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A note from Wutosama

edited 10/12/18

The terrible news of Gwen's 'true' talent spread like the thirteenth-century quasi-magical bubonic plague. She quickly left the main building before a mob could pick up enough momentum to start throwing textbooks.

When Gwen finally got to the dorm apartments, Yue and Elvia were already giddy with the good news.

"See? Told you so." Yue beamed with optimism; an infectious grin split from ear to ear.

"Congratulations, Gwen on discovering your talent!" Elvia ran into Gwen's arms, her small frame twirling about Gwen's neck.

Feeling overwhelmed by fortune's favour, Gwen embraced her two besties, feeling grateful for having made such dependable friends.

"You'll probably have to see Old Bartlett soon,” Yue advised. "Man, just thinking about your Quasi-Lightning gets my blood boiling - you and me, two powerhouse duos, Elvia at the back healing ... we are going to rock that Field Trip."

"Don't count your cockatrices before they hatch. We still need to find a Tank," Elvia lectured them. Unlike Yue, she was not looking forward to facing live combat. "There's no one good in our year. We ask the Seniors."

"Abjurers are a dime a dozen." Yue shrugged. "Although we could put you up as a prize and hold a school-wide competition to find the BEST Abjurer! A day with Elvia, a date with the Golden Princess!"

"Please don’t," Elvia rebuked Yue sternly; Yue had on an evil expression.

“Hoho, I can see it now! The three of us, piling up that mountain of beast carcasses. Maybe we’ll even find a Creature Core or two if we kill enough of them.”

“You mean the five of us?” Gwen interjected sceptically.

“Pufft… its just going to be us pulling the weight anyway.” Yue snickered arrogantly. "You know, finding a Core on our first adventure would be awesome. We can exchange it. We'll have LDMs for days!"

All Mages dreamt of finding a Creature Core.

The Core of Magical Beasts formed the basic ingredient for Magical Items. The stronger the beast, the denser the Core, the higher the danger involved. A few Earthen Goblins was merely fodder, but a Coastal Basilisk could wipe out an entire mining outpost.

"Alright, clear out, don’t stand in the doorway for Magus’ sake!” The gruff voice of a man announced behind them; it was the caretaker of the Dorm. Iron-Faced Rawson, Yue nicknamed him for his stern and stoic nature, but Gwen rather liked the man. Rawson was the sort of person who was the opposite of her father - focused, laconic, and useful.

"Got a call from Admin." He turned to the trio. "Gwen Song, the old man wants to see you."

"Thanks, Mr Rawson.”

Rawson nodded back.

"Congratulations,” the caretaker intoned expressionlessly before returning to the interior of the apartment.

"You like that sort of man huh, Gwen?" Yue's brows wiggled.

"Mr Rawson?" Elvia looked at Gwen with shock. "He's like a Dad!"

"That's the point... hee hee hee," Yue persisted in her dirty hypothesis. “We all know Gwen’s got Daddy issues…”

"Good God, you two..." Gwen rolled her eyes. Bloody immature teenage hormonal meat bags.

BUT, she was a teen herself, there was no help discounting that. Her body had a mind of its own, even now. Somewhere inside her flesh and blood, the old ghost of the erstwhile Gwen haunted its halls.

At anyway rate, Gwen was not attracted to Rawson, no. She was merely admiring the rare bird known as competence.

 

 

The Principal's Office was on the ground floor of the main building. Blackwattle was a simple school with a simple pedigree, and so a simple oaken door opened up to a spacious interior adorned with awards and accolades.

Magus Jules Bartlett had served as the Principal of Blackwattle for two decades. He was a well-known figure both within the school itself and in the neighbourhood. Generations of Acolytes came and went, but all recognised the ever-present personage that was Principal Bartlett at the gates, 0700 sharp, dutifully greeting each student. Amiable and approachable, the Principal was a man fond of conversation.

When Gwen entered, she was met with a reassuring smile.

My God, his beard is impeccable. Gwen thought. Not a hair out of place.

"Miss Song, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, have a cuppa if you like." The Magus motioned to the table, adorned with a steaming pot of stoutly brewed English Breakfast.

