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Chapter 23.1: Ilami

by Lightsong


‘The fights weren’t fair and you knew it,’ Ilami hissed. Now that the Test was over, there was no reason for Mr. Haifei to train her in private. It was her idea to barge into his office first thing in the morning.

He looked up from a few papers he held and raised an eyebrow. ‘Do you expect me to do something about it?’

‘You are a combat teacher of a prestigious academy!’ She clenched her hands. ‘You should be insulted to have your student won not by their own merit, but by the twisted experimentation of the Church.’

‘Shouldn’t you be quiet about this?’ Mr. Haifei said in a low voice. ‘This office isn’t exactly soundproof.’

Ilami’s face turned red. How dare he chastise me at this point? she thought, fuming. ‘If you could make sure the fights were fair, I could’ve won. You know that.’

Mr. Haifei left the papers on the table and titled his head. ‘No, I don’t. What I know is that before that boy went berserk, both of you were evenly matched. The same went to Felaris. The difference of skills between the three of you are minimal. Either one could’ve won the match.

‘Now that we’re on the subject of the Test, I want to ask you: do you think you winning the Test is going to impress me? To the point where I would share the academy’s secrets with you?’

‘I –’ Why did he have to make it sound ridiculous? ‘You wanted me to show you that I was worth sharing the information. Winning the Test was the only way to do it.’

He sighed. ‘Ignorant child. Even if you win the Test, you are still going to be bounded by the Church. You might win an artifact, bu they would chain your hands from using it. You might think you have something to use against them, but when in reality, you have just submitted to be their pawn.’

Ilami bit her lip. He had a point. But why was he talking about the Church as if they were the enemy? Whose side was he really on? She decided to play along. ‘What now? They took Haka and Aleveri. Haka is their doing, I understand if they want him to be under their watch. But what about Aleveri? She’s done nothing for them.’

Mr. Haifei didn’t say a word. Instead, he stared at Ilami for a few seconds before speaking up. ‘Aleveri can be an asset to the Church. No Uora member has ever sided with them. To have someone who is young and a prodigy in the healing magic at their side is an advantage they cannot take for granted. She doesn’t have a competition, if I’m to be honest. Gael might be a brilliant scholar, but he doesn’t have Natural magic.’

‘You’re talking as if they are objects to be used,’ Ilami said.

‘I’m thinking like they do,’ Mr. Haifei said. ‘Not everyone is transparent, Ilami.’

‘I know that,’ Ilami said. ‘Which is why I’ve been wondering about you. Whose side are you on? If you’re on Mother and the Church’, you would’ve told them I’m not shutting up about this. If you’re on our side, I couldn’t think of one way you have helped us.’

Mr. Haifei’s mouth twitched a little bit. ‘Interesting. In your opinion, there are two sides conflicting with each other here. The one that conducts the experiment – the Church and Ms. Venaria, and the one that is against it – you and your friends. Am I correct?’

Ilami frowned. ‘Why are you stating the obvious?’

‘I’ve told you; not everything is as it seems to be. There is much you don’t know about the experiment. Without enough clues, you can’t visualize the bigger picture.’

‘Enough of that,’ Ilami said, shaking her head. ‘I want to know. Are you on our side?’

Mr. Haifei stared at her for a long time, before leaning forward. His voice was soft and slow. ‘The Church belongs to Lio and his followers; my heart belongs to the god who has blessed me with his gift and the church that has dedicated itself to worshiping him. I’m on the side of those who have been left behind, Ilami. The ancient and the powerful. Do you really think the Church doesn’t have enemies? Those who actually have enough resources to fight it?’

The church for Xesar, Ilami said. Fire passion.

Something stirred in her heart. For so long she showed no interest with the churches, seeing them using their words to influence others. Their rethoric didn’t capture her interest. But now, her teacher seemed to imply there was a church worth being a part of, worshiping a Natural who was actually the one who blessed her. Did Xesar ruled by fear, just like Lio did? Or was he anything unlike him?

‘This church you’re speaking of, it’s against the experiment, isn’t?’ she asked. Her heart beat rapidly as she saw a decision she should make.

‘Definitely,’ Mr. Haifei said. ‘Xesar wouldn’t approve such horrible thing. He’d definitely help those who try to stop it from continuing.’

