Chapter 20

The Master of All Magic

Tatsu Jin moved his purchases to Apartment 808, needing two separate trips. His vault was nearly filled with the latest additions to his collection. He left out a concerned sigh before taking off his clothes.

 

It’s not that the transfer student was not used to tight clothes, but he felt liberated after getting rid of them.

 

He knew that this night would be a long one. His mind instantly navigated through the estate, understanding that a shower was in order. Feeling refreshed by the sensation of hot water over his neck, Tatsu Jin was finally in a state to think rationally.             

(Eleanor is smart. I need to be more careful about the amount of information I give her. I don’t want her to make the connection too soon. I still need her to be efficient and faithful for a while. Fortunately, it’s been easier to act around her. She’ll have a hard time figuring out that Tatsu Jin is the Master of All Magic.

 

She means more than nothing to me and deserves preferential treatment. She had been an effective resource, proving she somewhat cares about my wellbeing. Tonight, she’ll probably want answers, and I think she deserves some. At least on matters that will not incriminate me.)

Suddenly, surges of pain coursed through Tatsu Jin’s back. The pain was so intense his legs lost all their power and he fell to the ground.         

      Why do my scars hurt me so much today?

After a while, the pain slowly subsided as he left the bathroom. He took a couple of his reinforced clothes and used Item Summoning Magic to complete the attire. The coat and mask materialized over his body, leaving no doubt as to who he was.

 

Every time he felt this familiar mask on his face, the Master of All Magic felt secure and at home. Playing the role of Tatsu Jin had taken a toll on his psyche. The only moment he felt liberated was when he spent time with Eleanor. He didn’t have to hide every one of his perks as she understood the value of secrecy. Everyone else had been on the lookout for the single moment when he would slip up.

 

He took a firm grasp on his scepter and felt the need to meditate. He didn’t even move until the time of the meeting.

 

He was ready to face Eleanor, once again.         

Separator

Eleanor thought she was ready. Ready to face him once again.

 

She was wearing a particularly daring nightdress under her casual clothes in case something was bound to happen. However, she was not planning on asking her usual favor. Right now, what she wanted was clarity. This was an opportunity she had been longing for. The Illusion Magic specialist felt like she could not afford to screw this up.

 

When 9 PM hit, she wasted no time and attached the carillon to one of her windows. Eleanor thought she was ready, despite completely stressing out.

 

In fact, she was not ready. She was not ready at all.

 

Like a teenager on her first date, she had meticulously prepared her house. Eleanor wanted everything to be perfect. Nonetheless, it was simply to give food to her brain in order to prevent it from freaking out. Someone knocked on her door, which made her come back to reality. Even though her emotions were all over the place, it was now too late for her to calm down.    

      Yes… you may enter…

She watched the Master of All Magic enter and greeted him with a shaking voice.

      Welcome…

Her guest went up to her and put his hand on her shoulder.

       Calm down… everything is fine.

With that subtle touch, the conflict within her came to a close. She finally managed to start talking with who she considered as the man of her life.

      Did you cover your tracks like usual?

      I made sure… that no one saw me either teleport or enter your house.

       Didn’t you yourself said that you needed a waypoint to teleport? That means… did you come here before?

       Still quick on the uptake I see… No, it’s my first time visiting the place… The boy can prove useful in many different ways…

        Then please, take a seat.

Eleanor instantly went to being a good host and grabbed a few snacks she had prepared beforehand. The woman was so focused on her duty that she missed the Master of All Magic sneakily casting Item Summoning Magic to get rid of his weapon.

 

When Eleanor saw that the weapon disappeared, she did not take offense. She knew he is not the kind of man to entrust his weapon to anyone. Instead, she sat down on her couch and was ready to chat. Her stress was finally easing up.

 

The Master of All Magic took her by surprise and started the conversation. 

        I heard from the boy… the reason why you are here.

       Ah… it’s a bit embarrassing.

      I’m sure you would be surprised to know… which of us is the most embarrassed.

Eleanor saw no sign of embarrassment in his body language or tone. She was the only one dealing with red cheeks and an increased heartbeat. She was relieved when her guest took on the responsibility to continue talking.

      I have been following your actions… from a safe distance. I am delighted to let you know… that you did well.

      Really?

Eleanor did not know where to start. She had trouble believing one of his affirmations. The thought of him really keeping an eye on her was sweet. The lady instantly understood Tatsu Jin had been an effective source of intelligence.

