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Thread: A World Without Mystery (Nasuverse SI)

  1. #1

    A World Without Mystery (Nasuverse SI)

    A.N.). - Been gone a while, felt like doing something. Any commentary / thoughts / supposition are appreciated.

    A World Without Mystery

    Year 1

    The first thing I remembered was screams.

    A horrid as that sounds, it was better than the smells of blood and feces, than the oil and flames and smoke, than the images and the horrors.

    The wonders of man, turned against him, the glories of humanity made ruin by their very collapse.

    An ending.

    I remembered more, and I knew there’d be more with time, but then and there, that first memory, had me crawling into bed with my parents and crying myself to sleep.

    -oOo-


    “Grandma! Grandma they’re growing!”

    The silver-haired woman smiled brightly, “Yes they are! This soon means that they’ll probably grow big and strong!”

    I grinned and bounced up to my feet, “Can I turn on the sprinklers?! Can I?!”

    But she shook her head, walking through the sandy soil, “No sweetie, we’ll have to pull the weeds first.”

    “Awww…!” I whined.

    Grandma and Grandpa’s house was right behind ours, and I’d get to stay with them when mom and dad were at work! Grandma had been helping me learn how to write, and they’d started to teach me how to work the farm! They had a huge farm, it was a whole acre!

    Mom and dad worked a lot, but they loved my little sister and me tons and tons.

    I scooched around in the hot sand, digging my fingers through it and into the dirt below that the weeds roots were hiding. And then I’d get to turn on the sprinklers! And we were supposed to do fertilizer again next week. And they’d keep growing! These little bits of green, shoots I think, they’d get all big and we’d have tomatoes and green beans and carrots and corn and sunflowers and- and- then we’d get to make them into things like shepard’s pie and pickling things and all this cool stuff to learn-!

    **I guess you’re my second chance.**

    I looked up and around, what was that voice? And… did I smell tea and orange blossoms…?

    **I wonder what that makes me for you…**

    “Grandma…?”

    “Yes sweetie?”

    “Did you hear something?”

    **You’ll do better than I did, I swear it.**

    “No Con, what did you hear?”

    “I… I thought I heard a voice.”

    -oOo-


    I didn’t hear the voice again until it was my fifth birthday.

    “Mom, why does Freddy have blood on him?”

    I was confused, tugging on my mom’s shirt, the animatronics on the stage looked like they had blood coming out of their eyes and mouths, staining them. And they smelled pretty bad.

    “Wait, what-? There’s no blood on Freddy sweetie…?”

    “But-!”

    And I smelled citrus blossoms, **She doesn’t see it. Only you do.**

    “But I see it…”

    “Con… is everything alright?”

    Hugging her side, I quietly admitted, “… I don’t know.”

    Mom rubbed my head and ruffled my hair gently, “You were looking forward to this all month sweetie… try to have fun. We’ll be right here if things are too much, okay?”

    Frowning, I nodded, “Okay…”

    Pulling away from her, I headed out towards the games. I… I wasn’t sure I wanted to go too close to the stage what with the blood on Freddy and his friends. I didn’t have any friends of my own here, but a lot of my family had come for my birthday! Which was really nice of them. Dad was holding Sonja at one of the party tables, and my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandma and grandpa were all here!

    Still… even if Freddy was weird, there were a lot of games to play!

    A smile started to cross my face as I looked at all the flashing lights and heard all the beeps and boops and whistles and laughter.

    I was nervous but… I smelled the citrus blossoms. And it was like a gentle push on my back before I rushed towards the games.

    There were so many! And I played as many of them as I could!

    I had plenty of tokens, so I could play each of them! The basketball one was really fun, and dad made tons of jokes when I rode the carousel! But grandpa rode with too which was fun! He even did that silly thing with his dentures! And I even got a balloon from Balloon Boy! I had no idea how they got a robot to be able to do that! Funtime Foxy seemed to flinch away from me though, which made me sad. She was so cool! They’d made her super safe and totally reconnectable and yet she could move around and stuff! So it made me a little sad that when I went towards her she’d flinched, at least the other kids were having fun!

    Dad and the others were getting tired, my cousin’s weren’t though! They were older than me, but they were really fun, though they didn’t want to play all the same games as I did.

    But the place was big, not as big as the hospital or anything, but there was lots of fun stuff!

    I was exploring, like an adventurer! Sure, Freddy and his friends were a little bloody, and Funtime Foxy was a little sad, but I was having fun.

    Ooh, a guy in uniform! I bet he’s, like, the final boss or something! I mean, I knew he was just a policeman or something to keep us safe, but that wasn’t as fun. He looked kinda purple, but people looked funny colors sometimes, though it was weird how he had these weird little lights in him. He was watching people all sneaky like, searching, probably looking for the real protagonist!

    And then he saw me–

    –useful for my experiments–

    –don’t worry you’ll live forever–

    –plenty of circuits, I can split them up–

    “Oh?” He smiled, stepping closer before crouching to get closer to my level, “Those are some nice eyes you have there.”

    “T-Thank you…” I kicked the ground, looking away, what had that been? What had I seen?

    “And that heart…” he trailed off before smiling warmly, “You saw something scary didn’t you?”

    “I- yeah…” I looked down, I… I didn’t know what I’d seen but it’d been dark and there’d been knives and machines and…

    “It’s alright, I know exactly what’s wrong.” The big man gave me a friendly smile, holding out his hand, “I can help you even. So you wouldn’t see anything scary ever again.”

    “Really?” I asked, I saw scary things pretty often. It was just how things were, but to not see them again.

    “Definitely, I’ve got the perfect things to do it right in here.” He gestured towards the room that said ‘Employees Only’ near the bathrooms.

    “But…”

    “It’s okay, I’m wearing the uniform, I can bring you back there just fine.”

    That made sense, it made a molasses like feeling go through me, he was pretty nice to help me like this.

    But I smelled orange blossoms.

