In the morning it became evident that neither Onuki nor Mira would talk to Orisa any time soon. While it pained her a lot, Orisa decided to focus on her immediate problems - the research in the library, and training in various disciplines. There was a lot to search for, and much more to do.
The task that had no guarantee of bringing success looked enormous. Orisa was intimidated by its size and complexity and demotivated by the probability of no result at all.
'Gotta start with something, or I'll go crazy.' She said and went away.
Later at the beginning of a short Mana control session with Miss Satou, she told the squad about their schedule:
"The next three days, counting today, you'll have no classes aside from daily Mana control training with me. We are giving you some time to let you learn more about your path, your choices and your future." She paused, giving the squad a stern look. "Use this time wisely. If you choose poorly or didn't understand some important parts of your career, you'll hinder and endanger your future, and ruin your life."
In the middle of the training session, Orisa felt a familiar sensation of an immaterial object passing through her. 'Another Wave. How often does this happen? Every four days?'
"Miss Satou," She asked in the end, "we haven't exactly learned what the Waves are, can you tell us more?"
"There is not much to tell. Waves occurred from time immemorial. When the Wave occurs, the Wavespawn appear all over the continent. The closer the place is to the center of the Cataclysm, the more beasts appear. They are aggressive, strong and cunning."
"They have two important features that distinguish them from ordinary animals. First, when they kill enough people or other beasts, they evolve into more powerful creatures. Evolved beast is at least ten times stronger than the normal one."
Orisa raised her hand with a question:
"Miss Satou, can they evolve more than once?"
"Yes. Fortunately, this happens rarely. Twice evolved beast is a threat even under a lantern, and usually requires tens or even hundreds of people to kill." She paused to grab a cup of water. "There was one documented case of a thrice evolved beast. This happened more than two hundred years ago. On that day humanity lost its most advanced and well-defended bastion."
"The second feature of the Wavespawn is their crystallized Mana core, which they usually leave upon death. This item contains an enormous amount of Mana and can be used as a Mana source. It can also be used in crafting or engineering and will provide a variety of special effects based on the beast it came from."
"How valuable is this crystal core?" Asked Kanai suddenly.
"It depends on a lot of factors. Usually, you can live a week or two leisurely with a common core. With an evolved core, well, it's hard to say, the market for them is quite special. But I suppose it's enough for a year."
Orisa was deep in thought for the rest of the training.
Maria Osterreich enforced a strict regime in her library. She would resort to a silencing spell if needed. People were allowed to talk only in hushed voice. The silence was golden.
"To sum your detailed explanation up, you are asking me to give you the list of all the books in my library so you can memorize them?" She said in a deep voice.
"Yes, Miss Osterreich," Orisa said sheepishly, "if it is possible, I would love to have the list. It will help me immensely."
"I'll see what I can do."
Orisa was not sure she would be able to memorize them all even with the help of Concentration potion. 'Well, if not all, I'll remember at least some of them, anyway.' She had ambitious plans for her library time.
She occupied one of the tables and unpacked her stuff - Rita's letter, pen and paper, potion. The paper already contained a draft list of what she needed to research:
'Step one: look into specializations that can utilize huge Mana pool and precise Mana control and flow.
Step two: find exercises that will help to develop Mana control and Mana flow outside of classes.
Step three: learn more about crafting and Mana engineering (helps with Mana control and concentration).'
This list was the result of repeated reading of Rita's letter. Basically, her idea was to cover Orisa's weaknesses with excessive Mana usage. Some skills and methods, being rare and unorthodox, allowed to pour an unlimited amount of Mana to empower their effects. Those methods were unpopular, to say the least, as there was no point in using five times more Mana to get two times more power out of your skill.
'Rita promised to tell me more when I will be ready, so I need to cover the basics as soon as I can.' she though, stroking the Concentration potion.
"Orisa, I am sorry, have you been waiting?" Iten pulled Orisa out of her thoughts with a slightly apologetic tone half an hour later.
"Don't worry, Iten, I'm totally fine."
"I brought Kanai with me. He looked like he needed assistance, too."
"Good day, Orisa. I will be intruding on you, please, take care of me." Kanai bowed slightly and smiled shyly.
"Oh, were you screwed by the counseling session, too?"
Kanai nodded, and his usual depressed look returned to his face.
"Don't worry," Orisa said cheerily, "we'll think of something together. So, what's your story?"