Ilami heard the words suggestive as they were. She took a drastic step. ‘I want to be a member of this church.’

Mr. Haifei shook his head. ‘It’s not easy as that. You represent the very thing we are opposing. You are the daughter of Ms. Venaria who lets the academy to be a place of experimentation. Your friends, Haka and Aleveri, represent the very church we are against.’ He held out his arms. ‘It’s the same thing over and over again. You need to prove yourself to be one of us.’

Ilami was silent. She had tried to win the Test to prove herself for Mr. Haifei and it didn’t work out. Now, she had to do it again for something that was apparently bigger than him. But what else she could offer? Should she? She had thought sharing the same goal would be enough for her to get the membership. If it required something for her, it meant she wouldn’t just be a regular member. Perhaps she would be included in a group that specialized in stopping the experiment.

‘If you have enough resources to fight the Church, why haven’t you sent some of you to stop the experiment?’

He shrugged. ‘Isn’t obvious? The academy is the Church’s territory. Only an army will suffice to fight them here.’

Logical, but it still frustrated her. All this time, it wasn’t just her friends and her who actively opposed the Church. There were others too, but their efforts were so minimal she couldn’t notice it. Because of that, she didn’t think they could actually try to overthrow the Church.

Focusing on her emotions was useless. She needed to focus on something else. ‘And Mother –Kestari – other teachers – they don’t know about you being a traitor?’

Mr. Haifei smiled slyly. ‘They cannot – I am the best spy in my church. Plus – ’ he raised his eyebrow ‘ – I’m not the only traitor here.’

Ilami felt her heart skip beating for a second.

‘It’s obvious that you think we are not doing a good enough effort to beat the Church. But our plan is long-term. It’s brewing. And we don’t want someone like you to ruin it for us. If you cannot prove that you can be an asset to us, then, by default, you are a liability. A hindrance. If you have nothing else to say, you can go now.’

Ilami clutched her fist and bit her lip from saying something obscene. There was so much she didn’t know, and she itched to know everything. If she could just know, then she could make the right thing. Zivil’s death, his son’s death, Felaris’s brother’s death… Their deaths needed to be avenged. She wasn’t about to live knowing the only thing she excelled at was murdering people. She refused to accept that.

If Haifei’s words were true, that Xesar’s church had a plan to overthrow the Lio’s – one that worked – then she had to help him in anyway. The problem was, she was just an ordinary student. One that had killed and almost won the Test, sure, but a student nonetheless. She could make mistakes. Her eyes widened as a realization hit her.

Felaris, Seya, Veris, Gael – they could mistake.

She closed her eyes and hardened herself to make another big decision.

‘There’s something else you need to know. It’s about another plan,’ she said, risking everything with her gamble.

A/N: The part where Ilami want to join the church, well, originally her reason was that she felt compelled to join with a church that belonged to a just god, but in future draft, I wanted to make it so that her reason was more logical. Also, Xesar's church has a name but I'm too lazy to go through old chapters, so excuse the lack of naming it. xD


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Tue Nov 30, 2021 7:27 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okayy..so we've got Ilami learning a little more than she bargained for although I notice how the complications surrounding Mrs. Venaria, the academy and the church are still only termed as "more than you think" rather than being explained. We only learn about this opposing church and half a plan they sort of have.

Anyway let's get right to it,

‘The fights weren’t fair and you knew it,’ Ilami hissed. Now that the Test was over, there was no reason for Mr. Haifei to train her in private. It was her idea to barge into his office first thing in the morning.

He looked up from a few papers he held and raised an eyebrow. ‘Do you expect me to do something about it?’

‘You are a combat teacher of a prestigious academy!’ She clenched her hands. ‘You should be insulted to have your student won not by their own merit, but by the twisted experimentation of the Church.’

‘Shouldn’t you be quiet about this?’ Mr. Haifei said in a low voice. ‘This office isn’t exactly soundproof.’


I love the fact that Mr. Haifei is not even bothering to attempt to deny any of those allegation. He just instantly accepts the fact and is very open about the whole thing. I like his more direct approach in that sense compared to most of the others. He's very open about knowing the not so great inner workings of the school.

Mr. Haifei left the papers on the table and titled his head. ‘No, I don’t. What I know is that before that boy went berserk, both of you were evenly matched. The same went to Felaris. The difference of skills between the three of you are minimal. Either one could’ve won the match.

