Azhure: Yesterday, as of this chapter’s upload, I added ‘critical fixes’ to the previous chapter which clarifies Alicia’s problem being a passive listener.
“Excuse me,” Ronald, Alicia’s father, said as he entered his daughter’s room. Even though he can just stand in front of the door it’s still common courtesy to knock the door.
Turning around. “Ah, you are here too, mother,” Alicia raised her eyebrows as she saw Irene, her mother, right behind her father, her face looked like it had shed tears hours ago like her daughter.
“I have heard from Owen of what had happened at your mission, dear. I am worried,” her mother said as she sat on Alicia’s bed to embrace her daughter to which she accepted. “You did not want to talk about it.”
True, when she got back home, she almost said nothing for the whole night – the part of Kaomagi Earth Alicia lived in was a few hours ahead of where the Otherworldly Court was in Manegia -, and just retreated into her room without dinner. By what her mother said, Owen filled them in her stead.
Ronald pulled the chair from her study and sat on it. He tightened his lips preparing to say something.
But Alicia decided to speak first, “Is this why you do not want me to be a Court Wizard, father?”
Ronald looked silently, expecting that to come out of his daughter. “Yes,” he nodded, “…truth be told, my experience was worse than yours.”
Alicia could imagine it. But it would prudent to keep the flow of the conversation. “How so?”
Ronald went silent, thinking of how he should respond. Then, he continued, “Do you know where your middle name comes from?”
“My middle name?”
While she has always introduced herself as Alicia Bell, that wasn’t her full name. Her full name was actually Alicia Emilia Bell and the reason she never divulged her middle name was because her father told to just give her first and last name.
While she still needs to tell it for her student card and any of the sort for obvious reasons, any people she met should never know it.
And she didn’t know exactly why her father told her to do so until she entered the Otherworldly Court that is. Apparently, Court Wizards don’t give out their middle name, or anything between their first and last name.
“I have been wondering, Aqua. Why does my ID not include my middle name?” Alicia asked, showing the part of her red metal sheet of interest. “You did ask for my full name for my ID.”
“Your full name is for the records,” Aqua explained, opening the file in the computer titled ‘Detailed Court Wizard Profile.’ “But to keep your sheet smaller, only your first and last name will be engraved into it. Though Cherished Armaments still have their complete title on the sheet, so if it is very long, that will defeat the purpose of the former.”
Looking at the screen, Alicia saw one profile that Aqua opened. The full name of this Court Wizard was ‘Rosalie ‘Rose’ Elena Bloodlight’.
“So that is Rose’s middle name?” Alicia remarked. And it even included her nickname.
“Hmm!? I sense a cosmic sized joke no one but ‘those people’ will understand!”
“Huh?” Alicia looked at the pixie. “What are you talking about, Voice?”
“Bu~t,” Aqua interrupted. “There are exceptions.” She brandished her ID, it was longer than Alicia’s. “For example, I, as the Fire Guardian, insisted that my complete name shall be engraved into my ID,” and the complete name was ‘First Greater Water Spirit Aquarius of Spiri Raia.’ “But of course, I still insist on you addressing me as Aqua.”
“Ehehe, I see.” Staring at the ID, Alicia could only chuckle wryly.
Because of how the physical ID was set up, at some point, Court Wizards began introducing themselves their first and last name only.
That would explain the reasons behind her father’s instruction, but…
“Why should I not tell people my middle name?” Alicia asked.
“It’s special,” Ronald explained, “Your middle name is not something you should give easily.”
Remembering the excuse her father made in regards to her middle name, it was more than just a cultural habit.
“Does it have something to do why you told me not to mention it when I introduce my name?” Alicia asked.
“Do you still remember that portrait at my office?” Ronald asked. “The one with the girl with blue hair between me and Joshua?”
“…Yes.” That portrait, sitting on a desk at his office, was one of the things that held the most mystery to Alicia. She had asked who the girl, looked in her teenage years, was, but her father never answered and just gave her a sad look. She had given up trying to find out.
“When I was at your age as a Court Wizard, I did not venture worlds with Joshua alone. That girl was also with us, as a group of three. We went through many missions together, but as we noticed, they were getting worse and worse. Admittedly, Joshua and I were unfazed with what we have to do, but she… did not.
“And she kept it to herself. In every briefing, she never once objected to any of the mission plans – Joshua and I did, however. She only stops to ask a question and retreat, seemingly accepting what she was to do. But, it was clear that she was suffering deep down and we, to our foolishness, never noticed the burdens she carried until, well, tragedy struck and she perished.”
Alicia could only listen to what her father was going to say next.
“That girl’s name was Emilia Willows. No middle name.”
And she widened her eyes, “So that means…”
“Yes,” Ronald nodded. “To remember her, me and Joshua decided that we would give our first child’s middle name her name, Emilia and Willows respectively.”
Owen Willows Ruze, that was his full name. His middle name, Willows, was feminine, making it one of the things that led to him being bullied. However, he never hated it – maybe his father had told him why.
“I see…” Alicia continued. “Then should I quit then?”
“It’s your choice, Alicia. Not mine, as much as I want to,” Ronald rolled his eyes. “But, I believe you have a reason not to, right?”
And then Alicia explained her conflict inside her. The friends she made and the promise to find Rin’s brother.
“Of course, Maneg Soul interfering our minds or no, the bonds we made keeps us together. That’s why Court Wizards only retired for good once those of their generation perish before them.” Ronald continued. “And, you must uphold your word, as the Bell heiress.”
“I know,” Alicia said. “But…”
“Well,” Ronald stopped her. “Let me at least tell you this,
“Don’t be afraid to speak out and make your own decisions, even if it’s a bit selfish sometimes.
