Author: Kiyo Date (伊達きよ)
Not Fire, not Water, but Gold
When Xiao Ya got up, Setsu was standing in the kitchen area.
Standing, but also posing weirdly. Maybe he felt it was weird because they were people from different worlds.
“… Lord Setsu, good morning.”
“Ah, Master Xiao Ya, good morning.”
Setsu stood with his feet pointed outwards, his body was leaning forward, and his right and left hands were respectively facing up and down. Maybe this really was the correct stance people from Setsu’s world took while they stood in the kitchen.
“Lord Setsu… Uhm… What are you doing?”
“Hm? I’m making breakfast like always. The day starts with breakfast.”
“Ah, so it must be commonplace to stand like that while making breakfast in your world?”
“No. I have nothing to do while the beans are cooking, so I’m just moving my body.”
Aha, so this stance was limited to just Setsu then. If he had been told that this was the usual way of standing in the kitchen where Setsu came from, Xiao Ya may have ended up being prejudiced against his world.
Sighing, he sat down on a chair, and noticed some napkins and stylish mats were placed on the table. (He had no memory of buying the mats, but he did recognize the fabric. Setsu had probably used some of Xiao Ya’s old clothes to make them.) On top of the mats, plates were lined up side by side. As he regarded the endless rows of food, Setsu plopped down on the chair across from him.
Lately Setsu had been standing in the kitchen every day, preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“Ah, wonderful as always. It’s impressive how you can get up in the morning and start making all this.”
“Ha ha ha! Thank you for the compliment. It’s because breakfast is a serious matter. It nourishes the brain, and wakes up the body, and therefore creates a body that is efficient in short order.”
Setsu kept chatting incessantly about how this ingredient did this and that, and how about this way of cooking it?, and if you had this drink it would do such and such for you… Xiao Ya listened as he tried each of the different dishes, all the while nodding his head “Yes”, and “I see,” and “oh really?”.
These past several days, Setsu had been researching ingredients, and studied their nutritional value and the appropriate methods of cooking them. The foodstuff in this world was probably different, not just in appearance but also in the way they tasted, so doing the research was very important.
Nevertheless, because Setsu was unable to use magic, he did all the housework by hand. Xiao Ya couldn’t even imagine not using magic while doing chores. When he had first seen the clothes Setsu had tailored, he had been confused. “You can use magic, Lord Setsu?” He had asked. Making things from scratch without magic was something unimaginable to Xiao Ya.
Right, speaking of magic, Xiao Ya sharply lifted his head.
“Lord Setsu, about the thing we talked about yesterday.”
Setsu was still airing his vast knowledge about food when he turned his head at Xiao Ya’s words.
“About whether or not you might have magic as well, Lord Setsu.”
“Ah, yes… Well?”
Yesterday, after returning from the library, Setsu had asked Xiao Ya. He wasn’t of this world, but since he was Li Huang’s Destined Mate, he had to carry the Five Elements as well, right? Surely, a Destined Mate that had none of the Five Elements, which were the basis for all magic power, was impossible? And possessing the Five Elements meant possessing magical powers, right? was Setsu’s hypothesis.
Xiao Ya had nodded at Setsu’s words.
“It is as you say, Lord Setsu. If you would like, we can test the extent of your magic ability as well as which of the elements is strongest for you. How about it?”
“Ohh, yes please! … He he, me having magic! He he he he! Ha ha ha!”
Setsu seemed awfully delighted. Xiao Ya had been told that there was no such thing as magic in the world Setsu came from. For Xiao Ya, imagining people living their lives without any magic was an extremely strange thought. Well, looking at Setsu it was obvious that a life without magic could somehow be possible. But still, it seemed quite inconvenient.
“Let’s see what your element is, Lord Setsu.”
“Fire and Water are definitely cool… Right?.. But wait, Gold,… Gold is good too! Gold, Gold, it’s a good sound, fitting for someone as beautiful as me!”