 

She was not mad at her student. After all, the Master of All Magic had an important place in both of their lives. Still, she made a mental note to talk to him about it later. Eleanor did not really like having her every move reported to him.

 

It was how she had behaved according to his expectations that troubled her beyond belief. All she wanted was to clarify the situation.  

      You’re serious?

      Yes. I feel like today… you deserve something better. So, in addition to your usual favor… I will also satisfy your curiosity to a certain extent.

She was flabbergasted to hear this. In the past, he had made clear to her that an invasion of his privacy would be considered treachery. Despite being overly curious, she was not stupid enough to go behind his back for it. Even when Tatsu Jin introduced himself and used information as bait, she made sure he had the Master of All Magic’s approval.

 

Eleanor has also felt a bit left out because Tatsu Jin knew more about him than her.

 

She could not prevent her brain from analyzing this situation. However, the time she used for that was also not allocated to find questions to ask. Eleanor decided to go for a white lie to win some time.  

      Ironic… now that I can ask whatever I want, I am at a loss for words.

      That’s what… usually happens.

Eleanor needed a way to sort all the questions that piled up. To her, going for the recent events seemed like a good idea.

      I can see your imprints on today’s events with Jin. Why did he blindfold me?

       I don’t know. I’m not micromanaging him.

      Why did you want the price of these weapons to remain a secret?

       Information control. Should the price have been revealed to you today… your reaction would have been uncontrollable. I just… couldn’t afford you asking difficult questions.

       And the price? How much did he pay for these four weapons?

       60 million yen.

She was shocked by how expensive the grenades were but did not expect that.

      I don’t believe you.

      That’s my point and why… I kept this information away.

       If I didn’t just ask to know, would you have ever told me?

She decided to calm down as this question-and-answer session was rarer than rainbows in winter.

      Don’t you think he overpaid?

      He paid… exactly the right price. I like to pay over market price… to the shops I want to keep a profitable business relationship with. This is the price of silence and trust.

      Is the blacksmith that good?

       He is.

With the Master of All Magic singing his praise, Eleanor viewed him in a new light. She thought the Master of All Magic accepted nothing but the best in every circumstance. At least, that is the image that she had of him in her head.

      Is Jin’s enchanting better than yours?

      From what I know… it’s at least not lower. That sly young fellow… might still be hiding some potential. He made the second version of my battle gear.

The host chuckled into her drink. Tatsu Jin was constantly surpassing her expectations.

      Will he display that skill of his in the tournaments this year?

      I am afraid… I cannot answer that question.

       Was he serious when he said… that grenades a century-year-old can do a better job than new ones?

The Master of All Magic let out a faint laugh, more akin to an exhalation.

      He did learn that trick from me. I warned him… to use that trick wisely. I don’t really want people… to know about it. It might come in handy later.

The anvil fell on her brain. She now thought that Tatsu Jin had been completely honest with her from the beginning. Eleanor had felt like he had just been playing her the entire time, only to find out she was wrong.

      Still, for a nineteen-year-old boy, no matter how mature. It isn’t normal to dispose of that kind of fortune. Is it his?

      It was mine… it’s now his. It can be considered as… business expenditures. I’m not his sponsor… if that’s what you were wondering.

A big question to ask about the transfer student popped into her head.

      Both you and Jin… have many things in common, apart from your personalities. Is he your firstborn?

The Master of All Magic crossed his legs on the chair and did not laugh at all. Eleanor felt like her attempt at humoring him failed miserably and waited for him to say something.

      I can understand why… you would say that. The only thing I can say is… that he indeed picked up quite a few bad habits that I have.

For a reason she could not pinpoint, her attention went to the carillon making high-pitch noises because of the wind. Something clicked inside her head and Eleanor took on the opportunity to verify something.

      Is that carillon a moving Teleportation Magic waypoint?

The Master of All Magic stood still for a couple of seconds. Eleanor knew that he was currently processing which plans to go through with.

 

It did not take long for the Master of All Magic to come up with an answer. Eleanor had never provided him with such a good false explanation that he jumped on the occasion. Not wanting to let her know both of his personalities were using the same waypoints, the masked magician raised his thumb up. 

      Took you long enough… Congratulations.

With the speed of a falcon, she jumped from her couch and came to play with the carillon. A radiant smile took over Eleanor’s face as this little trinket had already won a precious place in her heart.

