Chapter 191: Magical Percentile
Opening my eyes, I slowly released my grip of Uto’s horn. I took another moment to introspect, examining both the state of my mana core and my body.
I was close. The road to white core stage that had once seemed so long was nearly palpable.
I’m glad I didn’t accept Virion’s artifact after becoming a lance, I thought.
Getting out of bed, I touched Sylvie’s mind, making sure nothing was wrong. Satisfied with her calm silence, I began stretching, my body brimming with energy.
Letting out a sharp breath, I performed a series of strikes I had learned from Kordri while training under him in Epheotus. It wasn’t some stringent combination of moves per se but more of a utilization of the body’s every movement while maintaining speed and precision—connecting each punch, kick, elbow, knee while remaining flexible for whatever the outcome. A true master of this fighting style, like the four-eyed asura, could take down a whole unit and the only thing the soldiers would see is a simple monk strolling amongst them.
Synchronizing the timing of my mana flow, which had improved substantially during my training with Kathyln and the elders, with my strikes created shockwaves in the air. I wanted to move faster and with more agility, but I wasn’t a pantheon like Kordri much less an asura. Incorporating mana into muscle fibers and ligaments to utilize maximum power and speed with the least amount of physical movement—similar to what the Thyestes Clan did—would just lead to the same results as that of Burst Step to my legs.
Maybe reaching the realm above white core will strengthen my body, I thought hopefully amidst a combination of kicks.
Right as I pivoted my body to end the sequence with a palm strike, Boo’s gigantic head was poking into my room from the doorway, right in the path of my attack.
Boo was hit with a shockwave of wind from my palm strike, causing all the saggy skin around his muzzle and ears to flap wildly.
My sister’s bond and I stared silently for a moment before he let out a grunt and shook his furry head.
“Pfft!” I buckled forward and broke into a fit of laughter.
Ellie’s head poked into my room. “What’s so funny? Boo was supposed to scare you.”
Unable to form words while I tried unsuccessfully to stifle my laughter, I motioned for my sister to come to me.
Confused, she squeezed past her bond’s burly form and came into my room.
“Watch,” I chuckled, this time conjuring a gust of wind at Boo’s face. The bear’s ferocious face rippled like liquid, the flaps of skin above his upper jaw flapping up to reveal a set of teeth beneath a pink layer of gum.
My sister chortled before breaking down as well; her bond wasn’t nearly so amused. It took the both of us nearly the entire walk down to the training room to recompose ourselves.
It was probably childish to laugh so hard at something so trivial, especially considering my mental age, but who cares. I hadn’t laughed that hard in ages and it helped loosen some tension and stress.
“You two seem chirpy for such an early morning,” Emily said, yawning, her hands robotically setting up the panel as if they had a mind of their own. “Or is it still nighttime…”
“Did you pull another all-nighter, Emily?” my sister asked, concerned.
“It’s been a back-to-back all-nighter actually. It’s your brother’s last training session so Miss Emeria and I wanted to have all of the data from these two months compiled by today,” she chuckled, her eyes half-closed.
“Remind me to properly thank the both of you for your efforts,” I said, my eyes scanning for any sight of the curt elf. “Where is Alanis now?
“Ah shucks, I learned a lot from this as well so no thanks necessary. As for Miss Emeria, I practically had to force her to get some sleep,” Emily answered, letting out another yawn. “She should be here soo—ah, here comes everyone now!”
Coming through the thick metal doors first was Buhnd and Camus. Buhnd was stretching his arms, smiling as he said something to Camus. Behind them were Hester and Kathyln. The elder of the Flamesworth family was straightening out a crease in Kathyln’s tight-fitting training robe. The princess spotted me and turned a shade brighter as she tried to pry herself away from her guardian.
Alanis, who usually had the mask of a professional businesswoman, looked soulless today. Her normally deliberate steps were sluggish as she trailed behind the rest.
