The first Zombie was three meters away already.
When the Postponer's hand reached twelve, Orisa stopped the Mana flow and yelled:
Her body glowed while the vision turned red, and the familiar voice in her head screamed.
'Kill them all! Kill! Kill! Kill!'
Orisa growled like a dog and jumped forward.
"Palm Push Strike!"
The Zombie's middle part got pulverized by the strike together with its shield, and the head rolled on the floor, quickly turning to dust.
Two simultaneous fire spells rushed towards her. She wanted to backstep to dodge them, but the bloodlust pulled her forward.
'Kill! Kill! Devastate them! Destroy them all now!'
"Palm Push Strike!"
Another jet of compressed Mana and air propelled forward, crushing both spells and the axe-wielding Zombie's right arm. It fell to the ground, not dead yet, but almost harmless now.
'You must end them all! All of them, tear them to pieces!'
Her vision became even redder as she looked for more things to break.
Two Skeletons advanced on her from different sides, swinging their swords. Mana gladly spread in two layers, eager to serve the master's desire to destroy.
"Palm Push Strike!"
Both palms moved each to its target, and two streams of compressed energy shot out of them, destroying the Skeleton's heads.
The moment her hands struck them, two fire birds smashed into her chest, throwing Orisa on her back.
Two scorched marks appeared on her skin, and it smelled like a barbeque. Her shirt was on fire, too.
'Make them pay! KILL THEM ALL!'
Orisa jumped on her feet and howled, tearing away the remnants of her shirt. She rolled forward to avoid an arrow of the Skeleton archer and ended right in front of the fallen Zombie. It immediately grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly. Orisa ducked even lower to avoid two more fire spells, crashing the Zombies head with her forehead in the same motion.
Her vision went blank for a moment because of the pain, and when she regained the sight, it was even redder the before.
'MARVELOUS! NOW KILL THE REST! DESTROY THEM ALL!'
She rolled forward again and stretched both her arms.
"Palm Push Strike!"
Two spells hit both mages, throwing them back. Orisa's attack was designed for close combat, and it gradually lost its power with the distance. Luckily, the mages were weaker than regular enemies, and it was enough to knock them down.
She saw the last foe, the Skeleton archer, release the bowstring. She even saw an arrow flying towards her head. If it was Orisa in charge of her entire body, she probably could have dodged the arrow by rolling to the side. But her desire to destroy pulled her forward and the arrow's trajectory was too low to avoid it by rolling towards the enemy. She also had no time and skill to aim at the arrow in hopes of shooting it down.
The only thing she was able to do was to outstretch her left hand and attack the Skeleton with her right.
"Palm Push Strike!"
The time slowed down even more as she watched the arrow pierce the edge her left palm. Her pinky got cut off entirely and slowly flew in the air, while the ring finger's first joint was smashed into a mess. The arrow's speed and trajectory were compromised, and it harmlessly poked Orisa into the shoulder.
As the jet of Mana destroyed the Skeleton, Orisa fell to the ground and rolled a few meters before stopping.
The hand on the Postponer connected two Mana circuits inside and activated the Seal of Major Dispel. Orisa's body glowed blue, cleansing her from the effects of the Enrage.
Her shriek pierced the floor, waking up everyone from the trance they were put into by her performance. She rolled on the floor, clenching her left hand and screaming. A lot of blood spilled on the ground and over her naked and scorched upper half.
Lieutenant Reezpauzo finished the first aid set and chanted more:
"Familiar!" - "Mind Split!"
In front of him appeared a tiny black creature. It could be described as a little shadow mummy, as its entire body was made of dark bandages with nothing inside.
It threw the hand forward, and a single bandage from its surface moved to grab Orisa's finger. It flew so fast that the squad members were not able to comprehend the situation.
Less than a second passed, and the familiar already grabbed Orisa's hand and pressed the pinky to it. Its grip was so strong that Orisa wasn't able to move at all.
Green bandage appeared around her pinky and tightly pressed it against the palm, rolling all over her hand to fixate it. When the bandage stopped, the familiar released its grip and turned into a cloud of black smoke before evaporating in the air.
Next second Captain Pain pushed her back to the ground and smacked a handful of band-aids on her scorched chest.
As a number of healing spells began fixing her body, Orisa finally came to her sense. Even under the painkiller spell it still hurt a lot, and the wave of terror finally caught her defenseless mind. The image of her severed finger flying away played in her mind over and over again.
Her body trembled in silent hysteria, and tears flooded from the eyes.
The squad members gathered around Orisa, not knowing what to do. Even Iten and Kanai wordlessly gazed at her shaking figure, startled.
A minute later Orisa slowly raised her head and focused the sight on the Captain.
"To help you fight your problem," answered the Lieutenant instead with a sharp, unyielding voice. "If you want to hate someone or file a report, then it was my idea."
