Chapter 62: Baby Steps
“Did you guys do your homework?” I sat down on top of the podium so I could get a better view of the class while I fixed my hair.
I slept through most of my Fundamentals of Mana Manipulation class so I feel a lot better. As I look around from the center of the stage, I see my students looking at each other in hopes that they have the answer to the questions I asked them yesterday.
“Looks like there’s no choice but for me to answer the question.” Feyrith finally sighs before standing up.
“The mana core is an excellent way to easily and accurately measure the level of the mage’s power because it is correlated to how much effort and time that mage has spent on condensing and refining mana from their surroundings into their core.” He finishes off with a swish of his hair while sitting down.
“No.” I hop off from the podium and walk towards the shocked Feyrith.
“It certainly is an easy way to gauge the mage’s power but it’s far from accurate. Princess Kathyln, if you see an ordinary fighter that stood at two meters and weighed almost three hundred pounds full of muscles, what is your assessment on that fighter?” I turn my gaze towards the Princess that was sitting next to the embarrassed elf.
“I can expect the fighter to have robust strength.” She finally says after pondering over the simple question.
“Correct! All we can tell is that the oaf is probably freakishly strong. Does that say anything else about his combat ability? Yes, he’s strong, but in order to be a great combatant, there are other factors such as agility, technique, mental fortitude, experience, etc. The stage a mage’s mana core is at only determines how much ‘muscles’ he or she has, but it doesn’t much else about the other factors. Refining your mana core to higher stages is still important, of course, but if that’s the only factor you use in gauging your opponent’s level, you’re setting yourself up for defeat.” I see some students start jotting down notes so I catch my breath.
The nerdy girl with glasses raises her hand after she finishes writing down her notes. “Question!” She asks.
“Yes, Miss. Myrtle?” I find it amusing how much her name suits her character.
“If trying to sense the opponent’s mana core isn’t an accurate way of gauging his or her level, what do we do?” She has this face that seems to say ‘try that question on for size’.
“You don’t. Just assume that the opponent is stronger than you. Gauging the mana core stage of anyone should just be used to satiate your curiosity but it really doesn’t help. Even if sensing the mana core level can accurately gauge the fighting strength of your opponent, what are you going to do if your opponent’s fighting strength is lower than yours? Go easy on him? Pick on him because you know you’ll win? What do you do if his fighting strength is higher than yours? Run away? Chances are, if you’re in a situation where both of you are actively sensing each other’s mana core, then running away won’t be an option.” I pause for a minute.
“Being overconfident because you find out that your mana core is higher than your opponent’s can make you careless while getting scared if your opponent’s mana core is higher than yours will just make you feel hopeless. Bottom line is, life isn’t so simple that you can accurately know whether or not you can beat someone based on the color of someone’s mana core. There are cases of fighters beating careless mages because the mages got sloppy from being too arrogant. ALWAYS assume the opponent is stronger than you and try your best. If that opponent was weaker than you, then you put an end to the fight quickly to save him the humiliation. If that opponent was stronger, congratulations, you’ve overcome the mental limit you guys have been holding onto all your lives.” I feel like some inspiration speaker rather than a lecturer.
I walk over back to the podium where Sylvie was now taking a nap on and continue speaking.
“Now, for the next homework. Any of you figure out what I did last class with the two wind spells?” I ask, leaning back against the podium.
“Sigh…” I guess being spoon-fed answers all their lives really took a toll on their critical thinking skills.
“I’ll do a little demonstration for the Augmenter’s answer first.” Rolling Sylvie to the side, I take out two pieces of paper from underneath her. I crumple one of the papers into a small ball and show it to the class.
“Watch.” I put the ball on my right palm and inhale deeply, building the suspense.
“Fwoo.” Utilizing all of the air in my lungs I manage to blow the crumpled ball of paper about a meter away from me.
The students stare at me with a blank face from the anticlimactic outcome.
Holding my fingers up to silence any students about to argue what the point of that was, I roll the other paper I had into a tube. Packing the ball tightly into the back end of the tube, I inhale deeply one more time.
“FWOOM!” The crumpled ball of paper shoots out more than 10 meters in front of me before bouncing on the ground.
