9. Learning is…
While Lia and Orven continued their private discussion in the shops back room, Arend learns as much as he can from Orven’s assistant. Teaching him the difference between the quality of each potion and their effects, Orven’s assistant was perplexed by Arend’s comprehension. Not many children his age are able to absorb the information that she was explaining. Many youths would grow bored from just the instruction of a potions advantages, disadvantages, or talks about their effects.
Secretly excited in her heart, Orven’s assistant continued to serve customers throughout the shop while keeping an eye on the little boy. For Arend, he would examine the merchandise behind the counter, looking through each bottle and sometimes sniff their contents. Whenever he came across an intriguing tonic or elixir, he would bother Orven’s assistant as soon as she finished dealing with a customer.
“Ms. Assistant, the bottles behind this counter all have a sour smell, but their colors are different. Bottles on the left have a translucent shine, the ones in the middle are more of a dull shine and the bottles on the right are all a flat color.
From what I learned, appearance relates to quality, so why would all the shiny, dull and flat colored items be priced the same? What is the purpose for these things?”
Hearing Arends questions about the potions, she glanced at the counter where he hovered around and smiled. Arend’s interest refreshed her usual mundane interactions with customers, gaining an idea, she sought to test Arend’s knowledge thus far.
“Well, Arend, your not wrong in believing that appearance represents quality, even many experienced merchants carry the same knowledge.
Let me explain further after you have smelled the potions I pick out.”
Orven’s Assistant walked to the counter, picking up several bottles of the same shine and laid them in a line in front of Arend, gesturing for Arend to smell each one.
“A potions shine relates to their quality, but for the mixtures contained in this area of the shop, that does not hold true. For this particular selection, these potions are used as a repellant for monsters while traveling. Instead of appearance, the concoctions scent is what determines their quality.
Now the first bottle to the right carries a sour smell similar to a rotting fruit, the one in the middle has a heavy sourness that can irritate the nose, almost as if it was someone’s urine. Lastly, the left mixture carries the lightest sour smell, I would even say it’s closer to being sweet like flowers.”
Arend sniffed each bottle and confirmed each mixture just as how she explained.
“Oh, so this is what you meant when their quality is better with a stronger smell.”
“Now Arend, please arrange the potions from best quality to its lowest for me?”
Responding to the Assistants inquiry, Arend placed the urine smelling liquid first, followed by the mixture smelling like rotten fruit and finally the sweet and sour concoction at the end. Orven’s Assistant clasped her hands with delight, her excitement clearly showing on her face, Arend meekly shrugged as he scratched the back of his head.
“Would the appearance of these liquids have any significance?
“The liquids with the purest shine or translucence are blessed potions, they are best used against tainted monsters associated with a darkness attribute. Flat colored mixtures are for mundane beasts that roam the wilderness and roads. The dull shining potions are a combination of the two and are the most frequently purchased items. Adventurers and merchants will always come to buy these, so we always keep them in stock, more than our cures and healing products.”
Arend nodded in agreement to the Assistants explanation, it was a fairly accurate assumption for him, when he arranged the potions’ from best quality to its poorest. But now a lingering question appeared in his mind, how do you make these warding potions, more so acquiring their ingredients. Reading Arend’s facial expression, rather than explaining everything, Orven’s assistant went to the back corner of the shop and pulled out a dusty book from a shelf, handing it over to Arend.
“They’re a bit old but these are my notes from when I was learning how to make potions under Orven’s guidance. I planned to get rid of it somehow but rarely had the chance. Inside it, I’m sure you can find the answers you’re looking for.”
“But if the potions smell determines quality, why not price your concoctions according to that?”
“It would make sense to do it that way, right? But unfortunately, our customers don’t always have the best noses and the ones that do often complain, furthermore we do have customers who aren’t able to smell at all.
So rather than deal with a headache, Mr. Orven decided to make this area of the shop a set price zone. When patrons come to this counter, those who are unaware of what they buy, gamble with quality. But the customers who are astute buy our most potent monster repellant at a decent price.”
Seeing Arend’s face crumple with concern, Orven’s Assistant immediately reassured him.
“Don’t worry we averaged the price line to be between a high and a mid quality elixir, so we come out with a profit.”
