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Self imposed isekai

His father clearly has a life path all plotted out for him. His mother clearly doesn't care enough to fight him on it.

Apprenticeship in a craft? No son of his will be a pansy handsy city boy! No. He's bid to follow out to the woods. Stack firewood. Set snare traps. Make lean-tos. Practice lighting fires and cleaning small game, and get cuffed on the back when he makes mistakes.

He hates every minute of it. He hates the other woodsy kids. Muscle brains, Red-heads, every one of them. Why can't he go to the temple school? At least Mom teaches him to read.

He tries to run away at one point. Dad finds him right away and just says to come home when he's done throwing a tantrum. He comes back when nobody in the next town over has any work he can do and he can't forage enough to eat in the woods. The breaking point is when his mother decides to use his whittling projects as firewood.

He has some magic. Kiddie magic. Firestarting and power strike, from Dad. Playing with light, learned himself. Forcing a tree to fruit right away- He got spanked for that one. It's horrible for the plant, apparently. Sticking things into rocks for later.

Nobody really talks about exactly how many points they have. It's personal. But he knows you can burn them. A permanent sacrifice for a miracle.

He wants to go away. Far away. Somewhere he can make things. Learn things. With people who aren't like his parents.

Red, for violent force. Blue, for sudden change. Two each.


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A clear moonless night, lit before him by a cauldron on a scaffold, tilted and pouring out a thick glowing orange liquid, fire surging over the ground. People with perky pointed ears and long tails are silhouetted. Hammers pound. The air trembles with a constant sparkling roar, pierced by curt yowls:

"Less air!"

"Cold at roller 8 - Bardo, come here!"

"Tilt steady - tilt to finish - tilt stop."

The ground is smooth rock, perfectly flat. Beyond the scaffold, larger people with floppier ears haul on long chains, and beyond them are fields of leafy plants lit by flickering light.


There's a small explosion- More noise than force and accompanied by a burst of red/blue light- And a human kid, very young, falls three or so feet to sprawl on the ground with a yelp, somewhere reasonably open. He's young- Maybe seven or eight. Wearing plain but nicely made cotton clothes slightly too big for him in browns and greens, with neat little hide boots and a tiny belt knife and a waterskin and a cloth-wrapped chunk of cheese and jerky that has fallen open. He sits up and looks around in awe.

He did it! He's away- He can feel the burnt husks of his points, but that just means it worked.


"What was that?"


"Something exploded!"

    "Just great! Chill the turbines! Telemi, Calsa, Waret, check the slab with me."

        "Thank the catmother it wasn't the pour."

    "Don't be so sure."

"The light came from out there."

    "Check the slab first, and the crucible. Then we can look around."


A minute later, a person with grey fur and cat ears plods out in switchbacks towards Nico, with a yellow flame flowing from his outstretched finger.

"Hey, there's a kid here!"


"There's a human boy here, I don't know him!"


The human boy looks kind of intimidated! And surprised! He says something and stands carefully still. Then he holds his hands up at head height, clasped together and looking focused.


The grey cat-person backs up, hands spread wide (one of them still with the flame). "Calsa! I think this is your problem now!"


"Just come here!"


A smaller orange cat-person comes out, extinguishing the flames on her ears as she gets close to the grey fellow.

"Oh. Fine."


She kneels ten feet in front of Nico, palms on the ground. "...Hey kiddo. It's not safe here."


Something something something.


He winces and pulls his hands apart. That's half of his two entire white points used up and he can tell it's awful. He's definitely missing something.

"Hi. This not time big, this- Will not be long-" He slips out of understandability for a moment. "Haha, funny mouth noises, ow. I lost."


She smiles and nods at him.

Huh. Not human, then? It's pretty fucked up to abandon a human boy old enough to walk, but that does happen sometimes. A species she's never heard of, out here? Maybe he came in from the dark?

She clasps her hands together like he did, spreads them, and looks around with exaggerated puzzlement. She touches her ears and then looks him over??


"-Ears? That's green. They look good. My hands, I did a white thing. To talk. Not much white left. I am lost. I leave on purpose. I did-" Something something something. He scowls. He points at her ears, then gives a thumbs up.


Nod! She gives him a thumbs up with a flame on it.

So. He's a refugee. She takes her cup off her belt, mimes drinking, and gets up to slowly walk away, looking over her the 'white' kid following?


This place is kind of scary but maybe he's only scared because it's dark. It's also cool so far! And he's already learned that he can't just run out into the woods. It's awful out there.

He picks up his bundle of food and his waterskin (squished open when he fell) and brushes dirt off his pants and follows.


She leads him down a wide flat road, past a row of roofless stone houses, to a clearing surrounded by buildings and piles of bundles and boxes. A ramp rises off to the left to form a stone wall twelve feet high and eight feet thick - there's not as much light in that direction but it continues straight into the dark as far as a human eye can see.

