'Whew, time for the last part. Scary stuff.'
Orisa let some Mana into her palm, then sharply extended it and pushed Mana out of the palm, thinking about fire.
Nothing happened. The Mana from her hand just flew away and dissolved in the air. She looked at her hand, confused. She repeated the same process twice and got the same result.
'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.' The internal critic was helpful once in a while.
'So what should I do then?'
'Like, I don't know, maybe remember what EXACTLY you were told to do?'
Orisa almost slapped herself on the forehead. She repeated the same process, this time however thinking about the explosion instead of fire.
There was a loud bang that threw her on the back.
"I said don't overdo it!" The Captain was yelling with a red face.
When she limited her Mana flow to a fraction of what she used last time, the Mana Burst went out well.
It took her another half an hour to properly learn it and perform in front of the teachers. They looked at each other not sure what to do with Orisa next. She more or less understood their hesitation and spoke first:
"Can I go practice by myself? I don't need any weapons, too."
"Have you found something to learn with your characteristics?" Youko was mildly surprised.
"More or less. It's a combination of what Rita suggested to me, and what we found out in the library."
Youko and the Captain looked at each thoughtfully before she finally said:
"I'll go with you, just in case."
As they walked to the smaller gym, Orisa told Youko everything she found out and wanted to try.
"I see. Sadly, I won't be able to help you as much as lady Stronoff. I'm familiar with the basics and know slightly above the average, but that's it. However, it should suffice as a starting material."
"By the way, Miss Satou, on our way to the camp you said that I'd learn about Rita in our history class..." Orisa said shyly.
"Yes, and this lecture is still planned. Do you want to hear it now?"
"If you don't mind..."
"I certainly do not." Youko pondered about the story. "I already told you about the first bastion lost to the Beasts two centuries ago." Orisa nodded, recalling the lecture about evolved beasts.
"Nine years ago our Military Council decided to reclaim that bastion. Blinded by a chain of successful operations, they thought that Beasts became weaker, and decided on a large-scale offense. It was called the R-day."
This place was called Merdun, the most advanced and well-defended bastion of humanity. It was a vital point that the Military Council wanted back at any cost.
The bastion itself stood on the riverbank. It was much easier to storm it from the water because aquatic beasts were rare and easily countered by a skilled team.
The landing and an initial phase of the assault were astonishingly successful. An army of more than four thousand people entered the city of Merdun, an inner part of the bastion. It was hard to call the city intact, but it was not as devastated as the Commanders predicted. More than half of the buildings, while being worn out after two hundred years, still stood.
What happened next was not battle. It was a massacre. The Wavespawn were hiding inside buildings and ruins and poured out all at once.
When the order was given to retreat, less than a thousand people were still alive. And they needed to get back to the harbor and board the ships. The ships that would sink from the first attack of evolved Beast. Someone had to cover their retreat.
"I'll manage somehow," said Rita Stronoff, twenty years old Tome Sage, one of the so-called Pillars of the Military. She was a prodigy, one of the strongest spellcasters in the entire army. Considering the situation, probably the strongest now.
"Denied. You and TanYan are the only Pillars alive. We can't lose you, too!" Field Commander Cardelio yelled at her. His armor was torn to shreds, and instead of the left half of his face was a pulsating cocoon of the Restoration spell. He barely stood on his feet.
"Who can do it then? Paulo, we both know it has to be me." Rita said in a calm voice as they approached the gate to the harbor. "I will buy you a few minutes, please, use them well."
"I'm staying, too." Said TanYan vas Kavenfenn, a dark-skinned man a few years older than Rita. "Together, the chance of survival will be higher, Paulo. She needs me."
Field Commander bit what remained of his lower lip in frustration.
"I will send someone to you when we are done. You better be alive by then."
Rita and TanYan remained at the gate's exit while the leftovers of the army retreated. The Wavespawn were right behind them.
The gate was a long narrow stone tunnel, and they stood at the far end. It was the best place to create a defensive line and cover the retreat.
"Fifteen seconds." Said Rita. Her tome rose into the air and hung in front of her as Rita used one of her four Mana layers to manage the book.
