Next morning Orisa woke up in the infirmary. Last time she was there, Onuki waited to cheer her up. Now she was alone. It was much more depressing than Orisa was willing to admit.
She was always an attention seeker, but now it was something else entirely. She felt unneeded, unwanted again.
There was also this uncomfortable feeling in her lower parts, too subtle to call it pain, too persistent to ignore and forget.
'I hope there is no lasting trauma from yesterday's ordeal.'
She woke up many times in the middle of the night, screaming. The wolf returned. He was chewing the same chunk of meat, calmly looking at Orisa, as if saying 'I know that you won't get away, and you know it, too.' When she was about to run away, something warm and slimy wrapped itself around her waist and yanked her away into the darkness.
The same scene repeated many times. By the dawn, her bed was wet with sweat, she barely slept, and now she was alone and with unsettling feeling below her stomach.
To distract herself she picked her bag and opened up Rita's letter again.
"Dear Orisa, I'm really excited by your progress and proud of you! First things first, I will tell you what I've learned through the years about the spells and how they really work.
I understand how confusing it might sound, and even contradictory to what you have seen already.
On the basic level, spellcasting is a simple Mana manipulation. Do you want to throw a firebird spell? Just tell your Mana to change its element to Fire, and reshape it into a bird form to fly better. In need of healing? Ask your Mana to find what was broken and return it to a previous state.
You will be surprised, but it is not hidden knowledge. Nor it is a secret that will make anyone stronger. Why is that, you ask?
The reason is simple - it is inconvenient. Even after training for years you'll still need a lot of effort to directly control Mana by your will alone.
What is more convenient is to teach your mind and body to follow orders. Like training a dog to sit down when you order it to do so. You repeat the same action, supplementing the process with a command. If you practice enough, your body will follow your orders. That's how spellcasting works.
You can use any phrase you like. For example, instead of saying Firebird you could say Fried Chicken, but that is if you've trained your mind to take this command.
People use the same spell names for convenience. They are taught that way, too.
You need to know and understand all that because it's what you are going to do with your Monk and Spirit Trapper things.
Here are a few tips or things to start with.
First, find a good exercise to increase your Mana control and concentration. You will need it to create complex forms and spells.
Second, start with anything, just literally anything from the Monk's path. Simple attack or block, find any useful skill and recreate it using Mana alone.
Third, I suggest you begin Mana manipulation training. Start by creating simple forms at the palm of your hand, like spheres. It is the first step at conquering the thing that helped me survive - the Sealcasting.
You also mentioned your Mana flow training, and how something broke inside you. That is simple, really. I already told you about the Seals and your body not being able to withstand more than two of them right now. The same thing applies to any complex art, including Mana control and Mana flow. You need to train your body and increase your might by fighting. Then you'll be able to do more.
As for the other things you mentioned..."
She had so much to do, but no strength or will to get herself up from bed. It all was so frustrating, although she wasn't able to figure out what exactly was frustrating. She almost regretted feeding her last sip of the potion to Kanai. It's waking power could have served her well right now.
'Oh, C'mon, you pussy. You are not that pathetic and whiny!' The internal critic woke up to her whining.
'Am I not..?' She was not so sure about that.
In the end, she pulled herself out of bed. The uncomfortable feeling in her abdomen turned into a pain. She went to the dorm to change into fresh clothes. Inside the room, Onuki and Toatre were talking to each other.
"Hello, girls," Orisa said blandly.
"Oh, good morning, Orisa. I hope you are well." Toatre said with a smile. "Yesterday's evening was quite distressing, I think."
"Yes, it was. I'm glad that you are okay." She began to change.
Onuki stood up and left without a single word.
"Do you know what the reason for yesterday’s trouble was?"
"Indeed, Miss Satou explained, although without any details. From what I learned, there was an evolved frost boar that attacked the wall. It made something akin to a ladder with its ice magic, and some other beasts breached the perimeter with its help."
"How many casualties?"
"Of that, I do not know, but it seemed that the most harm was done to the structures, not people. Reconstruction is still underway."
"Thank you for the explanation, Toatre." Orisa took her dirty clothes and was about to leave.
"You are always welcome, Orisa. Do you want to eat together?"
"No, I'm sorry, I... need some time alone." And so, she left, shouldering her poor mood by herself.
