“Please elaborate Sir Sarand. How did you err?”
The director of the Skill Library was a mystical figure in Henry’s mind. The man would never stoop so low to take part in worldly matters, yet he had just openly admitted that he had made a mistake. A chance like this was far too rare to let it slip by.
“Could you also tell me what’s so special about my sight? It’s the second time I’m told that visual talents are scarce.”
Nisha added a question to her brother’s as the secretary of the office from before broke into the room, terribly flustered.
Pouring tea for the director and his guests, he excused himself multiple times, almost tripped on the carpet once, and once again when he tried to get out of the room as fast as possible to hide his embarrassment. The old elf patiently waited for his departure and started to explain.
“Ah, Miss Dharnas, what I would give to have your sight… You see, there are different types of power-appraising ‘gifts’, varying depending on the individuals. There are many theories, the talents could be the evolution of a special sensitivity to one of the power’s aspects; or maybe it’s the way the Gods use to bless their champions in the war against monsters.
Anyway, the most common of those gift is... more of an instinct, actually. People can’t control it, they just get flashes of insights, sometimes after years of arduous training, sometimes without any reason; and just like this, they are different from your average person... It’s a fickle feeling, troublesome to train. It’s quite normal, when you think about it… do you think one attracts the mighty Gods’ attention by simply strongly wishing for it?
Then comes the gift of touch, it’s a bit rarer. I, myself, started out as a common clerk in the library, a long time ago. I came in contact with thousands of adventurers, guiding them towards suitable skills. I eventually grasped the finer points of the strange art that is the divination, thus becoming able to guess someone’s affinities just by shaking hands or patting their shoulders. It’s perfectly suited to my profession, it often comes in handy, easing the elemental abilities appraisal.
Certain individuals can smell the elements or hear them in someone’s voice, but I am not very well informed of the exact details, as I have yet to meet a wielder of such a gift.
Finally, the most supreme gift is the one related to the eyes. All the other senses are limited to certain conditions to activate. But the eyes… The eyes can look on the world as a whole at all times. Nothing can hide from them, everything is laid open before them.
Many powers eagerly look for a talent like yours, so make sure to carefully keep it secret. I know many people who wouldn’t even need to keep you in one piece to get their hands on your coveted ability.”
So long winded. I bet he’s in love with his own voice.
Despite the well meant advice, Nisha wasn’t fully convinced. It probably showed on her face.
“Think about it. The sight is constantly ‘activated’, I could say. Most people would fall into despair if they couldn’t see anymore. To avoid obstacles, to grab objects… They use their eyes so often in their daily life that they can’t imagine a life without them. Additionally, there is no distance limitation like that on the senses of smell or touch.
Historically speaking, there is a record mentioning a high priest of the God of Light blessed with an ability he called the [Heavenly Eyes], able to see through secrets.
As for you, sir Henry, your condition is indeed as your sister claims. Main attribute is earth, which is why the measuring orb only displayed that brown glow. But your mana has a variant attribute. It’s not a unique situation, although it’s still fairly rare. As a sign of goodwill and to apologize on behalf of the library for failing to ascertain your elemental affinities properly, you are allowed to take another manual from the first floor, provided that you return the one borrowed previously of course.”
Bowing his head a little, as much as his position permitted, the director addressed Henry directly. Chances to choose an initial manual were few, and his gesture showed the elf’s consideration and honest intentions.
“Thank you very much, sir. I will do as suggested and return with my earth mana manual later today, so I can exchange it.”
“I’ve got one more question, sir. How is it fair one has to chose a book at random? Isn’t it unfair that some get five or six techniques while others only get two? And wouldn’t it be my brother’s loss if he picks a worse meditation technique than the one he currently has?”
The question was asked out of concern for Henry, nonetheless his usually composed face quickly transformed into a shocked expression when he heard just how preposterous her statement was, especially when asked to the head of the prestigious organization that was the Grand Library.
Sarand, on the other hand, took it with dignity.
“Miss Dharnas, I understand your concern, but I’d like to request you to think about that problem in a different way.
How can we assure the fair distribution of all skill manuals? As a note, you should know that it is impossible to reproduce a perfect copy of a memory stone; when recording a skill, only the manufacturer’s interpretation of said technique can be kept within the stone, arguably either improving or worsening the skill.
