As they walked down the hall towards her new study room, Jade was thinking about what kind of surprised expression to make. Startled, pleasantly happy, scared if they jumped out at her? Eric interrupted her musings by speaking as he put a key in her hand, “Here we are. Your new study room.”
She smiled, taking the key and taking a deep breath before she put it into the lock, turning the handle. She opened the door lightly, afraid she was going to hit someone unawares if they were hiding behind it. All of her practiced expressions flew out the window as she gasped, staring around in awe. There was no one inside, but that allowed her to get the full picture.
The bank of windows on the far wall was amazing, letting in streamers of sunlight that illuminated a pretty coral-colored couch and a light wooden desk with plenty of drawers. There were little earthen shelves coming out of the wall that held her sculptures, showing them off. There was an extra one of a cute little puppy that had been added, and she wondered who had lit it up. It wasn’t quite her style, but she still liked it.
The opposite wall held a small bookcase, which was filled with even more books than she’d had on the last desk. She walked over, slowing running her hands over the spines and enjoying the scent of real paper. It looked like the books were mostly divided by shelves, one on magic, one on history and geography, one had etiquette and there was even a book with the pedigrees of the current royal families. More shelves had various eclectic books on them. She could tell they had stocked them with anything they thought might be most useful for her to know about her new world.
She began to explore more, running her hands over everything. There was a small work table that had some metal ingots and a few of the glass lenses she’d ordered. She cast a questioning glance at Eric, and he just smiled enigmatically. She found several cold boxes fully stocked with food, and her perusal of the desk found things like paper and ink. The bottommost drawer even had another blanket like the one she’d loved so much, so that she could take a nap on her very comfy looking couch if she wanted. Everything looked and smelled new.
She could hear whispers behind Eric and called out softly, “You can come in now, you know.” A little guiltily, faces began to appear in the doorframe and she grinned at them. “Thank you, again. It’s perfect.” They poured into the room with laughter, and she went around hugging them. As expected, Camille, Trisha, Lucas, and Stephen were the main culprits. She found out that Lucas was the one who’d lit up her new little doggy.
“It’s not quite as good as yours, but it was my first try, and I wanted you to have it.” She was struggling not to cry as she laughed and looked at all of them.
“We’ll leave you to read.” Camille was hugging her when she whispered the next part. “You’re not alone here. You don’t have to be strong all by yourself.” She herded the rest of them out as Jade smiled and bid them goodbye, for now. She pulled out her comfy blanket and went over to the couch, curling up and staring at the sunshine.
Silently, she let the tears flow down her cheeks. She didn’t even know why she was crying, but it felt like a cathartic release. The last few days of events had finally caught up to her as she thought about all that had happened, and finally accepted that it wasn’t a dream, but reality. She was really here. The stress of hiding her true ability, of wanting to make a good impression, of nearly dying, and trying to pretend she was strong and confident when she was just mimicking things she’d seen others do. It was all so new, and she finally realized she’d been bottling up her feelings of being overwhelmed.
So she cried it out.
Twenty minutes later, she finally felt the tears stop. Curled up on the couch, she smiled wearily. The world was new and wonderful, but scary. She wasn’t used to everything yet, but she’d get there. Feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off her chest, she grabbed some food from one of the coldboxes and two books off the shelf that looked interesting. Walking back to her little couch, she curled up again and started to read.
It was dinnertime when she emerged from her room. She’d been playing with the metal they’d left her while she read, trying to familiarize herself with how to mold it. It was resistant at first, not at all like the light. She’d eventually gotten the hang of it, and her little work table now proudly sported a bunch of bobby pins and three different pairs of sunglasses. On the last one, she’d managed to work little designs into the metal so they were decorative as well. The first two were more functional than pretty. Oh well, if she wanted to, she could always reshape the metal, but instead she put them on an empty shelf. They were almost the first things she’d made with her metal magic, and much more impressive than the bobby pins. As such, she was a little loathe to remake them.
Looking at the pins scattered on the table, she wished she’d made a purse already. Oh well. Perching the sunglasses on her head so they’d be out of the way until she got outside and needed them, she stuck a dozen bobby pins into her little money wallet, then locked the room behind her and shoved the key in there too. She noted with silent glee that she was at least an A cup after last night. She was becoming a normal girl!
