Chapter 7: Shift in Relationships (5)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
It was a clear autumn day, and Mahoro was at one corner of the training grounds, waving his wand in front of the Commandant.
He chanted the name of the Fire Spirit Ignis and lit the candles with his magic. Forty of the fifty candles had been lit, and Mahoro took a shaky breath before dropping his shoulders. Albion watched him from a nearby patch of tall grass and yawned.
Last week Mahoro had finally reduced the number of lit candles by half, but this week he was unable to control his magic again. He had only been trying to light up a single candle, but he ended up lighting nearly all of them. He had no talent for magic.
“Hnhh…” The Commandant rubbed the area between her brows, frowning in deep contemplation. Mahoro hung his head, feeling terrible that he had wasted her time with absolutely no progress in his magic.
“I’m sorry…” Mahoro apologised in a weak, vanishing voice, dropping his eyes towards the weeds at his feet. Birds flew overhead, and a breeze brushed his cheek. The flames of the candles swayed back and forth like they were mocking him.
“Mahoro, you know, you don’t look like you’re having fun at all.” The Commandant rested her hand on his head, and Mahoro looked up in reflex. She gave a wry smile as she looked at him.
“Having fun…?” Mahoro frowned at the unexpected words.
The Commandant spread her arms out wide and grinned. “That’s right. I mean, it’s magic! Does it not excite you? No?”
Mahoro didn’t understand what she was saying, and he could only stay silent. To Mahoro, magic had become a synonym for terror.
“It’s essential to have a firm image in your head when using magic. The power of thought is said to be what is most important. We summon the spirits to us when we use magic, yes? Well, the spirits love to have fun.”
The Commandant drew a pattern around Mahoro with her wand. Light pink flower petals fluttered down onto Mahoro’s head and shoulders.
“It appears that injuring the cadets have created shackles around your heart. Your magic conduit is in disarray. But be that as it may, I find it mystifying. When I use magic near you, I certainly feel an amplification in my magic. But I have never heard of anyone having powers of amplification before.” She caught the endlessly falling flower petals with her hands and tilted her head to the side.
Mahoro had never even thought to have fun when he used magic. He was always too scared that his magic would rampage again. It was frustrating that Mahoro couldn’t reach a different state of mind.
But he did remember that during the entrance ceremony, he had been exhilarated at the magic that the Commandant had shown them…
“Maybe the problem is starting with fire. We don’t normally do this, but let’s switch to earth magic. Since you carry the Baldwin bloodline, you won’t need your wand to perform it either.”
The Commandant quickly went to the shrubs nearby and pulled over some flowering plants. She returned and said, “All right, here,” and placed a number of seeds in his hand.
“Try to make the seed germinate and bloom a flower from it. You can start with just one at a time. Without using your wand, call the Spirit Terra and give a command. When you say the name, visualise the image of a seed sprouting.”
Mahoro nodded and chose a single seed. The rest he wrapped in a handkerchief and placed in his pocket.
“O Spirit Terra. Heed my voice and sprout this seed.” Mahoro stared at the seed in the palm of his hand and recited the incantation like he was told. The seed split open, and a bright green sprout started to grow from it. In an instant, it grew a stalk, and before his eyes, leaves started to spread from it. The plant grew at an unbelievable rate in his hand, and just as he saw a small white flower bloom, in the next moment it started to wither.
“Well, this is incredible.”
The Commandant also looked perplexed as they watched the flower petals flutter down to his hand. Everything ended in less than a minute. Mahoro’s heart ached at the fact that he had ended the flower’s life in barely a moment.
“I assume that you shall have no issues with flowers on your own. I will return to my office, but you shall stay and practice here. Albion, please watch over Mahoro.”
The Commandant left after gathering a number of seeds for Mahoro’s training. Alone to himself, he attempted a number of tries to bloom a flower from the seeds, but every time, a sprout would grow in an instant, and then wither in an instant. He had tried to visualise a firm image in his head, but he couldn’t stop the flowers from dying.
After many flowers had withered, Mahoro became so miserable that he sat down to hug his knees to his chest and cried. Nothing went the way that he wanted. If his magic remained like this, he would end up hurting people again.
There was the sound of whining. Albion had snuggled up to him, crying with teary eyes. Mahoro wiped away his tears and watched the sky in a daze. If he couldn’t control his magic, then what would he do about the examinations in December? He had heard that the Academy never abandoned their cadets, even the ones without much talent. There seemed to be no fear of expulsion from that front, but maybe Mahoro would be the first exception to the rule.
