William thought about the reward related to the refrigerator. He wasn’t hurting for money, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more. There was another reason he was thinking about it though. He didn’t doubt that the few months mentioned before they tracked it back to him was made up. Honestly, it was somewhat of a fiasco that they lost the information to begin with. However, once they got to Caister, it would be trivial to link it to the Rutten family, and then to him. The only reason William delayed in going to Headmistress Lorenz was that he wanted to come up with an excuse for why he knew what he did. Even so, the very next day he found himself at her desk.
“I know why the refrigerator works like that.”
“Oh? Do tell.” She raised an eyebrow and waited.
“I was thinking we should discuss the reward values first.” William named a price, and waited.
Headmistress Lorenz stroked her chin. “That number sounds… familiar.” She fiddled around on her desk and finally pulled out a particular paper, sweeping her eyes down it. “Aha. It’s fortunate that we kept the financial information separate from the other, but perhaps unfortunate since that may have led to the loss in the first place. Having already paid that amount for the purchase of the construction method, why would we pay the same price again?”
“Because the explanation of why it has to work that way is at least as valuable to you as the construction method.”
“And how do you know the details of why it works?”
“The same way I knew the price. I made the formation.” William had considered not being honest and trying to hide the truth… or rather, just leaving and hoping it couldn’t catch up to him. However, he thought of several problems with that. First, if Headmistress Lorenz’ intentions were honest, he would be missing out on an opportunity and causing trouble for his family. If they weren’t, he would cause even more trouble for his family and for himself. Though he didn’t know her all that well, there was the days of travel in the carriage, and having seen her around the academy and in class for several months. If she was a bad person, she was discreet, which would make her even more dangerous. There was another reason William admitted it so easily. Sometimes, he just wanted to have his efforts acknowledged. Saying ‘look at me, I’m awesome’ was a bit too far, but hiding his achievements would be depressing.
“Hmm. For some reason, I believe you. As for your price… I have a better deal. I will waive one… no, two years of tuition, if you really are the one, and provide satisfactory answers. I think that’s a better deal for both of us.
William had to admit that the value was actually higher… and he could see why that was a better deal for the academy as well. For one, the price of tuition wasn’t all profits… and for another, to get any value he would have to remain here. He supposed there were ways he could lose value there, such as if he felt the need to leave…
“Don’t like it? We can offer your original price, but you seemed to fit in quite well here, and I like having intelligent students around, and then intelligent wizards. In general. Some people are very… unpleasant, and I could just as well do without them. So, I do. They can go strut around at an inferior academy.” Part of the way through her thoughts, she seemed to have drifted over to thoughts about personal grudges she had with people in the past. Still, her thoughts had seemed sincere, and William felt he was in the group of people she wasn’t grumbling about.
“No, that would be… fine. We can start my explanation at any time. If you just stick your hand on the desk, palm up, I can do some magic to show you something interesting. These aren’t optimal conditions, but you should get some idea. Also, put your head about… here, and look at your palm.”
“Very well.” She stuck out her hand, palm up, with a slight smile.
William began to chant. He had to admit that part of his delay in coming here was making up a chant that wasn’t too stupid, since he mostly glossed over that part before. “Great powers of the universe, reveal unto me your secrets. As the stars in the sky appear small, so too make the small seem large!” It wasn’t a very good chant, but it really did take some time and concentration to do this particular bit of magic. It could very easily become blurry.
When he finished his chant, Headmistress Lorenz’ eye’s widened. She momentarily drew back, before situating herself in the correct position again. William only managed to keep the spell up for a few minutes, as he had to continue to chant to keep control of the mana and keep the flow steady. “I… see.” She nodded slowly. “I’d heard a theory of bodies being made up of very small pieces before. A magnifying glass didn’t reveal much… but I see. Even smaller than that. This was like a very exaggerated magnifying glass. I should have thought of it myself. She’d probably be disappointed.”
“Oh, my teacher.”
“Oh. I hadn’t really thought about you having had a teacher, but that makes sense. Everyone had to have learned from someone.”
“I still do. She’s very smart.”
William didn’t know what to say to that. Actually, he couldn’t help but thinking about someone in particular. He could ask, but… there were reasons not to. This teacher probably had a name, but it wasn’t Lorelei. Well, the teacher might be Lorelei, but that wouldn’t be her name. Lorelei was a cover name, after all, and so knowing the name of the teacher wouldn’t help. Could it be her? Lorelei mentioned an apprentice, but it had been a long time since then. She didn’t seem the kind to take many apprentices. Asking about her with the name Lorelei would probably not be looked well on, so that wasn’t a good idea. On the other hand… “How long have you studied under her?”
“Well… most of my life.”
While William didn’t know how long that was, he knew it stretched back to at least before the most recent Demon King war. Otherwise, she couldn’t have lost a friend. It could be Lorelei. “Someone who can be your teacher even to this day must be very knowledgeable. Do you think I could meet her?”
“Well, maybe. She wanders around a lot, and she’s very… particular in who she meets. On the other hand, you’re smart, so you have a decent chance. No idea when she’ll next be around though. Could be a year, could be a dozen.”
That still sounded like Lorelei. Maybe Headmistress Lorenz was the apprentice she mentioned a couple times on accident. On the other hand, in an entire country with very long lifespans, it could be a coincidence. It would still be worth meeting them, if the opportunity arose.