It was finally the last day of my community service and things went by too fast. I was able to make desserts for people without fail as much as I wanted to voice every complaint that was in my head. I also made sure we weren’t behind on serving the customers whenever the lines would get too long at Helka’s Dairy Castle.
“Lumi, you’ve improved so much since you were sent to work for me.” Helka congratulated me.
“I guess so, but I never expected to get this much done without…well, you know,” I responded. “I’m sure I’ve mentioned that to you several times, especially early on in my sentencing.”
“I get it, but you’ve learned a lot. You’d be surprised what you can do with your bare hands” Helka continued. “You know, we’ll miss you here. If you never need a job, you’d be welcome here at any time.”
Yeah, but I’d rather be at the local cafe in town or maybe something that pays a ton more. I couldn’t see myself working full-time there, no offense to Helka. Dang, she’s optimistic to a fault and I admit that I was sickened by it more often than not. Some customers showed up and I immediately hit the kitchen while the cashiers took the orders. Like clockwork, I served up everything to order to some happy customers of this little establishment. As it got later in the day, there was one customer who showed up here that I should’ve expected to be here, but not in the way that I would have predicted.
“Why, good afternoon, Lumi.”
It was none other than the local sage Aarne showing up not in some wizardly robes, but in a navy polo and slacks. That was the most normal I’ve ever seen him dressed in the few times I’ve seen him in person.
“I would like two scoops of cookies and cream with chocolate pieces on top, please.” He requested.
That flavor wasn’t something I expected. He looked more like a guy who would order vanilla ice cream and probably get three scoops instead. “Yes, sir. I’m on it.” I went to prepare his dish and gave it to him. “I hope it’s good, sir.” Oh, me trying to be extra polite to the guy who sentenced me. I never thought I’d be a suck-up for anyone.
Aarne got the plastic spoon and took a bite of the ice cream that I made for him. “Hmm…this is delicious.” He commented. I know it’s the usual ingredients, but I guess I did something right in my thirty days working at the Dairy Castle. “You know I just happened to be stopping by and part of it involved your release.”
My release? Yay! I can almost taste freedom and it’s sweeter than the stuff we sold here if it were doused in candy and confectionery sugar. I’m sure Aarne could see the stars in my eyes when I heard the news. “Really? Oh, thanks. I’ve been on good behavior and Helka can vouch for me.”
“Is that so?” Aarne replied. Almost on cue, Helka came out of the backroom and she blushed when she saw the top mage in her store. “Good afternoon, Helka.”
“Oh my! Good afternoon to you, too.” She curtsied in his presence with her apron. I must have either underestimated the importance of Master Aarne or how much of a total fangirl Helka is. “I see that you already ordered some ice cream. I can refund the prince for you and–”
“There’s no need for that. I was fine paying for it myself.” He politely interrupted her. “Anyway, there’s another reason why I visited the shop and this has to do with you, Lumi.”
I swallowed a lump in my throat when I heard that. I better not be serving any more time. This had better be something more pleasant, like getting some restitution for working here or maybe getting improved magical abilities or anything like that.
“There’s been some trouble in Ladenrehu and it involves Akvamariini Lake.” Aarnes began to explain this update to me. “You see, the Pentti Group had been careless in dumping their toxic waste in this lake. Some people use that as a water source, but it could get bad enough to poison our entire community since it connects with all of Ladenrehu’s other rivers and lakes.” Woah, that was some huge news. “Already, Akvamariini Lake has quickly become a superfund site.”
“A superfund site? Is that a place that’s super-fun or do you get super funds like a ton of money?” I asked Aarne. He just glared at my ignorance before clearing his throat.
“What this means is that this lake has become so polluted that it’s become a hazardous site. I’ve tried my best with all the magic I know, but I couldn’t clean up the mess alone.” Aarne said. “You would be the best person for this job in order to save our village.”
My eyes got huge after hearing all of this. So there was this rogue corporation polluting our town of all things? That sucks. What can I do? It’s not like I’ve ever tried to save the world or anyone. I don’t think I could ever qualify as a hero, so don’t know why Aarne would be so entrusting to someone he convicted a month ago for my rampant magical pranks.
“I’m not sure, Master Aarne. Why do you want me of all people to deal with this mess?” I asked him.
