112 Chapter 112 Oranges
It was getting late, and Stella knew that they would need to stop for supper soon. As the elves started discussing where to stop, she spied a copse of trees and headed for them. The elves followed quickly. Tying Joseph's horse to one of the trees, she pulled a pot out of her purse.
The elves froze whatever they were doing. She smirked as she piled some dead branches underneath it, using a tripod she also pulled from her purse, to settle the pot above it.
Joseph had become aware and joined her.
He cast CREATE WATER to fill the pot, then CREATE FIRE. Flames were immediately licking at the side of the pot, and it began to steam. Pulling some more ingredients out of her purse, she quickly diced and cut vegetables to toss into the pot.
Suddenly a sound tickled her ears, and she turned. Joseph noticed and looked too.
A herd of deer was making its way slowly away from them.
"Stella, do you want something fresh and we can save the preserved meat?" asked Joseph softly.
She nodded and grasped her knife in a different grip.
"I would also wish to save our food so that we don't need to hunt in the elven forest," she said, going into a crouch. The elves were looking at each other, mostly in shock.
She was in the middle of the herd. Turning quickly, before they could even register her arrival, she slashed out at the big buck on her left. Her knife slide under his jaw, cutting his throat in one clean movement. He jumped straight up, then took off running, through the brush. Stella darted after him, guiding him back towards the elves as he left the herd behind and began to stagger in confusion. His side was thickly matted with his blood as he finally stopped. His legs quivered, and she moved slowly, meticulously making her way to his side. Dropping his head, heavy with huge antlers, his legs finally gave way, and he fell.
She was back to the fire, and the deer was breathing heavily. The elves were murmuring to each other, but Stella ignored them. As the deer's eyes finally glazed over, she gently closed them. Standing, she turned and nodded at Joseph. It was dead.
He stood from where he had sat down to recover his mana, and cast PREPARE GAME, then PURIFY FOOD. All the skin, meat, bones, and organs were cleansed and prepared on the plate she had just set out. Quickly adding some of the meat, she placed the lid on the pot, then moved some of the other pieces next to the fire to cook.
Throwing the other pieces in her purse, she noticed that Joseph seemed thoughtful.
"Would you like some fruit, Stella?"
"Certainly, Master Joseph."
"What would you like?"
"The blood oranges from…before?" She could remember the sweetness of the fruit as it dripped from her fingers, and her eyes light up. "You have those?"
"Give me a few minutes," he said. Casting CREATE PLANT, several seedlings sprouted from the ground a small distance from the camp.
Stella noticed that the seedlings were randomly spaced, so it didn't look like someone had planted an orchard. Then he started to cast other spells. She didn't understand them, and would never have known what spells he was casting if he didn't unconsciously mutter the name to himself as he did the magic.
PLANT GROWTH, PLANT GROWTH, PLANT GROWTH, PLANT GROWTH.
The trees were big enough to start flowering. She watched as he moved between them with a small piece of fluff he picked up from the ground. A piece of fluff of some kind, that he was using to gently pollinate several with. She knew what he was doing, even if she didn't understand it. Then he cast PLANT GROWTH once more and fruit appeared. He reached up on tiptoe and felt one.
"Nope not yet. It is still a little hard." PLANT GROWTH. "Ah this one feels better."
Stella moved up next to him as he pulled a couple down. Sticking the ones he handed her up to her face, she inhaled the aroma. With a huge grin, she turned to give him a hug.
"Thank you!" she crowed before heading back to the fire to sit down and start peeling one.
"They should be great for dessert," he said as he turned to return with an arm full of them. She paused with the first piece halfway to her mouth. Glancing down at it, all she could think about was how juicy and sweet it would taste.
"Or, an appetizer," he laughed sitting next to her.
Grinning in delight, she threw the slice into her mouth and savored the sweetness that almost made her pucker. It was sooooo gooood!
Halfway through her third orange, she decided she probably needed to eat something other than oranges. Looking up, she saw the elves looking at her as if she was something they had never seen before. How could she be so rude?!
Motioning to the orange trees behind them, she said, "You're welcome to help yourselves! There's plenty there, and the meat should be done soon."
"You got sick of fish, but still like the fruits?" Joseph asked from where he was stirring the soup pot.
