A Sound Idea

“Wait, wait. I don’t get it. How is firing it with a Resound Jewel as a focal point any different from just forming the sword in that same spot?”

It was about a week after my lessons in magic had ended. My schedule had shifted a little, but it was still packed. Mornings were still sparring sessions with Elysium, but afternoons were now spent following Elysium around town to learn how our business model worked. On this particular occasion, we were having lunch while seated in the newly renovated, but not yet opened Ezov. The lunch was prepared by a chef that had been sent by Hager Bainel, and served as a means to test the quality of the food that was to be served at this branch. Of course, with a chef sent by the owner of the Bainel Trading Company, the quality was never really in question, so really it was just an excuse for us to get free food, in a move of thriftiness typical of Elysium.

Over lunch, our casual talk had moved to the topic of my training, and from there, I was recounting the final test that Ruth had given me. I had just gotten to the bit about my trick with the Resound Jewels when Elysium interrupted me.

“What do you mean, how is it different? It’s another process entirely.”

“No, I mean, why not just form the sword behind her, rather than using the Resound Jewel as a focal coordinate? She should have been within your twenty meter effective range, no?”

“Ah, you seem to be misunderstanding something. Actually, come to think of it, I never did share with you what I learned about Resound Jewels, did I?”

“Nope. I figured it didn’t matter as long as you knew how to use them.”

“Ah. Well, let me correct you on one point; I didn’t use the Resound Jewel as a focal coordinate, I used it as a gate of sorts. A tunnel between the two Resound Jewels. What I did was to send my attack through the Resound Jewel I held on to, so that it would emerge from the other one and catch her by surprise. If I had simply materialised the attack from behind her, she would have been able to detect the mana converging, and so the surprise would have been ruined. The way I did it, the mana convergence would have occurred on my end of the tunnel, so to her, it would seem as if the attack had spontaneously appeared from nowhere without any prior preparation. So the move was necessary to take her by surprise, and- uh, Elysium? Are you listening?”

I broke off from my explanation as I noticed that Elysium was staring at me with a dumbfounded expression. She blinked several times as I called for her attention, then shook her head vigorously.

“Sorry. Let me clarify: you said that you used the Resound Jewels as a tunnel? That you sent your attack through the Jewels? I thought the Jewels could only transmit sound!”

“Ah, about that; that was my impression too, but as it turns out, it was wrong. Apparently, Jewels don’t transmit sounds; they transmit information in the form of magic. It just so happens that the makeup of a Jewel naturally encodes sound into magic without external influence; it is hence possible to send other forms of magic through a Jewel, though it would require a bit more effort on the sender’s part.”

“…So, you can send any kind of magic through the Jewels? Not just sound?”

“Well, yeah. Any information that can be encoded as magic can be sent through the Jewel.”

“…your illusion things, the fake copies of yourself that you keep creating during our sessions. You mentioned that the spell worked by encoding the image of yourself as magic?”

“Uh, it’s a bit more complicated than that, and it took me half a day to figure it out, but in a very general sense, that’s correct.”

“So, theoretically speaking, could you send an image of yourself through the jewels?”

“Sure. Not just in theory, either. I can show you.”

I casually tossed one of the Resound Jewels across the empty Ezov, waiting for it to stop bouncing and come to rest at the other side of the room, then I activated my illusion spell – directing the magic through the paired Jewel I held in my hand. Instantly, a life-sized image of myself sprung up next to the thrown Jewel, giving us a small wave before fading away as I ended the spell.

“Just like that. It took me a while, but I’m pretty confident in my ability to send any spell through the Jewels now. Illusions, phantasmal swords, anything that I know how to form.”

I puffed out my chest in pride, expecting a little praise, but I quickly corrected my posture when I set eyes upon Elysium’s expression. Her brows were furrowed in thought, her thumb clenched between her teeth as she bit it furiously. In between bites, I heard traces of muttering.