‘Now that we’re on the subject of the Test, I want to ask you: do you think you winning the Test is going to impress me? To the point where I would share the academy’s secrets with you?’

‘I –’ Why did he have to make it sound ridiculous? ‘You wanted me to show you that I was worth sharing the information. Winning the Test was the only way to do it.’


Well...I guess that plan really didn't even take off at all in the first place and now Mr. Haifei has not only anticipated it, he's actively shooting it down before it can ever hope to be put into operation, now that's a rather brutal shut down which makes you question if Ilami was even thinking straight when she came up with that idea, especially because he age has been increased to a point where you wouldn't expect her to make too many naive mistakes.

Ilami bit her lip. He had a point. But why was he talking about the Church as if they were the enemy? Whose side was he really on? She decided to play along. ‘What now? They took Haka and Aleveri. Haka is their doing, I understand if they want him to be under their watch. But what about Aleveri? She’s done nothing for them.’

Mr. Haifei didn’t say a word. Instead, he stared at Ilami for a few seconds before speaking up. ‘Aleveri can be an asset to the Church. No Uora member has ever sided with them. To have someone who is young and a prodigy in the healing magic at their side is an advantage they cannot take for granted. She doesn’t have a competition, if I’m to be honest. Gael might be a brilliant scholar, but he doesn’t have Natural magic.’

‘You’re talking as if they are objects to be used,’ Ilami said.

‘I’m thinking like they do,’ Mr. Haifei said. ‘Not everyone is transparent, Ilami.’


Okayy...well, Mr. Haifei is definitely someone to keep in mind. I guess he's simply resigned to his position and just kind of goes about things, voicing his opinions exactly as they are with what he truly believes. Its a lovely change from most characters being ultra secretive.

Mr. Haifei’s mouth twitched a little bit. ‘Interesting. In your opinion, there are two sides conflicting with each other here. The one that conducts the experiment – the Church and Ms. Venaria, and the one that is against it – you and your friends. Am I correct?’

Ilami frowned. ‘Why are you stating the obvious?’

‘I’ve told you; not everything is as it seems to be. There is much you don’t know about the experiment. Without enough clues, you can’t visualize the bigger picture.’

‘Enough of that,’ Ilami said, shaking her head. ‘I want to know. Are you on our side?’


Well, okay that answer has to be something that's schooled to Mrs. Venaria's followers. This is starting to get a touch too repetitive now. Everyone simply seems to state that there's more going on than what meets the eye but never bothers to elaborate at all. I don't blame Ilami for wanting to get through that stonewall finally.

Something stirred in her heart. For so long she showed no interest with the churches, seeing them using their words to influence others. Their rethoric didn’t capture her interest. But now, her teacher seemed to imply there was a church worth being a part of, worshiping a Natural who was actually the one who blessed her. Did Xesar ruled by fear, just like Lio did? Or was he anything unlike him?

‘This church you’re speaking of, it’s against the experiment, isn’t?’ she asked. Her heart beat rapidly as she saw a decision she should make.

‘Definitely,’ Mr. Haifei said. ‘Xesar wouldn’t approve such horrible thing. He’d definitely help those who try to stop it from continuing.’

Ilami heard the words suggestive as they were. She took a drastic step. ‘I want to be a member of this church.’


Okay...so now he's just going to openly admit to being part of this opposing charge that wants to and has the resources to stand against it. Ilami's snap decision there does make sense considering how she is sometimes, but what I do not fully understand is why this church was never prominently mentioned earlier. At least if it was, I don't remember it and that can't be the sort of thing that would go unnoticed against discussions like this would it?

‘If you have enough resources to fight the Church, why haven’t you sent some of you to stop the experiment?’

He shrugged. ‘Isn’t obvious? The academy is the Church’s territory. Only an army will suffice to fight them here.’

Logical, but it still frustrated her. All this time, it wasn’t just her friends and her who actively opposed the Church. There were others too, but their efforts were so minimal she couldn’t notice it. Because of that, she didn’t think they could actually try to overthrow the Church.

Focusing on her emotions was useless. She needed to focus on something else. ‘And Mother –Kestari – other teachers – they don’t know about you being a traitor?’

