Even at Myre’s ominous warning, I had remained silent—numb, almost. I had a hunch that this might’ve been the case after ending up here, but her words made this predicament all too real.
My mind spun, trying to weave together a string of reasons to refute the asura’s verdict. However, none came to mind. Regardless of how much mana I infused to strengthen my body, what I was doing with Burst Step was directly stimulating the muscles to such a degree that, apparently, it would tear them—and my bones—to pieces.”
“I always thought this world held the potential for limitless possibilities, and magic would be at the epicenter of it all. But I see now that no matter where you end up, there is always a ceiling, keeping those who wish to venture into the unknown caged in,” I sighed, looking up at the wooden ceiling above us.
“I know that you spent a lot of time developing this mana art, and it’s rude of me to pry this secret out of you, but how does your movement technique exactly work?” Myre queried, a twinkle of interest apparent in her hazy green eyes.
I first told her how I came across the idea of the skill. Myre already knew the foundations of Mirage Walk, which the Thyestes Clan had engineered, which saved me some time. I then explained the basic mechanics of how I improved Mirage Walk from its initial concept. Mirage Walk was simply a passive skill that was used to hide the user’s mana fluctuation. Recounting the months I had spent trying to get even a consistent handle on Burst Step sent a painful ache down my chest as it finally hit me that all of that was for naught.
It had been the first time I had developed a mana art that went beyond the boundaries of this world, since it was only possible with the knowledge I had from my previous life. But I couldn’t her that. Instead, I told her how I first came across the idea…”
“Fascinating,” said Myre, deep in her own thoughts. “To utilize the intricacies of the body to such a degree… I would’ve never thought of something like that.
“I was shocked to see your body in such a state at first, but after you’ve explained to me how this movement technique worked, it’s a wonder that your legs haven’t been permanently crippled,” she continued, still in awe.
“It doesn’t matter now, does it? I can’t use this skill without shattering my body and tearing up my muscles, so I’ll have to think of some other way to prepare for this upcoming war,” I shrugged, trying to keep my bitterness from showing on my face. “Feel free to use it, Myre. As a thank you for healing my legs.”
“My child, I have to say that I have very little confidence in being able to replicate what you’ve just explained to me. The sheer amount of control and intricate fine-tunings that one would need to properly execute this Burst Step is beyond my grasp,” she confessed with a chuckle. “I’ve grown complacent with old age. I have sought out the hidden mysteries of vivum, abandoning the practical uses of mana long ago. Rest assured, the secrets of this skill will end with me.”
“Thank you.” Her words offered little comfort to my current dilemma. “Myre, I’m feeling a bit drowsy since I haven’t had the chance to sleep…”
“Of course, my dear,” the asura answered immediately. Casting one last sympathetic gaze, she blew out the candles lighting the room, and left.
With the absence of firelight, the hut darkened, and my eyes could only make out the thin pillars of moonlight that made it past the thatched roof. The specks, dust, and ashes from the smoldering remains in the fireplace danced in the streams of soft, white light, filling the small space with an alluring ambience.
Telling Myre that I wanted to sleep was a lie. Sleeping was the last thing I wanted to do; I had already wasted enough time as it was.
I closed my eyes, analyzing my current situation.
My breakthrough into the silver core stage was more than a pleasant surprise since my core was refined to the mid-level stage. The amount of mana I could now utilize through this advancement, along with the help of Mana Rotation, was several times higher than it had previously been since coming to this continent. My hand-to-hand combat abilities had also made quite a leap forward thanks to Kordri, which, coupled with my sword mastery, would place me easily into the AA-class as an adventurer even without the use of elemental magic.
Despite all of this, however, I had little to show in terms of improvement in magic or mana arts. I was hoping to learn a thing or two about how mana was manipulated differently by asuras, but so far, I had learned next to nothing in that area. The asuras had provided me with a great means to train in the best environment possible to make sure I was heading in the right direction, but they seemed less than willing to impart any secrets to their fluency in mana manipulation.
Mirage Walk was the only technique I had managed to piece together, and while it was an important asset, it would have little impact in a large-scale battle.
There was an inevitable connotation of mystery and wonder when it came to mana manipulation; not nearly as much as aether, but still there. While Dicathen was a place of unimaginable sights and possibilities compared to my previous world, it goes to say that, compared to Epheotus or even Alacrya, my home continent was an infant in terms of knowledge and comprehension of mana.
There were actual asuras that resided in Alacrya, and it’s safe to assume that, through the ages, they’ve imparted their knowledge of mana to the inhabitants. Coming from the perspective of a war leader, if Agrona wanted to take over Dicathen, he needed enough forces to not only successfully invade our continent, but also enough to protect his Clan from the asuras of Epheotus who, I can safely assume, were eagerly waiting for the Vritras to show some sign of weakness.
To be able to successfully accomplish his goals, he needed the lesser races of his continent to be stronger than the ones in Dicathen. While the Alacryan forces would be limited to how many they could afford to send on the long expedition across the sea, or through other means, what I wanted to know was how much more powerful they were.
I became curious of the exact intel that Cynthia Goodsky had provided to the asuras and leading figures in Dicathen. I was sure they were making proper defensive measures, but until I was briefed on the available intel, I would be left to blindly wonder about the enemy forces’ abilities.
It was daunting as my thoughts shifted over to the capabilities that the Four Scythes and their retainers held. The report that Windsom had relayed to me said that a retainer was capable of wiping out a team led by a Lance.
Was I able to kill a retainer with my level of power right now? I wasn’t sure. Alea Triscan, the Lance who had been killed, was at the white stage. Although her mana core development was due to the artifacts bestowed onto each of the Lances, it still gave her a considerable amount of raw power to utilize. To be able to so easily kill her, even with the skills that I have harnessed during my training here, I knew better than to underestimate a retainer.
