Chapter 8 – Finalis Gatu
The two Dragons and the wind adept were in a room decorated with no furniture and only a dirt floor. The appearance made it seem like the area was hastily built, with the lack of flooring, but that was intentional. The room was built for weaker geomancers who couldn't weave harder floorings.
"Let's get right to it. We're going to test your physique. Shanna, a treadmill please," Faulkner said.
Shanna waved her hand once and clasped it behind her back. The ground beneath Seti started moving, hauling him away from Faulkner. The moving ground was isolated so it only affected him. Seti walked at a brisk pace to match the geo-made walkway until it picked up speed.
Five minutes into the run, Seti could feel his lungs burning.
"How long— Run?" He panted.
"Only for a mile." Faulkner took out a pack of cigarettes and hit it against his hand. "Don't tell me you're tired already?"
Seti didn't respond. Every breath of air was precious. He didn't think he was out of shape, and if he set his own pace he could run a mile without a problem. However, this treadmill was setting the speed; it was a mile sprint.
Eventually the moving walkway slowed to a halt. Seti was sweating into his clothes, making it stick to his skin. He was lightheaded.
It was Tuesday afternoon. Last Friday night, only four days ago, was when Seti lost his vision to Dream Eater. Sunday, he traveled to the Maybell temple at his counselor's recommendation. Monday had the skirmish at the mall. Now, he was finally starting his training. He had until the end of Friday to do everything Henry and Faulkner wanted. It would be a crash course on the essentials needed to stand on his own two feet at Prestige.
Saturday was the day of judgement. The Exceptions exam. The exams happened every Saturday at different cities throughout the country. Many people would show up, recommended from their schools or the guilds. The goal? To show off until someone said they were exceptional. This Saturday would be the last exam until the onboarding for Prestige Academy took full flight. Seti thought it was terrible timing, as most schools and universities would have only recently ended. Prestige starting so quickly meant no break for the fresh graduates.
But that also was one of the perks of the academy. With other schools done for the season, the now-free elite teachers would go to Prestige to share their knowledge.
Speaking of elite teachers, Henry Adams, the former Serio member and the counselor at Lambsgard University, had left to meet with little Dora. When he was done, he would call for Seti. The blindness talks would happen sometime later today.
"That was terrible," Faulkner said, partly muffled by a cigarette in his mouth.
Seti was forced to do other tests at Faulkner's whims. Pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups (with Shanna's geomancy creating a sturdy bar on the wall). As each test ended, Faulkner would specify the performance was poor.
"So this is what we're doing all week? Bodybuilding?" Seti asked. He sat on the ground, limbs stretched out. The ground helped cool him. His breathing was returning to normal.
"A week's workout is the worst way to prepare you for Prestige," Faulkner said. "But you should consider doing it on your own. You're awful."
"Abysmal," Shanna supplied.
"I'm normal. You guys are the oddballs."
"Occupational requirement," Faulkner smirked. "Alright, now I'll teach you how to breathe properly."
"Breathing? I'm going to die at Prestige, aren't I?"
The blindfolded woman nodded. "It is possible."
Seti pretended that was a joke.
Faulkner breathed out his cigarette smoke. "My training methods are the best. You've never seen those martial arts movies, have you? Breathing is foundational."
Seti's forehead furrowed. He was the weakest tier of the weakest element, and he was to believe that a week's training, starting with breathing, meant he could stand evenly against the real mancers at Prestige?
"No two mancy skills should be trained the same way," Faulkner said. "This should be obvious, but it isn't in most circles. Some temples try to teach wind as if they were teaching a future pyromancer—a force of destruction. Pyromancers have it the easiest when trying to tier up, so everyone thinks mimicking the style would help. It's a different element, and therefore has different strengths. If you were anything else, I wouldn't be teaching you how to breathe."
"You wouldn't? Even though it's foundational?" Seti asked.
"Breathing is important, and I'm sure certain martial techniques are useful for everyday things. But as a wind adept, using your wind to your benefit is only common sense. So when I say you'll be undergoing breathing training, it'll be directly related to your air."
Faulkner gave instructions that led to Seti asking a series of questions. As Seti understood it, his air surrounded him while his omniview was active, but apparently, it wasn't the "special" breathable kind. As it so happened, some air particles were rich with mana. When aeromancy operated, it would consume mana from the mancer to take control of the surrounding air, leaving traces behind. The goal was for Seti to sense these special traces and breathe them in.
Sensing them wasn't difficult. They weren't magically blue or anything—not that it mattered since Seti couldn't see color—but he did feel a certain depth to several of the particles. It was strange that he didn't notice it until Faulkner told him it would be there. Under his teacher's guidance, he learned to control them and separate it from the regular air. It felt more like telekinetically catching small special marbles that floated in space. The idea behind it was to ensure the deep air didn't shallow out with normal air when breathing them in, or they'd be useless. Once he collected all ten marbles before him, he inhaled.
