Chapter 3 - Mana Pool
"Ma-a po-o," Aaron pretended to be incapable of repeating the words, just like a baby. It stole a smile from the old man.
Aaron's grandfather was called Grand Elder Eminence Richard Firebringer. The Eminence in his name came from his level 8, just like Aaron was called a One Star Mage due to being level 1. His given name was Richard, and Firebringer was a moniker that had either been decided by him or given to him through different possible means, usually public recognition for something he had done. As for Grand Elder, that was his social standing in the family, which came from him being an Eminence.
Richard was in his late hundred and twenties. He was bald, had a long white beard, and was visibly fighting death on a daily basis.
From what Aaron had gathered in his first year of life, in this world, Eminences' natural lifespans went up to a hundred and twenty-five years. Firebringer only hanged on because he was using expensive medicine to prolong his life.
That was yet another consequence of the meddling with life itself from those in power. In the last world Aaron had lived in, Eminences lived up to five hundred years, but with the shitty bodies people were born with here, such vitality was reduced to one-quarter of its potential!
"Yes, boyo, mana pool," Richard said, and a white light appeared on his hand, quickly materializing into a tiny metal ring.
Check Item, Aaron used the common Heavenly Skill, and the World's Writ appeared above the ring in the form of a tooltip.
Name: Mana-Sucking Ring
Grade: Higher Mortal Item
Thankfully, some item names were self-descriptive, especially when they were mass-produced. He had no idea why his grandfather would put a Mana-Sucking Ring on him, but there was so much love in the man's eyes that he didn't feel threatened.
In Aarons previous life, items were divided into four grades: Mortal Item, Magical Item, Artifact, and Relic. They were further divided into three subgrades: Lower, Higher, and Peak. It seemed this world followed the same rules.
As soon as his finger entered the ring, he felt his body and soul stir. Mana was pulled from the mana pool in his soul, taken into his body, sucked into the ring, and then, dispersed into the air. It should be a startling and scary experience for a baby like him, so he acted accordingly by widening his eyes.
Richard nodded, satisfied. "This is my grandson!" He said proudly. "Wait until I tell those old fools that you didn't even let out a cry of surprise, much less cried in fear when I put the ring on you!" He patted Aaron's head.
After a moment, he turned and pointed at the maid currently taking care of Aaron. "You! Listen well! You're not, under any circumstances, to remove this ring from his finger! Do you understand?"
"Yes, Grand Elder," she said submissively.
"No! You don't!" He raised his voice. "You're a klutz and you have no idea how important it is! Do you know what pubescence is?"
Her eyes widened at his sudden outburst. "N- No, Grand Elder," she said fearfully.
"It's when boys’ and girls’ bodies start developing in a more mature way." His explanation was crude, but not incorrect. "Mages are special. The more mana we use before we reach pubescence, the more our mana pool develop. After we hit it, it's incredibly hard to increase our mana pools even a little. Wait, you know what a mana pool is, right?"
She gulped. "Yes, Grand Elder."
"Good. So, listen well. This ring forces him to use mana. The more mana he uses, the better. If you take the ring off him for even a second, you'll be putting his entire future in jeopardy. And you can imagine how unhappy the Valdian Family would be towards a klutz who crippled a mage, can't you?"
Before, she had been feeling a bit fearful, but when she heard about the Valdian Family unhappiness, she instantly paled.
"Y- Yes, Eminence."
"No, you don't!" He yelled. "Your life won't be enough to pay for it! Your family, friends, colleagues, everyone related to you in any way, even your damn pets will face torture and death! You'll wish you were never born! Do you know how creative torture can be when we put a little magic in it?"
Tears were forming in her eyes. "No, Grand Elder."
"And you want to keep ignorant of it, don't you?"
She nodded repeatedly as if her very life depended on it. "Yes, Grand Elder!" She almost yelled.
"Good." He nodded. "Do. Not. Remove. The. Ring. Not for any reason, no matter who may order you otherwise, or how much good you may think you're doing. Even if you're sure the ring is killing him, just keep the damn thing on his finger. Got it?"
"Yes, Grand Elder."
