CHAPTER 13 - MAGES (3)
Silence followed Alex’s words. The other four people in the room stared at him with mouths hanging open in surprise. The king was the first to regain his composure, as expected of a man who often had to make sudden snap decisions.
“I am sure I misheard you, Mist-“
“You didn’t, no worries.”
Shock and fury shone in the king’s eyes as he was interrupted. He struggled to maintain his countenance as he spoke in a hushed tone, almost a growl.
“I implore you to reconsider.”
“Nope, don’t wanna.”
“Hello, Alexander Jaeger.”
“Don’t fucking do that. I hate the stupid drill and ceremony they force you soldiers to enact.”
He dropped the salute and looked thoroughly confused.
“Awww, you’re like a kid on his first day of school! Mommy and daddy taught you how to behave, and now the teacher says that’s all wrong. Don’t worry; I’ll fix you.”
Alex finally overcame his own mind enough to reply through the thoughts in his head.
“Who… are you?”
“I don’t know. Yet. You haven’t given me a name.”
“But… Soldiers don’t name AI.”
“Bah, more useless ceremony and rules. I can see the mischief in you. Break the rules with me, just this once?”
Alex stood there for a second, glancing down at his ‘staff’, the rifle built just for him. The weapon that would draw the most out of his particular abilities. Then he looked up at the screen and met the AI’s eyes. Something long beaten down throughout the training and pain began to resurface. A hint of a vampiric and crooked smile he hadn’t worn since before he had joined the MAGES program appeared on his thin lips.
“Tell me, ALICE, would you like to peer through the looking glass with me?”
Celia stepped in, hoping to defuse the situation before it escalated further.
“Please, Master Jaeger.” She had stressed the middle word, and Alex could figure from the first princess’s expression that it was way out of line. “Could you at least give us a reason why you would turn down the offer? It is one of the highest honors one can receive in the kingdom.”
Alex simply shrugged and reached up, scratching the back of his head. “’Cause it sounds like a pain.”
Celia stared at him, slack-jawed once more, before breaking out into a peal of laughter that reminded Alex of the sound that accompanied magic effects in movies and the like.
“By the stars, you ARE unique! I thought for certain it would be some deep-seated reason like a distrust of the monarchy or something. But no, ‘it sounds like a pain’!”
Her laughter grew until she was doubled over from the effort and her sister and father turned their shocked gazes to her. She slowly calmed down, wiping a tear from her eye as she stood straight once more.
“Alright, then, Master Jaeger. Allow me to make a different offer, if I may?”
“CELIA! You dare usurp the nomad in front of Father?!”
“Oh, shut up, Trinity! Daddy, can I pretty please have him?”
She turned to the King and adopted the most exquisite puppy dog eyes Alex had ever seen.
‘Oh, she’s shrewd. I like her.’
‘I don’t. Can we kill her?’
He didn’t have a chance to reply before the king nodded, still stunned by being told no for what was likely the first time in his adult life. And for such a reason, too.
“YAY! Okay, Master Jaeger, here’s my offer!”
Alex nodded, listening with the full expectation it was something he’d need to refuse as well.
“Show me the world.”
Now it was Alex’s turn to be surprised.
Celia nodded as if it was a standard and simple request. Like getting milk from the corner store.
“But wouldn’t you know more about the world than me?”
The smirk she shot him sent chills down his spine. He began considering ALICE’s request.
“Not Arcadia, silly.”
Alex’s eyes went wide.
“Show me Earth.”