Today was their first semi-combat training with Captain Pain, so Orisa arrived at the bigger version of the gym they practiced before. There were mats, weapon stalls, and training dummies.
The squad was already there when Orisa entered the building. Iten and Kanai approached her immediately.
"I'm glad you look well, Orisa. Toatre told us what happened yesterday. You were reckless, but it worked out in the end, so I think you performed well." Iten sounded slightly concerned, which meant that he was worried beyond measure.
"Yeah..." Orisa replied uncomfortably, awkwardly hugging herself with one hand.
"It's good that you feel better now." Kanai said cheerfully. "We visited you in the morning-"
"You did!?" Orisa immediately perked up.
"Uh... Yes, why do you even need to ask?" Iten supported Kanai's reply by a firm nod. Orisa visibly relaxed, smiling slightly for the first time.
"So, as I said, we've visited you in the morning, but you were having, um, a bad dream, perhaps. Miss Satou asked us to leave. She stayed there with Toatre, probably to wipe you or something."
"I don't remember any of that..."
"That is normal, I think, don't worry." Iten added. "I heard that Nene and Nana also visited you in the night, but that's what Miss Satou said, haven't seen it myself."
"Thank you, guys... It means a lot to me, thank you so much..." She looked down, sniffing.
"Hey-hey, what are these tears here for!? Stop it right now, young lady!" Kanai hugged her around the shoulders and patted on the back.
A few minutes later Captain Pain arrived together with Youko Satou.
"Line up!" He yelled on the squad. "Your chilling days are over! Tomorrow we are going to the Dungeon!"
"Before that, we'll have an afternoon class about The Underground Combat Training Facility, which is called the Dungeon, and why do we need it in the first place." Quickly interjected Youko.
"Right. So today I need you to show me the results of your Mana training. We are going to do Mana Bursts and then weapon infusion."
"Mana Burst is the basic combat move. Everyone, regardless of their characteristics, can perform it. What you need to do is guide Mana into your palm, and then push it out while thinking about explosion. Don’t overdo it!" Both Youko and the Captain glanced at Orisa. She shivered under their gaze.
"Now, spread out and try it. When you learn the Burst, we'll move to the next part with each of you individually. So no need to check on others, just do your own thing." The Captain made a few steps back and sat on a mat.
'Okay. I need to push Mana out and think about a small bang.' Orisa tried to concentrate when the internal critic chuckled:
'Just no Big Bang today, please.'
'Oh, shut up, you are not helping!' But she smirked anyway.
Orisa was confident in her ability to produce Mana Bursts. She practiced on Mana flow a lot, so the problem was to limit her Mana, blowing up this place was not her number one priority.
She decided to start with a small step. Extending her hand, she tried to gather Mana there, slowly pushing it to the palm. She felt the flow, felt Mana move under her command, and her hand began to glow blue. It was barely visible, but Orisa felt Mana on her skin, she felt it seeping away, leaking from her body.
She sucked it back, feeling the pressure moving from the palm back to her stomach. Then pushed it into the palm again, making her hand glow. After a tenth repetition, she was confident in this part of the exercise.
To let herself rest she decided to take a look around and check other people's progress. She saw Toatre holding a dagger that glowed bright blue. The Captain and Miss Satou both nodded, very pleased.
'Toatre being Toatre. I'm happy for her, but dang it, I want everything to go that easy, too.'
Other squad members were at the first step, and even Iten was not done yet. After making a few deep breaths, Orisa returned to her own business.
'What should be the next step? How to block my Mana from going all out again?'
She tried the switch trick, but it didn't work. The moment she flipped it, all the Mana from her palm just seeped away as if it lost the string that kept it bound.
'So I can't cut the Mana flow, it must always connect to me.'
She sat down on the mat, looking at her palm and wrist, pondering the problem. The solution sounded easy when she finally stumbled upon it.
Orisa stretched her hand, felt her Mana move into her hand, making it glow. She imagined a hand gripping her wrist, squeezing the flow of Mana. Immediately her hand stopped glowing, but the feeling of Mana was still there, albeit weak, barely noticeable.
She slowly relaxed an imaginary hand, letting more Mana into her palm. It started to glow again, ever so slightly. She spent another five minutes practicing.
'Whew, time for the last part. Scary stuff.'