"Thank you, Sir." Gwen sat, tilting her long legs to one side and crossing her ankles behind chair's lip.

“Your progress comes as a great blessing, Ms Song.” Bartlett began. “Barely two month ago, you Awakened only as a Generalist!”

“I wasn't feeling my best sir,” Gwen replied sheepishly.

Principal Bartlett laughed.

“If only matters of Awakening were accountable by moods!” He exclaimed. “I called you here to congratulate you, Miss Song. And to offer an apology.”

The Principal's eyes observed the young woman in front of him before continuing.

“Instructor Thomas informed me of your happy accident. That despite NOT Awakening in Evocation, he had placed you out of pity."

Gwen felt a little stunned at the news.

“I am sure Instructor Thomas was correct though…” Gwen answered, wondering if she could salvage the situation. She was to blame, after all, both her confused incompetence and her enticement of the Instructor to pity her. “When I got home, I tried to do all sorts of experiments. Nothing succeeded, I was truly a Generalist.”

“That may be,” Bartlett intercepted on her behalf. “But to think that but for a moment of pity, he would have recommended you for the Non Magical stream…”

Yeah, that would have been catastrophic, Gwen concurred.

“I understand,” she replied carefully. “I still don’t blame Instructor Thomas though.”

“A warning then. You are too kind.” Bartlett waved a hand through the air. “If we had a Diviner, perhaps this could have been averted, but alas.”

Gwen nodded demurely, playing the unworldly school girl.

“How is your training fairing?” The Principal pivoted toward a more discerning topic.

“I’ve only really awakened to the Sigil this morning,” Gwen answered honestly. “I don't think I have had an opportunity to test the extent of my abilities…”

“Are you able to manifest?”

“Yes, Sir.” Gwen hoped that she wasn't overextending her luck, a performance failure now of all times would be catastrophic.

“Would you mind a demonstration?” Bartlett asked.

Gwen swallowed discretely.

“I’ll try my best sir.”

The two of then left their seats and stood in the middle of the spacious office.

Gwen turned her mind inwards and invoked the Evocation sigil. Having experienced its invocation in the Cognisance Chamber, she could envision it now perfectly, feeling the mana flow through her Astral Form, shift into Lightning, then flood her conduits.

"Lightning Grasp!" she incanted, a spell that was a cousin to Flaming Hands, Yue’s favourite. She felt a jolt of electricity travel across her forearm, then the collated energy of her arcane phenomena manifested.

With a muffled crash, a coil of blue-white lightning crackled around her hand, creating the element’s distinct chitter. Ozone filled the air, and static electricity flooded the surrounding space, sending up strands of Gwen’s hair and Principal Bartlett’s beard.

“Beautiful,” the old Magus exclaimed.

“It’s hard to control sir,” Gwen confessed, her face beginning to sweat. It was her first time, and her spell furiously sought to discharge. The sensation was akin to wrangling a thrashing weasel, any more and it was going to take off her fingers.

“!”

Magus Bartlett drew an Abjuration Sigil in the air. A Shield shimmered around the Magus silently. Transmuters and Abjurers could shape their Shields, but other Schools of Mages tended to favour semi-circle domes.

“Strike my Shield,” Bartlett invited Gwen. “Let us see the efficacy of your affinity.”

Gwen did not doubt for a second that the Magus thought little of her mere tier 1 spell. She extended her hand and touched the shimmering, near opaque Shield.

With a resounding 'Crack!' the electricity dissipated, deforming it for a fraction of a second before the membrane returned to its original shape.

“Impressive. Truly wonderful!” Magus Bartlett exclaimed happily. “Lightning is the lovechild of Evocation; its penetrative impact power is far stronger than that of Fire, Earth, or Water!”

With the spell fizzling after its expenditure, Gwen regained control of her hand. Her head felt a little woozy for the effort.

“Your affinity is exceptional,” Bartlett announced after a moment of thought. “I could feel the free nature of the Lightning element flowing strongly in your spell. Well done, Miss Song!"

Gwen noted a strange discolouration in the Principal’s eyes.

