Months passed, and life became much easier with a sentient cat. Especially because Sylvester didn't have to worry about things kept at a height, whether food or books.
Miraj was remarkably gullible and so easy to please. He turned from a stranger to Sylvester's first cultist within a few months. But it could have been Miraj's isolation. He probably wished to be by Sylvester's side as only the latter could see and communicate with him.
Meanwhile, Sylvester would increase the number of words he would speak each month. However, he didn't go for perfection, rather, tried to mess up the grammar now and then to still sound like a baby. Still, his growth could not be anything baby-like while his legs turned from noodles to french fries. They were still weak, but now he could walk.
"Let's study today, Chonky." Sylvester opened a random book from the case and tried to read it. It was titled: 'History With Pope'.
Although he had been going with Xavia to her classes on most days, he felt they didn't offer him anything substantial. In the first few days, they talked about geography. But on all other days, it was just religious talks and the duties of a Bright Mother.
He wished to learn about magic, but that was not even in the curriculum of the Bright Mothers. Thankfully, Xavia knew healing magic, so she was given once-a-week classes for them, which he would go on to. But even then, it was restricted to healing magic, something useless for him as he didn't even know how to start.
"Woah... Fish!" Miraj pointed his paw at the diagram in the book.
Both were lying on their bellies side by side and reading the book. "No, Chonky. That's the face of the Tenth Pope, Varus Da Silantia, the cursed. He survived 200 poison-related assassination attempts in his life. That's why his face got deformed and... yes, he does look like a fish."
"Show me more. Show me fish." Miraj wagged his tail and tapped his paw excitedly. Living in boredom for 500 years turned every little moment into a rollercoaster ride for the fluffy boy.
Sylvester turned the page with a chuckle. 'Hah, I sometimes forget he's a cat.'
"Hmm... this tall scarface is Pope Atrox, the mad. He purged the Church from centuries of infighting and power struggles. But he made the Church less tolerant and more militaristic, thrusting the world into the dark, sick fetish of public burnings."
"Public burning? Like my caretaker made me fish?"
Sylvester shut the book. "What's with your fish fetish? You have repeated that word a dozen times in a few minutes."
Miraj lowered his head and showed cute sad eyes, "I miss it. You said you would feed me fish."
"Yes. And you said you're going to adopt me, yet here you are leeching off of me. But don't worry, I will get you fish when I grow some more. Now let's go out and meet the Pope. He should be making rounds at this time."
Yes, the Pope. In the last few months, Sylvester had all the time to ponder his next strategy to ensure his survival. He aimed to live a peaceful life, but for that, he also needed power. However, now he was God's Favoured, and it was akin to chocolate, so sweet that some people would rather destroy it if they couldn't have it.
He had already felt the strange emotions in Queen Gracia. There was no doubt that worse people would be out there. To ensure he doesn't end up six feet under before he even has the ability to fight back, he needs to get on the right side of influential people. Since he was in the Church, why not target the Pope himself?
So with his extra chattery cat, he crawled out of the room. His legs were still not strong, so crawling was much more convenient. Unfortunately, he could not ride Miraj either since the latter was invisible to others. He had already displayed enough miracles, the last thing he wanted was to overdo it.
He knew that the Pope inspected the Bright Mother's academy every month on the last day of 3rd week. So ever since he came across this information, he would stumble across the former.
Looking cute and dumb, he crawled out of the building and into the Bright Mothers Academy. He sent Miraj to scout the Pope so he could strategically present himself in front of the latter.
'Okay, now I'll sit in the middle of the corridor and wait.'
It took a few minutes for Miraj to return, running and screaming that the Pope was here. They had done this many times, and now Miraj was becoming a professional scout. Both of them patiently waited until the Pope was in the direct line of sight, and then Miraj used his soft paws to push Sylvester back so he'd fall cutely.
"Aya!" Sylvester cried in a heart-melting low voice.
"Oh, it's our little bard. Did you run away from your room again?" The Pope fast-walked to pick Sylvester into his arms and patted him clean. He also had a dozen standard Church robed, high-ranking administrators behind him.
Sylvester took a small candy from his little shirt pocket and pushed it towards the Pope's mouth. "Candy!"
The Pope took it laughingly. "You saved another one for me? Good boy, already showing charitable tendencies. I have great expectations, little one. But we can't have you running around all the time." He looked at his associates and asked, "Was no aide assigned to God's Favoured?"
