The hunter turned his head to Youko while she was talking, and when her plea was over, he looked back at Orisa. She never felt being scanned, but that was her impression after receiving his direct gaze.
After a few moments of consideration he nodded, and Orisa heard a strong and deep voice making a short reply:
"Thank you so much, hunter Nowanzi." She politely bowed down.
"You should call me Nowa, that is enough." His tone was not arrogant nor a threatening one, but the way he talked left no room for objections as if he was a god simply giving polite orders to his subjects, so Orisa hastily nodded.
"I will leave you now, so have a productive time." Youko nodded and left, smiling lightly, as she was honestly glad by this turn of events.
"Let us properly introduce ourselves. My name is Nowanzi Goalo, and I'm a Spell Knight of the hunter association, and I'm working for the Military from time to time. Nice to meet you."
"Orisa the cadet here," she bowed again, "and it's my fourth week in this world. As for my specialization, it is really complicated. Nice to meet you, hunter Nowa."
"Umu. Your explanation, while being praiseworthy for its intriguing content, lacks information. I advise you to explain yourself clearly in the future."
"I am sorry for not providing appropriate information, hunter Nowa." Orisa was never overly polite, and she never sulked in front of superiors even of the highest rank, but Nowa radiated an aura of a supreme ruler whom you absolutely should respect and please. It was her first time encountering such a clear display of will and power.
"Umu. As long as you understand your mistake and learn from it." He nodded.
"My current build is more of predicament, and it stems from two different problems, the first is..."
While Orisa was describing her Spirit-Dexterity problem and a severe lack in other departments, Nowa kept nodding, occasionally inserting thoughtful 'Umu,' here and there.
"As for the second root of my misfortune, it would be much easier to show you, sir. That is if you don't mind visiting the gym and wasting even more time on me."
"I am yet to feel that my time is being wasted yet. Lead the way, young one, and you may also ask questions as we go."
"Thank you, sir," Orisa nodded and went to the gym, trying to come up with questions. "If you don't mind, can you give me a quick summary of your earlier lecture?"
"Umu." He became silent, before finally replying after a few minutes. "As you already know, free adventures not contracted by the Military are called hunters..."
Hunter's work was to address different tasks and issues, presented by the association. There were many types of jobs, but most of them involved combat in one way or another, either to procure various monster parts and Mana cores or to merely slay the Beasts.
Because of various taxes and rules, the hunter's life was not an easy one, especially of those without exceptional might or talents. Lots of cadets chose this path as it promised them freedom and adventure only to regret in the nearest future.
While strong hunters were well respected and could earn significant sums, it was still much more appealing to serve in the Military for various reasons, such as contract salaries, different bonuses, relative safety from being a part of a giant organization, and overall quality of life.
"If I may, why did you chose to be a hunter?" Orisa asked an obvious question.
"This was a decision I came to after serving in the Military for four years. It suits my goals better." Nowa answered Orisa's question in such a way that even she decided to shovel away her curiosity and drop the subject.
"Let us ascertain your problem, young one," the hunter said as they entered the gym. Without further ado, Orisa aimed at the metal plate on the wall and pushed slightly more Mana than usual to her palm in hopes to impress Nowa:
"Palm Push Strike!"
A jet of blue energy shot out her palm and rammed into the wall's plating, making a loud crashing sound. The plate fell off the wall, heavily bent and smoking. 'Oops, mistakes were made.'
"Not bad for a beginner," commented Nowa. "Although I fail to see a problem. Enlighten me already, Orisa."
She aimed at him, and Nowa quickly pointed his palm towards Orisa, as they chanted at the same time:
"Mirror of Kalandra!"
"Palm Push Strike!"
Indeed, a mirror appeared around Nowa's hand, perfectly reflecting Orisa in her futile struggle to produce results. She tried twice to no avail before Nowa ended his spell.
"Umu." Indeed, he was puzzled, to say the least. After a short period of silence, he asked Orisa, "do you have an explanation?"
"After a series of experiments," her heart ached a bit after remembering Tiana, "we came to a conclusion that I cannot harm others as long as I'm more or less sane."
"How curious, I must say. Do you have any way to bypass it?"
"Well, I have a lame workaround, but..." She was too ashamed to mention it.
"Show it." Pressure returned to his voice, and Orisa shivered again. "Although, I can already guess it, I still would like to see everything with my own eyes."
As Orisa began to charge the Postponer which now was always on her wrist, the hunter went to the gym's door and pressed his palm against it:
Room's interior began to glow with dark-green, and Nowa explained to surprised Orisa:
"Now you won't break the walls, and nobody would interfere with our session."
