“I say, are you okay? Your expression is a bit pale.” Briar asked, noting the now pale color of Lyra’s cheeks.
“I’m fine.” Lyra managed to say. “It’s my loss. As agreed, the one who finished the test first wins.” And, with the sting of her wounded pride, Lyra stepped down from the stage.
Of course, the ancient language in question was, quite simply, the English language. While there were other ancient languages, like Latin and Japanese, the one chosen for the test was only the English language.
As someone who was proficient with even several dialects of African languages, how could Briar not know how to read and write her first language? However, upon encountering it, she couldn’t help but feel a bit conflicted, and therefore asked Lyra if she wouldn’t change it to a different test.
But Lyra had locked onto that particular test.
While Briar couldn’t help but feel she had an unfair advantage over someone who had not the privilege of reincarnation, she wouldn’t let her pity get in the way of her path to first place. Indeed, only someone who was proficient in the ancient languages could hope to discover the mysteries shrouded in the past.
Council-mage Syrel acknowledged the end of the match. “Briar Rose, student of Madam Rothema, has won this match!” He announced, before leaving the announcer’s stage to capitalize upon the remaining half-hour of the lunch hour.
Of course, by that time, Kael had arrived at Madam Rothema’s viewing platform room with the food. Serving Madam Rothema first, he then served Helen, as well as himself. Afterwards, Briar entered the room and also partook of one.
Unlike Kael, who unceremoniously ate with the burger in his hands, Madam Rothema, Helen, and Briar used cutlery. Briar glanced enviously at Kael for a bit. As a noblewoman, she had a reputation to keep up. Therefore, she couldn’t use her hands to eat.
As Kael had suspected, Princess Claire arrived as soon as she could, greeting Briar joyfully. After a brief inquiry, and a moment of thought, she also happily partook of the foreign cuisine.
But after that, someone whom Kael did not expect to arrive had come.
A knock resounded upon the closed door.
Kael stood up and opened a small wooden compartment in the door that allowed him to see and hear who was outside.
“Please identify yourself.” He asked blandly.
“Council-mage Syrel requests permission to enter.” Came the reply. After glancing at Rothema, and receiving her nod of approval, he opened the door to admit Council-mage Syrel.
Upon seeing who opened the door, Syrel’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Ah, you must be Briar! I’ve seen a few of your previous matches.”
“Thank you, Council-mage Syrel. But there’s still far too much room for improvement to suit my tastes.” Kael nodded his head in acknowledgement. “There’s more than one Briar in here, so to prevent any confusion, by all means, please call me Kael.”
“Kale? You mean like the leafy vegetable known for its bitter taste?” Syrel asked.
Kael shook his head. “No no, it’s Kael, which is short for Mikael. I take after my Mother’s side of the family.”
“Sounds like your mother was one of the Ruchts-landers.”
“Ah, you could say that. There’s not much left of their heritage except for the name, though.” Kael shrugged, and began introductions.
“It is my honor to introduce Council-mage Syrel.” Kael announced to the others formally. Then he introduced Madam Rothema, Claire, Helen and Briar, making especially sure to mention that Briar was his little sister.
“Your sister? But you both have the same first name?” Council-mage Syrel asked, confused.
“It’s a bit of an odd tale, but we both ended up with the same first name.” Kael agreed. “That’s why I took my last name from my mother’s side of the family.”
Kael then tilted his head quizzically. “But, what order of business does the great Council-mage have with our company? Perhaps is there something you wish to discuss with ‘The Bookkeeper’, Madam Rothema?”
“Indeed, it must be something important for our dear council-mage to visit us during the luncheon hour.” Madam Rothema agreed. “But, as you should recall, I never speak business during meals. So do sit down, and have a bite to eat, Council-mage Syrel, I insist.”
Syrel winced. “By all means, please stop calling me council-mage. I only took that office so that I could stop having people breathing down my neck every time I performed a simple test.”
“And look where it’s got you. Stuck doing the annoying errands that nobody else on the council wishes to do. On a bright note, it has made your face more well known, which has done wonders to your popularity.” Rothema pointed out.
Syrel sat down at the table. “And it’s only brought me more and more work, leaving me less and less time for my own pursuits. Whoever said that being on the magic council was a breeze should choke on his desert.”
In a separate room, Magi Faerwind, a.k.a. ‘The Tornado’, descended into a coughing fit when he accidentally inhaled his pastry.
“Well, you can only say that I warned you. None of those old foggies would even consider letting any of the younger generation in on their cozy little group for anything but an errand boy. I’m surprised that you’ve lasted this long without flipping a few research tables at them.” Rothema sighed as she wryly looked at Syrel.
“Believe me, I’ve been tempted to do just that upon more than one occasion.” Syrel chuckled. “If it wouldn’t put me in a quaranteen void prison cell, of course. Sometimes I think that maybe I should do it anyways so that I can finally have a quiet room to myself to do my research.”