The one in the lead quickly answered, "Lord Inquisitor assigned Sir Adrik Dolorem, your holiness."
"Why is he not watching over the child?"
The man didn't have an answer and looked at the others, who scrambled to prepare a response and discussed it with each other. Soon they had the reason. "I-It seems he was reassigned to the southern region for... for inspecting the procession of King of Riveria during their departure from here. We will look int..."
They shut their crying mouths when the Pope gestured with his hand. He turned to his men and looked them in the eyes. Sylvester noticed the Pope's expression from up close. This did not feel like the man who was doting on him a minute ago. No, this was the true face of the Pope. And, like all other Church members, he, too, had a secret violent side.
Amidst the burning, pungent taste in Sylvester's mouth that distracted him, the Pope ordered. "Look me in the eyes. Can any of you tell me since when did the King of Riveria become the Pope? Since when did Inquisitors start getting reassigned? Did Inquisitor High Lord approve the transfer?"
"N-No... your holiness," they stutteringly replied in unison.
"Corruption in Magna Sanctum? Failed has their years of education, whoever dares to be corrupt deserves no salvation. One, a dozen, a thousand or a million, I will tolerate none. Give them—Death!
"This peace we have is not eternal. One day, those from across the Blood Sea will strike again. When that happens, the Church shall be mighty as the dragons. We shall move as I planned this time and claim the heathen land."
"May the holy light enlighten us!" the administrators chanted, their bodies drenched in sweat.
However, just like that, the mood of the Pope shifted, and he started making funny faces at Sylvester. "Haha, our little bard will grow and become a mighty General. Butcher those with tainted blood. Aren't I right...bububu..."
"Ahahaha... gaga." Sylvester laughed as the Pope started to tickle him.
However, the bloodlust and fanaticism didn't surprise him. But mentally, he wondered, 'First that Inquisitor and now this Pope. Why is everyone so bipolar in this Church?'
"Let's go. I shall hand you to your mother."
The next day,
'Yeah, baby! That's what I'm talking about! This is what I wanted! Finally!' There was no limit to Sylvester's delight as he saw a familiar armoured knight walk into the Bright Mother's housing complex and stand guard in front of Sylvester's room.
He remembered this man for a few reasons: First, the combination of black skin and striking blue eyes was rare in his past. Second, the man's existence showed that the Church didn't care about skin colour. Third, the Church itself was a confusing entity for Sylvester at this point because sometimes it appeared to be the vilest organisation and periodically a just and equal one.
Despite all this, Sylvester wanted to stay here, for it was the overlord of society. And all this time, he wished to learn magic and grow strong, but could not because Xavia knew only healing. He recalled how he could kill the creature that night so quickly, but it was a survival instinct that had kicked in at that time, and now he wished to learn how to accomplish what he performed that night.
Although he had no idea how high the Adept Rank was, he knew that Sir Adrik Dolorem was a Knight of the Silver rank and a wizard of the Adept rank. So for an adult man to be his guard and have the same rank could only mean that his own magic talent was high.
He finally had something to do other than hear Miraj bantering about how to enjoy a nice juicy fish in various ways.
So today, after Xavia left, Sir Dolorem entered the house to babysit him. From there, Sylvester started his strategy of mental manipulation.
Bam!—yet again, he jumped out of the cradle. Sir Dolorem caught him before the touchdown. This was his 69th suicide jump today, and he had thoroughly annoyed his caretaker. "Master Maximilian, please don't harm yourself."
"M-Magic!" Sylvester gave him the puppy eye look and chirped. He was hoping to break this man's stoic character and make him emotionally attached to himself, enslaving him into the trap.
"Fair enough, if it pleases you." he ceded and raised his palm in the hope that Sylvester would fall asleep soon.
How wrong he was.
"Aaaaa..." Seeing Sir Dolorem creating a small fireball in his palm, Sylvester's jaw fell open. He was careful to assess how Dolorem was doing it. There was no chant or hand movement. It just appeared on his hand out of nowhere.
'How did he do it?' Sylvester wondered.
"Magic!" he chirped again.
Sir Dolorem then raised his palm towards Sylvester's face and warned. "Please don't be scared."
Woosh!—Suddenly, a soft, cold breeze whipped Sylvester's face and blew back his short golden-blonde hair. He instinctively closed his eyes and enjoyed the gentle breeze.
"Wa wa wa wa waaaaa..." Miraj tried to eat the breeze beside him.