“It is alright to go against someone else’s word once in a while, after all, you did so towards that salt waters.
“And you will never know what will happen then if you don’t try.” He paused for a moment before finishing with, “finally, you don’t have to choose between just two sides.”
Gazing the beautiful night, Ronald stood from the chair. “It’s getting late, we will be going now. You should rest, my daughter.”
“Goodnight, dear,” Irene softly muttered, kissing her daughter’s forehead before releasing her.
Closing the door behind them, Alicia’s parents gave a sigh.
“Is there anything we can do, Ronald?” Irene sobbed softly so that their daughter wouldn’t hear, shedding her tears on her husband’s shoulder.
“We can only hope, Irene,” Ronald whispered, hugging his wife.
In the end, Ronald told his story with Emilia and Joshua, which remotely told his daughter the dangers of keeping one’s opinions on a matter told to them to themselves. Then, contrary to what Amelia Rickens said, he told her that it’s alright to speak out and make choices that may not be aligned with others – he felt as a parent, he should guide his daughter. The last part, however, was a spur of the moment, the Bell patriarch didn’t know what compelled him to say that.
“Ooh… Young mistress…” Tia, the unofficial personal maid of Alicia, cried, wrenching a wet handkerchief in her hands.
Incidentally, the Bells were blissfully ignoring the numerous house servants peeking behind whatever was in the corridor, worried for their young mistress’ mental health. Why wouldn’t they? They practically spent their entire lives in Kaomagi Earth watching the red-haired teen grow up.
It was then Owen, loitering around the hallway, came to the Bell couple. Brushing past a butler, “Uh, can I go in?” he asked awkwardly, seeing the state the couple was in.
“Of course,” Ronald replied, moving himself and Irene away from the door. “Alicia has surely sensed your presence here, so you should come in.”
When the door shut, Alicia went into deep thoughts in regards to what her father had said.
“It is alright to go against someone else’s word once in a while, after all, you did so towards that salt waters.”
She recalled that ‘roasting,’ as people around her age seemed to call these days, and the mission did go well afterwards. However, she couldn’t get herself to take her father’s advice to make objections, the irony, not after that incident.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out and make your own decisions, even if it’s a bit selfish sometimes.”
But maybe, she was just afraid of acting on her own wishes. Maybe she was afraid that by doing so, she may end up unknowingly hurt someone, just as she did to Owen.
“You will never know what will happen then if you don’t try.”
But even so, her father was right. It’s not like bad things always happen just because she did something selfishly. Looking back, she started her vow after her breaking off her friendship with Owen, the first time she did something she wanted. She shouldn’t have drawn the conclusion based on a single event alone.
“I should’ve sent Clint and Alexa to watch over you.”
But then, she recalled her rejection for Clint and Alexa to watch her and Owen going out, with guns. That, however, yielded its consequences with her kidnapping… actually, no. Alicia was only thinking that based on her father’s muttering. She was kidnapped from school, the house guard couple wouldn’t be there guarding her in secret, anyway. Even if they did, they would probably be fooled by the fake car and only realized it once Liam arrived.
“And finally, you don’t have to choose between just two sides.”
The last thing her father said, however, was something Alicia did not understand. Frankly, her father looked like he just blurted it out on a whim.
“What do you think, Voice?” she asked the pixie, who had been silently watching the whole time, assuming she already knew what was going on in her master’s mind.
“…I think,” Voice began before sensing Owen’s Maneg Soul in front of the door. “Owen’s here,” the pixie said instead, dropping the nickname.
“Come in,” Alicia said.
“Excuse me,” Owen said politely as he entered her room.
Suffice to say, Owen screwed up.
He had failed to protect Alicia, the literal and figurative fire that lighted the cold darkness inside Owen, from the cruelty that is a Court Wizard. He really should have done something on the highest floor of the Wolfram mansion, especially after what Amelia said that night.
To make matters worse, he killed in front of her, and he really shouldn’t have mentioned that it was his first time taking someone’s life. What must have happened to his childhood friend after that weighed more than the guilt of murder.
Frankly, he was surprised that it took five years for him to finally take another life, all in the search for his father. Then again, he was partnered with a guy from his world who had no reactions with chopping people’s heads off with air pressure.
And now, he came face to face with Alicia, trying to give her words of comfort of some kind.
“I-I… Uh…” And unlike in Qantasia, Owen can only stand there awkwardly. Yeah, he’s not the kind of person who can say stuff like that. Will was the guy for that job surprisingly.
This went on for a minute before Alicia suddenly hugged him.
“Oh my!” Voice exclaimed, depression being washed away with shock at her master’s action.
“W-What are you doing, Alicia?” Owen stuttered, taken by surprise. But he didn’t try to break free.
Only the pixie saw his face ripened to the same color as her master’s hair.
Why was Alicia doing this? Well, when Owen was just mumbling about, she could tell what he was trying to do. He did the same thing in Qantasia, in the aftermath of the seventh mission, after all, only he didn’t stutter that time.
In Beohar, when he murdered for the first time, it was to prevent her from getting killed by an ambushing guard.
It was to protect her.
In Manegia, when she almost died from that Maneg Beast which made Voice go berserk, Owen was the first to come to her aid.
Because of her lack of disloyal maneg, when she was pressured by Dubarim’s gravity spell, Owen held her.
In Manegia again, when her loyal maneg broke and she lost her consciousness, she was told that Owen made a mad dash after her when it happened.
“This time, it’s my turn to protect you.”
Yes, in every mission they went, Owen has always put himself in front of her, shielding her from harm, just as he said when he rescued her from those kidnappers alone.
And Alicia realized that she has been taking it for granted.
“Thank you, Owen, for protecting me,” Alicia said as she hugged her childhood friend tighter. “I will be fine, I promise.”