River didn't appear to be the slightest bit surprised by Axis request and smiled, responding with,
"I feel honoured that you're asking me, but I guess that's only because you haven't made many connections here in the kingdom just yet...though you probably should've by now."
Axis rolled his eyes and River only chuckled as Axis replied with," I've just been busy."
"It's ok if you've been struggling making friends here, but you should at least put some effort into getting to know people in the kingdom outside of your family and the members of the castle. Ah, speaking of your family...is there any reason you aren't seeking help from your sister?" River questioned.
"I'm tired of relying on her, especially when she's trying to live her own life on Earth." Axis explained a tone of frustration, but a pitied expression was on his face," I get that she'd rather stay on earth for a bit, I guess I would too if I was in her shoes. She was nice enough to help out in the beginning, but...she might not be able to teach me for long. At least...not until I catch up with her."
River had a quizzical look on his face, commenting casually with," Misora's had years of experience, I'm sure it'd take an extensive amount of time until your strengths rivalled hers."
"It's not the strength issue I'm worried about…" Axis said, his tone brisk as he tried collecting his words," Rather...it's the knowledge of how to acquire that strength. Misora grew up in the kingdom, there are things about her powers that are mysterious to me. She seems so in tune with them that she doesn't even have an explanation for how some parts of her powers even work. For someone like her, it admittedly makes sense as to why she can't quite explain the source of her strength and how things work. She's undoubtedly strong, but...she might not serve as the best teacher for someone who had to abstain from practicing magic all their life."
River nodded in understanding, stroking his chin as he tried thinking of some candidates worthy of being Axis' mentor.
"I think it'd be best to work with someone who had to start from scratch, just like me. Someone who wasn't raised by traditional mages," Axis added.
"Why don't you head down to a Plushmate Neighbourhood?" River suggested, leading Axis to look at him dumb-foundedly," Don't tell you don't know what those are?"
"What business would he have at a Plushmate Neighbourhood?" Kana interjected," Those Plushmates wouldn't know anybody who'd make a good mentor for him."
"You'd be surprised! Many of them have family history that have observed certain mage clans for over centuries! They might not know some of them personally, but they do have a record of who'd be worth asking." RIver explained before he turned his gaze to Axis," I'm sure you already know of the traditional in which you divide your Patchwork heart with your most beloved childhood toy, but have you ever wondered what happens to the toy when the owner passes on?"
Axis' voice fell soft as he said," Well, it hadn't crossed my mind, but I'm a bit curious now."
"The owner has two choices. The first option is to keep the part of the Patchwork Heart in their plushmate with them and the two of them will allegedly either meet again in the afterlife or the next life. Their second option is to give the rest of the Patchwork heart to the plushmate, so that they may live on their own and do things that they couldn't as a normal plushmate." River explained to him," Such as starting a family, having a job of their own, fall in love… usually, those plushmates live in seclusion in their own suburb, but they don't typically mind human visitors."
"So...one these plushmates should be able to find a suitable mentor for me?" Axis asked skeptically.
"Hopefully!" River replied in an upbeat tone.
And so, the next day Axis set off by himself to the closest plushmate neighbourhood. It wouldn't have been a long trip, but he was taking a path he hadn't been familiar with and assumed held nothing important beyond it. Axis felt guilty though as he started his commute to the neighbourhood since he never put too much thought towards the plushmates and their purpose in the kingdom. He had always been so invested in learning more of his powers that he failed to even think about the toys who had been brought to life by those who were no longer present in the kingdom. The plushmates were important to the people of this kingdom and Axis understood that even if he wasn't interested in having one, he should've learned more about their history and how they came to be.
Axis soon arrived in a village called "Stitching", he only found out by a little welcome board on the borders around the town. The village of Stitching was quaint, and strangely enough a more brighter coloured place with all its buildings painted pastel hues. Even the sidewalks were coloured a bright beige, and had an unusually soft feel to them, it made Axis feel as if he was walking on a set of yoga mats. Some of the villagers looked at him curiously, but didn't approach him or ask him to state his presence and went on about their day. Axis did find their stares a bit uncomforting, even if the plushmates villagers tried to be discreet about it.
