III: A Lesson in Practicality (I)
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“And you’re sure you saw this Rhun?” 


“Yes sir.” He nodded.


Chief Sigwald’s face hardened, and he silenced the murmurs of the gathered crowd with a hand. 


“Erick, Rodman, Knox,” he pointed out the men, “let’s go investigate what Rhun discovered.” 


They armed themselves with spears, the chief, a sword, and headed in the direction of the corpse. 


The news spread quickly throughout the village more of a hamlet in size as less than 100 people lived there. Most worked as farmers, fishermen, and loggers, while several others were guards, millworkers, or hunters/trappers. 


Work halted for the day, and some went to fetch the villagers who were further out, either fishing downriver, working the outer fields, or hunting game in the forest. 


After a number of people trickled in and much discussion occurred, Chief Sigwald and the men eventually returned, confirming Rhun’s words and bringing more details about the body. 


The dead body looked to have washed up on the riverbank a while back. It sustained a number of sword wounds and attracted an initial slime or two, which used the food source as a means to rapidly reproduce.


Easily disposing of the slimes, their concerns did not lie there but with the cause of the man’s death.


Chief Sigwald gathered even more men, including Rhun’s father, an excellent marksman, and some women as well to investigate further upriver and deeper into the forest. 


After quickly preparing a half-day’s worth of rations, they took off and wasted little time. 


Eventually, the party returned well after sunset, their procession lit by torches, bright fireflies in the black night.


Their families and neighbors all breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed them back with a bowl of steaming stew and freshly baked bread.


Over supper, Chief Sigwald informed everyone the results of their investigation: fruitless. They could only conclude that the danger remained even further upriver, and the chief ended his address by increasing guard and patrol shifts until further notice.


Rhun used this moment to argue for combat training for him and the young children, using the “in case of an emergency” excuse. Chief Sigwald agreed albeit a bit reluctantly because the village normally waited until they were at least Lyle’s age before teaching them how to use a spear and other basics. 


After catching up with their fellow villagers and filling up their stomachs with a warm meal, everyone finally turned in for the night.



Rhun opened his eyes from his meditative state. He sighed, “Didn’t you guys learn anything from last time?”


“We already checked for slimes; there weren’t any, so it’s fine.” Lyle retorted, leading a smattering of children out of the bushes.


“There are other creatures besides slimes too,” he shook his head, “why are you guys even spying on a ‘weirdo’ anyway?”


Lyle clammed up and avoided eye contact until Kyra nudged him in the side. 


“W-well, I-w-we wanted to learn from you because you seem to know a lot...Rhun.” He mumbled out the next part, “S-so please teach us...”


“We’re sorry for always calling you a weirdo.” Kyra added in conjunction with nods from the group.


“It’s okay.” Rhun waved it off then stroked his chin, an odd gesture given his age. “But we’re already training with the adults early in the morning — what do you guys want to learn from me?”


Lyle called out, “Harper.” It was the boy attacked by the slime.


The boy named Harper came to the front and started pulling items out of his rucksack, causing Rhun to freeze upon seeing the contents.


“Where did you…?”


Lyle said, “Harper followed you and found these in the storehouse.” The taller boy flipped open one of the books and pointed.


“You can read this, right Rhun? Can you teach us too?”


It was true, he could. This world’s language included elements of Latin, Greek, German and Old English; the rest he picked up from old lady Ingeburg, his babysitter before she passed away.


“You guys want to learn how to read? Don’t you want to go play instead?”


Kyra shook her head, “No, we can always play. But only people like the nobles, the Chief, or the merchants know their letters.”


Rhun squinted his eyes at her.


“A-also they say the strong know how to read as well…” She confessed.


Lyle nodded furiously, “Yeah! They say the strongest sword techniques and magic spells are written in these things.” He shook the text by its cover, pages flopping back and forth.


‘And the truth comes out.’ Rhun sighed, “Okay, put the precious books down please.” 


Lyle did as told.


“Alright, I’ll teach you guys how to read.” The children cheered until Rhun held up a finger. 


“BUT! One, you have to be obedient and listen when I’m teaching,” he held up another finger, “Two, these books in the village are very basic and don’t have anything like sword techniques or magic spells we’d have to go to the city to either find a real teacher or better books if we really want to get stronger.” 


“Let’s go!” Lyle shouted. 


“I’ve always wanted to go to Penwick...” Kyra daydreamed.


“Me too!” Harper exclaimed.


The other children were getting ahead of themselves about the chance to go to the closest large city, Penwick in this case.


‘Kids, so innocent.’ Rhun sighed for the umpteenth time and quieted them down, “Okay, not so fast everyone. We won’t be able to go anytime soon.” They groaned. “And even if we do go, not everybody will be able to go either.” They groaned even more.


“Why can’t everybody go…?” Harper whined. Rhun surmised he didn’t want to be left behind.


