[5th of May 2064, Monday, 7 AM]

[Lucas wakes up after a full night's rest. Still in his loaned pyjamas, he stumbles his way through the mansion hallways. He pauses in front of the manor's wall-mounted map to get his bearings.]

LUCAS
According to this, I should make a turn over there…

Oh! The smell of breakfast is getting stronger. Seems savoury.

[At the kitchen, he finds Mezil Thyme working on accounting papers while reviewing photos of the aftermath. He is fully dressed and had already finished his own meal.]

MEZIL
An electronics store in the middle of a shopping mall, completely trashed. Insurance alone won't cover all the costs. Tsk. He's not a Magus and neither is he my student, so I can't draw it from the Association's coffers. If I could arrange with the bank for a loan, maybe we can pay for the damages over the course of nine months…

Hmm… I would prefer to cut down on interest. The longer it takes to pay the debt, the more expensive it'll become. Can we afford six? Three? What should I sell, if I need to?

What if I don't take a loan at all? Do I have enough straight out of my pocket?

There's a supercar that I don't use anymore. Hmm, though, those tend to depreciate in value over time. My name may keep it from reaching junkyard prices, but would still sell well below market average.

What about land? Absolutely not. Farmland is the family's main source of private income. I won't be able to tell how much we'll earn from the harvest at this time next year. That leaves our casks of aged liquor…

[He continues working. Without making eye contact, he addresses the nearby Lucas.]

MEZIL
…Young man. How much longer will you stand at the entrance, feeling sorry for yourself? Be glad that it's not your parents shouldering the cost. Come and have your meal. You'll need all that energy for Aunt Lucidia's lessons.

LUCAS
I wasn't- yes sir.

[The younger man enters the room, stiff-legged and cradling a sore spot on his shoulder. That spot received more extensive stitching compared to the others.]

MEZIL
Would you like something to eat? Please sit down. I'll get a bowl for you. You'll think clearer with some energy.

LUCAS
A-are you sure? You're kinda the big boss around here, right?

MEZIL
Worry not. As the master of the house, I can choose to serve as well.

[Per Mezil's request, today's breakfast is a light meal of The Grandmaster's panada. A panada consists of bread boiled in broth, with a little grating of hard cheese for flavour. Mezil gets up, takes the cutlery, and scoops some into a bowl. He places it down before Lucas. However, Lucas remains reluctant to touch the bowl.]

LUCAS
I-I'm not sure if it's a good idea. Especially when… yesterday… um…

[Mezil forces Lucas to touch the side of the warm bowl. Nothing happened. Nothing broke.]

MEZIL
See? A good night's rest has calmed your powers. You may continue living as a normal adult.

LUCAS
Wow. Sleep really does wonders, I guess? Can't say if my stomach is feeling up to it, though.

MEZIL
Give it a try.

[After a taste test, Lucas digs in with ease and enthusiasm.]

LUCAS
This is more delicious than I thought!

MEZIL
Is the panada to your liking?

LUCAS
I think it's the first thing I've eaten these past few days that hasn't made my stomach hurt. Tastes really good for being so inoffensive on the belly, too.

MEZIL
Perchance, do you happen to have IBS?

LUCAS
Yeah, I get it especially when it's too much dairy or too much spice.

MEZIL
Then my father-in-law was wise to omit milk or cream today. I have IBS as well. It's as though there's a bane that runs in our family to balance out our power.

Though, I personally would never let that stop my quest for spice.

LUCAS
Heh, funny that, I never let it stop me from enjoying ice cream either.

MEZIL
Have you seen a doctor about it yet?

LUCAS
Well, there's only the bi-annual checkups with my general care doctor. It's not like I eat food that makes my stomach upset on a daily basis.

MEZIL
Hmmm… then you have no medical records beyond that one doctor either. Your Aunt Lucidia won't let you go without a proper checkup with a specialist. I'm certain she will arrange for an immediate appointment.

LUCAS
I-I'll be sure to thank her later.

MEZIL
I'll let you enjoy the rest of your meal uninterrupted now. Please take it easy.

[Mezil waits for Lucas while he carries on with his accounting work. Once Lucas finishes his meal, he wipes his mouth clean with the provided napkin.]

LUCAS
That was a real nice breakfast. Thanks.

MEZIL
You're welcome.

LUCAS
How are you feeling, by the way? If that's okay to ask.

MEZIL
I too had a long nap after that ordeal. As you've said, sleep does wonders. Although… I must say that it desynced my routine. With all the upcoming legal and financial matters, perhaps it's best that I remain diurnal for the next few days.

LUCAS
D-diurnal…? Uh… the rumours… they say you're… a… I mean… A-are you really?…

MEZIL
A vampire? I'm aware of my reputation. Rest assured, I'm not the blood-sucking mythological sort.

Besides, I will not consume raw blood due to the risk of infectious diseases. Only cooked variations such as black pudding are accepted. It's not often, as my father-in-law and wife abstain from blood for religious reasons.

LUCAS
Okay… If you insist.

MEZIL
Whenever you're ready, we can begin talking business.

LUCAS
Alright. Business. Uh…

[Lucas squirms in his chair for a moment.]

LUCAS
…Do I want to know how much the repair costs are?

MEZIL
Preferably not. At least not for the next few years. I'd sooner show them to your father as a consequence of his poor decisions. This incident was entirely preventable…

LUCAS
Y-you can say that again.

MEZIL
Now, as the victim of this heinous crime, I believe you deserve an explanation about the circumstances surrounding it.

