Chapter 12 can be read below the cut.
Nymue walked through the halls of the Tsurennupaiva Military Academy. She’d only been to this part of the grounds once before, and it still looked unfamiliar. There was a courtyard in front of her, lined with offices on both the ground and second floors.
The office she went to was the third door on the eastern side of the courtyard. Nymue noticed that the door was ajar on its own – there was no doorstop – and pushed it open. Sajikitin Jukikynai sat at her desk, which had papers strewn all over it – probably assignments she was grading – and a framed photograph which faced away from Nymue, set on top of a computer case. There were bookshelves against the walls, full of books and binders as well as the occasional potted plant and one rabbit skull.
“Professor Jukikynai?” Nymue asked.
Sajikitin looked up. “Come in, Nymue,” she said. She set the papers aside, and Nymue pulled the spare chair up to Sajikitin’s desk. “Your letter said there were a few things you wanted to discuss?”
“Yes. A few things,” said Nymue. She looked down at the folded paper in her hand. “The first thing is the expeditions into the Old World. I was directed to you to talk about joining them.”
“Yes,” said Sajikitin. She held up her pointer finger, her elbow resting on her desk. “I’m not just gonna let you in on those expeditions because you ask nicely.”
“I didn’t expect it to happen just because I asked,” said Nymue.
Sajikitin pointed to the fingers of her other hand. “You have to put in an application,” she said. “And you can’t just do it whenever you want; we only accept them during a certain time period.”
“When is that?” Nymue asked.
“The last two weeks of each semester. So, right now. The submittal period opens today,” said Sajikitin. She rummaged through the papers on her desk, and held up one sheet. “But there are qualifications! You have to at least be at the end of your first year here at the Academy. And you have to have worked with a professor who studies things in the Old World, too. So, usually me or Professor Pevasha.”
“So I don’t qualify at all,” said Nymue.
“I’m afraid not,” said Sajikitin.
“Do you have any idea why I was directed to you instead of Professor Pevasha?” Nymue asked. “He’s the one actually in charge of the expeditions.”
“He’s away on one this week,” said Sajikitin. “What else did you want to talk to me about, Nymue?”
“My spirit weapon. Evidently yours is similar to mine,” said Nymue.
Sajikitin looked surprised. “Similar? Where did you hear that?”
“I don’t really remember,” said Nymue. “I think it was Professor Kyvenna who told me.”
Sajikitin held out her hand. Small pink crystals appeared in her palm. “Your spirit weapon is gold, isn’t it?” she asked. “Can I see it?”
Nymue manifested the gold as a puddle in her hand. It started dripping onto the desk. “That definitely looks like gold. I guess it’s similar to mine in the way that it isn’t actually a weapon,” said Sajikitin. She angled her hand to dump the crystals onto her desk. “Rose quartz crystals are entirely useless in combat. Fortunately, my magic is light-aligned. I believe yours is as well?”
“Yes,” Nymue started. She formed the gold into a kitchen knife. Sajikitin leaned forward, her mouth curling into a smile. “But it behaves like a fluid and a solid. I can form it into any object I want. Do you know anyone else who can do that?”
“Wow!” said Sajikitin. “That’s so rare! And yeah, I-” Suddenly, she clammed up. “I…knew someone who had a spirit weapon like that. But that person has been dead for a while.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Nymue.
Sajikitin waved her hands and the rose quartz crystals disappeared. “There aren’t any other people I know of with fluid spirit weapons,” she said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of better help to you.”
“That’s okay,” said Nymue. “If they exist, I’m certain I can find them on my own. I wasn’t really expecting much help about the spirit weapons. I’ve been reading about them, and it seems that a spirit weapon that’s able to behave as a fluid and a solid only occurs once or twice in a generation.”
“You’ve been researching this?” Sajikitin asked. “You’re really on top of things. I think you’d make a good assistant.”
Nymue could not stop her mouth from hanging open. “Really? You’ll take me on as an assistant?” she said. “Wait, how does that even work?”
Sajikitin smiled. “I’m not saying anything’s certain,” she said. “I have to think about it.”
Nymue left Sajikitin’s office a couple of minutes later with a couple of fliers in her hand. After she shut the door, she leaned back against it and sighed. She stared at the ground for a moment before she walked down the hallway.
Inside the office, Sajikitin looked at the framed photograph. “I don’t know why Tjara told me to keep an eye on her,” she said out loud. “She’s nothing like you were. Even if her spirit weapon is similar to yours, she didn’t show me anything too concerning. But I guess things could always get worse.”
Nymue, Ariana, and Ren sat at a table at the Military Academy Library. Books and papers were strewn all over the table, but they hadn’t been studying for at least half an hour.
“So we have to wait until the end of the second semester,” said Ariana. She put her chin in her hand. “I’m way too impatient to wait that long.”
Ren looked a little startled. “Are you planning on doing something illegal?” she asked.
Ariana laughed. “What? I wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“Sure,” said Ren. She didn’t sound convinced.
Ariana turned back to Nymue. “Did you end up learning anything useful about your spirit weapon?” she asked.