A voice suddenly called out from behind him, and Mahoro shook with a start. He turned around, and Noah was standing there with a cool, relaxed expression on his face. Mahoro hadn’t noticed him approaching.
“N-No, I’m not. Nothing was working… So I…” Mahoro mumbled as he showed the seed that he had been clenching in his hand. On second thought, lessons were still in session now. Wasn’t Noah the one skiving off?
“Germination magic, huh? Haha, so it wasn’t going well with fire magic, so you switched over to earth magic.”
Noah saw the seed in Mahoro’s hand. He pulled out his wand and bobbed his wrist in a short, quick motion. The seed started to sprout, grew a stalk, and before long, there was a purple-coloured bud. When a purple flower bloomed, the plant stopped growing any further. It was an autumn bellflower.
“How did you make it stop?” Mahoro asked, wanting advice.
“By not imagining any further,” Noah said simply. He plucked the flower from the stem and placed it behind Mahoro’s ear.
“I think that the flower looks much better on you, Noah.”
Noah was so strange. Why would he want to put flowers in his hair? Mahoro was a man. But Noah gave a smile designed to charm him and captured Mahoro’s wrist.
“Really? But you’re so pale, the purple flower suits you. You look very cute.” Noah laughed and pulled him by his wrist, but Mahoro slumped his shoulders in disbelief.
“Come with me.”
Noah pulled Mahoro towards the back of the training grounds. They left the section that was levelled and covered with grass, and Noah led him into the forest. The trees stood tall, natural and untouched. Albion toddled after them with his short legs. Beyond the training grounds was supposed to be a restricted area, but Noah manoeuvred through the trees with ease, taking Mahoro with him.
“—Hey, don’t you think the security here is far too strict?”
When Noah finally let go of his hand, they were on top of a small hill, about the same elevation as the one that the Academy sat on. From here Mahoro could narrowly make out the lake towards the south. That was where he had first arrived at the island.
“Huh? …That’s true.” Mahoro looked around at the view with a restless curiosity and nodded. There were too many soldiers stationed on the island for them to be protecting the cadets. It was almost like a military base instead of an academy.
“Do you know why?”
Noah sounded like he was testing him, and Mahoro pondered the question. Up until now, he had thought the soldiers were there to protect the cadets, but with these circumstances, there had to be a different reason. Noah sat down on the grass and tied his long hair up with a piece of cord. Mahoro wanted to hear the answer, and with no other choice, he sat down next to him.
Noah’s lips drew close and whispered in his ear. “—There’s something very important to the military hidden on this island.”
Mahoro widened his eyes and stared at Noah’s beautiful face.
“There’s a secret location on the eastern side of the island. I’ve actually been there once when I was small.”
Mahoro turned his head, like he was lured by Noah’s finger to look in its direction. A secret location… on the eastern side of the island?
“What is the military hiding here?” Mahoro asked impulsively. Maybe it had something to do with Siegfried’s disappearance.
“Have you heard about the Forest People who live on this island? They’re an independent tribe with their own unique culture. When I was there, I…”
Noah grimaced like he had remembered something. Apparently it hadn’t been a pleasant memory. Mahoro gazed at him with concern, and Noah smiled suggestively at him.
“There are also rumours that magic stones are hidden at the bottom of the lake. Come to think of it, Siegfried was also very interested in it…”
Noah’s mutterings sounded almost to himself, and the words gave Mahoro goose pimples. Leon had said the same thing. That Siegfried had been investigating the island.
But wait… Noah said that Lord Sieg had disappeared into the forest for ten days. Is it possible that he could be in the forest right now? No, that doesn’t make sense. There are records showing that he left the island; he can’t still be here… But Lord Samuel said that he was unable to get any news about Lord Sieg. But suppose that Lord Sieg was still on the island… Would he be living with the Forest People…?
Mahoro was shaken by the questions that suddenly rose in his head. There were restricted areas on the island, and Mahoro and the cadets were prohibited from entering them. But what if Siegfried had been secretly hiding on the island, or what if he had been imprisoned here—
Is something like that even possible? But even if I wanted to find out, there’s no way to do so.
The idea that perhaps Siegfried was still on the island—Mahoro thought that he needed to tell Lord Samuel about it. He was fine if the thought was merely his imagination running wild. Even if he himself was utterly useless, with the power of the House of Baldwin, maybe it would be possible to launch a search of the eastern side of the island.
“Hey, you seem to really respect Siegfried, but to be brutally honest, I’ve never liked him.”