Orisa dropped her head back on the floor. Her mind was empty, and body hurt beyond words, she was also scared to death. It was one of her greatest fears, to lose something like an arm, leg or sight, and stay crippled for the rest of her life. She bit her lower lip to hold down more tears.
"Girl..." The Captain struggled to find the words. "You are fucking crazy, aren’t you? Why push yourself so hard, if you could have asked me to stop this?"
"I won't be a fiendfood."
Captain Pain silently shook his head.
"Since everybody passed the test, we are moving to the second floor." Then he looked at Orisa and added. "I'll have someone escort you back. You are done for today. No objections."
Iten went away and quickly returned with her bag.
"Thank you, Iten." She said when he helped her stand up. Orisa took out her jacket and finally covered herself.
"Let me help you back," Kanai suggested with a hint of guilt in his voice.
"No, of course not, you both should go to the second floor." She answered quietly, then smiled weakly and added. "Who would describe the second floor for me tomorrow, if not you?"
"Orisa, listen, I’m..." Kanai began uncomfortably.
"You know it wasn't me who threw my name in the goblet of fire, right?" Orisa replied with a weak smile, as Kanai shook his head in amazement. "And, Kanai, I'm really sorry, too."
And she slowly hobbled to the stairs, escorted by Lt.Reezpauzo.
"You did great back there, Orisa." The Lieutenant said when they left the Dungeon. "I saw many kids doing this test, but such passion..."
"It is not about passion." She commented weakly.
"This can't be true. Why else would you risk your life during a simple test?"
"I just did what I had to do. There was no other way."
Reezpauzo made an effort to remember her words, for it was an important piece of data for his Lord.
"By the way, why do you know my name, lieutenant, sir?" Orisa's curiosity was immortal.
"After what you did to the floor the other day? Yeah, why would I know that, right?"
"I see..." She thoughtfully nodded before asking another question. "What is the real reason for your actions, sir?"
"Isn't it obvious? To test you, of course, after yesterday's events, it was mandatory. The Military is always looking for talented individuals."
Orisa looked at him, quite puzzled by his words.
"I'm the opposite of the talented, to say the least. The only reason I made it this far is because of many kind people around me helping out at teaching things. And I was extremely lucky, too."
"Humility is both a virtue and a sin, young girl," the lieutenant muttered.
"Negative, sir, I don't want people expecting miracles from me when I'm barely scraping by."
They walked in silence for some time before the Lieutenant said:
"How old were you back then? And what about your occupation?"
"Why do you need that?" For some reason, her alertness raised up. This whole conversation made her shiver.
"Aren't you smarter than that? Of course to judge your mindset and personality."
"I was thirty-three, worked as a game designer," Orisa replied, still in doubt.
"What the hell is game designer?"
Even back in her world, Orisa always struggled to answer this question.
"Um, my job was to come up with new ways of entertainment for people, then to tell the team what exactly we were doing, and also come up with a method to earn money doing all that."
'Hell, why is this so awkward to describe my job?'
This whole conversation left an unpleasant aftertaste, as she was unsure what was truly going on.
The Lieutenant left her around the dorm, and Orisa went to change her clothes and take a shower. The moment she entered the shower stall and turned the water on, the band-aids on her chest and the bandage around the palm both fell off, which meant that their effects have ended.
As the water flowed down her tired body, she looked at her pinky finger. There was a small white spot where it connected to the palm as if she wore a ring in this place and then got tanned. The skin there was snow-white, newly-grown, and spotless. 'I almost lost half the palm. I almost died.'
The wave of dread finally caught up with her. She slowly slid down the wall, hugged her knees and began to wail in horror. Waves of terror rolled over her one after another, and she screamed. Orisa's mind wanted to stop, but her body was overcome with fright, and she kept screaming.
When her throat became dry and the voice hoarse, she began to howl again, swaying back and forth.
Her body kept trembling under the hot shower. Water streamed down, trying to silence her wailing and wash away the pain.
Orisa still had a whole four hours before her theoretical appointment with Tiana, although she wasn't sure Tiana would show up. Her mind was still shaky, but she had to pull herself out of the shower and start moving.
Orisa had two projects in mind, and they both required money, so she had to choose one, the cheapest among them. 'Damn, I need to get back to crystal charging if I want to practice.'
Ten minutes later she arrived at the warehouse building. What she was looking for was called a workshop area, and she found it on the third floor.
"Can I help you?" A young soldier behind the counter asked Orisa when she entered the room. Inside she saw tens of stalls filled with myriads boxes, bags, and chests. This was more like another warehouse than a workshop, so she was unsure if this was the right room.
"Is this an engineering workshop?
"Mana engineering workshop, yes. What do you need?"
"Um, I would like to start learning from the basics, so..."
"I see. Give me your permit and fill the form, while I'm preparing the set."
"I... You see, I don't have a permit..."
