The dim ray of the rising sun managed to peek through a gap in the deep burgundy curtains right over my eyelids, waking me up rather pleasantly. Rubbing my crusted eyes, I took a moment to silently take in my surroundings. The Helstea Manor wasn’t built with attackers in mind, so the exposed stone walls were rather thin, instead, allowing for more windows. The room I had been occupying was large but hardly lavish, with only a large dresser to occupy the center of one wall and a desk situated in the corner of another. The only luxury I indulged myself in was the fact that I had my own private washroom, with a heated water supply—something I realized to be truly rare in this world.
Shifting my glance to the unabashed figure of Elijah sprawled out beside me in bed, I shook my head with a smirk. The pillow fort that my friend had insisted on at first had long gone out of trend. Whether it was due to the fact that he had become more comfortable with me, or because building a pillow wall every night seemed to be hassle, I never asked.
Carefully getting out of bed, I gently stroked Sylvie’s head, making her gingerly stretch out like a cat. My bond had ended up sleeping for four days straight before eventually awakening. She explained to me that changing forms like she had a few days before would put a bit of a toll on her body, which was the cause of her deep slumber.
Sylvie stirred awake for a few seconds before letting out a yawn and curling back beside my pillow. I walked over to the dresser, unhinging a thicker robe to wear over my sleepwear to fight against the frigid morning air that I had become unaccustomed to.
It was only a little past dawn so the manor that seemed to always be bustling with maids and my little sister was still very peaceful, with the only noises coming from the few cooks in the kitchen getting ready for the day. Not bothering to wash up, I made my way to the backyard where I felt fluctuations in mana. As expected, my father was busy training, absorbing the S class beast core I had retrieved from the dungeon.
Not wanting to disturb his training, I found a place to sit next to him and I began studying his aura. My father, Reynolds Leywin, ex-party member of the Twin Horns, was stuck at a bottleneck—unable to exceed past the dark orange stage.
Over the past few days I’d been back home, I had spent a lot of time overlooking the mana circulation in my father’s body, as well as Elijah’s.
As expected, Elijah’s mana veins, the veins responsible for absorbing mana from the surrounding atmosphere, were incredibly wide. My father, on the other hand, had much more developed mana channels, the arteries that allowed diverse distribution of mana throughout the body, since he was an augmenter. However, while its been developed to its limit, it was hardly exceptional.
“Ah! You’re up early today, son. Why didn’t you say anything?” My father got up, wiping the sweat off of his face and neck with a towel he had on his lap.
“I didn’t want to disturb your training, Dad. How are things going?” I got up as well and began stretching.
“It took a few days, but finally finished absorbing the rest of the beast core. For some reason, though, the core didn’t crumble.” He handed the S class core back to me with a curious look on his face. Usually, after the purified mana stored inside the beast core is depleted, the beast core would crumble into fine dust.
Thinking it peculiar myself, I put it into my pocket to study later.
My father had been doing little else except eating and sleeping for an hour or so during the process of absorbing the beast core. At first, not much difference in levels could be felt, but looking at his aura now, I could see a noticeable change.
Noticing my inquisitive look, he shot me a smirk and tossed me his dirty towel. “Your father has now passed the dark orange stage into the solid orange stage.”
I gave my father an exaggerated round of applause as he began flexing his muscles in demonstration of his accomplishments.
“Congrats, Dad. Now that you’re at solid orange stage, I think it’ll be okay to teach you something I’ve been messing around with.” I tossed the towel onto a nearby chair.
Giving me a curious look, he beckoned for me to continue.
Focusing a tiny bit of mana into the palm of my right hand, I will a small flame to ignite. “Here is the most basic flame attribute technique you learn, Ember.” I shoot the small flame from my palm toward the towel that was hanging off the nearby metal chair.
As expected, the small flame, by the time it reached its target, was so diluted that all it left was a tiny black soot mark in the middle of the white towel.
“If you’re talking about mana theory, it’s not anything new to me, son. For augmenters, since we produce mana from within our bodies, the farther the mana travels away from us, the more diluted and weaker it becomes.”
“I wasn’t trying to demonstrate mana theory. That’ll be for next time, Dad.” I wagged my finger at him, earning myself a hard thump on the head.
Rubbing my head, I willed another small portion of mana into the palm of my hand. I ignited another flame but whereas the first time the color of the flame was bright red, this one was orange. “Now watch, Dad.” I shot the small flame, that was the same size as the previous flame, at the towel once more, but this time, it burned a small hole through the towel.
My father didn’t show much of a reaction. “Didn’t you just add more mana into the flame to make it stronger?”
Shaking my head, I explained. “If I added more mana, the flame would be bigger. Dad, did you notice the color of the flame?”
“Yeah, the color was a bit lighter—more orange.” He scratched his head, trying to piece this puzzle together.
“That’s the key! What I did just now was a technique that is considered a high level spell used by conjurers.” I grew excited as I began explaining it to him.
“You see, fire’s temperature—or more accurately—the rate of combustion, depends on a mix of different things: the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, thermal radiation, the type of fuel being burned, the oxidation of the fuel and so on. The so-called ‘fuel’ being burned, in this case, is fire attribute mana. What I discovered while playing around with it is how versatile this ‘fuel’ can be. That orange flame, Dad, was a flame much hotter than the previous one, making it even stronger.” I stopped to take a breath.
My father shoots me an expression as if I had just talked to him in Hebrew but he seemed to have understood the last portion of my explanation. “So what you’re saying is that, by using the same amount of mana, I can produce an even hotter flame for my techniques?” He fiddled with his beard while pondering.
