Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis,
Author’s notes: Oh, but wait, there’s more CotE
Updates in header of chapter 5.
Chapter 7 – Payment
A strange scene can be seen on the first floor of Grand City Theore. Veronica, her amber hair in more disarray than usual, dragging Regal by the arm all the way from Market Street to the public Training Hall. Regal doesn’t fight her grip, allowing this to happen for the entire journey.
After arriving at the Training Hall, Veronica turns back toward Regal with a displeased expression and blandly says, “I can’t believe you forgot in such a short time!”
“I’m sorry big sis. I had just found a way to make money and was planning to go home and continue. I didn’t mean to forget.”
“You can do that later. We need to help you practice your skills, else you will fall too far behind everyone. Now, come on.”
Regal follows Veronica into the building and they both enter a private room on the second floor.
“Let’s start with ‘Ice Bullet’,” Veronica says obstinately. “Cast the alchemy, but slow the mana flow and focus on the alchemy formulae. I will help guide you through understanding it.”
Veronica sits down close enough to Regal that he can feel her hair brushing against his shoulder. Effortlessly placing the sense of Veronica’s closeness to the corner of his mind, Regal casts the Divine Art ‘Ice Bullet’ while creating a resistance within himself to slow the stream of mana going to the skill.
The circular alchemical formulae dimly floats above his hand and won’t activate until it can collect enough mana.
“Great! Now, little bro, focus on the inner most section of the formulae where the mana is concentrated.”
Using Veronica’s words as guidance, he focuses his mental awareness on the center of the formulae and feels where the mana is the thickest.
“Next, you must work your way outwards from the center to study the flow of mana entering the Divine Art and solve the mysteries of how and why the formulae effects mana the way it does. This is only a Tier 1 Divine Art so it is quite simple. It gets harder the higher the Tier as the formulae include a compound of all their previous formulae. You must also analyze and gain insights into these from the beginning, as they cause different effects when reacting to one another.”
“Big sis, I don’t fully understand what you mean by they include a compound of all their previous formulae. What do you mean?”
“It is an Alchemy only effect. Well, it’s too early for you to worry about it anyway. You will learn more later on when you learn Tier 2 skills.”
For the next two hours, Regal practices all of his skills with Veronica’s voice giving him hints and directions. Thankfully she has a large store of ‘Mana Rations’ in her inventory to make this possible. Despite all of her good intentions however, Regal finds himself to become even more confused and lost in regards to comprehending the alchemical formulae than he ever was.
This result is precisely why the teachers mentioned that comprehension must come from oneself. The effect of forcibly trying to help Regal understand, has in fact made the task more difficult to accomplish.
After the sun sets and the light within Theore fades, the two children finally leave the Training Hall.
“Little bro,” Veronica stares intently at Regal while addressing him, “we haven’t known each other for long and I understand this isn’t something I should be asking others. But, do you need money?”
Veronica’s understanding of Regal’s need to earn money only extends to what she witnessed today. She isn’t concerned for his wellbeing, but does not wish for a little brother of her’s to fall behind in schooling and training.
“Yes, big sis.” Regal’s explains the story of the recent break in and theft of all his money.
Veronica frowns in response, and unhesitantly states, “Then I will gift you some money. Keep it in your inventory so it can’t be stolen, okay?”
“Big sis, I can’t take your money.”
“If I want to give it to you, then it’s fine.”
“It would be wrong for me to accept it.”
Veronica goes silent and doesn’t respond. After a few minutes, the two children part ways for the night with a farewell and head home in opposite directions.
The following day, Regal arrives at school to find two silver coins placed on top of his desk. He looks across the room to see Veronica looking back at him and frowns. Picking up the two coins, he walks to Veronica and places the money on her desk.
“I can’t accept this, big sis,” Regal says while the memory of his parents telling him to never accept charity plays in his mind.
“That money is no longer mine. Keep it.”
“I told you last night I can’t take your money.”
As the two clash between indomitable opinions, several of the students start to get confused, “Why is she trying to give him money?”
“She’s really pretty, why would he keep refusing her?”
“What are you saying!? She’s a Soulless. My parents told me that if I’m not careful, they will consume my soul.”
“I-I’m not getting close to her, I was just saying she is pretty. I definitely don’t want to lose my soul.”
The chatter continues until Mr. River finally enters the classroom and puts an end to the rowdiness. The only sound that persists after is one of the students tapping their foot on the ground.
Regal feels at ease after Veronica stops trying to force her money on him. She may be holding onto the money for now, but Regal knows this is not the end of it. No matter how many times she tries to give him money though, he will return it every time.
Today’s lessons are mostly theory, yet Regal has difficulty concentrating on the material. This is because his mana is still empty from constantly making ‘Ice Bullets’ all morning. His mental processes are dulled and have difficulty understanding the words. Not discouraged, Regal aptly writes down as many notes as possible in regards to the lesson, and makes plans to revise them later when his mental processes are more active.