Mahoro had been lost in thought, but he came to his senses at the cold tone of Noah’s voice. Siegfried was gifted and could do everything perfectly. Anyone who hated someone like Siegfried had to be jealous of him—that was what Mahoro would normally think. But Noah was a person who stood at the top of society; he excelled at everything as much as Siegfried.
“There is something about Siegfried in the way that he manipulates people. It’s like he brainwashes those around him to follow and obey him. I could sense it as soon as I joined the Magic Society. He would invite me to things, and I always turned him down, but there’s a side to him where it seems like his feelings—”
Noah narrowed his eyes and hesitated.
“Or his heart—are as cold as ice.”
Mahoro was rooted to the spot hearing Noah express his feelings. He had to say something to defend Siegfried’s honour against anyone who spoke ill of him. That was what he had always thought, but there was something heavy in his chest that weighed like lead, and the words wouldn’t come out.
“He deserves a flogging for his punishment.”
Mahoro recalled in the back of his mind, the sound of Siegfried’s voice in a dimly lit room.
Siegfried had smiled cruelly at him as Mahoro tried to say, Please wait, and with a ruthless gaze, he brought the male servant down to the cellar of the estate.
“I will not stand for anyone who tampers with my things. Mahoro, this is no longer your problem. It is mine now.”
The quiet tone of voice brooked no argument as Siegfried stroked Mahoro’s cheek. It was an incident that had happened when Mahoro befriended one of the servants. Mahoro hadn’t told anyone about this new friend, but Siegfried had somehow sensed it and summoned the servant in question.
Mahoro had been a peculiar existence at the Baldwin estate. Anyone who befriended Mahoro, or conversely, bullied or mistreated him, Siegfried would immediately dismiss the person, or he would subject them to cruel punishment. Mahoro did not understand why Siegfried had given him such preferential treatment or why he would even take such extreme measures. In order to prevent harm to others, Mahoro started to prefer spending time alone, and the servants all avoided him. Gradually Mahoro became isolated. Siegfried had been the sole existence in Mahoro’s world, and the one who controlled it.
Since coming here… I’ve been able to talk to others without feeling afraid.
Mahoro clutched his knees to his chest and bit his lip.
I feel really guilty… Lord Sieg has treated me so well, but I just feel this sense of liberation since coming here.
It became too painful to remember the time he had spent at the Baldwin estate, and Mahoro shook his head.
“By the way, that night you missed curfew, you broke the barrier by the lake, didn’t you? What did you see there?”
Mahoro had been lost in his thoughts when Noah grabbed Mahoro’s shoulder and turned a sharp gaze into his eyes. Apparently Noah had been curious about what had happened at the lake this entire time. He had kept asking about it back then too.
“I’m not entirely sure, but… I felt like I saw a bluish-white flame over the lake… And a person that might have been Dr Mary.”
Mahoro omitted the part where he had initially thought that the person was Siegfried. He wondered if now was okay to tell Noah what he had seen. Noah’s eyes grew brighter as they filled with excitement. Did he know something about the bluish-white flame? Mahoro gazed at Noah, becoming worried, but then Noah grinned and told him to take out another seed.
“Do you like flowers? This is probably a baby blue eyes. It’s a small blue flower. Have you seen one before?”
There were baby blue eyes that grew in the garden at the Baldwin estate, and Mahoro could visualise the image well. Noah cupped his hand underneath the one that Mahoro used to hold the seed and brought his face close enough for Mahoro to feel his breath on his own.
“Visualise an image of the flower blooming. Turn it into a picture inside your head.”
Guided by Noah’s instructions, Mahoro closed his eyes and pictured a baby blue eyes flower in his mind. He heard a soft chuckle, and Noah released his hand. When Mahoro opened his eyes, there was a baby blue eyes flower in full bloom resting in the palm of his hand. It hadn’t withered. Mahoro’s eyes sparkled with life.
“I did it…!”
Mahoro hadn’t shown any success up until now, and he was so happy that he wanted to shout. The flower in his hand was so lovely to him, and he started smiling unconsciously.
Mahoro lifted his eyes when he suddenly heard Noah’s voice, and Noah sealed his lips with his own. Mahoro froze for a moment, not understanding what had happened, and then he jumped backwards in a panic. Noah just kissed him. Mahoro remembered the deeper kiss that they had shared in the sealed room, and he blushed a furious red.
“Sorry. You were just so cute, I wanted to kiss you.” Noah gave a mischievous smile as he gazed at Mahoro.
