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She had to drag Kanai to the gym, threatening him on the way with various things, ranging from 'No sweets for you today,' to 'I'm gonna eat your pancreas.'

When they got into there, Orisa dropped all her stuff in the corner and turned to Kanai:

"This is a sparring program, and it has the same basic rules as the Matrix."

"Oh, please, you are no Morpheus..." Kanai chuckled, dropping his backpack to the floor.

"Come on, show me what you've got." She tried to imitate a Laurence Fishburne's voice, standing with her arms crossed.

Kanai pushed his hand forward a few times, but nothing happened, and he dejectedly hung his head before slumping down on the mat.

"See? I'm useless, completely unfit to this world, to this body and everything around."

"Woah, can I use you to mop the floor now?" She came closer and symbolically kicked him in the butt.

"Just leave me be, I don't want to do another pointless chore..."

Orisa bent down, took his hand and pulled it, nudging Kanai start moving.

"Hey, stand up and let's try again, now with my help." She pulled him again before singing lamely. "Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down..."

Kanai giggled again and finally got back on his feet with Orisa's help. She switched her gears back to a lecturing mode.

"Okay, kouhai, let us review your homework and assess your progress!" Orisa took Kanai"s hand with both her hands and stretched his palm. "Show me your flow and push Mana to the palm."

But Kanai suddenly became distracted by an absolutely unrelated topic as he thought to himself: 'Woah, her hands are so soft and tender. I wonder how her skin feels to touch..?'

"Hoi, I'm waiting here, you know?" Orisa lightly kicked him in the foot, for she was never patient enough when in the tutoring mode.

"Oh, sorry-sorry just got distracted a bit."

While her Mana flow looked like a surface of an ocean, with small tidal waves of Mana moving on her palm, Kanai's flow was quite different. It reminded her of a cup full of Cola, with its surface constantly bubbling and splashing, creating a noisy and chaotic feeling.

She also recalled how Tiana's palm looked when she pushed Mana there. It was mostly the same as her own, but much calmer and evener, so she guessed:

"Looks like you are doing something wrong, but it is hard to say exactly what and why..." She became quiet, pondering the problem without letting his hand go.

Kanai's cheeks turned red from all this skin contact. When his mind began to drift in all the wrong directions, Orisa pulled him out of his thougts with a long sigh:

"Guess we'll have to check it step by step, maybe I'll be able to find something."

"Oh, yes... I will be in your care."

Orisa stood right in front of him and pressed her right hand against his chest, and with the left hand, she grabbed Kanai wrist to feel the pulse.

"Do it again, and I'll try to feel your Mana flow."

"Ah... Of course, sure." He said with a red face.

When he tried to push again, Orisa really felt a weak Mana flow in his chest.

"I can feel it, so don't stop now."

As Kanai kept pushing, she was able to discern the flow. The sense that she got from his Mana was quite different from her own. While her Mana flow felt as water moving inside the pipe in an even and constant manner, his stream was more like a pump that pushed Mana down infrequently and aggressively.

Orisa pulled Kanai towards the sink in the corner of the gym and opened the valve to let the water stream.

"I think I got your problem. This is how normal Mana flow looks like," She waved to the sink. "When I need to use Mana, I redirect the flow or its part like this."

She placed her palm under the stream to make the water flow to the side.

"And that's how you do it," instead of diverting the stream with her palm, she began to smack the water, splashing it all over the place.

"See? You're trying to grab some Mana out of the flow and throw it into your palm. Splash it instead of redirecting."

Kanai was thoroughly confused by her explanation. Orisa let out a long sight while shaking her head.

"Okay, I hope you'll be able to feel it like I was."

She took his hand and tightly pressed it to her chest. Kanai felt something soft under his fingers and immediately turned purple.

When a blue flame appeared on her palm, she transformed it into a sphere.

"Do you feel it? My Mana flow?"

When she looked back at Kanai, she saw his face, and he clearly wasn't looking at her palm. Puzzled, Orisa followed his gaze to her chest.

"Dude... Really?" She backed away a few steps. "I thought we were friends?"

"We are! It's just that... I... It's..." Kanai was flustered.

"Come on, really? What are you, a fifteen years old virgin-kun!?"

"I'm not! It's not my fault that the body reacts this way." He turned around and dashed away.

"Ara-ara, shota-kun, you forgot your backpack," Orisa said mockingly, waving his bag.

Annoyed Kanai returned and tried to grab his backpack only to get a splash of cold water in the face.

"Where do you think you are going? We are not done here, kouhai-kun." She was unstoppable in her desire to help people. She went and pulled out a jacket out of her bag, then put it on.

"I know it might be hard to keep your hormones under control." She said gently, but then her voice turned into a mocking machine again, "but don't expect me to help you with your little bulging problem."

"I was not-"

"Chill, I'm kidding." Orisa returned to Kanai and put his hand around her wrist again. "You think that’s air you are breathing now?"

