To his consternation, the little girl came back every day bringing the herb with her.
When mentioned to Stanley, the man laughed and said, "That's Lily. She drops by everyday right before the store closes to buy a flower for her mother. I would give them to her for free, but she insists that she pays."
Stanley shook his head sadly. "Her mother's sick, you see, so Lily goes out every day to earn a bit of money to try and supplement their household income. I tried to offer her a job here, but it seems like she doesn't want to feel indebted to anyone."
Alec respected that, though he didn't necessarily agree. What was pride when you needed the work? As long as you made sure you did your best and not slack off, wasn't it fine?
The little girl, though touched by the darker sides of the world, was able to keep her smile and joy for learning even as she did her best. Alec himself didn't think he would be able to do that.
If someone he loved was facing such difficulty, though he would try his best to smile, he didn't think that it would be able to reach his eyes like that girl.
She was slowly but steadily growing on him.
The bell hung at the top of the door rang again.
"Alec!" Lily called out cheerfully.
The best thing about this little girl was that her happiness was genuine, unlike Alec's polite demeanour.
Lily brandished the pot that Alec gave her four days ago, beaming. "Look! It's still doing well under my care."
Alec examined the leaves of the herb, nodding in agreement. "It is."
As Lily chatted happily, a sudden thought bloomed inside of Alec. Maybe… he would be able to help her out after they left. He would hate to see all that potential wasted after he left.
The moment the idea appeared in his mind, the more it grew, like a seed that had been quietly sprouting all this time.
Besides, hadn't he always wanted to try and find someone else to see if another Awakening type Magitype was able to replicate what he was able to do? However, what were the chances of Lily being an Awakening type?
"Lily," Alec said slowly, causing the girl to stop her chatter as if she could hear the seriousness in his words.
"What is your Magitype?"
Though it wasn't exactly considered polite to ask, and there were valid reasons why they shouldn't tell their Magitype to someone they didn't trust, Alec wondered if Lily would tell him anyway.
Lily visibly hesitated, a look of wariness on her face, but Alec could tell that it wasn't because she didn't think it was alright to tell him. Rather, she looked like she was hesitant because she didn't know how he would react.
Seeing her react like this, Alec wondered if it was alright for him to get his hopes up. Could she really be…?
"You won't make fun of me, right? You'll still be my friend no matter what?" Lily's tone was both worried and shy.
"I'm… I'm an Awakening type," Lily said, her face lowered to the ground. She peeked up hesitantly at him, trying to judge his reaction.
Alec made sure to maintain his smiling expression, even when he felt a little something inside him soften.
"Me too," Alec said.
Lily gasped, brightening back up. "Really?!"
Alec nodded and gestured for her to come over. Lily plodded over with the pot still clutched in her hand, practically glowing.
She'd never met another person who had the same Magitype as her, and that made her extremely excited. All the other kids didn't want to be friends with her because they said she was useless, but that was fine. She had her books, and she had her plants. She also had her mama, so wasn't it fine?
Now, her new friend Alec told her that they were the same. How could she not be excited? This gentle older boy that smiled at her so softly, watching her with a fondness that no one else but her mama showed her.
Lily felt like she was basking in the sun every time she saw his smile directed at her.
Although her mama told her not to tell strangers about her Magitype in case they discriminated against her, wasn't it fine because it was Alec?
Lily always felt so happy when she saw Alec's smile. She wondered if this was what an older brother felt like.
"Do you know any of the Elemental magic technique?"
Lily nodded, so Alec directed her attention at the Viridian Herb.
"Look at the herb. Concentrate your magic on it and tell me if you see anything."
Lily closed her eyes, focusing hard. Slowly, the magic that was inside her body tentatively left her body, coating the herb. She gasped.
"There's… something weird. It feels…" she struggled to describe it. "It gives me the feeling like… the herb is supposed to be able to survive harsher conditions?"
Alec smiled. That was a part of his theory that was proven. Other Awakening Magitypes could feel when something had been Awakened. Now, only the question remained whether or not she was able to do it as well?
"Wait! This means that the herb didn't survive because I was taking care of it! It was able to survive on its own?!"
Her statement drew a rare laugh out of Alec, causing the little girl to stare at his laughing face with her mouth opened, stunned. Alec didn't notice, having turned around to grab a seed.
Alec handed Lily a single seed from the non-poisonous Viridian Herb.
Lily eyed the seed with sparkly eyes. The seed was the same shade of green as the herb, small and shaped like a teardrop. When it was held up in the light, the seed was see-through.
"Plant it next to the one I've given you."
Lily used her fingers to part a bit of the soil with well-practiced ease, stopping Alec who had been about to hand her a small spade.
Covering it back up, she looked at Alec curiously. "What now? Should I take it back for a couple of days?"
Alec shook his head, instructing her seriously as he ran through his own thought processes.
"Now, try and Awaken the seed's latent potential. Try and accentuate the seed's reproduction ability. Instead of having to rely on fertilizer from the soil, change a bit and make the herb draw in more magic… yes, that's it."
Alec was amazed when he felt that she had succeeded in half the time he took. She was taking to this like a duck to water, considering that she hadn't the faintest inkling that she could do this.
Either Lily was gifted in this department, or it was an innate skill for those of the Awakening Magitype. Focusing harder, Alec could sense that a bond had been formed between Lily and the sprouting seed.
However, she didn't seem to be reacting to it?
"Do you feel something like a bond between you and the seed?"
Lily shook her head, looking puzzled. "I can feel that it's growing really quickly that's all."
Alec fell silent. So, they still differed after all. However, this also opened up a lot of other possibilities.
"Lily," Alec said seriously. "Don't ever let anyone tell you you're useless. There's nothing useless in this world. We just haven't found out what it's useful for, that's all. Don't ever discount yourself. You just have to think harder about it and find a way."
Lily's expression was serious as she looked at Alec's smile. She engraved the words in her heart, silently conveying her thanks.
Even her mama hadn't told her these words, and they made her feel emotional.
That's right. She didn't need protection, nor did she need encouragement. She just had to know that she would be able to make a use out of her Magitype. She wasn't useless, nor was she weak. She would be strong in her own way.
"Lily swears that she'll never let anyone else's negative words affect her," she said, falling back into her old habit of referring to herself in third form. So focused, she didn't even notice that she was doing it.
Alec's smile grew a fraction. "Good girl."
Maybe he wasn't so bad with kids after all.
Top 150: 3 bonus chapters
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Coming up with herb names are a lot harder than I thought... (sweats)
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