The air was cold at first, sending a shiver throughout his body. Then his body revived.
Seti felt his muscles ache for movement—for exercise—for anything. He was jittery. Fidgety. Energy surged within. And a desire to punch the wall just to see how much damage he could do.
"What is this feeling?" Seti asked. His mind cleared, as if he just had a full night's sleep. In addition, it was like all the air he had breathed up until now was dirty, and this mana-air just detoxed his body. His arms and hands felt powerful, though nothing had physically changed with them. He jumped in place to exert some of the drive.
The aeromancer smiled. "Aeronite saturated or mana-based. Take your pick. We can do some fun stuff with our air."
To emphasize the point, Faulkner had him do the exercises again, but this time while under the effects of his mana-based air. He did pushups at a pace he shouldn't be capable of. When doing sit-ups, he lasted three times as long without feeling any muscle burn. Shanna created the isolated treadmill once again.
This time the sprinted mile was too short.
His legs were powerful with each step. Minutes passed as he ran and still he felt like he had only begun—full of vigor and the need to continue.
"I don't get how this works," Seti said. He was stretching his leg muscles when he finished. His breathing too calm for someone who just ran a mile. "Just adding my own air lets me be more physical?"
The energy from the mana-based air ran out after the sprint. In short, using the special state lasted only several minutes.
"Have you tried exercising while holding your breath?" Faulkner said. "Muscles need oxygen, and we specialize in that. This has several effects, but we're focusing on the physical aspects first. It won't make you physically stronger or inhumanly fast, so don't go thinking you're invincible, even though it can make you feel that way. It also takes times to regenerate the expensive air; a day's worth of time, I believe. We'll see if it's the same for a tier one. Now, what we'll be doing next is another kind of breathing exercise. Get ready to suffocate."
Without warning, Shanna punched the ground.
The ground exploded. The air filled with dirt. Seti coughed, unable to breathe clearly. He covered his nose and mouth with his hands. The polluted air did not dissipate, and remained filthy.
"Okay, now figure out how to breathe," Faulkner said, his voice as clear as it had been. Both he and Shanna stood in the midst, seemingly unfazed by the amount of dirt they were breathing in.
Except, Seti realized, they were likely not breathing in the dirt at all. The wind adept focused and sensed his air around the room and tried to navigate it through the pollution. Solving the maze of the dirt-air wasn't difficult; it was the coughs that slowed him. Eventually, Seti could weave the air in such a way that he filtered out the dirt when he breathed.
The wind adept removed his hands from his nose and mouth and inhaled deeply. It didn't even smell like dirt. The polluted air remained outside his nostrils while the clean air had free sailing.
"Fast." Shanna spoke.
"He's cheating. Sensing air like that at tier one is broken as heck."
Seti noticed that he was covered in dirt. He could feel it stick to his sweat. Faulkner, on the other hand, was doing something around his body, like an air barrier of sorts. The dirt couldn't land on him. It was similar to the phasm barrier that the Shepherd made at the mall. The wind adept took note, in case he could replicate it in the future.
"So I can breathe when there's a lot of debris," Seti said. "Neat."
"Let's do that again, but make it a little harder. Shanna."
The Earth Dragon hit the ground once more. More dirt flung into the air. Air was pushed aside, and Seti's omniview wavered slightly. It still wasn't a problem for him, as he could navigate through the maze as he had done previously.
Except this time, Faulkner decided to be annoying. The teacher walked up to Seti as he was concentrating, and hit him across the head.
"What are you—" Seti coughed. He lost sense of the air he weaved and hacked as the dirt entered his mouth.
"If there's this much filth in the air, you can't expect the battlefield to let you concentrate in peace," he said matter-of-factly.
"It's a school—cough—not a battlefield! Idiot!"
"It won't do if my disciple struggles to breathe in suboptimal conditions."
Seti backed up as his teacher continuously hit his head. Faulkner was smiling. That jerk. With less air to control in the room, the adept breathed in more dust and willed for the air to filter itself. After struggling a moment longer, Seti managed to regain his composure and could filter some clean air again. It smelled like dirt this time.
He grabbed the Wind Dragon's arm mid-strike. Seti inhaled deeply.
"Took you long enough to defend." Faulkner held up a finger and spun it around. A gust of wind entered the room and replaced the pollution with clean air. Seti stood, covered in dirt. "I noticed you couldn't breathe cleanly the second time. You'll have to practice until the micromanaging becomes automatic."
Seti coughed again. Right as he thought that he could use some water, Shanna entered the room with a glass of it. He hadn't noticed her leaving at all. The cool water soothed his scratchy throat.
"You know," the adept began, "I used to fanboy over all things wind magic. Things like Aerial Slash, twisters, flying, air elementals, and some atmosphere stuff were pretty popular. But I've never heard of these basic breathing techniques. Is there a book for them?"