    “I dunno… my mom says not to go with strangers…”

    “Your mom’s right, so let’s not be strangers,” he held out his hand, smiling warmly, his eyes shining, “I’m William.”

    The smell of orange blossoms surged, and I could almost hear a whisper.

    “I… I should go.”

    “It’s alright, I promise. You can trust me, I have a badge and everything, see?”

    Citrus flooded my nose, I could hear the soft rustle of leaves and a computer fan.

    I stepped back from the guard, my hands clenching into fists as I breathed in deep, “MOM!”

    William frowned, and the lights in him were dancing around his eyes, but then mom arrived.

    “Con! What is it sweetie?!” Her hands settled on my shoulders as she looked me over. She was shorter than the guard, with her bright red hair, but she was my mom. She could handle things.

    William started to smile, and I could see the sickeningly sweetness to it now without the molasses in me, “He tried to get me to go into the employees only room with him!”

    “Now that’s not very nice to lie abou-“ Mom’s eyes snapped up to the guard, who flinched, “Now ma’am-“

    “I know my boy wouldn’t lie.”

    The lights in the man danced brightly as he smiled again, meeting my mom’s eyes as the lights flowed towards her, “Ma’am, you must be mistaken.”

    “Mis… taken…?”

    **Pinch her hands**

    “What?” I asked, both of the voice and of my mother, what was happening?!

    **Pinch her hands**

    “Yes, mistaken, we were just playing and I think he misunderstood-“

    I did it, pinching my mom’s hand on my shoulder, “Mom!”

    She blinked and shook her head to clear away cobwebs, and the guard’s lights started to build, “Ma’am-“

    And then she punched him.

    It was blindingly fast, her fist going right up into his jaw hard enough for me to hear it crack, the lights in him going dim and still as he fell back and landed on the floor with a thump.

    I stared, first at the guard, who didn’t move, and then up at my mom, who’d frowned and started to pull me away, “We’re leaving.”

    My mom was awesome!

    “Okay.”

    No problems with that! He was… creepy? Scary? I didn’t like him–

    –the sealing designate has been found–

    –experiments threatened the secrecy of magic–

    –in the name of the holy church–

    I didn’t like him at all. My grandparents and dad were all looking into the hallway as my mom led me away, ready to help. But as the smell of orange blossoms faded, I think the danger had passed.

    Not much later, I was falling asleep in my grandma’s arms on the way home as she told me stories about her father leaving the tribe. I’d had fun today, even with that weird security guard guy. And I really liked hearing new stories…

    -oOo-


    Mom said Freddy’s was shut down not a lot later. But I didn’t remember it much, I was getting ready to start school. Kindergarten!

    Grandpa walked be to school since it was pretty close to our house, and I thought I’d smelled citrus at some point… but I’d made friends!

    It was recess, and we’d gotten a chance to huddle up and tell stories, my favorite!

    “Oh yeah? I hear the playground is haunted!”

    “Nu uh!”

    “Ya-huh! It totally is!”

    “No way!”

    “We should totally check it out!”

    I hadn’t gone to the playground near the school, it was near my house too, but there was so much to do at grandma and grandpas that I’d never needed too! Grandpa could teach me to drive a tractor or I could climb the trees or I could be gardening or learning to cook from grandma, why would I need to go to the playground?

    But if it was haunted? Oh that could be cool!

    -oOo-


    We were learning our alphabet and our numbers, but I already knew how to read, I loved to read, my writing wasn’t very good yet though. But I was gonna investigate the park! I’d just asked Grandpa to take me there so I could see if it was haunted like my friends had said! He’d done that little grunting thing he did when he thought I was being funny, but he’d taken me there anyways.

    It was a nice playground too!

    There were these wooden blocks in the ground that made this weird mountain thing and monkey bars and a swing and a full jungle gym! There weren’t any kids here at the moment, but there was a guy over there, he didn’t look too good…

    He seemed to brighten when he looked at us, but his face didn’t look very nice… but then he looked at me, like really looked at me.

    I smelled citrus.
    **Boo.**
    And he ran away screaming.

    I blinked, “Grandpa…?”

    “Yes?”

    “Did you see somebody…?”

    “No, you did?” I didn’t say anything, still thinking, but something must’ve given it away to him, “Do you think it was the ghost?”

    “I don’t know…”

    Grandpa reached down to put his hand on my shoulder, and I felt a brief pat atop my head even as I looked up at him. He smiled, “Well, you better check all the things individually to make sure they’re not haunted.”

    A grin spread across my face as I bounced in place, “Yeah!” I dropped my bookbag to the mulch and ran forward-

    “Don’t just drop stuff like that!” He called out after me scoldingly, “Be sure to put it somewhere safe!”

    “Ah…” my face heated up and I walked back over to pick up my bookbag. “Sorry.”

    I thought I could hear a computer fan in the rustling of the trees as I took my bookbag over to one of the park benches, **It may not be my world… but I’ll help you however I can, little one.**

    … I didn’t know what I was hearing, but… Grandma said you should thank people when they do something nice for you, “Thank you.”

    “Conan!”

    “Yeah Grandpa?!”

    “Do you want to figure out a mystery?”

    A grin spread across my face, “Yeah!”

  2. #2
    Year 3

    The almost pear-shaped old woman sat in the chair at the back of the church, watching the kids playing in the break during Sunday School.

    “Having a good time Betty?”

    The silver-haired woman looked up at her pastor, the even older man coming to stand beside where she sat.

    Both were well wrinkled in their old age, the pastor’s hair a stark white comparable to his shirt but contrasting his light gray suit. The aged woman’s hair a brilliant silver, just a hint of curls to it, wearing a nice blouse and pair of pants, with her jacket draped across the back of the plastic chair as she sat there in the shade of the church.

    “I’m doing fine Michael,” she gave him a little smile.

    But that smile made the pastor’s own fade, he reached out to pull one of the cheap chairs closer to sit beside her, “What’s the matter Betty?”