An unknown individual hired a gang of thugs to kidnap you. We did obtain a description and a name through interrogation, but the kidnappers also admitted that they did not verify this person's identity. It's likely that the arrangement was done under a disguise.

As such, I suspect that their client has experience in espionage or black ops, combined with a baseline knowledge of Aspect Magic.

LUCAS
I guess the attempt happening in broad daylight says something about the extent of their confidence?

MEZIL
At best, it's poor planning from the thugs. At worst, it's a deliberate attempt to cause a public commotion against The Magus Association.

I have to assume the latter. With that kind of expertise, they could have scouted you long before you yourself were aware of your potential.

LUCAS
But… why? I'm just a regular kid. Or rather… I 'was' a regular kid until yesterday. What makes me special?

MEZIL
Knowing your value, I can think of four possible motives.

First: to extort money, either from myself or from your father.

Second: a prisoner exchange. You for one of their comrades.

Third: to indoctrinate you into their organisation.

Fourth: to use you as an ingredient in a heretical experiment.

LUCAS
I… I see…

All of those are their own brand of unsettling. Especially that last one.

MEZIL
Do you know what The Association defines as heresy?

LUCAS
I'm guessing… criminal usage of magic?

MEZIL
Such is only the natural consequence of their intent. The Magus Association defines any magic that sacrifices the life of a person as 'heresy'. Many of their dark arts call for the sacrifice of humans with strong Psychia.

Those born of the Red Aspect, such as yourself and I, carry the greatest potential of them all.

[Mezil shows his Mark, a shining red butterfly.]

MEZIL
Determination. The lifeblood of every living being. It is the will to live and act. Yet only those with Red Psychia can generate the sheer quantities required to materialise a symbol of authority from within their heart.

Cast your Mark before me.

[Lucas tenses up in his seat.]

LUCAS
A… A Mark? That symbol thing? H-here? Right now? A-are you serious?

MEZIL
Yes.

LUCAS
Am I being put on trial? S-something about a Crimson Hall?

MEZIL
No. Consider this a demonstration. Throw all your hesitation to the wind. The fallout shall be mine to deal with.

[The young man looks around, nervous.]

LUCAS
If you say so…

[Putting his hand forward, he focuses his heart and mind. Red light begins to coalesce into a spiral. Kitchen cabinets and drawers fly open, their contents spilling out and picking up speed. The empty bowl of breakfast joins as well.]

LUCAS
Argh! No! Stop stop stop stop!

[A red flash occurs next to Lucas. Mezil has teleported to that spot. With a swift strike, the top of his cane smashes the spiral to smithereens. Upon that instant, an Arcanagram activates from inside the ceiling, preventing the floating objects from crashing into the ground.]

LUCAS
Wha… What just happened? What is t-that THING above my head?!

MEZIL
That is an old safeguarding Arcanagram from your Aunt's childhood. When it detects an excessive number of moving objects, the magic programming within activates to suspend those items in midair. Though it's not been triggered ever since Lucidia mastered her ability.

LUCAS
And the teleport? You did just teleport, right?!

MEZIL
I did. But were I to explain it to you now, you wouldn't understand. Not yet at least. All you need to know – for the time being – is that no matter what happens… Lucidia and I can handle the fallout. So do not fear. Train with all your heart and might.

…That is, should you wish to continue this pursuit. Your family should be here soon. Together with them comes the option to forfeit this path. However, doing so will require me to seal you and your Determination.

LUCAS
Seal…? You just mentioned that Determination is the will to live and act. Something that's in my heart. If you seal that, isn't that the same as sealing away a part of me?

MEZIL
Correct. Just as there are Reds in the world who would fight to keep their power at all cost, there are also those who would willfully choose to seal this side of themselves behind a lock.

Determination is a necessity to get through life. Yet, being excessively determined can lead a person to ruin. Think: constant violence, broken households, estranged relationships, and so on.

Your grandfather was one of those who opted for a voluntary surrender. After his powers activated, his levels of aggression rose beyond his comfort zone. His own persevering kindness refused to allow his conscience to continue down a dark path. Therefore, he accepted the sealing and returned to a normal, productive civilian life.

I won't hold anything against you should you choose that same path.

LUCAS

As much as everything went crazy when my magic just clicked, I don't think I could just get rid of it so readily like Grandpa did. It'd be a short-term comfort for a long-term amputation.

There's this… feeling in me, stirring. Growing. Ready to burst out like a whirling storm. Does that make any sense?

…When I was younger, I always wanted to be a Magus. But dad always told me it's a pigeon-holed dead end. Maybe… I still feel stifled from that?

MEZIL
Hmm. Your father has always been persuasive. There was a time where he even held sway on my decisions. I quit my old job to become an accountant based on his recommendation. However, life decided to plunge me on a different course.

LUCAS
Who are you, exactly? I mean, I've heard bits and pieces from Grandpa and from Dad, but I want to hear it from your own mouth, in your own words.

MEZIL
I am Mezil Thyme, The Supreme Judge of The Magus Association. My primary duty is to protect the peace of this world. To that end, I also examine the worthiness of those who are born of Red.

LUCAS
That… doesn't tell me very much, I think.

MEZIL
It will, in due time.

[Mezil's phone rings. He answers the call. After a quick acknowledgement, he ends it and turns towards Lucas.]

MEZIL
Your family has arrived earlier than expected. They're waiting in the lobby as we speak. Let's get you ready to meet with them. Then we shall settle what needs to be settled.

[END TRANSCRIPT]