When Postponer's hand reached six, Orisa stopped the infusion, and again they both chanted at the same time:
Three almost translucent walls appeared in front of Nowa when Orisa began her assault, rushed by constant screaming in her head:
"Palm Push Strike!" - "Palm Push Strike!" - "Palm Push Strike!"
With every attack, she made a step forward, itching to get closer to her victim.
"Palm Push Strike!"
A crack appeared in the first wall. Orisa growled lowly before attacking with both hands:
"Palm Push strike!" - "Palm Push Strike!"
The crack kept growing under her attacks.
As her enraged mind felt that she was out of time, Orisa pushed almost half of her Mana into palms:
"Palm Push Strike!"
The first wall shattered into small pieces that quickly dissolved in the air.
Orisa fell on her knees, gasping for air.
"If not for your little problem, I might've considered it a worthy performance," Nowa said calmly, removing his remaining walls. "Now, when I saw your potential and grasped the situation, I may offer some aid to your cause."
Orisa instantly perked up, surprised.
"Really? That would be absolutely awesome!"
"Not for free, of course," he added.
"But I don't have anything you might want..." She became dejected, as the situation was hopeless now.
"Of course, you do not possess anything of value to me right now. But in the future, you might."
She felt like a mouse sitting in front of a giant slice of cheese. It was a trap, and an obvious one, but no less tempting in the end. Orisa remembered all the stories about various pacts and contracts promising some kind of postponed price. 'I understand all that, but...'
"Sounds like a deal with the Devil," she slowly said, looking at Nowa calmly.
"Umu. It certainly is, if I'd say so myself," he replied in the same calm voice.
"I would never do something that I judge shady or evil. And everything related to my body is excluded, too. If you'd want something like that, you'd have to kill me."
Nowa came closer and held out his hand to Orisa who was still sitting on the floor:
"That I will."
She gave him another long look full of doubt and then took the hand. When he pulled Orisa up, she quickly asked:
"What would you teach me?" Despite the fact that she just sold her soul, Orisa was agitated and excited.
"The only thing I would teach you is how to learn everything yourself."
For the second time after coming to this world, Orisa felt scammed. 'What the hell, man? I thought you'd teach me some awesome techniques or something.'
"Umu. I feel that you doubt my words, how vexing." He shook his head and began walking back and forth in front of Orisa. "While everybody knows the basics, they never move past the first step, and that I deem foolish. I see no point in feeding a man once when I can teach him to procure the food himself."
"So what you are saying is that," Orisa got used to Nowa's mighty presence, and talked to him almost normally, "while people have all the instruments, they don't understand how to use them, and it's all too complicated to teach in a reasonable time? So, instead of giving the answer you prefer to teach a method of getting the answer by myself?"
"Correct. I applaud you for conveying it that way, and I might use it myself next time." He pulled out a small pocket notebook and began to write something down, constantly nodding to himself. Orisa was quite surprised by the fact that he used a pen without removing his metal gauntlets, but she accidentally blurted something quite different:
"Why are you wearing a helmet all the time?"
He looked up from the notebook as if remembering that he was not alone in the room.
"Ahem, yes," Nowa hid the notebook and the pen in his armor, before pulling his helmet up, "it's an old habit of mine, nothing of importance."
Orisa saw a dark-haired man in his mid-twenties, and his face was generic to a fault. Every part and every feature of it was so generic that she couldn't even describe it well.
After witnessing her reaction, he calmly put the helmet back and said:
"How much time do you have today?"
"It all depends on you, sir. As long-"
"I already took into consideration everything you might say," he abruptly interrupted Orisa, steel returning to his voice, "so I'm asking how much time are you willing to spend today."
"I'm sorry, hunter Nowa," she quickly apologized and thought deeply about her options after looking at the wall clock, "I have around seven hours."
"Umu. I think it should be enough, so let us begin."
"One moment, please," Orisa took out Stamina and Concentration potions, downing the first and taking a sip from the second. In less than a minute, she felt refreshed and rested, and her mind was clear and sharp again.
"I'm ready, apologies for the delay."
"Umu." He paused, thinking about something.
It was quite hard to read his emotions and intentions through the helmet, to say the least. 'Is this the real purpose of always wearing a helm?' Orisa mused.
"What is Mana and what is it for?" He suddenly asked.
"It's a special resource produced by our bodies that can be used to cast spells."
"Hmm, well, you can manipulate Mana with your own will, moving it through your body."
It was getting harder to come up with something, and Orisa had to recall everything she saw:
"You can change Mana into different elements, like fire or lightning. It is possible to create various functional shapes, so you can manipulate Mana outside your own body as long as it is connected to your flow." She remembered Rita's Sealcasting, too. "Shapes can not only be functional but add more properties and effects. All in all, Mana is a multi-functional tool used to manipulate objects, nature or create different effects and forms."