It stopped a minute later. But Sylvester's excitement to learn the magic increased a hundredfold. He had already started to create some hypotheses in mind about the nature of the magic, and just one word was enough to explain it. 'Elemental manipulation.'.
'What else can he do? This is most likely not the limit of his abilities. Hmm... how do I make him teach me? What if...'
He once again made cute puppy eyes and chirped, "Techa! Techa!"
"Techa?" Sir Dolorem confusedly muttered. After repeating it a few times in their head, he realised what it was. "Teacher? Master Maximilian, I am far too lowly to be your teacher."
'Fine, you want to do this the hard way?' Sylvester made an effort to get up to his feet. Miraj silently helped too. Then, he stumped forward and hugged Sir Dolorem, plastering his face on the man's chest plate. "Techa! Magic!"
Sylvester looked up and glanced at the man's eyes. They were often the best means to discern someone's thoughts and make a profile about their character. What he saw was genuine warmth and elation as the man's pupil dilated slightly and his heart raced. Sir Dolorem did not seem like the Inquisitor High Lord or the Pope.
Again, he reckoned that Sir Dolorem was so low ranked that he didn't have any reason to be evil. Like in most religious places, most grassroots members believe in their religion's message.
"Do you wish to learn Magic?" he uttered slowly, knowing Sylvester could not understand him.
Sylvester repeated after him, "Magic."
Now, Sir Dolorem was there only to protect Sylvester and watch over him. But he, too, thought about being the teacher of the God's Favoured. How prestigious would that be? He had seen the miracles done by Sylvester himself, and it was almost a guarantee that one day, the latter would become a high-ranking member.
To be the teacher of such a person was an honour in his eyes. He sighed and nodded. "Nine months ago, you were so young, yet you killed that Desert Cannibal with ease. So I have decided, Master Maximilian, I shall teach you."
Sylvester greatly appreciated that despite no one keeping an eye on him, Sir Dolorem remained respectful. It was a sign of a good soldier and person.
"I will show you the basic things we learn at the academy. Please raise your hand." Sir Dolorem knew Sylvester did not understand him, but he was still verbally instructed out of habit. Then he would make Sylvester move.
"Great, I shall use the wind magic under your hand so you may feel the Solarium particles."
Sir Dolorem sent the wind under Sylvester's palm. In response, Sylvester closed his eyes and tried to feel the air. He tried to remember the feeling from the time he blasted that bright, magical beam from his palm. It was mesmerising and soothing to his mind.
It felt like a part of his body that got released. It was similar to his blood or the air he breathed out. He then calmed his mind and recalled the martial arts training he had gone through in his past life. Fighting was all about proper movement and breathing.
You breathe out the power and breathe in the build-up. He did not know if magic was similar, but he tried to breathe just like that.
'One in... one out.'
From Sir Dolorem's point of view, what Sylvester was doing seemed similar to the Knight's training. But it was not too different from the Wizard's training. The only difference was that one needed to try and breathe out of their palms. Of course, not air but Solarium.
He was amazed how such a young child could sit calmly for so long. But he also knew it was a pipedream to expect results on the first try. Thus Sylvester's actions didn't raise Sir Dolorem's expectations by too much.
"It took me a year to even sense the particles and two more to learn how to manipulate them. You too shall be ab..."
He was left speechless as a tiny spark of bright golden light flickered on Sylvester's chubby palm. It appeared as if a part was trying to turn into a candle. Each spark was brighter and longer than before.
"M-Marvellous! So fas... Wait!"
Sir Dolorem pulled his hand back from underneath Sylvester's, yet the sparks kept appearing. He feared that this would be too much for a child, as magic depletion could truly kill a wizard. "Master Maximilian, please wake up."
However, the words fell on deaf ears as Sylvester was too charmed by the soothing feeling. He didn't know if his magic was working; he hoped it did. But he kept going, wanting to etch this feeling in his mind.
"Master! NO!... WAKE UP!" Sir Dolorem's pupils contracted in panic when the flickering sparks became a constant orb of warm golden light that kept expanding. This was beyond what any average wizard learned in their first month. And the orb appeared more like a destructive beam than mere light.
"Forgive me, I have no other choice!" So Sir Dolorem decided to pinch Sylvester to stimulate the latter's other senses.
But he was too late…
 Solarium - The particles released from the sun that give power to the Wizards and Knights.
[Note: Master is a title for an underage male. That is why Sir Dolorem calls him Master Maximilian. Using the first name is too disrespectful for someone of Sylvester's standing.]