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Thread: [M] What Once Was Lost [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #71
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    Now that she was seated again, Natalie was quick to pick up a brush of her own, fully intending to get in some practice alongside Luuk for the time being. One could argue that someone of her experience and mastery didn’t really need it, but she would have disagreed. Natalie hadn’t gained her skill by passing up opportunities to improve, even in the simplest of areas, and it would get a good example for her new student. Besides, she often found that there was something therapeutic about going through the motions of her craft, even if she didn’t intend to use them. The familiar movements put her at ease, and the lack of ambiguity that accompanied such clear-cut work often helped her clear her mind. There were no differing angles or interpretations to consider. No weight to any of the decisions she made. Simply input and output. Action and result.

    She dipped her brush in the ink even whilst listening to Luuk speak, and a soft chuckle slipped from her lips at his words. The student did make a very good point, now that she thought about it. Still, she liked the idea of challenging his tenacity in this way. Even if she was expecting – and hoping – to lose.

    The request for a story did catch her a little off-guard, however. Natalie paused for a brief moment, brush suspended above her skin, as she considered this unexpected question. She had to cast her mind way back to the early days of her schooling to come up with the sort of thing he had asked for, and that wasn’t something she did often. For a few moments she remained silent, unable to so much as tell what one he would likely find most amusing, before eventually deciding on one. One of the less dangerous ones, at the very least.

    “During my early years, there came a point where my growing confidence well outstripped the limits of my new abilities. I was sitting a park with a few of my friends for lunch, and when we started talking about my studies, I decided that I was going to try and show off for them a little” she started. Natalie sounded a little hesitant at first, but seemed to settle as she fell into the familiar rhythm of her stories. She finally begun her own practice, too, without so much as a hiccup.

    “I swiped an orange out of Jason’s hand and declared that I was going to transform it into an apple for him, in front of everyone. I’m sure that I thought it would be as simple as transforming a fork into a spoon at the time, but if I had stopped and thought about it for half a second, I would have realised just how terrible of an idea such a thing was. But I was young, and foolish, and enthusiastic, and insisted on trying anyway.”

    Natalie paused for a brief moment as she considered just how much technical detail to include. Would Luuk care enough to hear about it? Most likely. There was a good chance that it would distract his attention from the task at hand, however, and most of the talk would likely go over his head, accomplishing little more than spawning another wave of questions. That decided, she was quick to continue.

    “For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just say that the orange didn’t approve of my half-assed attempts to transform it. I managed in some small areas, but not others, and it didn’t take kindly to the weird half-state that it found itself stuck in. So, it imploded. Not violently, mind you. But enough to shower all of us with chunks of fruit. I never did live that one down” she finished, a soft chuckle slipped from her lips as she completed her first set of sigils. A few wandering thoughts about said friends welled up inside her, but the woman did her best to shove them down, without ever letting them see the light of day. This was meant to be a funny story, not a time for reminiscing and regretting.

  2. #72
    The Ashen One
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    Luuk was surprised to see his teacher picking up her tools and beginning to work on something of her own. He paused, waiting to see if she would take the fork again, or if she had something else in mind, but it seemed she was just aimlessly practicing alongside him. ...Why? Luuk tried not to stare, tried to keep his attention on his own circles. She was just practicing. As long as she had had this ability, as long as she had had to perfect her work, she still wanted to practice. A smile met his lips. He had to admire her for that. Maybe he'd never quite catch up to her, not at that rate.

    He chuckled lightly at her story, imagining how he might have done the same thing to his friends in his younger years. But her anecdote also brought a sadness as he realized he never would have that naive, childish approach to this. Did he have that once, long ago? In a world where mages were less extinct, might he have toyed with his magic to his friends and parents, just as Natalie had? And now he would never get the chance. He swallowed the bitterness that rose with that thought.