The soldier looked at Orisa as if she said she was a giant unicorn.
"Then what are you doing here, if I may ask?"
"I thought that I could just buy the set..." Orisa began to fret, as the whole idea was based on a simple guess.
"But do you have money?" The soldier now was even more puzzled.
"Yes-yes, of course. Also, I'm not sure it would be enough."
"Basic set of brushes costs one mid. Bottle of Mana ink is thirty mins, and you can refill it for twenty mins."
"Awesome, that works perfectly! Do you have some kind of list or catalog of the Seals? And a manual, too?"
In the end, she spent almost four mids and now was sitting on a chair outside of the workshop, studying the 'Minor Seal List' booklet. During her first evening in Chargery, she earned around fifty mins, so the price was quite affordable even for her budget. She could earn it back in one week.
Skimming through pages she quickly stumbled upon two Seals that instantly perked her curiosity, so she ran down to the first floor and into Chargery.
"Greetings, Bavan, sir," as she entered the room, some not so pleasant memories flooded her mind.
"Oh, Orisa? Hello, how are you? Planning to do some work?"
"Thank you, I'm fine," while she was absolutely not fine, there was no point in telling Bavan any of that, "and I'm here to ask a question."
"How unusual, go on then." He set aside his usual notebook and a pen and turned to Orisa.
"I wanted to ask about a combination of these two seals," she gave him the booklet, in which two Seals were marked, "and if it is possible to use them in Chargery to optimize the process."
He made a quick glance at the paper before smiling knowingly:
"Ah, I see. The answer is yes and no. Yes, you can use them, and no, it won't optimize the process."
"Why is that?" Orisa was thoroughly puzzled, as her masterpiece of a plan was perfect. Or so she thought herself.
"If your plan was to use the Seal of Mana Transfer and the Seal of Ramification to charge multiple crystals at the same time, technically you could do that, but you'd waste a lot of Mana during the transfer, so it's hard to call it optimization, honestly."
"I see..." She thought for a moment, "but what if I don't care about Mana being wasted?"
"Then it probably is okay, I guess. And why it is of no problem for you?"
"Oh, I have some Mana to spare."
She had spent the first hour in Chargery wasting ink, as her writing and calligraphy were horrible, and in Mana engineering, the clearer your forms and writings were, the better were the results. She wasted a lot of paper, too, creating a small stockpile of crumpled pages.
In the end, she had to settle down with an imperfect but still working scheme based on information Bavan gave her about the Mana loss during different types of transfers. She also resolved to check the workshop again, as they would probably have tools to assist such untalented people.
Another hour passed by as she charged eight crystals at the same time, pressing her palms against two sheets of papers with Mana engineering Seals painted on them. It tired her both physically and mentally, so she had to stop, but the idea itself was great since her Mana pool was already big, and she made it even bigger with this exercise.
Taking into account seventy mins she earned in just one hour on top of this training and her first experience with Mana engineering, her mood finally began to rise.
When Orisa came to the gym, she still had more than one hour before their appointment, so she boldly marched towards the closest mat and slumped down, immediately falling asleep.
Her dream was not a pleasant one, as she watched the wolf slowly chew something small and indistinguishable. Every time she tried to move closer to see what it was, a hot and sticky rope yanked her away into the darkness.
Pretty nasty kick woke her up, and she saw Tiana towering over her.
"Wake up, fiendfood. I don't have much time to waste on you."
Orisa was both drowsy and dismayed by the dream, and her day was not exactly merry, too, so Tiana's actions hurt her more than they should have. She looked up at Tiana's indifferent face and muttered:
"I don't understand your blabberings. Stop wasting my time and stand up already." She turned her back to Orisa and crossed her arms in anticipation.
Orisa weekly pulled the tip of Tiana's robe:
"Why are you like that," a lone tear rolled down her cheek, "with me?"
Tiana abruptly turned around to snatch the robe from Orisa's weak grip:
"Don't touch me, fiendfood!" She yelled and backed away. "I'm already wasting myself on the likes of you, so stop getting on my nerves even more."
She turned around again, hiding her face. Orisa slowly got up on her feet, mustering the remnants of her strength and pulling together fragments of the broken mind. She didn't want to let go of this situation, even if she herself was hurt beyond words. 'I feel there is much more to it...'
"Tiana, what's wrong? Why do you hate people like me so much?"
She slowly moved closer to Tiana, who still had her back to Orisa.
"It's none of your business, fiendfood. We either start training, or I'm leaving." Her voice sounded especially hurt.
"Tiana, what happened..." and Orisa slowly touched Tiana's shoulder, "to you?"
She immediately turned around and slapped Orisa's hand, her face distorted in anger, with tears raining down her red cheeks.
"I said, don't touch me, scum!" And she dashed away, slamming the door.
Orisa slumped to the floor, weekly hugging herself. It was too hard to live her life this very moment.