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- A Road Leads to... The Irish Illusionist (Part One) -

Southern part of Ireland - 6h15 a. m.

Melchior's train was moving at a moderate pace; the first sun beams were shining upon the wilderness and its daredevil iron horse. These beautiful, warm and inviting sun beams woke up Melchior. He was involved in a thick linen and his head was on a soft pillow, which he brought in his luggage. He shared his wagon with nobody, and thus he could put some of his belongings in the small center table in front of him.

It took him five minutes to yawl and slowly raise up and sit on the large, comfortable train seat. He looked at the window and saw the Irish wilderness at its full beauty - a large lake surrounded by alpine trees, whose leaves were falling on the grassy ground, creating a golden tapestry.

"Wow..." He said to himself. "This is really beautiful..."

He half closed his eyes when the sunlight became stronger; his smile, however, was still on his face.

"However, I am not here to merely appreciate Mother Nature..." He said, getting closer to the curtains. "I am here to learn how to get part of its power and mists for myself."

That said, he closed the curtains almost completely, leaving only a small strip of light, which illuminated the center of the wagon. Melchior slowly packed his things and prepared to arrive in Ireland's capital, Dublin.

***

Dublin, Ireland - 9h45 a. m.

The train arrived at a busy, thrilling station. Melchior got out of the train and stopped, staring at his surroundings. He could see arches, pillars and other buildings whose architecture led him back to 18th century. He could see all kinds of people coming and getting out of the modern trains - from merchantmen to businessman, everyone seemed to be taking the same vehicle to go in their directions.

Melchior sighed; it was a whole new world to him.

"I've never been to United Kingdom before..." He said to himself in low tone. "Well, I am in Ireland, which is not part of it, but... Feels closer than anything."

He walked out of the station, meeting the life of the modern Irish - vibrant people; some dressed in their soccer shirts, others, mostly teenagers, dressed as punks. Most people were dressing casually, not worrying about being formal. Somehow, it made Melchior feel more comfortable, and even a smile could be seen in his face.

He was wearing a large, dark brown hooded mantle, which covered his body almost completely. The wind hit Melchior and the mantle flew back, showing his black shirt and his jeans, which were thorn in his left knee and near his right ankle. Truth to be told, Melchior had some of punk in his style, and he was proud to show it in a place most people would go for that trend.

"Now... Let's see..." He mottled while walking. "Natalie Soulstone... God... Where do I look for her?"

He looked to his left and saw pubs, stores and other facilities. He looked to his left and saw a church and other stores, and even some apartments on top of the stores, in old-fashioned buildings. Thoughtful, he walked towards the buildings to the right, uncertain if he was ever going to find his path.

Suddenly, he felt something coming; it was coming behind him, and coming fast.

"What the..." He said, turning around.

He was hit by a woman in in-line skates; she was short, around 1,50 or 1,60m in height, thin, white-skinned with short, straight dark hair. She was wearing a large, black hooded mantle, a red shirt with an Anarchy symbol in black and long-sleeved, dark red shirt underneath, small black gauntlets, a ragged dark jeans and a pair of black sneakers, which had "Iron Maiden" written on it.

"I am so sorry!" She said, giving Melchior a hand. "I haven't seen you! I swear I didn't!"

"N-no problems..." Melchior answered, still dazzled. "I hope you didn't get hurt."

"Oh! No, I haven't!" She said in a mischievous tone, putting her hands on her waist. "I'll just have to repair it later... It is an old piece, given to me years ago... Still, easy to manage and restore."

"Phew!" Melchior sighed in relief. "I thought I'd have to pay you something..."

"Oh, silly boy!" She said after a laughter. "If there's no damage, you owe me nothing. Still..."

She then looked to the main clock of the town with a mischievous smile.

"...I think there's a way to make things out..." She said mischievously, looking on the bottom of Melchior's eyes. "...Between the two of us."

"Which is...?" Melchior asked, curious and distrustful.

She started writing something in a piece of paper, which made Melchior worried.

"Look, I don't want any troubles here..." He said. "I am just looking for a person. A woman named... Natalie Soulstone."

When the Irish woman heart that name, she delivered the piece of paper with a mischievous smile.

"Go to this address tonight at 9 p. m., and do not be late." She said. "She will be waiting for you."

She then blinked and kissed Melchior's forehead. Then, she got her bike, jumped on it and went on the opposite direction from which she came. Melchior stood there, with his feet on the cobblestone pavement, looking at the young lady.

"Who's she?" He thought. "Does she actually know Natalie or...?"

He shook his head sideways, driving the thoughts away. Then, he headed to the nearest cafe, in which he sat, ordered a small rhubarb dessert and a cup of tea. Then, he opened his small notebook and made some notes.

"This is quite relaxing..." Melchior thought. "In the end, Thalas gave me a nice gift..."

After ten minutes of writing, he closed it, paid his bill and left the cafe, walking through the cobblestone pavement, watching for cars and bicycles. After all, he had an entire day to look at the Irish castle, sightsee the entire city and even buy a silly stuff or two.

Then, he spotted a small Welsh articles store in the southern part of the city, after two and half hours of walking.

"Yet Anael isn't from here..." Melchior thought. "...I believe he'd like to have something from his father's homeland. I wish I was in Wales to get him pictures an stuff..."

He entered on the store, which was full of sculptures, most of them portraying dragons. Melchior saw a small, green one which looked like a talisman. He didn't think twice and bought it for almost five Euros. Then, he left the shop.

***

Dublin, Ireland - 9h00 p. m.