As he watched Setsu beaming happily with his hands on his cheeks, Xiao Ya too, felt a pleasant feeling rising up inside him. Once you grew old enough in Lan Huang, a ritual would be held to determine your magical ability and your main element. When somebody’s powers were judged to be high enough, they had the qualifications to become a “Master of Sorcery”, and would receive a recommendation to the School of Sorcery.
Setsu looked like a child about to receive his examination, Xiao Ya thought.
Not knowing that he looked like a kid to Xiao Ya, Setsu thought of poses to take when using magic and spell names to shout while casting spells.
Exactly like the little ones do, Xiao Ya thought, but wisely chose not to utter anything of the sort.
Because Xiao Ya was busy with work during the morning, the magical examination was set to be held in the evening. Setsu had decided to visit somewhere in the meantime.
Setsu had asked Xiao Ya for advice, since he wasn’t able to reach the castle’s ground floor, no matter how hard he tried to reach it. Xiao Ya had been astonished. The castle wasn’t made to be traversed on foot. This was where magic came in.
In the middle of the tower-like castle there was a hollow vertical duct. Inside were crates that could seat one person at a time, which were used as a vehicle to travel up and down (“Oh, so like an elevator”, Setsu had said).
The crates were powered by magic, and by holding their hand over the components inside it, the passengers used magic to get it to move. Since it was still uncertain whether Setsu possessed magic or not (and even if he did, he wouldn’t have any clue how to use it), Xiao Ya handed him a “magic stone”. Such a stone, was a stone that was infused with magic, and was used to amplify the holders own magical abilities when they weren’t sufficient enough for certain sorceries.
Even without any magical skills, Setsu would be able to use the crate elevator with this stone. Finally Setsu was able to go up and down the castle as high and as low as he liked.
Now that he was able to freely move inside the castle, there was a place he really wanted to try going, something he wanted to see. This country’s starting point: The Lu Huang River. The first thing the dragons created when they created this world. This river was special to all people of this world, and especially to the imperial family.
The river flowed from the mountains opposite the castle, it’s origin had never been discovered. No matter how far one followed the stream, there was no reaching its source. It was a difficult story to believe, but in thousands of years that had passed, no one had ever found the river’s origin. It was said that the gods were likely hiding it, and the people of Lan Huang accepted this, believing that the river simply had no beginning.
The Lu Huang also flowed alongside the castle, and Xiao Ya had told Setsu that it was visible from the castle’s rear gardens.
To get to the gardens behind the well maintained castle he walked along the chinese-style cobble stone path until the ground beneath his feet turned to gravel. From there, he entered a spacious plaza. The sound of the river that had reached his ears as soon as he had stepped foot into the gardens became even louder now, signaling that the river had to be really close. Setsu followed the sounds as he kept on walking.
The river was flowing with a furious, roaring sound. The current was fierce, but the water was pure and clear. He couldn’t see any fish or other creatures. There were no living things in the river, at least according to the little that Setsu had read about it. There was only one special kind of occasion when one could witness signs of life in the river.
Walking up stream and looking at the river, he spotted a pavilion that was in a good position to watch the water. Inside, somebody was sitting on a chair.
He tried to call out into the distance, but there was no response. As Setsu approached, he called out again, this time louder.
No matter how much he raised his voice, no reply came. The sound of the river probably drowned out his voice. There was no helping it, he would have to walk up directly. He sped up and stepped inside the pavilion.
“It’s been a while, Your Imperial Highness!”
Standing in front of the figure sitting on his chair, he elegantly bowed his head. Yes, the person in the pavilion was the one who had summoned him, Setsu’s Destined Mate, Li Huang. Li Huang turned his averted face in Setsu’s direction, evidently having just now noticed his presence.
“..Ahh, the Destined Mate. For us to meet in a place like this… I really didn’t notice you.”
The surprise in his face was forced; of course Li Huang had noticed Setsu’s approach. He had noticed as soon as Setsu had entered the plaza. But since he was bothersome to talk to, he had pretended not to see him. He had hoped to leave without being noticed.
Setsu however, had approached with a friendly smile, oblivious to Li Huang’s sentiment.
“Why has the Destined Mate come here? You did a good job climbing all the way down, hm?”
