Chapter 22: The Calm Afternoon.
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Satholia's voice continued to echo.

'The nature of True Magic is shaped by the world-view, that is true. But it is your heart that makes the True Magic a miracle.'

Behind Cytortia, the tree sealing away the ethereal green light glow as its trunk unfurled itself.

'Cytortia, among all True Magic, the Blessing-type have purest and the most compassionate heart. Learn this, my dear, all power is equal, the difference is in properties. Your Magic is not meant to prove the might of your power nor to supplement your ego. Call it for force, and it will ignore your summoning. Use it to heal and create, and it will bring forth power unlike any other.'

The green light shone like a second sun. Illuminating the words of the personification of good herself.

'The races in Phantasia is also equal. As a goddess born above mortal, your kind has been cursed by a great burden. In time, you must find the strength to do what is unimaginable to your species and destroy this shackle that binds you.'

The green light intensified and overlapped the entire mental world. Satholia's voice faded as she left behind a final message.

'Among all the gods, I believe a humbled one such as you will be the first to reach the Maaya. God speed my dear.'

...

Luxinna threw a body of the crocodile monster onto the pile of bodies. So far they had fifteen Snapper lining up for Cytortia to refined. The hunt was more or less a success.

Luxina stretched herself, fighting for hours surely didn't bode well for her back. Then she watched in surprise as her comrade arrived. She couldn't possibly believe what she was seeing.

Rem struggled forward and dumped another Earth Snapper onto the pile before exhaustedly slumping down. The boy clothing was tattered, some traces of blood and claw marks were visible on the ripped cotton. He had no visible injuries on him which were obvious given his healing-factor. However, the limp in his leg suggested a furious struggled had ensued.

"No freakin' way," Luxinna looked at Rem who limped toward her. "How did they hurt you this badly."

No, that was not it. That boy was basically dead on his feet from the morning. How could she miss it? The bag under his eyes and that white-hair should be a sign that something was amiss. Personally, she refused to believe a guy this careful could be careless to get maul by a glorified two-cent wolf. Something was weighing him down.

"What the hell did you do last night!" Luxinna asked lending him her shoulder as he tripped. "You were fine this morning!"

"Not really," Rem slumped down on the elf's shoulder, trying to suck in more oxygen. "I didn't think my recurring nightmare would be this bad. The first time it was okay, but after a while, it adds up. I think the exhaustion was getting worse the more time I spent in battle."

Luxinna looked at him with a mix of concern and annoyance.

"Are you sure you are going to be fine?" Luxinna said. "It will be damned embarrassing if you go down like this."

"I will manage," Rem replied with an emotionless smile. "So how it is going on your end?"

Luxinna's eyes widened, and she smiled cheerfully at the cloud.

"Extremely well, I think I am getting used to my True Magic," she said, excitedly. "At this rate, I will make Mag's jaw drop to the floor the moment we met again!"

After hearing the statement, Rem looked downcast. His eyes dimmed down as he craned his neck at the sky. Luxinna subtly noticed the change in mood, and she couldn't let it go.

"Rem, what's wrong?"

Rem stayed silent. The gear of conflict ground in his mind. Finally, after what it seemed like an eternity, courage trumped his fear.

"I am going to tell you a story," Rem said, slumping by the side of the Van. "It's a pretty depressing one, to be honest. I think this is the best time to get this out of my chest."

"Wow," Luxinna slouched, leaning he back to the Van for support. "That's a curve-ball, but go on. No one told me a story for a really long time.

Then Rem began his story.

"Once upon the time, there were two cousins. The two grew up together, but they couldn't be more different. One cousin was pressured by his mother to be the best in a world he never could be. Another cousin never got any attention and grew to seek it in any way she can."

Luxinna laughed.

"Let me guess, you are the rebel one aren't you?"

"No, I was the one under mother's thumb," Rem said. "My cousin, Jeane, and I have the same origin, but we end completely differently."

Rem looked around.

"I think what separated us is the way we took our teaching. My dad often said respect come with lacked vulnerability, while mom taught us that we should focus on what is important and only that."

Luxinna wiped sideways in an attempt to avoid looking directly at Rem.

"I don't know why, but I feel that story have a downer ending.

"Yes, it ended with a boy who lives the life of a doll and a girl who live of a beast."