“…I can’t believe it… Revolutionise the industry… change the game… now? No, too soon… Need to market this well… Next time. Maybe… Need to confirm if live images work… Need to keep strain in mind too… test first… implement later…”

In the past week, I had seen this sort of behaviour with surprising regularity. This was the way she acted whenever she needed to make a major business-related decision, though this was the first time I had seen her quite this deranged. She was like a woman possessed. I silently watched her and kept my distance – I had learned that she reacted rather violently when interrupted during these little sessions of deliberation.

After several more minutes of barely coherent rambling, Elysium suddenly removed her thumb from her lips and sat up straight, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened – anyone who chanced upon us now would have laughed at the notion that the currently calm and composed woman was muttering to herself just seconds before. It seemed that she had come to a decision, whatever that decision was. Then she hugged me. Hard.

“U-um, Elysium, what-”

“I’m so glad I picked you up. Taking you on was the best decision I’ve made in months. I usually don’t believe in fate, but what can this be if not fate? Oh, Glint, I’m so glad I met you.”

“Um, uh, thanks, I guess? I don’t really understand, but I’m glad to be of service…?”

I could feel my face heating up from the suffocation, and tapped Elysium’s arm twice, coughing to make my point. She quickly seperated from me and held me at arms’ length. I caught her gaze – her eyes were filled with excitement. Clearly, she saw some way of monetising the ability I had just demonstrated, though I hadn’t the faintest clue about what she intended for me to do. I decided to break the silence with a clarification.

“So, uh, I suppose you want me to do something involving Resound Jewels during the concert?”

To my surprise, Elysium shook her head.

“No. Not this time, anyway. I don’t have enough time to set the stage. We’ll implement it for the next concert, so that I have the time to do the prep work.”

“In other words, you do want me to do something involving Resound Jewels; just not this time.”

“Yep. We need to be careful about the timing for this. It won’t have quite as much impact after the first instance, so we need to make full use of that opportunity.”

I nodded my assent, and she let go of my arms. I walked across the room to pick up the fallen Jewel. At the moment I stooped down, a girl – slightly older than me, I believed – stepped out from the kitchen and said something to Elysium. Elysium listened carefully, then nodded twice. The girl placed a large briefcase on the table in front of Elysium and walked back to the kitchen. As I returned to my seat, I snuck a glance at the contents of the briefcase. Many small, neatly bundled stacks of paper sat within, each with Rosalind’s name on it in an elegant cursive, framed by a decorative border. Each slip had a letter on the bottom left, either A, B or C. Apart from the border, the name and the letter, no other decoration adorned the slip. Elysium caught me glancing at the briefcase and laughed.

“Tickets, for your first concert. Your first rehearsal will be next week, so it’s about time for me to open sales of these as well.”

She finished her cursory inspection of the tickets and was about to close to briefcase, when she paused and looked at me.

“Oh, right. I almost forgot. If you want, you can have a couple of tickets to give away for free. A perk of working with us, if you will. Our other employees get two free tickets each, but for you, I think we can spare a couple more. Maybe ten, at most.”

“Ten? Wouldn’t that be a loss for you?”

“Nothing that the rest of the sales won’t make up. Besides, you’re worth at least that much, with all the money you’re going to help us make from now on.”

I responded to the cold evaluation of my value as a monetary asset with a dry laugh, then considered her offer. I sincerely doubted whether I had a single friend – much less ten of them – but I did know someone who would be overjoyed to get a free ticket, and since I owed her a couple of favours, I figured it was a good way to settle the score.

“Tickets, huh… I can give them to anybody?”

“Yep. You have anyone in mind? A special someone? A girlfriend waiting in the wings, maybe?”

I laughed.

“Heh. I do have a person in mind, and it is a girl, but she’s definitely not my girlfriend.”

A flash of blue hair and green eyes invaded my thoughts. Well, if I was going to end up leaving the city after this concert to follow Elysium, it was probably best to at least go pay her a visit and explain why. I owed her that much.

“Can I have seven tickets? And if I could have the day off tomorrow, that’d be great.”