Chapter 11:


Wistful Dandelion

A few practiced knocks hit the door and I immediately recognize who's at the door. Lila seems to have the same intuition as she stands up. 

"Ahh, that's your mother isn't it? Back from work? Let me answer the door for you, I bet she'll be surprised."

"Good idea. You should pretend that you've been living here this whole time too."

She walks away I send her off with a smile. I'm sure mother will be happy to see a surprise today.

I go towards where Lila was standing earlier and look out the window. The sunlight has long stopped reaching inside the room and only a faint red glow can be seen from the horizon. Outside, the background forest has turned from a vibrant green to a lighter shade of black. The pond reflects the red sun, creating a large pillar of light reflected in the creases of water.

From what I gathered with my conversation with Lila, it seems like she's asking me to do a bit more introspection.

But still, just more of what I've been already doing? I'll need to ask her more clearly what she thinks will help. If I only allow myself to only think about the problem I have a feeling I'll come up with some absurd conclusion. I'll need to be more forward with my request and directly ask her for help. Guide her through my own thought process instead of playing these games.

Standing up to return to the front entrance, I notice the papers Lila brought were still left on the table. We were probably supposed to go over these before she decided to go out instead.

Since she already left the room, I take a quick glance at the papers out of curiosity.

Scribbled at the top, the subject of the paper reads How Language affects Magic. It's a pretty technical document so I scan it quickly to find the main points.

Let's see…

In Modernity, language has been the most practical tool to convey our thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Since language is the tool we use to communicate with others, it is often the preferred method for sorting one's own self-existence.

However, words that are applied unceremoniously to describe the self will have the effect of creating that very self.

External circumstances will always create situations where certain words are used more often than others.

It is the repeated use of these words that trap the self into an identity. Once the identity takes hold, it will exert itself in all facets of the user's life and color any further associations.

Magic is inherently a projection from within manifested outwardly. It is therefore, the innermost thoughts that have the greatest influence on a spell's construct.

If the identity of the magician is in conflict with the magician's true feelings, then the qualities of Septin will diminish the spell's overall output.

When channeling from within, there will always be an individual language of thought accessible only by the self.

A magician's personal truth will likely be the greatest obstacle towards their success. It is only when they have a clear understanding of the self will they be able to command their soul to create the possibilities inherent in them.

Hmm, interesting. There's some good ideas here. I'll have to ask Lila to explain some of the things here.

They're still chattering about something at the front entrance but it's been a few minutes so I figure it's about time for me to show up.

"…You're crossing into dangerous territory, you realize? This kind of thing shouldn't be rushed."

"I'm not rushing anything, it's already been a few months. It's clear time won't solve this problem."

"Still, the way you're going about it can't be right. Don't you think it's a bit rash?"

"No, it's about time we stop running away from--"

"--What are you guys talking about?

The scene I intrude upon is not at all what I expected. What should've been a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere has been eroded with a sharp tension.

"Nothing. Come on Max, the day's not getting any longer. Let's go while the weather is still nice."

She grabs me by the hand and begins walking out the door, forcing me along a few steps down the pathway.

"Ahh, wait one second."

I extricate her grip and face mother before leaving.

"There's some mutton pie left in the kitchen I made earlier. Thanks for your hard work today."

Making sure to give her an appreciative smile before I leave, she quickly responds.

"Sure, you're going to the market with Lila right? Have a good time then!"

"Yep, see you in a bit."

Returning back to where Lila is standing, I see her eyeing me with a suspicious look.

"You sure are considerate of your mother. How nice."

"This much is normal, right? Besides, we only have each other now."

"Hmph. I suppose so."

She walks along the edge of the forest path leading towards the inner town area. A faint red light barely escapes through the trees, illuminating the path ahead. Deep into the forest, I decide to ask her what was on my mind.

"So what were you talking about with her that got you all worked up?"

She stops walking but continues to face forward. I pause as well, maintaining the same distance between us.

"Mmm. Seems the roles have reversed."

She continues facing forward, but I can hear the wry smile in her voice as she speaks.

"But unfortunately for you, I don't feel like saying. It was a private matter between us."

Ahh, this again.

"You're really keeping me in the dark here you know? The cryptic words, the unexpected trip, the withholding of information. The way you're doing things now, you might as well be taking responsibility for me."

"Taking responsibility, huh? That's an interesting way of putting it."

That wasn't the reaction I was looking for.

"Uhh to be clear, I'd rather you lay things out for me so I can decide myself. Do you mind if I tell you how I see things so far?"

She pauses for a bit before responding.

"Yeah, we've got about ten minutes' walk before we reach the outskirts of the city. I'll listen to you for that long.

"Ok thanks. Well to start…"

I delve into my understanding of the situation.

Mostly I talk about how at some point recently, I haven't been able to produce magic necessary to complete seemingly ordinary tasks. I started noticing the issue about a few months back.

Well it's not as if I'm totally impaired, I can still do most things fine. Functional you might call it. However, the issue seems to be gradually getting worse.

Take for instance today's class experiment of transporting water.

Or last week, where we needed to move a person by force.

Or even last month, where we learned to fly.

All tasks ended in failure. I initially thought this was just a problem that would go away on its own. But seeing no improvement after weeks, I headed to the research area to analyze the event logs of my spellcasting.

There I found something interesting, all three instances returned the same error.

Insufficient response - rejected due to low Septin values.

Since it's Septin, I naturally have to believe that there's something within me that's refusing to allow these things to happen. But isn't that strange? I mean, there's nothing in those three examples that you'd have obvious reservations about. Still, something inside of me is rejecting any further progress.

Is it my motivation?

No, I feel very motivated to fix this problem.

Perhaps my emotions?

No. I don't feel any discomfort when trying to learn new things. 

Or even my values?

No, being open to experience is something I believe in.

So like any normal person with a difficult problem, I seek help. Twice I've been told professionally through a mental health check that I'm perfectly capable of spell casting and there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to.

So that leaves me to where I am now. I'm stuck being told that there's nothing wrong with me even though I know something has changed. My teachers, my peers, my family have all told me some variant of the same thing.

It's just because you don't want to.

"…and so, here we are. I'm left with nothing but exasperation for my efforts."

I stop talking and look to her for a response. I didn't realize it, but at some point we've been walking hand in hand. She seems to be entranced in thought, or maybe just looking lazily ahead. I wonder what kind of reaction she'll have towards my monologue.

"Hmm… so that's how you see it."

We keep walking and she doesn't say anything further. Ahh, so it was the latter. I wasn't expecting much of a reaction but that was kind of disappointing. At least give me some kind of validation!

"Sorry, I'll give you some more of my thoughts once we're inside the city. There's something I want to do there that I think will help you out a lot."

She dashes off and approaches the guards holding the gate and shows her ID to allow passage inside. Beckoning me to come along, I follow suit and we enter the inside of the city.