“You didn’t look out for the spell behind you, my dear,” Myre reprimanded. “Proper interpretation of mana fluctuation starts with sensing the spells right when they affect the physical realm. Then you utilize Realmheart to accurately determine what form it will take. Even if your opponent chooses to vocalize their spell, what they are imagining is actually what will affect the size, shape, and duration of their spell. Even then, some mages might use a vocal projection as a feint to trick their opponent.”
I was able to make sense of her advice, but it was becoming harder to stay conscious as I lost more blood from the gaping wound that went through my clavicle. The asura continued debriefing the mistake I had made that led me to have this wound, all the while healing me by using aether. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened—or even the seventh time for that matter—since starting my training. Through the numerous times I had failed in properly analyzing the flow of mana before it had materialized into a spell, I noticed that her healing through the use of aether was fundamentally different than that of my mother’s healing spells.
The limits my mother—along with any other healing mage—had were nonexistent to Myre. She was able to rid ailments, close gaping holes, even grow missing limbs, which had begged the question: why didn’t Myre simply cut off my legs and grow me a new one?
From what Myre had explained to me, it seemed like using aether past a certain threshold came with costs. It didn’t happen for all of the spells she did, or even most for that matter. However, the use of aether to grow a whole new limb meant that she had to extract the aether that was sustaining the life of something, or someone, else.
“I know what you’re thinking when you’re faced with the spells, child.” The asura’s voice startled me into focus. “Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to counter the spell before it manifests. It took me decades to get it right, and that was considered fast amongst us dragons. Now, shall we call it a night?”
Looking up at the sky, a thin layer of orange in the horizon was all that was left of the sun as night continued to take over.
“Sounds good,” I smiled, trailing behind into her small cottage.
It was surprising how the weeks had gone by unheeded thanks to the endless training and company from the elderly asura.
There was one thing that had become glaringly apparent over these past few weeks training with Myre, however: the docile and mild temperament that the asura had apparently feigned while she was nursing me back to health was all a lie. She made for pleasant company during any other occasion, but on the training grounds, her true personality became exposed, revealing a demonic entity that made even Kordri’s training seem like a puppy-petting session.
Worst of all, because of her expertise in healing through aether, there was little holding her back. She had a saying that she had repeated on numerous occasions that still haunted me in my dreams: “The best medicine for an injury is preventing one from happening in the first place. So if you don’t want me to injure you, prevent it.”
She would say that with the same sly smirk before hitting me with a colorful array of spells that I was forced to read and dodge using Realmheart.
It wasn’t only practical training, though. She had taught me what to look out for when a spell was about to manifest. Depending on the type of spell that would form, the mana particles would start fluctuating differently, so it was crucial to know what exactly you were looking at in the brief window. Needless to say, it was a lot like learning a new language—except your life depended on it.
It was frustrating at first, to the point where I even asked if it was possible for Windsom to let me use the aether orb to conserve time, but she spoke against it; something to do with the aether orb not allowing me to get an accurate grasp of how mana worked in the physical realm.
However, to Myre’s surprise, I was able to make leaps and bounds in regards to what I dubbed as mana interpretation. According to Myre, what took her half a year had taken me a bit shy of a month. I was nowhere near ready to use it in a real battle, but the fundamentals were there. Just like reading a book, I had the words down, but being able to speed-read would take months, maybe years.
These past six weeks, every morning would start off with mana analyzation as Myre shot out different spells of varying elements up in the air, and sometimes, directly at me. Continuous use of Realmheart while training in this fashion had allowed me to somewhat increase the duration of this ability, but not by much.
In the afternoon, I would debrief on the mistakes that I had made and the nuances that I should watch out for to get a better prediction of what the spell might form into. Myre was meticulous in her explanations about why mana behaved the way it did, which helped the progress of my training.
After that, I would train by myself, going through the different forms that Kordri had instilled in me as I shadow-sparred. At night, before I went to sleep, I would always make sure to train my mana core, but after that last huge breakthrough I had made, there had been no drastic change in my core.
Just as the two of us had finished eating a simple stewed beef for dinner, a clear knock rang from the wooden door.
“Come in,” Myre called out as she took a careful sip from her mug.
“Excuse my intrusion,” the familiar voice responded as he opened the door.
It was Windsom.
I couldn’t say I was happy to see him despite the fact that I hadn’t had contact with the asura for months. The ever-so-poise asura with his platinum-blond hair cropped short and trim unexpectedly lowered himself to a knee, genuflecting with obvious respect towards Myre.