It took several minutes for everyone to get their protective gear on, but I was soon positioned in the training grounds with Kathyln, Camus, Hester, and Buhnd surrounding me. Their expressions were serious, as was mine. I’ve come a long way in these past two months—enough to have beaten them a few times. They knew that if they weren’t completely focused, they could lose again and they couldn’t let themselves be defeated on the last day of training.
“What was the bet again?” Buhnd shouted from behind.
“Virion is going to throw us a feast in celebration of the end of my ‘vacation’,” I smirked, looking back over my shoulder. “Of course, having him pay for the cost of everything is no fun so I suggested that the loser of this last battle will pay for the entire party.”
Hester rolled her eyes. “Consider it paid for by the gracious Flamesworth house. How much can a dinner possibly cost?”
Alanis, overhearing our conversation, spoke using a sound enhancing artifact. “Accounting for the cost of the seventy-year-old casks of alcohol fermented from rare grains found only in the outlands of the Beast Glades, as well as the approximate costs of the abundance of fine meats—all of which the prices have escalated since the start of the war—I have already calculated for Commander Virion the cost of the celebratory feast as amounting to somewhere around nearly twenty thousand gold.”
Hester’s eyes widened after hearing the exorbitant cost. She let out a cough as she attempted to feign composure. “W-Well, I believe it’ll ruin the gratifying experience of winning if I were to simply pay for the meal outright. Perhaps it is best to determine who pays for the feast with this match; that way, it’ll be much more memorable to everyone.”
I couldn’t help but smile, watching the usually composed elder being so flustered. <span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>
“I won’t go easy on you just because you’re young, General,” Camus said, smiling. “This old man’s pride won’t allow it.”
“I agree with Elder Camus,” Kathlyn added. “Perhaps besting you now will give my father and mother enough of a reason to let me help in the war.”
“How cold, Princess. Using me as a stepping stone,” I responded, lowering my stance.
“Since this is the final mock battle, General Arthur will not have any elements restricted,” Alanis’ voice sounded again. “Please begin!”
“For the alcohol!” Buhnd’s gruff voice roared, charging from behind.
Seeing that I was surrounded, there were a limited amount of options I had. With my senses heightened from mana and the rush of adrenaline, I focused on the biggest threat.
Although Buhnd was charging in while forming a giant stone mace and Camus was backing away while gusts of wind gathered around his arms, it was actually Kathyln’s mana levels that posed the biggest threat right now.
An old but effective trick, I loosened the stone ground around me and lifted the debris to form a cloud of dust around me and at Kathyln.
Manipulate the earth under my feet to spring me forward just as I push off, and expel the wind resistance as I dash, I recited to myself.
It wasn’t as instantaneous or subtle as Burst Step, but doing these two steps—namely, utilizing earth and wind—allowed me to enhance my initial acceleration without burdening my body.
I felt my body charge forth, the air slipping by me harmlessly until Kathyln was just a few feet away.
The princess inhaled sharply in surprise and attempted to cast her spell but I didn’t allow it. Utilizing wind once more, I created a vacuum in my palm, pulling her straight into my grip.
Grabbing Kathyln’s wrist, I twisted and threw her over my shoulder directly at Buhnd.
Feeling a sting on the hand that had touched her, I glanced down to see a layer of frost around my fingers.
She reacted quickly. I cast a wave of heat to thaw myself while taking note of Kathyln’s position by the pond.
Just then, the room lit up as dozens of crackling orbs dotted above.
Memories of Lucas’ Ember Wisps spell back when I was about to be an adventurer came to mind. Except, these ‘wisps’ weren’t of fire, but concentrated globes of electricity. Again I took note.
Camus took the opportunity to launch his spell as well, hurling two giant spears of wind that swirled fiercely like a drill.
I quickly moved, dodging one of the wind spear that drilled a hole into the ground before dispersing. The other one, however, was able to change direction, following me as it carved a trail into the ground where it passed.