"Girls like sweet things, Master Joseph," she said in a very serious voice.
"Can you grow any plant you want?" asked Virion, to Joseph.
"Yes, as long as I know what it is, or have seen it before. But that doesn't mean that it will survive. The area here should be fine on water, but I worry it may have grass fires and burn these trees up in a few years."
Stella looked at the trees.
"Master Joseph?" she asked.
"I would like some of these when we have a permanent home."
Joseph laughed. "Of course."
"That is possibly the most extravagant use of magic I have seen in my entire life," said Elwin.
Joseph sighed and Stella felt sorry for him. This must be an incredibly hard thing to endure. The elves were nothing like what they used to be.
"Please do not lecture me on magic, when even your mage has no interest in using, or even learning about mana. Mana is produced as things live. If those trees live for a few years, they will generate far more mana, than the grass below them. More than enough to pay for every spell I've used today, many times over. Also, even if you cut those trees down this moment, the life force in them merely turns to dead mana, which will gradually be converted back to normal mana as long as things are alive.
"If you are experiencing a depletion of mana in your forest, it must be because someone, or something, is intentionally siphoning it off. In fact, I could sacrifice that grove of trees myself, and get back more mana than I used to create and grow them, in order to create a larger grove, that I could then sacrifice to create a larger grove, ad infinitum. However, I have no need to kill them, and also no desire to."
"That shouldn't be possible. You speak as if you can create mana from nothing," said Virion.
"Virion, you are centuries old, and never really attempted to use mana. I am eight, and in the last year, have spent over a thousand hours learning how mana works and how to use it. I do not think you are qualified to correct me if you can't show proof of your claims."
Elwin looked at him.
"You seem far different than when we first met."
Joseph sighed again.
"When we first met, I assumed the elves would actually be able to teach me something. I have struggled to understand dozens of spells and magic theories over the last year. My father has powers, Stella has powers, Selena has powers. All of them are useful as references, and I have used things I learned, observing them to increase my understanding and break through bottlenecks. I regularly go to the world of runes to interact directly with the magic of origin itself. But throughout all of that, I have had to teach myself, and sometimes re-invent, long lost and forgotten magics. It is exhausting. I assumed the elves would finally be able to provide a proper teacher so that I wouldn't have to struggle so hard. A proper teacher could cut my time learning new magics in half, of what I currently spend."
Stella was startled by that. He was already learning at an extraordinary rate! She knew from her memories, that it normally took those of the ancient fey, years to get to where he was at. Surely most of the credit could be attributed to the system?
Joseph continued, "Currently a group of beings, who want the destruction of the world, or at least to offer us up to demons, seek the life of myself, and all the people I care about. Now, instead of a chance to advance rapidly in power to fight them, once I get to the elven forest, I need to save the elves from whatever is killing you, because you can't even do proper magic. Naturally, I could hide my immense disappointment in how this is turning out, but I simply don't care to. If I, an eight-year old human, can fix your issue which your race has failed to fix for a thousand years, I expect all of your elders to feel properly ashamed of themselves."
Virion frowned and the other elves seemed to be getting quite angry. Stella held her knife a little differently in case she needed to act on that anger.
"You seem quite arrogant," said Elwin, surprised.
"I have reinvented the lost study of thaumatology. I created a GATE with the aid of a thousand people and moved 50 thousand people through it. I am eight. If I sound arrogant, I would question if you aren't perhaps just lazy.
"In the worst case, you could have snuck elves into the human lands to practice magic using mana while under guard. You took 2,000 elves across the borders of two human kingdoms, during war time, without a problem. How could you just give up on it?
"Here, you can all eat dinner."
Elwin looked at her, as Joseph moved away to prepare his blankets for sleep.
"This soup is for us? You don't intend to eat any?"
She tilted her head and squinted her eyes at him. "Master Joseph didn't say he dislikes you, only that he is disappointed he can't gain a powerful teacher to learn more quickly. Had you faced winter wraiths, and monsters fashioned by evil gods, you too would wish for strength quickly."
She watched as they cautiously gathered the offered food, and then shook her head sadly as they murmured about how good it was. They assumed it was just magic. How sad it was that these elves had fallen so far.