The rest of the night was an indistinguishable mixture of vague lucidness and moments of fitful sleep. Before I knew it, the cottage was filled with a warm light from the morning sun.
Reaching over to the empty pail by the side of my bed, I put it on my lap. Using mana to gather water into my palms, I splashed my face in hopes to stir myself awake.
“I take it that you had a rough night?” Myre’s voice chimed from the edge of the hut.
“Can you tell?” I joked, feeling a bit more refreshed from the crisp water.
“The shadows beneath your eyes have practically reached your chin,” she chuckled, walking over to me.
Removing the sheet covering me, she carefully began unwrapping the bandages on my leg. I noticed that her eyes had turned the same lavender shade as they had when she used Realmheart as she inspected me carefully.
“Good, the bones in your legs have been set in place well enough for me to fully treat them now. I had to work in parts in case the bones and muscles decided to start mending improperly.” With that, Myre’s hands began glowing the same silvery hue from when she demonstrated her use of aether. She ran her hands down my legs, leaving traces of the silvery mist behind. Slowly, the mist began penetrating through my skin and sinking into my legs.
At first, there was only a slight tingle as my once-numbed legs began getting their feeling back. However, it wasn’t long until that mild tingle intensified into an excruciating pain that seemed to sear through every inch of my legs. If I hadn’t known that Myre was actually mending my legs, I would’ve been tempted to cut them off right then and there. The fact that I had been holding in the need to urinate didn’t help the sheer discomfort followed by the waves of escalating pain.
My legs didn’t feel like they were getting healed. Instead, it felt like the asura was growing me a pair of new legs in the most painful way possible.
“Gah!” I let out a choked cry as I clawed at the bed in hopes to distract myself from the pain.
“I should’ve warned you about the pain, but I’m basically forcing your body to heal itself at a hyper-increased rate. With the broken tendons and muscles trying to reattach themselves to the bones, you can guess why you’re feeling the way you do.” The asura held her attention to my legs as beads of sweat began forming above her thin brows.
The pain lasted for approximately ten minutes until it started to slowly subside. By the end of the treatment, I was gingerly flexing my toes. With the consent of Myre, I brought my legs to the edge of the bed, carefully putting on weight one foot at a time before I tried standing up. Immediately, my legs buckled at the unaccustomed weight, as I fell on my side.
“Be careful. Your legs are fully healed, but you’ve lost a lot of muscles in your lower body through this treatment. You might not be used to how weak they are.” Myre spoke evenly.
“There’s no pain or discomfort, at least,” I replied, unable to hide the excitement in my voice. My legs did feel weaker, but that would only be temporary. I had full control.
“This does not change the fact that you cannot use Burst Step anymore. I will not be able to mend you when you are in Dicathen and each time, it’ll be harder for me to heal them.”
“I understand.” I tried my hands again at the simple task of standing up; this time I was able to keep myself upright, although my legs did start trembling. After an hour or so of steadily hobbling around inside the cottage, leaning against the nearby furnitures and walls for support, I knew what I had to do.I immediately went outside to the back of the cottage to relieve myself, spending a few minutes outside to stretch, taking in the crisp morning air that smelled of dew.
“I thought about what you said yesterday, my dear,” Myre spoke out from the porch. “Concerning your inability to act on the information I disclosed to you.”
Shaking my head, I replied, “I’m sorry about that, Myre; I said that out of frustration. What you told me was something that I would never be able to learn elsewhere. To the point where I realized how far behind Dicathen is in terms of knowledge of mana.”
“Compared to how short it has been since the inhabitants of Dicathen began experimenting with mana through the artifacts we gave them, they’ve come a long way.” Walking out of the hut, she waved for me to follow, making her way towards a perfectly tended and trimmed lawn of grass.
“Even I am limited in what I am allowed to disclose, but since this is something you already have, nudging you in the right direction is all I’ll be doing,” she said, standing a few meters away from me.
“I’m not following,” I replied, studying our surroundings. There was nothing around except dense clusters of trees towering over us, making the cottage and trimmed front lawn look very out of place.
“Don’t worry. I’ve already told Windsom that I’ll be borrowing you for a bit longer.” The air changed around us, and near instantly, Myre activated her Realmheart. The light-gold runes glowed softly beneath her sleeves as her misty green eyes shifted into a radiant lavender. “Now, my boy, using whichever combination of every magical spell you have under your belt, hit me with all you have.”
Looking at the frail and thin Myre standing in the field of grass, I hesitated at her command. However, a dreadful pressure erupted from the same frail-looking asura that wiped out any concerns I had of injuring her. It felt more like I’d be the one in danger if I didn’t comply with her instructions.
“Okay.” I gathered mana into my hands, but before they could even form the spell I had intended to conjure, Myre’s voice rang from a distance.
“In your right palm, you’re preparing a compressed water sphere while your left hand will shoot a small gust of wind. Child, I asked that you hit me with all you have.”
She had been spot on.
Ignoring her taunts, I fired my two spells and immediately concentrated on the area beneath her feet.
“You are planning on rupturing the ground under me, which is a clever idea, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t ruin the grass,” she interjected after casually avoiding my two spells. Myre stomped the ground softly and before my spell could even take effect, she had already cancelled it.
My mouth gaped just a bit before I regained my composure. My mind shifted back yesterday when she explained how Realmheart could be utilized to heighten perception, but I had never expected it to be to this degree.
“Like I said. This is an ability that you already have,” she chuckled, tapping her temple. “I’m simply going to be nudging you in the right direction.”