I’m really beginning to wonder if that old elf is actually blind.
I continued sprinting, but it wasn’t aimless. I charged toward Buhnd with the wind spear close behind me. I did my best to seem as though I wanted a head-on confrontation, and it seemed to have worked. The bearded dwarf clad himself in armor and anchored himself to the ground while he held his mace high like a professional baseball player of my old world.
I charged at him condensing the blue fire in my palms. I feigned long enough for Buhnd to begin his swing. That’s when I released my fire spell at the ground below me as I jumped up. The force of my flame launched me into sky like a rocket, causing Buhnd’s giant mace to collide with Camus’ wind drill.
My moment of content lasted all but a brief second because immediately, a barrage of ice shot up from pond below the same moment that Hester decided to fire off the globes of lightning.
Why can’t they just fire their spells one by one, I grumbled to myself, my brain whirring for the best way to handle this.
I smile crept up as a glimmer of an idea flickered through my mind. I had to act fast though.
Without any restraint for mana expenditure, I released a shockwave of fire toward the splinters of ice approaching rapidly.
The ice bombarded the wall of fire, producing steam and a high-pitched whistle.
My peripheral view caught sight of the increase in brightness from the lightning orbs about to fire, but I couldn’t worry about that right now.
Wasting no time, I manipulated the moisture caused by the collision of Kathyln’s and my opposing elemental attacks while slowing down my descent with an updraft.
I shaped the water that I had gathered into a large barrier of water around me, just as Hester’s spell cast a barrage of lightning my way.
The water manipulated from Kathyln’s spell that had utilized the mineral-filled water from the pond was a perfect conductor.
The water bubble surrounding me began bubbling as the blast of electricity hit. A deep buzz filled the training room while the lightning tendrils flickered on the surface of the water around me.
I need to get rid of this thing before I hit the ground.
Manipulating the electrically charged water, I shaped it and fired it off in a stream directly at Buhnd, the one that would be the weakest to this combination of elements.
Buhnd didn’t have a chance. His life-line artifact activated, forming a pink protective barrier, just moments after the compressed stream of water hit him and electrocuted him.
Needless to say, after Buhnd was out for the count, the tides of the battle had changed. While it still took a while, after negating Kathyln’s ice lance through a combination Camus’ air cushioning technique and Buhnd’s kinetic redirection, I was able to knock Kathyln out of the battle.
“Someone really doesn’t want to pay for their own celebratory feast,” Camus smirked.
“I don’t even know if I can afford the feast,” I retorted with a chuckle.
With only Hester and Camus remaining and the fact that I had full access to all of my elements, by another twenty minutes, I was able to subdue them.
I plopped back on the ground, my chest heaving and my mana core aching. “I… I win.”
Camus let out a sigh, leaning against a wall as he caught his breath. “Congratulations, but there are more pressing matters.”
“I agree,” Hester nodded beside him as she blotted the sweat on her forehead with a handkerchief. “Who’s going to pay for the exorbitant cost of the feast?”
“Wasn’t it decided that the losers were going to pay?” Buhnd asked, confused.
I sat up. I thought so too.
“True, but why hurt many when you can just break one?” Camus added, a smile forming on his face. “I vote that Buhnd pays for the meal since he’s the one who got out first, causing the rest of us to lose.”
“What!” Buhnd bellowed. “From whose sore ass did you pull that quote out from?”
“I second Camus’ vote,” Hester replied immediately with a show of hand.
“Hester!” The dwarf’s eyes widened before turning to Kathyln. “Princess. You don’t think the same way as those old bats, do you?”
Kathyln, who had been with my sister and Emily, averted her gaze from Buhnd, and raised her hand as well.