Mr. Haifei smiled slyly. ‘They cannot – I am the best spy in my church. Plus – ’ he raised his eyebrow ‘ – I’m not the only traitor here.’


Okayy....he's being unnaturally open about this whole spying thing. For all he knows, Ilami could be a spy herself. Her mother is a big part of that church after all. ALso, it seems now this story is expanding beyond a simple school situation and into an all out potential civil war, which on one hand, is a lovely escalation of things here from step to step, but I feel like now we're starting to leave those earlier motivations behind just a little and step away from some of what made this story initially tick.

‘It’s obvious that you think we are not doing a good enough effort to beat the Church. But our plan is long-term. It’s brewing. And we don’t want someone like you to ruin it for us. If you cannot prove that you can be an asset to us, then, by default, you are a liability. A hindrance. If you have nothing else to say, you can go now.’

Ilami clutched her fist and bit her lip from saying something obscene. There was so much she didn’t know, and she itched to know everything. If she could just know, then she could make the right thing. Zivil’s death, his son’s death, Felaris’s brother’s death… Their deaths needed to be avenged. She wasn’t about to live knowing the only thing she excelled at was murdering people. She refused to accept that.


Well, Mr. Haifei's words are honestly simply the truth there, as harsh as it might be for Ilami to her and I do believe he reaction is reasonable, but the thing is Mr. Haifei is right and she can probably help out best by simply staying out of the way and avoiding escalating any problems.

Felaris, Seya, Veris, Gael – they could mistake.

She closed her eyes and hardened herself to make another big decision.

‘There’s something else you need to know. It’s about another plan,’ she said, risking everything with her gamble.


Well...I guess...this is going to now go into her unravelling the plans they'd all made in secret...and I really hope she isn't making a terrible mistake there...because you can never quite tell with this.

Also with respect to that author's note, I honestly think the reason of joining something with a just god is more reasonable if she really believed in that. An impulse move like this sounds in character for her but is much less logical as a decision in my opinion.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, I think this is certainly a good part here. We learn a few important things here, but I do believe that a couple of issues do need to be addressed, there's a couple of places that don't quite fully line up here.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:44 pm
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Mea wrote a review...



Hey Light! I'm back as usual, and somewhat on time this time! This will be a bit of a shorter review, but let's dive into it.

A few things:

1. I like that there's something more going on here. I really like that you've brought in a new dimension with Mr. Heifei and Xesar's church. I think it makes a lot of sense, that of course there are already people working against the Church, and that all of this is only one piece of a much bigger conflict. I think this helps add a lot to the story.

2. That being said, this could be foreshadowed better. Right now, I feel like Heifei is this character that's only just barely showed up, we've hardly seen him even though he's supposedly important, and now he's dropping this big secret on us. It also doesn't help that I don't really know much about the other gods, if anyone worships them, or if there are other churches in general - if I'm honest, I barely remember who Xesar is, and so I'm really not sure if it should seem strange or shocking that he has a church at all.

What I'm lacking is context, essentially, and it doesn't need to be a bunch of historical information so much as just making it *feel* like these are all natural, normal parts of this world. It's the unwritten rules that I'm missing - things like if you can just assume everyone in this part of the country follows the Church, or what the religion is like in other countries, or how much the average person thinks about religion and what they feel about the Church. Is this a very devout society or no? I think you've explained some of these things before, but they haven't sunk in and begun to feel like a part of the world yet. Up until this point, all the discussion of churches and deities has felt very abstract, and so I don't have the context to have a strong emotional reaction to this scene.

3. All this talk about Xesar's church left me wondering about Serra. She seems to have decided to make Gael the person she acts through, but doesn't she have a church of her own? If not, why not? Is she this random deity that no one knows about? What did Gael know about her before she started speaking to him? In general, how many deities do the humans know about/worship?

4. I like that Ilami feels a drive here to be a part of a church that's actually worth fighting for. It feels a little sudden, since she's only just hearing about it, but it kind of works because of how the desire takes her by surprise. It really shows a hidden depth to her character - she wants to be part of something bigger than her self and do something good, and I think that shows a lot about her. That was my favorite moment of the chapter for sure.

...And I think that's about all I've got! This was an interesting chapter, and even though I have mixed feelings on it, I'm glad this feels like a turning point chapter, because I'm excited to see what unpredictable stuff happens next! See you in the next chapter. :)




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Panikos wrote a review...