"Basic?" Faulkner forgot to close his mouth. "This suckling babe just called my Finalis Gatu a basic technique. Elder Narn rolls in his grave."
"He's still alive," Shanna corrected.
"It's not basic?" Seti asked. It definitely wasn't the hardest thing to execute.
"Here's the thing, mancer skillsets are broken down into different categories. You're already aware of the most popular one: the tiers. Our tiers are based on how much mana you produce. The second category would be the might behind the spells, or strength, which is different from tiers. To not confuse the two, most masters call it grit."
"Different how?" Seti asked. To him, a high tier was to be strong, so strength being a different category was something he wasn't aware of.
"Consider this: a tier seven hydromancer could weave tons and tons of water that would simply crush you by the pressure of the water alone. That's not the strength we're talking about. When we say grit, we're talking about the difference between someone weaving a bucket of water at you and you get wet, and someone weaving that water and your arm gets lobbed off. We say grit in the sense that you grit your teeth in pain. That's strength."
It made sense. Aerial Slash was the party trick that people used to knock things over, but it was also known that it couldn't be used in combat. It just wasn't strong enough to cut anything. But Faulkner proved that to be inaccurate when his version of the spell was on a level of its own.
"Oh!" Seti realized something. "Is that why the natural wind of the world pushes my own like it's nothing? Henry did say that my grit was the reason."
"That's correct. It does get naturally stronger as a person tiers up, which is the same as our muscles getting stronger when we grow up. Being tier one, your grit is nonexistent. But you'll be fine since we're able to shape it to be just as strong. The only difference between you and others would be you having less mana to use. As for the third category of the mancer skillsets, that would be perception."
"My visual prowess," Seti said.
Faulkner nodded. "Perception, for normal people, would consist of sensing mana, shaping strengths, and to a degree: sight. When I say sight, I don't mean what you're able to do with your wind. In my case, I could tell you how many people were in each room. Shanna can do one better and determine who was where, and then some. But neither of us could tell you how many fingers a person is holding up."
"So, basically, what you're saying is," his mouth curved into a smile, "I'm a grandmaster at perception."
"Let's not get too excited. Nobody here cares about titles," Faulkner said, though he held back his own grin. "You've bypassed nearly all perception training as a result of your visual prowess. It would take years, or maybe decades, to reach that level of mastery. My Finalis Gatu technique, the Windan Brata—you don't have to remember these names—requires the aeromancer to filter out the common air to breathe in the mana infused one. The lesser version of it allows breathing in a polluted environment."
Seti's inner child squealed with glee. Finally, he had something he could claim as his own. He would no longer have to be ashamed of his adept abilities.
"Don't go telling people about the Finalis Gatu," Faulkner added. "And I don't want you to be deceived; your perception is unnaturally high, but that doesn't mean you're ready to call yourself an aeromancer. The main advantage you have over others is that you won't need a teacher for most things once we're through with you."
Which was something temples were popular for. Guilds would sponsor the temples, and the students that attended would have a teacher over them, training them in the molding exercises. Combining certain moldings allowed for faster spell execution and higher durability, standardizing the form. Eventually, that would lead to the creation of common household spell names.
So they started grit training. Seti's weak grit was to blame for his inability to mess up anyone's hair. The training was simple in that it didn't require an advanced technique to execute. However, it was difficult for most in that it did need someone to have perception, whether it be the student or the teacher.
Faulkner instructed him to create a small sphere made from his air. It wasn't exactly difficult, as he could navigate each air particle freely. His teacher made sure to mention that a person without any perception couldn't see individual air particles, and therefore had to rely on masters to ensure that the shapes were made without wasting extra mana. If an adept molded a shape inefficiently too often, it would reflect on the final product, which was the spells.
Once the pebble-sized sphere was made (which was invisible to the naked eye and couldn't be felt physically), Seti ordered it to squeeze tight, like gripping a stress ball. The bits compacted tightly, though they wanted to separate as a magnet would to its own attraction. Seti continued the exercise when suddenly the room went black.
His omniview ability stopped working.
"Crap," Seti sighed. "I broke my wind again."
That meant he would be blind for the rest of the day, and the day was long.
"Your body doesn't know its own limitations yet," Faulkner said. "The first time you try something it'll obey until a force shutdown happens. Tomorrow, when you try the grit exercise again, you'll notice how much weaker it'll be since your mana would've created restraint."
The lesson ended there. Seti, being completely dirty and blind, needed one of the servants to assist him to his room. He was starting to hate the feeling of powerlessness. The first thing Seti intended to do was take a long bath. While the outdoor hot springs was definitely preferred, not knowing whom else was in the vicinity pushed him away from the option.
Once they arrived at his private room's bathroom, the maid took his hand suddenly to show him where the handle for the bath was.
"Enough!" Seti snapped as he pulled back. "I can navigate around the bathroom just fine."