"Maybe it wasn't the best idea to head to this place by myself. I should've dragged River along to guide me." Axis thought to himself," I should ask somebody here if they know of anyone who could help me. Worst case scenario they won't be able to think of a good mentor…"
Axis saw a giant fountain in the plaza of the village that sprouted water up at an impressive height. He looked down at the villagers, who he expected to have been even more astounded by the fountain since they were much closer to the ground. But the plushmates didn't even bat an eyelash at the fountain, though Axis caught some of them staring at the water shooting up towards the sky.
Axis then stepped closer towards the fountain and looked into it, noticing some small dots glinting inside the fountain. As soon as he realized what those dots were, he smiled and sat against the ledge of the fountain.
"They're coins." Axis said to himself as he swished his hand into the water," It's nice to see this ritual of making wishes with a coin exists here."
He then saw a pale yellow and pink giraffe plushmate toss a coin into the fountain and close their eyes together while folding their hands as if they were in prayer.
Axis watched them stand by the fountain, curious to see if the plushmate would recite their wish aloud.
"I...I wish I was a millionaire!" The giraffe plushmate declared, their eyes still shut," And had a crazy hot girlfriend!"
"This place is more like earth than I realized." Axis remarked, his eyes narrowed at the giraffe plushmate.
Axis then quietly crept up behind the giraffe plushmate, saying, "Excuse me-"
The giraffe plush jumped up and turned around to see who had been eavesdropping as he voiced his wish to the fountain. He looked towards Axis and wondered if he should ask if he heard him just now, but he was too embarrassed to even bring it up.
"What do you want, human?!" The giraffe plushmate blurted out.
"I'm really sorry to bother you at a time like this, but well...I need some help right now." Axis explained to him, taking note of how the plushmate seemed a bit less hesitant to hear him out," Do you know of any mages who would be willing to take on a student right now?"
"Hm...sorry, I don't know any mages. That's something you should probably speak with Rudy about, he's well-versed on that sorta stuff." The giraffe answered with a shrug.
"Rudy?" Axis repeated, with the giraffe plushmate nodding in affirmation," I'm not all that familiar with the residents here, to be honest this is my first time coming to this village. Could you maybe give me directions to his home?"
"Hm… I could, but what's in it for me?" The giraffe questioned curiously as he took a step closer to Axis and inspected his clothes," You're a mage, meaning you could make me a millionaire with ease."
Axis chuckled awkwardly, replying," I don't think I'd be able to pull off such a feat."
"Right, you're not a very good mage yet. So I'd have to wait a bit on that…" The giraffe plushmate said to himself," Well...just find me a cute girlfriend and we'll call it square!"
"I'll do my best…" Axis claimed sheepishly as the giraffe plushmate led the way.
The two walked for a bit and Axis got to see more of Stitching. Not a single human aside from himself was in sight, but with how civilized the plushmates were, he didn't seem to have noticed.
"So what made you decide to come to Stitching for our help kid? If it wasn't for Rudy, there wouldn't be a single plushmate here that could help you out." The giraffe asked him.
"A friend recommended I visit a plusmate neighbourhood for recommendations. I admittedly don't have many options in the kingdom, so he claimed you guys might personally know someone who'd be of help."
"I see. Usually it's the neighbourhoods farther away from the mainland that have knowledge on these sorts of things." The giraffe plushmate explained as he waved to some plushmaes that crossed their path," The residents of Stitching don't usually observe mages, we're only here to try living an average life."
Axis and the giraffe plushmate arrived at a green and beige home with a patchwork pattern on it. The giraffe plushmate knocked on the door while shouting,
After a few moments, they hadn't received a response, so the giraffe plushmate then walked over to the gate next to his house and Axis followed only to prevent him from stepping any further.
"What? He might be in his garden in the backyard." The giraffe explained naively, but Axis still seemed unwilling," Don't worry, we won't be there long if he's not there. Plus Rudy wouldn't mind, we're like cousins!"