Veronica does not speak to Regal all day. She isn’t angry, but is busy thinking up new methods to give him money. After school, Regal quickly departs to prevent Veronica from catching him. But she doesn’t even try, having instead come to a conclusion she believes will work.
“Yes, I shall ask mother what to do. She will know,” Veronica mumbles to herself before approaching her father who is picking her up today.
Already far away from the school, Regal steps into Atelier Gun & Bullet and sees the young girl, Aqua, is behind the counter again.
“Good afternoon, Aqua,” Regal says politely.
The girl looks up from a gun she is tinkering with and speaks in immediate anger, “You! How dare you simply run off yesterday! What do you have to say for yourself?”
“What do you mean?” Regal’s face becomes puzzled. “Our business was finished so I left.”
Aqua’s brown ponytail swishes to the side and her ear piercing flashes in the light as she abruptly leaves the counter to stand in front of Regal. “Y-you! The way you left was perfectly rude! D-disrespectful!”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to be rude.”
“Hmph, so what did you come here for today? I’ll let you know now that I won’t be giving you any discounts.”
“I have another box of .38 ‘Ice Bullets’ that I wish to sell.”
Aqua’s bright blue eyes widen in shock and her jaw moves silently as she is momentarily at a loss for words. Recovering from her stupor, her previous anger vanishes and she says in a serious tone, “I told you yesterday that it was a once only occasion. I will not be buying any more such low quality products.”
“Please. Please buy them!” Regal bows at the waist formally directly in front of her.
When he looks back up, he sees that Aqua’s eyes don’t have any of the coldness that her voice contains. Rather, they are indecisive, as if she is still deciding what to do.
“I need you to buy them. Please, you are my only hope.”
Eventually, Aqua’s gaze soften before she replies in defeat, “Fine. But this time I mean it, this will be the last time I do. You need to find somewhere else to sell your bullets next time.”
“I can’t thank you enough.”
Regal reaches out and grabs onto one of Aqua’s hands to express his gratitude. Aqua is caught off-guard, and can’t move her hand away in time before they are grasped. She misunderstands Regal’s intentions and blushes profusely at having her hand held by a boy.
Regal leaves the store shortly afterwards, this time giving a proper farewell to Aqua so as to not be rude again.
The following day two silver coins are left on his desk, just like the day before. Taking the same approach, Regal once again forces the money back onto Veronica and tells her he cannot, and will not, accept charity.
Later that evening, he returns to the gun shop to sell two more bullet cases of .38 ‘Ice Bullets’. Aqua once again tries to refuse him, but gives in much easier than the previous day and Regal walks out of the store with ten more bronze coins, or seven coins after the cost of the bullet cases sold with the bullets.
But Regal’s earnings are too little as the expense of food outweigh his earnings. Unless he can find a way to earn more money, he will still eventually run out of money.
For the next week, every day follows the same routine; refusing Veronica’s money despite needing it, and selling cases of ‘Ice Bullets’ to Atelier Gun & Bullet. Each time he tries to sell his bullets, Aqua becomes less disposed about purchasing them. He is fortunate she is not aware that he is a Soulless, else he thinks she would immediately refuse him.
He doesn’t slack off training his other skills either while making ‘Ice Bullets’. All his skills are level 2, except for ‘Ice Heart Alchemy’ which is level 3. His senses also tell him that his other skills are nearly level 3. All the other students are more impressive, their skills ranging from level 3 to level 5. Regal only manages to barely keep up to their speed with relentless practice and determination.
One particular morning, late in the school week, Regal is surprised to find the usual two silvers were not placed on his desk. Veronica also has not entered the classroom yet so he comes to the conclusion that she didn’t do so because she hasn’t had the chance.
Just before class begins, Veronica enters the room, looking around momentarily, before strolling directly toward Regal. Regal is currently studying his book absent mindedly due to a lack of mana, and doesn’t realize she is standing in front of his desk. It isn’t until the sweet scent of Veronica’s perfume enters his nose that he lift his head.
Regal is confused at first; Veronica appears to be glaring at him, which doesn’t make any sense. Going over their past interactions, he cannot recall anything rude or impolite he has done.
A single silver coin materializes in her hand, obviously taken from her personal inventory. With a single motion, she pushes the coin onto Regal’s desk and holds it in place with her thumb.
“This is payment,” she says resolutely. “I am buying your services to help me practice my skills after school.”
Looking at the much needed money and now viewing it as payment for his assistance rather than charity, he answers her immediately, “Okay, big sis. Shall we go the training hall straight after school?”
Veronica smiles and radiates a calming aura, stunning everyone in the class. Some even question if she is a Soulless, but none have the courage to approach her on their own.