"Umu. There is more, but it should suffice for now."
Somebody knocked on the door, and Nowa had to remove his protection spell. Orisa looked outside and saw Youko with a slightly concerned look on her face. She inspected Orisa's appearance and asked:
"Is everything alright with you two there?"
"Oh, yes, we are perfectly fine. Miss Satou, thank you so much for taking me to the hunter!" She was excited beyond words.
"I see. Glad that I was able to help, Orisa. Also, keep track of time, as it is getting late already."
"Don't worry, I will, and I also have an Endless night potion, so I should be okay anyway."
Youko shook her head in amazement and quietly went away, so Orisa returned back to Nowa. Without further ado, he moved to the next part:
"What is your number one priority now in terms of learning?"
"To overcome my fighting barrier," she replied instantly.
"You do not possess required skills for now."
"Uh..." Orisa bit her lower lip in frustration. "Then I need some defense, I think."
“What is defense, then?”
”Damage avoidance via shields or barriers..?”
”Mana expenditure to prevent damage..?”
”Stop replying with questions. There is more, but it would suffice for now. How can you do that considering your Mana pool?”
”Continuously pour Mana into shields or spend more Mana on barriers.” Orisa felt there was more to it, so she thought deeply. “I’m not sure, but maybe I can use Mana to increase Toughness, too.”
”Yes, you can. And there is more, but for you, it is enough for now. Can you describe a method I’m trying to teach you?”
”Ask yourself questions and don’t stop after the first answer. Keep going until you can’t come up with any more ideas.”
Nowa looked at Orisa for a few seconds and nodded.
”Umu. That is correct, indeed. Give me a moment.” He took out an already familiar notebook and wrote something down. “Now you need a defensive spell, or maybe even two or three for different situations.”
”Please, show me your barriers again.”
Orisa came closer and touched the wall. It was neither cold nor hot, and she felt Mana move inside it. But thanks to Concentration potion she was able to see more, as for the first time she felt intentions that were used in the spell. ‘Barrier. Detach. Stay.’
She sat on the floor and concentrated on her forearm, moving Mana there and to the surface of the hand. After a few minutes of moving back and force with the Mana flow, she finally conjured a guard-like object attached to her hand.
”Good, so let us test it.” Nowa suggested right away, taking a combat stance.
”Wait, what!?” Orisa jumped to her feet and backed away. “Stop-stop-stop!”
But Nowa made a small step forward and lazily slapped her shield with his hand. With a sound of breaking glass, the shield fell apart, and Orisa felt something crack inside her arm, followed by intense pain. She fell on the floor and yelled, holding the broken arm with her left hand.
”Why do you think this happened?” He asked calmly.
”You are...” Her hand was already restored and the pain almost subsided, but Orisa was still panting heavily. “You are too strong!”
”Oh, I thank you for the compliment, but you are absolutely wrong. You have one minute, and then I’ll strike again.”
But Orisa already knew what he was hinting at, so she got back on her feet and remade the barrier. This time she pushed much more Mana there and also connected one Mana layer to supply even more resources.
Nowa made the same slapping gesture, and Orisa’s guard held the strike. This, however, was of low importance to her right now, as the recoil from blocking was so strong that she smacked herself in the face with the shield, breaking her nose.
”Good, but you can do better. Of that, I’m sure, young one. One minute is yours, again.”
As she wiped the blood with her shirt, Orisa thought about the solution. As always, the solution was simple, so she made the shield again.
When Nowa was about to land a hit, she made another, smaller barrier in front of her shield, and ordered it to detach from her and stay in the air. While it was too weak to block the strike completely, the barrier absorbed most of the damage, and her main shield easily took the rest.
“Good. I’m pleased with your progress so far. One spell ready, two more to go.”
At the same in the capital of Lazra a private discussion took place.
”I hope, now you have enough proof,” said a hooded man, pulling a beautiful sword out of his chest. His cloak was soaked in blood and full of holes, but he was otherwise unaffected. “The power I’m talking about is immense, and it would bring the family to an otherwise unachievable height. We both know that it is the only way.”
”I understand.” The leader of vas Kavenfenn family said after calming himself down. “We shall proceed with your suggestion.”
A hooded man went back to a balcony that he used half an hour ago to enter a familiar and nostalgic vas Kavenfenn mansion. He calmly looked at the sky, a moonlight revealing his beautiful tanned face. The only thing that could set a casual observer off was a pair of narrow black slits in place of his eyes.