The giraffe then opened the door and the two of them ambled past the gate to Rudy's backyard.
"Rudy? Are you home?!" The giraffe yelled as he looked around for Rudy. The giraffe then felt something under his foot and looked down to see a cob of baby corn beneath his feet.
"Blaine, what have I said about entering the garden without notice? And stop stepping in my corn patch!" A light green and yellow quilt plush mouse chided as he ran towards Axis and the plushmate.
"Wow, you grew a cob of corn just the right size for you, that's amazing!" The giraffe plushmate, Blaine remarked as he tried to hand the little cob of corn to Rudy, though he no longer wanted it.
"Cousins?" Axis thought to himself as he looked toward Blaine who was twice the size of Rudy.
Rudy was evidently irritated with Blaine as he shooed him off of his corn patch, but then his eyes fell to Axis and he seemed a bit tense.
"Do you need something?" Rudy asked him his tone blunt, but not as aggravated as before.
"I've been told you know of some important mages, who'd be good at mentoring a rookie." Axis said, while Rudy was still staring at him. Rudy had a thoughtful look in his eye and eventually motioned them to follow him inside the house.
Rudy let Blaine try out some of the tomatoes he harvested earlier while he and Axis got down to business.
Rudy removed some books from shelves and placed them on the table before Axis. Rudy seemed quite adept with magic and he was transporting a whole slew of books to the table without having to physically grab for them. Axis then noticed that Rudy's house which was normal sized for him had to have been ginormous for the little mouse plushmate. He probably could've had a normal sized house for himself, but maybe there was a reason behind why he opted for the house that was much too big for him.
"He must get a lot of visitors like myself, asking for suggestions like this…" Axis thought to himself as Rudy opened up a book.
"Before I offer any recommendations, I need to know some things about you." Rudy informed him plainly as he pushed the open book to the side," You're a relative to the former guardian of the kingdom, Patchwork Cheer, correct?"
"Um, yes. She's my step-sister." Axis answered.
"Has she been the one training you up until now?" Rudy asked with Axis nodding in response," Wow, that must have an enriching learning experience. But, I'd like to know what training with her was like before I can direct you to anyone."
"Of course." Axis said as he tried recalling his earliest memories of training with her," Despite the fact that we're siblings, she remained candid and wouldn't hesitate to correct me on things. But, she had her work cut out for her, there was a lot that she wasn't able to teach me."
"Is there any reason for that?" Rudy interrupted.
"Well...I haven't started using my magic until recently…" Axis explained to him.
"Misora, I already said I don't wanna focus on physical improvement!" Hayase claimed as he laid down on the field, pressing his hands against the cool surface.
"But physical improvement and working on your magic go hand in hand! If you could improve both of those you'd be a lot stronger than expected." Misora claimed as she crossed her arms," Why can't be more like that friend of yours who willingly works out?"
Hayase pressed his face against the grass, wishing he never introduced Misora to his best friend Tadashi, who may as well have been his polar opposite.
Hayase turned around and sat normally on the grass, taking a deep breath as he said,"I'm sorry if I'm being difficult, I don't think I had much idea of what I was getting myself into. But I promise, I won't be giving up anytime soon."
Hayase stood up and Misora grinned and gave him a hand saying," That's what I like to hear! In truth, I'm only trying to balance out the training between physical and magic improvement because I have a feeling that soon enough, you'll have a better understanding of your magic, with or without my training."
Hayase nodded briskly in understanding and Misora then rolled up the sleeves on her shirt, saying," Maybe you should show me what you're able to do with your magic as of now."
"Sure." Hayase replied as he took a deep breath and pressed his eyes shut. He concentrated deeply and suddenly, objects around them started floating in midair. Pebbles, branches, the sweater Hayase brought along with him, even Misora's ponytail started to float up on its own.
When Hayase opened his eyes again, Misora noticed they seemed to be glowing slightly. Once Hayase took a look around to see what he had done, he wore a small smile on his face. Misora wasn't as impressed, though she didn't show it and only smiled with Hayase before she gave him a carefully thought out evaluation.