Hey, Lightsong! I got my essay draft written much sooner than I expected so I thought I'd use my free time to drop in and review. Nice to get to it quickly for a change!

Small Comments

‘You should be insulted to have your student won not by their own merit, but by the twisted experimentation of the Church.’


Iffy expression here. Maybe go for something like:

'Your student won because of the experimentation, not their own merit. You should be insulted!'

Ilami’s face turned red. How dare he chastise me at this point? she thought, fuming.


The italics make it clear that we're reading thoughts, and it's obvious that they have to be Ilami's, so there's no need for the tag I've crossed out.

‘If you could make sure the fights were fair, I could’ve won. You know that.’


Slightly weird, tense-wise. It's not really ungrammatical, but it doesn't sound quite right. I'd go for something like:

'If you'd made the fights fair, I could've won. You know that.'

The same goes for Felaris.


you are still going to be bound by the Church


Just a note: it's 'bind' in the present tense and 'bound' in the past tense. 'Bounded' is the past tense of a different verb and means 'jumped'.

Mr. Haifei smiled slyly. ‘They cannot – I am the best spy in my church.


Really? Telling Venaria's daughter about your treachery doesn't sound like something a competent spy would do. How does he know he can trust Ilami, really?

‘It’s obvious that you think we are not making enough effort to beat the Church.


If she could just know, then she could do the right thing.


‘There’s something else you need to know. It’s about another plan,’ she said, risking everything with her gamble.


You shouldn't really have to tell us that she's risking everything. We should know enough from the context to feel that it's a gamble.

Overall Thoughts

Hmmm, I'm not sure what to make of this chapter. I get that it's a turning point and it's an interesting revelation that Mr Haifei is an underground spy for another church, but there's something about it that doesn't quite work for me. I think part of the problem is that Mr Haifei's character hasn't surfaced much in the plot before. I remember him telling Ilami that she 'wasn't worthy enough' to know what was going on with the experiments, which led to her plan to win the Test and his respect. I'm glad that Mr Haifei told her how naive that plan was, actually, because I always found it very unlikely. However, it does leave me pretty confused about his motivations. Why has he decided to tell Ilami about his treachery now rather than before? What's changed? The only difference is that Haka and Aleveri have been sent to join the Church, and I'm not sure that qualifies considering that Haifei must've known that was going to happen.

I also didn't really understand his spiel about Ilami 'representing the very thing they're against'. Sure, she's Venaria's daughter, but she plainly doesn't believe what she does. She might be friends with Aleveri and Haka, but the pair of them have been forced to join the Church; it's not like they're truly allied to it. It all amounts up to a rather weak excuse to keep the truth from her. You'd think Haifei would want her on side - if he's a spy, what could be more valuable than an ally so close to Venaria?

I could probably understand it if he thought Ilami was planning to double cross him. If he was under the illusion that she was talking to him on her mother's orders, pretending to oppose her for the sake of rooting out traitors, then it might make sense. But if he really believed that, he wouldn't have risked telling her that he was a spy in the first place. It's like he's only keeping her out on principle, not because he believes she's a threat, so it feels weird.

I think that's all for this review! As a parting comment, I'll only say that I'm keen to see the story push forward a bit more. We had some cool revelations a few chapters ago, but it feels like the momentum is waning a little - there's a lot of talking and planning going on, but not a whole lot of action. It feels like we've been mulling over the experiments and the truth behind them for a little too long. I really want to get to the bottom of this!

Also: bold of Ilami to just go and tell Haifei about their plan. I wonder if he is trustworthy. I'm not sure her friends are going to be too pleased with her...

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




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Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:03 pm
FireSpyGirl wrote a review...



Hi there!
This is really interesting! I'm going to have to go check out some of your other work, because this is really good! I'm going to jump right into this review. There are a few sentences that felt rather awkward.

First one:
"He looked up from a few papers he held and raised an eyebrow."

I would say something like this: "He looked up from the papers he held..etc" To me, it flows better, but this is just me. Feel free to ignore everything I say! :).

Second:
"You should be insulted to have your student won..." Maybe try using the word "win." It would be grammatically correct and it wouldn't be so awkward.

That was all, and I hoped this helped some!





Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.
— Henry David Thoreau