"I'm s-sorry," she replied quietly.
She closed the door behind him. He sighed as he undressed and prepared the bath. It was unnecessary for her to baby him every step of the way. He knew the general layout from memory. He felt the steaming water before stepping in, letting the heat blanket him. It relaxed him. A minute later and he was ashamed for his aggression. Maybe he shouldn't have been so harsh to the maid.
The darkness around him made him think of Dream Eater. Henry had gone to speak with Dora, the vivamancer who had information concerning the ordeal. Seti just wanted to know why Henry considered his blindness unique and what could be done to reverse it. Though, with the lessons currently underway, he couldn't help but wonder if his wind abilities would get weaker if he got his eyesight back. Shanna was using a blindfold on a daily basis, wasn't she?
He finished, dried, and then dressed (using the tags on the back of the clothes to help) when he knocked something over on the dresser. He leaned down and patted the ground until he felt something leathery. It was his wallet. There were bills inside that he took out, but he had no way to differentiate the different values of each one. His cellphone did have the app that could take a picture and read back what it detected, but when Seti considered using it, he recalled he turned it off when he learned it had some unread messages from Sydria.
He didn't want to hear those.
A knock on the door. Shanna identified herself and Seti called her in.
"How do you tell which bills are which?" Seti asked, feeling the edges as he might a coin.
"Give them to me." Shanna took the bills from his outstretched hands. He heard crumpling sounds, and soon after she placed them onto his hands again. "Ten. Five. One."
She had folded them in different ways. Some at the long side, others at the shorter side, but each one unique at the touch. This would be useful even when his omniview worked since his air couldn't tell the different values.
"Do you have the app? The one that takes pictures and has it read back to you?" Seti asked.
"Yes. A necessity, as the young master informs me incorrectly what my bills are."
He made a mental note not to trust Faulkner in this area. "So why do you have the blindfold? Your perception is already pretty great. What else do you need to improve?"
"My Finalis Gatu."
"You can do the breathing technique, too?" Seti thought only wind users could do the special skill.
"A different Finalis Gatu," she said. "Erden Finalis Gatu."
"Ah, a geomancy thing?"
Seti fidgeted when silence lingered. Shanna had always seemed content when no one spoke, but it was awkward for him. It was only then that he realized he didn't know why she came in the first place.
"Henry wishes to speak with you," she said when asked.
"Start with that next time!" Seti stood to his feet quickly. It was time to learn about his blindness.
Shanna asked to guide him by the arm, which was strange as most people tended to invade his personal bubble without request. Maybe it was because she was effectively blind as well that she understood.
A moment's walk later, a door creaked and they walked into a room. It smelled of light cologne. Seti wondered who the counselor was trying to impress.
"Thank you for bringing him, Shanna," Henry said.
"Two beds. One table. One couch. One television. One person." Shanna described. She led him to a chair and he sat on it. He felt a table before him. "I will be leaving. Goodbye."
He heard the door behind him close and the chair in front scratch the ground as it moved. Henry sat across from him.
"Finally," Seti said. "Tell me about my blindness. You said it was unique? How did Dora scan me? Can we heal it with a vivamancer or what?"
"Slow down," he chuckled. "I should first explain my train of thought so my conclusion won't seem as… unbecoming."
Seti mustered the most unamusing look he could manage. "My eyesight was stolen in a dream. I accidentally made my parents get divorced. I went to the mall with the Earth Dragon. My teacher is the Wind Dragon, boss of the Serio family. I think I'm used to 'unbecoming' events."
"This might top that, but let's start from the beginning." Henry took a deep breath. "A few days ago you arrived at the wind temple in Maybell. Since you mentioned my name—and I didn't inform them you were coming—they took precaution before letting you in. Unfortunately, I was in a board meeting that Sunday and missed their calls. Therefore Dora, a vivamancer specially groomed, could see some things as she scanned you with a touch. You recall her leading you into the temple itself? That was when the scan took place. The benefits of a child; to enter a person's personal space without much complaint."
"She was groomed in a special way? What does that mean?" Seti closed his eyes after noticing them blink. There was nothing to look at anyway.
"It means the Serio family prepares for worst case scenarios with what's available. Dora is incredible by vivamancer standards, but she doesn't know it herself."
"I don't know much about vivamancers myself," Seti said. "I don't know what they can and can't do. Makes me wish I had that information."
"I have no problem sharing knowledge. In fact, let me give you my number. You'll likely have questions when you enroll at Prestige. I'll respond whenever I can."
Seti gave his number and waited for the man to send a text with his information. He expected to feel his pocket vibrate, but remembered that his phone was off.
"Let's continue," Henry said. "She scanned you to determine if there's anything of note that we should be concerned about. Geas is a rare thing nowadays, and not as large of a threat despite the heavy negative connotation associated with it. One thing is absolutely certain: geas is not permanent."
