“So what happened?” my father asked as I entered the Demon’s Peak Inn. Behind me, Lucia was humming to herself while holding a massive barrel filled with acorn stew. She insisted on leaving it out of her interspacial ring because, in her words, acorn stew only gets better with age. It’s not going to turn into alcohol, is it? I hope not. A sober Lucia is already a bit too much on my blood pressure. “You look kind of glum.”
“I might have offended one of the beastkin’s princes.” It wasn’t my fault! If Lucia hadn’t bought that stupid stew, none of it would’ve happened. I had to interfere when I did to prevent things from really becoming bad. If Lucia killed the prince, the beastkin would take an aggressive stance towards my father once they found out she associated with our family. Then the humans would have a headache since the Godking’s Brawl is being held in their territory. There’s so many balances of power that have to be maintained, but this squirrel girl walks all over them like they’re the branches of a tree. She’s going to cause a war one day. I can feel it.
“Might have?” My father raised an eyebrow. He patted the open seat next to him and waved at the person waiting by the counter. Other than the receptionist, we were the only ones inside the inn. I took a seat next to my father while Lucia sat across from us, placing the barrel beside her. She took a bowl out of her ring and ladled herself a generous helping before passing it to me.
I couldn’t help but sigh. I touched upon the sixth circle of magic at the age of fourteen. Yet Lucia only sees me as a convenient food warmer. I heated the soup before passing it back to her. “The prince was going to clash with Lucia over a bowl of acorn stew. I didn’t want her to cause any major incidences, so I stopped his guards and declared my name.”
“Mm, you did well,” my father said. Wait, what? He was actually taking my side? Maybe having a bloodthirsty Lucia chase after us while we were riding the carriage made him realize how insane she actually is. Father, you’ve realized my plight! “It’d be great if you continued following her to prevent incidences like these.” …I should’ve known. “Other than that barrel of stew…, what did she buy?”
Lucia ignored us while eating with her eyes closed. I thought it only happened in stories, but pink hearts were floating around her and her mouth had turned into a squiggly line with the end of a spoon sticking out of it. Some days, I think it would be nice to experience life as Lucia: something as simple as acorn stew or hot chocolate can make her so happy. But then I remember I don’t want to be crazy.
“She bought a ton of spirit seeds. I tried telling her it was a bad idea to have so many spirits around her, but she didn’t listen to me.”
“It’s just some qi, right?” Lucia asked after swallowing. “Puppers and Durandal are barely noticeable. What’s two or three or sixty more? Besides, they’re not going to be used for combat.”
“Servants, then?” my father asked. Some people had weapon spirits just to carry things around for them. Those who can’t afford interspacial rings usually load up a spirit with bags and use them as a pack mule. Of course, some people don’t want to spend their qi on that and recruit slaves instead. Lucia probably had to carry the human army’s supplies since she was a beastkin, huh? Anyways, using weapon spirits for combat has become long outdated since the rise of magicians. Sure, there are some spirits who can cast magic, but they’re highly inefficient with mana. At most, they can be bodyguards, but weapon spirits are limited by their owners’ qi. How come there aren’t any magic spirits that consume mana instead of qi?
“Nope!” Lucia said. “Comfy underwear! Ever since Puppers became my sock spirit, my feet have been in heaven. All my clothes shall feel that way!” Her eyes gleamed as she took a bag out of her ring and placed it on the table. It made clinking noises and a few marbles rolled out. “Show me the best seeds, Ilya.”
“Why would I know?” I really don’t. I’m not interested in spirit seeds at all. Without any qi to manipulate a spirit, what’s the point?
“Because you know everything?” Lucia asked and tilted her head to the side. “I don’t mentally call you my encyclopedia for nothing.”
“Please don’t refer to a sixth circle magician that way….” I don’t know if I should be happy for being mistaken as smart or if I should be ashamed for being looked down on that much by Lucia. My abilities are more than just expositing information about the world like some crappy literary device! Didn’t she see how I disabled those guards earlier? I’m not inferior; I’m just younger than her by nearly a decade. You know what? I’m going to compete in the Godking’s Brawl as well. Maybe I don’t have the guaranteed spot, but I can still compete against all the commoners and work my way up! I’ll just have to surrender if I encounter Lucia though.
“Mm, no can do,” Lucia said and shook her head. “Even if you become a seventh circle magician, I’ll continue to treat you this way. Only when you’re older than me will I acknowledge you as an equal! Just wait a few years, and you’ll be older than me in no time.”
…Sometimes, I can’t tell if Lucia is actually really smart or not. She says the dumbest things, but I don’t know if it’s on purpose or not. I’ll never be older than her! Alright, Ilya, new goal. Forget becoming strong enough to hold the position of duchess. Become strong enough to teach Lucia a lesson! …Though, it might be easier becoming empress if she continues improving at her current rate. By the time I pass the wall to the seventh circle, will Lucia be at the peak of divine warriors?
Mm, well, all I have to do is do well in the upcoming competition. Cain is searching for talent to nurture; though, I don’t know why, he’s willing to invest in the talented. If I show my worth as a fourteen-year-old sixth circle magician, my path to the tenth circle should be a smooth one if he helps me. My father might’ve asked Lucia to represent him, but that doesn’t mean he wants me to sit on the sidelines and be a cheerleader. I think. Does he? Well, even if he does, I’m almost an adult. I can make decisions for myself! Second place, here I come! …Realistically, I should aim for the top ten. Yeah. Tenth place, here I come!