32 Merits and Trus
Two more years passed, Lith was now eight years old. During that time, he had mastered all the spells contained in Nana’s books, which brought his official skill set up to the most common tier three spells.
Books about superior tiers were extremely expensive, and Nana had no interest in acquiring them. She had her own grimoire, after all. The books she bought over the years were mostly for display, to show her clients what they could purchase.
But while his skill in fake magic stagnated, Lith used those years to deepen his understanding of true magic. His grasp on its profoundness and foundations had improved greatly.
By practicing true magic every day as a healer, he had gained such fine control on both light and darkness magic that he had finally acquired the necessary skill to permanently get rid of Tista’s congenital condition.
The problem was that despite all his efforts, his mana core was not strong enough to perform the treatment Lith had devised.
During those years he had used Assimilation whenever he could, making his mana core going through multiple cycles of expansion and compression, turning it from deep green to bright green.
But it was still green. Lith’s impurities had yet to reach the mana core, and until that happened both his mana and body would not undergo through qualitative changes.
He had reached a bottleneck, and had no idea how to overcome it.
Solus too had changed quite a lot. She was no more limited to her pebble form, but could actually turn into any shape while retaining the same overall mass.
That allowed Solus to take the form of a smooth stone ring, that Lith wore on his right middle finger.
When she asked him why a ring on the middle finger, Lith replied with an odd short poem related to a green ring of power. It was something related to his childhood, of which he was really fond of.
Along with some of her power, Solus had also regained a new function, something that Lith called Soluspedia. It was another pocket dimension, but specifically crafted for books and any means to store knowledge.
All the books that Lith stored in the Soluspedia, he could consult with but a thought. For example, by storing his grimoire he didn’t need to memorize anymore the magic words and hand signs for the fake magic spells he had learned.
Lith still had to practice the hand signs and pronunciation, but he only had to think about what he needed to remember everything up to the smallest detail. The same applied for maps, herbals and bestiaries.
Lith had given almost everything he had earned as a healer to his family, allowing them to have a much easier life and accumulate a decent dowry for Rena and Tista.
Whatever he kept for himself, he would use to buy the most detailed compendiums he could find about the most useful topics, like law, court etiquette and even a vocabulary.
As long as they were in the Soluspedia, Lith knew them inside and out. What made him inwardly gloating, was the fact that he could buy even those items that were almost crumbling or defective, resulting to be highly perishable.
That wasn’t a problem for him. Just like for the pocket dimension, they would be frozen in time, and hence potentially last forever.
After his eight winter ended, Lith received a call from Count Lark on Nana’s communication amulet. The event took him by surprise, the Count had never contacted him before.
Having had plenty of video calls and job interviews on Discort and Skope back on Earth, he was familiar with that kind of meeting. Lith bowed deeply as a salute, while cupping his fist.
“Dear Lith, you are always so polite. No need for all the formalities, you are among friends now.” Count Lark had a convivial and friendly demeanour, making him seem more like an uncle calling his nephew rather than a Lord.
“Count Lark, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?” Lith looked at Nana, standing beside him, in search for approval. She nodded while staring at the magical hologram of the Count.
“You have accumulated quite some merits, I wanted to know if you plan on using some of them.” Merits were something that anyone who contributed to the welfare of the kingdom would receive and could be exchanged for privileges or commodities.
A convict could have his sentence shortened by serving in the military and earning merits, a farmer could get more land for free, a scholar could get a recommendation for a government job.
“Merits?” Lith was taken aback. “I didn’t do anything to earn such things.”
“Quite the contrary, dear Lith. Every year I receive hundreds of commendation letters from the farmers and their families, about the outstanding job you are performing as a healer.”
Since Lith had started to give treatments for half the price to the farmers, they would wait for Nana to leave the village before going to get medical care. Nana knew it and did not care.
They still needed her for the emergencies, and the house call extra fees covered whatever profit she may have lost.
“A letter counts for earning merits?” Lith asked, still confused.
“One letter, no. But dozens, hundreds of letters all about the same person for a prolonged period of time, off course they do. Do you have anything in mind the kingdom can help you with?”
Lith pondered for a while, while accessing the law book in Soluspedia. More land was suicidal, his family was already stretched thin, and they cannot afford hired help.
The kingdom would not trade merits for money, but Lith could still get the next best thing.
“Do I have enough for my family to be exonerated from taxes this year?”