    The old woman looked up at the playing children. Most of them were younger, though there were a few teens, most were the grandchildren of those actually going to church. Betty’s own children didn’t go very frequently, but they were good kids with children of their own, she wasn’t worried about them. Despite the brilliant light of the Florida sun beating down, the kids were laughing and screaming and playing, tossing the plastic horseshoes, digging holes, or playing with the toys the church had provided.

    “I’m worried.” Betty admitted as the pastor propped his elbows on his knees. The grandmother herself settling back into the chair, slumping at the admission.

    She had two among them, she had almost a dozen grandkids, but only the two were here. The quiet redhead Sonja and the older boy, Conan.

    The pastor laid his hand atop hers as he gently asked, “About what Betty?”

    “It’s Conan.” She said, struggling to put it into words as she watched the shy boy get drawn into a game. He was only seven years old, but seemed even younger, smaller even than his compatriots, thin, pale, short, with dark hair and freckles across his cheeks. “He… he’s been seeing things.”

    -oOo-

    “Alright son, we’re going to do a quick little test.”

    Pastor Michael smiled warmly at the young boy as they sat in his office in the church. It’d taken him nearly a week to gather up the various materials for this test, so he’d decided to do it after the sunday service a week after it’d been brought to his attention by Betty. She’d helped found this church, built it up from nothing, her and Jabo had helped clear the trees, pull the stumps, and laid the foundation of the church he’d taken to watching over.

    “Okay, what are we testing?” The freckled boy asked as he sat in the chair in front of Michaels desk.

    “We’re going to check your sight. Your grandma’s said you’ve been seeing and hearing things that she hasn’t.” He knew how hard the admission had been on Betty, she loved the little boy, her and Jabo were doing most of the raising of them given how busy their parents were at work, but she didn’t want to believe there was anything wrong with him. “Could you look at each of these and tell me which one of these is different?”

    Setting out a group of otherwise identical bouncy balls, Michael watched the boy’s reaction.

    It didn’t even take a second, Conan pointing immediately at one of the red balls, “This one.”

    All of the balls of rubber were the same kind of toy, they came from jack sets, but one of them had been with its owner when they were killed, and carried his grudge. And Conan had known which one it was at a glance.

    Nodding, Michael picked up the balls and placed them back into their container. “Alright.” Setting that one aside, he picked up the next and gently poured the next set of items out, “Now, which of these?”

    “That one.” Again, Conan pointed almost immediately, already having been staring at the item.

    Michael nodded again, keeping his smile on his face. But as he went through the various items the local churches had lent him to test the psychic talents of those they found, his concern increased. “And of these?”

    “This one, definitely.”

    Conan was identifying items on sight, immediately, passively, and their nature didn’t matter. Psychic? Spiritual? Magical? Cursed? Blessed? All of them were obvious to his sight. Even when the pastor switched to the tests for other senses like hearing and touch. Those didn’t seem to be as sensitive as his sight, and the local churches didn’t quite have the materials on hand to extensively test all of the senses.

    “And the last one,” Pastor Michael said, setting out a set of pens, “Out of these?”

    “... that one, it’s…” the boy hesitated, looking at the pen.

    Gently, Michael prompted, “Can you describe what makes it different?”

    “It’s kind of scary. It… it’s like a blanket was wrapped around it…” Carefully, hesitantly, the young man reached out to poke the aforementioned pen, cringing backwards, “But it’s like it’s filled with blood…”

    And in a way, he was right. The pen had been used to kill a man, stabbing into his chest over a dozen times, a sadistic and cruel act by a woman caught in the height of fury and passion. But in an attempt to purify and rehabilitate the spirit and impressions carried by the pen, it had been used by men of the cloth for decades. The dark past was hidden now by its constant sacred use, under the love and care given to and through the pen. And it was used as a way to gauge the strength and fine detail of a psychic’s senses. To be able to tell at a glance its’ dark past even through the care laid upon it…

    With a small nod, the man of the cloth started to gather up the pens, “Thank you.”

    There was several long moments of silence in the office as Pastor Michael gathered up the various testing implements and putting them back in their cases. The boy was fidgeting in place before asking, “What’s wrong?”

    The question almost caught Michael by surprise, lost in his own thoughts as he was, but he smiled broadly at the seven year old, “Nothing at all, you’ve been blessed with a great gift, and one I’m going to help you learn how to use.” Kneeling carefully because of his old knees, the pastor put a hand on the boy’s shoulder as he sat in the chair, “But it’s not one people will understand, so you have to be careful who you tell, okay?”

    “Okay…”

    -oOo-

    “Entreat the Lord of peace to cast Satan down under our feet,” I could feel every heartbeat as I said it softly.

    “So as to keep him from further holding man captive and doing harm.” I clung to the bible in my hand even as a small waft of citrus drifted through my senses.

    “Carry our prayers up to God’s throne,” a chariot upon wheels carried by cherubim, surrounded by angels.

    “That the mercy of the Lord may quickly come,” the room was cold, refreshingly so, my skin felt hot and the chill of the air conditioned air.

    “And lay hold of the beast, the serpent of old, Satan and his demons,” even through my eyelids I could see the beginings of the light.

    “Casting him in chains into the abyss, so that he can no longer seduce the nations.”

    My eyes opened as I stared at the bloody animal and I sealed the promise, “Amen.”

    Chains of light appeared around the poor creature, glittering into existence and weighing it down.

    Pastor Michael lowered his cross and smiled at me gently, and I gave him a small, shakey smile in return. He gave me a pat on the head before ruffling my hair affectionately, “You did very well, I’m proud of you.”

    I beamed up at him even as the dog settled to the ground like it was going to sleep, despite the large divot in its chest from… it didn't’ look like a car tire, maybe a baseball bat? Something mean…. But as the doggy panted, the anger and fear melted out of his face and he seemed to fall asleep.

    A peaceful sleep, as the dog seemed to shimmer and scatter into bits of light.

