To play during reading: A Place To Call Home - Final Fantasy IX - Piano Collection
Sleep wasn't easy. I tossed and turned, waking in a stupor and restless nightmares. But every time that night, Francis' embrace brought me back down from the emotional high. He also probably didn't sleep well, kicked and elbow punched. When the light shone through the windows, I decided to stand and go look out, perched on the sill I could see a light dusting of snow on the ground of the interior court, probably fallen overnight. It was calm and serene. Sad, grey and dead, like every November, but at least not raining, dark and moody. Now I needed to get past the assault. Clearly, I wasn't safe anymore alone in my apartment, and it would anyway always remind me of it, even if it was an excellent studio. I will have to ask Francis if I could live with him, my only realistic option.
Concerning Francis, my attraction and comfort with him were clear. I just needed to wait for the right moment. Surely living with him will test that. In the near future, he will be proficient enough with magic to start our quest from Master Fox. Concerning Master Fox, it was strange not seeing him in the painting, I must take a look at him today. Before that, I will settle myself somewhere in this grand house.
The damage to my work has essentially stopped all my non-magical work. I would have to contact my Master's director, no stress there. The only really important items for my current projects are Master Fox's painting and the borrowed book from the Athenaeum. It reminds me I should finish reading that one.
I needed to contact M. Dubé about Mme. Duval. Also, I had to contact Mme Côté-Légaré for psychotherapy. I felt I needed it and it would be easier to do it with a real psychologist who was also a mage. It would be risky considering she was part of the Free Council, the freedom loving, a bit carefree, highly creative order of Mages. Their main belief is that Humanity, by all its human invention and adaptation, is magical. Since that the past method hasn't worked, we should eschew our past beliefs and embrace novelty, creativity and see what currently humanity is creating that is magical. I once was interested in joining them instead of the Mysterium, after the death of Marc, considering that the Free Council are clearly more interested in the Arts and Creation, more humanistic. But their revolutionary tendencies, to a fault belief in democracy and that all knowledge can be sold and available to all, wasn't going well with me. True, I was biased by my Mysterium education by Marc and felt I should honour his death, but still, I felt more at my place with the Mysterium. So I would have to check and restrain myself to not tell her secrets that she shouldn't know.
Lost in my laundry list of thought, I didn't notice Francis hugging me from behind. He made no sound, no comment, he only shared his heat and body contact. I closed my eyes and relished that comforting grasp.
"It's still early, do you want to go back in bed for more sleep, it feels you had a troubled night." Francis gently asked, keeping the closeness of the hug.
"No, I don't think I should, but would you want to do some Tai Chi with me, it's been a long time, it will help me recenter myself," I answered.
"It sounds like a great idea, follow me, I know where we should do it." He stood and I took the offered hand. We gently strode through the house, stark naked and without a care about it. I finally recognized where he was taking us, to his family magical sanctum, under the court and the big tree. He took us to the center of the circular space.
"I feel the power of this room and hopefully it will help you heal." Struggling with words, fidgeting with his free hand through his ginger hair, he continued. "And it is an important place for me, here. I..." He cut off his phrase, still doubting. "Let's just start."
To play during reading: Freya's Theme Guitar - Super Guitar Bros (Original Final Fantasy IX - Nobuo Uematsu)
We started the routine, facing each other, two meters apart. Even if it only had been a few days, I could see Francis' form had improved. It seems that either Francis was a natural or he had a gift of which we were unaware. The Awakening could have that kind of effect, revealing latent skills. We saluted, then we mirrored our moves. In synch, connected, coordinated, we moved through the forms, once, then twice. Francis followed my every action precisely, not missing a beat. I then broke the fix stance and started circling around our midpoint. He continued to follow. I lost track of time in our fighting dance. Eventually, we neared each other, and actually, parried and spared with each other. Everything was purely instinctual, call and response. Eventually, I caught both of his wrists, both our chests a few inches from each other. The moment was suspended in time, each catching our breath, just for a moment. It was broken when Francis moved forward, tentatively at first, hesitating, then more assuredly, kissing me on the lips passionately. I let go of his wrists to cradle his neck and back, closing the gap between us. We now were, in that instant, one. Our hands roamed our bodies, exploring what was separate once. We were bonding to each other, our auras melting, merging. It wasn't complete, only the beginning.