“Exactly! Watch, it can go even further.” I demonstrated again, this time producing a yellow flame, which left an even bigger hole in the towel, with the ridges still aflame.
I didn’t stop there. The last demonstration took a bit more time, since I had to manipulate, very carefully, the fire attribute mana in my palm. After a couple of minutes, I produced a dim blue flame, which made my father’s eyes go wide. Upon throwing the blue flame at the towel, the towel instantly combusted and the fire spread rapidly, eating away at the towel until only ashes were left.
“Are you sure you’re my son?” My father gave me a suspicious eye before smiling.
Smiling back, I replied, “I must’ve gotten Mom’s brain, right?”
Just then, Elijah walked in, his hair a bird’s nest and his glasses crooked. He cast a drowsy glance toward us, taking in the sight of me clinched in a headlock by my father who was squeezing hard at my nose as I tapped in resignation.
“What are you guys doing?” he said as he yawned, rubbing his eyes.
“Training.” We replied in unison, my voice coming out nasally through my pinched nose.
I gave my father a few key pointers in controlling the structure of his flame attribute mana so he could produce higher-level flames. Changing the structure of the attribute mana was basically the essence of chanting a spell. Using vocal incantations could condition the brain to change the structure of the mana in the atmosphere to create a spell.
While settling into a meditative position, my father asked, “Son, why did I have to achieve solid orange stage in order to learn this though?”
“The higher your mana core stage, not only do you have a larger pool of mana to draw from, the purified mana inside of you becomes higher quality, so you can have more control over the miniscule properties of it,” I clarified, turning my focus unto Elijah.
Nodding in understanding, my father resumed his training, holding his right palm up and willing mana into it.
Elijah’s training was a bit slower. What I realized with Elijah was that his control over his main element, Earth, was unstable, metal even more. It wasn’t so much as a problem with mana manipulation of earth attribute mana, but more so the quantity. Elijah’s lack of control over the strength of his power made it so he couldn’t make precise and coordinated spells.
One thing that continued to baffle me about Elijah’s magic was how unfair it was. Earth was powerful, yet limited in the sense that conjurers and augmenters alike could only make do with the earth that was accessible to them. Most of the time, that wasn’t a problem, but it still gave a certain amount of predictability in the attacks that earth mages used.
Elijah, on the other hand, seemed to have the ability to change the structure of molecules and change them into earth. The closest thing I could think of that may explain it was something akin to alchemy. Elijah, for example, could summon earth spikes from trees and buildings made of wood. A limitation is that he wasn’t able to conjure earth spells from water or thin air, but his capability to so easily change the structure of earth and its properties was frightening, even to me.
When I thought about the possibilities of how his powers could be used, I thought of the spell, Petrification. When normal earth conjurers used the petrification spell, it was actually just using the surrounding earth to form around the target, “petrifying” him. Elijah, on the other hand, if he became adept enough, could literally change a human into stone.
I shook my head to dismiss my frightening thoughts. At this point, I was just glad that Elijah was a friend, not a foe.
Elijah’s training consisted of playing around with a small ball of earth. He had practiced doing different things with the small ball of earth: rotating it really fast, changing the shape of it, expanding it, condensing it, splitting it into different pieces, etc. This way, he could train both his mana control and shorten his incantations by learning the so-called “theory” of how the spells worked.
As my father and friend concentrated on their training, I headed back to my room, leaving the two of them alone. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of my bond sleeping so defenselessly on my pillow. She was most likely still recovering from her transformation, observing the amount of time she still spent sleeping; fortunately, these periods of slumber had been getting shorter.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I took out the beast core my father had returned to me, probing it with a string of mana. The mana inside had been depleted so I was curious as to why it hadn’t dissolved. However, upon probing a bit deeper, a sharp pain in my left arm made me drop the beast core.
“What the hell?” I rubbed the rune on my arm that I had always covered underneath Sylvia’s feather. Carefully picking up the beast core again, I probed it once more, even more intrigued than before. Suddenly, inside the vast black space of the beast core that I was studying, the shadowed figure of the elderwood guardian that I almost lost my life to appeared, bowing at me with its lance pointed directly upward.
“A beast will!” I trembled in excitement as I clutched harder at the invaluable prize I had obtained from the dungeon. What would happen if I were to integrate with two beasts? Was that possible? Would I then have two? Or would this one replace my Dragon’s Will?
While I was thinking of these things, a sudden feeling interrupted me. It wasn’t as intimate as the mental transmissions I had with Sylvie, but a primitive form of communication. Realizing that it was from the will of the elderwood guardian, I injected more mana into the beast core, hoping it would somehow allow me to have a better connection with it.
“I see,” I muttered aloud. A feeling of disappointment washed over me as I let go of the beast core. From what the elderwood guardian was trying to express, if I were to try and absorb this beast’s will, only the stronger of the two would end up being left. It made sense, but what I didn’t understand was, why wasn’t my father able to absorb the beast’s will?
I realized the answer almost immediately after remembering what Grandpa Virion, that crazy old elf, taught me a few years back. There was the matter of compatibility between the beast’s element and the mage’s element attribute.
I couldn’t help but let out a small smile knowing who to give this to.
‘Good morning, Papa! Why are you smiling?’ Sylvie cuddled up on my lap and let out a purr as I stroked her fur-like scales.
“I’m just thinking of how fun school is going to be,” I answered.
“Brother! Wake …oh!” My sister slammed the door open but after seeing me awake, she just stood by the door.
Walking up, I patted my sister’s small head with a smile. “Let’s go eat!”