II

Iziser never was quite the same after that experience.

For one thing, he always complained about fatigue. “I’m so tired; I just wanna go back to sleep,” He would say. His legs slung lazily about to propel him forward, and his back slumped forward, weakening his posture. And, another thing: He’d worn the wristband Lozerief gave him continually; he never took it off. He’d go to sleep and shower with it on. Something… wasn’t quite right. 

He had had no idea what it was until one night. He’d been sleeping when the wristband suddenly slipped off his wrist, and the world dissolved around him. He woke up with a start, but nobody was there to hear his yelping. 

He looked around, but he realized he was still in his room, just floating above the bed. When he looked down, though, there was no entity still in the bed; no sleeping Iziser peacefully dozing. This only made him more curious. He tried to force himself down to the bed, but realized he didn’t have any limbs; nothing was moving when he tried to move his arms. 

This was enough to scare him beyond belief, but he forced himself to keep his composure. If he couldn’t make it back to the bed, he couldn’t put the wristband on, and he couldn’t get back to sleep.

He tried again to pull himself down, or to swim through the air like in all those action movies in space, but again, to no avail.

He sighed and relaxed. He forced himself to think about how he could move back to the bed. Perhaps he could rig some kind of contraption to the ceiling? Or maybe he could acquire some sort of weight that could drag him down? No idea would work, though, because he realized he couldn’t move.

Or so he thought. 

He eventually found himself thinking about the concept of downward motion, and that, in and of itself, drifted him down and through the bed. But, he didn’t realize it until it was too late, and he’d drifted into the kitchen below his room, where the empty room lay in pitch-black darkness. 

He tried to recalculate how he’d gotten there. He eventually came up with the conclusion that to ascend, he must think about ascending. He paused for a moment, thinking about the very concept of ascending, and he slowly floated back up through the roof and stopped on top of his bed.

Progress indeed, but as soon as he reached out for the wristband, he realized he couldn’t make himself move his nonexistent limbs. He silently cursed the predicament and his magic.

Ever since he was a child, he’d hated his limited abilities. He could only teleport, and give others the strength to enhance their abilities; he often called himself a walking catalyst. 

Even after his realization, his abilities had been an endless source of intrigue and annoyance. He’d rarely, if ever, been able to use the full extent of his powers thanks to their inherently nonexistent nature. It meant situations like this, where Izi found that he could no longer interact with the world, only spectate. It was disappointing, to say the least.

Iziser sighed. He recalled the last time this had happened (specifically the library), and he began to think of his father. His clean, white military uniform; his gentle, caring hands; his short, but assertive figure; all of these came back to the young monarch and made him feel things: anger, pain, regret, happiness, calm. It was so surreal for him. 

Slowly, he started to make an imprint on the bed before he finally returned to the physical world. Quickly, he pulled the wristband on his wrist before the situation could repeat itself, but he started to wonder: how long would the wristband work? What would happen if he just never wore it? How long could he control his abilities if he didn’t wear it?

The questions swirled in his mind before a guard knocked on his door. “Mister In,” The guard began. “There is a woman here to see you.”

A woman? Iziser wondered. What woman would be here to see me? 

Iziser shook his head, and teleported out to the guard, still in his pajamas. “Alright. I’m here.” 

The guard led him down a staircase, and to the front door, where it was opened, and Iziser gasped at the sight: 

A woman with pale, white skin had shown up at the door, although Iziser wasn’t sure if she could be called a woman at all. She was seven feet tall, and her horns were two feet extra, making her a gross height of nine feet. Her body was lean, and she wore a large, white overcoat, presumably made of polar bear hair.

“What the…” Izi gapes. 

“Hello.” The woman’s smile was somehow eerily welcoming to Iziser. “I’m the Guardian of the Hero of Cognition.” 

Izi blinked. “Wrong place. They’re not here. Go find them somewhere else,” Iziser groaned.

“I came all this way,” She protested. “Might you show some hospitality to me? I came from Ytos.”

“How in the…” Izi shook his head. “Come in,” He begrudgingly grumbled.

“Oh, thank you kindly.” She grinned, stepping in. The guards shut the door behind the woman, who strutted along behind Iziser.

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Iziser led her to the kitchen. He shook his head when the image of being here just minutes ago came to mind. He flipped the lights on. “Are you hungry?” He asked, rubbing his eyes. “Thirsty?”

“I’d take some food if you offered it,” the woman responded.

“Okay, what do I call you?” Iziser asked. “And, why are you here? People don’t normally drag up ancient legends to try and get into the palace.”

“I’m serious when I say I’m the Guardian of the Hero of Cognition,” the woman responded. “And, you can call me Pejemer. Or Peje.”

