Angelina was practically whispering, as if she was afraid someone might hear. Despite that, her words thundered in Claude's ears. He snapped around and almost yelled.
"YOU-- You can see the blue Ancient Hez text as well?!"
His little sister jumped and her jaw hit the floor. She recovered a moment later and hugged the book even tighter.
Claude knelt in front of her and spoke gently.
"How did you do it?"
"Y-you left the book with me. I couldn't sleep one night so I started reading it. A couple pages into it I started seeing dark blue words pop up. They look just like the Ancient Hez we're learning at school... Wait, how did you know it's Ancient Hez?"
Claude smiled half-awkwardly at his little sister. She was both as witty and as talented as he was when it came to magic, he realised.
"Only people who can become a magus can see these words..." Claude whispered, stroking his little sister's head.
She grabbed her mouth with one hand to swallow her gasp, but her words garbled through her fingers to Claude's ears.
"Ma... gus... Those evil people in the books that wear black robes and white masks? The ones who do bad things and kidnap princesses?"
Claude had to admit that when it came to reading wild stories, his sister had him beat. The only thing those characters had in common with real magi was that they both used magic, though completely different kinds. The character were more clowns than magi. Besides the question of where all these supposedly kidnapped and rescued princesses were, he doubted a magus would kidnap a princess and then do nothing to or with her, often for months, sometimes for years, while the hero quested to rescue her.
"Don't believe made-up stories. Not all magi are evil. They're people just like the rest of us. Some are good and some are bad."
"B-but how do you know?" the girl pressed, "Everyone I know says they're evil."
"Have you ever seen a magus before?"
"Well... Nobody would walk out in the streets with a white mask and a black robe."
"Haha, even magi wouldn't be stupid enough to do that. Most of them live like normal people. They're like you and me, they need to eat, sleep, work, buy clothes, and so on. If they don't show you any magic, you'll never know that they're magi."
She breathed a sigh of relief.
"But you said I had a talent for magic... Will I become an evil magus? I'm... I'm really scared."
He stroked her face gently.
"What are you scared of? You won't become a magus just because you have some talent for magic. You don't have to. Having talent is only the first step. After that, you'll have to train hard to meditate. You have to endure loneliness and live a life of secrecy, never telling anybody about your training. And you'll only be able to use some basic spells after you become a first-ranked rune magus. Only then can you truly be considered one."
"W-why do you know so much?"
Claude opened his hand and a bright, white ball flashed into existence above his palm.
"Beautiful..." his sister whispered, staring at the ball like a moth drawn to a flame.
Wasn't she supposed to be shocked at seeing magic? She should be freaking out at the very least. He had to stop her from waking his mother and brother. How did women's minds work? Why did they pay attention to whether something was pretty or not? Wasn't it only a white ball? There was nothing amazing about it.
Claude had forgotten the expression of shock he'd shown Maria when she first used the same spell in front of him. He'd not done much better than his sister.
The ball slowly rose to the roof and illuminated the whole ceiling.
She stared at the ball for a good while and finally looked away with satisfaction.
"That's great! It's so bright! We don't have to use candles anymore."
Well, at the very least, the first thing that's on her mind is how to save cost for our family. We really did raise her well.
"...W-why do you know magic?"
"I'm a magus. Actually, I was taught this spell by Lady Maria. She's a magus as well."
"So that's why she's been so generous to you!"
"It's not that simple, Anna. Magi aren't always friendly to one another. Sit down. I'll tell you some more."
His sister didn't know that the real reason Maria gave him all that property was because he gave her the formation diagrams of the four forbidden spells.
"I learned I had a talent for magic from the cookbook as well. I translated the text and found a lead which let me start training magic. I got to know Lady Maria thanks to a coincidence. I saved her life with magic, which she noticed since she's a magus as well."
"I was thinking of killing her to keep my secret. If people realised I'm a magus, it'd be over for me. I'm not willing to be caught and accused to be an evil magus. Little did I know that she was one too and she saw through me right away and invited me to her residence as a guest. That's when she showed me the spells she learned. Look, that's one of them."