"Before I can give my full thoughts, is there anything else you're able to do?" Misora asked.
"This is the only thing I can do voluntarily, anything else I've done with my magic has all been done through impulse. I tried to shoot beams of light from my hands, but….nothing would happen. One time I made a bench explode into stars and I've attempted to recreate that attack but...it didn't seem to work."
Misora raised her eyebrows, she wasn't quite sure of how to respond to the exploding bench but she kept composure and returned to her evaluation.
"Ok, well….It seems all the sources of your magic relate to the air in some way...that's easy to work with, since it's the same source as mine….plus it suits you!" Misora exclaimed as she took hold of Hayase's hands," You're an Aquarius, right?"
Misora then closed her eyes as she concentrated her magic, her hands still joined with Hayase's. Hayase looked around to see if anything in their surroundings had changed. Everything appeared to look the same, but then a few moments later, the budding flowers came in full bloom and the trees were growing leaves.
When Misora opened her eyes again, she saw Hayase in pure awe of his surroundings though she felt unsatisfied with her efforts. She hadn't practiced magic in a very long time, so maybe this was a result of her being rusty? She didn't seem to mind as much after seeing how impressed Hayase was.
"Pretty, isn't it? My power's predominantly derived from the sun, so I can slightly speed up the cycle of nature. This obviously isn't something that can help in battle, but...it can still be useful."
Misora declared as she let go of Hayase's hands. Hayase turned around to get a better view of Misora's work and then heard a faint cracking sound. He then saw a cocoon in the tree branch above them and out came a blue butterfly moments later.
He took a quick glance at Misora and felt his heart sink for a moment.
"We may be siblings, but will I ever be as good as her?" Hayase thought to himself.
Misora was looking at a set of flowers that bloomed because of her influence and decided now would be a good time to begin some actual training for Hayase, that included both theory and practical based work.
Misora motioned Hayase to take a seat in the field as she began her little lesson.
"One thing you should know about magic is that there's no guarantee you'll be fluent with it, even if you study as much as humanly possible. It's an intuitive form of power, even if your bloodline is derived from generations of mages, that won't determine your strength." Misora explained to him, taking note of how pale Hayase had already become. She told herself she would try her best not to overwhelm him or freak him out and she had already failed.
"Ah, but even if you don't get it on the first try, it's totally ok! You're still getting accustomed to the atmosphere of the kingdom and such. You've displayed great amounts of power at random, which is good, but try to keep in mind you shouldn't expect magic to come so naturally to you, regardless of your background." Misora said as she took a step forward to him," You've been rejecting your magic for a long time, you can't expect yourself to get the hang of things instantly."
"I mean...be honest with yourself, do you feel as if you're at home while you're in the kingdom?" Misora asked as she used her magic again, the buds on the tree blooming even more," Or do you feel like a visitor?"
Hayase thought about Misora's question for a few moments as he looked around the field. She was onto something. Even if Hayase had been here for a little while now, there was still this too good to be true feeling that followed him as he ventured through the kingdom. It couldn't be escaped just yet, this affixation of a realm that looked like it came from a child's overactive imagination. For years he always did think it was his birthright to set foot in the kingdom, even if he had given up on being able to freely use his powers. He was certain his brain had yet to fully grasp that he'd be here for much longer than a few days and he wouldn't return to Earth the same.
Misora then knelt in front of him and said," Magic is supposed to be liberating. If you overthink things, or begin to doubt your own abilities, you'll never get it to work."
Hayase was admittedly still nervous about how his inexperience would affect his practicing of magic, but Misora's words then helped reframe his mindspace a little bit.
Hayase then took a stand and walked over to the nearby stream and took a good look at his reflection. He had yet to even become adjusted to seeing his appearance here, he wouldn't have been able to recognize himself on earth, where his hair was raven black instead of the bright shade of pink laced with even brighter streaks.