“I borrowed a magic stone from Master Xiao Ya. Thanks to him I can go outside now. Sunlight is really good for the body. It’s really not enough to get it through the window, you have to bask in the sun regularly. Huh, but I wonder about ultraviolet rays from this world’s sun. My, my skin-!”
“I haven’t seen anybody getting hurt by the sun yet, but if you are worried, you should hurry to get back to your room. Quickly.”
Li Huang getsured to show him the exit, and pointed his delicate fingers outside the pavilion and towards the castle.
“Thank you for your concern. I’m wearing this sunhat, so it should be fine for now.”
“…That weird thing is a sunhat?…”
Li Huang stared at Setsu with cold eyes. Yes, Setsu was wearing a hat right now. As usual, he had made it from clothes that Xiao Ya had no use for anymore. The sunhat had a wide brim, with lace as a curtain. It was very pretty and elegant (in Setsu’s eyes).
To Li Huang, frankly, he looked like a weirdo.
“Yes, that’s right! Your Imperial Highness must also worry about sunburn, your skin is pale too. How about it? Should I make anoth-..”
Li Huang resolutely turned down Setsu’s offer mid-speech. Why would I want to imitate you weirdo?, he thought, as his insides bristled with irritation.
“Oh, I haven’t answered you yet. You wanted to know why I came here.”
Setsu clapped his hands. In truth, Li Huang didn’t care why he had come, but he nodded anyways. He had probably come just to stoll around and kill some time. He wanted to sigh, wondering why Xiao Ya had given this loafer a magic stone.
“I wanted to see the place where this country started. It is also the place where the members of your imperial family are born, yes?”
“….Why are you…?”
For a second there was a dangerous flash shining in Li Huang’s golden eyes, as he looked at Setsu. His smile disappeared instantly. Instead his beauty was now coupled with an aura that felt cold and sharp like a blade. The corners of Li Huang’s slanted eyes narrowed even further when Sestu answered as if it was a trifling matter:
“I read that in a book. The river that the two dragons created first when they made this world was the Lu Huang, and all of the imperial family was similarly born from this river.”
“A book? You read a book about Lan Huang?”
“Yes, I wanted to know more about this country.”
“Why? Why do you want to know about this country you were randomly summoned to? You’re not saying you wanted to know more about the world your Destined Mate is from, are you?”
Li Huang shook his head, not understanding at all. He let a half-amazed laugh slip, but Setsu was unperturbed.
“That too of course. I want to be helpful to you, my Destined Mate. But it was mostly for myself.”
“For your… self?”
Setsu smiled broadly at Li Huang, who had to keep asking since he didn’t understand.
“Yes. I always want to be as charming as possible. I want to be the best version of myself at all times.”
Despite the odd lace covering, the brightness of his smile was still dimly visible. Even though he was wearing that dumb hat with its weird, large brim, Setsu was standing up straight and held Li Huang’s gaze without feeling embarrassed.
“In order to convey your own charm to other people, speech and information are absolutely essential. If you don’t have information, you can’t hold conversations about topics that attract people. I’m constantly learning new things, so that I can make myself more attractive.”
Li Huang slightly flinched at Setsu, who was declaring this unabashedly and with confidence. Who would’ve thought to get a reply like that.
“I love my charming and beautiful self. And I keep polishing both my outside and inside, so that I can always love myself. I will never neglect this hard work.”
Li Huang watched Setsu’s resolute speech with wide eyes. He had thought his Destined Mate was nothing more than a narcissistic oddball. He certainly was an oddball, but maybe that wasn’t all there was to him.
At this moment, Li Huang’s perception of Setsu changed just the slightest bit. Really just a little.
Sighing, Li Huang stood up from his chair, and quietly held out a hand towards Setsu.
“I apologize for not doing this earlier: I’m Li Huang. I am the Crown Prince of this country, Lan Huang. If you don’t mind, please tell me your name.”
Setsu smiled broadly, and squeezed Li Huang’s hand.
“My name is Shima Setsu. It’s a good name right? He he he he.”
Setsu lifted his head, full of self-confidence, as Li Huang pulled away his hand. He really is a weirdo, he silently thought to himself.