    Luuk looked at his hand, now covered in ink. Absently he thought back to schoolteachers warning him against writing on his hand, and he chuckled at the thought. If they could only see him now... Natalie's earlier words wove back into his thoughts. Would magic always be a taboo? Or would he find his place in this world, a place where he knew where he was, where he didn't have to hide? He glanced at Natalie, watched for a few moments as she worked. Maybe, he thought, that was right here.

    He didn't know how long they stayed like that, but by the end, Luuk's left hand was all too sore, and his right was more black than pink. He grabbed for a napkin and began blotting away the excess ink. How would he ever get this ink out of his skin? Luuk glanced at his phone, looking over the numbers on the top of his screen. "I don't want to overstay my welcome," he mumbled. "I should probably be getting home. I have... so much to do, now." Plans to revise gave way to plans to continue researching this weird talent, adding to his paper, practicing his drawing--maybe even with his non-dominant hand? "Thank you," he told Natalie. "For all of this. I appreciate having somewhere to be that isn't just... my room, or the library, you know? And this is fun." He smiled warmly at her. As he put away his notes and zippered his bag, he thought to when they could next meet up. Was he planning too hastily? Maybe, he thought to himself, it would be better to plan later. Luuk stood, and he awkwardly shifted. "Thank you for inviting me," he said. "I'll keep practicing, and writing, and next time I'll bring my completed paper. Promise."

  3. #73
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    At some point during the later half of their practice session, Natalie found herself more or less satisfied with the number of practice circles she had painted. She put her brush down with a soft clatter, before raising her ink-stained hand up to her face. Instead of more physical practice, she settled for a closer, unobstructed inspection of the work that she had already done. The woman spent the rest of her time criticizing her own work in silence, seeking out small imperfections so that they could be noted and corrected in future attempts. There was no point in extended practice if you only ended up ingraining your mistakes further, after all…well, for someone of her skill, at the very least.

    When Luuk decided that he had practiced enough for the moment, Natalie was quick to look up from her own work. His mumbled words were enough to make her glance for the nearest clock, which hung on the wall behind her. After twisting around to sneak a glance at its hands, her eyes widened in surprise. Just when had it become so late? She’d clearly lost track of time whilst they were working, and it was now much later than she had expected. She quickly turned her attention back to Luuk once more, nodding along in understanding as he excused himself, before rising from her seat.

    She found herself taken aback suddenly by the unexpected compliment that followed. The surprising warmth that such words hinted at towards her and her humble home. A smile quickly blossomed on Natalie’s face at that. That was undoubtedly one of the nicest compliments she had received in recent memory. Of the genuine ones, at the very least.

    “You’re always welcome back here, Luuk. Regardless of whether its for another lesson or a more casual sort of visit” Natalie answered, sounding undoubtedly pleased with the way that things had turned out. Ever the picture of old-fashioned hospitality, she’d insist on walking Luuk towards the front door and opening it for him, pausing only briefly to ask if he was certain that he hadn’t forgotten anything.

    “I look forward to reading whatever you come up with” Natalie answered simply. She only just stopped herself from repeating her thoughts from earlier, about how interesting it would be to see what he made out of her idle memories. “We aren’t far along enough yet for me to assign you any sort of homework, but some more practice wouldn’t go astray. I’ll understand if you can’t find the time, though. School has to come first, hm? Now you get home safe.”

    And just like that, the two of them went their separate ways. Natalie would wave her new student goodbye, before closing the door with a soft click once he had wandered down the steps and out of sight.

    The next days proved a little busier than those previous. Natalie made a few more day-trips to visit the others under her care. Those who had no idea who and what she really was, or what they themselves had once been. The work was easy enough, if a little emotionally wearing. The second day after their lesson, once Natalie found herself back at home for the evening, she’d send her new student a quick message. One that would, hopefully, lead up to their next lesson, or at least visit.

    'When did you say that assignment of yours was due again?'

  4. #74
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    By the time Friday morning rolled around, Luuk had just about exhausted himself to collapse. School has to come first, Natalie had said, but Luuk had spent most of the last couple days working on his magic. He'd drawn so many circles on post-it notes, notepads, and his own hands that his roommate had asked him, concern in his eyes, if he'd suddenly joined a cult. It amused Luuk, who even used the idea in his paper. His parents were deeply connected to their religious affiliation, he'd written, and though he kept his details vague, he wrote a bit about this magic, more to put it into words himself than to have anyone read them.