Count Lark dropped his monocle from the shock, the mouth ajar.
“Taxes? Your family still pays taxes?”
“Yes, we are law abiding citizens, your lordship.” Lith was almost as confused as the Count, but with a better poker face.
“I’ll flay my accountant alive!” The Count jumped off his chair, his face red from anger.
“I told that incompetent fool to exonerate your family since the day Lady Nerea took you under her wing! I swear to the gods, I’ll fire that man with such bad references he will never find another employer.”
Lith tried to calm the Count down.
“Maybe is for the best. I’d prefer to be exonerated because of my merits, rather than for being a magician in training.”
The Count sat back down, a perplex expression on his face.
“Why? The result is the same, and you would get to keep your merits for future needs.”
“It may seem just a matter of semantics but is not.” Lith explained.
“If my family gets exonerated, sooner or later it will come out, and what happens next will depend on the reason why we got it. If it is because of my status, in the eyes of the community it would be an unfair privilege.
That could generate envy and grudges, and in such tight community it could prove to be toxic. Help and support from the neighbours are of paramount importance for a farm, and I will not stay there forever.
If we get exonerated because of my merits, instead, it would be something that the community has bestowed on me, as a sign of gratitude for my good deeds.
Being able to somehow repay their benefactor, would make them feel happy, and prevent them from harbouring ill feelings.”
During all the explanations, Lith was inwardly crying out of joy, congratulating himself about purchasing the vocabulary.
“I can finally talk like I used back on Earth. The inability to express myself correctly has always been such a burden.” He thought.
“Magic is indeed the supreme form of art.” Count Lark nodded in agreement. “Only a magician can be so wise despite being so young. I am honestly impressed.”
“A dragon whelp is still a dragon, after all.” Nana chimed in. “The boy is not only wise beyond his age, but also is blessed by the light. He is talented enough to have already invented his own light spells.
Lith’s skill as a healer is almost at the same level I had back at his age, and he even created some cosmetic spell for his sister. She has the fairest skin I have seen in my whole life. This is just between us, off course.”
Lith was smiling and nodding, but he was actually scared to death. Nana seemed to have seen through some of his deception.
“Wonderful! Just wonderful!” The Count jumped off his chair out of joy, losing once again his monocle. “Thanks for your trust, Lith. I will keep your secret with me at all costs!”
After the call ended, Lith stared at Nana, unable to express his questions out loud. She laughed out tauntingly as usual.
“Don’t be so shocked, I’m a mage too, after all. When some of your patients came back for a second opinion, after describing me their injuries, I was bound to discover the truth. Some of those wounds were supposed to be beyond your skill.
As for your mother and sister, you just overdid it, little imp. Whatever you did, made them too gorgeous. I commend you for doing it slowly and over time, but whoever knows a thing or two about magic would suspect something.
As for the Count, he too would notice, once Rena first and Tista later take part in the Spring Maiden contest. Or do you think he has acorns instead of eyes? It’s better to play it this way. Lark is an honest man, the best noble I have ever met.
If he thinks he has your trust, he will do his best to uphold it. You are still his precious pet project, after all. I doubt he would risk to lose everything he has invested so far for such a trivial matter.”
Lith could do nothing but agree.
“Master, you do not trust anyone, do you?”
“I barely trust myself. Besides, I am the only one who always fought for my best interests.”
Lith bowed deeply, his fist cupped.
“Master, your disciple thanks you for your guidance and help. I will take your words to heart.”
In the following days, Lith could not stop blaming himself for making such stupid mistakes.
“Dammit! Always so full of myself! I need to stop thinking I am always the smartest in the room. I can’t keep screwing up on the small details, in the long run it could be prove to be fatal. Having such a bitter and cynic Master is a blessing in disguise.
We are basically two peas in a pod. She still suspects nothing, and I have to keep it that way. Having her by my side can help me grow as a mage and protect me from my own stupidity at the same time.”
Aside from that, Lith’s family got exonerated from the annual fees thanks to his merits, and as he predicted, that caused only joy and happiness in the neighbours. It had happened thanks to them, after all.
It was a slow day at Nana’s house office, when two hunters barged in, bringing on their shoulders two more hunters, covered in blood.
“A magical beast!” The hunter in the lead shouted. “A magical beast is rampaging through the Trawn woods! Please, you have to save my men. That monster almost ripped them apart”