““AH!”” Some of the students had light bulbs go off in their heads as their expressions brighten up in understanding. I hide my grin when I see Kathyln’s face also brighten up as she starts jotting down notes. As for Feyfey, he still has a question mark bobbing on top of his head because his face looks clueless as before.
“Since many of you seem to understand what I just did, can someone please enlighten the rest of the class?” I say as I walk up to pick up the pieces of paper I littered.
“It has to do with concentrating mana into a small point, then compressing it and shooting it out, right Professor?” A shy looking girl with a huge spear next to her responds quietly.
She called me Professor!
“Correct! Augmenter’s are raised to utilize the many mana channels that they have so we unconsciously use a lot of our mana channels for many of our spells, diluting it. It doesn’t matter so much when you use it on your body but the spell is weakened greatly when attempted to cast a long-range spell.” I demonstrate by widening the paper tube I rolled up. Blowing through one end, the ball I put inside loosely just drops down in front of me.
“It’ll be hard to get used to at first but being able to better control your mana channels will help you greatly. Now, for Conjurers’ turn.” I pick up the crumpled piece of paper I littered.
“Since Conjurers naturally have much less mana channels compared to their mana veins, they naturally shoot their spells in a compressed form, whether it’s out of their body directly, or by affecting an area to have the mana alter it into the form of their desired spell. What Conjurers need to do is utilize the raw amount of mana that they can absorb to compensate their lack of mana channels. Close your eyes and try to imagine this.” I see everyone confused but shut their eyelids nonetheless as they wait for my next instructions.
“Imagine both Conjurers’ and Augmenters’ bodies to be a pool of water. We’ll say that leaves are particles of mana. For an Augmenter’s body, just picture small bundles of leaves being dropped in various locations over the pool. While these bundles may be small, because there are so many, they begin to spread and join the other leaves that spread from other directions until the surface of the water is covered in leaves. That is the essence of body enhancement. Now, for Conjurers, imagine just one humungous ball of leaves dropped into the pool of water. Because it comes from a single location, it may take longer for it to spread, but in the end, the leaves will still be able to cover the surface of the pool. That is how body enhancement works for Conjurers.” The class remains silent as the students open their eyes and think over what I just said.
“The reason why all of you Conjurers injured yourselves while trying to absorb the spell you conjured is because you didn’t use the mana from your core. The only mana that you’re completely immune to is the mana refined in your mana core. Even that, after your mana influences the environment into a spell, can hurt you. Therefore, Conjurers will need to utilize both mana from the atmosphere and mana from their mana core into a spell and integrate it into their body or drop the big pile of leaves to make it spread over the pool of water.” As I finished explaining, I motioned for the class to come down onto the stage and start practicing. For the rest of the class, I went around helping them while giving them little tips on how to better visualize what they need to do.
After the giant bell rang, signaling that the class was over, Sylvie stirred awake and hopped on top of my head as I dismissed class. I was surprised some students actually complained that the class was too short. I guess I was doing something right.
I took the long route to my next class to take up more time while I did a broad surveillance. I messed around with sending very faint pulses of wind to try and use it as a sort of 3D radar but my limit for now was around 20 squared meters, which wasn’t very useful since I could see that far anyway. Earth Pulse wasn’t as useful since I can only detect the very basics like, how many people were in the area, not if they were actually in combat or not and the buildings and trees diluted the accuracy.
Arriving to Gideon’s class late, he just motions for me to hurry on to my seat before he resumes talking.
“Hey. Why are you so late?” Emily whispers to me.
“Disciplinary Committee duties. I have to go around school until ten minutes after class starts.” I respond, lowering my voice so Gideon doesn’t hear.
“All right! Let’s get in pairs and work on our project. The materials are in the back but don’t all of you go all at once.” He takes a seat and starts reading over something while the class stands up to get the materials needed for the Light-Producing Artifact, or LPA. I was about to walk over as well when Emily stops me.
“I already have all of the materials we need for an LPA. Let’s just get started.” She rummages through her oversized bag before finding the various necessary components. After laying out all of the things we needed, she looked at me and pointed with her lips to get moving.