    Luuk was pulling his paper out of the printer as Natalie's message came through. He had printed two copies, one for Natalie and one for his professor, and today he was to get rid of both. Finally, the subject of all of his concentration over the past several weeks would be done with, and he could move on in his life, this new life, with magic and circles and too much ink in his palms. He hastily stapled his papers and sped towards Dr. V's office, texting Natalie a reply.

    "Turning it in now! Can I come over later?"

    He stopped in front of the door decorated with quotes from various men throughout history. Through the window, Luuk could see his favorite professor reading some paper. Luuk knocked and didn't wait for an answer before barging in. "I've finished," he announced, all but slamming the paper on the professor's desk.

    "Ah," Dr. V replied calmly, "Good morning, Luuk." He set his paper aside and picked up Luuk's, looked over the first page. "So you found your muse after all."

    Luuk nodded. "I don't know how you knew I would, but I did. Thank you for this opportunity, actually. I've learned a lot about myself and where I come from."

    Dr. V flipped through the first few pages of Luuk's paper. "That was the point," he replied. His voice was even, and even though he had stacks of papers to read and grade, he was patient. "I'm glad you got something out of this. You're graduating this semester, aren't you? What do you plan on doing now?"

    Luuk turned away. "Haven't really thought about it," he admitted. "I'll find something. Don't worry. I think I'm interested in... religion, nowadays. I might look into that."

    "Oh?" Dr. V paused at one page, read over a few sentences. He'd found what he was looking for. "Well, I'm happy for you. It's been a pleasure to teach you over the years. I'll be in touch with you about this assignment and your overall grade soon, and I should see you at graduation."

    Luuk nodded. "Thank you for putting up with all my questions," he said. "I know I've been annoying. But I've learned a lot and I appreciate you and I hope we can talk again." He glanced at his phone, hoping for a response from Natalie. "I might drop by again, but right now, I've got somewhere to be. Good luck with grading those papers, and I'll see you around." He sped off just as quickly as he'd come, eager to show his paper to the only other person who would care.

    She hadn't yet responded, but Luuk, getting ahead of himself, started towards her house anyway. If she were busy or something, he would pretend to be walking around the neighborhood, visiting some other friend, going to some store. But he hoped Natalie would be available, because he was finally done, and he had her to thank for that.

    As he sat on the train towards her neighborhood, it began to dawn on him that his university life was over. He, like many of his peers, should have sought a job ages ago, should have found a place to live, should have found something to do. He was exhausted and soon to be homeless and unemployed. Still, the euphoria of his new magic kept him alive. The details, he figured, would fall into place later.

    The train rolled to a stop, and Luuk grabbed his bag and walked onto the platform. He looked to his phone again, hoping Natalie had responded, not knowing what exactly he'd left behind in his favorite professor's hands.

  5. #75
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    Not long after she had texted Luuk her question, Natalie began looking for something to do. A way to pass the time whilst she waited for his reply, as it were. Her gaze drifted around the interior of her apartment, before settling on an old vanity that was tucked away in one corner. The old wooden piece, covered in several chips and marks, had been sitting there for months. She’d brought it home intending to turn it into another one of her restoration projects, and had simply never gotten around to it – a familiar story, relevant to a great deal of what she had laying around.

    She managed to move her coffee table aside, drag the vanity into its former place in the middle of the room, and start inking up her hands before her phone finally buzzed, signalling that her young apprentice had replied. Natalie glanced up from her work at the sound, and quickly located her phone where she had left it, lying on the nearby couch. The mage almost moved to reach for it, but stopped herself just in time. She glanced back and forth between her inked up hands and her phone in silence for a moment, an annoyed scowl flickering across her features, as she found herself torn. On one hand, she was eager to know what it was Luuk had to say. On the other, she hated being interrupted whilst she was working, and didn’t want to have to clean her hands up to answer it only to start all over again. After a moment of indecision, she reluctantly decided that Luuk would have to wait for a few moments, and turned her mind back to the task at hand.

