How much longer will it be before I can return home? I’ve already been stuck in the Immortal Continent with Lucia for over a year now. Sure, she became an earth-realm expert in a year when it takes the average person over a hundred, but there’s no telling how long it’ll take her to reach the sky realm. I wonder how my father is doing; I hope he’s not worried. He may be one of the stronger people back at home, but there was that issue with the plants possessing people from the other plane. Ah, worrying about it now won’t do anything. I have to focus on the tasks at hand.
…So much for focusing on tasks at hand. “Yes, Lucia? Haven’t I told you repeatedly not to teleport into my room like that?”
“I vaguely remember you saying something like that,” Lucia said, her head bobbing up and down once. “Anyways. I have a very, very important task for you.”
Another task…? The first time she said she had a very, very, super-duper important task for me, she forced me to increase the production of her acorn stew and hot chocolate factory through magic. “What is it this time?”
Lucia clapped her hands onto my shoulders and stared me in the eyes, unblinking. “I want you to help me become smarter.” A wrinkle appeared on her forehead. “Wait, no. I want you to help me express my already high intelligence in a manner that lets more people think I’m smart.” Her head tilted to the side. “Can you do that?”
“Did someone call you stupid again?”
“Softie said I’m not smart enough to learn illusion-countering techniques!”
Well…, if she’s saying that, then there must be a reason behind it: like it’s true. “Alright. I can help you.”
“Eh? Really!? You can!?” Lucia’s eyes lit up and she lifted me into the air. It was uncomfortable because she was lifting me by my shoulders in an overhand grip. “Why haven’t you helped me earlier!?”
“I have. Put me down, please.” I really have. It’s just that Lucia always got distracted. “Have a seat.”
Lucia sat down on the floor, her tail twitching back and forth as she beamed at me. I retrieved some things from my interspacial ring and placed them onto the floorboards in front of her. “Ilya…,” Lucia said as her face crumpled. “Is this what I think it is…?”
I don’t know what you think it is, Lucia, because I can never know what you’re thinking. “If you want to express your intelligence, then you should learn how to read and write. Writing will allow you to immortalize your words. Even after you die, people will remember what you’ve said if it’s written down.”
Lucia deflated. Her tail slumped, followed by her shoulders, and then finally her head. The rest of her body slid down like a wet noodle while she let out a drawn-out sigh. When her chin touched the floorboards and her body was flattened like a pancake, she made a strange whining noise. “Isn’t there an easier way? Not all smart people are literate!”
“But the ones that everyone knows about are.”
“But, but … what about people like Durandal? Yeah! Durandal’s super smart and well-known, but he’s illiterate!”
“Durandal can read….”
Lucia froze. “…He can?”
“Did you not know…?”
Lucia scratched her head. “I must’ve forgot.”
I stared at Lucia and she stared back at me. This continued for a while. What was she waiting for? “If you’re looking for easier ways to become smarter, then I don’t have any. Learning to read is the simplest way I know. Not only does writing allow you to share your ideas with others, you can even digest the ideas of other people, including dead people’s.”
Lucia wrinkled her forehead. “That sounds like magic. And I can’t do magic.”
It’s not magic! It’s reading! “Lucia. You can do it. With that giant bone of focus, there’s absolutely no reason for you not to be able to.”
“But it’s hard,” Lucia whined. “And it makes my head hurt.”
“Wasn’t it hard when you first started training your Madness Strikes? Didn’t your body hurt? You carried on despite that, didn’t you? Your brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it becomes to use it more.”
“When you put it that way…,” Lucia muttered to herself while stroking her tail which had curled around towards her chest. She sat up and straightened her back. “But is it true? Brains are squishy compared to muscles! They definitely don’t work the same way.”
“You’ll just have to take my word for it.” Lucia came to me begging for help, but somehow, I’m the one begging her to take my advice. This is usually how interactions with Lucia end up. “Are you going to learn or not?”
“Not!” Lucia shook her head back and forth. “I can’t do it. It’s simply impossible. Give me another way.”
I sighed. “You just want to counter illusionary techniques, right?” Was this because of that one time I trapped her inside of an illusion? I was testing out a defensive formation I picked up from the Nine-tailed Fox Sect and Lucia walked into it because she entered my room without knocking. She thought I was pranking her…. My butt still hurts just thinking about it.
“I mean, that’d be nice, but I want to be smart too!”
“I have a way for you to counter illusionary techniques.” As for making her smarter, I don’t think that’s possible. There’s the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, there’s the second part of that saying which is you can’t teach Lucia. Anything. Unless you’re Durandal, but even he’s failed at teaching her how to read and write.
“Really? But what about making me smarter?”
“Right. See, people are innovative creatures. If we’re lacking in scales for defense, we make armor. If we don’t have claws, we create swords. If you’re susceptible to illusionary techniques, then you just need an item that prevents them. Here you go.” I took out an item that I had retrieved from the Nine-tailed Fox Sect and passed it over to Lucia. I was studying it, but I don’t need it anymore, and I forgot about it until now. “You just wear it and it’ll prevent illusionary attacks below the earth realm. It’ll stop an earth-realm expert’s illusion, but it’ll break.”
“Ilya. How do I wear this?”
“It’s a veil. You wear it like a hat and it covers your face.”
“…But then how will people recognize my beauty?”
When did Lucia become so vain…? Or was she always like that? “Do you want it or not?”
“Can you turn it into something else? Oh! What if I tear it a bit and make it into a ribbon?” Before I could stop her, Lucia tore the veil. It exploded. Qi rushed through the room, ruining my furniture. It’s a good thing all my important research materials were kept safely in my interspacial rings. I have to keep every valuable item hidden away from Lucia or she’ll break it without intending to. Like that veil. “Ilya! Why didn’t you warn me!?” Lucia’s hair was frayed and messy from the explosion, but other than that, she was unhurt.
And this is why I feel like there’s no hope for Lucia’s intelligence. “I’ll make you a necklace that counters illusionary attacks.”
“Will it make me smarter too?”
I’ll redirect her attention instead of answering. “It’ll be ready in a week.”
“But will it make me smarter!?” Lucia disappeared and lifted me up from behind.
That stupid bone of focus makes her fixate on the stupidest things! “Yes! It will! Please, let me down! Believe in me!” Alright, it won’t, but maybe the placebo effect will work. As long as she sincerely believes it’ll make her smarter, then maybe, just maybe, she’ll become a little more intelligent.