Essairyn woke up. The shimmering light dappled with the shadows of the rustling leaves entered her vision and ears. A spot on her pillow was slightly damp. A stray, lingering tear rolled off onto the damp patch as she slowly sat up. Ah, I’m still here. She leaned back on the headboard. Images of a cabin family getaway from years past faded away in her mind’s eye. The woody aroma and uncomfortableness of being in an unfamiliar bed stayed. A strained smiled traced her lips. Good morning. She peered around the empty room and hastily wiped her moist eyes. Flinging the covers off, she popped off the bed and made for the bedroom door. She gripped the handle, pausing. Then she gently opened it ajar and peeked out. She glimpsed Akari curled up in a cloth with droopy ears. Essairyn watched the soft rise and fall of her body. She opened the door halfway.
“Good morning, Akari.”
One of the fox’s ears twitched, and her nose wriggled. Essairyn glided over to the groggy fox on the table and bent down. “Good morning~” the girl whispered, staring closely at the little fox.
Akari quivered in a waking up motion. She lifted her head and peered through slitted eyes. Seeing the girl startlingly close to her face, Akari jolted up on all fours and bristled. “Why the heck are you so close?! Watching me?! So creepy!”
Essairyn smiled brightly. “You’re rather energetic in the morning.”
The fox turned her head and just glared at her from the side. “Sheesh. Way to shock someone awake…”
Essairyn straightened up and stretched her arms. “Hmm~!” She murmured contentedly. “You ready to leave the woods today?”
Akari was stretching in a downwards bend. “Yeah, I’ll be glad to be out of those woods!”
The girl’s brow quirked. “But you’re a fox.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” retorted Akari. “Can’t a spirit travel like any other creature? Animals don’t just live in the forest. Besides, I’m a god; I can go wherever I want, hmph.”
Essairyn huffed amusedly, “I suppose so. This is a different world after all.”
After taking a bath with the spring water, the girl rearranged the treehouse interior neatly. Inside her magic cache, Essairyn decided to bring the black claw, remains of the food, two containers of water, bed pillow, sheets, and covers, and various woven bags.
“Do you think I should bring this branch?” Essairyn asked. A thick branch as wide as the girl hovered in the air in front of Akari.
“…” The vacant look on the fox snapped to exasperation. “Leave that stupid piece of wood here! Gosh, bringing a freakin’ branch in your magic cache of all things…”
Essairyn pouted. “Ehhh, why not? I might need to craft something, you never know!”
The fox rolled her eyes. This girl seriously surprised and amused her to no end. “Whatever weirdo.”
“Hey!” The girl poked Akari. “Be nice.”
The fox shook off the girl’s touch. “Okay….weirdo.”
Essairyn clicked her tongue and shooed the fox out of the treehouse. “Ay ay, let’s go already, miss foxy.”
They made their way to the forest edge and surveyed the bucolic landscape below. Essairyn had decided to travel to the closest town from where the forest was situated. Other than delving deeper into the forest and trying to get to the other side where that megacity was shrouded in mist, the optimal option was to travel across the nearby sweeping expanse below the cliff. From her vantage point above the ancient tree, Essairyn had plotted out a potential adventuring path. After visiting the first town, she would make her way northeast through the other towns to the metropolis that spanned the right horizon.
“All right!” Essairyn pumped herself up before offering a forearm to Akari. The fox grudging accepted, hopped on, and trotted up to her shoulder. Essairyn smiled wryly and then strolled to the edge of the precipice. Closing her eyes, she breathed in the invigorating cliff air and scrunched her face in contentment. She stretched out her arms to her side before raising them above her head. She then put them on her hips and gazed out at the landscape below, satisfied.
“HELLOOO WORLD!” Essairyn bellowed, waving her arms enthusiastically, “ARE YOU READYY?!”
Akari’s skin jumped up in fright at Essairyn’s random shouting. “What the heck!” Akari shouted in vexation. Essairyn burst out laughing. The fox gave a little disgruntled huff. “You’re so weird!” If foxes could cross their arms, Akari surely would have in this moment. But paying the vexed fox no mind, Essairyn scooped a secure hand around Akari’s back.
“Come on! Let’s go!” she shouted, taking a crouched step towards the precipice.
“Huh? What’re you-” Akari began before her voice died in strangled screams as they fell through open air. Essairyn had leapt from the cliff in an arch, and the two were now accelerating towards the bottom.
Catching her breath, Akari screeched, “You’re insane!!” to a jauntily falling Essairyn. The girl was getting a kick out of the panicking fox, and she felt a strange sense of adrenaline torrenting throughout her. If she didn’t know she could fly, she’d never willingly jump off a point hundreds of feet high. Although she consciously had determined that this world wasn’t a dream, a part of her subconsciously was pushing the boundaries to still confirm it once again.
Suddenly, Essairyn realized that her hand had slipped from Akari’s back. She began to fall faster than the fox, and Akari goggled at Essairyn in alarm. They were already halfway down the cliff. Before Akari gained substantial distance between them, Essairyn reached a hand towards the fox and released a bolt of magic. It sparked around Akari and slowed her descent. The bewildered fox looked at the girl who had drifted further away. But Essairyn nonchalantly casted the magic around her, and she too began falling slower. At first, she wasn’t sure if the magic would work, but once again, her ability to will things to occur thankfully proved true yet again. I could really get used to this way of casting magic. She grinned and then casted another spell, and a magic circle appeared underneath her. She landed on the circle and looked up at the steadily descending Akari. As soon as the fox also landed, the magic circle started moving towards the ground at an incline. Once they neared the bottom, Akari jumped off into the grass, muttering obscure profanities.
