Lila walked along the streets the next morning. As she’d remembered, they were the nicer streets. They led to an area inhabited by rich people. Maybe not the richest, but Lila wasn’t even allowed near those houses. She found the house he had described- fortunately he’d described it and not said the house number, because she couldn’t have read it. She hoped this was the right door, and then she knocked. After a short time, a well dressed man opened the door.
“Hello there.” He waited.
“U-umm… hello. I’m looking for… W-William.”
The man nodded. “Of course, he’s been expecting you. This way, please.”
Lila followed the butler out into a yard. It had various plants, bushes… the kinds of things people put in yards, Lila supposed. Though, there was also a clear area where the was a training dummy something like the ones she had seen at the wizard’s guild.
“Your friend is here, William.”
“Oh, thanks dad.” William turned to Lila and waved.
His… father? Not a butler? He answered the door himself, and was so polite to her. She wasn’t sure what to think.
“Okay, Lila, can you cast a fireball on that?”
“Umm… I uh… don’t remember the words. I can still do it though, I think…” She’d done it before, but she wasn’t really mentally prepared for it right now. It took some time to remember the words.
“It’s okay, just repeat after me. ‘O, pyromancy I call upon thee, grant me thine strength and obliterate my opponents with a mighty conflagration!’” The boy… William, spoke just like a wizard. He had the tone, and pronounced even the bigger words perfectly. Lila was sort of jealous.
“Umm… Oh, pyroman-see, I call up on the, grant me vine strength and oblongate my up-oh-nents with a mighty conflagnation!” She sort of stuttered over the words and was sure she got a few wrong. However, there was still a spout of fire that hit the target. She wasn’t sure whether that was good or not… but it was disappointing. “Umm, what’s a pyroman-see and conflagnation?” She wasn’t sure what those words were. Knowing what they meant might help her remember them.
“Pyromancy is just a fancy name for fire magic, and conflagration is pretty much a fancy word for lots of fire.”
“Uuugh. Why does magic have to have so many big, hard words?”
William shrugged. “Actually, I want you to try something. I’m going to tell you another chant that does the same thing, okay? Repeat this, ‘Fire magic, give me strength to blow stuff up with lots of fire!’”
That would work? Why didn’t people just use that chant then? It was so much simpler! “Okay! ‘Fire magic, give me strength to blow stuff up with lots of fire!’” This time… it was a real fireball. It was actually really frightening that she had done that. The fire hit the dummy, and the flames flowed over it. Instead of just scorching it… it actually burned it. Not just that, but down to ashes. Lila was nervous. What if he wanted her to pay for it? She didn’t have any money.
William just nodded for a while, smiling happily. “Good job. It’s much better that way.”
“T-that’s what it’s supposed to be like?” Lila was still surprised at her own effectiveness. She’d never been able to say all the words in a chant right before.
“Well, maybe not quite as powerful, but you’re talented so that’s what it’s like. Can I have you try something else?”
He had her say all kinds of weird things. She didn’t understand most of the words, but he coached her on the pronunciations. She wasn’t sure what good this was doing, but he seemed happy… and she was managing to do some magic. “Ugh, I’m tired. I think I ran out of magic or something.”
He had her move to another area, and she realized the sparkles were over here, where there weren’t any left where she had been before. Was this stuff… magic? He had her try a few more things. Then, one time she failed. She hadn’t failed before. What did that mean? Was she really not all that good at magic?
“Sorry, I was wrong, I thought it would work.”
Then, Lila remembered that this person was a kid of nearly her age. It was just the way he spoke, his knowledge… everything about him seemed like an adult. Except the fact that he paid attention and was nice.
“Now then, time to learn to read.”
“Whaat? Can’t you just teach me the chants?” Lila thought she could pass the exam with just the chants, once someone taught them to her. That should work.
“I could, but I won’t always be around, and I definitely can’t help you on the written part of the exam. Besides, you can find out a lot of things through reading.” Lila nodded internally. Right, she would still need to read for other things. She had just gotten caught up in the moment, where she was really able to use magic. Learning to read was good… but it seemed so hard. Magic was simple, once someone told her the words.
They were doing reading drills again. Lila had been doing these constantly lately. It made her head hurt. Maybe she wasn’t cut out for reading. She kept messing up, and everything seemed like it was just getting harder. Finally, the frustration from not making any progress reached a peak. “AAAARGH! Why don’t you just take your stupid books and eat them?!” Lila shouted, then stormed out of the house. She even threw the book she had been holding at him.
As she found herself on the streets returning to her own home, she already felt regret. Sure, William always knew more about things than her, and that bugged her, but he didn’t really hold it over her head as if he were better. That said, she couldn’t help but feel inferior anyway. How did he manage to learn all of that? She ground her teeth. Well, she couldn’t go back now. For one, she was still upset, and didn’t want to. For another… she had thrown a book. He had told her to treat them with care. Books were expensive. She knew she’d made a mistake… but she was too scared to go back.