“Delivery for you sir.”
Thio looked up from his paperwork in surprise. The 2nd Class Mage handed him a nicely wrapped package, saluted, and excused himself.
Evans, who liked to be nosy, immediately came over to see what he’d gotten.
“Oh, package from home. Unusual. Who’s it from?”
After reading the note, Thio handed it to Evans.
“From that girl then?” Evans narrowed his eyes, he still hadn’t quite forgiven her.
Thio opened the package, and gaped in astonishment.
“Oh my God!” Evan eyes widened.
There was a neatly folded shirt inside, with some of the most elaborate stitching either of them had ever seen. Thio unfolded the shirt and lifted it up to get a full view of the green embroidery. Detailed mountains and stars were stitched on the collar, sleeves, and hem. The patterns grafted in around the main design looked a little bit foreign, but still lovely.
A small crowd of (bored) coworkers gathered around Thio and Evans to admire the shirt:
“That’s amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Who made that? Is it a girl? It’s a girl, isn’t it?!”
“I thought you said you aren’t interested in dating?”
Lastly, Evan’s gave his friend a speculatively stare and asked:
“Exactly how closely related are the two of you?”
Thio blinked then, frowned, and hastily refolded the shirt, stuffing it haphazardly back into the paper. Standing up stiffly, he announced: “I——I’m going home early!”
And before anyone could tell him no, he ran. Literally, he ran out the door, out of the building, and down the street.
His coworkers stood their in stunned silence, before bursting out in laughter.
“It must be from a girl!”
“Oh, our little Acanthio is finally entering puberty!”
“And here I thought that guy’s first love was work.”
But Evans was quiet, a very thoughtful look on his face.
Thio was not designed for long distance running. He staggered to a halt a scant few feet from Headquarters, wheezing so heavily that pedestrians were staring at him in alarm. When his breathing was steady enough, he cast an Endurance Recovery spell on himself and instantly felt better.
Standing up straight and adjusting his coat and messed up hair, he began calmly walking down the sidewalk. He would occasionally look down at the package in his hands and grin awkwardly.
Once he was home, he walked up to his room, which had a large body mirror. He unbuttoned his coat and shirt and took them off. He then, with the utmost care, put the new shirt on. He then stood in front of the mirror.
It fit perfectly. Feeling the cloth between his fingers, he was impressed by it’s soft sturdiness. Moving his arms and waist, this way and that, he admired how the shirt looked on him. The green thread matched him very well, and the intricate design work somehow made him feel like a wealthy lord.
This was the first time since he was a child that anyone had made a shirt for him. And it was the first time in his entire life that anyone had ever made one so high end. If he wore this out on the town, he was sure he’d start seeing copies of the unique stitching by the next week. This was what people called bleeding edge fashion. It just screamed sophistication.
He touched the collar of the shirt, feeling the embroidered thread under his fingers.
Caroline had stitched every thread on this shirt. He could imagine her hunched over, fingers covered in pricks, cursing up a storm. She’d mentioned in a letter, he couldn’t remember which, that she never embroidered without bleeding and that Mariel was chronically amazed at how she could remain so clumsy despite so much practice.
Thio had assumed this meant Caroline was bad at embroidery. Clearly he was wrong.
Is this why she’d been so busy after returning home? Had she wanted to do something nice after not being able to meet up?
So she wasn’t angry.
He’d been really worried.
Taking out some paper and a pen, he immediately began crafting a letter. About half way through, there was a knock on the door. Annoyed, he went down stairs, only to be greeted by a sweaty, gasping 1st Class Mage with a message:
Drake spotted in Eternal Green Forest. Report to duty immediately.
“That is NOT a drake!” Spat Evans, his arm hanging bloodied at his side. Their assigned Healer, Sentra, ran over and started casting magic on his broken arm. She was covered in other’s blood already and looked exhausted. She was running out of magic, and fast.
Indeed it was not a drake. Drakes were giant dumb lizards with a taste for cow and sheep. The worst part of dealing with them was their thick hide. What they were currently fighting was a fire breathing dragon with the rare ability Chameleon. No wonder it’d gotten so far into the Empire before anyone alerted the Army. Fire breathing Dragons were three times as powerful as drakes and far more intelligent, making them a high class monster universally feared.