“Not as much as I wanted to,” said Nymue. “All I learned was that Professor Jukikynai used to know someone with a similar spirit weapon. But they died.”
“That’s not very helpful,” Ariana commented.
“But there’s a bit of a problem with that,” said Nymue.
“Oh?” said Ren, raising her eyebrows.
“I’ve looked through the spirit weapon records,” said Nymue. “The last person with a fluid spirit weapon died in 452.”
“How is that a problem?” Ariana asked.
“I got curious and looked up Professor Jukikynai as well,” said Nymue. “She was born in 465. Whoever she knew wasn’t in the records.”
Ren and Ariana both stared at Nymue in shock. “She…was she talking about someone unregistered?” Ren asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Ariana gravely. “When I was really young, like three or four, I remember that one of my mom’s friends came over. They had a spirit weapon that looked like yours. There’s no way that person could have been unregistered.”
“Do you think it was the same person?” Ren asked.
Nymue frowned. “That’s the simplest answer, so it’s what I’m going to believe for the time being.”
“But why wouldn’t they be in the records?” Ariana asked.
“I guess they got disappeared?” Nymue suggested.
The three of them stared at each other in silence. “You…really think they got disappeared?” Ariana asked after a moment.
“I don’t know why else there wouldn’t be any records for their existence,” said Nymue.
“That does make sense,” said Ren.
Ariana frowned. “I guess it does,” she said. She definitely did not look comfortable with the thought.
“Still,” said Ren, breaking the silence that followed, “I wonder just what that person did to get disappeared. Even murderers are in the records.”
While Ariana and Ren chattered to each other, Nymue retreated into her own thoughts. In the middle of her thinking, she had a sudden realization. She needed to talk to Veitlen.
The three of them ended up staying in the library until the sun set, taking rather brief study breaks in the middle of their conversations. Nymue really hoped Veitlen would still be somewhere on the Academy grounds.
She found Veitlen at the entrance to the Academy. He was leaning against one of the pillars, casually talking to Temurlin. He made eye contact with her, and tapped Temurlin’s arm with the back of his hand.
“Can I talk to you privately?” Nymue asked once she was close enough.
Veitlen looked confused. “Huh?” He glanced at Temurlin, who shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”
Temurlin held up a hand in farewell. “See you tomorrow,” he said.
For some reason, Veitlen looked startled. “Yeah. See you,” he blurted out. He watched Temurlin walk away, then turned to Nymue. “Did something happen with your family?”
“No, it’s about your dad,” said Nymue.
Veitlen immediately looked bewildered. “About my dad?” he said. “What? Why?”
Nymue raised a hand and summoned a bit of gold that floated around her fingers. “He could do something like this, couldn’t he?” she said.
“Oh, yeah,” said Veitlen. “He could.”
They stared at each other for a moment. “I should have been more specific,” said Nymue. “Do you remember what his spirit weapon was and how it worked? It was something silver, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah!” said Veitlen. “Some sort of rainbow silver fluid metal thing. And it made cubes on its own. I don’t remember what it’s called, though. But why are you asking about this all of a sudden? You never cared before.”
“I’ve been trying to find someone with a spirit weapon like my own. I haven’t had any luck so far,” said Nymue.
Veitlen frowned. “Like…a live person?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Nymue.
Veitlen’s frown deepened. “Why the hell are you asking about my dad then?” he said.
Nymue sighed. “I know it doesn’t make sense. I was just wondering if I remembered things correctly.”
Veitlen looked skeptical. He crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, then turned to leave. Nymue grabbed his arm before he could get too far away. “Wait up! That’s not the only thing I’m worried about,” she said.
Veitlen turned around, still with his arms crossed. “Worried about? What the hell are you even talking about? I feel like you’re expecting me to know something and I don’t!”
He was right. “Sorry about that,” Nymue grumbled. “Professor Jukikynai mentioned that she knew someone with a spirit weapon like mine. The problem is that I looked it up, and the last person with a fluid spirit weapon died long before she was even born.”
Veitlen stared at her blankly. “So…you think that professor knew my dad?” he asked.
“No!” said Nymue sharply. “Whoever she was talking about was unpersoned! It has nothing to do with your dad. The only reason I asked about him is because I suddenly remembered his spirit weapon. He does not have anything to do with the rest of this conversation.”
“Okaaay,” said Veitlen. He looked annoyed. “That person being unpersoned is a little weird, but I don’t understand why I need to know about it.”
“To be honest, I don’t think you do. I’m just worried,” said Nymue. She sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. “I feel like I’m about to learn something dangerous, but that it also could end up being a good thing.”
Veitlen kept frowning, but he also looked worried. “Well, whatever it is, don’t get in trouble. I wouldn’t want to see you get unpersoned, too.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Nymue.
Veitlen dropped his annoyed expression and uncrossed his arms, letting them drop to his sides. “I need to get home. I’ll see you tomorrow. Hopefully.”
The two of them waved at each other as they left the campus. Nymue once again let her thoughts take her over as she walked. She had no idea what was going on, but she was definitely going to do her best to figure it out.