"Explanation?" Luxinna asked quizzically. The girl didn't get along well with metaphors.

"That boy lacked motivation," Rem said, reminiscing. "His mom shoved many things onto his plate; a clarinet lesson he couldn't pass, a choir he lip-synced. She pushed him to chase after the friend who stands at the top of the national exam and bitch who would backstab the world to get to the top. Never once did she ask him what he wanted, or try to understand her him. In the end, he became a doll who only lived to achieve the next goal."

"Wow," Luxinna said. "You got angsty because your mother forced you to study. That's rich."

"That isn't completely right. I'm fine with the lesson being shoved down my throat. That unrealistic expectation, on the other hand, was another story. In mom's head, the only right way is her way. I know she meant well, but never want any of that. She used her argument to crush all of the jobs I wanted: detective, writer, artist, you name it."

Rem chuckled.

"She gave a ten years old kid a bitter piece of reality. In the end, that kid just gave up and let his life continued like clockwork. He barely knew sadness, but he couldn't feel happy either. He is a doll. You see that kid knew one thing his mom didn't realize yet. Once you die, all your money and titles meant nothing, living like that is a waste of life. His mother can go and chased heaven and glory, but all the angels will fall someday. So what is the point of building something that will only collapse."

Luxinna remained silent.

"Why tell me this?" Luxinna asked. "Are you trying to make my life depressing by telling me all of this?"

Rem smiled sadly.

"You only heard the first part of the story. In the end, that doll did develop a moral compass. A hero came and saved him from that spiral. That boy realized that although life will only be a trip material emptiness, that gloomy destination was as real as chose to believe it. What is real is the journey. The path we take in that journey define who we are."

Luxinna's spunk returned with the bittersweet ending of the story.

"It has a nice Aesop, but, again, why are you telling me this?"

"A warning," Rem answered. "Your sister reminded me of my younger self, but with one twist, she doesn't fail."

That last sentence shifted the mood. Luxinna felt just hit her with the hammer. Somewhere in her heart, she knew Rem was spot on about something. She knew her new best friend from only a few days, and that time she saw most of his observation hit the bullseyes.

"What do you mean Mag is similar to you!?" Luxinna said. "Seriously, I don't get it. You two are nothing alike. I knew her when she was a kid, and you are nothing like how Scathach described her."

"Because she succeeded," Rem answered. "I am a failure who barely met expectation while your sister flourished in it."

Rem closed his eyes, recalling how he read Magnolia Drakokia.

"Magnolia met Lucian's expectation in every possible way, and in return, he spoiled her with praises. This means she ended up with a happier life than mine, but unlike me, she never tempers her ambition or finds the 'why' in her goal. She only lives for
Lucian's dream. The worse thing is that she is perfectly content with that twisted reality."

Luxinna didn't know how to respond.

"From your tone, I can guess there is a major issue underlying that problem," Luxinna replied.

Rem opened his mouth, but the elf covered it with her left hand.

"Enough with the exposition," she said airily. "Let me work this out by myself."

The young elf relaxed and felt the wind flowing past her refine face. She might miss out on three years of education, but that didn't mean she was idle. She nodded her head in sync with the wind as she dove deep in thought. For the young girl, the scent of nature and the dance of air was the magic to help her focus. The rhythm of her free spirit.

"She's Dad puppet isn't it?" Luxinna said, arriving at the answer as she analyzed Rem's story. "No. That is too obvious for you. Mag isn't only a puppet, she is a puppet who get euphoria from getting her string tugged."

"Yep," Rem nodded. "I always wanted mom's affection, but because I fail to gain any of it, I came to realized that said affection was false. She was only excited to see the result, not the effort put into it. My mom and your father was a type who saw a painting for its shallow value. They didn't see masterstroke, the passion nor the pain expressed by the artist, or the hundreds of prototype paving the way for that masterpiece. The type like them only sees the date of manufacture and price tags."

Luxninna leaned posture sagged a little.

"I don't know about that, to be honest," Luxinna looked gloomily across the distance. "Mag was much closer to him than I ever was, even before I awakened my magic. I think I reminded him too much of mother."

Rem stayed silent.

