My 7th mana point burned inside my Core. I grinned and held my hand up for a high five. I received a soft touch instead of the expected smack.
I scowled at Mr. Black. His broad shoulders raised and lowered with a heavy sigh. I shoved my hand towards him, and he slapped it properly.
“That’s better. Now I just need to learn Minor Haste.”
“You may want to take a break.”
“Nope. I’m learning another spell.”
“You’ve been here for almost 8 hours already, and you’ve been awake for much longer.”
I paused. “Time is still frozen here, right?”
“Of course. But your mind needs a break, even with your spurious body.”
I turned the page to the next spell I could learn.
Duration: 1 Minute
Description: When you cast this spell your body and mind work 1.25x their regular speed.
I studied the complicated diagram and a headache formed above my right ear. “Where do I even start with this?”
“From the beginning.”
“It’s in the shape of a star. Where do stars begin?”
“The left corner?”
I started copying it from the left corner, and when that didn’t work, I remembered how one of my math teachers taught me to draw pictures by breaking them up into thirds. From there it was a simple matter to copy out each third. As I did so, I realized that it was actually a series of interconnected squiggles and letter shapes that formed a star. Soon I had it copied several times.
On my fifth attempt, Mr. Black said, “Are you sure you don’t want to sleep?”
At the word sleep, I grabbed my book and darted several blocks away. While the gray world wasn’t actually separated into blocks, I couldn’t help thinking about distance by that definition.
“Don’t you dare put me to sleep. Every time you do something bad happens. Like you being punished, killing that demon, or going on vacation. I actually think that I don’t even need sleep anymore and that you putting me to sleep was just an excuse to get rid of me.”
He studied me. “I see. In that case. Go to sleep, and I promise nothing bad will happen this time. No demons, no sisters, and no prisons. After that, if you think it hasn’t helped you I’ll never ask that you sleep again.”
“Only if you promise you’ll still be here when I wake up.”
I put my book and notebook away.
Mr. Black placed his hand on my forehead and said, “Sleep.”
Within moments I drifted off into a peaceful, dreamless rest.
When I awoke, it was to Mr. Black’s frowning face. “Ms. Knight. You almost died while on the fourth floor.”
“Of course not,” I said. “I did die. Then I came here.”
His eyes narrowed. “You had to use a Death Saving Crystal.”
His fingers tapped impatiently on his scythe’s shaft, and I sent him a sheepish smile.
“You should have mentioned that to me immediately.”
“What? Can you do anything about it?”
“What do reapers do?”
“Um, bring people back from the dead or escort them to their next journey?”
His left brow rose.
“But the wraiths are in the mine. If you could have escorted them, wouldn’t you have done so already?”
“They are a product of the mine from when it was without reapers. So, you’re correct when you say that I cannot do anything about them by myself; however, you can help clean them up.”
“Wait, you’re giving me a way to fight them?”
“It is not that I’m giving it to you as much as I’m lending you the ability.”
“Ability? But I thought you weren’t going to teach me anything else.”
“Trust me when I say that I don’t do this lightly.”
“Okay. I’m ready to learn.”
“First, tell me if sleeping helped you?”
I stood up and stretched then thought about the haste spell. Its diagram was a little fuzzy in my memories, but I could recall it with ease now. I peered at him. “Okay, I admit that I do feel a little better after resting.”
“A significant amount?”
“Not really. Maybe a little bit?”
He nodded and looked thoughtful.
“Wait? Does that mean I can’t learn the new technique or whatever it is?”
“You can learn it. And from what you’ve said, you will need to sleep at least four times a year from now on but preferably once every other week.”
I laughed. “You’re talking as if I’m not going to go back to normal after the fight with Nenvari.”
He stared at me, no emotion on his face. Wait, was he using the Death Mind Technique?
“I’m going to go back to normal after I defeat Nenvari, right?”
His lips didn’t even twitch.
I laughed without mirth and stared down at my hands. “So, what? I’m just going to stay like this, even if I defeat him?”
“Are you ready or not?”
I had guessed that not having my body go back to normal might happen, but no one had explicitly said anything until now.
I sucked in a deep breath.
His silence had given me the answer I was looking for, but not the one I wanted. But at least he was instructing me how to take care of my body once this was over, and against his better judgment, he was giving me another technique.
“You better not get in trouble for giving me this.”
“I had it approved while you were asleep.”
“Good, then I’m ready.”
He pressed his hand to my temple and once again whispered slippery words into my ear. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I understood one or two words. A picture formed in my mind.
Reaper Technique: Spirit Sleep
Cost: 10 external or 7 internal death-type mana points.
Target: One Soul-type Being or Self
Duration: Lasts 1 minute to 8 hours depending on target
Description: Touch the target and say “Sleep.” As long as the target is [@~~*~~#^~~~`%] then you can put it to sleep.
I frowned. “There is something in the description I don’t understand.”
“I suspected there would be since you’re not a reaper.”
“I know, but what is it?”
He grinned. “Proprietary information.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
“There is also this.” He took out a blue and gray plastic scythe that looked like something Mattel would make for toddlers.
“Dude. What is that?”
“Next time you encounter a wraith. Use the sleep technique on them, then bop their head with this. It will call any nearby reaper to take the spirit away.”
I didn’t really want a baby's scythe, but I grasped its textured plastic handle. When I attempted to take it from him, he wouldn’t let go.
“The reapers are entrusting you with this, Ms. Knight. Don’t abuse it. If you do, you will not be given a second chance.”
I swallowed. “I would ne—”
“Stop. Don’t say, ‘never.’ Say that you will endeavor not to.”
I repeated the words, and he let go. The scythe was lighter than a Styrofoam cooler.
“Trust me, Mr. Black. The last thing I want is to get on the bad side of the person who brings me back from death.”
He relaxed. “I’m not worried about you getting on my bad side, Ms. Knight. I’m worried that the others allowed this at all.”
Considering how corrupt I knew them to be he had excellent instincts.
“Take out your bow.”
Confused, I did as he asked. Immediately the toy scythe flew out of my hand and was sucked into my weapon, disappearing as if it had never been. I stared at it confused.
“When you need it just think of it. It should be similar to how you will your pickaxe to appear.”
“Will Korren or Meeks know it’s in there?”
“Of course not. Now, are you ready to go back?”
I took out my book and reread the Haste spell. “You know? I think I am.”
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Bio: Artist and a retired game industry professional.