"Good, good. Tell everyone in this household. No, wait. I'll tell everyone myself. Lass, don't you dare mess with my boyo. People will offer you riches to do it, but believe me, no amount of money can save you or your family from my wrath." His eyes widened as if he had just thought about something. "Speaking of which, it's time to bring the servants' families to the mansion so they can't be used against the boyo." He sighed. "A mage's job is never done."
He patted Aaron's head one last time with a warmth that was unlike the way he had just acted with the maid and left the room. The maid immediately started sobbing.
Aaron felt pity for her but being the source of her issues, he found it sensible not to bring focus to him by trying to be funny or cute. Instead, he looked at the ring.
The amount of mana it had taken from him was pitiful. He focused on his mana pool, a kind of ethereal ball the size of a sand grain in his soul, and saw that the amount taken wasn't even a tenth of what was in there. It took the ring over an hour to take another bit of mana, and by then, his mana pool had already been filled for the past fifty minutes, since people's souls automatically took mana from the environment.
Deciding things were moving too slow and that he knew the limits of his own body and soul better than any ring, he took the improvement of his mana pool on his own hands. If he had a time limit increase to his mana pool, pubescence, he would make the most out of it.
He touched the mana in his mana pool with his will, and pulled almost everything from the inside, soon releasing the mana in the air. Immediately, the World's Writs appeared.
New element learned!
Pure mana is the most basic kind of mana and won't be listed in your Full Status.
Attribute: Mana (Soul)
Grade: 1 > 2
You have leveled up!
Level: 2 — Two Stars Mage
His level was directly linked to his mana pool. As soon as its grade increased, his level followed suit.
Inside his soul, his mana pool enlarged only by a bit, but its quality took a great leap. He speculated that it could now hold a hundred times as much mana as before! Due to his sudden usage of his mana without having ever used it before, it was a painful process, as if he had overworked a muscle, only it got stronger instantly, without the need to rest to repair it. The reason the ring took so little was probably to avoid scaring the baby by making the process much slower and the pain imperceptible.
He had no time for that though, and immediately determined that he would always wait until his mana pool was ninety percent full before emptying it to the ten percent mark, which he determined was the safe threshold for him to not faint from the exhaustion.
And so, his boring 'training' started.
He became a Three Stars Mage two months later, and a Four Stars Mage four months after that.
That rate of growth surprised even him. Prepubescent mages had it ridiculously easy in that world and giving such a useless Mana-Sucking Ring to them was nothing short of crippling a kid's growth.
His family was really just from some small nation like he had selected, or they would never forgo a kid's power growth for any reason, much less something like comfort. Babies would be babies, and there was no reason to avoid scaring them. On the contrary, the sooner a kid got used to having their mana going through their souls, the sooner they would get used to it and learn to ignore the sensation, no matter how scary or painful it might be at first.
Of course, another possibility was that they didn't know better and thought one-year-olds only had so much mana available to be sucked out of them, or even might not have the means to provide him with a better mana-sucking tool. But even so, they should've done their homework better and focus more on the young, for they were the future of the family! Stagnation always led to disaster.
No matter how distant he was from the throne, crippling anyone from the royal family at all was stupidity.
Either way, he already thought of his family as incompetent in his heart.
Aaron learned very soon that his father was a good man, but a subpar mage.
The three strongest people in his family were three level 9, Ascenders, followed by the seven level 8, Eminences, of which his grandfather was one. As the son of an Eminence, great expectations had been placed on Aaron's father, but the man had barely been able to get to level 6, Notable Mage.
It was a great shame to the man, and it was evident in how he looked sadly at the Mana-Sucking Ring from time to time. Nevertheless, Grand Elder Eminence Richard Firebringer loved his son dearly and had gone to great depths to get the man a commission in the army. Level 7, Champion, was required for the Major position, but Aaron's father became the sole exception.
Despite his shame, Major Notable Alphonse Firebreather was a cheerful man most of the time. He always played with Aaron when he was home and told the boy tales of his mother. He treated the servants like family, unlike how Firebringer did, maybe because of how he himself was treated by the rest of the family for being a failure as a mage.