The library was quiet, and she conjured a ball of light at her fingers to light her way as she walked away from her bright room and through the darkened hallways. She made it to the front desk without running into anyone, and the shy boy from that morning was there. He saw the light approaching and asked as she got closer, “Turning your light in…?” His voice trailed off as he seemed to realize she wasn’t actually holding a glass ball, but that her hand itself was literally glowing.
She smiled and shook her head, saying simply, “Not really. I did want to say hi though. I didn’t catch your name earlier, but I’ll be here a lot probably. I’m Jade.” She held her non-glowing hand out to shake, only remembering as he took it and bent over that shaking hands wasn’t a thing here. She was a little happy with the first blinking dot she’d gotten all day though.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Jade. I’m Scott Weber.” He was looking at her shyly through a mop of brown hair that needed a trim. His clothes looked a little too big for him, like he was wearing hand-me-downs. His voice was quiet and maybe a little nervous, and she figured the last few times she’d come by had intimidated him. She also figured he was a commoner working his way up, due simply to the fact that he hadn’t dared say anything to the nobles or even her when she’d steamrolled her way into the library.
Taking her hand back, she smiled brightly at him. “The pleasure is mine. I’m sure I’ll see you around, Scott. And sorry for coming in without showing my card yesterday. Have a wonderful night!” She nodded in farewell and continued her way out of the library. Instead of going straight to The Glass Phoenix, she wandered among the crowd, casually brushing against people as she observed the various stores and what people were coming out with.
When she’d gotten around twenty notifications, she finally turned and made her way to Damian’s, humming softly to herself. As she slipped through the door quietly, she heard a woman asking with a sigh, “Well, when are you going to have more? My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, and all she can talk about are the lighted sculptures.”
Jade smiled, walking further into the room. Damian was looking a little helpless and the woman looked a bit frustrated. She didn’t look mean, just…defeated. In front of her was a lovely oak tree sculpture Damian had made. Damian was so involved with the woman and she had snuck in so the bell wouldn’t ring. Making sure neither of them were holding something that would break, she made her footsteps a little heavier so she wouldn’t startle them as she walked up.
Inspecting the figure in front of the woman, she smiled as she asked, “This is the one you wanted to get your daughter? It’s beautiful. May I?” She asked, knowing the woman might be feeling a little protective of the sculpture.
She was a little surprised when the woman, who was obviously startled at her sudden appearance, nodded with a discouraged expression. “Yes, go ahead. My daughter only wants a lighted one.”
Jade smiled comfortingly at her and said simply, “Then that’s what she’ll get.” Holding the glass gently, she concentrated on what she wanted, lighting the tree from within and making the leaves glow with the multi-colors of fall as she heard the woman gasp in shock. When it was fully lit, Jade set it back on the counter and smiled at Damian. “There, now everyone is happy. You go ahead and finish helping her, I’m going to light up a few more.”
“Thank you! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were the light mage!” The woman’s face was full of relief, and Jade reached out, patting her on the arm congenially.
“It’s okay. No harm done. I hope your daughter enjoys her present.”
“I’m sure she’ll love it!” The woman gushed, a bright smile painting her face. Jade just nodded and wandered off, leaving Damian to finish the transaction. She had lit up about ten other figures by the time the woman left, and she was still gushing gratitude.
Damian came over, smiling with relief as well. “You came at the perfect time. We’ve been sold out of the lit figures all day, and she kept checking back, more frantically each time. But I didn’t want to disturb you.”
Jade smiled, pouring light into another figure as she said softly, “Sorry about that. I’ll try and come earlier next time. I was a little distracted today.”
He laughed and patted her shoulder. “It’s been a long day for you, I’m sure. Don’t worry about it. As long as you take care of yourself, that’s the best. We can’t have a long and fruitful partnership unless you’re here and healthy.”
Jade laughed softly, nodding. “I’ll do my best to oblige.” With that, she lit up a couple more figures before taking her leave. She could do more and more magic without tiring now. She wasn’t sure which stat or skill made the most difference, but it was probably a combination of a bunch of things. Magic, Intelligence, Stamina, the magic skill itself, mental fortitude, perseverance… She could think of a lot of things that might be contributing to it. Either way, she was happier it was getting easier and less draining. She had stopped pushing herself until she felt sick as well. After the scare this morning, she was being a bit more careful.