She recognised the phenomenon as Detect Magic; there was a picture of it in her textbooks. The Divination staple was useful for detecting magical events. At very high tiers, it could act as a portable version of Cognisance. Watching the Principal flit between schools and spells, Gwen realised just how far she had to go.

Principal Bartlett meanwhile, was lost in the thought of what he should do with the newly minted sorceress, having now two capable Evokers on his hands. He felt that perhaps, it was best to report to the Tower and make a request for them to send an external instructor.

“That was your first time?” He turned to Gwen. If true, then he should be doubly impressed.

Gwen felt her face aglow with embarrassment, unsure whether she performed well or poorly. Was her manifestation unclean or crudely managed? A clumsy spell was as dangerous to herself as it was to others.

“Yessir," she confessed.

“I must then acknowledge your talent, then admonish your rashness,” the Principal intoned with sagacity. “It is good to be ambitious, Gwen, but know your limits.”

Gwen bowed her head, staying in character.

“I will have your LDM allowance upgraded to the same level as Miss Bai and Miss Lindholm,” The Magus added kindly. “I anticipate great things from you at the next examination.”

“I won't disappoint you, Sir,” Gwen replied, her eyes sparkling as she met the Principal's demanding gaze head-on, switching from humility to braggadocio.

"Very good. Dismissed."

Gwen closed the door behind her.

Yue and Elvia met her outside the administration building.

“How did it go?”

Gwen gave her companion a 'V' for victory.

“On par with Yue (you).” She laughed.

The girls uttered a unified hip-hip, hurray, drawing curious glances from juniors and seniors alike.

Things were finally looking up! Gwen mused happily. To think that only two months ago, she was molested and robbed and was about to live a life of unfulfilled mediocrity! In two days, she would receive a new tithe of LDMs, and then her training could begin in earnest!

 

 

The girls' practice settled into a routine.

Gathered on the lower oval's practice range, she and Yue lit up the field with their Evocation incantations.

Grudgingly, the school's cohort came to accept Gwen's new found powers. Albeit many refuted their budding admiration, the crowds that gathered whenever Yue and Gwen practised suggested otherwise.

Once she was OoM, Gwen meditated, cradling an LDM shard. Within a quarter of an hour, she was topped up and ready for another round.

With a growing stockpile of crystals at their disposal, their training was going swimmingly. Each day, when others had gone back to their dorms to study theory, Gwen, Yue, along with a talented few, could remain until sundown. The repetition meant that they built up a tolerance to mana drain, increasing both mana pool and mental stamina. Gwen's meals were also significantly improved, consisting mainly of Quasi-magical Beasts harvested and delivered to the school's cafeteria.

As classes came and went, Gwen's night and days were beginning to blend. Her practice often became so exhaustive that she lost track of time. She called this 'the zone', feeling a curious Zen as the condensed mana stowed within her LDMs permeated her body.

 

 

Blasts of flame roared across the field, creating pockmarks of craters across the asphalt practice zone. Beside the torrents of arcane fire, flashes of cobalt lightning tore at the ground, materialising from the aether.

The gathered crowd was here to observe the ‘Dynamic Duo,’ as Yue had come to call herself and Gwen. Yue possessed affinity 4 for Fire and Gwen 3 for Lightning. Compared to their tier 1 peers, they could fire off four spells to the other's three.

The passing grade for participation in the field trial was the demonstration of the ability to produce ten consecutive phenomena and a Shield, graded for damage, speed, variation, and defence.

The micro-management of mana was drilled daily into the students by stern instructors. With each bout of exhaustion, the students alternated between rest and casting, optimising spell cycling.

The crowd cheered.

Yue was radiant as always, perspiring with youthful exuberance. As a Fire Mage, her body would slowly attune to the element, becoming resistant to heat and cold. By the same measure, her constitution would become increasingly hostile to water-based Enchantments and body-buffs.

"Fire Missiles!"

The crowd roared as darts of fire leapt from Yue's finger to envelop a conjured practice dummy, turning the effigy into smouldering chunks.

Such grace! Such smooth and fluid somatic casting! The crowd applauded.

Satisfied, Yue turned to observe Gwen, only to see her friend gesticulate wildly at the field like a madwoman flinging invisible cats.

"Hahaha!" Yue couldn't help but burst into laughter.