Ruffling the hair on Arend’s head like a puppy, Orven’s assistant realized the line forming near the healing potion counter and briskly moved over. As soon as she left Arend, Lia and Orven appeared from the door of the shops back room. Fixing his disheveled hair and placing the Assistants notes in his magic pouch, Arend made his way to Orven and Lia’s side.
“Alright you two, I would walk both of you back to the orphanage, but my assistant has been neglecting her duties. Lia, please convey to the Church Headmistress my intentions to teach at the orphanage. Arend, I’ll be looking forward to your progress, if you have any questions, please hold them until I arrive to teach at the orphanage.”
Moving to assist the line of customers with his Assistant, Lia grasped Arend’s hand bid farewells and exited the Healers shop. She and Arend made several stops in the town marketplace, haggling merchants and purchasing different types of fruits, plants, and supplies. Along the way back to the orphanage, Sister Lia brooded over Orven’s suggestion, ‘we should tell him the truth about himself before he recalls his trauma’. Deciding not to overthink the situation, she slowed down her pace.
The road opened up when a few merchant stalls closed, gradually selling out their wares. Gently clutching Arend’s hand, anxious Lia turned towards him and asked if he remembered what the orphanage was like, before the river incident. He replied that it was all blank, as much as he tried, even now, he would not be able to recall.
“Arend… since you’re unable to recall… it was difficult, but you were distant with everyone at the orphanage, untrusting of others and at times indifferent, I want to change that.”
Tilting his head to her sudden comment, Arend pondered deeply, matching his strides to Sister Lia’s.
“I’d like you to start fresh, build mutual friendships and trust with the other children. Learn from others, help them as well. You were fearless saving Nel from drowning in the river, but you must not forget about yourself. If you truly aim to become an excellent adventurer, first you need allies. ”
With a tender smile Lia stopped to the side of the road, bending slightly she hugged Arend.
“Sooner or later you will have to leave this town, but know that you will never be alone. Your family, friends, everyone close to you will always be here with you.”
Bringing Arend’s hand to his heart and firmly gripping his shoulder, Sister Lia affirmed that he understood through his gaze. Matching his view with Lia, Arend grew curious about his parents and why he was orphaned. Who was Arend before he arrived in this world?
“Sister… where are… who were my parents?”
Turning away and picking herself up, Lia began to walk again, calmly pulling Arend along.
“If you want to know, how about becoming stronger and making friends first, maybe then will I tell you about them.”
When the duo neared the Churches orphanage, the sun was just above the mountain horizon, slowly drawing behind the mountain range. Several of the children played around the sides of the church and others would help with the chores and tasks. By the time Arend and Sister Lia made it to the front doors, Lia had finished explaining tasks the children were responsible for, including what their common education entailed.
Nel was unable to concentrate for the rest of the day after breakfast. The children in the orphanage were also confused by Arend’s actions that morning. After drowning from the river, no one expected Arend to act like a different person altogether.
Originally when Arend arrived at the orphanage, many children tried to befriend him, but slowly they distanced themselves as Arend never held an interest towards them. No one truly understood Arend’s trauma, but many of the older children could assume his losses as tragic. Connecting with Arend was difficult from the day he arrived at the orphanage until the day before saving Nel, Arend was deemed a shut-in who mostly kept to himself. It was only when the Sisters of the church did their best for him, did he respond in a decent manner, but for every other child around his age, Arend’s response always carried a cold indifference. It has been almost two years from the time Arend arrived at the Orphanage, so the change in his actions caused quite a ripple in everyone’s thoughts.
A lingering feeling of doubt was left in most children, Arend’s change in attitude was unthinkable, but for many who felt slighted by Arend, a grudge grew in their hearts. Arend’s cold attitude had kept these children from bullying him, but with his sudden change, these children assumed his kindness as a vulnerability. The older children with ill intentions began to devise a few ways to teach Arend a lesson for his introverted attitude.
Nel on the other hand, could not get Arend off her mind, as memories of yesterday’s events kept distracting her. After breakfast and during the rest of the day, the other girls read through Nel’s mood, they tried to dissuade her jumbled feelings with Arend’s previous unsociable attitude. It was still a fact that Arend rescued Nel from the river, but no one could understand his intentions from that time.