Kanai let out a long sigh.
"I have 7 in Magic and Luck, but no Agility and Dexterity. Miss Satou said that I wouldn't be able to do any proper combat magic. It's highly unlikely that I would master anything beyond basic magic because of low Dexterity. And even if I could, their casting time would be too long to use in combat without Agility."
“I see…” While his situation was not as bad as Orisa’s, she still felt sorry for him. “I’ll ask my friend next time I’ll talk to her. She might advise something.”
Kanai nodded and smiled weakly, settling down on a chair.
"By the way, Orisa," Iten asked, "what is this potion?"
"Oh, this? It's a Concentration potion that my friend gave me. It helps to memorize things easier and learn faster. It also increases your concentration and sharpens senses."
"Sounds quite useful, why don't we use them every day?"
"Miss Satou said they are insanely expensive." Orisa shrugged apologetically. Iten looked thoughtful for a moment and said in a slightly displeased tone:
"Then, isn't it cheating?"
Orisa was baffled by his question. 'What do you mean? I almost died on my third day here and was late for the classes and my build is crap! And we are not on exams! Are you out of your freaking mind?!' But it was Iten, she didn't want to ruin her relationship with him, too, so she limited her reply:
"In my current situation, if I need, I will cheat."
"Guys, maybe we should start?" Kanai interjected, reading the mood.
“Right, thank you. I planned to start with in-depth stat descriptions and then look for specializations or skills I might use. What about you?" Orisa quickly switched back to a productive mood.
"I thought about looking into Waves." Said Iten.
"I'm not even sure where to begin..." Kanai muttered uneasily.
"Okay, then Iten will follow his plan." Orisa looked at Kanai thoughtfully. "As for you, I'll keep in mind your problem while looking for mine. If you are okay with that, please find some books on exercises for Mana control and Mana flow. And about basic crafting and Mana engineering, too."
Both Kanai and Iten went to look for the books, and Orisa made a sip from the potion bottle. The world around her became brighter and sharper. She dived into her notes and a moment later heard approaching footsteps.
"I need you to return this by the evening." Maria Osterreich handed her a sturdy notebook. Inside it were the names and positions of every book in the library.
"Thank you very much, Miss Osterreich!" Instead of a reply, Maria put a finger to her own mouth, gesturing 'Quiet!', and walked away.
'Now we are talking!' Orisa was excited.
A few hours had passed. The trio dug out a lot of new information and ideas, and exchanged plenty of observations. It was Kanai’s turn to lecture them:
"If I understood all this correctly then crafting and Mana engineering are almost the same and at the same time entirely different."
Kanai cheered quite a lot while studying in the library. His constant depression retreated for the time being.
"They both use the Seals to empower items. Crafting is the process of enchanting an item with permanent effects via Ensealing." He pulled out a paper and started drawing.
"Ensealing is when you use the Seals to add properties of the reagents to the item. For example, you have a shield and a fire beast core. If you use this core with the 'Resist' seal, your shield will get a heat resistance. Use the 'Aura' seal instead, and it will start burning. Probably, more or less, I think, maybe?"
They then learned that Mana engineering used the Seals for a different purpose. One needs to paint the Seals on an item using Mana ink. When the user infuses these Seals with his own Mana, they begin to provide their effects. Illumination on the streets or inside buildings was a simple example - lamps used the 'Light' seal and got Mana from the Mana crystals inside them. Another example was Managuns.
"Basically," Orisa decided to sum up the explanation, "crafting is when you use resources to create an item, and engineering when you add effects which are supported by user's Mana?"
"Yes!" Kanai cheered up even more, seeing that his explanation helped. "Also, two important things. First, you can do both on the same item. Second, great Mana control is required for crafting. So it works the other way around - by crafting you can improve your Mana control."
"Great work, Kanai!" Orisa nodded while taking notes. She already used five pages, filling them with ideas, exercises, skills and such. Kanai was beaming with happiness.
"I think it's time to for dinner." Iten said and stood up.
"Sorry, I'll have to skip it. I won't be able to withstand the noise." Orisa said apologetically. Iten and Kanai nodded and left, taking their belongings with them.
In the end, she found two 'professions' and one general direction to follow. The first profession was the Beast Tamer. The innate ability of the Beast Tamers allowed them to take the Wavespawn under direct control by overpowering their Magic core with Mana.