This was his chance to finally discover himself, and become the person he longed to be all these years, so what point was there in letting doubts run through his mind? He had gotten this far, turning back now would've been a waste of his time.
It may have been true, that he didn't fully understand magic quite yet and might not even progress as intended, but he wasn't going to just head back home where it was comfortable, where he would inevitably long to be in the kingdom again.
"Alright, I'm ready...show me more please."
Misora nodded in response, but then she felt something different about Hayase's magic. Magic would give off a type of aura and was often times telling of the person's skill level. Hayase's magic had been feeling on the weaker side, harder to detect without paying close attention, but now, it's presence was much more clear to her. Misora figured it must have been a result of Hayase's determination and smiled to herself as she studied Hayase.
"Hana tells me of how this was so unexpected, that he was always a diligent young boy who only tended to his studies and did as told. Parents usually don't have the best impressions of their kids, but I'm sure she wasn't totally wrong on her judgement of him." Misora thought to herself," He's used to a more logical view on things and magic is anything but. Though I'm sure over time, Hayase will finally become the mage he's dreamed of being."
Hayase took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut for a few long moments. He realized he was falling into the same habits when he tried using his magic on earth though, stressing himself out and tensing up. So instead, he took Misora's words to heart and relaxed. He imagined himself standing on a road shrouded in mist, where it was nightfall and neon blue stars floated within reach. When he opened his eyes, he found his surroundings had taken a new form, and they mirrored the image he crafted in his mind.
"There will come a time where I finally feel at home in the kingdom, where I won't have to feel like a stranger visiting a foreign land. But in the meanwhile, I have to be willing to work towards getting in tune with my magic, even if it may be frustrating at first."
Hayase then saw a shooting star and took a step forward, extending his hand out to it, but the shooting star vanished within an instant and the atmosphere reverted to normal.
He then saw Misora waving her hand in front of him and Misora took a step back upon realizing he was back to normal.
"Did you have a nice trip?" Misora asked awkwardly as she forced out a chuckle," Well, we don't have any time to waste, let's get to work!"
Misora had a series of different exercises planned out in order to get Hayase accustomed to his magic. Some of these exercises were more relaxing, others involved quick thinking in combat. It was a bit difficult at times to plan out different exercises and lessons for Hayase, especially since Misora thought her own lessons would grow dull quickly. She had no experience in teaching like this and she didn't want to let down Hayase, so she often went to others she trusted in hopes she could keep things fresh with her training.
Misora had tried getting some advice from knight River, but he claimed he wouldn't have any insights that would be of use to her. All he said was to consider introducing Hayase to those that she trained with, but the idea made her uncomfortable.
"But, the focus of the training would be on Hayase, not you." River pointed out to her," Realistically, you'd just be keeping watch over them, wouldn't you?"
Misora placed her hand against her temples, saying," River, you don't know my mentor the way I do."
River looked at her in question for a few moments and then mused," I guess that's not surprising. The Celestians are a mysterious group."
Hayase and Misora were training together the next day, combatting together for today's morning exercises. Hayase was feeling a bit more comfortable with his magic as the days went on, but nothing too astounding had yet to occur. No beams of energy had been created, but Hayase was beginning to use this deep blue haze attack of his more and more. While it wasn't what Misora was expecting to see at this point, she didn't mind the direction Hayase's learning was taking. It was progress nonetheless.
Originally he had reservations against hand to hand combat with his sister, but she was insistent on it, to the point that she sometimes threw insults at him in order to get him motivated. He claimed he'd be fine fighting her without the insults, but she saw the insults were agitating him, so she kept going.
Hayase barely dodged a ray of sunlight from Misora and ran a few feet from her. But Misora kept launching that attack towards him. He ducked to the ground and looked down at his hand for a moment. Misora had seen that haze attack a dozen times now, but she probably would 've preferred that then him continuing to run from her. He held his hand out in front of himself and conjured up the haze.
Misora got lost within the haze soon enough, but she didn't seem too worried by the turn of events.