What would you do in my position?”
Director Sarand was not ridiculing or mocking his guest although his tone barely concealed an undeniable amusement, covered by an amiable undertone. Clearly he had pondered over this flaw many times already, maybe even discussing it with the employees working at the library or with the unsatisfied customers.
The dragon had only been introduced to the system, and didn’t have the occasion to carefully think over the options and implications of the problem, hence her approach had had glaring weak points.
There has to be a way!
Bringing up her snow white hand to support her chin, Nisha analyzed the dilemma over and over in her head, the director’s smile hovering on his lips annoying her.
“I see. I give up. Sorry director, my question was pointless, I asked without properly considering the possible answers, I can’t think of a proper solution either.”
Politely bowing - admitting her mistake and apologizing at the same time-, the elven girl then expectantly looked up at the old elf.
“Do you have an answer, director?”
Naturally, since he had showed off his superiority, Nisha wouldn’t settle for less than his response.
“Even if I do tell you, you probably won't be satisfied by what I say, but despite that, listen.
To put it bluntly, it's luck.”
“Before you complain, regard this. An adventurer's life is largely impacted by luck. Is the path chosen by the team leader safe? Or will there be a dreadful trap waiting at the end, wiping out the whole team?
Are the supplies edible or did a monster contaminate them when no one was looking, will eating them sap the strength instead of replenishing it?
Will your weapon hold or break in the middle of the fight? Will you be able to penetrate the monster’s hide, or will you be hitting the hardest location on its body?
Everyone relies on good fortune, a factor completely out of one’s grasp. Life's not fair. The parts of your fate that you can control are simply fewer than those you can’t change.
I don’t think luck is a bad solution. And it’s probably reflected in the Library’s policy as well, although it has been like that for much longer than the years for which I’ve been Director.”
With a little smile, he dejectedly continued.
“It might as well have been a random decision from one of my many predecessors, perhaps he didn’t consider these matters at all.
My point is, luck is a part of an adventurer’s strength.
This place is filled with not only techniques reproduced several times over, but also many originals.
Whether you take a book containing two techniques or ten, whether they are of a low grade or of a high one; it’s all up to the Gods themselves. With enough dedication and practice, even a low grade book with nothing but two spells can be turned into an unique tome with more than ten high grade skills.
And if you manage to do achieve such heights, maybe one day a young and aspiring youth will treasure the [Spellbook of Nisha, the Grand Conjurer], dancing out of joy, praising his great luck.”
Slowly fading out in the silence, the last sentence held a thoughtful note, proving that the old man seriously took this possibility into account.
He took a big gulp from his tea, staring off in another place and time.
Noticing steam rising from her own cup, the savory scent of the amber liquid tickling her nose, the dragon sampled the tea. Her frequent visits to Thana and her occasional errand to the teashop - Thana’s consumption had severely gone up ever since a new priestess candidate and a mischievous elf girl had showed up at her place - had taught Nisha to differentiate between poor and good quality leaves, and she had come to appreciate the later kind.
Probably a higher quality than the ones at Thana’s. I wonder what this blend’s name is.
Now, everyone was silently enjoying their beverage, contemplating on the implications of Sarand’s words, the conversation naturally quelled.
A knock on the door broke the studious atmosphere.
Appearing through the crack of the open door, Angelica, the female employee from earlier, poked her head inside and reported the progress on her assignment.
“Sir, we have replaced the broken orb with the orb from the basement. Nelson tested it and he says everything works.”
“Thank you. I will take a look later.”
Curtly dismissing his staff, the elderly elf targeted his focus back on the young nobles.
“I am sure you’re still wondering why I asked you to follow me here. Honestly, shattering the measuring device so thoroughly proves your strong potential. Even more so now that I learned of your gifted eyes, Nisha.
I am not going to insult you by trying to suck up to you or manipulate you into joining the Library. Your brother being allowed to get another manual is solely based on the fact that we failed to recognize his abilities, we broke our contract, it is a separate matter.
Today, I wanted to know you better, get a feeling of your character. Now I have a proposal for you, think of it as a prize for attracting an old man’s interest.
