in arms. Life either gives you nice cards or not. Sure there's no real average age of magical presentation. Once in awhile an adult discovers their hidden talents and makes a turn for their lives. But what are the chances of us getting powers if we didn't have them right from the start?
I don't know about Amar but I sure didn't have anything last time around.
"Just because you haven't figured it out yet doesn't mean it's not there." says grampa a little teasingly. His warm palm feels nice ruffling through my now short hair.
"Wait Lord commander, I'm the one that presented. I want a pat on the head too!" cries Lukas.
Haha no, this is the consolation corner. You lost your whining privilege when you got powers. Go make some snowfall or something,
With a clap of his hands and a cough, Gable silences the room. There may be magic involved or we just all see him as the pack leader of the room....Both, it's probably both.
"In all seriousness, as a potential elemental mage, you do need to figure out and practice your gifts. It must not be revealed before you are prepared to defend yourself. At this time there are no ice users native to this continent- and no this is not necessarily a good thing. You must be very careful about who knows. "
The mood dampers a bit, while Lukas is still very excited he's not an unintelligent child. I don't know everyone's backstories but it's enough that everyone all understands, when you have something of worth there are always others who will want to benefit. And they don't always have your best interest in mind.
"Yeah yeah I get it, the world isn't ready for my awesomeness yet! Not like I know many people to tell anyways. "
Behind his bravado, Lukas rightfully sounds a little bit shaken. Amar pats his shoulder in a show of support and I nod along. As cool as magic is, too good of a thing does mean trouble.
"I suppose that's one way of looking at it. But you should be safe in the current troop placement," says Gable, with grampa confirming.
"Right, the camp is a good place as any for a baby presenting mage. It probably should stay under wraps for a while, your practice would have to be kept a secret. Ah but what a shame we don't an elemental ice master to help guide you."
"Of course I am! It's ok I'll learn it anyways"
"That makes sense, Lukas you really can't go blabbing."
The boys nod in agreement like good little students. They're even more obedient in front of grampa, hanging on to his every word even when they're talking among themselves. They're so soft, fluffy and sparkly eyed around him, it makes them look even more like needy little kittens.
They're so deceptively cute!
"Really what a shame, if only we had a specialized mage around to guide you."
Grampa whines quite exaggeratedly, take a hold of the boys as if they really were small animals. Does he do this to every kid? This really isn't how you hold small humans!
With those gross puppy dog eyes he turns to Gable, lifting a gleeful Lukas up.
"With no ice masters around, if only we had another master. Someone really smart with lots of research. Someone super smart and experienced with even more Northern styles of magic. If only we had a a-"
"Ronald. Shut up."
But he pulls an even more intense puppy eye, holding up the boy.
Oh that's his plan! By this point we all catch on, Amar exchanging excited looks with Lukas. It would be another whole lottery winning chance to study under the mage Gable. I lucked out in the time I've spent here. Being around Gable was like being a human sponge, even without being a disciple you just learn stuff around him.
It does make sense though, even if there are no know ice users on this continent the North is more familiar with such styles of magic. Since Gable is a pure northerner from the royal line, he must know many helpful things in regards to this. I wouldn't put it past Gable if he even knew ice masters from the polar isles.
Does that mean Lukas gets to live with Gable for awhile? Really no fair, I want this spot!
The boys know it's not their place to speak but there's anxiousness in their faces. Whatever cold front Gable puts up it's hard to not be moved by such pitiful little faces. I am even more convinced in the power of cuteness.
*sigh* "We'll talk about this at a later time, it's getting late Ronald, you need to at least go update your people."
"Aww Gable are you're kicking us out already?"
"....Just go. A few of your troop members outside are already lost and another couple are hunting something they shouldn't, for their safety, not the beasts. "
"Aww fine, I'm going."
My grampa makes a show to slowly dragging himself up, like a child being told to do chores. The real problem is that on the way he gathers all three of us in his arms. He carries us off as if he really was a child and we were the stuffed toys to be put away.
There's plenty of space given that we're all so small but this is really not the way to hold children! What makes it even worse is that I'm squished in the middle. Get me out!
"Drop the kids"
"Just leave them. It's safer if they stay here for the night."
Oddly Grampa has no smart retort back. Instead, he raises an eyebrow, grin wide and a little maniacal. Is this another inside joke?
There's no time to consider it further since a certain someone quite literally dropped me, dropped all of us.
Ack! Oww , ok definitely still in the middle. I am not a fan of all these Rosalia sandwiches!
Before I can untangle myself from too many little legs and Amar's elbow, Gable rights us all up with his levitation.
The front door slams from hallways away and I assume grampa has been just as 'magiced', but away. Zoom.
"Alright then, time to get ready for bed you lot."
Even without grampa around the boys have relaxed around Gable considerably compared to earlier.
"But it's too early to go to sleep yet."
"....what times do you two usually sleep?"
"When we get sleepy."
Looking at these tomcat children Gable just shakes his head and mutters something under his breath. I think I heard Grampa's name being cursed in regards to bad parenting.
"Alright, bath time it is then. Try not to break anything."
In snap they're swept away down the stairs to where I know the nice bathroom is, towels flying after them.
That must be how Gable booted grampa.
I dust myself off and take a seat among the cushions, pulling out my little craft basket. A half-complete knitting project sticks out from it.
"It's almost time for me to head back home right? Can I keep some of the clothes we've made?"
"Of course, I don't see much use keeping that size for myself."
Gable takes a seat in his armchair, looking tall and elegant as ever, especially from my height. Personally I'm going to miss this, Gable's is my safe place. Both the hobbit house and the man himself. But I knew I couldn't really stay here forever. I have things to do back home, money to make and engagements to break.