      I didn’t know it was doable but I learned to accept that you can do what others can’t. You can come here whenever you want?

      Why would I do that?

The Master of All Magic had no intention to make her feel bad. He just wasn’t considering coming here without a purpose. He just decided to let her know without filters that this was probably for the best.

 

His reaction pained Eleanor, who was afraid of asking the question that haunted her since that night. Mustering her courage, she returned to her seat on the couch and put her hands together.

      He said that you are “the most broken man” he knows…

      It isn’t exactly accurate.

       How?

She wasn’t prepared for the blow that was coming.

      Can something that was never whole in the first place be considered broken?

The combination of his posture, monochord tone, and words made her feel a degree of mental pain she had never experienced before.

 

The Master of All Magic continued his rational explanation. For him, it was the same as explaining that two plus two made four.

       I can’t even blame him for saying that. However, he does not know the complete story, so is only extrapolating from what he does know. He was only making a judgment on the bits that he knew.

Eleanor was still trapped inside his rhetorical question and not in a state to hear more.

      How can someone be “never whole in the first place”?

       If I had to… keep up the metaphor, I would say that I am more like a factory defect. Something that can’t be fixed… only returned. You can’t even use it for its initial purpose, it just sits there… doing nothing. Only sometimes, because it’s rare, a factory defect can go up in value. My magic made me… the most powerful factory defect ever. That would indeed… be my analysis.

      I guessed life had been difficult since you shielded yourself from everything… but this?

Her whole body tensed up. Eleanor completely lost control of it. The only thing she could do was listen, numb and overwhelmed with sadness.

 

On the other hand, the Master of All Magic was completely normal. Frowning over what he couldn’t control wasn’t his modus operandi.

       You should not put me in the same category… as people that faced real hardships in life.

      Stop…

Eleanor wanted it to stop. He was acting like it was normal and not a big deal.

       Can you really compare me… with abducted children? With people that lost their loved ones in wars? With veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Syndrome and the guilt of survivors? Not at all. I don’t remember much from before being offered a blank slate.

      I said stop…

Anger was pilling up within her. Eleanor was angry about not having the mental strength to convince him otherwise. Eleanor was angry about letting him continue his logical demonstration. However, The Master of All Magic just could not fathom what was bothering her, so he kept explaining his point.

       These people all lost something or someone dear to them. They were whole in the first place and ended up being broken by grief or something else. I never had that in the first place. Which, if you keep the metaphor, makes me a factory defect. It fits my description very well indeed…

      I SAID STOP!

Tense silence followed her outbursts.

 

These two had polar opposite attitudes. The Master of All Magic was calm, cold, and reasoned like he always has been. Eleanor was heartbroken, angry, and foremost sad.

 

She reached out to his hand and started to lead him. 

       Follow me.

      Did I do something wrong?

She didn’t answer his question and led him to the bedroom. In an authoritarian tone, she ordered him.

      Strip.

       I had quite a tiring day, so don’t expect much…

      I don’t expect you to.

Eleanor went to the bathroom and got rid of everything except her nightdress. The Master of All Magic got rid of his apparel but kept the mask on.

On the other hand, the Master of All Magic was completely normal. Frowning over what he couldn’t control wasn’t his modus operandi.

 

In the master bedroom, they both took place inside the sheets. Eleanor put herself close to his body so that his arms could circle her. 

    Hold me and stroke my hair.

He did what she asked, almost mechanically. After a while, she voiced her favor.

       Now tell me your story.

      It’s a long story…

       Tell me.

       It’s not going to make you feel any better…

       Tell me.

He waited for a time that felt like an eternity to Eleanor.

       For as far as I can remember, I never knew my parents. Maybe I was abandoned. Maybe they were already dead at the time. I was taken in by a group of magicians as an attendant. I grew up learning to cook, do the laundry, and clean. Basically, I spent a huge part of my childhood attending to the needs of every magician in a tower.

Because Eleanor was in his arms, he felt her body tensing up and her breathing patterns running wild. He decided to dissipate the probable misunderstanding immediately.

       I don’t want you to misunderstand. I wasn’t a slave nor abused. I had a home; my belly was full and I grew up without any major problems. My life was just a suite of mechanical actions and tasks that I had to do one after the other. Preparations, planning, carrying on the plan, and sometimes acting on the unexpected. It was a dull life, but at least I was safe.