One of the girls next to Nel gave another past event as an example of how uncaring Arend was. It was not life threatening but when one of the girls sprained her ankle, as the only boy around during that time, Arend did not even offer help, the girls had to carry the injured girl back to Sisters at the Orphanage. From that little example, the rest of the girls near Nel began chiming in about Arend’s unconcerned behavior.
Opposite to their expectations, Nel’s mind began to center on herself. ‘Why me? Why did he save me? Does he like me? Does he have something against me?’ As Nel’s mind emitted smoke between her ears, her body became tense and she collapsed to the floor. One of the girls nearest to Nel caught her and another girl immediately ran to find one of the Churches Sisters. And as the rest of the girls’ around Nel cared for her, they began to discuss amongst themselves, if there was anything good about Arend.
Arend grasped the general sense for his situation, understanding he wasn’t the most respected child, due to the actions of his old self. But Arend was not discouraged from about the past, he had another lifetimes’ worth of experiences. Rather he was determined to live a better life than the one he had on Earth. Caught up in his own thoughts, Arend was unaware of Sister Lia’s explanation about how to make friends within the orphanage. He almost ignored her altogether if he did not sense the change in the tone of her voice.
“That will be all the advice I’m sharing with you today. I will be away for quite some time, busy with many matters. Do not cause trouble, if I learn that you’ve been misbehaving by the time I return…”
Towards the end of her statement Sister Lia’s eyes flashed with a sinister glint. Remembering her appearance at Orven’s Shop caused the hairs on Arend’s neck to stand on end, shivering to the thought that he would be on the receiving end of her rage.
“I will remember to think well on that, Sister.”
With a slight bow, Arend departed ways with Sister Lia inside the orphanages main entrance hall, swiftly moving through the corridors to the direction of his sleeping area, he was eager to read the books and notes he received. Sister Lia set off at a leisurely pace for the Headmistress’s office in order to relay Orven’s request and handle several other matters. By the time it was known to the older kids that Arend was back, all the children were already making their way to the dining hall.
The church bells tolled as the sun had already set behind the mountain range and stars begun appearing in the night sky. Arend didn’t mind skipping dinner, he was ecstatic by the items he received at Orven’s shop. Unbeknownst to Arend, the children who harbored ill intentions sought to confront him inside the dining hall, preparing to teach Arend a lesson.
The dining hall was clamorous as everyone received their meals from the Sisters serving them. On several occasions during mealtime, the Sisters serving dinner had to come out and quell the hall, threatening for lighter servings if the children do not settle down. A motherly sister scolded the rowdy youths, her rough accent sometimes confused the children, as her yammering was inaudible at times.
“Enough with the chatter, eat yer fill and moof along. We haver lot te mouths te feed and not te enough chairs ye.”
“Ye young’uns ovah there, clean’p yer mess an’ shur~ra table.”
No one could withstand the pressure of receiving less food, the dining hall immediately calmed and some of the children began conversing in only whispers, but soon the babble increased in volume.
“Enough with ya racket, fill yer tummy and off to bed with ye.”
“If yer hav~eh time te talk, yer haver time te fill yer mouth.”
Expecting Arend to show up, the children with their grudges, huddled nearest the dining hall entrance consuming their meals. They waited patiently and ate slowly, so as to prolong their time in the dining hall. Within their group, they whispered various ways to intimidate and embarrass Arend, but as they neared the end of their meals, they noticed Arend had not entered the dining hall at all. The Sisters serving meals had already put away the food and little by little the rest of the children had been exiting the dining hall.
The group sitting next to the entrance grew irate by Arend’s absence, abruptly leaving their table, not caring to clean up after themselves. Leaving their bowls and utensils, they briskly left the dining hall in a foul mood. Before the Sisters serving meals had a chance to reprimand these older kids, each one had already exited the dining hall.
~”His attitude has not changed, whoever thought he became a different person must have eaten too many sweets.”
~”There will be more chances later, to teach him a lesson, it has been far too long for his attitude to go unpunished.”
~”I heard Sister Lia will be busy for the next few days, he won’t have his guardian watching over him for a while.”
As the group split toward their individual sleeping areas, malicious ideas continued to play through their minds.