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My Blood Mage System

Chapter 1: Act I: The old and the new | The lost son
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Chapter 1: Act I: The old and the new | The lost son

Ding, ding, ding, ding.

Cael glared at the source of the sound—the silver teaspoon stirring sugar in his little brother's tea. It moved on its own, animated by a simple domestic cantrip. The sound itself wasn't as grating on Cael's ears as the fact that it moved on its own. But there was nothing Cael could do about it.

He lowered his eyes to his breakfast and kept tearing at the fried eggs with bacon—the only available way to express his annoyance.

"Vittorio, if you can't use this spell properly, then don't use it at all." Their father's harsh voice rose above the table. The teaspoon immediately stopped.

"Sorry, Father," Vittorio mumbled. As soon as Gianni, placated, turned back to his food, Vittorio immediately gulped down half of his cup.

Now their mother was the one to frown at the younger son. Emilia hated when her children didn't show proper table manners, even now, when only family was present. But instead of saying anything, she gestured with her palm, and a fresh croissant left a basket in the middle of the table and floated to her plate. Emilia began to methodically cut it into pieces.

A normal breakfast at Oliveira household. Dishes and utensils floated through the air by magic; instead of servants of flesh and blood, half-transparent specters moved the empty dishes to the kitchen—a third circle spell made and maintained by their father.

From the windows of the dining hall, built on the tenth floor of Oliveira tower, a magnificent view of their city, Sanremo di Mare: the red and orange tile roofs, the gray stone wall, the golden wheat fields and the green mountains that propped up the blue sky.

"Vittorio, have you finished memorizing the paragraphs your father has tasked you to?" she asked after a minute.

"Y-yeah!" Vittorio sat straighter and nodded. "I can recite it right now, if you want!"

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"That's not magic for the dining table, son," their father, Gianni, interrupted with a snort. "And you know that even reciting a spell can be dangerous if you can't properly control your mana."

"But I can, Father," Vittorio grumbled.

Cael, feeling no appetite, put another piece of egg into his mouth and slowly chewed. No one paid him any attention. As usual. The conversation at the table continued to circle around the latest news and Vittorio's studies.

It didn't matter that Cael, who was twenty—two years older than Vittorio—was the family's heir by birthright. Their father had already named Vittorio his heir, because…

In this world where magic and wizards reigned supreme, Cael was born with no mana. A rare anomaly that his family had fruitlessly tried to cure for two years—until Vittorio, healthy and energetic, was born. And this was how Cael ended up on the sidelines of life.

Everyone from the dumbest peasant had magic. Spells were passed from parents to children and closely guarded, the magic knowledge being one of the most precious things in the world. But even commoners had access to simple spells to make fires, blow dust from the floor or wring out clothing.

The Oliveira family had an entire library of spells that they have gathered for generations. Cael memorized them all—but couldn't do anything with them. His mana pool wasn't just tiny—it was completely blocked, and Cael couldn't pull a single spark of mana out of it.

*At least I wasn't born poor. I should be happy that I can lead a comfortable life instead of toiling dirt from dawn to dusk,* Cael tried to comfort himself, for yet another time, but it was impossible when he was doomed to live as a worthless burden on his family.

He could never be his father's heir, no matter how hard he studied politics, geography and mathematics—his vassals won't ever accept a manaless viscount. All Cael had to do was to not dishonor his family by doing something uncouth for a noble.

Like picking a profession that didn't require magic. A profession that would've given Cael some purpose. The one and only time Cael tried, his father had locked him in the tower for a month.

Cael morosely looked at his cup of tea. Sugarless, because mixing his tea with his hands like a complete invalid, was torturous when his brother did the same with a spell.

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He hurried to finish his food and stood up from the table. "Mother, Father, I'm going for a walk."

Father nodded absentmindedly, not even looking at his eldest son.

Cael clenched his fists, and added, "Towards the main square, where I would dance half-naked for some coin."

This got his attention. Gianni threw Cael a freezing glare. "Try me, and you won't leave your room for a year."

"Cael, don't goad your father," Mother said, pursing her lips. "And don't go too far from the city."

"Walks… You walk so much, and what are you going to find there? Mana?" Vittorio asked, too quietly for anyone but Cael to hear.

Cael scowled at him, and just before leaving the hall, threw, "Maybe I will, Vit."

Half an hour later, Cael was walking through the streets of the city. He didn't have a particular goal, but he hated to sit in his room all day long. There wasn't much for him to do there.

Cael liked to play some music on his lute, to sing and even wrote several songs, the art being one of the few outlets. When he tried to escape his family that one time, he planned to become a bard.

Cael also trained with weapons in their family's training hall, but without magic to strengthen his attacks and body, his skills with a rapier seemed worthless. He mostly trained to keep his body fit and his reactions quick.

Then there were books in their home library—most of them about magic—to keep him company.

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Right now, Cael wasn't in the mood for either. He needed to calm down first, and walks helped.

"Oh, hey! Look, that's Kale-No-Mane!" a high-pitched voice made Cael frown. He turned to see five familiar kids run up and surround him with mocking grins on their faces. He knew them, and they knew him, and they knew no one would care to give them lashes for what they were doing.

Cael surely wasn't going to complain to anyone that he was bullied by children.

"This nickname is as stupid as you," Cael threw at them.

"Ha! Your face is stupid, Kale-No-Mane! Manaless lordling!" the kids' ringleader threw back, causing other children to erupt in snickers and giggles. "Cael had no mana, so he was real sad; he jumped off his tower, that was very bad!"

Cael grit his teeth. This terrible example of poetry was new to him, and completely untrue. He hadn't given up on life that much.

"Just go away, little grubs." He raised his fist. "I can spank you even without mana."

A few kids squealed in fear, but their leader feigned bravery. "Spank us? Ha! Catch us first!"

The boy said a magic word, threw out his hand, and a gust of wind sent a handful of dust at his face. "Run, boys!" the ringleader shouted, and the children ran away, laughing and screaming.

While Cael sneezed and blinked, ready to give the children a few kicks as soon as he'd be able to see them again, they disappeared behind a corner.

Cael scowled at the empty street and kept walking.

In a dozen minutes, he left the city walls and reached his favorite place. It was a part of the riverbank, hidden from the surroundings by trees and thick bushes. Cael's secret spot, where he could relax and forget for a moment about all his troubles.

Cael didn't notice when he dozed off, but he woke up from a loud sound nearby—like something tearing in two with tremendous force. Startled, he shot up to his feet.

Slack-jawed, Cael stared at the stranger who stood in front of him. A stranger… who looked just like Cael's father.