Hilarity aside, Gwen's bolts were making quick work of the dummies as well.

For the audience, the difference between Fire and Lightning was instructive in themselves.

Yue's AoE was far more impressive but had travel time, and was subject to line-of-sight.

Gwen’s Lightning spells appeared from thin air, materialising from above the target, striking almost instantaneously. This difference in manifestation was why Lightning was so dominant in both duels and Monster hunting. However, as a trade-off, Gwen's spells were localised and exceedingly difficult to aim.

“Spatial casting is much harder than it looks,” Gwen complained cattily to Yue, wiping herself down with a towel. “How do you find your projectile magic?”

“Line barrages are fine,” Yue admitted. “But the whole parabola thing is pretty abstract; I still need to get through the physics of it in class.”

After practice, the two became immediately surrounded by juniors, more so favouring Yue than Gwen, who had a reputation as the illegitimate daughter of an underworld mob boss.

“Can I get you a bottle of water?” someone asked eagerly.

“Two.” Yue was shameless.

“Alright!” A boy ran off happily.

“…” Gwen blinked at Yue with judgemental eyes.

“Hey,” Yue sniggered. “I only exploit those who are willing.”

Gwen shook her head.

“When's Elvia finishing?”

Elvia wasn't with the girls. The healer undertook specialised training in mundane Medical Triage as well as magical healing. The School couldn't find an Instructor willing to teach just one student, so Elvia's family provided their own. As it were, she was now presided over by her uncle, a senior Cleric.

When the two returned to the dorms, each holding a gift of chilled mineral water, they were greeted by a jubilant Elvia.

"Hey." Yue glanced at the clock. "Elvia, you had dinner yet?"

The blonde girl shook her head.

"That's what I like to hear." Yue grinned expansively. "We're heading to my place. My mum's made dumplings!"

Elvia blinked.

"You know." Yue made a shape with her hand. "Wontons? Jiaozi?"

Elvia shook her little blonde head.

Yue took the tiny girl by the shoulder, feeling her nervous bones creak.

"Alright, mate." she grinned. "You're in for a treat!"

 

 

Yue had her house in the suburban sector of Forrestville, roughly thirty minutes away from Blackwattle via public transport. Where Gwen's apartment was nestled in a forest of concrete habitat blocks, Yue's two-bedroom abode was caught between two six-storey flats, reminding Gwen of the house from UP.

"Here we are!" Yue opened the groaning gate. Her father had done his best, but there was so much one could do for corrugated iron.

Elvia stood on the dying grass of Yue's front lawn and took in the distended scent of heavy industry that permeated the suburb. Only two streets away, the housing gave way to an industrial zone filled with warehouses. Before the flats went up, Yue's house had enjoyed the sun. Now, it rested permanently in shadow.

Even here, developers were a plague, Gwen observed. It must be a universal constant.

"Bai Yue, welcome home!"

"Good evening, Mrs Bai." Gwen bowed.

Flustered, Elvia quickly bowed as well, sending a cascade of flaxen strands flowing over her shoulders.

"Oh..." Yue's mother made an 'O' with her lips. "Who is this?"

"I am Elvia Lindholm." Elvia curtseyed.

Yue's mother audibly gulped.

"She's the healer friend," Yue interjected helpfully. "The one I've been telling you all about."

Elvia looked up with her big blue eyes.

"HOW WONDERFUL!" Yue's mother gushed, drunk on Elvia's adorable presence. "COME IN! COME IN!"

The girls entered.

Gwen had always envied Yue's home, this world or the last.
Though cramped and narrow, it was lived-in and homely. The corridor leading to the living room was filled with Lumen-pics, decorating the walls eclectically. The living room itself was plushly carpeted, possessing an old fireplace in front of which Mr Bai had read picture books to a young Gwen and Yue.

Besides the modest living space was a cramped kitchen-dining combo: a domain entirely strange to Gwen, whose father rarely if ever cooked, and whose personal culinary expertise consisted only of instant ramen and Spam. Had Forrestville not been such a Mecca for street food, Gwen and Percy would have grown into the teenagehood knowing just toast and Vegemite, a cheap but potent form of quasi-magical compost.