Stopping at a small restaurant called Danny’s, she chose a seat in the corner before ordering another huge dinner. She was a little happy to just keep a low profile and take in the ambiance. She was watching the people around her with curiosity, watching how the non-royalty acted. She was gratified to see most of them appeared happy. She had been wondering if all was only well in the nobles’ world. There was less for her to worry about if the kingdom wasn’t built on the oppression of the poor. She was hoping it wasn’t, given how nice the royal family was, but she had wanted to see for herself.
So she wandered. After she finished eating and quietly paid with a hefty tip, she slipped out of the restaurant and onto the darkening streets, pulling her hood up to hide her face. She began to wander among the areas that still had people, just listening to their conversations. They were talking about their families, their jobs, their neighbors. While there was some grumbling, it was over what so-and-so had done generally. She noted that there were several guards wandering the streets in pairs as well, but they were there to keep public safety, and they didn’t seem to be abusing their position.
She watched them curiously. It almost seemed too good to be true. It was then that she looked closer. The guards weren’t just patrolling… There were a lot of them around, more than she had seen the nights before when she was going home. It was almost as if they were searching for something, but trying not to alarm anyone by being too obvious about it.
On her guard, she began to move as quickly as she could away from the alley she’d been skirting, only to give a tiny startled shriek when something hit the ground in front of her with a thud, turning towards her.
Her voice was locked in her throat as she stared in terror at the...thing...in front of her. It was vaguely humanoid, though something about the way it moved seemed wrong. Its skin was gray and its eyes were glowing slits of yellow like a wild animal’s. It was grinning at her, its mouth full of pointed teeth. It reached a hand up and she tried to step back, only to find herself against the building wall as its claw reached for her. She winced as it nicked her cheek, touching her to take a drop of blood and licking it. Its voice was oddly hypnotic as it hissed, “Ssssuch a sssweet ssscent…”
Its eyes were drawing her in and she found herself unwillingly taking a step forward. Only the new little blinking dot in her vision stopped her from stepping further. Trying to distract herself from its gaze, she clicked on the dot mentally.
You have touched a Mesmer, Siphon activated. Assessing stats and experience...
Choose a stat to siphon: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Magic, Charisma, or Luck.
Choose a skill to siphon: Acrobatics, Hypnotize, Mana Sense, Natural Weapons, or Stealth.
Its eyes were drawing her back in, and she wanted to step forward… She quickly clicked on her choices.
Siphoning complete. Assimilation of Dexterity and Mana Sense from Mesmer underway.
She welcomed the itching sensation spreading across her body, because it broke her concentration on the thing’s eyes. Before it could pull her completely under again, she mustered her voice for one small yelp. “Help!”
The thing hissed and lunged for her, grabbing her around the waist and lifting her like she was nothing as she heard footsteps and shouts pounding towards her. She felt the thing’s legs bunch beneath her, about to make some sort of jump.
As she opened her mouth, it hissed at her again, and she found herself unable to disobey the simple command. “Sssilence…”
“Where is it!?” She heard the voices coming nearer, searching. The thing had dragged her into the darkness before she’d even realized it, moving in quick jumps that didn’t feel real to her.
Stubbornly, she tried to think. She couldn’t fight against the compulsion to be silent, and she didn’t have any weapons on her. What could she… And then it clicked.
I didn’t survive this long to die to some random encounter. Shine bright like a diamond, you freaking monster! Hoping the light would both startle the monster and draw the guards’ attention, her entire body lit up like a flash bomb that wasn’t stopping. The monster hissed and dropped her roughly to the ground, backing up and shielding its eyes against the brightness.
She saw it tense as she sat up, about to jump away from the guards who were rushing over. With every ounce of her willpower, she dropped her light and mentally screamed at it, “Stay there!”
Bio: I'm generally a fairly busy person. I work two jobs, one at a university assisting deaf students and the other as a professional editor. ^_^ I edit several webnovels being produced on RRL, WW, Volare, and QI, and now I've just started writing my own for kicks and giggles.