Kanai rolled his eyes at another Morpheus’ quote and smiled slightly.

 

The first thing in the morning Orisa went and wrote a letter to Rita, explaining her problems just in case she would fail again. She also mentioned her growing pain and other small things.

During their morning workout, she saw Kanai talking to Iten. When she came closer, she noticed that Iten looked quite sloppy contrary to his usually neat appearance.

"Iten, dear, what happened to you? You look kind of... different?"

"It's nothing important, so you don't need to worry."

She saw his cheeks turning slightly red during a stiff reply, so her curiosity skyrocketed. 'What could have happened to our perfect gentlemen Iten?' It took her five seconds to remember what he talked about the previous day. A huge grin appeared on Orisa's face as she elbowed him:

"Awww, Iten! It's so good to be young again, right? Say hi to Nene from me next time."

His face turned red as Kanai understood the implication and giggled, too.

 

When they arrived at the Dungeon in the afternoon, Iten approached both her and Kanai:

"Are any of you good at math?"

"Yes," they answered in sync, then looked at each other in surprise.

"Good. After the Dungeon let's meet somewhere and talk."

Thanks to Orisa's tutoring Kanai was able to do the Mana Burst, and now he has stuck one step ahead of her, with the spellcasting. As Rita warned, the spells he needed were complex and hard for beginners. Together with Crion Bauro they now struggled with the last step before actual combat.

Orisa, on the other hand, made zero progress at all. When she was alone, she even tried her own spell. Together with Mana Burst, they worked perfectly, so she resigned herself and went to watch the squad.

They all were now doing a floor advancement test which required each member to win against three summoned opponents at the same time.

Aside from the show itself, Orisa was interested in the weapons that squad members were now allowed to borrow, carry and practice with.

The first was Iten, and Orisa correctly guessed his weapons set - a shield and a sword. 'Oh, such a good, diligent boy.' She was having a lot of fun with this despite being the sole failure of the squad.

Three Skeletons were summoned, including one mage. They were quite slow and non-threatening, but that was the point of the first test.

'I could have wiped them out with a single lightning explosion. That is if I could hit them.'

The two melee Skeletons slowly moved towards Iten, while the third began to cast something. It took the mage more than five seconds to finish the spell, and he threw a tiny fire arrow in Iten's direction. To try out his power, Iten covered behind the shield and caught the spell with it. It made a hissing sound after the contact with his defense and dissolved. Despite the spell being harmless, Iten decided to take care of the mage first.

'A wise move, my friend. That's what you should do in both PvP and PvE - take care of the weakest enemies, casters and healers.' Orisa felt like she was streaming a new game on her channel.

Being way faster than the Skeletons, Iten simply ran around them and moved closer to the mage. When he was a few meters away, the mage suddenly pushed his hand forward and instantly threw another fire spell, a small wave. Iten covered himself with the shield, getting small scorched marks on his pants, and hit the Skeleton with his sword. The strike was weak and only threw the mage off balance, but it gave Iten a safe window to make another swing that crashed the Skeleton's head.

The two other skeletons were already close, and they also moved slightly faster than before. To add more, they even attacked simultaneously, swinging the swords above their heads. Iten made a wise choice and simply stepped back instead of trying to block or parry. When the weapons struck the ground, he moved forward.

"Shield Bash!"

His shield gloved blue and smacked the Skeleton, sending him into the air. The next moment Iten was forced to parry another Skeleton's swing, which made the attacker wide open to Iten's strike. After a few successful hits, the Skeleton fell, and he finished the second, still stunned enemy.

'Yay! That's my boy!' Orisa was so happy that she almost yelled, but stopped herself in the last moment.

Without any delay, Rakasha went to take the test. His opponents were an axe-wielding Zombie, a Skeleton-archer and a Skeleton with a shield. He just shrugged and swung his halberd, in a blink of an eye obliterating the Zombie. When the Skeleton tried to ram him with the shield, Rakasha simply grabbed his shield, pulled it out of Skeleton's hand and slammed the enemy into the ground with an improvised weapon.

This spectacular action he performed with the right hand because his left was occupied by the halberd. The squad gasped when an arrow struck him in the shoulder, but Rakasha didn't even flinch. He blocked the next arrow with the borrowed shield and nonchalantly threw his halberd as if it was a simple spear. The last skeleton was annihilated, and Rakasha nonchalantly moved to grab his now-projectile, while the Summoner, Lieutenant Costaros, tended to his wound on the move.

Orisa joined Kanai and Crion, and together they watched the test. Half an hour later it was the girl's time, and Onuki went first. While she clearly was scared, she still managed to beat the test with her spells.

Next went Toatre who simply smashed all three skeletons with one lightning spell.

"While I'm really, honestly, totally happy for her, my insides are itching from this view. It's all so easy for her that I almost want to-" She was interrupted by Kanai:

"Now it's a good moment to stop your speech, I think."