    -oOo-

    “Why though?” the boy asked as they walked through the room.

    “You need to learn these things to defend yourself from the spirits that may try to possess you.” Father Michael said, wearing the more traditional priestly garb. Though he was not Catholic, the outfit would help put the poor souls that had called him at ease. Even if the haunting was fake or the renter’s paranoia, it was his duty as a man of faith to take care of them. “Your eyes are quite valuable to them.”

    “But they always run away from me.” Conan pointed out before pouting, “Usually screaming.”

    Father Michael smiled, gently touching his shoulder, “I know, but not all of them will, some of them might want to hurt you, and you have to be ready. And the ones that aren’t… you can see them better than I can, and you can help them.”

    Blinking owlishly, the boy’s green eyes stared up at the pastor. “Help them?”

    “Spirits that linger often have unfinished business, or some pain that keeps them from finding their final peace with the Lord.” Taking a knee beside the boy, he took Conan’s hand in his well wrinkled one, liver spots and weathered by the sun and calluses of decades of work enveloping the much smaller and paler hand, “We can help them find it.”

    “Like the dog?” It’d been huge and dark and bleeding when they’d first seen it, and it’d tried to run from them. While Michael couldn’t do more than sense the spiritual presence, its malice had been clear and unrepentant. It’d been more of a beast than a dog, barely in the right shape and sensations to be a canine… but as the pastor had used his faith to allow the lord to keep it in place, Conan had used the sacrament and its power to bring it peace.

    “Yes, exactly like that.”

    -oOo-

    “You got your beads?”

    “Yup!” Conan bobbed his head and held up his left arm, which had a rope of dark red rosary beads wrapped around it tightly.

    “Good. Enjoy your day at school.”

    “Will do grandpa!”

    The little boy waved as he rushed into the elementary school, the ornamental little hammer at the end of the rosary beads bouncing against his wrist as he became a speck of white among the sea of black and brown. His lips tightened as he watched the boy rush across the basketball courts to his friends, many larger than himself, who cheered lightly and quickly parted the circle of brown to let him in. He’d never liked the fact that a ghetto had sprung up around the place he’d built his home for his family, but the boy was smart, he’d figure things out on his own.

    Turning, the older man walked back down the hill towards his home, where Betty would be cleaning up after breakfast and taking care of the little Sonja, the quiet little redhead barely able to walk, but certainly able to run.

    Really though, he was more worried about those beads.

    Jabo wasn’t a superstitious man, he prayed to God and went to church, but if he was honest with himself, he didn’t believe too strongly in the supernatural of any kind. Even if he wasn’t able to go to college, he’d done as much research as he could into engineering and cultivation and science. He’d left the medicine and cooking to Betty, the glorious woman.

    But he knew those coral beads had been a much lighter red.

    And coral didn’t change to the color of blood on its own.

    He’d been worried whenever Conan had seen or heard things that clearly weren’t there, the boy was smart as a whip, and Jabo hadn’t wanted to think he was going crazy. But then Betty had to go and mention that to Pastor Michael, which hadn’t exactly made him happy, but the pastor was a good man, he wouldn’t spread any rumors at very least.

    Michael had given Conan the rosary, had gotten him reading the bible, and was tutoring him somethin’ special after Sunday School. Jabo’d thought it was mostly a waste of time, no matter how nice the rosary was, it’d make Betty feel better about it though, which meant he was getting it done.

    But them beads?

    They’d been stained the color of blood.

    Fresh and dark, like right out of a cattle’s heart.

    They’d started off a gorgeous orange-red, with the larger beads this clear crystal with some holy water in them.

    But they’d gotten dark, and the holy water had turned pink, a pink that’d been darkening every week the boy wore it.

    Jabo didn’t know if he believed in the supernatural or not, but he definitely didn’t like what he saw there. Whether it was malarky or not, if it meant the boy being safer, he’d pray every night and bring him to the church every day. He wasn’t gonna let anything happen to him if he had any say about it.

    -oOo-

    It was out of almost nowhere that Conan spoke up during his tutoring, “... I don’t understand.”

    Michael looked up at the young boy as he sat there, slowly rolling the beads in his fingers. The two of them were sitting together in the church’s office, the boy going over his beads while the pastor got some of the necessary paperwork done and out of the way, “What about?”

    “He’s… God’s supposed to be all loving and all powerful and all knowing… but… but why do people suffer?”

    “That’s a really complex question Conan, it’s a good one. Why do you think?”

    A soft sound whirred in Conan's ears as he stared down at the beads in his lap, his thoughts organizing themselves. “... I… I don’t think he can be… not all of those.”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Free will means we can hurt each other… but it doesn’t mean that people should die in hurricanes, or of disease! He has the power to stop that, and he knows how, so why doesn’t he? He… he either doesn’t have the power, or he doesn’t know how, or he doesn’t care…”

    “And what if it’s all part of God’s plan?”

    The boy pouted almost petulantly, “... I don’t like that plan.”

    “You just have to have faith.”

    There was a silence, and Michael waited while the boy looked down at the beads, and the hammer hanging from them, a hammer meant to symbolize the one that had nailed Jesus to the cross.

    Quietly, almost afraid, the boy admitted, “... I don’t think I do.”

    And Michael had a feeling he understood that a line had been crossed, even so, he smiled, “You have some, you’ve done your prayers and sanctions properly. They would not work if you did not have faith.”

    “But-!” Conan’s head had snapped up before falling back down, looking at the beads in his hands, “… I know those work, I’ve seen you do them, I can see them work. That’s… that’s not faith.”

    The pastor looked at the young boy for several long moments, and he seemed almost… sad… but then he smiled, warm and gentle, and patted the eight year old’s shoulder, “It’s alright. It just means this isn’t the best place for you.”

    Conan’s face fell, “It isn’t?”

    Even with his doubts, he liked the pastor, he liked learning here, he liked having someone explain to him the things he could see that no one else could and the history of all these things.

