4 Elemental Orb
The cat returned first. Once again, it went straight through the door, this time stopping to look at Bai Qi curiously. The cat tilted it's gaze, looking at Bai Qi sideways. Bai Qi noticed its eyes had changed colors, previously being blue and green to now brown and green. The brown had a tint of hazel, barely noticeable, as if it was in the midst of changing. Bai Qi could see the light glint off its raven black fur, marveling at how real it looked. Its eyes had a glint of intelligence that seemed to compare with the intelligence of humans, or even beyond.
The door opened behind him. The same scene repeated himself, Zhong Xin bringing in a tray of food as he pushed the door open with his leg. This time the tray was filled to the brim. There was a steaming plate of beef stew, and next to it, a loaf of bread. On the side, there was a wedge of cheese to go along with the bread. Fruit filled up one corner, a luscious red apple and some grapes. Bai Qi could feel himself getting hungry, his stomach rumbling. When was the last time he had even eaten? A few days ago when he landed in the market? Or even before that?
"Sorry, it's not much," Zhong Xin said while apologizing. "We didn't realize you would be waking up so soon."
"We?" Bai Qi asked.
"Mam is downstairs getting the shop ready. The general store had always been busy, and ever since Pap - left." Zhong Xin hesitated before saying the last word.
"What happened to your dad? If you don't mind me asking."
Zhong Xin set the tray down on the bed. "We don't know. People like to say he ran off when I was 9 cause he didn't wanna bear the burden of having a family, but that's not true. Pap was probably the best person you could have known, there was no way he would have just left without telling us. He just disappeared without a word."
"Do you think you know what happened?"
"We think he died, Mam and I. He had gotten into an argument with the tax guy, you see. Stood up for the town and chased the greasy guy out for trying to swindle a bit more money from us. Guy yelled out that Pap would pay for that, and a month passed before he was gone. Whenever tax guy came by, he'd look at us weirdly.. We figured he probably knew something, but we don't have any proof and I'm not strong enough for that. Thought I'd study medicine and make a living out of me being a bit smarter than the average person." Zhong Xin laughed. "I just needed a way to support Mam, she's been doing so much for me."
Bai Qi was silent, not knowing how to respond. With the mood ruined, Zhong Xin said, "I guess I'll leave you to eat."
He left the room quietly, but stopped once he got to the door. "I thought I'd let you know," he said. "The town decided to contact people from the city. They sent a guy over by horse two days ago after voting, saying that they found you heavily injured. If anybody's coming to get you, it's them. They should be over tomorrow or the day after. Even if they don't know you personally, they will send people to get you, after all casters are pretty rare.." He shrugged. "If you need anything else, call me. I'll be downstairs. Please don't run off, the town is doing their best to get rid of you, we don't need the city folk to get mad at us for lying."
"Thank you," said Bai Qi. "I understand, I won't run off."
With those words, Zhong Xin closed the door behind him. The cat, taking one last glance at Bai Qi, leapt through the door, leaving him alone in the room.
* 'What a nice cat' *
"That's all you have to say?"
* 'What else is there to say?' *
* The thing grinned. 'How did you like the story about his father?' *
"Pretty sad. I feel terrible for him."
* 'Why?' the thing questioned. 'What's there to feel sorry about?' *
"Are you joking? His father may be, or probably is dead. He had to grow up with that."
* 'So? How does that affect you?' *
"He's a person just like me. What he's going though has a lot of emotional significance. Though it may not be my problem, he deserves a break."
* 'Why?' *
"His father may have died protecting his family."
* 'His father died because he was a weakling. His father died because he made the wrong choice.' The thing grinned. 'Choosing to fight is a personal choice, but not having what it takes to finish the job can only be your fault.' *
"His father died trying to protect his livelihood and provide an opportunity for his family."
* 'And whose perspective is that?' The thing smiled. 'We don't even know the full story.' *
"What else is there to know?"
* 'Asking the victim to paint the scene? Was the father truly stopping an evil tax collector, or was the father to blame here?' *
"What do you mean?" asked Bai Qi, getting a sinking feeling in his stomach.
* 'It's pretty easy to bully the weak. The tax collector may have been extorting, or his father may have just decided that he didn't want to pay taxes.' The thing smiled. 'After all, it's pretty easy to lie not knowing the full story. Maybe, even that boy is unaware, painting his father as the hero.' *
"The why would Zhong Xin's father disappear?"
* 'If someone threatened you with the chance to bring danger to you, is it not best to remove the problem? The dad threatened the collectors job, and such the dad had to disappear.' The thing grinned. "The tax guy may have just had been doing his job.' *
"Please stop talking."
* It simply grinned. *
After waiting a moment, Bai Qi got up. He was feeling sore after sleeping for so long. After stretching a bit, he sat down to eat, savoring every bite as he tried to remember the last time he tasted food. It was a while back, he was sure about it. Long enough to feel as if he was eating food for the first time in his life.
The day passed by quickly, as did the next. Zhong Xin only came in from time to time to make small talk. He was busy with his own life after all. He had to manage the store occasionally, while studying under the town physician during his free time. Bai Qi, on the other hand, started to exercise and stretch his sore body.
After a few days of solid sleeping, the stretch felt heavenly. His muscles relaxed from its stiffed form, allowing him to feel his blood flowing through once again. He popped a few joints on his shoulders to get rid of the stiff feeling. Walking, then jogging in place let him feel his legs again. Opting to stay active than to just laze around, Bai Qi went through different movements to stretch every muscle in his body.
After his routine was finished, Bai Qi walked around the room before quickly getting bored.
* 'Nothing to do huh?' *
"Awfully convenient," Bai Qi replied. He had somewhat gotten used to the voice popping in from time to time.
* 'I've always been here,' it replied. *
"What do you want now?"
* 'Wanna learn how to cast without passing out?' it grinned. *
"Wow, actually helpful?"
* 'Nah,' it replied. The smug grin was always there. 'It's boring when you pass out, nothing to do. Your ability to survive also affects me, you know?' *
"Gonna make me incinerate another person? Who's it gonna be, another random passerby?" Bai Qi retorted, with a cold glint in his voice. "Maybe Zhong Xin this time?"
* 'Why that attitude?' it smirked. 'Now, do you want to learn or not?' *
"I don't want to pass out again"
* 'Not this time, don't worry. Major spells are for later.' *
"I still don't like the sound of that"
* Ignoring him, the voice instructed him. ' Remember that feeling of power coming from your cells, all gushing into your arms? Mimic that but tone it down this time. Imagine the fire coursing through your body turn into a stream of magma, a tiny stream made up of a single string, burning hot, gathering into your palms.' *
Following these instructions, Bai Qi could feel his palm heatin up, but this time it was more concentrated in one area, his palm, and the intensity of the heat inside him
* 'Now focus that. Project that into a fireball. Raging hot right above your palm, like your own personal sun, for you to use.' *
"Like this?" Bai Qi asked. He compressed the heat into a vague floating orb that was getting condensed into a sphere by the minute. The heat emanating from the ball was no joke, the air around it was shimmering.
* 'Hmmm, your first attempt at controlled casting isn't too shabby.' *
A gruff voice scoffed at that moment. "What are you supposed to be, a man who incinerated another alive, or a caster who's struggling to condense your first elemental light orb? First year mages have done a better job than you."