"Shh, it's fine. I'll return with food, okay?"
It was a dark, and dreary night. Cold, but it didn't matter for the small boy as he once again saw his mother's silhouette disappearing from the edges of the hatch closing in on him– he was used to it.
This little space of darkness that he shared with the worms… was his home. The floor above was merely a roof that had everything he needed, and he really only needed one thing– his mother.
It didn't matter to him because as his mother said, she would return… and she always does. The only thing he really needed to do was wait.
…An entire night.
And like a little bird in his tiny little nest, his mother returns with the light covering her silhouette.
"Did my little Ragnar wait too long?"
"N… No," the little boy, Ragnar, quickly stretched his hands towards his mother; the smile on his face, barely hidden even in the darkness.
"Oh?" The mother also quickly lifted her son from beneath the floor; her movements, even gentler than the lightest of breeze, almost as if what she was carrying was a fragile egg,
"Did my little Ragnar cry?"
"No," Ragnar shook his head as he quickly wrapped his arms around his mother as soon as he could do so,
"I… I never cry," he then whispered as he buried his face in his mother's bosom.
"Hm. Alfhild's son is strong, no?"
"Y… yes," Ragnar then let go of his mother, Alfhild, before crouching on the floor; his hands tapping the floor several times before they could find the hatch and close it. He then stood on top of the hatch and quickly raised both his hands in the air– his bones, almost visible from his skin.
"I… I will become the strongest mage!"
"..." Alfhild's lips slightly trembled as she heard her son's words. But before they could turn into a frown, she stood up and smiled, "Come, I… I brought you your favorite."
"Grilled lizard!?" A wide smile appeared on Ragnar's face as he quickly walked toward the table.
"B… be careful, Ragnar!" Alfhild quickly tried to assist her son as he started flailing his hands forward.
"I know where the table is, mama," Ragnar chuckled as his hands touched the table,
"See!?" He then said as he also quickly found himself on the chair. His little legs, wagging as he looked at the table he could barely see.
Ragnar didn't mind the darkness… because that's really all that he's known.
But Ragnar wasn't blind, no. It… was much worse.
"..." Alfhild could really only sigh as she saw how excited her son was as she joined him at the table, before unwrapping a cloth that contained several grilled lizards,
"Okay, open up," Alfhild then said softly as she touched her son's chin. Ragnar, however, leaned back and shook his head.
"It's too cold," Ragnar said, "P… please heat it up, mama."
"...You're getting a little spoiled, aren't you?"
"N… No," Ragnar bit his lips; trying his best not to let out a smile not knowing that his entire face was already twisted.
"Hm," Alfhild also shook her head, before retracting her hand; placing the grilled lizard a foot on top of her other hand. And with a whisper,
Like a flower forced to bloom, a ball of fire emerged from her palms already dancing.
Ragnar, feeling the heat flowing to his face, finally allowed his smile to appear.
"Are… are you doing it, mama?"
"Flames, woosh!" Ragnar then started flailing his arms in the air, making a whistling sound as he did so, "Flames, woosh!"
"..." Alfhild quickly closed her eyes as she turned her head to the side, hiding the tears that suddenly trailed across her cheek even knowing that Ragnar could not see it.
The world was filled with Mana– and humans, along with other mammals, learned to adapt to it through a million years of evolution. It was in the water, it was in the trees, it was in the air that they were breathing right now… it was inside their bodies.
There are, however, those that were not blessed to harness them: Reptiles, Birds… species that are not capable of producing milk. They are considered as the prey of the world, the weakest.
Humans, of course, as the most intelligent of the milk-rearing species, were able to master the mana around them– discovering what was known as Magic.
Bending the elements to their will, being one with the world itself.
And those who were able to master these gifts beyond normal measures are called Mages, and Ragnar wanted to be the strongest of them…
…not knowing that he was manaless.
A Deviant, a human born without any mana.
Ragnar wasn't blind, no. His eyes just couldn't understand what it was seeing.
"Did… you enjoy the food, little Ragnar?"
"Hm. Very… ver…y… tas…ty."
Ragnar was now tucked in bed, lazily nodding his head as he tightly held onto Alfhild's fingers; his eyes closed as his breaths were slightly heavy. Alfhild could really only let out a smile as she caressed her son's sleeping face.
Grilled lizard wasn't his favorite food, no. It's the only food that Alfhild could really provide him. And tomorrow, it'll just be the same. Again, and again.
But Alfhild will never get tired– how could she when her own son doesn't complain even once?
"...I love you, my little Ragnar."
"Hm… love… too, mama."
"..." Alfhild then lay down in bed, embracing her son so very gently.
And once again, tomorrow comes.
And once again, Ragnar was in his tiny little nest. For what reason? He never questioned.
He just waits.
An entire night.
…An entire day.
"..." Ragnar just waits, because his mother always comes back. No matter how long, she always comes back.
"Fhu…" Ragnar quickly wiped the tears that even dared to fall to his cheeks, "I'm… I'm strong… I… I'm the strongest mage."
"...The strongest doesn't cry," Ragnar continued to whisper as he covered his ears; not wanting to hear his own sniffles, "I… I'm the strongest."
"Where… where are you, mama? I…
And finally, after a few more moments, Ragnar could hear the hatch opening. And very very quickly, he wiped the tears and snot that filled his entire face.
"I… I wasn't crying," he said as he stretched his hands towards–
"It's true! There's a fucking lizard hiding here!"
And out of nowhere, the gentleness that Ragnar has known his entire life cracked as he felt himself being pulled from the hatch– thrown away as he rolled several meters on the floor.
There was one more thing about a manaless human that Alfhild never wanted her son to know.
They were treated as cursed beings…
…executed by their own parents the moment they are born.