I had figured Myre had a certain level of influence within the Indrath Clan based on her powers and the fact that she was even able to keep me here despite the training I was supposed to be undergoing with Windsom. However, for him to be showing that much respect to the elderly asura sent some questions through my mind.
“I apologize for coming without notice, but Lord Indrath has already arranged for Arthur’s next instructor, and he is waiting rather impatiently for his student.” Windsom’s gaze lowered as he spoke.
“Very well, I do wish to keep tabs on the child, so there would be no problems if I popped in every now and then, right?” Myre’s question came off as more of an irrefutable declaration by her tone.
“Of course not. Now, we must get going”—Windsom’s gaze turned to me, indicating for me to get ready—“So if you’ll excuse us.”
“You should go, Arthur. Remember to continue your training with Realmheart.” Myre ran her fingers through my hair that had grown long enough to be considered a mane.
“Of course. I’ll have it mastered by the next time we see each other,” I teased, exposing a childish grin.
Following Windsom out of the cottage, we made our way through a dense cluster of trees that surrounded Myre’s little hut.
While walking, I couldn’t help but notice Windsom’s gaze as he regarded me curiously.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, stepping over an exposed root.
“For Lady Myre to take the time to not only heal you but to train you as well…” His voice trailed off as he shook his head. “Your luck continues to amaze me.”
I ducked under a particularly low branch. “Who exactly is Myre, anyway?”
“Lady Myre,” Windsom stressed. “And I’m not in the position to tell you if she hasn’t told you herself.”
“You know, when I first met you, I figured you were pretty up there. Now, not so much,” I chuckled as we continued deeper into the forest.
“Watch your tongue, human. Even if I was the lowest of asura rank, I’d still be stronger than any of you lesser races in Dicathen,” Windsom retorted.
“My bad. I guess I struck a nerve?” I held my arm up in concession.
Exasperated, Windsom merely shook his head in silence. We soon reached the teleportation gate that Windsom had set up, glowing in radiating light as it reflected the destination it was set to.
“Remind me again why you set the gate so far from the cottage?” I asked, approaching the gate.
“Lady Myre’s protection field ends here,” he said simply as he dipped his right foot in through the glowing circle. “Now come. Your instructor isn’t one for waiting.”
As Windsom’s body disappeared through the gate, I followed immediately after. Over the years, I had gotten used to the dizzying sensation of traveling through this method.
As I stepped out of the teleportation circle onto the sand-strewn ground, I couldn’t help but gaze in awe at the vastly different landscape we had traveled to. We were at the bottom of what appeared to be an enormous crater with imposing walls, carved by nature, towering over us on all sides. It looked like water once filled this giant hole at one point in time, but the only traces left now were the silver, ribbon-like fissures that lined the walls at varying heights. Plant life—life in general—seemed nonexistent as the harsh, arid air cut into my face. The uneven floor that spread across acres on end appeared to be constantly moving as the wind blew and spun debris in no particular rhythm or pattern.
“So my next training session is going to be here?” I confirmed, my voice quivering at the thought of spending weeks, or even months here. Because of the constant teleporting between my different training grounds, I couldn’t get a clear grasp of the continent of Epheotus; if I had come here under better circumstances, I would’ve wanted to explore the land of asuras.
“You’ve spent this past half-year training mostly in augmented melee combat. To put it simply, you’ve honed different skills in key aspects necessary to fight in a war. Now, you’ll start fitting everything together into a cohesive style that utilizes your elemental magic and your melee combat skills.” As the asura explained, he seemed to be searching for something as his eyes scanned over the distance.
“And this instructor will help me do this?” I surveyed around us as well.
“Ah, he’s here,” Windsom announced, ignoring my question.
“So this is him? He’s the pup that’s supposed to be the hero, leading Dicathen to victory against the Vritra-raised armies and their disgusting little Lessurans?” A deep, bass voice reverberated clearly from the top of the gorge.
The insect-sized figure standing on top of the crater’s edge, shadowed from the sun shining at his back, leaped up, growing larger as he descended like a meteor toward us.
Upon landing, an explosion of sand and debris made both Windsom and I shield ourselves. As we waited for the dust cloud to clear, a large hand shot out from inside the cloud and lifted me off the ground. Even as I struggled using mana, the giant hand’s grip around my waist refused to relent.
As I was pulled into the cloud of debris, a firm, deep voice resonated, shaking me to my very core. “Hello, Pup.”
As the cloud dissipated, I was able to make out the source of the voice and the one I’d been trying to hopelessly free myself from.