    Once Natalie was done mending some of the more superficial damage to the vanity, she finally reached the point where she would need to wipe her hands clean and start over in order to progress. Finally presented with the opportunity, she’d take a brief moment to finally check her phone properly, and send Luuk the reply that he was waiting for.

    “Sure thing! I’ll leave the door unlocked. Just let yourself in when you get here”

    Whilst she typed, Natalie would take a few steps towards the front door of her apartment, quickly throwing the latch back to make good on her promise to her apprentice. This way, she could continue her work without having to stop and potentially ruin whatever she was in the middle of just because Luuk decided to knock at an inopportune moment. That done, she would set her phone down once more and turn her attention back to the project at hand, text conversation already forgotten as her mind started formulating her next step.

    By the time Luuk finally arrived, Natalie would be covered in paint once more. Both of her sleeves would be rolled back, and her hands and forearms would be covered in multiple circles of her own creation. More complex than the ones that they had studied thus far, but easily recognisable nonetheless. The mage would look up from her work at the sound of her front door opening and closing, glancing back over her shoulder as Luuk let himself in. A smile blossomed across her features at the sight, her work momentarily forgotten now that her young student had arrived.

    “Luuk! Its so good of you to join me. I’d offer you something to drink, but I’m afraid it’d be a little bit of a struggle for me to make it at the moment” Natalie offered. She punctuated her words with a glance down at her own hands and a soft chuckle slipped from her lips as the words ‘occupational hazard’ sprang to mind. She quickly pushed the thought aside, however.

    “So, how did it go? What did your professor say?” she asked, before hesitating for a brief moment. “Actually, I don’t suppose you would’ve gotten your results just yet, now that I think about it. Rather, how do you think it went?”

  6. #76
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    No sooner had Luuk gotten off the train than did his phone go off, signaling Natalie's response. She'd be leaving the door open for him, so what was he waiting for? He made his way to her apartment and, thinking he might have been coming too quickly--she had just sent the message, after all--he did a few laps around her block before finally approaching her apartment. True to her word, she had left the door unlocked, so he let himself in and called her name so that she knew he was there. "I am free!" he followed with, and he half walked, half ran from the front door to greet her.

    He was so excited about showing her his finished project that he didn't immediately notice the ink smeared all over her hands and arms. Once he did, he studied the symbols, trying to guess at exactly what she was doing to the vanity. Was he interrupting? But Luuk shook the thought; if Natalie preferred to work, he would simply observe. This was far different from the spoons and forks they had already worked on. No, this was much larger, with new textures, new patterns to memorize, new shapes to draw; he hardly knew where to direct his attention first.

    Natalie was apologizing. Luuk waved her off, briefly considered offering to get her a drink, but then got distracted remembering the reason he had come. "I'm sorry I didn't bring flowers or anything," he started, "but I did not come empty-handed. I've got something for you." He set his backpack on the chair across from Natalie and rummaged through it for only a second before pulling out his paper. He offered it to her, but, remembering her hands, hesitated and set it on the table, away from her supplies. "That's the final copy, until I feel compelled enough to revisit it, though I don't see that happening any time soon. Dr. V--that's my professor--he said he was glad I got a lot out of it, and that that was what he was looking for, so I can't have done too poorly. I'm proud of it, I think. He'll probably take a few points off for going above the page limit, but that's hardly a problem in the long-run."

    Luuk animatedly talked about his paper and his conversation with his professor, accentuating his words with his hands. "The grades will be in soon!" he added, "so I should find out for sure in a few days." He motioned towards it. "You helped so much with this. If not for you, I don't think I'd be graduating this weekend. Speaking of, you haven't met my mum. Er," Luuk looked away awkwardly. "My foster mother. Karen. She's probably going to want to attend, but once that's over, maybe we could get dinner together. I'm sure she'd love to meet the woman who saved my grades." Luuk made a mental note to tell his mother about Natalie at all. The graduation, he knew, was more for Karen's benefit than his. He didn't care much for the formalities, but he was her success story, the one that didn't go wrong, and he knew it meant a lot to her. Besides, as things were, he'd likely have to move back in with her starting that weekend, too.