At last, Melchior arrived at a pub called Thunderbolt Ballerina, which was the most famous and biggest pub in Ireland. It had a strongly Medieval decoration, with armoured soldiers outside and inside the pub, stained glass murals, weapons and paintings on its walls. It also had some fabric around the windows and up on the ceiling. On the right side of the pub, there was a wooden stage with some props, like light effects and other types of effects, like smoke or even bubbles. The illumination was mainly composed of candelabrums and chandeliers.

"Oh... There are stage performances!" Melchior thought. "Maybe Natalie is a performer..."

The tables were all round and wooden - some were larger than others - and the chairs were also wooden, yet very comfortable. When he arrived, the place was crowded; luckily, he managed to sit in the table the nearest of the stage. He ordered a soda for himself and waited.

Then, the lights were dimmed, and a thin layer of smoke appeared on the stage. Melchior stretched his back and sat correctly on the chair in order to see better. After that, he heard the sound of lutes, wooden flutes, hornpipes, harmonicas and drums.

"Is it... A traditional performance? Or something else?" Melchior thought slightly confused.

People started clapping rhythmically, and Melchior followed them. He heard people calling for the "Jewel of the Sea Wind" and clapping much faster and stronger. Then, she appeared.

"It... It cannot be!" Melchior whispered, surprised.

The same young woman Melchior saw hours before - short, thin and short-haired - was on the stage, wearing a large, lilac Medieval dress with purple fabric around her waist. She was wearing wooden shoes, which had lightning painted in white.

She started dancing to the crowd, which clapped, whistled and singed. Melchior stood there, staring at her. Sometimes, he could feel as if his eyes encountered hers, which were hazel with a glare of gold. She bounced, twisted and blinked, charming men with her smile, her hands and her poses.

"Wow..." He thought. "What a woman!"

As she danced, some strange sparks came out of her shoes; Melchior's eyes widened - he knew it was no mere prop stage. There was something else in there. Something...

"...Magical!" Melchior thought, surprised. "It is magic! She is casting... Lightning!"

The crowd went crazy; her tapping was simply too good not to be appreciated. Then, she stepped out of the stage and went straight to the tables, dancing and charming those around her. Once again, her eyes laid on Melchior's, and she mischievously smiled at her.

"Finally... I thought you wouldn't come..." She said through Melchior's mind.

Then, the sound suddenly stopped, for she finished her presentation. She made a reverence to the public, crossing her hands on her chest. Then, she gave Melchior a final look and snapped her fingers.
Suddenly, all lights went out. In a matter of seconds, the woman disappeared - and so did Melchior.

***

"Where... Where am I?"

That's what Melchior asked when he saw himself out of the pub - and outside the town of Dublin. He looked around, seeing the starless sky above him and the surrounding Nature.

Then, he heard a few footsteps coming from behind.

"Did you enjoy the show?" The woman asked mischievously.

Melchior turned around and stood up, looking at her - she was wearing different clothes - a cream jumpsuit, which was tight on her torso, but puffy on her legs, white boots with metal pieces on its tip, purple gloves with a pair of Gothic, lilac metal gauntlets and a long-sleeved, turtleneck, lilac mantle with purple details, including a large lightning design on her back and a lilac, purple-glowing armor covering her torso and waist completely. The metallic belt had some gems in it, which were either sapphire or onyxes.

"Let me introduce myself properly." She said. "My name is Nathalie Soulstone, known as Elemental Mistress, or Lady, if you prefer, of Air, Lightning and Thunder. To the closer and more intimate people, I am merely... The Irish Illusionist." She completed her speech with a reverence in the end.

"Why didn't you tell me earlier?!" Melchior asked.

"Because I like to make things legendary." Natalie replied with a smile. "See, I wanted you to have more or less an idea of what you'll be up to on these next weeks... Melchior Raven-Hayes."

"How do you know my name?!" He asked, surprised. "I didn't even have the chance to..."

"Introduce yourself? There was no need of that!" She replied with a smile. "Balthazar had already told me you were coming! He even described you physically, so that I'd be completely sure of who you were when I met you!"

"Oh... I see..." He commented. "He is a great courier indeed..."

"So... I heard you were sent to train with me..." She said. "I have some questions for you prior to it. Shall we?"

"Of course." Melchior replied.

"Very well. I want you to think before answering, for I'll ask you these same questions again in the future." She said really serious. "First of all - do you really wish to train yourself in the art of Air, Lightning and Thunder mastery? Second - Why? Third - What will you do with the power I grant you in the end of the training? Take your time... I'll wait for your answer."

That said, she sat on the grassy ground with her legs crossed, looking at Melchior, who stood there, reflective. After some minutes, he took a deep breath and looked at Natalie with determination.

"Very well..." He started. "I am here because yet I name myself Elemental Alchemist, I master no element; because of that, my spells are still too unstable to have the expected effects in battle. Second, I'd like to learn you crafts in behalf of a friend of mine, who's a natural in that Element, and could benefit himself from my learning. I believe I've answered everything you asked." He finished with a reverence and a mischievous smile.

Nathalie half closed her eyes and smiled to Melchior, standing up right afterwards.

"I am impressed, I must say." She finally said. "I like your motives; therefore, I'll teach you my secrets. If you prove yourself worthy, I'll give you my masterpiece, my Ultimate Spell and my Elemental Gift. What do you say?"

"Seems like everything I'd wish for!" Melchior happily replied.

"Good, good." Nathalie commented very pleased. "Tonight, we are heading to Edimbrock, Scotland. Your training will be given there. And I hope you succeed in my tests. Brace yourself, Melchior Raven-Hayes: the Thunderstorm is coming!"

To Be Continued...

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