(A Fantasy Story)
Today, leaning on the big tree, I was playing my flute.
Tomorrow I’d leave town again, and I didn’t know how many months I’d be gone. So I had left my decorated staff next to my handbag and pulled out this instrument instead. I wouldn’t have much time with the music over the next few days, as I explored and fought away monsters.
Through the melody, I noticed someone coming near. I knew it was her, with her dark green robes and the staff she uses as a crutch. She was my teacher.
As she greeted me with a smile, I stopped playing and smiled back. Then I held the flute to my mouth to play again. She sat beside me and I began to play her favorite song.
My teacher tilted her head and widened her eyes. After a moment she closed them again and gave herself to the music. She moved her lips, whispering the lyrics of the song she had written.
A Fascinating Life • Verse 1
My home was on fire ~ My village was in despair.
I ran away, from demons ~ I just wanted to survive.
I never had a chance ~ that was so unfair.
They took away, everything ~ they took away my life.
Then he came, and protected us ~ with his sword, he saved us all.
With his words, he gave us hope ~ He told us how, not to lose and fall.
~ To fight back and say ~
~ We don’t run away ~
~ A life lived with pride ~
~ Is a fascinating life ~
My teacher couldn’t sing anymore, not a complex song like this one. The last time she tried singing she quit in the middle. She didn’t like hearing it with her voice. It had grown shaky and she no longer had the breath to keep up with my flute anymore.
Mrs. Rafafill Saphony celebrated her sixty-ninth birthday last month. She was quite old for a human but in terms of years lived, I was older. Elves mature at a different rate than humans. I had lived 105 years, but in both looks and personality, I was no different from a human teenage girl.
So I continued to play the flute, while Mrs. Rafafill kept whispering the lyrics of “Fascinating Life.”
A Fascinating Life • Verse 2
My weapon is on fire ~ giving those demons despair.
I’ll protect the weak, every week ~ helping them to survive.
I’m giving them a chance ~ to fight fair and square.
They will have, what I had lost ~ they’ll get past this day alive.
That hero who, saved me before ~ met his death with smile and all.
With no regret, he gave his best ~ he told me he, just played his role.
~ I don’t care if it’s short ~
~ I want them to say ~
~ That I lived and died with pride ~
~ It’s a fascinating life ~
I finished playing and she patted her staff on the ground. “Emenoire.”
I nodded and put the flute away before facing her, telling her with my eyes that I was listening.
“Are you,” she stopped paused, then said with a weak voice, “going adventuring again?”
“Yes.” I smiled and nodded. “with Julius’ team this time, heard about them? They are new adventurers. I’m well-suited for them because they need a healer and…”
“A teacher?” She was half-joking.
“Just someone with experience. I’m not good at teaching.” I laughed awkwardly. “I can’t be as assertive as you.”
“You’re just too kind,” Mrs. Rafafill said. After a moment her expression turned sad and distant. “This might be the last time we meet, so-“
“Don’t say that!” Even I was surprised by my outburst. “You said that the last three times I left town, remember? And here we are again.”
“Yes, I’m grateful that my story hasn’t ended yet but…” She cast her eyes down. “We can’t live as long as you can.”
I had long accepted the fact that I would outlive my teacher. “But–” Why? You can still live ten more years!
Before I could speak, she put her hand on my shoulder. “Along with my children, I want you to continue my legacy.”
She always said that. She treated me equally as her two sons, and maybe since we’re both females, she confined me in a way she didn’t them.
“I’m not sure that I’ll be alive tomorrow.” Her eyes were no longer the faded color of an old woman. She was as she’d been thirty years ago– the ‘Demon-Burner Mage’. “Can I teach you one last technique?”
I hesitated for a moment. “Didn’t you teach me everything you know already?”
She smiled with a challenging look, and raised her staff to her chest. “Don’t underestimate the Demon-Burner’s ability to invent new magical tricks.”
She really hadn’t lost her touch.
I leaned forward enthusiastically. “So, what technique is it? Fighting? Healing? Fire is your specialty, isn’t it?” This stirred my curiosity even more than the treasure map I’d found two years ago.
“You’d better see it first.” She sat up and looked around, then smirked.
She aimed her staff at a bird in its nest. That stance meant she’d attack it with magic, but I didn’t stop her… why she’d want to?