“The city and that’s not even considering the journey there is much more dangerous than our village. Especially for children who can’t even defend themselves. We have to at least be able to do that first. Don’t you agree?”


They nodded reluctantly.


“Alright, then let’s start our first lesson.” Rhun entered lecturer mode. “Everyone pick up a stick and find an open section of clay; it's gotta be damp enough for you to be able to draw on it.”


“Let’s start with the alphabet.”


Rhun gave an impromptu lesson to them until the sun sank and the two moons, a silver orb and a red one, peeked out from the horizon.



He scrunched up his face in concentration. Rhun braced his right hand with his left and aimed at the plant.


“Unngh!” He fired a small, green sphere, which dissolved upon contact with the flower.


The white bud shimmered slightly before blossoming into five large petals, shining bright blue like the sparkling sea.


“Oh my…” Kyra covered her mouth. 


Lyle let out, “Fuck…” The taller boy must’ve picked that up from himself. Oops. 


The children gasped and shouted, awed by such a gorgeous sight.


“Is that really a moonflower?!” Harper half-asked, half-screamed. 


Rhun nodded, catching his breath. 


“Did you turn a white lily into a moonflower?! Can you transform another one?,” he gestured to the field of flowers.


“Haha definitely not. That one was an actual moonflower,” he closed his eyes, “and it looks like it’s the only one here.”


“What?! Really? How can you tell?” Harper looked back and forth at the sea of flowers and the one in front of them, flabbergasted that this was the only one.


Rhun tapped his temple, “Up here.”


Harper cocked his head, “You used your brain?”


Rhun said, “Close. Inside my brain, my mana nucleus. I used my mana to sense which flowers had a mana signature. Lilies don’t have any, but the moonflower still took a long time to find because moonflowers give off a very subtle signature.”


“Wow, I’ve never heard of finding moonflowers during the day.” Lyle shook his head.


Kyra commented, “Yeah, Herbalist Hilda said you can only find them when they bloom at night because that’s when they’re absorbing mana from Aran. Right?”


He pointed to the aquamarine flower. “Yep. Look at it right now. It’s blossomed because it absorbed the nature mana I fed it. Moonflowers get their name because they feed on the larger moon's, Aran, residual mana, which is why some call them nocturnal plants.”  


“Funny that you mentioned Herbalist Hilda. Do you remember what else she taught us about moonflowers?” Rhun asked the senior herbalist to teach everyone about her craft twice a week as part of his “curriculum” he designed for the children in exchange for collecting some herbs for her.


Kyra stuttered, “U-um, moonflowers…they also...also...”


“Lyle?” Rhun questioned.


Lyle was honest. “I don’t remember.”


Rhun turned to Harper who shook his head.


“Anybody else remember?” Many heads shook and silence prevailed until one little girl raised her hand. 


In a soft voice, she whispered, “‘Moonflowers are one of the few plants able to naturally absorb pure mana essence and thus are excellent candidates to be used in the creation of mana potions. Mages have tried countless times to cultivate moonflowers for personal use but none have succeeded so far’ is what Herbalist Hilda said.”


Rhun clapped, “Elyn, was it?” A nod in response. “You’re absolutely correct. Herbalist Hilda also said moonflowers fetch for a high price because of this. Good job, Elyn, you have an excellent memory.” 


The girl fiddled with her tiny hands, blushing at the compliment.


“However, Elyn, do you remember what she said about how to pick a moonflower if you find one?”


Elyn’s eyes widened, and then she shut them tight. A few seconds passed. And then “She said, ‘One must use mana to harvest the fragile moonflower. If one tried without supplying mana throughout the harvesting process, the moonflower will immediately wither and become worthless.’”


Rhun smiled, “That’s right. Everyone give her a hand.”


The children applauded for her, and a few murmured how they will be the one to remember next time.


“Alright, I’ll do the honors this time. But next time we find a moonflower, I expect somebody else to be able to harvest it. So watch carefully and make sure to practice your meditation techniques and mana control.” Rhun advised. 


He slowly cloaked his hands in blue and carefully plucked the pretty petals, simultaneously supplying mana to the center of the flower. After picking the fifth petal and securing them in a leather pouch, he turned to survey the group one last time, taking a head count.


That's when he saw it. The trees in the back swished. 


Whoosh. Whoosh. 


He yelled and pointed at said trees, “Formation! Form up!”


Confused faces met his own, but the kids still about-faced and moved into a rough formation due to their morning drill routine with the village men. Once they did, however, they gasped and cried out.


Beady eyes dark as the abyss. A million brown hairs coated long legs, a thorax, and an abdomen. Sharp fangs dripped with venom.


“Shit.” Rhun spat out as the giant spider crawled its way ever closer to the group, directly heading for the moonflower, straight towards himself.



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