The wind adept thought back to what he knew about the topic. Cassie had mentioned several things a geas could do. There was obviously the remembrance geas: recall a memory with perfection. That was also what allowed him to see despite being blind. Then she mentioned a suppressant geas, to lessen hunger pangs. A loyalty geas, which dealt with a person's personality or something.
"You remember Cassie, our healing adept at Lambsgard?" Seti brought up. "She told me a few things about geas. Did you know she could use geas? She was the one that used the remembrance on me."
"I'm familiar with her, but I didn't know she could create geas until she dropped out of the university. Imagine my surprise when I learned she applied to Prestige. But regarding the geas, she's the exception to normal rules; similar to how slow geomancy doesn't apply to Shanna or weak grit won't apply to you." Henry paused. "Even with Cassie's unique skills, hers won't be permanent either. But how long it stays, and how much damage is done before the reversal, is another question entirely. It's why there's the contingencies against probable actions."
Cassie's had made empty threats, like when she said that if the geas was discovered he would die. She later clarified it wasn't true and wouldn't happen. He noted to learn everything he could about vivamancers.
"What are the contingencies?" Seti asked.
"An anti-geas geas, placed on certain vivamancers. But we're getting off topic; let's get back to why this relates to your situation. While a geas stamped on someone is visible to any vivamancer, finding evidence for it after it dissipates requires special training. Before we go deep into it, I want you to tell me the events leading up to the blindness. Faulkner mentioned several key points, but I wanted to hear everything from you."
He complied and mentioned everything he remembered from the dream. Back when he gave the details to Faulkner, he left out several things; such as him being a Shepherd in the dream. Seti didn't hold back any information this time, and was glad he couldn't see Henry's face. He shared it all, and everything Dream Eater had said. The remembrance geas had allowed him to retain every bit of detail (though, now he wondered if that would be permanent). He also shared what Cassie had done to him at the clinic, something else Seti left out when talking to Faulkner. It didn't make sense to hide that detail when the Serio family knew about the geas.
"I do not believe a geas is why you're blind," Henry said.
"No? But Cassie said she saw something with my mind and wanted to try to fix it."
"She may have inferred you had a geas, but according to Dora, you had no such thing until Cassie used hers. So let me repeat: Dream Eater did not put a geas on you." Henry paused. "Faulkner didn't mention the part about you not knowing who this 'woman that adores you' is. But no matter, that reinforces my theory. Which is extremely unfortunate, as I had hoped I was wrong."
That wasn't something Seti wanted to hear.
"This may sound very strange," Henry said slowly, "but I want you to tell me what you know about necromancers."
Seti stopped. Then he laughed.
"You're joking, right? Necromancers aren't real. They're one of the myth mages."
Before the Third Age started, mancers were known as mages. People had a hard time defining the boundaries of magic, and the divines in the world broke most known rules anyway. Once things calmed down and the chaos became controlled, the mancer titles came into existence.
Magic was broken down into three categories: the elements, the crafters, and the vivamancers. Vivamancers were their own category due to how vastly they varied. Crafters had their phasm creations. The elements were self-explanatory.
Because magic had not been defined, hearsay would create all sorts of spells and mage types that simply did not exist. Born from such talk were the myth mages. The three most popular ones were the necromancers, chronomancers, and the psimancers.
"They're a myth mage," Seti said again. "After decades of research and study of mancy stuff, no evidence for necromancy came into light at all. At least nothing that couldn't be explained with vivamancy, anyway."
"I'm inclined to agree, minus one little problem. The scar left on your mind."
Seti reflexively touched the spot behind his ear. "Scar?"
"Dream Eater said she intended to take not only your sight but also your memory. That could fall into the category of vivamancy, but I don't think that's what happened here. When Cassie used the remembrance geas on you, she must have seen something very odd. Dora and I concluded that the scar was proof of soul tampering. Cassie was clever enough to use the remembrance geas, which disallowed the soul to heal in a mutilated way. As a result, you were able to retain the memory that should have been lost. Hence, the scar."
That… was interesting. "Soul tempering? What makes you think it was the soul and not my brain or mind, or something?"
Henry exhaled slowly. "I have a theory about our souls and how they relate to our mancy. The study on the subject is short, as there's only so much we can learn with vivamancy. I believe geas is not permanent because the soul heals the unnatural change done to it, which led me to believe that memory is partly related to the soul since all memory geas eventually reverts as well."
"Okay, stop. Hard stop, please." Seti said. "If necromancy was real, then surely there would be more on the subject. More people would know about it. You can't be the only one to know these things."
"I'm not the only one that has theories, and the deepest studies have similar thoughts that I do. However, we wouldn't know more on the subject if we don't know where to look. We have never seen a case where memory was irrevocably removed—but yours was definitely one; not to mention we would've never known, either, since it was a dream memory."