At that moment, a revelation came to me. I knew exactly what to do. I needed to replicate the ritual I saw in the Renaissance dream ("See <a title=\"Chapter 3\" href=\"https:\/\/storylover.us\/?t=2R6PCUp1W8Z0yR4d\">Chapter 3<\/a>. "). I moved an inch away from his lips and I started to chant the invocation, following the flow of my instinct. I drew runes in the air and on him. Seeing what I was doing, he tried to copy it and drew the same things on me. The surge of our combining power washed us in a gamut of emotions, sharing each other on a totally new and unknown level. But it was comforting, like a long yearning being satisfied. We kept our embrace, kissed and drifted out of time, just being together. Our embrace finally calmed my troubled soul, shaken by fear and anxiety. Now I could move on.
For the next few days, I re-centered myself. So many things to do. Francis was my anchor. He continued his magical training with M. Dubé but kept a close eye on me. And he was there every night to show his kindness and care. I managed the close down of my apartment, exercised, contacted my master's director, scheduled a rendezvous with Mme Côté-Légaré. I didn't have the mind to work on the Master fox situation and I wanted the help of Francis for it anyway. Nothing dramatic happened.
I also took the time to read the book I borrowed. "Story of the Dragons Scales by Sima Qian, translated by Xu Fuguan" was a Chinese Chronicler's story. From what was being said, it was a retelling of the origin of the world, where dragons were present. Some were attuned to them, called "Dragonspeakers". They could call upon them their different strengths. At some point, after a dramatic war between humans to control the dragons, something shattered and forced the dragons to leave their realm, but before leaving, they left for the care of humans ten of their scales. Each would ensure the continuity of the cycle of existence. It would be harder but they could use those scales to invoke their power. Ten shrines around the world were built to house these artifacts and ensure the flow of chi for eternity.
It bears striking resemblance to the myth the mages tell themselves about the creation of Magic and the Abyss. The main difference is the dragon scale artifacts and that they are the source of power, not the Supernal Realms. It was really hard to believe it was real but searching for them caught my interest.
To play during reading: Solving a Puzzle - David Peacock - TESSERACT: An Acoustic Fez Album (Original FEZ Disasterpeace)
It took me two weeks to build enough strength to go back work on anything significant. At the same time, Francis had ended his first training with M. Dubé. They frequently came to train at the Haven, the name Francis and I gave to his house. He informed me that he did find some information about Mme. Duval. She is a member of another mage Order, the Guardians of the Veil. They think of themselves as the secret police of the mages. They task themselves to ensure the other mages keep acting wisely and don't create paradoxes. They are few and secretive, but they are ready to do anything to keep all mages safe even from themselves. I don't like them, in particular, their tendencies to hide and destroy what they deemed dangerous. But their heart are in the right place. M. Dubé gave me her contact information. I would eventually contact her.
Once Francis and I were back to a "normal" schedule, whatever it means for a mage, we both started work on where was Master Fox but also the task he asked us some time ago, finding Mana to power the Melbourne's legacy ritual. We had left Master Fox's painting in the room with all my other furniture and stuff from my apartment. We took him down to the magic Sanctum. Opening the travel box, I more attentively observed the canvas. It took some time but I finally found Master Fox. He had essentially faded down to only an outline, barely visible.
"There he is. It seems he is quite weak. Take the picture and put it at the center of the ritual circle." I instructed Francis. He took the painting and set it in the middle, flat on the ground, facing up. I searched the alcoves around and found a brush and some paint. It would have to do to help me focus.
"We will need to give him Mana to restore his strength. It will take some time to prepare, I will trace the symbols. Have you chosen a dedicated item yet?" I started tracing and orienting the resonance of the room, feeding the energy toward Master Fox.