    But the man of the cloth smiled as he straightened himself out with a little crick of his back, “It’s alright. I think I know a place that will suit you better. You’ll still come here for Sunday School though. Can you finish your prayers on the beads? I’m going to make some calls before I take you home today, okay?”

    The boy looked down at the beads for a moment before meeting the pastor’s eyes again with a hesitant nod, “Okay…”

    Pastor Michael smiled, chuckling, “It’s alright. The sacraments will help you if you ever have to deal with spirits, the Lord is with you.”

    -oOo-

    “Yes, Anna Belle, I’m serious.”

    The three of them were in the church’s office. Conan, still tiny and pale and freckled was in a nice button up shirt, with equally nice sunday clothes pants and shoes, fidgeting in place before the two adults in the room. The pastor was in one of his many suits, this one a very nice white suit, with a black tie and a gray shirt beneath, but despite the slight hunch to weight of time on his shoulders, the man still stood tall and proud.

    The final occupant, a new one, was a woman in an outdated hoop skirt, with large amounts of lace, feathering, and layers upon layers of clothing, using a delicate folding fan with sticks of ivory and highly artistic silk on its surface, her luxurious brown hair immaculately curled. But for all that the two men were lean or thin, she was fat. Rolls of flesh strained at the limits of her poor corset, and depending on which direction she looked, she either had two or three chins.

    The large lady harrumphed, “He’s a first generation at best, and probably doesn’t even have anything worth noting outside of his psychic mutation and whatever strange thing is going on with him spiritually. I’d almost more experiment on him than teach him.”

    Pastor Michael only smiled serenely at her, “Then it’s a good thing I’m calling in a favor to ensure he is taught.”

    Another harrumph that sent her body jiggling before she primly waddled over and ordered the young boy, “Take off your shirt.”

    “Um…” Conan took a step back away from her.

    She frowned, looking like she’d sucked on a lemon before Father Michael spoke, “It’s alright Conan, she just has to check something.”

    “Sir…?” he said hesitantly.

    “I promise it’s okay,” the pastor said understandingly, “I’m right here.”

    The boy took off his shirt obligingly, still hesitant, and the large woman’s eye landed on the large, vertical scar that stretched from the base of his throat all the way down to his belly button. Frowning, she walked around him once, muttering under her breath before coming to a stop behind the boy and planting a gloved hand on his back, her frown worsening into a sneer of disgust before she looked to the priest, “What did you do to this boy?”

    Michael shook his head, “I only found him.”

    Anna Belle frowned, “He practically oozes blood out of his pores.”

    Conan shot the old man a worried look, who smiled at him comfortingly, “It’s alright, it’s the way you’ve always been.”

    “O-Okay… ah!”

    Heat flared through his skin suddenly, like a hot brand on his back from where she’d touched him, lines of fire going through his limbs.

    “What…?” The obese woman frowned, her brow wrinkling in confusion before she nearly jerked back and shot an accusing look towards the man of the cloth, “What do you mean he doesn’t have a family?”

    “Hey! I’ve got a mom and dad!”

    Michael made a placating gesture to Conan, “That’s not a tone a young man should use with a lady.” Though the boy looked away petulantly, he did mutter an apology, at which point Michael looked back at the Second Owner, “I’ve known his family for almost four generations now, there’s not a drop of magic to them aside from faith.”

    Anna Belle’s round face spoke of her disbelief as she sneered, “He has twenty one circuits.”

    Father Michael nearly choked, but the large woman wasn’t done, “Twenty one, extremely high quality circuits.”

    “I…” the man of the cloth started before gathering himself, “I figured he had either a few high quality ones or a lot of low quality ones given his spiritual condition but-”

    “What’s a magic circuit?” Conan asked as the woman took her hand from his back.

    The pastor stepped over to place a hand comfortingly on the boy’s shoulder, “It’s a good thing Conan, just a surprising one.”

    The Second Owner sniffed derisively, “You haven’t even told him about Magic Circuits?”

    “I’ve been focusing on teaching him how to be safe from spiritual entities.” The old man said calmly, brown eyes meeting her blue ones

    The well-dressed woman’s grunt sent flabs jiggling despite her clothing’s futile endeavours to enforce structure, “I am not adopting him.”

    Father Michael put his hands on hips and looked reproachfully at the obese woman, a look Conan had only seen the man take once before when he’d made a joke out of one of the sacraments, “Anna Belle Atherton de Vendredi Penderghast the Third.”

    The named woman cringed slightly at the tone of the priest who continued, “I didn’t contact you to teach him your mysteries or to coddle him. I called you to teach him how to safely use his gifts and teach him the basics of being a magus.”

    “A magus…?” the boy asked, almost too soft to hear, and went unnoticed by both the other occupants in the room.

    Recollecting herself, Anna Bell snorted, snapping her folding fan open once more to fan herself, “I’ll only teach him till his fourteenth birthday. If he hasn’t gotten things figured out by then then there’s no hope for him, your favor only extends so far.”

    The pastor just smiled at that before looking to the boy, “That’s alright, I have faith in him.”

    -oOo-

    “Do you know what Od is?”

    Using a delicate and lacey parasol to keep herself out of the sun, the oversized woman stood in front of the pale little boy in the grass.

    “Odd?”

    An unhappy grunt, “Mana?”

    “No, I’ve heard of that one though.”

    Anna Belle, or Master as she insisted upon being called, snapped her delicate lacey fan back together with a clack of ivory.

    The two of them were standing in her backyard, just behind her pristine mansion, but not yet in the large fields of cotton and various other crops that filled the surrounding acres of land.

    He’d be going to her plantation twice a week for ‘tutoring’, though she wouldn’t be bothering with such mundane things like addition or multiplication as he would be learning in that horrid jungle of a school. He’d be learning the higher arts of the mysteries of the world, even if just the most basic ones, they’d be far more valuable than such droll things.