I could see the bearded dwarf’s jaw drop as he began counting the theoretical cost of the extravagant meal with his fingers. After a minute, Buhnd straightened his posture and cleared his throat. “Gentlemen. Ladies. We are in times of war. We should be sparing resources for our beloved soldiers out there on the field. Isn’t that right Miss Emer—argh! Damn bat! Release my earlobe!”
“What good will giving soldiers seventy-year-old alcohol do, you old fool. Don’t try to get out of this!” Hester snapped while dragging her companion by his ear as the rest of us laughed.
After everyone had calmed down, we settled around in a circle for our last debrief. It was a bittersweet feeling. Two months flew by, but I formed bonds with the elders and had gotten to know the aloof princess a bit better during this period. Toward the end, Kathyln had started conversing more with Emily and Ellie, even hanging out together in the castle together from time to time.
A small part of me wanted to forget about the fact that there was a war raging below us, but with Tess and my parents out there, I knew I wouldn’t truly be able to relax until the war was over.
“Now, the moment I’m sure that everyone has been waiting for!” Emily’s chirpy voice sounded, snapping me out of my thoughts. “Alanis has recorded the progress of Arthur’s mana flow utilization while I compiled the data of General Arthur, Princess Kathyln, Elders Camus, Hester, Buhnd and cross-referenced it against the data I’ve received from my assistants from students at a few academies and some soldiers.”
Emily must’ve noticed the traces of skepticism written on my face as she mentioned the sample diversity and size.
“It’s been pretty hard to get a wider range of participants, this continent being in war and all,” she said glumly. “This measurement is something I’m planning on standardizing and actively promoting with Master Gideon’s help, so getting data will be an ongoing process. For now, you’ll have to make do with the two hundred entries I’ve received from various mages.”
Buhnd fidgeted in his stone chair. “Well? On with it, girl. Only about a fifth of my ass is on my seat right now from all this anticipation.”
I suppressed a chuckle. The bearded elder’s reaction reminded me of a student anxiously waiting for their grades to be handed back by his teacher.
Emily didn’t find Buhnd’s impatience as amusing as I did and began quickly sifting through her stack of paper until her eyes brightened as I assumed she finally found what she was looking for.
“Okay! I’ll start with Elder Buhnd, since he seems to be the most curious,” Emily began. “Please be advised that this data does not take into account mastery over mana, simply the raw output of force that your average spell contains during battle.”
The young artificer flinched when she saw Buhnd’s intense gaze drill holes into her as he waited for her results. Clearing her throat, Emily spoke. “Based on how much higher Elder Buhnd’s fpu is compared to the average of limited data we had acquired, he is roughly in the ninety-first percentile.”
“Ninety-first percenti—what? No way that ninety-one percent of the population is better than me!” Buhnd blurted, stamping his feet on the ground.
I chortled, unable to suppress my laughter as Emily looked at the old dwarf incredulously.
Hester merely let out a sigh and shook her head.
“It means that only nine percent of the population has a higher fpu than you,” Camus answered, unfazed by his companion’s naivete.
“Oh…” Buhnd’s posture straightened and a smile creeped up, spreading his beard like some sort of frilled lizard. “Heh! Oh.”
Hester rolled her eyes as I spotted my sister trying to cover her smile with her hand.
“Again, this data can’t be considered completely accurate since the data pool is so small and very biased toward certain demographics,” Emily explained. “Most likely, everyone’s percentile will increase as more data is gathered.”
The words seemed to have gone in through one ear and have left through the other as the word ‘pride’ was practically written on Buhnd’s face.
Emily continued, turning to Camus. “Elder Camus’ fpu is in the ninety-third percentile.”
Buhnd seemed to have snapped back to reality because his brows scrunched when he heard the score. Camus simply nodded in acknowledgment.
Hester… wasn’t so nice.
“Elder Hester’s fpu is actually the highest of everyone at a ninety-fourth percentile.”
Ellie let out a faint whistle while Buhnd’s eyes widened. Hester took this exact moment to cast a downward glance at the dwarven elder, coupling the look with a haughty smirk.