A frightening thought. It was true that Seti wouldn't know if he lost any memory or not if the stolen memory was from a dream. The perfect crime.
He continued. "The only reason we know about the Dream Eater in the first place is the remembrance geas, which left that scar. But what if there was something that was lost before we could catch it?" Henry paused for emphasis. "Now finally, that brings us full circle to your eyes. Dora says your eyes are fully operational, without any problem or vice. Yet, you're blind and we cannot explain why. I believe that your soul was damaged in regards to your sight, and it healed in a way that didn't recover that damage."
Seti slouched in his chair. He was having a hard time grasping the conclusion.
"Why me? I'm just a tier one. Why would they attack me?" He asked.
"You've told me yourself, remember? Petty revenge against someone who adores you—someone you don't know."
"…Someone I don't know. Don't know?"
Henry didn't say anything, but he didn't have to. If necromancy was real, and Dream Eater was a necromancer that altered Seti's soul and memory, then it could be possible they'd done it before. The "someone he didn't know" was someone he had known, but now forgotten.
"Well, that sucks," Seti finally said.
"Indeed. But in a way, this is a boon to us."
"How so?" He could use some good news right about now.
"People's lives leave traces behind. Someone can't just up and disappear from existence the same way your memory can. It may be our way to track Dream Eater. With that mentioned, I would like to request a favor from you," Henry said.
Seti beckoned him to continue.
"I have a personal interest in the subject of necromancy, so I'll do research on my end. There's vast knowledge at Prestige, so you can assist in the investigation when free. I'd prefer you to focus on the champion matter over this, but there's no reason not to use our resources."
Seti started to laugh, but then stopped. "This is crazy. Just last week I wondered what my first day at Event Horizon would be like. Now, we're talking about seriously investigating the topic of necromancy."
"Be careful with whom you share your secrets," Henry warned. "Considering what happened, we must take utmost precaution. And again, I would like you to focus on the more pressing concerns of Prestige. It would be unfortunate if war broke out as a result of poor concentration."
Seti stretched his arms. His sight stolen from a necromancer. That was the theory, and while not yet fact, the thought made him smile. How strange. He should be more concerned, but maybe the excitement of it ruled over everything else.
"You do your part," Seti said. "I'll take care of the champion business with necromancy on the side, and you'll take care of the necromancy business while answering texts on the side. We'll reconvene at the end of the school year if the country still exists."
The next morning, the first thing Seti did was activate his air. The omniview went off without a hitch. He noticed a single mana marble in the air, where before it had been ten when he went into the energy-filled state. Curious to learn the difference between one mana marble versus ten, Seti breathed it in and began a pushup marathon.
After about a minute, the super state ended. It was difficult to discern if one marble equaled a minute of energy, or if the length was determined by its use. Concerned about recovering one marble per day, and with the Exceptions exam happening on Saturday, Seti approached Faulkner.
"Marbles?" Faulkner raised a brow. "I've never pictured them like that. In my mind, I viewed them as an invisible blue gas. But your perception is higher, so who knows."
He agreed that one marble per day, with potentially a max of ten, was worrisome. Then smacked Seti across the head, saying that he wasted a precious marble when the disadvantage was already huge. With Wednesday's marble used, that meant Seti had three total left—Thursday, Friday, and Saturday itself—for whatever test the Exceptions would bring.
"Two," Faulkner corrected. "I want to test something with tomorrow's 'marble.' The Finalis Gatu does two things for us. The first, as you've experienced, is the physical aspect. The second is the mancer aspect. Don't use tomorrow's portion until you find me."
They went immediately into more molding exercises. The sphere that broke Seti's omniview yesterday was harder to compress, as Faulkner had said it would. His mana placed a limiter to what could be done.
That was when he learned something about his omniview itself.
His omniview range had increased. Before, when he sat at the edge of the table during lunch, the ten-foot range was satisfyingly perfect when it ended as the table did. Now, there was a slight gap, indicating the range increased an inch or two. It wasn't much, but the little grit training had visible effect already. It was likely that the ten-foot range could be increased significantly after a few weeks' time.
That wasn't all the good news, either. When Seti was outside, he felt the natural wind pick up and he was ready to be blinded, only to realize that his omniview resisted for a brief moment, before finally collapsing.
Resisting a breeze was the low-end goal that Seti reached for. Faulkner told him that once his grit was truly powerful, his air could resist being consumed by flames—effectively suffocating a fire's life. That came with a warning: natural fire and mancer fire was not the same thing. While both fires needed air to breath, a pyromancer could technically consume personal mana over air. Faulkner learned that the hard way when he had a holmgang with the Shepherd's strongest pyromancer, Spitfire.
Seti wondered if that duel was before or after Joneleth's death. He didn't ask.