Mahoro gaped back at him, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly. The baby blue eyes flower had fluttered to the ground. Should he be mad at Noah? How could he steal a kiss like that—?
“—Do you hate it when I kiss you?”
Just as Mahoro tried to object, Noah brought his face closer again to ask him the question, and this time Mahoro’s face heated even to the tips of his ears. Mahoro tried to retreat backwards, but Noah captured his arm.
“I want to kiss you. Look into my eyes. This beautiful face is asking you to give yourself to me. Succumb to my charms and say yes.”
That beautiful face staring at him made Mahoro flustered. If he were to look into those eyes, he felt like he would be sucked in by those beautiful jewels. No, no, he couldn’t. Noah was a man, and he was a man too. Mahoro fought desperately to collect himself, and he glared back at Noah.
“Well, I don’t want to kiss you!”
Noah’s eyes were intense, but no matter how desperately Mahoro glared at him, they did not flinch. If Mahoro were to stay here any longer, he would end up wrapped around Noah’s finger again. Mahoro shook Noah’s hand from his arm and tried to run away.
Mahoro had only taken a few steps before Noah captured his arm again. Noah grasped his upper arms, pulled Mahoro towards him, and peered into his eyes. Why was Noah so fixated with him? Just because he could amplify magic power, was that enough to inspire so much interest in him?
“I wonder why you’re always on my mind,” Noah whispered quietly. He gazed so hard at Mahoro that it scared him. Mahoro wanted Noah to let go of him, and he tried to pull his arms away, but he couldn’t even budge them. As beautiful as he looked, Noah’s body was very much a man’s and in excellent shape; there was no comparison to his own frail one.
“I want to have sex with you, Mahoro.” Noah leaned his face in and smelled Mahoro’s hair. Mahoro gave a start and bit his lip as his cheeks flushed. The directness of his words almost made his heart explode. Mahoro looked up timidly at Noah, wondering if he meant his words, and it shook him to see a serious face staring back at him. This person wanted to lay with him. Even though he could have his pick of any partner he wanted, especially with his looks and lineage. Noah’s breath brushed over his earlobe, and Mahoro felt like he would lose all strength in his body.
“You’re all I ever think about lately. It makes me irritated to see you with anyone else. This is the first time I’ve had thoughts like these for any specific person. But what I don’t get is, why won’t you fall in love with me? Everyone is always throwing themselves at me, but I don’t know how to make you like me.” Noah opined like he was seriously troubled over what to do. Mahoro was half-amazed at this unbelievable remark as he tried to free his arms gently from Noah’s grip, but Noah was too strong and he couldn’t free himself.
“What should I do to make you like me? Listen, just sleep with me once. Once we’ve connected somewhere deep, I should understand something. And I don’t mean it as a casual fling. I promise to treasure you.”
Noah wrapped his arms around Mahoro’s back and embraced him. Mahoro should be resisting, but his body trembled, and it was all that he could do to stay upright.
W-What do I do—…?
This was the first time anyone had made such passionate advances towards him, and Mahoro felt like his heart might jump out of his throat. He didn’t hate Noah for his zeal, but that didn’t mean that he could agree to this.
“Please… stop… I don’t like this.” Mahoro strained his voice to make it heard and pushed back against Noah’s chest.
Noah didn’t fight him, and he released his arms, freeing Mahoro.
“I don’t like things like that.” Mahoro turned his back to Noah and ran away towards the Main Building. After placing some distance between him and Noah, he found something similar to relief. He didn’t know why Noah wanted him so much, but it was too implausible for him to be together with such a beautiful person. Most importantly, if Siegfried ever found out about it, he would do something utterly terrifying. Not to Mahoro, but to Noah—
A long time ago, there was a nobleman, an acquaintance of Lord Samuel, who had solicited sexual favours from Mahoro. He was a middle-aged man who had been invited to the estate, and he had proclivities for young boys. The nobleman had approached Lord Samuel about hiring Mahoro for the night. Lord Samuel had politely declined him, and that should have been the end of it.
However, a few days later, Mahoro learned from Siegfried that the nobleman had died in an accident.
Mahoro had inferred from the suggestive manner of Siegfried’s speech that it was not an accident that had led to the nobleman’s death. Siegfried would show him a side of madness whenever anything involved Mahoro. Although Siegfried had disappeared, invisible chains still bound Mahoro even now. I have to stop this. I can’t get any closer to Noah, Mahoro thought, clutching at his wildly beating heart.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.