“I’m sorry, small one.” She sent a fireball to the bird, knocking it out of both its nest and its consciousness. Unlike me, Mrs. Rafafill never had a problem causing pain, but that was probably because of her confidence in fixing it.
I moved to where the bird had fallen and sighed in relief as its chest was moving. “Still alive… This weak fire magic can’t be it, right?”
She smiled and moved behind the bird’s body from my direction, so the bird was between us.
She patted her staff on the ground. “Now, watch closely, I can only show it once.”
I tilted my head in worry. She often said ‘will only show it once’ but I’d never before heard her say ‘can only show it once’. Maybe her health was worse than I thought.
With attention and anticipation, I watched as she patted the bird with her decorated staff, and listened to her unfamiliar chant in the ancient language. A magical light, a color I’d never seen before engulfed the bird.
“Beautiful!” I couldn’t say anything else as I watched the bird slowly regain its consciousness and move a little.
Then I pointed like the honor student I am, “The burn marks disappear– Hey! Are you OK?”
I saw that Rafafill was in pain, so I hastily moved to hold her.
“I’m alright.” She held her chest, not convincing me. “Emenoire, you saw what I did to the bird?”
“You nearly killed it?” I teased her to hide my concern. “Then healed it. didn’t you?”
She sighed, but looked more healthy than a moment ago. She then said with an annoyed tone. “Wasn’t it different from normal healing magic?”
Yeah, it was. The chanting was unfamiliar to me, the way she used her staff too, was different than before. The magical color was unusual and the healing itself– I voiced my last concern, “For a bird to gain consciousness and the ability to fly this fast…”
She lightly tapped on my head with her staff. Recently, this became her habit instead of flicking my forehead with her fingers like before. “Precisely. I call it instant healing. A magic that uses ancient ways. It’s taken me ten years to create and master.”
Amazing! So that’s what she was researching lately… I wanted to question her but she had more to tell me so I listened.
“It’s easy to use after you learn its strange way of channeling mana.”
With her staff, she drew the mana symbol on the ground and continued. “It’s also very fast and can heal both external and internal wounds.”
“Such magic exists?” Magic is all about equivalent exchange. There must be a downside. The stronger the magic is the more mana, time or other resources are needed.
Rafafill understood what I meant. “It uses an unusual resource.” She drew the ancient symbol for ‘human’ next to the mana symbol and a line between them.
“Human?” I didn’t notice her use any ‘unusual resource’ when she healed the bird earlier, so I stared at the symbols trying to understand what she was implying. I never expected her next words to be so grim.
“Emenoire… This magic costs some of the user’s lifespan.”
“The more fatal the wound is, the more of the user’s lifespan it costs.”
“Life… Span?…” I took a moment to register what she said.
“Are you insane?!” I grabbed her shoulder and shouted, worried and impatient. “You’re already too old.”
I wanted to tell her ‘You can’t sacrifice more of your lifespan. Did you spend all the last ten years on something that kills you faster?’
But she moved my hand aside, patted my head with her staff. “I did what I had to. Some wounds need to be healed instantly. We don’t want another Gardrick incident to happen.”
Hearing that name, I knew how she felt and could only repeat it. “Mr. Gardrick.”
Gardrick Saphony was the hero of this town and Rafafill’s Husband. He died in our last adventure together twenty years ago while protecting his wife from Blazing Hounds as her magic didn’t affect them. Although they were many, he wouldn’t have died if the healing magic we used didn’t take so long to cure wounds. If only we healed him faster… I still regret my own inexperience at the time, only after that loss did I start taking my lessons seriously.
“But even so, you can’t use such dangerous magic in your state, you said you can show it only once…why did-“
“Emenoire! I know my limits, I did it for you.”
“Rafafill…?” I didn’t expect that. For me? How? Why?
She held her staff to her chest. “For humans losing a few days of our lifespan is dangerous,” she said. “But you elves are different, you can lose months, even years and it won’t matter much, didn’t you say it yourself?”
I knew she was referring to what I told her when I heard the song ‘Fascinating Life’ for the first time, and she smiled as I repeated it.
“I thought human lives are precious, that they are more important because they’re shorter.” I drew my hands to my chest as I reminisced. “Every day is the same for us. Getting used to long lives took the urgency for improvement from us. But humans, you’re fascinating. I’d rather live 50 years doing things that matter, than 500 years living in my old village without a purpose.”