Aaron's life was filled with love, and he ended up returning his father's feelings, much to his surprise. For someone as old as he, love wasn't something easy to come by.
It was something very surprising indeed.
When he was two years old, he learned how to escape his crib at night to visit the library. He was caught three out of every five attempts, either by servants or guards, but the instances when he managed to get to the library were fruitful.
It was also a couple months after his second anniversary that he got to level 5, Five Stars Mage.
The episode made him realize there was an obvious pattern to his growth. Starting from two months to become a Three Stars Mage, he had taken double the time as before to get to the next level.
Meaning he had become a Three Stars Mage in two months after his prior advancement, a Four Stars Mage four months after that, and now a Five Stars Mage about eight months later.
He liked that rate of growth very much. It everything went well, he would get to level 8, Eminence, a couple months after he turned twelve! He only had to hope pubescence didn't hit him before that.
On his three-year anniversary, his grandfather replaced his Mana-Sucking Ring with a better one, but it was only twice as effective as the old one and was almost useless to grow his mana pool, which was already grade 5.
At that time, his greatest annoyance was that despite his readings, there were no books about magic theory in the library, and he had found no way of learning magic yet. When asked, his father always replied only with "It's not time yet."
On his fourth anniversary, when he was already level 6, Notable Mage, he was pleasantly surprised. He and his father were in the dining room, Aaron having just eaten a delicious birthday cake, when Alphonse spoke.
"Son, it's time for you to learn magic."
"Magic, dad?" Aaron asked excitedly.
The man smiled. "Yes, magic."
As if his words had broken a damn, servants flooded the dining room carrying metal cubes about half a meter wide, placing them on the floor close to the walls. Each cube was exquisitely made, with arcane symbols drawn on them. There were tens of cubes, placed side by side, partially hiding the walls' footer.
Curiosity filled Aaron, while his father looked at his son's bewilderment with a smile.
When all the servants were done, Alphonse snapped his fingers. There was an energetic disruption in the air, and all the crystal cubes came to life at the same time.
Each of them projected slowly-rotating holograms in the air. The images made Aaron remember neon lights of different colors, twisted in curves and lines, surrounding and surrounded by arcane symbols.
"These are spell signatures," Alphonse told his son. "You're too young to understand what exactly they are or how to use them, but they'll be all around the house from now on. Eventually, you'll memorize one and use it by accident. Either that, or you'll be properly taught when you're thirteen years old like I was," he said in a sad tone. "Anyway, the blue signature is for the First Light spell, green is for First Clean, yellow is for First Levitate Object, red is for First Mana Shield, white is for First Heat, and black is for First Cold."
The boy made a face, pretending not to understand most of what the man said. Alphonse laughed self-deprecatingly. "Don't worry, I'll repeat it often." He kissed Aaron's forehead. "Dad has to work. Have fun." He left.
Aaron immediately turned to look better at the lights.
Magic in any universe was nothing more than using the right kind of energy to draw the right symbol, through the right medium, with the right intent behind it, then releasing it at the desired target. Five simple immutable steps.
By using his experience and simple deduction, he concluded that in his current world, the energy was mana, the symbol was a spell signature, the medium was the very soul of the mage, and the will behind it was, of course, understanding and focusing on the spell results. The target depended on what the spell did.
He now had six different spell signatures to study, which was exactly what he needed to understand how mana — that strange energy — worked. He had long been thinking about how mana would interact with his body, his soul, the world, and the universe, and now he could check if his assumptions were correct.
Ignoring the delicious cake on the table, he devoted himself entirely to studying the spells signatures at his disposal.
Three days later, he pulled mana from his mana pool into his soul and used it to perfectly draw the spell signature he wanted to use. He did so effortlessly, something only his level 7 control over mana allowed him to do.
First Light, he thought.
More mana was pulled from his pool without him willing it, and the signature flared, becoming a shapeless light inside his soul. He willed it into his body, his hand, and finally, targeted the air. A ball of light suddenly materialized a bit away from his open palm.
New spell learned!
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I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
Mailing list: http://www.edward-castle.com/