Mrs Bai settled the girls around the dining table; a beaten old thing accompanied only three seats.

"Food's almost ready. You girls must be hungry!"

Gwen and Elvia watched marvelled as Yue's NoM mother suddenly appeared as if she possessed multiple sets of limbs, chopping, frying, stirring, mixing and plating all at once while multiple pots bubbled on the stove.

She returned a few minutes later with a steaming heap of pork and cabbage Jaozi.

"I made it with Wildland pork," Yue's mother stated proudly. "It's a rare treat! Eat up!"

Yue mixed the dipping sauces for her two friends while Elvia struggled with her chopsticks.

"Like this-" Gwen demonstrated with one hand. "The index finger and the middle finger should be pressing against the moving stick, while the stationary stick rests against the phalanx."

Elvia was quick on the uptake.

"Mum, are you eating?" Yue asked her mother.

"Go ahead," Yue's mother smiled sweetly. "I'll wait for your father. He likes em fresh."

Eager and curious, Elvia gingerly picked up a dumpling, dipped it into the sauce Yue had prepared, then placed it into her mouth.

"!!!"

Her ocean-blue orbs grew large.

Pain, pleasure, scalding meat-soup, spicy and savouriness struck her tongue at once.

"Evee!" Gwen gasped. "It's HOT! There's soup inside! Oh my God, Yue, you didn't tell her?"

Yue popped a boiling dumpling into her mouth.

"Its fine to me."

"You're a tier 4 Fire Mage!" Gwen chided her friend. "We don't have heat resistance!"

"Oh?" Yue touched her lips. Looking at Elvia, she realised her friend was in genuine pain. "Shit, sorry Evee. I'll get you some water."

Having caught the commotion, Yue's mother returned with a glass of cold water.

Elvia waved the cup away.

"Hwealing Tooch!" she announced, wincing as she incanted the Clerical cantrip. "Oh Lord... my goodness."

"Are you alright?" Gwen asked worriedly. Yue's mother trembled by the bench, not knowing if she should apologise or disappear.

"Delicious!" Elvia beamed, surprising all of them. "Thank you, Ma'am."

"Oh... I am no Ma'am... haha..." Yue's mother squirmed.

Yue's cloudly mien lightened. She had thought Elvia would have left, or at least berated her.

Gwen caught the sparkle in Elvia's eyes and marvelled at the girl's emotional intelligence. It wasn't often that someone could overcome their agony, especially when it was dealt by the ignorance of another. Gwen felt happy to be right, Elvia was beyond precious! She was an angel inside and out.

"It IS delicious, isn't it?!" Gwen joined in. "Break it apart first and let the steam and the soup out."

"It's SO GOOD," Elvia beamed at Yue's mother. The poor woman had been sweating buckets when the healer held her mouth. As a NoM, she had an innate fear of Mages that was difficult to dispel even after a decade in Sydney.

"I've got other flavours too!" Mrs Bai uttered jubilantly. "Just you wait, I've got prawn dumplings made with Wildland chives!"

"My favourite!" Gwen hailed the prospect of chive-dumplings, though not its room-clearing farts.

Yue raised a glass of water.
Gwen met her half-way.
Elvia fumbled for a cup.

"To dumplings!"
"To Mrs Bai!"
"To us!"
"Cheers!"

The asymmetrical collection of glasses clinked; joining the sound of clattering chopsticks, hissing steam, and the trilling laughter of women.

 

 

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref ::  


Volume 1 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
Volume 2 Amazon (US) the book is in all markets as well.
 
V1 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link
V2 Google Play, iBook, Kobo, Nook and Playster Link

Paper back in near future


Metaworld-Meta-fics :

Strictly CaliAn islander's Meta-journeyStrategic MagicThe Strange Life of an Elf From Sydney
"Strictly Caliban" From the always catty @Wandysama
And "An Islander's Meta-Journey" from young gun @Bartimeus
The Mysteries of Fudan, and Other Rumors From the Metaworld
Strategic Magic by kjoatmon
Farewells - The Strange Life of a Quarter-Elf From Sydney
Rise of a Magi by a Duck Mage (Rhein)


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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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