“Good thing you asked. Remember that penguin statue you froze last month?” Great, he just had to bring that up of all things. “After it was thawed out, it actually became cleaner than it was before. The thing is that your magical abilities are more potent than you think.”
What was this old man smoking? That statue became cleaner? Come on, it was freaking ice. Nothing too special besides the fact that yours truly used her abilities to make it happen. Oh, wait. I couldn’t do that again at the moment.
“Lumi Ranta, I’m willing to give you back you back your magical abilities since you can save Ladenrehu from being poisoned.” He sounded almost desperate when he told me this.
Helka came up and nudged my arm. “Lumi, you have to do this.”
“That sounds like it’s too much. We’re talking about a whole lake here. Besides, I came here just so I could serve my time. Shouldn’t that be enough for anyone?” I wondered.
“I don’t think you really get how serious this is. Even though it hasn’t happened to you right now, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you in the very near future.” Helka’s voice got lower and that sweetness completely disappeared from her tone. “How can I best say this? If everyone dies from Pentti Corp’s poison and our only solution doesn’t want to clean up, then you’ll have only yourself to blame. The sentence you’d get would involve prison which you managed to avoid.” She then got in my face. “Then, you’ll be wishing you did community service at my shop instead of serving hard time.”
I really wanted to challenge her, but the words weren’t coming out of my mouth until I finally rolled over and said “You know…I can’t argue with that.”
“What is that, Lumi?” Helka pretended not to hear me. “Call me delusional, but did you just admit that you were wrong?”
I just groaned as a response to her. I then looked at Aarne who watched us talk about the fate of Ladenrehu with the poison in Akvamariini Lake. He already finished the ice cream dish I made for him. “Master Aarne, when do you need me to start?”
Aarne smiled. “I knew you’d see things our way. Whenever you’re ready, I’m going to reinstall your magic abilities.” Shoot, if he could do it right then and there, then I might as well accept right away.
“Fine. I’m ready to get my powers right now, please.” I said to Aarne. I figured if I was more polite, he’d give them to me even quicker. Aarne put his hands out and there was a spark that entered my chest. I felt the magic returning to me and it surged throughout my body. I missed it so much as I felt so complete at this point. “I assume my sentence is over, then?”
“On the dot, actually.” Aarne chuckled a tiny bit. “Now, follow me. I’ll show you where the damage has been done.” I did what he said and waved goodbye to Helka. It was good that she straightened me out in order to take part in this little mission. There was a squad car waiting outside, so I guess I’m getting the police escort treatment. At least it won’t be towards the holding tank though. We drove through all the different rural streets until the number of houses and buildings became smaller. Then I saw the damage done and even I gasped. I saw emptied barrels of toxic crap in the lake. I’ve always seen the lake as bluer than sapphires or the sky itself on a good day, but it’s become a mix of purple and black as if a giant puked out ink and eggplants to Akvamariini Lake.
“No way, they did all of that and didn’t bother to clean it up?” I asked aloud.
“Unfortunately, yes.” Aarne replied. The problem with all these entities is that they can do whatever they want without facing consequences.
“That’s sick! What kind of person goes around thinking they can mess things up and believe they can get away with everything?” My voice got louder as reality sank in as to how bad the lake has been polluted. Of course, I just had to open my big mouth when I phrased what I said in that way where I was sure to get an answer I wasn’t going to like.
“Well, I just re-powered someone who used to think that way.” Aarne casually mentioned the situation with so much factual authority with a hint of insulting me. I kept quiet after hearing that. Much like Helka, I couldn’t argue with him at all. It was a verbal gut check in hindsight. Seriously, I could never get over anyone, but this wasn’t the right time to argue or with trying to be right. We went to the shore where most of the toxins were in Akvamariini Lake. I wondered how we were able to clean up this hazardous mess. “Lumi, here’s an idea. I’ll try to isolate the toxic compounds first, and you can start by getting the buckets from the trunk of the police car.”
That sounded strange and ineffective, but I went with this plan. I got a bunch of buckets and eventually a huge container where we were going to put the poisoned water inside it. Aarne started to do his part of the plan. Even though he didn’t have any hydrokinesis like me, what he did was separate the pollution from the lake itself. I think he called the spell Thaumaturgic Fission whatever that meant. The lake parted on the top like it was a shallow Red Sea. The inky substance started to be pulled from the water and was separated from the clear blue water. If this were a bigger body of water, one could argue this experiment would be an ocean lab of sorts. The toxins were becoming concentrated, but it was still connected to the water itself. “Lumi, the pollution isn’t coming out all the way. I’ve separated the materials for the most part, but I could use your powers now.”
