"I know that I didn't fall from the stairs," Orisa insisted angrily "someone kicked me right in the face and probably threw me there later!"
"I'm telling you, drop it off, kid." Captain Pain started to get angry.
Next morning, Orisa woke up in the infirmary and found herself in an absurd situation - nobody believed her. The only good thing was that there were no scars or otherwise damaged body parts. 'God bless Healers.' She thought.
"But, Captain Pain, I'm sure..."
"I'm leaving. You have classes in thirty minutes. Be glad that I did not wake you up for the morning workout."
Orisa hit her bed in frustration as Captain Pain left the room. The only other person in the room was Onuki, she was sitting on the edge of Orisa’s bed.
"Forget it, Orisa," She said in an apologetic tone "that's how it is."
"At least, you believe in me, right?"
"Of course I do! This place is full of degenerates. It could have been Taron or any other mentally unstable moron." Onuki said angrily.
Orisa's memory was still hazy, the only thing she remembered after parting with Iten was a giant fist flying into her face. ‘I’m sure there was somebody else! Argh, this is so frustrating!’
A few days passed in a blink of an eye, and Orisa was gradually getting to know her roommates and some other people from her squad. Quite often her attention was captured by Toatre, who was clearly an apple from another tree. 'She is smart and reasonable, but at the same time behaves like a clueless child.' The more she knew Toatre, the more she wanted to know.
After today's classes, four girls grabbed their dinner and went outside to get some fresh air and a night sky view.
"I still can't believe that some people here were not humans before." Orisa was still under the influence of today's lesson. " Around 20% of the population is earthlings, the rest of the population is equally distributed among other worlds, and around 1% is non-humanoids."
"I can comprehend," Toatre said in her usual calm voice, "the knowledge about the other worlds, other cultures, it's enticing to me."
"By the way, Toatre, where are you from?" Orisa was finally able to ask a question that was so interesting to her.
"No, not Va. Vaaa."
"Vaaaa..? Whaaaat do you mean?"
"It's the name of my homeworld - Vaaa." Toatre said in a teacherly manner. She became quiet, and it looked like the conversation had died. They kept eating when suddenly Toatre continued:
“From this world's point of few, my race could be described as formless fairies."
"Woah! So, did you fly before?" Orisa's mind was buzzing with questions.
"Indeed. The first few weeks in this world were quite complicated." She continued thoughtfully. "Many new challenging things, like breathing, walking, sleeping."
"It was probably very hard for you." Orisa was amazed. ‘Though, this pretty much explains, why she seemed so clueless about everything.’ She thought to herself.
"Indeed. The first few days I clearly resembled that wonderful and tasty jelly you can eat in the dining hall." Toatre looked like she could start drooling at her thoughts any moment.
"Oh, you eat too many sweets." Mira joined the conversation.
"Is that a bad thing to do?”
"If you eat too many sweets, you will get fat in no time."
"Is that a bad thing, too?" Toatre looked like a kid who learned that Santa Claus was not real.
"Well, for starters, guys won't call you on dates." Mira giggled.
“What is the ‘dates’?” After Toatre’s question, Mira looked like she was already regretting her participation in this talk.
“That’s when two people close to each other spend time alone." Orisa thought deeply about the phrasing. "They usually walk around, talking to each other and holding hands. On dates, you do different kinds of things and have fun together." She tried hard, but this was the best she could manage without mentioning movies, amusement parks and such.
"I understand." Toatre nodded thoughtfully. "Then I have nothing to be alarmed of, I already had a date with Rakasha." She calmly finished, then continued eating.
A shocked silence fell around the bench. The girls looked at each other and at Toatre, who was calmly consuming her salad.
"Ahem! Toatre, dear, can you elaborate?" Orisa managed to squeak out a few words.
"It was just as you said. We walked around, looking at the sky and holding hands. We talked a lot about lessons, training, and the camp. He also asked if I wanted to have some fun." She took some time to phrase her reply, not noticing one concerned, one shocked and one intrigued look.
"He pressed his lips to mine several times, and then asked me to help him feel great."