“If I know anything about those beak-nosed, big-headed buffoons, they’d confiscate your research and then claim it as their own a few dozen years down the line.” Rothema hmphed as she flicked a finger at the pitcher of iced tea. The pitcher then rose and poured Syrel and Rothema each a glass before returning to its spot on the table.
Helen looked enviously at the display. While Helen could also lift things with her magic, the heavier items were still quite difficult to handle skillfully. Kael just shrugged and grabbed the pitcher by hand to pour his own glass of iced tea, since he had long since finished his own hamburger. Then he served Council-mage Syrel the last remaining hamburger.
“What is this? It doesn’t seem to be a cuisine that I am familiar with?” Syrel asked, looking at the hamburger with a growing interest.
“That, my friend, is an invention of the young master Briar Mikael.” Rothema said, nodding towards Kael in acknowledgement. Kael nodded back, acknowledging the praise.
“It’s called a Hamburger.” Kael said.
“Ohoh? So it’s made with pork, then?” Syrel asked, surprised.
“That isn’t the case at all, in fact.” Rothema shook her head.
“You mean to tell me that it’s not made of pork, yet you insist upon calling it a HAM burger? Whatever for?” Syrel asked, curious.
“Kael thought fast, then an old joke popped out of his mouth. “That’s because the place that I thought up the recipe for it was a small town called ‘Hamburg’ that had a sizable selection of cattle at the time.”
“So it’s made of beef, I take it?” Syrel asked.
“Indeed, you are quite quick on the uptake.” Kael laughed politely. “There is also a blend of several spices, as well as a personal sauce recipe passed down through my mother’s side of the family attached.”
“From the way you talk, it’s as if your family got ahold of their noble title through cooking.” Syrel harrumphed. “Let the food do it’s own talking, please.” Kael inclined his head in agreement and kept his words to himself for the remainder of the meal.
After lunch was finished, Syrel sat back with a sigh. “It’s passable for noble repast.”
“Oh hush, Syrel! Even the king doesn’t get food this good sometimes.” Madam Rothema scolded. “You’re just trying to find another excuse to grumble again!”
“Ah well. It’s not like I only came here to grumble.” Syrel shook his head as he began to change the subject.
“Really? Because you seem to do that every time you come to visit.” Rothema smiled wryly. “But, very well. What else have you come to talk to me about?”
“This young master’s recent performance against the swordsman, Brom…” Syrel glanced over at Kael. The hair on the back of Kael’s neck started to rise, as he had a sudden feeling that the conversation was steering into dangerous waters.
“Yes? What about it?” Kael asked, feeling his mouth suddenly become dry.
“It’s puzzling. Now, I’m no expert of martial practitioners, mind you. But that speed isn’t something which just anyone can match. For someone to have that amount of skill, shouldn’t we have seen more of it in earlier matches? Or have you been playing the pig to eat the tiger this whole time?”
Kael inwardly relaxed. He wasn’t asking about the change in eye color. “Oh, that? Unfortunately, that speed was somewhat of a fluke. Even I’m not too sure how I was able to reach that high of a speed. In the end, it tore the muscles in my arm badly, and Madam Rothema wouldn’t allow it to be healed for the rest of the day as punishment for doing something stupid.”
Syrel examined Kael’s face for a bit. “All right. I believe it.”
“Why the sudden vote of confidence?” Rothema asked.
“First off, that punishment is completely something that you would enforce.” Syrel pointed out. “Second, it is apparent in the clip that even Young Master Kael was surprised at the sudden burst of speed. It’s possible that he possesses a rare ability to raise his speed at the expense of his health.”
“Oh?” Madam Rothema asked.
“They’ve discovered another ancients ruin.” Syrel told Madam Rothema. “This one seems to document mysterious and strange abilities in the ancient days, so a lot of researchers are heading there, hoping to find some new knowledge that could change the world.”
He paused and took a sip from his glass. “Others are simply hoping to find something valuable and strike it rich, the fools. Ancient writing is best decoded in the ruins it is found in, otherwise we risk loss of context.”
“Indeed-” Madam Rothema began, but her words were cut off by the rolling toll of the bell warning that there was five minutes left until the end of the lunch hour.
Syrel sighed. “And here I was hoping to talk to you for a while yet…oh very well. Once this blasted tournament is over, I hope we can finally find some time to have us a good chat.” Syrel got up and was escorted to the door by Kael.
Before Syrel left, he turned and whispered something to Kael, who’s eyes shuddered for a bit before going back to normal. Letting out a small breath, he closed the door.
“Did he say something to you, Kael?” Helen asked.
“Yes…” Kael said ponderously.
“What was it?” Helen asked, curiously.
Kael looked up at Madam Rothema and took in a large breath.
“It seems we’ll know about it soon enough.” And he said no more as he made his way towards the stage.