"No, I haven't. Jonathan recommended me to take my time and choose something significant when I am ready. But merging my interest in computers with the spiritual life of a Thyrsus isn't easy. Can I help you with something?" Then we prepared for the next three hours of the ritual. At the end of it, I was feeding raw mana to Master Fox, hoping he was strong enough to feed on it. Only time would tell.
"Now we wait. Have you understood what we did?" I asked Francis, sitting on the ground of the Sanctum, outside the circle, drinking glasses of water.
"I understand the steps and the intent, but the method, not that much. I know it is essentially only helping you focus your soul, intention and will to make the spell true. But the damn paint will be hard to clean afterward." He half-joked.
"I know a spell to clean it fast. It was one of the first I developed for myself." I stood.
"Could we take the conversation to somewhere else? It will be more comfortable." I asked. He took the lead and we install ourselves in a living room of sort, with an antique canapé. He was lying stretched out on the canapé and asked me to lie between his legs and rest my head upon his chest. We savoured the moment, the closeness for a moment. But we needed to continue the work.
"OK, the next thing is a mana source. I have no idea where to start. Most known sources are already under the care of another mage. I had a small one at my apartment, but it's not much. I did some research at the Athenaeum and nothing came up. Do you have any bright ideas?" I asked, knowing he couldn't help much.
"Well, what creates Mana? What are the kinds of places where it would be?" He asked, his analytical mind deconstructing the problem.
"High places, places of significance, nodes of Ley lines. For example, there is one at the top of the National Assembly tower, but it is known and under the care of the Consillium. I have no idea where it is possible for us to find any.." I answered a bit defeated.
"Let me think on it, maybe my fresh eyes will find something."He hugs me, trying to cheer me.
"On another note, what have you been thinking lately? Something I should know? And I know there is something we need to discuss, about us two, but I am not ready yet. I still have things to process." He told me. I was conflicted, should I tell him about the dreams and the painting of us two that I made, should I bring that back? I think our relationship is getting at that point. Another leap of faith.
"Well, you know the painting I did that you recognized from your Awakening. Well, there is more to it than only a sensual painting from my imagination. Clearly, there is fate and a link between it, and us. Also, it was explicitly inspired by dreams I have been having recently. Well, they are more than only dreams like I told you, they are like visions from a time past. It is set during the Renaissance and I know for a fact that it is in Florence." Then I proceeded to retell in details the dreams. He was extremely attentive to my description of the characters.
"What do you think of it?" I asked.
"I didn't want to tell you, because it only happened twice, and I didn't want to sound crazy. But I have been also having those kinds of dreams. Mine are less precise, but I know they are set in Ireland. And from the description you gave, the model strongly resembles my character. What are the odds? Clearly, there is a link. And you say that the trail is leading you to Florence. Do you want to go there?" He asked, relieved that he was able to share.
"I would, but I don't have the funds to do it, and how could I justify it? Apart from the coat of arms and Florence, I have no idea where to search." I answered. Leading us both to ponder on our situation. I closed my eyes and synched my breathing with his, relaxing. I inevitably fell asleep.
I was gently shaken awake, him stroking my arms and neck. It had been maybe an hour.
"It's not that I don't like having you on me, but I really need to go pee." He stood, both giggling at his antics. After he came back, relieved, I thought it was time to take a look at Master Fox. We got back to the sanctum. Approaching the Painting, I could sense the energy flowing. At least it was working. I took a peek at the canvas and there he was lying. Soundly sleeping, a bit faded, but a lot more colour. I rose my voice.
"Master Fox, how are you? Are you well?" I asked, unsure if he would hear. He purposefully woke up, and slowly strode closer to the front of the canvas.
"Well, it took you enough time to help me kits. What took you so long to figure out I needed Essence? At least I can see you took me back to the Inner chamber, which you found without my help." He clearly showed his displeasure. His attention turned and he saw Francis.
"Wel, well, well, I haven't seen you since your Awakening, but it seems we indeed have a new Melbourne. Now you have worn the mantle, you shall embody it." Master Fox said to Melbourne, him unsure what to say.
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Thank you to Mark Christensen, The Story Lovers and Aquenon for their editing, review and comments.