15 Who Am I?
Luis lay by the hearth fire, basking in its warm glow as the family he was living with ate dinner, talking amongst themselves. It was quite a merry atmosphere, with spurts of laughter interspersed with casual conversation.
He looks so happy... Luis watched as Bryn playfully harrassed his little sister Lillith, only to be scolded by their mother Mary. The father, George, was smirking knowingly as he drank from his mug.
There was a simple joy that no wealth or glory could replace in such a scene. Luis bore witness to many men and woman achieving such things as fame, fortune, and power, only to lack any semblance of joy and contentment.
His years of living taught him one immutable truth. There is no point in achieving such things if one has no one to celebrate them with. To sacrifice family for the sake of such goals was a tragedy of the highest order.
Bryn was still young, full of youthful optimism. Luis prayed that the boy wouldn't forget what matters most on his quest for "greatness." There was nothing greater than family. Luis felt it a privilege to be considered a part of theirs now.
Luis closed his eyes and turned away, content to fall asleep to the sweet lullaby of a nice family dinner. However, there was still one thing stuck on his mind. The conversation he had on the walk home.
"Finn, you are a magic beast, just like the ones in the bestiary you saw before. If my guess is correct, you are rank two...
Scritch... Scritch... Luis clawed a question into the dirt. 'What are ranks?' He thought of the word the townsfolk had used when talking about him. He added another question. 'What does evolve mean?'
Bryn nodded as if expecting this question. He was already taking for granted how intelligent Luis was. Bryn basically considered Luis as smart as a person. If anyone else saw how easily they were communicating, their jaws would drop in shock. The duo continued on towards home.
"Ranks are how we classify magic strength in the five kingdoms. Although it's the same system for beasts and men, there are differences. For people, or rather humans, we harness strength from the elemental energies that surround us. The more we can control or absorb, the stronger we become...
How interesting, so the green and blue energy I saw on the bandit and guild master was this so called elemental energy... Luis was beginning to connect the dots.
"Humans use this energy in two ways. One is to absorb it into the body, slowly molding your physical form to match your element. People who have gone down this path are collectively known as magic knights!" Bryn expression glowed as he described it.
No doubt that is what he seeks to become... Luis inwardly smiled at the boy's enthusiasm.
"Anyone can become a magic knight with training and resources. There are others, however, who have a natural talent for sensing the elements. These people are much more rare, and they can directly command the elements themselves depending on their affinity. We call these people mages."
Oh, I have yet to see such a miraculous power... When explained in this way, Luis imagined men and women commanding tornados, summoning tidal waves, and unleashing grand infernos.
We classify magic knights and mages into nine ranks. I'm not sure about mages, but for magic knights, the first three ranks are about refining your body to better host the elemental energy of your particular affinity. I'm not too sure about the details, but supposedly there is a qualitative change once you break through to rank four, although I'm not sure what happens..."
How interesting! So ranks describe how much of this elemental energy one could command? Luis came to his own conclusion.
I wonder where this world's energy comes from... Luis was absolutely positive there was no such energy back on Earth. If there was, it definitely would have been discovered long before he had been born.
Luis felt even more certain that this world had many secrets he had yet to uncover. Bryn began patting Luis' neck.
"For magic beasts like you, it's a bit different..."
Oh? Luis was eagerly awaiting more clues to his existence.
"Unlike humans who have to take the first step, magic beasts are born at rank one and grow to their adult rank naturally, which depends on the species. A magic beast is born with a core or stone that is the physical manifestation of their magic power. To remove a magic beasts core or stone means death, without exception." Bryn patted Luis' head in reassurance.
"You dont gave to worry though, the stones and cores of magic beasts below rank four are not very valuable to anyone other than commoners, but you're too strong for any commoner to kill."
Bryn took a pause to consider the opposite.
"On the other hand, a more powerful mage or magic knight wouldn't waste their time over killing you for your stone, unless of course they were desperate..." Bryn added with a sigh, the absence of his leg reminding him that there are no absolutes.
Luis didn't quite share this sentiment. Maybe it was a lack of knowledge of this world, but the magic knight that had attacked them didn't seem desperate. He looked quite well off in fact.
Maybe he was just an outlier... Although Luis couldn't comprehend how or why a man with such amazing powers would stoop so low as to threaten the life of a child. I suppose scumbags will always exist... Luis decided he would strive to be more vigilant in the future.