Building the LPA wasn’t easy but Emily seemed fairly impressed by how fast I caught on. Even if she was a twelve year old, her being a genius and all made me a bit happy.
The rest of class was spent with tinkering around with some of the various parts to artifacts that Emily brought with her until Gideon dismissed us. As I was about to leave, he grabbed me by the back of my shirt and pulled me towards him.
“Brat. Let’s catch up sometime. We have a lot to talk about.” He gives me a devious grin but otherwise just pats me on the back.
“Mhmm. We should grab some coffee, Professor.” I wave back before leaving the room with Emily.
‘Papa, Avier told me to head over to the training room again.’ Sylvie thumps my nose with her paw to grab my attention.
‘Is Avier Director Goodsky’s green owl? How can you talk with it?’ I ask my bond but she doesn’t really know why either.
“Hey Emily, I have to head over to the library so I’ll be skipping lunch. Go ahead without me!” I wave at my friend.
“Do you want me to go with you?” She looks at me but I just shake my head.
“It’s fine. Go find Elijah for me! He’ll be lonely if I’m not there.” I give her a smile before running off in the direction of the library/training rooms.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Leywin.” Chloe greets me with a professional smile and a bow before motioning me to the back door.
“Nice to see you again, Chloe.” I smile back, following behind her with Sylvie wagging her tail on top of my head.
After passing by the scary man, I made my way downstairs without the help of Chloe this time. ‘Hopefully Elijah won’t be too bored hanging out with Emily, right Sylv?’
“Kyu~” ‘He’ll be okay!’ my bond reassures me.
As I place my right palm against the giant cold doors after reaching my room, a bright light once again greets me.
“Boo!” Tessia jumps from the side of the door with her hands out wide.
“Hey, Tess.” I respond nonchalantly.
“Aww… you weren’t scared. No fun.” She grumbles while catching Sylvie who jumped off my head.
“Haha. You’ll have to try a lot better than that. Come on, let’s get started with your assimilation.” I push her towards the center of the training room. It’s amazing how dense the air was with mana in this room compared to outside. Even the very fact that there was grass and a waterfall put me in awe every time I came in.
“How’s your body been feeling lately? Are you still getting symptoms of rejection from your Beast Will?” I ask while Tess takes a seat near the pond.
“I haven’t gotten it ever since the last time we were here…” She responds but turns quiet afterwards.
“Hey, Art?” Turning her head back, I see Tess’ long grey eyelashes fluttering over her distinct teal eyes.
“Well…compared to you, I’m so emotional and so I feel like you get overwhelmed and just end up following my selfishness.” Tess’ gaze shifts down as she says this.
“Ah, so you do know.” I smirk in response, which earns me a smack to my arm.
“We’ve known each other for how long, Tess? At this point, you can trust that you’ve seen all sides of me, even the ones I don’t want to show. Even knowing that, the fact that you accept me and have patience with me, I’m grateful. Don’t ever think that what I’m doing is out of obligation.” Ruffling the downhearted princess’s hair, we begin the assimilation.
Tess’ mana core has come a long way. At her age, being a solid orange stage Conjurer is on the level of being classified as a genius. While she isn’t able to refine her mana core until the assimilation is over, it shouldn’t affect her too much. While mine took years, I estimate that with my help, it should only take a couple more weeks for her to completely assimilate with the Elderwood Guardian’s beast will.
“Let’s end it here today.” I pat Tess’ back to signal that we were done.
“Thanks.” Tess shoots me a shy smile as we both sit in the grass, the only sound coming from the waterfall and Sylvie’s soft breathing.
“I-I know you said to give you time but, do you think I can maybe hold your hand right now? Just for a bit? If not, it’s okay I-I won’t be mad.” Tess couldn’t look me in the eyes while stuttering. While her hair was covering her face, she couldn’t hide her red ears poking slightly out.
I gently grab Tess’ right hand with my left and squeeze firmly. While our fingers weren’t interlocked, the warmth from her hands spread onto mine.
“Is this okay?” I try to take a peek at Tess’ face but she leaves it covered. I couldn’t help but smile when she nodded her head furiously in response to my question.
For a couple of seconds, time seemed to go slower as we just sat there, hands locked.