>Is all spellcasting like this? Is this normal?
>Why, yes. If enough effort isn’t applied to a spell, it won’t form at all. The absence of necessary components will cause no more than a tickle to your opponents.
>I apologize, but I’m not quite sure what’s the matter. You stated that your home lacks the arcane entirely. I know that I would be jumping for joy if such a world ope-
>That’s… not what’s wrong.
I interrupt her before she starts gushing about magic. The magic itself is amazing, and I’m genuinely astounded that it was so easy to exert such a power with no practice. However, a deep resentment has built up within. This is the exact kind of shit I would do at recess in middle school, or get in trouble for doing in the middle of class. I’m stuck in a world where my juvenile and incredibly embarrassing antics would have been a source of absolute power. Have I been forced into a situation where I have to reconcile with my edgy teenage years? The memories I’ve buried deep inside my mind? Thou art I, I art thou I guess. I imagine myself shaking hands with a younger version of myself in my head. For now, I’ll have to unleash the sleeping beast to return home. Only then will I be able to lock the past in a safe and drop it into the ocean. I stand up straight and continue speaking.
>It’s fine, just some old and painful memories. The way people here cast spells is like something a kid would do in a playground. Something you grow out of and forget eventually. It’ll take a while for me to get used to this.
I try to force a smile. Janice waits a bit before responding.
>I suppose that if you live in a world with no magic, performing a spell with no result would make passersby question your sanity. Your people sound too eager to discard their spirit, however. I find it difficult to be envious of such a world. Regardless, this is how it is done here. In order to survive, you must be as a child in a playground. Now that I’ve seen that you have grasped magic, I’ll explain what our plans are. I burned a considerable amount of tention in binding you to this realm, enough that I will run dry before I am prepared for another fireworks display. I constantly spend minute amounts of tention to maintain each of my summons, and if I exhaust my stores both the White Knights and you will fade from existence. I presume that you agree that we should avoid such an outcome.
>Not dying would be nice, yeah.
>I already made clear that my kind are not received kindly in yusur society. So we’re heading to the nearby city of Boarding to register you as a Bard.
>A Bard? I can’t play any instruments or sing though. Is a Bard something different in this world?
>A Bard might indeed play the strings or recite ballads, but that’s not all they are limited to. The cities maintain what are known as Bardic Guilds, which serve as the primary gatherings where licensed performers take on requests that require a magical touch. Any person that can spellcast and pass the entrance examination can become a Bard. The other route we could take is to have you become a government-sanctioned Troubadour, but that would tighten our sphere of influence unnecessarily. In addition, you and I would undergo an undesirable background investigation. I’m sure you understand how that would play out.
>Yeah, I’m not exactly from around here. So you say your kind are not well received but are still allowed inside cities? What’s preventing you from becoming a Bard regardless, instead of having me do it?
Janice thinks for a moment before responding.
>Indeed. My people call ourselves Drators, and we are disliked by yusur society. It is unheard of for a drator to be acknowledged as a citizen, let alone a Bard. They would not allow one into their ranks, for they believe it would stain their honor. Once you become officially recognized, I will be able to act freely as your support. Bards are well-respected, so I’ll have to ask for your forgiveness in me using you as a shield.
>It’s fine, so will it just be us two?
>No, we will bring with us a few White Knights. I always take them with me when I venture from the bastion for supplies. Spellcasters are best when combined with a strong front-line that can keep the enemy preoccupied while chanting. We can also have them act as your own summons, which will expedite the examination process.
>Which ones are we taking with us? How do you even tell the difference?
Janice snaps her fingers before reciting a spell.
>Ping Command: Three, Fourteen
She then closes her eyes as if deep in thought for several seconds before speaking again.
>I’ve called them to us, they’re on their way. The third will be Fifteen, who’s already here.
>Is that some sort of telepathy?
>More or less. I have a special bond with my summons that allows me to speak to them in such a way.
Shortly, two White Knights arrive in the training room. One of the knights who was already with us moves to stand beside them. They start to introduce themselves to me.
>I’m Three, we’ve already met! My specialty is magic tricks, but my love is for cards in particular! I’m so happy we’ll be traveling together, we’re gonna have so much fun! Ican’twaittoshowoffmymagicforarealaudienceitgetskindofboringonlybeingabletopracticewiththeotherknightsandthere’snothinglikeperformingforrealYusursIhopewecanbethebestoffriendseventhoughmasteriskindenoughtowatchshedoesn’trea-
He’s interrupted loudly by the knight next to him.
>I’m Fourteen. I do fencing. That’s all.
>I’m Fifteen, you might have seen me juggling earlier. I’m pretty good at juggling just about anything as long as I can get a handle for the object’s weight. I’ve even juggled the other knights once.
I take a look at the weaponry the three are carrying. My time on /k/ gives me an edge in identifying their kit. Three has a morning-star and what appears to be a buckler, but amounts to a heater shield size-wise in the hands of the diminutive knight. Fourteen has a rapier and what looks like a main-gauche. Fifteen has a stiletto, and about a dozen throwing knives adorning his waist. He probably juggles them too. Janice begins to speak.
>These three are my best front-line summons. They will be the ones joining us on our journey.
>Will the fortress be alright without them?
Three replies before Janice can.
>Don’t worry, the Bastion of the Banned has more than just us! There are the 29 other super strong knights still on guard! Everything will be okay!
The Bastion of the Banned? That’s quite the name.
>Ahem. Yes, we will be quite alright. I will have the knights put together traveling supplies. Luckily for us, the knights do not have to eat, but I believe you do… Hold on.
Janice looks like she just realized something.
>You were robbed of your name, and you will need one in order to successfully register as a Bard. You are the 33rd summon I’ve successfully bound to this world, but I highly doubt that you desire to be “Thirty-Three.” Do you have any thoughts on how you wish to be addressed?
Shit, I guess that’s really important. I ponder for a moment but settle on something pretty quickly.
>Just call me Anon.
>Anon? As in, “soon?”
>No, it’s short for Anonymous. Isn’t it fitting for a man with no name? It’s a little hard to describe, but it’s also what my friends and I called each other. We considered “Anon” a term of endearment for the most part.
I sigh. If /a/ knew that one of their own got trucked for real, would they be jealous, or would they be laughing their asses off? I’m sure plenty of them would have been happy to trade places with me, but I’m not sure if a lighthearted romcom with a harem of cliches awaits me in Boarding. I need to get home. It feels like it’s only been a day, but I already miss you faggots.
>If it’s a meaningful name to you, then I support you taking it upon yourself. I would imagine bearing a name significant to you and your friends will give you strength. I’m glad to make your acquaintance, Anon.
Once again, I shake her hand.