“Bah! The data isn’t considered completely accurate. Remember?” Buhnd recited, fuming.
“I didn’t say anything,” Hester shrugged. She erased the smirk on her face but the twinkle in her sharp eyes still showed her content.
I guess the high affinity for magic runs in the Flamesworth family, I thought, being reminded of Jasmine’s competence in magic—albeit not fire magic.
Emily turned to Kathyln, smiling. “Princess Kathyln, your fpu is in— “
The princess raised a hand, shaking her hand. “I’d rather not get caught up. Knowing me, comparing myself to others will hinder more than help.”
Alanis regarded the princess in approval but remained quiet as Emily finally turned to me. “Lastly, Arth—General Arthur’s fpu is in the ninetieth percentile.”
Buhnd’s eyes lit up once again as he trotted to me and put a hand across my shoulder. “You’ll grow in time, young general, but for now it seems like my fpu is just a tad higher than yours.”
“So it seems.” I smiled, expecting as much. From the beginning, the elders raw mana output was stronger than mine. I had the advantage of being able to utilize all four basic elements and the higher form of two, and fusing multiple elements into a single attack would often have more devastating results than single elemental spell, but on average, I had known the elders would come out on top.
“Big talk for someone that got knocked out first in a four-versus-one match against the ‘young general’,” Hester scoffed.
Buhnd scowled, turning red. “Do you want to take this to the field, you old bat?”
Hester’s brow twitched in anger. “Again with the old bat!”
“Enough with the bickering!” Camus cut in, sitting straight in the stone seat that Buhnd had conjured for all of us. “Miss Emeria. Did our time spent with the young general bear fruit?”
The stoic elf dipped her head respectfully. “General Arthur’s mana flow rate has hastened a noticeable amount. I believe these two months have been utilized to its full potential.”
“That’s good,” Camus sighed, turning to me—a gesture I found odd now that I knew that he could see just as well without facing me. I figured it was more a gesture for me than himself.
Alanis walked to me, handing me a small journal bound with leather. “This is for you, General Arthur. the detailed recordings of my analysis over this period are written in here. I have taken the liberty of pointing out areas for potential growth so that you can have a more guided training while I am not with you. ”
“Thank you,” I said sincerely, gingerly holding the small booklet. “You’ve really outdone yourself.”
“It was my pleasure working with you,” she responded with a courteous nod.
Buhnd clasped his hands together, drawing all of our attention. “All right! I don’t know about all of you, but I’m starving and my mind keeps going back to those seventy-year-old caskets of alcohol!”
“Yes,” Hester agreed. “And the thought of Buhnd having to pay for all of it is sure to make everything tastier.”
I could hear Buhnd grumble as the three elders headed toward the door. I ushered the rest to follow after them as well. They all deserved the time to unwind and have fun.
“A-Are you sure I can go? It seems like a party for the really important people,” my sister asked, hesitating.
I pat my sister’s head. “Of course you’re invited. I better see you and Boo eating enough to make Elder Buhnd homeless!”
Her gigantic bond let out a grunt in confirmation before scooping Ellie up with his snout and trotting off.
Smiling at the sight, I looked back to see the young artificer scrambling with some artifacts inside her little cockpit of panels. “We’re the last ones, Emily,”
“I’m almost done cleaning up! You go on ahead!”
Not wanting to make her rush more than she already was, I took her advice. “You better be there unless you want to make Ellie lonely at the party.”
I quickly gathered the array of paper that were scattered all over the ground behind my fpu measuring artifact—working name.
After carefully placing the panel components into the wooden box, I placed the papers carefully on top, noticing Arthur’s name on the top sheet. It was the fpu readings that I had managed to gather while he was in that angelic form of his where his hair turned white. I thought I had lost it.
Letting out a chuckle, I shook my head, crumpling up the sheet of paper. “Ninety-ninth percentile. That can’t be right.”