“Uh-huh. Very serious,” Iziser muttered, pouring two glasses of milk from the fridge. “And, uhm, you can take off the cosplay now. It’s getting a little embarrassing.”

“It’s not cosplay,” Pejemer responded, yanking on her tall horns. They moved with the skin on her head, indicating that they were, in fact, attached to her head.

Izi blinked. “And… just making sure: you’re not a hallucination?” He rubs his eyes again to make sure.

“No,” Pejemer responded with a frown. “Why would I be?”

Izi blinked again. “Uhm okay.” He handed her the glass of milk. 

Pejemer took it, thanking him kindly, and quickly downing the milk. “And, is the Hero of Cognition a native of Zeneste?”

“I don’t know,” Izi muttered. “And even if they were, I wouldn’t care.”

Peje paused for a moment. “I was drawn to this place,” She began. “I walked to Ytosi City, and then I took a ferry from there to Obizoe. I couldn’t afford the fare, so I worked odd jobs in Ytos until I could. Once I arrived in Zeneste, I walked through the plains to get here.”

“Uh-huh.” Izi frowned. “Sure you did.”

“I did,” Pejemer insisted. “I walked by night and slept by day. I followed my instincts and I wound up here.”

“Mhm. And you’re sure you’re not just some distraction for a group of bandits?” Iziser asked. 

“I’m sure,” Pejemer responded.

“Uh-huh.” Iziser frowned. “Would you know the Hero of Cognition if you saw him?”

“I believe he’s you,” Pejemer explained.

Iziser frowned in thought. Like Lozerief had said: that couldn’t have been his realization. The blinding flash of light, the sudden disappearance. That couldn’t have been, right? 

He shook his head. “Nuh uh. Wrong guy.”

“I insist,” She responded, setting her glass down, and leaning up against the counter. “It must be you. It has to be.”

“It’s not,” Izi grumbled. “You’re wasting your time. 

Pejemer’s eyes stared down at him quizzically. Iziser flustered under her gaze. He’s not exactly sure how to answer her, but he firmly believed he wasn’t the Hero of Cognition. 

“I can just teleport,” He protested. “I’m a normal Cognitive magician!”

“All Heroes begin normally,” Pejemer responded. “But-“

“Every Hero is made.” Iziser sighed. “I’ve heard the saying. I know what it means. You won’t fool me with that logic.”

“But I suspect you’re capable of more than teleporting,” Pejemer responded.

“That’s ridiculous!” Iziser protested. “Who are you to make that assumption?”

“I am the-“

“THE GUARDIAN OF THE FUCKING HERO OF COGNITION,” Izi roared. “Yes we know, get it out of your system!”

Pejemer’s eyes trembled a bit in their sockets. She stared down at Iziser with some fright, but that fright quickly turned into dominance.

“I know who I am,” Pejemer responded with a dangerous expression. “Who are you?”

Iziser gulps. “In Iziser. Future King of Zeneste. Understudy of Eheste Lozerief, Hero of Earth.”

“What, then, is the wristband for?” Pejemer asked.

“It just looks pretty,” He protested. In actuality, it looked unoriginal and uninteresting. 

“Does it serve a function?”

“No,” He protested.

“Mhm.” Pejemer sat on the counter. “Tell me about yourself, then.”

Well, what was he supposed to say? «I’m an orphan who’s about to be King when he’s eighteen, oh yeah, and don’t forget about the weird, existential powers I have.» No, clearly not.

“I study magic,” Iziser answered. “And quantum physics. Some statistics on the side.”

“Ideas,” Pejemer answered. “So you manifest your magic mentally.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Iziser grumbled.

“It means you’re the Hero of Cognition,” She responded.

“I am not the Hero of Cognition! Get it out of your brain right now!” Iziser growled.

“I think you’re just insecure about your position,” Pejemer assessed.

“What gives you the right to make that assessment?” Izi barked.

“Nobody,” Pejemer responded, “but anyone else would be honored to be a Hero, especially someone who loves to study magic. But you? You’re different.”

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“You can’t make that judgement based on how I act!” Iziser complained. 

“I just did,” Pejemer responded with a shrug.

“Ugh!” Izi exclaimed. “Fine, what do you want? Money?”

“I just want a place to sleep and food,” Pejemer answers. 

“Guest bedroom is down the hall on the right,” Izi directed. “Just pick one.” He teleported away thereafter, back to his bedroom to go to sleep.

Pejemer sighed. She knew what she had said was true, but there was no real way of convincing the premature monarch. She walked glumly to her bedroom to stay the night.