"Urgh, I'm going to puke." Onuki said in disgust.
"At first I could not help him, but then I started to understand the rules..."
"Okay-okay, we got it!" She wanted to continue but was interrupted by Orisa. Though, Mira looked like she wanted to hear more.
"This… has turned into a difficult situation." Orisa began. "I'm not defending Rakasha, but I can kinda understand where all this is coming from." Noticing a puzzled look from other girls, she explained. "Imagine seeing lots of naked girls every day, building up all this tension without any place to release it. Must have been hard for them..."
The rest of the evening the girls spent explaining the basics of the relationship to Toatre.
On the next day, another Wave occurred. That day the squad had also received their updated tags and became 'squad 71-17-14'.
After lunch, their first Mana training sessions began.
"Tonight, something special will happen," Captain Pain began "though, before that I want you to try something." He started to pace around a small gymnasium, while the squad was sitting down on the mats.
"The first thing you need to do before learning how to hold a spoon is Mana control. This,” he grabbed a sword from the stand and enflamed it, “is Mana control.”
He threw the sword into the wall. When it was about to hit the wall, he pulled it back into his hand. Then he pressed a switch on his armlet, and a crossbow bolt shot out of the wall. The squad gasped in horror, but when the Captain turned around, they saw the bolt struck in a barely visible blue layer a few millimeters away from his shirt.
"This is Mana control, too."
He finished, giving the squad some time to contemplate.
“But before you could do anything at all, you need to feel your Mana. That’s what today’s training is about.” He handed everyone in the squad a little white crystal.
"Mana is like your second blood. You can feel your blood pumping, moving through your veins." Suddenly his expression became vile. "You kids can also feel a food moving in your stomach, turning into shit and bursting out." The squad groaned in disgust, which the Captain met with a wide grin. "That's about the same thing, believe me."
"To sum things up, try to feel something foreign moving through your body. Grasp this feeling, memorize it."
Orisa sat on the mat in the lotus pose and felt something. A fluffy, tingling sensation moved through her body. 'Is that Mana? I'd like to know.'
Ten minutes passed, and people started to get distracted. It was not easy to focus on training without a clear goal or an apprehensive method.
“Kids nowadays can’t sit straight for ten damn minutes.” Captain Pain grumbled. "Okay, now pick up your crystal, squeeze it in your hands and guide your Mana towards it." He saw a dumbfounded expression on cadet's faces and let out a sigh. "Right. So, you need to imagine a hand grabbing this strange feeling inside. Grab it and pull into your hands."
Another ten minutes passed. Iten's crystal emitted a faint glow, and Toatre's crystal was shining brightly, illuminating the whole room. And that was it. Either Orisa's tingling sensation was a hoax, or she was unable to guide it into the crystal.
To her left sat a depressed boy, Kanai, who told her about funeral on her first day. 'He looks even more depressed now. Maybe they are bullying him? Gotta ask Iten later.' She couldn't just sit and do nothing after noticing things like that.
A sudden realization hit her like a wrecking ball. 'But I already felt Mana once!' She recalled the toughest and the saddest day of her life. Orisa tried to remember the feeling that ran through her body when she guided the calamity spell. 'Alright, I can do this! Perhaps..?'
A throbbing, bursting sensation swept over Orisa’s stomach and went into her hands. The crystal exploded, bombarding people around her with shards. A lightning arc lashed out from her hands and struck poor Kanai, sending him into the wall.
‘A shocking turn of events.’ Internal critic commented.
Orisa's vision became blurry, and she almost vomited, then fell on the mat powerless. 'Ugh, what... is going on?'
"Are you fucking crazy?!" Captain Pain yelled, pressing something in his armlet. A few moments later a Healer entered the room and immediately went towards Kanai who was lying on the floor motionless.
He paused, analyzing Kanai’s situation. He looked at the Captain in a slight confusion, then shrugged and chanted:
When the Healer finished with Kanai, the Captain asked him:
"What's with him?"
"Major electrocution, some burned skin and tissue. Your training methods are always nice, Paulo."
