Alex and Jeod were sitting in the yard behind Jeod’s workshop, outside of the building in case of accidents. As he looked around Alex could see small craters and sections of grass that refused to grow back, no doubt from Jeod’s own past experimentation.
“So, Alex, from your description of how your magical abilities work and the scarce bit you know of the current limitations I propose that is where we start. We cannot fully deduce anything else about the abilities without knowing your limit for capacity. You mentioned that your mana pool is much larger than what you are able to actually channel without adverse effects so I propose we first start by getting you familiar with your exact limit.” Jeod finished his explanation in a calm collected voice not dissimilar to a professor giving a lecture.
“That sounds like a good spot to start, sir.” Alex responded respectfully. Even if the guy was an oddball Alex was still a 15-year-old child and would try to curry favor and be polite where he could. He sat down on the grass so that he would not fall over if he surpassed his limit. “I am starting. You may want to step back just in case.” Jeod took the advice and retreated a few steps.
‘My maximum amount huh…’ Alex thought to himself. He began drawing slowly from his mana pool, slower than usual so that he could try to sense the drain on himself. For the first few minutes, he felt nothing, although he had only managed to amass a ball of raw mana around the size of his fist since he was going so slowly. He was determined to find the exact point that he began feeling tired however and continued at his slow pace.
After quite a while the accumulated raw mana was finally equivalent to what he had thrown at the shadow being. He still did not feel tired, however. ‘I wonder. Was it the act of turning the mana into fire and making it so hot that caused the drain? Does the raw mana not matter, or at least not as much?’ He pondered silently while continuing to build up. ‘Aha!’ Alex had finally felt it, seemingly a tug at his soul, at his very being. He started feeling the early signs of general body fatigue and a small headache coming on.
He had managed to surround himself in a veritable cloud of mana however before he got to this point, many times over what the fireball in the tunnels had consumed and the most mana he had attempted to control at once to date. ‘I’d better dispel this and attempt it with fire or water instead then. Is raw mana indeed easier to wield or did I somehow get better already?’ He thought curiously.
Alex took a short break and relayed his findings with Jeod who wrote them down exactly as Alex said them for future study. Once they finished with that he repeated the experiment in many variations. Keeping it all fire mana at the same temperature but increasing the size and area, keeping it small but as hot as he could, keeping it small but dense with a lower temperature but trapped together closely still and so on.
That last one especially defied the laws that Jeod knew of but it made Alex ecstatic. When he compressed the flames as much as he could but kept the temperature at only a moderately high heat it would explode on impact rather than just spreading fire all around. He also found that he could create a ring of fire around himself but with a temperature so low it did not truly burn. The lower temperature seemed to cause him much less strain and he was able to make a very impressive wall as a bluff.
“Jeod I am going to attempt something completely new this time, so please send to me if I get injured.” Alex warned him and he decided he wanted to try another element besides water and fire.
‘Being able to make walls of conjured stone on the fly would be incredibly useful in a fight. Stumble opponents, block arrows and more.’ Alex thought to himself as he decided on his next course of action. He drew on the mana within and tried to shape it into a thin wall in front on him. Once that was done he willed it into stone and it worked! He noticed that the patterns within the magic were vastly different than water and fire and again wondered at their exact meanings.
Both a good and bad thing he discovered about his stone wall, however, was that once created and connected to the ground it was no longer under his control. He could grow more stone out of it and thicken it but he could not detach it from the ground to lift it into the air nor could he cause it to vanish back into mana. ‘Hmm. I wonder why that is.’ He thought curiously.
Next, he created small rocks and boulders and tested throwing them through the air and it went just as expected, working similar to the fireball spell. After that, he then proceeded to test a few air-based spells while stopping regularly for him and Jeod to note down all the findings properly. He managed to make a refreshing cool breeze, a small tornado around himself but not enough to do much and a force spell powerful enough to knock Jeod down.