The air here is colder, and just as dry. Her breath fogs.

She turns right, to a pillar wrapped with a C-shaped trough and offering a long handle. On the side without the trough, at her shoulder height, there's a large empty hole and a small hole dangling a chain. She reaches into the large hole and flames flicker around her arm, which she then removes to pull sharply on the chain. A loud whine starts up and rises in pitch.

She concentrates for a minute - the flames on her ears go out - and then water streams into the trough. When it's full, the whine and the fire inside the pillar stop without any apparent action from her but coinciding with the return of the flames on her ears.

She dips her cup into the trough and drinks deeply, then hands it to him.


"How does that work?" He wonders, in his unknown language. "It's a well... Magic well? Or powered by magic fire? It's like the sawmill! Bzzzz! I guess you're all really good at fire..."

Is the water warm? Is the thing still making noise? He tries to climb up and peer into the big hole.


She nods enthusiastically at 'bzzzz'.

The water is lukewarm - one of the spigots into the trough steams as water trickles out and the others don't.

She stands ready to catch him if he falls and dabs a fingertip of flame onto the edge of the hole, showing it to lead upward to a metal fan, gently turning with a soft grumble. As he watches, it stops and the pillar falls silent except for water dripping into the trough.


"-Oh! Oh! That's amazing! Hot air rises, cold air sinks! Dad told me never to camp in a bowl valley! It gets really cold! And that's why!"

He jumps back down and then jumps around. They have MACHINES! Too excited to hesitate, he claps his hands and twists his last remaining piece of white into the much more familiar pattern for dancing glimmers of light in the air. Red and grey lights- And a little collection of orange ones to represent a campfire- Red ascends in a column and turns grey and scatters, grey goes into the fire and turns red and goes up.

"Hot air rises, cold air sinks!" Bounce bounce!


Yes! Hmm. Sort of.

She flashes a small flame once and moves her fingers in the same pattern above: hot air expands and cold air contacts... does he follow that?


He makes the dancing lights mimic the pattern, at least? Red, expand, up. Grey, contract, down.


Okay, now she uses her hands to outline a sideways tunnel that constricts in the middle. She blows through it - fingers compress and expand again.

She blinks a flame in the narrow part and blows again - fingers compress tensely and zoom out the other end.

Back to the hole in the pillar. She puts a small flame on the bottom of the cavity, frowns, and snuffs it. Catches his eye and then sticks her finger through a small hole in the middle of the fan and lights a flame above it, nods with a smile. And then she mimes the constricting tunnel again with the flame at the narrowest part, taps the fan and blows.


........If hot air is bigger. And there's already a lot of air trying to get through. And then it gets even bigger...?

He scrunches his face up in concentration and expands the illusion. Air goes past the narrow part and gets hot and gets bigger, and in his illusion it goes back down, as well as up and out.

Unless there's also something about tunnels? Horns are tunnels that make air do funny things. And flutes.

His illusion fades slowly out while he thinks about it. Then he snaps to attention and un-fades it.

Brassy colored sparks in the vague shape of a large bugle?


Nnnooo, the air doesn't go in a loop. She taps the fan and waves her finger in a circle, and then with her other hand points to the very top of the pillar and circles in synchrony.

Fire - upper circle - lower circle - blow (she crouches to blow directly upwards)

Fire - blow harder - upper circle - lower circle - blow softer

Fire - blow harder - upper circle - lower circle - blow softer

That's the loop. She's not sure how to convey the abstract idea of a loop that distinctly isn't a physical thing moving in a cycle. Hopefully he'll notice the repetition.



...This is hard, actually.

He constructs the moving illusion slowly, bit by bit: Column walls, narrow then wide. Fan in the narrow part. Fire above the fan. 'Air' sparks moving slowly up past the fan. 'Hot air' sparks moving quickly up, above the fire?

-Oh, the fast air goes over another fan, doesn't it? He starts adding another fan to the very top.

And then all the lights wink out at once. "Agh!!!" He stomps the ground in frustration.


Yes, two fans! The first fan is in the wide part and the fire is in the narrow part and -

"Hey, it's okay, we can draw at home -" she mimes scratching the shape of the tunnel on a horizonal surface.

In a nearby alley a black-and-white cat person has a food cart. After a quick conversation with Calsa, he toasts a large brown disk between his hands and gives it to her, and she holds it out for Nico. "This should be safe for humans, and whisshoppers, if that's what you are..." She'll be keeping a close eye on him as he eats it though!

It's a chewy bland vegetable fritter.


He squints his eyes shut and takes deep breaths.

And drinks some water.

And then tries the food? It's not bad. He cheers up after a little while.

What happens next? He doesn't know much about - orphans or whatever - this person seems nice - 

Seems. They're definitely not his parents. Most people are probably nice? At least at first? And she taught him how the firespinner works!

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