"Hopefully he has something else planned from last time, otherwise it'll be a waste for him to use the exact same attack again. Even if he doesn't have a choice." Misora said to herself.
Hayase was walking through the haze too, making small steps so he wouldn't unexpectedly bump into Misora.
"This time, I'm seriously going to catch her by surprise!" Hayase thought to himself as he held out his hand and closed his eyes for a few moments. Suddenly, a silhouette that looked just like him appeared and he grinned at the sight of it.
"If I can use this to trick Misora and catch her off guard, it'll be my victory today." Hayase said to himself.
Misora was still walking around through the haze and heard the sound of Hayase's voice, so she followed it. She saw the shadow of the real Hayase in the mist and conjured up yet another ray of sunshine. She held up her hand as high as could, as if reaching for more power from the morning sun that beat down on them and tore through the mist before executing her attack.
She put her hands in front of herself and Hayase felt her presence, turning to see her from the corner of his eye. He stood frozen, unsure of what he could do, but then he impulsively held out his own hands and out from them appeared a deep blue beamed of energy with stars around it. Misora's attack hit his and the two beams of energy just disappeared upon contact. The mist then cleared up and Hayase had to take a seat on the ground for a moment, looking at his hand in pure shock.
Misora was impressed, giving Hayase a hand up while saying," You didn't do that intentionally huh? It's ok, at least we got to see something new from you today! Speaking of something new… would you be interested in getting lessons from my mentor?"
"Impressive! So not only have you trained with the former guardian of the kingdom, but even with one of the Celestians, fabled to only work with those who take on the role of guardians of the kingdom?" Rudy asked Axis him inquisitively.
"No, the Celestian we asked wouldn't have me and told me he'd rather not have me bother the others of their sanctuary." Axis explained, trying his best to keep his tone from sounding bitter as he forced a smile onto his face," Misora admitted she was relieved by this, since she didn't like being around that person."
"...I see." Rudy commented as he pulled a few books out and started to look through his records," So, you've got some training done with Cheer but due to various reasons, it seems that mentorship won't be able to last long. Understandable, Cheer had been missing in action for nearly two decades...I don't think she's looking for peace in the land that polluted her mind.
Axis didn't like Rudy's blunt observations but chose to say nothing in response in fear of leaving a bad impression.
"If I'm being honest, I could easily redirect to some very powerful mages across the kingdom...They wouldn't mind taking you on once they get word I directed you for them." Rudy explained as he flipped through the pages of the book in his hand," Azure Mirage Sahar should be old enough to take on a student by now… Sir Isaiah is admittedly more experienced with this sort of thing though, but...his teaching methods aren't for the faint of heart, neither are the requirements to be a member of his...faction. The fellow from the Glass Hollows might be a good mentor as well, ah I digress. Come tomorrow morning and I shall have a more detailed list prepared for you ok?"
Axis nodded and stood up as Rudy placed his book back onto the table and extended his hand to him.
"I understand that this must be a bit frustrating, having to scramble around like this in search of a mentor when you desperately want to catch up to everyone else. But rest assured, I only observe and associate with the best mages of the kingdom. You're in good hands, my boy."
"Thank you and you can just call me Axis, Axis of the Blue Moon." Axis declared as he shook hands with Rudy," I look forward to our next meeting."
"As do I, Axis." Rudy responded with a confident smile on his face
Axis left the house and left Rudy and Blaine by themselves, causing an awkward silence to form in his absence.
"Did you feel the amount of magic coming from that kid? If he didn't have as much power as he did, I would've led him into a ditch!" Blaine said as he took a hearty bite out of the tomato in his hand," But...something felt off about him, so I was admittedly unsure if I should've led him here."
"He's just...new at this. I guess he didn't want to talk about it, but I suspect that he wasn't allowed to practice magic up until now. I know you're able to sense magic in amounts, but magic can tell more than that. His magic feels untamed, all over the place."
Rudy picked out a book that had a drawing of a boy with curly light teal hair and a wide grin on his face and smiled at it nostalgically.
"If he has some guidance, I'm sure that power will be cultivated and put to good use."