I still felt that way. The reason humans became more skilled in magic than Elves was that they had the urge to pass on knowledge. While humans teach their young and save time, elves spend years on the re-discovery.
“Humans accept that their life isn’t enough, so they pass the torch to the next one in line, unlike my people who strive to learn everything from scratch.”
Rafafill said with a happy tone. “That day, when I heard you make this comparison, and that you wanted to change, I was happy. I knew you’d become an amazing elf, Emenoire Azaheart.”
I blushed at her praise. “Uh…Th- That’s not what we’re talking about here! Why did you create such dangerous magic? And what does it have to do with me?”
She looked a bit puzzled. “Don’t you understand yet? I wanted to help you achieve your dream. If you still feel that way then you can use this magic to help people.”
Rafafill, you’re the one who doesn’t understand.
“But I’d hate that! I’d have to use the technique that killed my master. If you teach it to me, you’ll die for sure.”
Rafafill didn’t disagree but smiled. “I’m not teaching it to you, I know my limits. I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to.”
I looked at her with a puzzled expression. “Then… why?”
She looked at me in the eye. “You’re going to learn it by yourself. I only proved it was possible.”
Then she turned to me and said, “I wrote a book with everything you need. It might take you months or years. But you’ll do it in the end. Emenoire, as an elf, mana is your specialty.”
I was amazed again at how hard-working my teacher was. She also considered my tendency to learn everything from scratch. “You even wrote a book?”
She chuckled. “I had some free time… anyway listen closely. My time is near…. when you come back, if I am dead–“
I opened my mouth and tried to interrupt only for her staff to block my face.
“If I am dead, go to my room. My family would keep my belongings in it. You’d find the green book with this spell in the drawer beside my bed.”
She had thought of everything.
“Rafafill. I…” I didn’t know what to say.
She pulled her staff from my face to her side. “You were against me using it to teach you, but you’re okay with learning it yourself, right?”
She was right, but I didn’t want to tell her that yet.
She continue, “Promise me you’ll do it..”
Looking at her face while she said it like this, like she’s begging me I couldn’t say ‘no’. “I Promise.”
She let out a breath. “I’m glad.”
Using her staff as a crutch, she stood up and walked away from me, put her hand on the big tree, then stayed like that for a while.
The seconds became minutes as we both stayed silent, I was lost in thoughts about all the years we spent together, and hearing her next words I figured that she had thought of the same thing.
“Emenoire, listen, I’m happy that I met you. I’m happy that I went on adventures with you. I’m happy I’m able to talk to you like this especially if it’s the last time.”
She had a stream of tears on her face.
She continued in a shaky voice. “I lived a fascinating life… You, Gardrick, my children, and theirs, you all made it wonderful. And now I can join Gardrick in heaven knowing I passed my torch to someone capable.”
I noticed that tears were flowing. “I, too, am happy that I met you and your family.”
And finally she came to me, embraced me and said, “Emenoire, don’t forget us, and live a wonderful life.”
On that day; while embracing each other, we both shared tears of happiness and sadness. Her words felt like last words. A will of a dying person.
I promised her to try my best. ‘I’ll become the healer you’d be proud of… My teacher… my master… Rafafill Saphony.’
“That was our last meeting.” I said to the young adventurer in front of me
“Your grandma died a week after that, and I started learning that magic when I returned. You were small at the time.”
“Ahh! you and grandma had such a lovely friendship!” said Mayiess Saphony, the youngest granddaughter of my late friend. She wanted to be a healer so her father entrusted her to me and she became my student.
She said, “That’s why you won’t teach me Instant Healing?”
I patted her head with my staff, just for the sake of imitating my old teacher, “Yeah…”
She frowned while touching her forehead. “Booooring.”
Geez, you’re more immature than me.
I chuckled. “But if you become experienced enough, and more importantly, wise enough, I might change my mind.”
Unlike the bored reaction I expected, Mayiess smiled widely and said, “I promise!”
Looking at her running between the trees in front of me, I felt an urge to sing…
A Fascinating Life • Final Chorus
~ I don’t care if it’s short ~
~ I want them to say ~
~ That I lived and died with pride ~
~ It’s a fascinating life ~
As Mayiess heard the lyrics, she started singing too.
We both sang while exploring the uncharted forest, continuing Rafafill’s legacy.