    “Od is the life force energy found within living organisms. Mana is the life force energy of the world, it occupies the atmosphere around us, flowing through the world like our blood through our body. Magical energy is created when one mixes their Od with Mana.” She lectured before pointing her fan at the boy’s chest, “Because of your…” she sneered, “Condition… you constantly leak your Od from your body. Praise your God that you were blessed with Magical Circuits of quality, otherwise you would have already died a hundred times over.”

    “What?” the boy squeaked.

    “When the body gets low on Od, the Magic Circuits that are stored within the human soul will begin to replenish it. Od is produced as long as one lives, but the amount a person can store varies. If your circuits did not have their quality or number, you would have bled out faster than your circuits could recover the energy in their off state. And if you run out of Od, you die.”

    Conan swallowed before the tip of the folding fan was jammed up to his nose, “Understand this. To walk the path of the magi is to walk with death. Your spells can kill you. Your research can kill you. Your partners can kill you. Monsters hide in the shadows of the moonlit world, and you will make yourself a target for them.”

    “Oh…”

    “If you cannot do that, then you have no place here.”

    Conan stared down at the rosary beads still wrapped tightly around his left forearm and hand. “... I understand.”

    “Good. I shall call for the c–”

    “What are Magic Circuits?”

    Anna Belle blinked, “What?”

    “Magic Circuits." Conan's brilliantly green eyes, with flecks of almost stars within them, rose to meet hers, "You’ve mentioned them before. What are they? Why can a person have multiples of them in varying amounts? What does their quality mean? What do they do other than refilling Odd?”

    The obese woman blinked once as she idly corrected, “Od. Not odd.”

    “Sorry.” Conan said with honest contrition.

    Gathering herself with a snort, the Second Owner snapped her fan back open, fanning herself in the sun as she began her lecture, “Magic Circuits are a pseudo-nervous system that spreads itself through the human body and what qualifies a person to be a magus.”

    -oOo-

    “And now you squeeze it tight, tighter, tighter… there, now loosen up just a little. There we go”

    He smiled down at Conan, who clung tightly to the grip of the pistol, holding it straight out in front of him, his arms wobbling slightly from the weight.

    His father’s hands were resting lightly on his shoulders, a soft breeze rustling the pine needles of the trees.

    The two of them stood together in the woods near their house, standing a dozen feet away from one of the larger pine trees, a piece of paper stuck to its side with concentric rings on it. The stout, heavily tanned and balding man gently held onto his son as he coached him along.

    “Now, focus on your target, grip the gun and raise it, it’s like the BB gun, line up the sights.”

    Conan’s heartbeat pulsed through his palms, hard against the wood and metal of the pistol’s grip as he made small adjustments, his mind falling away as he tried to align the sights and predict the trajectory of the bullet, “Line up the sights…”

    “Unlock your elbows, keep your arms flexed to deal with the kick.”

    “Unlock elbows…” Conan murmured, forcing his breathing to slow back down to something reasonable.

    His father’s rough hands squeezed his shoulders softly as he asked, “Do you have it?”

    The target, a piece of paper with ink on it hung on a tree, the projectile in the gun, meant to go down the barrel and into the target, the gun in his hands, and Conan himself. They were all one big system. Without him, the gun would not fire, without the gun, he could not hit the target… they were incomplete without one another.

    “Yes.” he whispered, holding tightly onto the line he’d found.

    “Good, now, like we practiced. Safeties off.”

    His heartbeat thundered in his ears, the rushing of his blood like the roar of the waves at the beach. His thumb moved up and flicked the little piece of metal down, opening the channel, unlocking the danger, and making the hunk of human production a weapon.

    “Safeties Off.”

    Power blasted through him, like lightning, like fire, like an avalanche, like a tidal wave, like a hurricane. It was an electric tingle dancing across his skin and a burning sun in his chest with every beat of his heart, flares of electric tingles with every thud against his ribcage.

    “Now, slowly squeeze the trigger.”

    The weapon thundered, flame blasting from the end, wood and metal slamming back into his palm and sending shocks through his wrist a hole punched into the target two rings from the bullseye.

    “Good! Now, switch the safety back on. Make it safe.”

    His thumb shifted to push the little lever back up, jamming the system back closed, keeping it from operating and making it safe. “Safety On.”

    The raging storm within him settled, but a fire burned under his skin as he lowered the gun.

    He was panting, the tingling energy dancing across his skin fading.

    “That was good! We’ll load up the next shot and… Conan, are you okay?”

    “I-... I don’t know… I… I don’t know…” He swallowed hard, “I-... I think I need to talk to Ms. Anna Belle…”

    -oOo-

    “Safeties... Off.”

    Nothing happened.

    Master harrumphed, “I thought you said you’d made progress.”

    “I- I thought I did…” the young boy murmured, staring down at his hands accusingly, demanding of them why they hadn't worked.

    “Recreate the moment in your head.” She said with a little sniff, “Every piece of it, every word, every motion, if you’re able to open your circuits, then do it.”

    Conan bit his lip and looked down, his brow furrowing in thought.

    What had he done, what had he felt, what had he seen and done?

    His eyes closed as he planted his feet apart, shoulder width, his hands came up to grasp an invisible gun, his breathing steadied, back straightened, shoulders eased–

    The scent of orange blossoms flitted through his consciousness–

    “Line up the sights…” The gun was in his head, his thumb finding the metal lever.

    “Safeties…” He thumbed that lever in his hand and mind, “Off.”

    It was like the floodgates had been opened, and the storm blasted through him once more, the tingle didn’t come to his skin this time, but the same surging hurricane went through his body, pouring out from his heart.

    Unseen, the obese Second Owner nearly recoiled at the sudden surge of the bloody Od, it was like the sensation of bloody mist that always hung around the eight year old became a physical weight, a surging tide of blood that pulsed with the heartbeat at its center.

    While initially an impressive amount of raw power, that was only because it was being output rather than utilized.