It's a different story for another magically inclined kid.
"Are you going to accept Lukas as a disciple? He's really just so lucky. "
Both the magic and the staying with Gable part. The man in question stares off into the distance before carefully regarding me, speaking up.
"Rosa, I have something you ask you."
"Hmm what is it?"
"Rosalia...what do you think about that child?."
"Lukas? He talks too much."
Gable gives me a hint of a laughing snort at that.
"No really, he's loud and always talking or bragging...but he's a pretty good kid. I just think he feels really lonely a lot. Like he has to fill in the silence, even if it's just with his own voice."
I'm not a real child but being a being in-between. with an adult brain but a child's life experiences, this sort of thing was just obvious to me. A mysterious smile makes it way across Gable's face. Wah too handsome! This is bad for my heart.
"Funny, your little friend said the same thing."
Sorry, what did you say? I was busy trying to reboot my brain.
"Amar, he also said that Lukas was a very lonely person. That he hates being lonely and is always trying to get attention from others, even if it means getting into trouble. "
"Huh, when did you talk to Amar?"
I nod in understanding. That's not too different from Rosalia's own background. Even if it means being hated, isn't that better than being ignored, as if you don't exist? What a strange child, what sort of life must one have had to become this way so young?
An itch called curiosity makes it way to the forefront of my mind. A memory of something I shouldn't have heard not so long ago plays. That awkward talk between Lukas and Amar in the woods that day, the strange attachment he has to the stupid prince, it's all but pushpin points on a map too broad to connect.
"Gable...I don't want to pry but...why are you asking so much about him?"
Sometimes silence itself in an answer. He doesn't stop or scold me from my possibly intrusive question. He doesn't doubt my intelligence either. I can piece something together but it doesn't make sense, at least not yet.
"Lukas is stupid sometimes. He's awfully strange around that fiancee of mine...I don't like the stupid prince very much but he's your nephew, right? The northern queen is your younger sister, at least according to genealogy records."
"You're a smart girl Rosalia."
"At first I thought he was another climber, trying to get close to someone powerful. But he's....he's too nice. He's nice and he's happy and it's...it's going to hurt him right? Amar said it's going to hurt him and he's right isn't he?"
"You're both smart."
Lukas is a rather pretty child, I now notice. After a proper wash, anyone can see he's a very pretty child with a tall straight nose and gray blue eyes, not too dissimilar to Gable's own looks . Sometimes his haughty face annoys me irrationally, bits and pieces or it irks me in a way that I finally realize reminds me of a certain stupid prince.
But that's ridiculous, the king and queen only ever had one child. They've tried for years and only ever had one heir. Everyone knows that.
Besides Lukas is too different from the stupid prince, he looks nothing like him! Nothing like the...he looks nothing like the king....oh.
"Have you figured it out now Rosalia."
Not a question.
This is the truth that everyone in the room but me has already known isn't it? The implications of everything, the theories running through my mind has me shocked silly and it must show on my face.
"He's....he's related to you, isn't he? He's...he's your nephew, the son of the Queen."
His silence can't confirm or deny anything but the way he looks at me says it all. It's not enough of a confirmation, but the truth is too much.
"He's the son of the queen....but, not the king. He can't see the stupid prince, he can't see his own family, he's off on his own like this....he's an illegitimate child."
A tear runs down my cheek before I can even register it.
I'm crying? Why am I crying? Why is my heart hurting? I'm not even that close with the kid why am I suddenly feeling so much? Everyone has a sob story, why is this one just so sad to me? Is it because I'm also an unwanted child?
I just hit myself in the vitals with my own answer.
It's just so sad, it hits too close to home. Suddenly I get it, I think I really get it. I understand how a child can be so loud and boisterous to fill up a void. I understand his awkward position is society, how hard it must be to move around, neither forward nor backward. How he could end up my cousin's future lackey in the search to find his place.
Because this boy desperately needs friends, a family.
What about Amar? Where was Amar in the future? I didn't see him. I never met the man that boy was supposed to grow into. Did he die? Part ways? He's the only sincere friend I see Lukas have and he's not even in the future picture.
I'm full out sobbing now.
What is to become of them?
It's not just sympathy, kids that come to grampa at this age aren't normal. If they're not a noble with some amazing connections and people looking after them, they wouldn't be out fighting monster raids for the experience or whatever. These aren't kids with safe happy homes to go back to, I knew that from the beginning. It's empathy I'm feeling, selfish empathy.
They're kinda like me.
Gable doesn't stop or comfort me, in fact he looks more like he wants to cry himself. I can tell not from his poker face but just from the way he feels. This is personal, it must be affecting him so much more deeply.
"I haven't seen my sister in years."
He looks back into the air, lost in his own thoughts, or is it memories?
"Not since before she married him. I never met either of my nephews, not till today. "
"....Did you know? That he existed?"
"It would be a lie to say I didn't, I have no excuses. "
It's complicated he means. It's a very sad sort of smile on Gable's face right now. As poetically beautiful as it is, I don't like it. I don't like him making that sort of broken face.
" I won't tell him yet, but in the future, if Lukas wishes for it...I can adopt him."
"Rosalia my little friend...I'm going to try and be brave again. You helped me make this decision you know. Helped me be brave. I'm going to face my family and past starting with the now. "
I don't know what's going on, don't know the full backstory, but I understand. In a flash I run up and bury myself in Gable's lap, squeezing as big of a hug as I can give with my entire body. It's not very big and what I feel is too much.
I understand, and I support Gable completely.
When he hugs back I think I can hear another meaning implied. It sounds a little bit like he hopes that I can do the same.
Author: It's been hard to me to write/update lately. Very down from work. Thanks for still reading.