He pointed at the floating white ball of light and continued, "I'm really thankful for Lady Maria. Even though she's not the same type of magus as I am, she did guide me on a lot of important things after we met. I was lucky that the first magus I got to know was her. She didn't have any ulterior motives nor ill intentions at all. She tried her best to help me by making me the supervisor of the wood so that nobody would disturb my magical training."
Claude then sighed. "Anna, you're not wrong in a sense. Some magi are evil too. The second magus I met was just like that. He wanted to rob me and steal the precious magical materials I just bought. We fought for our lives and I was the last one standing. That's why I trust Lady Maria so much. If she had meant ill towards me back then, I would've lost my life long ago."
The girl's eyes widened as if she was being told the epic tales from the Arabian Nights. That her brother was actually a magus was probably too big a shock for her young mind to bear. But when she looked up at the ball of light, she thought, how beautiful... So magic can be that pretty as well...
"Anna, do you think I'm evil?" Claude asked.
She shook her head. Claude was currently the relative she relied on most. Even if he was a magus, it wouldn't matter. He wasn't evil as far as she was concerned!
"Oh, by the way, did you show anyone the cookbook? Did you tell anyone that you can see the blue Ancient Hez text inside?"
"No. The first time I saw it, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It was only later that I truly saw the change. After I stare long enough, the words would appear and it wasn't a dream. I showed it to Blowk, but he said I was lying to him and even wanted to tear the cookbook into shreds. So I took it back and didn't tell anybody else..."
Claude stroked her hair once more. "Never tell anyone about this in the future. Don't let anybody know you have magic talent either. This isn't a good thing. If you get found out, lots of bad things will happen. Just like your classmates, everyone is afraid of magi. Oh, and you must keep my status as a magus a secret too, alright? You can't even tell mom or Blowk about it. Can you do that?"
She nodded with certainty. "Don't worry, I won't say anything."
"Haha, very well. Remember, this is a secret between the two of us. Nobody but us can know. Alright, it's getting late, so you should go get some sleep."
She hummed her agreement and headed for the door. But just before she opened it, she turned back. "C-can... can I learn magic too? I want to become a magus like you..."
Claude walked over and bent downwards to look into her large eyes filled with innocence. "Anna, you have to think about this properly. Becoming a magus isn't something worth boasting about. In fact, it would be best if nobody knows about it, just like how you didn't know that I was one back then. Maybe you might have powers normal people don't have if you become a magus, but similarly, you will have to face the risks those powers come with. Your life might even be in danger."
He pointed at the ball of light.
"Magic is not just for show. It can be dangerous and cost lives too. If you are certain you want to become a magus, then you will have to prepare and train long and hard. You're not going to succeed overnight. It's not something as simple as training either. I'll give you three days to think properly about it. If you really want to become a magus, I'll teach you everything I know, understood?"
She hummed again, this time with a lower pitch, before she left.
Claude lost all interest in performing alchemical experiments. He sat back into the couch and listened to Angelina's rhythmic steps as she headed upstairs, before sighing.
Welikro's farewell during the afternoon gave him a bad omen. He felt that the time he had to leave Whitestag was coming soon. While he didn't really care where he would be sent, his mother and siblings were people he couldn't just let go of. They were his family in this completely foreign world, his flesh and blood.
If possible, he wouldn't want to serve in the military. However, he was but a common peasant that wouldn't be able to escape the fate of being dragged to the frontlines and used as cannon fodder. Even though he had become a magus, he didn't have any power to go against the decrees of the kingdom. If history was a wheel that rolled forwards, Claude felt that he would be the ant in front of that wheel. He would easily be crushed by its weight on his back.
It was that feeling of foreboding that caused Claude to reveal his identity as a magus to his sister. Angelina's talent for magic was a surprise no doubt. Perhaps that way, she would be able to protect the household with her newfound powers after he left.
It looked like Angelina didn't need three days to think about it at all. During the same time the next day, she knocked on his study and entered with her eyes looking more resolute than ever. "Claude, I've decided that I want to become a magus like you."