Training that day was grueling and had little downtime. Melvin and Dora finally came around to talk to him, though Seti suspected it was at the little vivamancer's behest. Melvin, also known as Blade to the outside world, didn't seem any different since their last meeting. Elder Narn had struck the tattooed man several times earlier, fumed for starting the fight at the Maybell mall. But if Blade didn't seem embarrassed, then Seti wouldn't be embarrassed for him either.
That was, until, Melvin became responsible for teaching him how to fall properly. They spent a large portion of the day learning how to set his feet when in combat, changing the center of gravity, and learning how to get up off the ground without creating openings. Melvin was relentless in his methods. Seti, feeling sore around his shoulders, was grateful that Shanna had done some geomancy spell to the floor to help absorb impact.
"The knowledge of what I'm teaching you won't stick with just this," Melvin said. "Find a sparring partner at the school to help make good habits."
When Seti wasn't with Melvin, he would continue molding exercises. He learned a block-shape one, which supported the book-carrying spell that the librarian had used. That Carry spell was categorized as a tier two, not because of how much air was needed to carry the books, but because of how much grit was needed for the weight. Since Seti's grit would become unrealistically good for a tier one, the spell wouldn't be a problem.
Other moldings that Faulkner taught were rather unique. When focusing on the block mold, Seti had to make the core denser for one, but another exercise had the edges thick and the block itself hollow. Then there was the star-shaped one, meant to focus on the pointed edge, and another exercise to split an air sphere into two, then combine them again. None of the exercises caused his omniview to break a second time.
Eventually, he thought up a loophole for the moldings. A single air sphere was meant to help him compress air quickly and strengthen his grit, but what if he could summon several spheres at once? It was not advisable to the average adept, according to Faulkner, since these moldings were similar to muscle memory training. An improper molding could escalate into something going wrong with real spells. But in Seti's case? Since the wind adept could see exactly how his shapes looked, with no wasted air particles, creating several could be exponentially beneficial. With all that thought out, he brought out all different shapes out and practiced them.
At first, it seemed like it would be difficult to multitask, like a person patting their head while trying to move their hand clockwise on their stomach. But that worry ended quickly when the shapes started doing what Seti willed without needing to micromanage them. There came a point where trying to put out even more shapes would just fail for no apparent reason. No matter, what he had now would work fine.
The next day produced another mana marble for Seti to breathe. Faulkner said not to use it just yet, and to keep practicing the shapes. Henry came in and out from time to time with his shaping tips. Shanna tended to appear whenever the counselor did.
Then Friday came.
"Not going to lie, I'm a bit nervous," Seti said. "All we've done is moldings. I can't cast real spell yet, and the exams are tomorrow. Am I supposed to pass with just my good looks or what?"
The wind adept held out a bill from his wallet and dropped it on the air block he made. The bill slowed as it passed through the thicker air. That was supposed to be the Carry spell, but it couldn't even lift a piece of paper, let alone books. He was making progress, but it just wasn't enough to stand on equal footing against real mancers.
On a positive note, Seti's omniview had increased to eleven feet. He would have to make detailed records on its growth.
"You don't trust Master Faulkner? Greatest aeromancer to have ever lived?" Faulkner asked.
"I mean, other than that Final Gutter technique—"
"—I haven't really learned anything that wasn't basic."
"Funny you should mention that," he said. "Remember that mana marble I told you not to use yet? Let's see if it'll do what I hope it'll do."
Seti now had two mana marbles, with a third coming on the day of the exam. He wanted to do more research on them, to confirm the time limits and other restraints, but that was out of the question currently when only one spawned per day.
"Okay, when I breathe it in, what do you want me to do? The one I tested two days ago lasted for only a minute, so we should assume that's the time limit."
Faulkner nodded. "I want you to try to make the Carry spell. Think of the block and the sphere exercises. The sphere's compression to the block's shape and flatness should do it for you."
He had already tried to make the Carry spell just earlier, with his paper bill. It just wouldn't work. He couldn't compress the air particles tight enough to give it a solid ground effect. Seti breathed in the marble and felt his muscles energize and his thoughts clear. Without wasting time, he began the combination once again. This time, several things happened.
Seti's omniview shrunk. He lost at least a foot radius, bringing his visibility back down to ten feet. Where that air went, though, was to what looked like a solid floating brick, five feet off the ground. It was locked in place and couldn't be moved—which was different from what the librarian could do with his version of the spell. Seti poked at it and his finger couldn't penetrate it at all; it was as solid as it could possibly be. Then he placed both of his hands on the brick and lifted himself up. The brick didn't collapse.
"What the heck!" Seti's feet were off the ground, his entire weight held up by the air brick that floated in midair.
He dropped down and created another brick two feet off the ground. The omniview shrunk again, but otherwise he summoned it without a problem. Seti stepped on it cautiously, expecting it to collapse under him. It did not. He balanced on one foot as he stepped to the higher brick, like going up steep stairs.
Seti started to laugh. He wobbled on one foot. It was like he was floating. Just before he tried making a third brick, the one he stood on vanished, and Seti dropped, stumbling to his rear. He stood, patted himself down, and realized what happened.