The second profession, Orisa could have guessed it, was the Tome Sage. Innate ability permits them the usage of the Tomes, rare books written with Mana ink.
'Both professions are based on the innate talent. Lucky me, I have none.'
Orisa was pondering her last option when with her sharpened senses she noticed a dialogue that was going on for quite some time.
"You are distracted again, Ramulie. Stop glaring at that creature." The voice was rather cold and belonged to a girl.
"I can't! This mongrel attacked us and got away with it." Another girl's voice was quite familiar to Orisa. 'Sugar blob, is that you?'
"It matters not. They all will probably be a beast's meal by the end of the month. Now, focus on your study."
The library closed at 9 PM, so Orisa had around an hour before sleep. She didn't want to go back to the dorm because of the atmosphere there and also wanted to try the exercises she dug out.
She entered a familiar gym room, four bottles of water in her hands. The original exercise was 'Six bottles', but she decided to start with four.
Orisa settled down on the floor. Two bottles were in her hands and two other bottles she touched with her bare feet. The goal of the training was to start with one Mana infused bottle and then move this Mana from one bottle to another through own body.
The Concentration potion was still in effect, so Orisa was able to grasp the basics rather quickly. She already managed to move the Mana the bottles in her hands. Feet were trickier, but she was still in high spirits. 'I'm moving forward. I'll be able to fight! Probably..?'
The door to the gym opened, and a girl came inside. It was a girl of average height, slightly shorter than Orisa, with a platinum blonde side-swept bangs and pale white skin, dressed in an expensive caster’s robe. She held a well-decorated battle mage staff. For a split second her beautiful and refined face displayed a surprise that quickly changed into repulsion.
"What are you doing here, fiendfood?" Chill radiated from her.
The girl's appearance was vaguely familiar to Orisa, but the voice she immediately recognized - she heard it in the library today. Orisa's mood was too good to ruin it by argument, so she decided to play along.
"I'm training, as you can probably see," she said in an innocent tone, "and what are you doing here?"
"This is my spot." She said in a slightly offended tone.
In Orisa's memory a certain TV show flashed, in which one of the characters was unhealthily attached to his spot on the sofa. She imagined the girl on the said sofa and giggled.
"Anyway, a creature like you don't need training. No point, you'll be-" She continued but was interrupted by Orisa halfway through:
"- a beast's meal by the end of the month. Yeah, yeah, I heard that already."
Orisa returned to her training, leaving the girl perplexed. Some time passed before the girl collected herself and finally said:
"Why are you not leaving?"
"Because I'm training, dummy. By the way, what does that 'fiendfood' mean?" Orisa knew the answer but wanted to hear it from the girl.
"Stop talking to me at once, creature." The girl closed the door, went into the far corner of the room and began her training.
'I don't know why, but her attitude just looks funny and cute.' Orisa chuckled and returned to her own training, feeling even better now. 'Maybe I don't care about her behavior because I'm actually thirty-three and she is just a stupid, spoiled kid?'
For some time they trained in silence. By the end of the Concentration potion, Orisa managed to move Mana between all four bottles. 'Just barely, but I can do it!' She was about to stand up and leave when she glanced at the corner.
And she was mesmerized by the view.
The girl held the staff horizontally with both hands. At one end of the staff, a fireball burned, and at the other end was an electric sphere. She spun the staff several times, leaving the spells frozen in the air. Next, she somehow reconnected the staff to the spells and spun them all together. Amid the spin, she swapped the fireball and the sphere with each other. After that, she stopped the staff and spun only the spells.
The girl was all sweaty, wet hair stuck to her face, and she looked tired.
"How are you doing all this?" Orisa asked, unable to restrain her curiosity.
"Don't talk to me, creature." She stopped and breathed heavily.
"I'm Orisa, nice to meet you, too." Orisa was clearly having a lot of fun despite being under the backlash of the Concentration potion.
The girl just ignored her and stared into the distance thoughtfully.
"By the way, your little sugary friend lied to you. We haven't attacked them or anything. It was them who insulted us and then attacked." Orisa said while getting up.
"Speak properly to a Noble, then." The girl said in a cold tone.
"Speak properly to a human, then." Replied Orisa and went away.
"You are no human, fiendfood." The girl muttered when the door closed. She bit her lip and slumped to the floor, trying to hold down her tears.