A Useless Talent
The time was about 3 hours after noon. A lone girl sat at a table in a veranda about four stories off the ground, tuning out the sounds of the bustling streets beneath her.
On the table before her was a single dome-shaped object, with a radius of about 5cm and a height of about 2cm. The girl’s right hand hovered over it, clad in a strange-looking white gauntlet. It was this gauntlet that was the source of the whirring noises.
On each fingertip of the gauntlet was a different kind of implement. A miniature grindstone, a miniature chisel that constantly pumped up and down, some kind of file. The whirring noises came from the manipulations of these tools.
In the hollow center of the dome-shaped object was a tiny blue crystal. This was the subject of the tools’ ministrations. Occasionally, the girl would stop work, push a button on the dome, put her ear close to the crystal and listen carefully, before frowning and resuming her work.
The girl’s name was Lily Voirgaire. The device she was attempting to create was a music box.
The blue crystal was a special mineral known as <<Amplification Ore>>. It had the special property of amplifying and altering sounds that passed through it, with different alterations being made depending on how the ore was cut. The idea was that by pushing the button, it would cause a hammer to strike a gear, which would turn another gear, which would then allow for the <<Amplification Ore>> in the centre to begin turning. At the same time, the gear which the hammer struck was made of metal, therefore the sound of metal striking metal would pass through the <<Amplification Ore>> and be constantly reflected within it, creating a unique, changing sound. That is, assuming she managed to cut it correctly.
After a few more sessions of cutting, listening, and cutting again, finally she smiled, satisfied. She carefully placed a thin, soundproof glass panel over the device, and welded on an external metal ring to keep it in place. She drilled several holes into the side of the device, then pushed the button. From the small dome, a beautiful melody started to play, causing some of the passersby on the street below to look up in wonder.
Pleased with her accomplishment, Lily leaned back into her chair and stretched her fingers while smiling contentedly. She might be terrible at magic, but at least she too had a skill she could be proud of.
Her self-assessment was slightly wrong. Lily was not terrible in magic. In fact, she was a prodigy, what could be called a once-in-a-thousand-years genius. Unfortunately, her magical affinity lay in <<Extension>>, a type of magic largely considered useless. <<Extension>> magic allowed its users to extend their nervous systems outward, manipulating other things as if it were a portion of their body. This was governed by several conditions: First, the extension must be in direct physical contact with the user’s body. Second, the object cannot be made to move in an unnatural way. For instance, it was impossible to make a rigid metal rod bend through <<Extension>>. Third, any damage dealt to an extension would be felt by the user through their nervous system. Finally, <<Extension>> does not work on living beings.
All these conditions combined made <<Extension>> a magical affinity with very few practical uses, particularly when considering the existence of the commonplace and far more versatile <<Telekinesis>> affinity.
Ordinarily, people were born with multiple affinities, so those who had an <<Extension>> affinity would normally just focus on some other form of magic. But in Lily’s case, that was not an option. She was one of the rare individuals known collectively as <<Paragons>>. Paragons were a rare instance of people where the individual is born with supreme talent in one magical affinity, but is unable to use any other magic whatsoever. Generally, Paragons were gifted with cheat-like affinities such as <<Gravity>> or <<Spellsword>>, and hence became heroes and great adventurers loved by the public. Lily, however, was the first ever recorded example of an <<Extension>> Paragon, and therefore was treated differently. As she was only able to use the useless <<Extension>> magic and no others, her tutors all encouraged that she give up on learning magic, and instead focus on other career options, such as logistics, academics or swordsmanship.
In a sense, that was what she did. She did not give up on learning magic, but she thoroughly studied how she could use her magic to aid in her desired career as a machinist. As a whole, machinists were not a class in high demand, as the existence of Alchemists’ and Magic Engineers’ magic-based creations basically eliminated any societal need for machinery, but Lily was fascinated by the field nonetheless.
Fortunately, her <<Extension>> affinity turned out to be perfect for the job. As she was a Paragon, her ability in <<Extension>> far outstripped all others: she could extend her nervous system indefinitely, as long as the objects were in physical contact with each other. Furthermore, she could maintain the Extension for an indefinite amount of time without any significant loss in mana. Additionally, her degree of control was extremely precise, to the point where she was able to manipulate up to a hundred Extended tiny quadruple-jointed metal arms simultaneously with ease. Her special white <<Machina Gauntlet>> that she used for her work was operated by this precise Extension.
All in all, while her life was far from perfect, Lily enjoyed it. She had loving parents, close friends, and the opportunity of pursuing her passion as a career. She had a distinct goal. She had a clear dream.
And that dream was going to be jeopardised if she didn’t hurry up. Panicking as she noted the time, she stuffed the newly-made <<Music Box>> and her beloved <<Machina Gauntlet>> in her jacket pockets, then donned her white newspaper cap and white sling bag. Checking her appearance in the mirror on her way out, she tucked in a few loose strands of green hair under the cap before leaving the house with a quick shout of “I won’t be home for dinner!”
Once she left her house, she broke into a run toward the entrance of the <<Labyrinth of Azoria>>. She had a date, and considering the state of her finances, she couldn’t quite afford to be late.