"The marble ran out of energy," Seti said. "That was nowhere near the minute mark."
Not only that, his visual range remained at its shrunken state. The air he used to make the bricks were gone—maybe for the rest of the day. At least his abilities didn't break, making him go blind entirely.
But who cares! He made a spell! A tier one shouldn't be able to use structured spells, yet that was the strongest slab of air he'd ever seen.
"What tier do you think that was? Definitely stronger than a three, I think. Maybe even a five?" Seti sensed the other mana marble. He wanted to consume it and make more stuff.
Faulkner shrugged. "I don't know. There's not a single tier one mancer in the world that can use a Finalis Gatu, and I can't use myself as a reference; that technique brought me into tier eight. It's time to go to Henry and see what he has to say about it."
They found and approached the theorycrafter, who was outdoors with Shanna. The wind picked up, distorting his view into a crescent shape, but the omniview didn't collapse.
"You're asking me when you're the Wind Dragon?" Henry looked baffled.
"Don't look at me like that," Faulkner said. "This is a tier one using the Finalis Gatu technique. He literally counts them as marbles. Isn't unknown territory your field?"
They explained Henry the situation. The ten marble count lasted roughly ten minutes during their original use, and one lasted about a minute when Seti only did pushups. But now, after making a unique version of the Carry spell (that was locked in placed and couldn't be moved, Seti mentioned), the super state didn't even last twenty seconds.
Seti would have to come up with a better name than "super state."
"I agree with the minute limit assumption," Henry said. "But using spells, or maintaining one that's beyond your current boundaries, would be the reason it ends early. I imagine the stronger the spell, the quicker the state ends."
"Okay, so… I'll have two marbles to use for tomorrow's exam," Seti said. "I'll probably pass because of what I can do, but there's one little problem. I'm expecting to survive at Prestige just by having several seconds of decent spells that everyone else could probably do on a regular basis?"
"Of course not." Faulkner smiled. "You're going to lie and make them think you're capable of doing much more than you can. Their imagination is going to be your weapon."
"I'm going to bluff? That's the plan? To lie my way through Prestige?"
Henry gave the aeromancer a look and sighed. "I think what he's trying to say is that you will be capable of doing the things you can do when you consume a marble, but it'll take time. Now obviously we don't have that time, so imply what more you can do, without actually doing it."
"Trust me, it'll work," Faulkner said. "To put it simply, where you have skill, feign incompetence. Where you lack, feign strength. You'll want to bait them to your advantage. Act in a way that would catch them off guard. Add my name to the mix, by calling yourself my disciple, and everyone will think you're beyond comprehension. Almost like a divine, if you want to think like that."
Seti pursed his lips. "Yep, I'm going to be expelled during the first week. But you know…" He paused. Everyone would think he's beyond comprehension? Like a divine? The idea that a tier one could use such a powerful Carry spell was unthinkable. "I think I have a better name for my super state. Get this: divine mode. I mean it makes sense; when I consume those marbles, I'm like a divine to the normal tier ones."
Henry chuckled. "You have an imagination, at least."
"We'll need way more spells ready than the Carry one," Seti said. "Teach me more."
Most of Friday's remaining time was used to learn how to combine certain shapes into proper spells. The star, block, sphere, and others could be used to help make a version of Aerial Slash, one that included different levels of strength. Seti couldn't test it, of course, since that would require one mana marble. The Wind Dragon also taught how to create his well-known Wind Claw spell—with a severe warning that he would hunt Seti down if the adept didn't make a claw-shaped hand when forming the spell. Acting was important to Faulkner.
The crash course covered many molding exercises, and the potential combinations they could become. To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement, but Henry reassured him that he would be a phone call away to help piece things together.
Speaking of phone calls, Faulkner claimed he had no phone, which Seti immediately suspected to be a lie. It was only after that Henry confirmed that most members of the mafioso don't use cellphones, as it was a guild product. The mafia used an electronic bracelet to communicate with one another, and that wasn't so easily made. They promised they would get him a specially made one after he made it into Prestige.
Friday evening came. Seti was becoming anxious. He didn't feel prepared at all. Less than a week's worth of training to attend a school where the very brightest reigned. It was out of his depth. His own arsenal was the emotion niche, which he didn't know if that would get stronger alongside his grit, and his limited divine state. Without that divine state, he couldn't cast any real spells.
The air was cool, indicating a sunset. This would be his last night at the Serio mansion. He took out his phone and looked at it. He wondered how Sydria was doing, and how his father had reacted after being told what he had done. He couldn't keep avoiding the issue forever. But being as mentally exhausted as he was, he wouldn't turn on the phone until tomorrow.
With a deep breath and a whiff of his own calm air, he left to sleep. This would be the last night before the world learned about the Wind Dragon's disciple.