Bryn continued. "Anyways, when a magic beast 'evolves,' like you asked, their core or stone reforms and undergoes a qualitative change, essentially becoming stronger and granting more power. A rapid period of physical growth usually follows to match this increase in strength, like you did. That's how we knew you must've ranked up!"
Ah, I see. So the core evolves, and then my body follows... Bryn's description matched what Luis remembered experiencing. If he recalled correctly, something had shattered in his chest first.
This must have been my core then... Luis remembered the feeling of when it reformed, and the new abilities that came with it, followed by the subsequent physical growth.
So that is evolving, huh? Now Luis was wondering if it would happen again. I wonder what new changes another evolution would bring? Luis began to make guesses.
Luis paused his stroll to scratch some more questions into the dirt.
'What are affinities?'
Luis had heard mention of them multiple times, but he only barely understood their meaning.
Bryn looked down and sighed at the question. "I really wish we could have gotten the bestiary so you could have read it. It explains so much more than I can, and all you would have to do is read it..."
Shaking his head in regret, Bryn began explaining. "All magic beasts and humans have innate affinities to a certain element. There's fire, water, earth, and wind as the core elements, which are the most common. Then there are the extremely rare light and shadow affinities. Following that, there are abberants, which I still haven't learned about..."
Bryn appeared disgruntled when mentioning this topic, and Luis took the hint that he had tried to access this information before without success.
"All I know about abberants is from hearsay. Apparently, they are extreme representations of the core elements. They only appear in those with the highest affinities towards a particular element."
Luis tried to consolidate everything he had learned thus far.
So, in this world I am considered a magic beast. My species is some type of lizard creature, and these powers I have been able to use are due to some solidified core of energy located in my chest. Also, I must never reveal my affinity because it is... rare? None of this makes any sense scientifically.
Luis reconsidered. Then again, magic is simply science that hasn't been studied yet. If you demonstrated a gun to a caveman, he would think it to be magic... Luis believed that through trial and error, he could unravel the mysteries of his lizard form.
Luis felt the familiar weight on his back shift to get more comfortable.
Luis mentally smiled. However, for now, I will simply enjoy the extra time I have been given... He realized that regardless of the circumstances, this new life could be considered a gift. He got to spend more time with people he cared about, watching them grow like he once did with his own children.
Luis shook his head. Ah, I'm too damn sentimental! I'm a young lizard... creature... thing. I can't already be going senile again... Luis lampooned internally.
He remembered an expression his grandkids would use often... Yolo. You only live once huh? Luis felt like laughing at this. Guess it doesn't apply to me. Luis took his time carrying Bryn the rest of the way. He was in no hurry after all...
Now, Luis more or less knew what he was, but this did not make him feel any less lost. He stared into the fire, the question on his mind preventing him from falling asleep.
What should I do?
This was the question that plagued Luis' the most. He had lived a full life already. He had seen and done mostly everything he had wanted in his old life. He wasn't quite sure what his purpose in this new one should be, aside from watching over the boy...
Luis once again glanced at the beautiful family, eating their dinner without a care in the world. He felt some of his worries flow away. Regardless of his questions, regardless if he didn't understand what his purpose was, there was only one thing for sure.
I suppose I will just have to live and find out...
Luis fell asleep to the crackling of the fire.
A weight was placed upon Luis' scales, waking him up.
"Finn, can you help me carry her to bed please?" Luis looked up to see Bryn tucking the half asleep Lily snuggly onto his back, where she instinctively grabbed his scales as handholds.
The fire had died down, casting a warm orange glow on the trio as Luis carried Lily up the stairs behind Bryn, who limped up carefully. Even if he fell, Luis would be there to catch him.
As Luis walked through the narrow doorway to the room, he felt his right shoulder knick the doorframe. Strange, I thought for sure I fit perfectly through... wait a moment. Bryn lifted Lily off of Luis' back, placing her on her bed, completely unaware that Luis had completely frozen stiff.
"Night Finn," Bryn yawned out as he crawled into his own bed, pulling the covers over himself and quickly entering the land of dreams. However, Luis was still frozen in shock. Backing out of the room carefully, Luis went back downstairs to the fire, the embers still emitting a faint glow.
There, by the fading warmth of the fire, Luis closely examined where his right arm used to be. Instead of a flat smooth scar, there was a bump growing about an inch off where the wolf tore crippled him so long ago.
My arm... My arm is growing back!