"That was not me, moron." He snapped. The Healer looked mildly surprised.
"Go check that dumbass over there." Captain Pain pointed at Orisa.
The Healer repeated the status magic, then took out a small potion and poured its contents into Orisa's mouth.
“Severe Mana exhaustion,” he commented and stood up, "she is dry like... I don't know. Anyway, I'm done. Stop killing kids, man." And so he left.
Orisa was still feeling sick, but a fresh, cold sensation started to well up in her stomach, radiating pleasant waves all over her body.
'Now, if that's not Mana, I don't know what the Mana is.' While still lying on the ground, she tried to grab this new feeling, and move it inside her body.
She still held a piece of the crystal in her hand. It began to glow with bright light.
"You either stop, like, right fucking now, or I knock you out, gal. Fucking Archmages." Captain Pain was fuming.
‘Please, don’t bully me, Captain Pain-san!’ Orisa was happy.
Later this evening, Orisa moved to the boy's room. She was still feeling weak and was left behind while the squad went to experience 'something special' that Captain Pain promised.
'Poor Kanai, because of me, he was left behind, too.' She wanted to apologize.
Orisa knocked on the door and after a few seconds heard a weak 'Yes?'
Boys' room looked exactly the same - four beds, four nightstands, and that's it. Kanai lay on his bed, staring into the ceiling.
'He looks like he... cried recently? Oh, man, really?'
She sat on the edge of his bed and wanted to say something, but he started talking first:
"What are you here for, to mock me? Yes, I know, how pathetic I am, thank you." His voice was barely audible and completely lacked any emotions. ‘Looks like a person that gave up on everything. Damn, I so don’t want to deal with it. I already have Onuki on my hands…' Alas, Orisa was physically unable to leave a person in need.
“Kanai, I’m so sorry. It’s my fault that you were harmed, and now you are sitting here instead of being with the squad…”
“I don’t care anymore. You’ve done what you were supposed to do. Now you can leave.”
She sighed. 'Why is everything so hard and complicated? Please, can I change a difficulty setting?' She sighed again and steeled her resolve.
"Look, Kanai..." she slowly said, taking his hand in both her hands, "I really don't know what's going on with you. But I'm sure everything is in the past and..."
"In the past?!" He exploded. "How am I supposed to live like this?! You know nothing!" He pulled his hand away angrily and, after a moment, lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling again. Emotions quickly drained from his face.
"Ok, well, you know what?" Orisa became angry, too. "I actually know a thing or two about troubles! I almost died on the third freaking day in this world!" She angrily hit the bed with her fist. "A person dear to me almost died, too! She had her entire hand bitten off!" Another angry hit. "I'm not even talking about the fact that I died the day I confessed my love!" Orisa slammed the bed with both hands. She paused, steadying her breath. When she looked up from the bed, she saw Kanai looking at her with interest.
"I suppose..." He said slowly.
"Well... What's going on with you?"
"I... I don't want to... I just can't, okay?" He bit his lower lip. "It just that I feel like a lame side character that will be eaten by his first ever monster." Hearing his reply, Orisa almost chocked.
"Wow, nice foreshadowing, dude! Though, if I were you, I would not wear a red shirt from now on."
Kanai chuckled weakly and made 'Live long and prosper' sign.
"You are from Earth, too?" He asked sheepishly. Orisa nodded with a bright smile and grabbed his hand again.
"C'mon, I've got an idea."
She pulled him by the hand all the way. When they arrived, Captain Pain looked at her angrily, but before he was able to lash out, she quickly said:
"Captain Pain, Sir, I deeply apologize for my previous failure!" She bowed down deeply. After waiting in this position for a few seconds, she straightened her back and continued. "I don't deserve this, but, please, let Kanai participate!" She bowed down again.
"Tch. Get into the queue. Both of you."
Orisa rejoiced inside. 'Just as planned.'
"By the way," she asked Iten who was still waiting in a queue, "what are we doing here, though?"
"Presumably, they are going to measure our innate Strength, Magic, Spirit, and other characteristics."