Eleanor felt a little calmer and was now in a better state to listen.

      But one day, one of the other attendants took a liking to me. He wanted me to have a better future than just being their propriety. So, he started teaching me the basics of Ether handling and Magic casting. I never asked but he had probably been watching the magicians casting and simply replicated the exercises. I don’t remember his name. Maybe he also did not know about his real name. However, a father makes for a lousy teacher. Therefore, he was harsh with me to help me progress at a fast pace.

She was a bit surprised by that statement.

       Nowadays, everyone keeps on calling me a prodigy. It is not true.

Somehow, the one in his arms was questioning this statement.

       My real talent is that I learn fast, insanely fast. What takes someone normal years to learn, I can gain proficiency in no time. For the rest, I had good teachers. My second strongest point, my cunning, only comes from my childhood and these dull tasks I had to do over and over. I am a pure product of my environment.

Right now, he was careful about what words he was going to use. This was really important point he wanted her to understand. But first, some context was needed.

       From the beginning, Magic fascinated me to an extreme degree. Every time I practice a new spell, I feel this extraordinary sensation. The sudden changes in how Ether needs to be handled for every spell give me chills. The first times I use a spell is always an experience I cannot forget. The sensation becomes duller and duller as I get used to launch the spell. To reach these sensations again, I need to keep on learning more.

The Master of All Magic checked if she was still awake. When he felt Eleanor putting her hand on his own, he kept going.

      However, the only rule for attendants in the Tower was to never touch anything related to Magic. The magicians did not want their attendants to become more powerful and try to escape for their freedom. When one attendant was found experimenting with Magic, that person received a whiplash as a punishment. Now close your eyes, face me and put your hands on my back.

She turned to him, burying her face in his chest. She moved her hands over his back and felt a huge number of vertical scars. When she thought that she was done crying, Eleanor surprised herself. With her eyes closed, her sense of touch was multiplied, her horror along with it.

       I was caught twenty-three times. I probably set a record at that time. Even though my scars pain me sometimes, they are symbols of my quest for knowledge and power. They are part of me. I can’t even put the blame on the magicians. They set up rules to safeguard their position and I broke them.

      I don’t want to hear about these bastards. What happened next?

       For a reason I don’t know, the tower was raided. Not one magician from the tower survived. Every attendant was let go but me. I had attracted the attention of one of the raiders, a powerful Magic caster. He was impressed by my abilities and took me in. I learned Japanese and he made me who I am today, more or less.

Eleanor was finally getting a hold of her emotions.

      After a few years of training, I finally learned everything he had to teach. But because of the master-student relationship, I did not grow attached to him. He probably cared and still cares about me but he never showed any sign of it. Teaching me a bit about morality, he tasked me with wandering around the planet to make myself useful to the world. But that story calls for another time.

Before she was ready to speak, he planted the final dagger.

      I am an addict, Eleanor. I am the most powerful addict in the whole world. I am ready to sacrifice almost everything I have to feel that sensation again. I was never loved by anyone and I never loved anyone either. The only thing I have is Magic. Magic is me and I am Magic.

She wanted to run and hide.

      Eleanor… this isn’t a healthy relationship, you know? How much time will go by before I have the opportunity to exchange you against some fancy Magic secrets?

She wanted to disappear to a faraway land, where everything would be fine.

       I am a factory defect that takes advantage of you. I can’t give you what you want and you are spending your entire being trying to satisfy me. You should get back to the factory and exchange me for someone that is working properly. This is the only way it can go.

When Eleanor did not react to his final words, he realized she just fell asleep out of exhaustion. He turned to the other side of the bed and fall asleep within a couple of minutes. After all, the Master of All Magic was also tired.

 

As for Eleanor, she didn’t really fall asleep. She just was not in an emotional state to hear any more about it and mimicked sleeping.

 

She needed time to process things.

Separator

Sunday, October 28th 2063

Eleanor ended up crying most of the night. Nonetheless, she had made her decision. Before saying goodbye to the Master of All Magic, Eleanor gave him her answer.

       You didn’t do anything bad to me yet, and I want to believe in you. I have no reason to think you would betray me. You’re just trying to push me away and even though everyone else took your warning, I want to be there for you.

The Master of All Magic stood there for a couple of seconds, bid his farewell, and disappeared within a Teleportation Magic spell.

END OF BOOK 1

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