The last was Mira, with her weapon being a longbow. Not the best weapon for a close combat test, so the Captain allowed her to start from a distance. Her opponents were a sword-wielding Skeleton, a Zombie with a shield and a Skeleton-archer.

"What is she doing?" Orisa was both surprised and concerned by Mira's strategy.

For some reason, she focused her fire on the Zombie, the most unsuitable and well-defended target. She was so concentrated on the Zombie that she even missed the Skeleton with the sword. Luckily its sword was dull and rusty, and when it struck Mira, she fell down from the impact but wasn't lethally wounded. It took her a few seconds to catch a breath, and she rolled away from the falling sword in the last moment.

"Blast Arrow!"

The Skeleton exploded, but Mira was too close, and her own spell hit her, burning her hands. She dropped the bow on the floor and grumbled in pain when the Zombie finally reached her position. It slammed the shield at Mira's side, and she rolled away, leaving a thin trail of blood behind.

Her enemies stood motionless, giving her time to get up. Right now, they were directly controlled by the Summoner, and if not for his intervention, Mira would have been dead already.

More than ten seconds passed before Mira finally stood up. The cheeks were wet from tears, and her pose showed that she was clearly in pain. From her belt, she pulled a small dagger and slowly moved to the Zombie. Her enemies began to move, too.

When she was a step away from the Zombie, it tried to bash her with the shield. It missed by an inch, as Mira sidestepped and dug her dagger into its neck. The Zombie fell to the ground, and she also dropped to her knees, tired and scared.

It was when the already-forgotten Skeleton-archer pierced her stomach with an arrow. Mira slowly looked down to her belly as a red spot began to spread over her white shirt.  She tried to scream, but another arrow grazed a left side of her face, cutting the cheek to the bone, and she slumped to the floor.

The Captain raised his hand, and the Skeleton was instantly unsummoned. The Lieutenant was already casting healing spells on her when Captain Pain came and muttered:

"As an exception, you pass. But next time nobody will save you, so stop being a dumb shit, please."

 

The squad's mood was darkened by the last scene, so they moved up the stairs quietly. Iten pulled both Orisa and Kanai to the side and reminded them of the appointment.

Together they went into the park, and Iten pulled them deeper and deeper into its most secluded part. Since it was Iten, Orisa was not concerned, but surprised and curious instead.

He found a neat gazebo and pulled a paper out of the bag. A small crystal lamp lit in his hand when he spoke:

"I will give you a set of values and explain their purpose. Then you'll have to calculate a few things, and when you are done, I will tell the rest."

He began to point things on the paper:

"Before you is a numerical series in which each subsequent value is less than the previous one. We have a special number, let's call it an X. Each new value in the row was acquired by subtracting X from the previous value. That's not all. Every time the subtraction happens, the X's value is also reduced by an unknown factor."

He peeked at Orisa and Kanai, but they both looked like they understood everything he said. He quietly sighed with relief before continuing:

"What I need you to find is when the value in a row would be equal to zero, or when X became less than twenty-four. It's okay if your answer is not precise, as I'll be content with some degree of error."

Orisa and Kanai looked at each other before moving to the backpacks. They pulled out their writing supplies and began.

Orisa was done in four minutes, but she decided to wait for Kanai, as he was close, too. When they were done, they compared the results, argued for a bit, then marked and scratched each other's calculations before redoing it together.

"So, we came to a conclusion," Orisa said, "your magic number X will be less than twenty-four around the same time as the value drops to zero. Here are the numbers, and you can see the steps and values here."

Iten looked at the paper for some time, before trashing it with the rest of his papers and burning them in a small cup he took out of the backpack.

Orisa and Kanai were dumbfounded as they looked at their creation being destroyed.

"When the only book I was unable to acquire was the history of Waves, I became curious. It took me two days to skim through the other literature before I found this."

Iten pulled a small book in a soft cover out of his pocket. The title said 'The Church of The Tide. A history.'

"There is a religion in this world, called The Tide, which worships the Waves as a punishment for our sins. They keep a surprisingly accurate log of the Waves, including their timing and contents. In this silly book, I found what I was looking for – the dates of all the Waves for past two years. That was what I had you calculating."

He paused, looking at the puzzled faces of his friends.

"The time between the Waves is getting shorter. When we first came to this world, the time between waves was four days. Now it is already three. In six month this time will drop down to one day, and a few weeks later - to one hour."

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A note from Omi Nya

The name of this chapter can roughly be translated as "Time is up, student."
As you might have already guessed, I'm really and unhealthily addicted to quotes and references. This phrase, for example, is from a Persona 5 game.
Do you think you can find other references in this chapter?
By the way, do you like the Matrix? I think the first movie was iconic, to say the least.


About the author

Omi Nya

Bio: Game designer with 8 years of a working experience. I enjoy Isekai stories, sarcasm and happy endings.

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