When you chose your manual later, I will give my employees instructions, they will let you pick one more book every time you select one that has more than four skills recorded inside.
Of course, if you get one that has less, that’s just bad luck. With this, I hope that you will think a little more highly of our Library. Feel free to drop by whenever you want, we also have many learning materials, including books unrelated to skills and techniques. History, mathematics, geography, crafts, a bit of everything, really.
Even if you don’t want to become too involved with the library, just having a relation with you will probably allow us to trade many high ranked skill in the future. It’s a business proposal.”
He had delayed the moment when he would reveal his true intentions, but the siblings didn’t feel too odd about the sudden announcement. They had attended the royal court and watched the high nobility’s indirect ways, they both had understood that there was some sort of hidden agenda when the head of the Skill Library had invited them on a moment’s notice to his office.
Strangely, Nisha actually appreciated the director’s sly character, even though his slightly arrogant face was getting on her nerves. From the moment it was decided she would be raised as a noble, it was expected of her to to be able to conduct such negotiations and her lessons therefore encompassed subtle manipulation tricks that would help her take full advantage of other nobles and powerful merchants.
“You think too highly of me, Sir Sarand. After all, I have recently arrived in Thurgau, I am not even attending the Academy. Nonetheless, I thank you for the gracious offer and I will thankfully accept. Luck is important to a future adventurer after all, right?”
Declining wouldn’t be good. And since he offered it on his own, I won’t owe him anything. I wonder, is breaking the measuring device such a rare occurrence?
“As for the future, if I ever come accross a manual I can’t use, I will surely hear out the Library’s offer first.”
“That’s what I hoped for, at least for the moment. Feel free to come by for a chat, or just to enjoy a good cup of tea, Miss Nisha. My sources told me that you do take pleasure in drinking tea.
As for you, Mister Henry, if you still have meditation issues after exchanging your manual, I am sure I can refer you to a good teacher that will help you understand the technique you gained.”
Emptying his cup, the director made it clear that the conversation was over.
“Wait a minute! How do you even know about me, today was my first time visiting the Skill Library!”
Startled by the obvious gap between what the old elf was supposed to know and what he really knew, Nisha felt a surge of danger, apparently this meeting wasn’t as coincidental as it had first seemed to be. Half raising from her seat, ready to summon her blades, the only thing that kept her from making the office a slaughterhouse was Henry’s neutral reaction and the old elf’s chuckle.
“Miss Nisha, please calm down. No need to be alarmed. It might not appear this way at first glance, but the Library doesn’t only thrive on recorded knowledge. You are quite the topic in certain circles, a young elf appearing in one of the duke houses, possibly the only new political player in several hundred years; it was bound to attract attention. I just happen to be in a position where information naturally gathers.
I assure you, I did not know you were going to come here today, else I would have arranged for a more worthy reception, noble children receiving skills is usually a grand event.
Your features match your description, hence I invited you to my office to confirm your identity.
Forgive my breach of etiquette, I didn’t intend to hide from you that I had recognized you and your brother. I won’t reveal your eyes’... ‘particularity’ to anyone either, you have my word.”
Bowing his head in apology, Sarand Sheridan earnestly explained how the story had reached his ears. Tricking them was not part of his plan - probably - as it would have been detrimental to their relationship if the siblings had found out afterwards, hence he had to admit it himself.
“No offense taken, director. Rather, I’m glad you didn’t use your superior position to forcefully involve my sister. We’ll take our leave now.”
At times like these, Nisha was glad to have Henry at her side, he skillfully put an end to the disturbing conversation without embarrassing either party.
He’s still better than me when it comes to politic. I should ask him to tell me more about it next time we attend the Court.
“Certainly, it was a pleasure to meet both of you. Remember my invitation. Even if it looks like I have too much free time on my hands, I truly am glad I had the chance to talk with you, taking a short break from my regular work was also pleasant.
Ask Angelica to bring you to the manual section and hand her this letter, it will inform her of our arrangement.”
The siblings left the director’s office, sharing a glance and simultaneously shaking their heads in disbelief. Neither of them had expected this when they had stepped in the Library, the director’s proposition and the discovery of Henry’s variant attribute had both been quite surprising, and only now they could finally do what they had come for:
Let Nisha pick her first manual.