“Whew!” Essairyn breathed as she stepped down, “That was exciting!”
Akari only glared in response. She was stuck with this crazy lady. But, the fox couldn’t deny the rush received in her adventurous soul. Though, she would never admit this to Essairyn.
“Looks like this leads to the nearby town,” Essairyn said, pointing at the wide, dirt road a few feet away. She had purposefully flown in a diagonal in order to land near the roadside. She walked from the grass onto the bare earth, and Akari followed.
“Aren’t you going to fly to the town? That’d be much quicker.”
Essairyn pursed her lips, reasoning, “I could, but you can probably only use so much magic in a day, right? Even though I’m not tired, I might as well conserve it for now.”
“Hm, I guess that’s right,” Akari murmured. “I’m pretty sure you have a high regular m’u and magic capacity based on what you’re able to do. But revealing your magic to strangers is probably not a good idea anyway, especially since you’re a human.”
The girl quirked her head. “What’s regular m’u and magic capacity?”
The fox took a deep breath. I’ve adopted a child, it seems. But I was the one who agreed to teach her about this world. She sighed. Who knew that there’d be this much to teach though, ergh.
“Besides the magic which makes up your body, you also have excess magic which makes you alive. This excess magic is enumerated by what we call regular m’u or magic units. Anything living which has less than ten m’u risks death. Fifteen m’u is best for survival, and twenty is adequate for everyday living. These amounts mostly pertain to humans, though, who typically have the lowest regular m’u. Elementals wouldn’t be caught dead with such low numbers. Magic capacity is simply how much magic you can store on top of your regular m’u.”
Essairyn nodded with great interest. She imagined that regular m’u was like a health bar while magic capacity was a mana bar. Although the two were technically comprised of the same units, it made most sense to think of them as separate. If the ‘mana' depleted, then the ‘health’ could be used, but it was likely more dangerous for the individual. It was like this magical world merged video game mechanics and real life together. Nothing worked exactly like a game, but the concepts and mechanisms were similar. Then again, she could just be applying what she was familiar with and slapping it to fit coherently inside this world.
“So how does food and sleep factor into regular m’u and magic capacity?”
“You regenerate your quantity of regular m’u each day. Even if you just laze around all day, this amount decreases by itself since you’re living. By conserving your energy, you can stack up to your magic capacity limit. For humans, magic capacity is roughly double of your regular m’u. Ah, but…ugh.” The fox frowned. “Why do I feel like I’m a school teacher?!”
Essairyn chortled. “So sorry to make you explain so much! But it really is very interesting! Magic is pretty complex, huh.”
“Well of course. Magic is the foundation of this entire world.”
The girl intently bobbed her head. Just like the studies of biology, chemistry, and physics, magic had now replaced all three fields. Writing it off as some just mystical wonder that couldn’t be explained clearly would be imprudent.
“Anyway, those with higher regular m’u can also store higher multiples of their magic capacity. People are ranked from F to S according to their regular m’u. Most humans fall between E and F, the lowest. A and S, the highest and rarest, are mostly comprised by elementals. However, the majority of elementals fall between C and B. Spirits and demons fall in between the two races.”
Now the girl understood even more why Akari kept repeating that she was an anomaly. Humans consistently had the lowest magical capabilities. But she had elemental magic and could form objects with it too. It was like she had a cheat. Essairyn rather liked this fact, but it was also bothersome because she wanted to make sense of her abilities and circumstances. Is it because of how I used to be before my body failed? She didn’t want to connect it to such a vain notion, though. Maybe in my past life I was an elemental? She held her head. Just thinking about the possibilities made her brain throb. Despite this being a magical world, it was inextricably tied to scientific and philosophical theories.
Noticing the girl’s inner turmoil, Akari probed, “To much info to handle?”
Essairyn weakly smiled. “No, I was just thinking about things. Please continue telling me more about magic?”
The fox groaned. “I should charge a fee… A berry a minute! You have more berries right?”
“We just ate breakfast!” The girl made a fake aghast face before scooping out a bag of berries from her magic cache. This fox’s stomach was a blackhole. Akari’s eyes lit up as she popped one in her mouth, making Essairyn laugh. Akari was actually being true to her word and only ate one at a time.
“Okay, so the quantity of regular m’u is innate, but it can be increased through physical or magical training. The rate of growth varies by person. Magical ability, which is casting and using magic, can be improved in the same way. Although, it relies more on inherent talent. You also need sufficient magical ability to create and access your magic cache which grows along with your overall magical strength…”
In this manner, the two strolled briskly on their way. Before long, a medium sized wagon appeared from behind the bend of the cliffs. It looked to be made of cherrywood and was drawn by four stout horses. It had an arched roof, a shuttered window on the left side, and a windowed door on the right. Green curtains draped across a window in the front, and metal accented doors closed the back. It soon caught up with the two adventurers as the morning melted into the afternoon.