    Luuk shook his thoughts. "But that's a lot of me ranting. What are you working on?" He approached the vanity, tried to pick out the changes she'd already made. "I've been practicing my circles a lot since last time. I'm probably about ready to learn some more."

  7. #77
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    Feeling more than a little amused by Luuk’s declarations of freedom, Natalie couldn’t help but smile. Even before he had given himself the chance to start speaking about specifics, that alone seemed like a good sign. The student probably wouldn’t be feeling so much like celebrating if he had any doubts about whether his paper would get him over the line or not, after all. It wasn’t long before Luuk produced the extra copy of said paper that he had promised her, and Natalie felt her curiosity piqued. Just what had he managed to take away from her words, and how had he twisted them to be something he could share with confidence? Natalie couldn’t wait to find out.

    She reached for the paper when it was offered to her – partially out of reflex, and partially out of eagerness. Thankfully, Luuk was quick to realise that such wasn’t probably a good idea just yet, and his hesitation quickly reminded Natalie that she was still covered in ink, saving them both from potential disaster. She quickly dropped her hand, and instead eyed the essay where the student – her student – eventually set it down. As eager as she was, there’d be time for it later, so the mage quickly turned her attention back to Luuk good and proper. There was something endearing about his excitement over the topic, though she did find herself caught a little off-guard at the mention of his foster mother, and the graduation ceremony.

    “You know, it had totally slipped my mind that there was still an actual ceremony for you to attend. Too caught up in everything else going on, I suppose” Natalie answered, sounding vaguely amused by her own forgetfulness. She brought a hand up to scratch at her chin idly for a moment as she pondered the thought, before catching herself. She paused her hand away and glanced down at her fingertips, her lips curving downwards as she caught sight of the black smudges there. All too aware that she likely now had a matching black streak on her face, she pushed onwards regardless.

    “In any case, dinner sounds like it could be fun. I’m not sure how well meeting your foster mother might go, but its been too long since I’ve gotten out of the apartment.” Natalie briefly wondered if dinner afterwards meant that she’d also be expected to attend the ceremony itself, but promptly pushed the thought aside. The details could come later, once Luuk had actually gotten his results. Instead, it was time they focused on the lesson at hand – or her own work which could conveniently become a lesson, now that Luuk had asked.

    “I told you that I most of my income comes from restoration projects, yeah? I bought this thing for next to nothing because of all the damage. So I’m going to repair it as practice, and sell it for a profit.” Whilst she spoke, Natalie stepped up alongside the vanity. She picked out one of the marks she had identified earlier – this one a dent in the wood from when someone had dropped something – before glancing at her arms. After selecting one of the appropriate markings, located on the outside of her left forearm, she applied it to the area around the dent, careful not to touch any of the others to its surface. Job done, she’d take a small step back and watch as the same black streaking effect they usually witnessed seemed to ‘fill in’ the damage that had been done, leaving the surface pristine once it faded.

    “Technically speaking, I could do the entire thing with a single sigil, if I felt so inclined. But in reality, such a complex circle would take more effort than most of these smaller ones. So I’m cheating a little and taking care of the easier tasks now, to make the next step simpler. Work smarter, not harder, right?” she answered, throwing a sideways glance and a wink in Luuk’s direction.

    “I’d love to go over your paper right now, but there’s no point in making you wait while I plod my way through it, so we’ll get you working on something first, since you’re so eager. Help yourselves to those paints and brushes, and I’ll have you copy out a few of the sigils I’m currently using. We’ll talk a little bit about what some of the markings mean and how you decide when to use them, and then you can get practice by fixing up my vanity whilst I start reading. Sound good?”

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