    It was disgusting.

    And wasteful beyond belief.

    The sharp clack of his master’s fan closing jerked the boy out of his trance, and the tide of blood eased slightly, “Master?”

    “Wasteful.” She admonished, “But yes, you have opened your circuits.”

    He brightened, beaming. His eyes, normally green with flecks of other colors within them now seemed far more like exploding supernovas, colors of every type flowing out from his pupils to fill the confines of his irises.

    Anna Belle's expression didn't change, “Now you need to close them, otherwise you’re going to bleed off all of your Od in the next couple of minutes.”

    Conan’s face fell and he squeaked, “What?!”

    “Any normal magus wouldn’t have to worry about that, but your stupid mess of a heart means that you bleed. You must learn to shut off your circuits.”

    “S-Safeties On-!”

    And the storm raged on within him unabated, Anna Belle sniffing derisively.

    Recreate the moment. Slow breath. He straightened out his arms again, closing his eyes and trying to control his suddenly panicked breathing.

    His brow furrowed, the soft sound of a computer fan in his ear as he held out his right hand, able to see the gun… no, that little metal lever in his head, “Safety…” his thumb flicked upwards, “On.”

    It was like flipping the switch in his household, and the lines of fire and storms in his body shut off, and his heartbeat in his chest started to calm. The thick, unreal haze of blood about him faded back to the usual persistent mist that clung to him. Unseen, but sensed.

    “Passable. Now do it again.”

    Conan eyes blinked open, “Uh…?”

    The sharp clack of the Second Owner’s folding fan closing made the boy flinch, “I said, again. Being able to activate your circuits at all is at least the beginnings of progress. But you must be able to do so consistently if you are to achieve even the slightest Mystery.”

    “Y-Yes Master.”

    “Now. Again.”

    “Safeties… Off.”

    -oOo-

    “Did you remember your lunch?”

    Conan practically bounced in place as he watched the CGI robots acted out their eternal war. “Got it!”

    His mother came over and knelt to mess with his hair, “Don’t forget to fix this before your grandpa gets here, okay?”

    “Awww…” He whined from his place on the floor, propped up on his elbows and toes, trying to stay as straight as he could.

    Od was the life force of a person, and the more they had, the better. There weren’t too many ways to improve it, but it was very much something that Conan needed to do, he constantly bled off his Od at a slow rate, slow enough that his magic circuits could replace what he lost, but once he opened them up, the bleed increased significantly. If he could be say to lose 1 unit of energy per hour normally, his circuits could passively restore 2 units in that same amount of time.

    “Don’t ‘aww’ me mister, you’re not going to school with a dozen cowlicks. Put some water on it and comb it before you go.”

    When he opened them up though, he started losing magical energy at 21 units per minute and regaining it at just over 11 units per minute. And he only had about 60 units, literally half of what would be expected given the quality and quantity of his magic circuits.

    “Yes mom.”

    That left precious little for any attempts at thaumaturgy, and severely limited the amount of prana he had available at any one time. Any little improvements to his Odic capacity, respiration rate, or stemming his Odic bleed would make an enormous difference in his viable casting time.

    “I still live… finish it!”

    And one way to increase odic capacity? Be more fit. The more physical one was, the more life energy they had, and thus, by extension, the more Od.

    “That’s not how we Maximal’s do things.”

    So, he exercised! A little bit every day.

    “Then that… will have… to change!”

    The fact that his magus master was disgustingly fat and he never wanted to look remotely like that had very little to do with it.

    “No! Optimus!” the boy cried out, his stomach starting to burn.

    Very little.

    -oOo-

    “I… don’t understand Mystery.”

    “It is the source of all magecraft.”

    “But… how? You understand it. So it’s not a mystery. And- and age isn’t a mystery, it can be weird and surprising but it’s not mysterious.”

    Anna Belle Atherton de Vendredi Penderghast the fourth sneered beside him, “You can’t even understand that much?”

    Her mother, as obese as she was, still managed to appear delicate as her nose crinkled slightly, “The terminology is not exact but is more than adequate. Magecraft is a conserved quantity, there is only so much to go around, much like a mystery, the more it is known, the less of a mystery it is. The more a piece of magecraft is known, the less powerful it is.”

    Conan frowned, looking down at the table as he processed that.

    The three of them were within the Second Owner’s mansion at one of her dining tables, one of her servants serving a light meal. Of a shrimp salad, lentil soup, oysters, lightly roasted carrots, home fries mixed with truffles, duck, millefeuille, and a selection of cheeses with a creamed spinach dip, with mushroom ketchup on basically everything. Conan ate a lot, but he preferred mac n cheese, but Master Anna Belle wouldn’t stand for such in her home, but it hadn’t taken Conan long to figure out why his Master was the size of a blimp and her daughter on her way towards matching or exceeding that.

    Much of the boy’s time when he was there for tutoring was spent in the backyard of the mansion practicing his basics while his Master either taught her daughter or did any number of things to maintain her plantation, her own research, or whatever else it was she did.

    “That’s stupid.” Conan muttered.

    The younger Anna Belle, only a few years older than him almost shrieked, “Stupid?!”

    “Anna Belle! Tone! That one is not befitting a young lady of the Pendergast name.”

    “Sorry mother.” The chubby girl hung her head, her cheeks reddening.

    And then the Second Owner turned her gaze upon her guest, “And you will explain yourself boy.”

    Conan met her gaze, “Magic only working because it’s mysterious is stupid. Mana’s real, it’s out there and it’s a thing. It’s not gonna stop being mana just because we understand it. It’d mean that understanding something would make it weaker! But that’s not what happens! We’ve got stuff like electricity and computers and cars because more people understood the things that made them run better!”

    “Thaumaturgy is not some machine that works on such plebeian concepts.” The massive woman said with a tight control of her anger, “It is a glorious art manipulating the very foundations of existence in seeking the Swirl of the Root.”