I nodded when Aarne gave me the orders. This would be incredible to be able to do the things that I’m best at. What I realized early on when seeing Akvamariini Lake was that I would need to use more magical energy than what I was used to for my pranks or everyday routines. My hands were in front of me and I felt the energy flow through me. Even my hair started to blow back as my body was getting used to using some spells again after not using them for a month. I aimed toward the exposed poisonous parts of Akvamariini Lake and I shot out some of my frigid blasts. Those bits looked like rotting plum juice on the rocks after I froze up the nasty parts of the lake. They were flung into some of the buckets and containers. I froze more of the toxic water, but things started to feel weird. I didn’t know if it was the chemicals doing something to my immune system, but I started feeling faint and my vision started to slowly blur. Some of the frozen poison missed the buckets when I did my best to transfer them from the lake. “Lumi, is everything alright?” Aarne wondered while he finished isolating the components of the pollution.
“Yeah, I guess. But I feel really tired though.” I responded to him. Come to think of it, I’ve never used this much magic before. My voice started to sound more like a yawn and my body was uncontrollably shutting down. I kept at it no matter what. More of the chemicals were separated from Akvamariini Lake, but I still had a ways to go. The ice chunks I took out of the lake were getting smaller as did my magical abilities. The strain on my body crept in. My muscles started feeling like jelly and my bones felt nonexistent as I soldiered on to get rid of all the gunk in our biggest lake in the village. As we continued cleaning this water with our powers, things faded to black like when I was first detained for my rampant pranking in Ledenrehu. All I can remember was saying “sorry” before I collapsed on the grassy shore of Akvamariini Lake.
I must have been dreaming while that went on at that point in my life. What I saw was an empty Ledenrehu. Well, that was a lie. I meant an empty living population besides me. The grass was gray and there were bodies lined up in the street. All of their eyes were wide open but they were purely white as if they looked like empty shells. I also saw a huge tower overlooking the village that had the words Pentti Corp on it. My body shook as I ran around trying to find anyone that was living. Then the realization hit me that I was the one who wasn’t strong enough to save my village from being poisoned as the water supply went to everyone and they all had a taste of deadly chemicals.
I was a failure. I should’ve never been so foolish in pranking people for using my powers. I should’ve done so much more.
I suddenly woke up and found myself on the same ground again. There was Aarne who helped me up. “I’m still here. What’s going on?” I asked. “You overworked yourself to the point where you used up all of your magical abilities, so you were fatigued.” Aarne commented on my situation.
“Did I fail my mission in cleaning up Akvamariini Lake? I didn’t expect to pass out, and I’m really sorry.” I couldn’t believe I was saying this to Aarne given our history, but I really felt like a villain for not being strong enough (or at the very least having enough magical fortitude) to clean up an entire lake.
“Think again, Lumi.” Aarne pointed to the containers loaded with the frozen chemicals isolated from the lake with the help of his powers. He also brought a water testing vial that showed some colors on it. “I just tested the toxicity of Akvamariini Lake, and it’s all clear now. Your powers really helped save our village.”
My eyebrows shot up when I heard this from the master mage. “Really? But I was unconscious. I wasn’t some kind of hero though.” I complained.
“Don’t be so self-deprecating. What you did was incredible and you’ve really improved as a person. The Lumi I de-powered would’ve never done this.” He complimented me. “You’re a hero, and I’m glad we were able to save Ladenrehu.”
“Thank you, Aarne.” I started whimpering when I replied to him. This was too surreal knowing that I helped save my hometown from some faceless corporate hacks trying to do whatever they want by dumping pollution without facing any consequences. The entire village should sue those scumbags for trying to poison everybody here. Whoever thought that me working at Helka’s Dairy Castle would give me the character to do something like this? I guess Aarne had a legit point going on. It certainly felt gratifying knowing that I helped clean up a lake using my regained powers, but I think I’ll rest this off when I get back home to get my strength back up.
Maybe an ice cream cone wouldn’t hurt either.