Usually they sent out a battalion of Dragon Knights, along with several Scholar Mages or higher, and at least one Divinity ranked Healer to deal with a fire breathing dragon. Right now there were two Knights, two Mages (Evans and Thio) and one Holy Mage. All mid-ranked fighters and absolutely no match for a dragon.
They were in a pinch. If something didn’t change soon, they were all going to die. And not just them, but also the town they were protecting. Nothing was more deadly than a dragon in a foul temper, and getting smacked around by a punch of mid-level humans was going to put it in a bad mood.
The two knights were currently split, one trying to distract the dragon, while the other attempted to stab it in vulnerable areas (which included any joint and the eyes). It was difficult going and they were tired. Both Evans, Thio, and Sentra had been casting Defense and Endurance Booster spells on the Knights but they had to space the spells out to prevent magic fatigue themselves.
Thio was standing just out of reach of the dragon’s attack range, his face calm and neutral. An outsider might mistake this as indifference, but Evans knew better. The more stressful the situation, the more calm and calculative Thio became. Right now, Thio’s mind was likely working so hard that it didn’t have time to worry about facial expressions.
As if to prove Evans right, Thio tilted his Mage’s staff forward and began casting:
[Αργός στόχος[Slow Target]][πυκνή ομίχλη[Thick Mist]][Μείωση θερμοκρασίας[Temperature Decrease]][Πάγωμα εδάφους[Ground Freeze]][Παγίδα πάγου[Ice Trap]]
Several things happened all at once. The dragon’s movements began to slow down ever so slightly, a thick mist surrounded the area, it got extremely cold and the ground turned into slick ice. The dragon lost it’s balance on the ice, falling, and gave a roar of surprise. In that moment, as it roared, it became encapsulated in ice.
Thio ran over to the Knight with a long sword and cast hardening and piercing buffs on it. Even as he did so, the ice surrounding the dragon began to crack loudly.
Without giving the Knight any time to prepared himself, Thio cast a Weight Reduction spell on him and threw him at the Dragon’s face. “STAB HIM IN THE EYE.” Thio instructed.
The Knight screamed as he was hurtled toward the dragon’s frozen face. Seeing that the ice spell was going to break soon, and not wanting to be roasted to death, the Knight did as instructed.
Sword in both hands, he swing down with every last ounce of his strength. At that exact moment, the ice shattered and the dragon was free. But the “Slow” spell was still in affect, and it couldn’t move fast enough. The Knight’s sword jammed into the dragon’s vulnerable eye, as if it were butter. Farther and farther in it went, until the Knight was up to his elbow’s in eyeball.
The Dragon gave a strangled cry and died, slumping in a cold heap on the forest floor.
Everyone stood there in stunned silence, before raising a ragged cheer.
Sentra slid to the ground in relief. “I thought I was going to die!”
“Oh my god, someone help get me out! This is disgusting!” The Knight dangling from the dragon’s eye cried out.
The other Knight ran over and started pulling.
Evans walked over to Thio, thoroughly impressed. “How did you manage that?”
Thio shrugged. “The only true physical weakness of a dragon is it’s eyes and a poor tolerance for the cold. So I stacked my ice spells in such a way that they increased the power of every preceding spell I cast. By the time I got to Ice Trap, I’d increased the probability of success by 80%. It wouldn’t last long even if it did work, but it’d be enough time for the Knight to pierce it’s eye.”
“What if Ice Trap had failed?”
“We’d have a chance at retreating.”
Evans whistled and slapped Thio on the back. “You’re definitely getting a promotion for this, you know.”
And indeed Thio did get promoted, all while he grumbled about the ranking system being useless.
He also got a nickname. The Knights teasingly called him the “Ice Mage” when they were reporting to the Mayor of the town they’d saved. The Mayor had liked it so much, he spread it around to everyone he knew. From there, it spread through out the entire country.
Thio was thoroughly embarrassed by the corny nickname. If anyone called him that at Headquarters, he’d purposefully ignore them or threaten them (if they were lower ranked than him). This only increased the usage of his nickname among the Mage Division, as everyone thought it was great fun to tease him about it (even behind his back).