"Sure thing, Ri." TanYan adjusted his shield and smashed it with his sword:
"Empower!" - "Living Legend!"
His body glowed with golden.
"Empower!" - "Dueling Ground!"
A large area under his feet began to pulsate with red.
"Empower!" - "The Last Stand!"
A few meters in front of him a barely visible wall appeared. He used one of his two Mana layers to power the lantern, creating a weakening effect around them. Now the Beasts were much weaker.
The first Wavespawn entered the red area and immediately stopped, looking at TanYan and growling. It jumped forward and met the wall, evaporating instantly.
Rita's tome opened on the desired page, swiftly turning sheet after sheet as Rita began to cast:
"Tomecraft: Calamity Sage!"
"Tomecraft: Calamity Owl's Eye!"
"Tomecraft: Calamity Overflow!"
"Tomecraft: Calamity Blessing!"
"Tomecraft: Calamity Infinite Regeneration!"
As Rita almost entirely depleted her enormous Mana pool, her book fell on the ground with a loud thud. It was time for her invention, a spell that allowed her to use calamity magic all day long, the Sealcasting spell. She stretched her arms forward, palms facing each other:
"Fountain of Eternal Youth!"
Between her hands appeared three shining blue Seals. A Mana flow from her right hand passed through all Seals and entered her left hand.
The first was the Seal of Mana Transfer that allowed to move Mana from one person to another.
The second was the Seal of Empowerment. This seal boosted any effects that passed through it.
As for the last Seal, it was called the Succubi Seal, and it was used to absorb Mana from any sources.
Together, they allowed her to generate Mana as long as she channeled this spell. While the spell could have been used by many people, none were interested. Battlemages rarely ran out of Mana as they used Major or Greater tier spells.
And Tome Sages, who rarely fought at all, couldn't use the spell as it required at least three Mana layers, an immense concentration to channel the spell, and a great amount of Dexterity to create three Seals at the same time. But Rita had it all, and she kept channeling.
"I'm ready." She said ten seconds later.
"That was seventeen seconds, Ri. Losing your touch?" TanYan loved to poke Rita.
As the effects of his spells began to wear off, some of the beasts resisted the Dueling Ground or his deathly Last Stand and rushed towards Rita.
"Over my dead body!", he turned around to face them:
His sword glowed with golden, and its blade became five times longer than it originally was, elongated by a dense golden light. With the now enormous sword, he impaled the Wavespawn that got past him.
Rita's tome rose into the air again as she began to cast:
"Tomecraft: Calamity Wave of Force!"
The Beasts were thrown more than fifty meters back.
"Tomecraft: Calamity Fire Rain!"
Thanks to Rita, TanYan now had a breathing room to renew his spells. After placing new Dueling Ground and another Last Stand, he turned to Rita:
"Mana, my lady?"
Rita just smiled and pointed her finger:
A massive jet of Mana shot out of her finger, passing through two Seals right into TanYan's chest. It was another Sealcasting spell that Rita re-invented, upgrading a classic Mana transfer magic.
"It always feels great to be touched by Rita," he snickered lightly. The Wavespawn was almost there again, so he turned to face them.
"Fountain of Eternal Youth!"
Every spare moment Rita used to replenish her Mana pool, for it was her adamant rule.
Some of the Beasts were killed by still pouring Fire Rain, but many lived and rushed towards the pair.
"Empower!" - "Thunderwalk!"
His legs sparkled, and when he stomped the ground, they emitted a lightning wave that electrocuted the Beasts.
One of the strongest aspects of his Spell Knight specialization was the availability of many long-ranged attacks. As long as he had Mana, he stood his ground.
With the help of the lantern that weakened the Beasts, they repeatedly pushed the Wavespawn back. But one of the lantern's weaknesses was the inability to protect from long-ranged attacks.
Atop the roof of the building closest to the gate TanYan saw a red-eyed Echidna aiming at him. He rose up his shield, however, five long brown spikes were already inside his chest.
He grumbled and fell on one knee when the second barrage of deadly spikes descended on his figure.
"No!" Rita's cry echoed inside the gate.