"You are not the only one with mommy issue," Lux replied somberly. "The noble houses thrived on arrange marriage. Both of my parents never fell in love, their marriage is done out of complete obligation. My grandparents think it is a good idea to tie the two houses together."

"Where were they when your father went nut?"

"Secluded cultivation," Luxinna replied angrily. "It's all to do with that damn cultivation manual. My paternal grandmother left father to take care of the clan and secluded herself for her research with my maternal great-grandfather. That deal was how my mother was betrothed to the Drakokia to seal the alliance without her consent."

"Let me guess," Rem said. "She left the moment Magnolia was born."

Luxinna laughed bitterly, as she slumped down next to Rem.

"Yeah, she followed her dream to be a servant of gods and left us behind with father," Luxinna clenched her fist. "You know, thinking about this, I think I started to see you a little better. Who would have guessed that under that stoic mountain was a sensitive little kitten."

"We are birds of feathers," Rem took out a knife and tossed it to Luxinna. "Here, take this."

Luxinna looked at a simple throwing blade. Strangely enough, a single word was scribed onto it's with magic.

'CLOWN'

"It's a bet I make with your sister," Rem said. "Scathach and Cytortia wouldn't tell you this to avoid hurting your feeling, but she pretty much laughs at us for following a fool's ideal."

"Did she know the strongest goddess in the multiverse was directing us?" Luxinna asked in a fed-up groaned as Rem winked back. "Of course not, stacking an invisible deck against her is practically your rule-book. So what is the bet?"

Rem gave a warm, humane smile for the first time today.

"That when she was at her lowest, a knight in shining she never believe in will swoop in and save the day," Rem stood and stretched. "And when that knight tossed that blade black to your little sister, let it be known that it is at that moment where the age of heroes has begun."

"Huh," Luxinna blinked. "No wonder she accepted the bet. I mean you are anything but a white knight."

Rem let out a chuckled.

"If I am going to do it, I would never show you that little blade," he said with a carefree smile. "It is you who will be a white knight."

"Eh," that one caught the elf by surprised. "What?"

"You heard me," Rem said. "One day soon when your father and little sister inevitably stab their foot with their hair-brain scheme, it will be you who come in to save the day. I could do it, of course, but there is something called a symbolic meaning."

Rem mused.

"A stranger saving a power-hungry asshole, and rising up as the epitome of mercy and humanity is a powerful message," the boy submerged himself in the savanna's sooting scenery. "But an estrange sister arriving to save her little sister while teaching her that there is another way is a whole different animal."

"Mag isn't that easily inspired," Luxinna said.

"No," Rem admitted. "But it is not Magnolia we are inspiring. Sooner or later, your family will side with Tie Hua many, many enemies. Personally, I think they will go for another Heavenly Daughter. They couldn't get Cy, that leaves one manipulative bitch and one immature brat. Either way, there will be a conflict, and the Drakokia's blood will be dragged through the mud of evil for the world to see. Eventually, they will drive themselves to the corner like all soulless power-hungry fool essentially do."

Rem smiled toward Luxinna.

"Symbolically, it will be a battle of evil versus evil, but what if a knight in shining armor arrived to end the conflict. A symbol of what it is meant to be a hero. An inspiring figure who stood proudly against all the world evil, throwing down a bolt of lightning the lit the sky while trying to save as many people as she can possibly reach. For the world, that person would be a paladin sent from heaven; a hero they seek to emulate. But to your family, to the elf, you are the monster they cast out. I don't know how they would react if the girl they neglected and cast out resurface as the world symbol of heroism and hope the world love and revere."

Luxinna finished the sentence with a snort.

"Grandmother will rip my father apart if that happens," Luxinna giggled as she imagined the scene. "Hell, I bet Lightwell will treat that as a cautionary tale of the generation. Mag's expression would be beautiful."

"Do we have a deal?"

"What deal?" Luxinna got up, clearly imagining her father face. "Eva would totally kill me if I don't do this. Goddamit, this will be the biggest prank I ever pull on Mag."

"I didn't know you are a prankster," Rem said, following the elf into the van.

"Well now you know," Luxinna winked back. "Want me to teach you some trick?"

Luxinna didn't know this yet, but the elf did create a new saying after her debut.

'The ignorant turn a flower into a fool. The great raise an abomination into a hero.'

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