After many hours of testing, it seemed apparent that using any of the elements was what increased the difficulty drastically and depending on how he manipulated them it was either easier or harder. The more solid the effect the harder as well. This meant that stone was easily the hardest of the elements and making water into ice was the next hardest with air and fire being the easiest to manipulate. After pushing himself so many times though Alex was really starting to feel the effects and it was visible to Jeod at this point as well.
“I can’t have the best test subject of my life collapsing on me from exhaustion so I suggest we both get some rest and continue this in the morning,” Jeod suggested.
As Alex paid attention to his surroundings for the first time in a while he realized it was indeed very dark at this point and well past when they should have slept. “Agreed.” He responded wearily. Alex struggled to his feet and Jeod quickly grabbed his arm before he fell.
“You may use my guest room for now. Come along.” Jeod said as he helped lead Alex back into the house in case he almost fell again. They reached the second floor and Jeod opened the door to a room on the far end from his and Alex was relieved to see a proper bed, with only one caveat. It was currently covered in a variety of scrolls, chests and odd devices that looked like failed experiments.
“Ah, um, sorry about that. I haven’t had a guest in years and forgot that I had turned this into a storage room…” Jeod trailed off with a tone of embarrassment. He quickly went about clearing the bed of his belongings and making the room usable enough for Alex. “We can clean it up more tomorrow, but for now we both need some well-deserved rest.” He concluded.
“Thank you, Jeod.” Alex said wearily. “I will see you in the morning then.” He said and nodded before collapsing onto the bed, not bothering to remove any of his dirty clothing or even his boots. Jeod simply turned and left the room without another word and the two of them enjoyed a good nights rest in preparation for the day ahead of them.
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Alex woke up within his soul again, his first visit since the event with the orb. ‘I almost forgot, I still need to figure out what this thing is working towards. I could feel it in the background absorbing a sliver of my mana continuously but it still felt… right. But that itself worries me. Is it affecting my thoughts and feelings? It is in my soul after all and intellectually I know I should be more worried than I am.’
Before he could do any more thinking he heard a "DING!" that sounded as if it came from all around him.
|You have leveled up! You are now level 2! +4 wisdom, +3 intelligence, +0.5 vitality, +0.2 lifespan|
Woo! My first level up!' He celebrated in his mind. 'Fighting off that shade and those goblins must have been enough. I completely forgot about leveling up with all the other new stuff that happened today. I should have taken a nap earlier so I could have gotten the bonuses before the experiments.' He lamented for a moment at his own shortsightedness.
As he thought through all of his he slowly approached the massive orb splitting his mana sea. He studied the runes still etched across its surface and suddenly realized, now that they were super-sized and not the fine tiny work that he had seen on the original, that they were different than the ones on the spell scrolls found in dungeons! These were not proper runes at all but the same symbols that made up his spells!
‘Is this orb itself a spell then? It’s still feeding off of my mana after all albeit slowly.’ Alex floated there and thought slowly, trying to figure out what he could do about this. ‘Considering how complex the markings are its not reasonable for me to decode them anytime soon even if I cast every spell scroll in town to see what each spell matrix does. They are woven so delicately here I could never reproduce the right combinations.’
As he absentmindedly floated around the orb, deep in thought, Alex noticed something out of the corner of his eye. ‘The green lines making up the symbols do not connect in all spots like I remember them doing on the original.’ He thought with excitement. ‘A clue?’ He floated as close as he could without touching it and finally at this distance he could just barely tell that the lines were still there but they were not lit up green like the others, just the same glowing white of the main orb.
As he studied the spots where the green ended it looked almost as if the mana was petering out like it didn’t have enough… ‘Do I dare?’ He thought to himself. ‘When it first expanded it took all the mana it needed despite the pain is caused me, but then it went down to a trickle shortly after that and seems to be taking so little it can’t even power itself. Did it not want to hurt me? Or is it waiting for something?’ A million thoughts rushed through his head but he had so little information to go off of that it was hard to decide what to do.
So he did what anyone would do in this sort of situation: He sat down cross-legged, still floating in midair of course, and had himself a good long think.