Chapter 29: The Garden (2)
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When I decided to return to the mansion, I realized I didn't remember which turns I took during my walk through the garden. However, even without remembering the exact path, I thought it would be easy to find the entrance because each fork in the path only occurred in the direction I was walking in. Much to my surprise, I couldn't find an exit no matter how long I walked back down the path. I wasn't quite sure but it felt like I was walking in a circle, even though the patterns of the flowers kept changing. After some time, I laid my head on a tree and started mulling over my next choice.

The first option was to wait for someone to come to find me, it was the safest option, and at the same time the most boring one. The second option I had was finding a path myself. I could perhaps try to draw a map, or mark a tree on every fork in the road. There was even the option of using Tracking to find a path with no obstructions, but I didn't want to use soul techniques outside if I wasn't forced to. I knew the person Duke Pendle sent to monitor me doesn't watch me closely inside buildings, but I wasn't sure how much he watched me when I'm outside.

After some deliberation, I decided to go with the first option. It was getting late outside, and I wasn't in a rush to leave. I wasn't hungry either as I ate some food before I left. Furthermore, I didn't know how big the garden was, nor how far away I am from the exit. Therefore, it might take me a few hours to leave in the worst-case scenario. If it turned dark while I was wandering the garden, I could lose my way even further. There was the option of straying from the path, but I didn't want to stray from the path because I felt that I would get even more confused.

If I was going to find an exit, it would make more sense to do so in the morning. Plus, the garden wasn't a dangerous place and had a better atmosphere for sleeping than my room. The trees were pretty comfortable as pillows as well. I wouldn't mind sleeping here for a day. I resolved to find a path by myself if I wasn't found by tomorrow. As I started relaxing under the shade of a tree, I quickly dozed off.

I woke up to someone tapping my shoulder. It was a man with brown hair who looked to be someone in their 20s or 30s. He was poking me with a pointy stick. Before I could say anything, he started speaking.
"Who are you?"
I was still a bit groggy from being woken up and didn't immediately respond to the question. He didn't wait for my answer either.
"What are you doing here? Why are you obscuring your position through magic?"
Before he could question me again, I started speaking.
"Urgh, give me one minute, I'm just waking up." Surprisingly, he did give me a minute. After I completely woke up, I started answering his questions.

"Regarding your first question, my name is Rorik Pendle. For your second, I was just visiting the garden. Finally, I don't know what you're talking about because I can't use mana or qi."

He looked at me strangely for a second then said some sort of chant. I wasn't sure what it did, but after murmuring to himself for a bit, the man started speaking again.

"My apologies for misunderstanding Sir Rorik my name is Lucan."

Upon clearing up his misunderstanding, he apologized to me and explained what happened. Lucan was the gardener of the East Garden, he specialized in plant magic and was generally left to his whims due to the relatively isolated location of the East Garden. Besides guests, only the deceased second lady of the mansion and Duke Pendle visited the garden. While Duke Pendle came once every few months to inspect the garden, the second lady came almost weekly to enjoy it. He told me that I might've been the first Pendle since the second lady to visit this garden for a personal visit. Therefore, when he realized someone entered the garden, he was curious as to who came. His curiousness turned to wariness when he couldn't sense my position using his tracking magic and had to use plant magic to observe me. As a side note, Lucan explained that I was immune to certain kinds of magic because I don't possess any mana.

Therefore, Lucan trapped me in an illusion and wanted to interrogate me to find my intentions.

However, when I showed signs of genuinely being lost, Lucan started to question his original suspicions. When he realized I was a young child and sleeping in the middle of the forest without any defensive spells, he realized his original suspicions were probably wrong and woke me up.

To be honest, I thought I was genuinely lost and didn't expect that I was trapped in some kind of illusion. However, thinking back to how I couldn't find a path, it made perfect sense. In general, I should probably start taking magic into account more often.

As Lucan kept talking, the conversation started to derail. From apologizing, he went on to describe the contribution of each species of plant to his illusion, to describing how certain species of plant would change his illusion. It was fairly apparent that he was a plant fanatic, and I was sure the topics were probably interesting, but I didn't understand what he was talking about. I decided to try and shift the topic.

"Apologies for interrupting, but did you make this garden from scratch by yourself."

"No actually, I didn't make it by myself. Also, it's fine to interrupt me. I took over the garden from the old gardener who mostly made a standard garden. Although Duke Pendel gave us so much leeway, to waste it on such a standard arrangement is a shame. The gardener wasn't bad at his job, he took good care of the plants. I felt quite sad that I had to ruin his work when he retired. Ah, I forgot to mention but the East Garden was created earlier than the West Garden was. Anyways, although not many people visit it, it's still used for official visits, and it's quite a nice place to be in, in fact, the specific arrangement of plants was...'

As he kept talking, I could tell he was very invested in his garden. In contrast, although I did enjoy the garden, I wasn't invested in the history behind it. However, I interjected his speech with questions here and there to feign interest. For example, when he talked about plant x, I asked about specific details, such as the color or size of plant x. Sometimes, I even tried to contrast plant x with a previously mentioned plant y. Essentially, I was giving him leading questions so he could talk more. Although I made the conversation longer than needed, it never hurt to make a good relationship with anyone when possible.

After a while, the conversation started to head to a halt as he tired himself out.

"Wow, it's been a while since I could converse with someone who is as interested in plants as you are. I apologize for my misunderstanding earlier."

"No problem Lucan, it must've been strange for you when your magic didn't work."

"Yes, yes it was, I almost instantaneously presumed it's an enemy because someone like you is extraordinarily rare. Ah, I don't mean it as a bad thing though, you're a great person, mana or no mana."

"By the way, do you mind if I go to the garden again in the future?"

"Ah I have no problems, in fact, it does get quite lonely sometimes. My plants and I will always welcome you with open arms. Speaking of going somewhere, I should escort you back to the mansion, it's getting quite dark."

Although I insisted he didn't, Lucan still escorted me back to the mansion. Overall, the trip to the East Garden was quite an interesting one, perhaps spending time there would be a decent way to pass the time.

Blob Hmm chapter is a bit shaky, I'm open to feedback on it.