    Conan’s lips pressed together tightly, “But that doesn’t help people-”

    “Helping people is not the purpose of thaumaturgy!” Anna Belle actually snapped this time, “The purpose of thaumaturgy is to reach True Magic! To touch the Akashic Records!”

    “But-”

    “No buts! And I will hear none of that in my territory!”

    “But that’s not what’s around us every day!”

    “I will not have some excuse for a first generation magus insult what my family has worked on for centuries!”

    -oOo-

    Conan sat outside the mansion, staring a the fields where dark skinned people were picking the cotton, there were other crops out there, beyond immediate sight, but he knew they were there.

    Waiting for the car to come to pick him up.

    He probably wouldn’t be coming back.

    It was stupid. He was stupid. The whole thing was stupid.

    Magecraft might not be about making people’s lives better. But Thaumaturgy meant wonder working, and his master was wrong if she thought there wasn’t any wonder to be found in clean water for thousands or food in everyone’s bellies or being able to talk to anyone on the planet.

    Conan snorted, scowling as he picked up a stick and hurled it out into the fields.

    He felt like an idiot, even as he hated how idiotic the system itself was.

    “Boy.”

    Nearly jumping out of his skin, the still pale boy scrambled up to his feet, “Yes?”

    Anna Belle the third’s face had smoothed out, at least as much as the triple chins could manage. She stood tall over the little boy, delicately fanning herself with the folding fan as she held the parasol over her shoulder. “Be grateful for Father Michael’s affection for you. I would normally have punished you quite thoroughly for such comments.”

    The young boy looked down at the ground, his lips pressing together tightly.

    The sharp clack of her folding fan closing made him flinch before the Second Owner continued, “You insulted the work I have done, that my mother has done, that my mother’s mother has done, and more, for centuries. You called it stupid.”

    Conan cringed at that, he hadn’t meant to do that, “I’m sor-”

    “And in doing so you insulted the training I have given you.”

    Tears were starting to flow from his eyes as he looked down at the ground.

    “Be grateful, child or not, were you not here at the Father’s request, you would’ve taken a score of lashes.”

    “... ‘m sorry…”

    The folding fan was frigid as it lifted Conan’s face to her own by his chin, the massive woman’s face imperious and sour at the same time, “You are on thin ice boy. Are we clear?”

    “Yes’m.”

    “You will not question Mystery in my territory. You will not insult my family again. You will not bring up that madness of using Thaumaturgy to help people of all things.”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    Anna Belle let his head fall again as she said simply, “You are done for the day.”

    -oOo-

    “Eyes of Omens, give me sight beyond sight.”

    It was a soft murmur beneath his breath as he sat in class, playing with his pencils–

    With an internal crackle, the storm started up in his eyes as he opened the circuit that had merged with them. ‘Pure Eyes’ Master Anna Belle had called them. Activating them apparently did something weird with his irises, but given he was in the back of the class, he should be okay, and there was so much to see.

    The pencil was made of graphite and clay within a piece of wood that was painted and crimped at the end with metal and a piece of rubber, it was made four months ago in a factory- static.

    Conan blinked away the static, glancing up to be sure that Mr. Smith was still going on about subtracting two digit numbers. It was just adding in reverse, and he’d gotten the digit carry thing down when they’d covered adding the numbers last week.

    Looking back at his desk, Conan tried to feed more power into his eyes. That was as much as he could see so far. Apparently he did Structural Grasping differently from normal, given his Pure Eyes. So he’d have to figure out how to do it himself.

    “Mr. Conan.”

    “Ah!” The boy’s head jerked up and he blinked his eyes rapidly, ‘Safety On!’ “Yes?”

    Activating only one circuit, the one in his eyes, really reduced the odic bleed to a minimum but still let him do smaller magecraft like using his eyes. He couldn’t really target any of his other circuits like that yet, but the one in his eyes wasn’t too hard to turn on and off by itself.

    “Solve the problem on the board.”

    “Ah…” 35 - 17? “Eighteen?”

    The tall, dark skinned man gave the boy a long suffering look, “Conan, I want you to come up here and show your work.”

    No one else in the room could’ve turned the same shade of cherry red as Conan did, and there were more than a few giggles at it, as well as a few sympathetic looks from the other shy kids in the class. Still, he got up from his desk and shuffled up to the board.

    Magic, it seemed, would have to wait.

    -oOo-

    Conan chased after his cousin through the house, Sonja not far behind.

    His grandparents house was opened for the holiday, the smells of over a dozen different foods wafting through the household as the chilled air from outside slipped through the doors to the porch. A fire softly crackled in the fireplace and the tree was lit up despite there being plenty of daylight outside.

    “If you’re going to play tag, do it outside!”

    Technically he could’ve opened his circuits briefly and mixed his Od with the Mana around him in his circuits to make some Prana to fill the empty spaces in his body. It’d make him a good bit stronger and faster, but that’d be cheating.

    “Yes grandma!”

    The cooler air made it a lot easier to use his circuits though, they got hot pretty quickly when he opened them up since they were constantly working. Sure, Florida didn’t get that cold, but the middle of winter was still cooler.

    “Come on, come on!” Conan tugged on his cousin’s wrist, laughing as they headed outside.

    He’d gotten a lot of cool gifts! Santa had gotten him this new game for the computer, Baldur’s Gate had this really cool guide-book that he really wanted to read! And he’d gotten a microscope from his parents and science books from his uncle Buddy, and a whole bunch of legos from his uncle James, and a full set of nerf guns from auntie Hoochie! Sonja had gotten some dolls, but she’d traded one of the cooler ones with Juan for one of his nerf guns, they were in business!

    Sonja nodded enthusiastically, tugging their other cousin’s wrist.

    His Master had said that Masters didn’t have to get students christmas gifts, but Pastor Michael had a different gift! He was going to be taking Conan to Japan!
    Last edited by Andoriol; August 29th, 2018 at 11:07 AM. Reason: Formatting error

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