William only nodded in response to Lorelei’s declaration to Jordan was a woman, “I knew from the beginning. Jordan volunteered in the initial wave, when it wasn’t clear that I was accepting women into the army… and perhaps was to embarrassed to say anything. Of course, I’m sure it’s more convenient to be seen as a man.”
“Being a woman has its advantages as well. For example, half of the population will likely underestimate you.”
“Though that’s not necessarily good either.” William shook his head. “I know all the trouble you and Lila have gone through with some of the headmasters. I’d offer to help, but that would just make them feel justified.”
Lorelei nodded, “We can handle them. You might want to talk to your sister though. She’s been having trouble adjusting.”
“I don’t know if I will be much help. I didn’t get involved with politics and war until I was… much older. We don’t really have the same experiences.”
“Really? You never had the desire to show you were better than others?”
William shrugged, “When I first came here, I couldn’t even use magic… also the second time.”
“And yet… you had to prove you were better anyway, didn’t you?”
“I suppose so.”
William knocked on Sarah’s door. “Sarah? It’s W- Josef.” He almost called himself William, since he didn’t use Josef often. At best he was called Lord Rutten.
“Brother? Come in!” an excited voice came from inside.
The first thing that William noticed was the room was very pink, with the occasional purple. Pink curtains, pink bed sheets, purple pillows… it stood out as a stark contrast to the grey walls. William blinked a few times. “Wow, it’s very… pink. Isn’t that expensive?” A faded red color wasn’t particularly hard to get cheaply, but a true, vibrant pink was. A nice dark purple was similarly difficult to get.
“Well, it started out expensive… but that annoyed me so I came up with some new dyes. They’re not particularly cheap at market price, but the materials aren’t so bad and just require some magic to mix properly.”
William nodded. “That’s great. You’ve… really grown.” While it was easy for him to recognize Sarah, she was definitely quite different. The last several years had transformed her from a girl into a young woman. She also looked more like what one expected of a mage. William saw she had a new staff in the corner. She was also wearing magically enchanted robes, and though they had pink and purple they were used merely as an accent to the shimmering reds that changed as the light caught them differently.
“Well you… look pretty much the same. Except, is that a new staff?”
William shook his head. “Chris? No, he’s not new. I just kept him in a case. I just decided not to bother with that anymore. He appreciates it too.”
“Uwah… you named your staff? And you talk about it like it’s alive… though I suppose that’s not the weirdest thing about you, brother.”
“Chris is alive. He can think, communicate, and even do magic… and cultivate ki. He just also happens to be a staff.”
“What? That’s ridiculous! Do you have any idea how much power it would take to imbue an object with a soul?”
“Umm… it’s a lot!” Sarah frowned, “Well, it would be if it were even possible, but it’s not.”
“Who told you that it isn’t?”
“Lorelei. She knows pretty much everything.”
“Did she actually say it wasn’t possible?”
“She said… the closest anyone ever came required the power of dozens of gevai and still failed to achieve the intended results.”
“That is… not incorrect.” William looked over at Chris, “Chris was definitely not the intended result of that.”
“You’re saying this staff is the result of that experiment?” Sarah moved closer and looked over Chris. “I mean, it’s a gigantic crystal. It’s got to be capable of pretty powerful magic, but that doesn’t make it alive. Wait, you said it could talk right? Have it talk.”
William shook his head, “He doesn’t talk, but he can hear you. He can glow different colors and move around, but do you see any mouth for him to talk with?” Chris demonstrated by doing a flip on his own, without William touching him.
“Umm… hmm…” Sarah frowned, “It- he doesn’t have ears either, you know?”
“That’s… true. Chris, anything to say about that?”
Chris spun around in circles… then started to emit a hum. In a few moments water condensed onto the floor in a precise pattern. “My body can absorb vibrations, and I feel the sounds. It’s just very hard to make sounds by moving.”
Sarah’s eyes widened pointed at the water on the floor. “The- the staff! Just did magic!”
“I told you he could. You even saw him flip over earlier. Why are you surprised?”
“I just thought you did something sneaky with ki to move it around! But that magic definitely came from it… him.” Sarah got an intense look of concentration on her face, her eyes closed, lips pursed, and eyebrows scrunching. When she opened her eyes, they were even wider than before, “Whoa, he really did cultivate ki! And he’s really strong.”
William nodded, “Well, he’s had a lot longer than you, but it seems pretty difficult to do when you’re… a staff.”
“He’s amazing. How did you manage to get him?”
“Well, I said, ‘hey, wanna be friends?” and he said, ‘sure.’ and then we were friends.”
“Oh. He wasn’t in some kind of ancient tomb or something? You didn’t have to kill a dragon or anything?” Sarah looked slightly disappointed.
“Do you know of any ancient tombs where people have valuable magic items… that weren’t looted shortly after?”
“Well… no. How come you’re the one that got him then, instead of anyone else?”
William shrugged, “Luck, mostly. Plus, I treated him like a person, instead of just an awesome magical staff.” Chris glowed a light pink, in the imitation of a blush.
“Aww… you mean if I was born five dozen years earlier I might have had a chance?”
“Eh… not really.” William shook his head.
Sarah sighed, “I know… I didn’t even really believe he could be more than a staff. Still, I would have had the chance!”
William grinned. There might have been some chance, but it would have required her to be born much more than five dozen years earlier.