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It still wasn't ripe yet. I was waiting for it to change. Change it did, but it was never past the threshold of magic.

Up until then, it only displayed qualities of normal fruit. A very fine specimen to be sure, but never magical. I knew it had the potential. I expected it. That was what I waited for.

It was certainly tempting to pick it early. I checked it each morning. The usual plant care. No doubt it would have been great to harvest before magic took root. But that would have just meant an exceptional experience as far as what would be scientifically possible. It would not have been magical.

Sometimes I spent the better part of a morning staring at it, looking for some sign of magic, some hint of unexplained flame or twinkling starlight. But none would come. It was still beautiful, but only an earthly beauty, and I would be forced to go about my day disappointed at how normal everything still was.

I never really lost hope though, since I was sure things were always improving. Would I ever see magic burst forth from the leaves? I couldn't be sure. Maybe I would just grow old under the shadow of its earthly perfection. But I knew it would always be there, even if not quite as amazing as I was hoping for.

How long I had to wait, I didn't know. If some trace of magic did show, would it become increasingly powerful if I waited even longer? I wasn't sure how much patience I had in me. Many days, I was sorely tempted to stop waiting. But I would always remind myself it would ruin years of patience, all those months thrown down the drain without achieving anything out of the ordinary.

No, I would have to reach at least some semblance of the supernatural. What effects it would have, I didn't quite know. Some of the ancient texts promised changes beyond our wildest dreams. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much. While intense magic would have been nice, I was no wizard. Merely a common gardener. Small levels of magic would have been satisfactory considering how many of my peers never encountered any magic at all throughout their careers.

I was fortunate. These seeds, these books, this soil. I wasn't sure I deserved the gift given me those years ago, but the strangers told me no one else had spent as much time studying their methods as I had. They saw a hope in me that I still hadn't seen in myself.

They hoped I would be a tool in the revival of their magic. But after all that time, I still had no signs of magic in any of my observations of their gift, merely exceedingly healthy and beautiful trees.

I didn't know then that it had already sprouted. It was merely invisible to me. It took my orchard out of the bounds of reality. While everything looked normal to me, the orchard had gained the protection of what was growing within.

While I myself worried daily about everything from natural disaster to attack by bandits, the orchard had folded into another reality, one that would ensure the health of its fruit, no matter what happened on the outside.

The trees created their own security blanket, and it was I who was the fool for worrying so much about their future. I could not see what was happening, but the strangers did. They knew their trees were safe, just from the charge and glow only they could sense as they passed by. There was no need for them to talk to me, and so they didn't, leaving me to wonder if I was alone in the world to have to bring back the forests that once dominated this land.

And so I'd run back and forth between both these and my normal trees, trying to ensure their collective health, not realizing the magic had already become not only self-sustaining but they were sustaining my non-magical trees as well.

I went to the market to trade my non-magical fruit for all the normal necessities of life, as I had always done, not realizing the trees had begun sustaining me as well. My body was healthy, I was free from disease, but in those years, I assumed it was due to careful and healthy living on my part. But no, it was because I was a part of the protected orchard.

A decade later, people would tell me I looked young for my age. I thanked them. "Just lucky I guess." You can't control everything that happens to you. The so-called magical fruit still looked normal to me, even after all that time. I hadn't realized that my standards for what was considered normal had also been steadily increasing.

Fruit sold by other merchants paled in comparison, but I just dismissed any attempt to label what I had seen as magic. It was sneaking up on me so slowly that I was losing my sense of what was and wasn't normal. If they appeared to glow at night, was that really happening, or just a trick of the moon and starlight? If they appeared to stretch far into the night sky from within my orchard, but barely seemed to go anywhere when seen from the outside, was that just an optical illusion?

It was decades later, a period of time in which I had not seemed to age much at all, when the strangers returned. "We would like to pick a few of what you have grown," they told me.