Alex, Alice, and Rose had begun their journey through the forests outside town in search of the bunkhouse that they would hide out in for the foreseeable future. Once they got a short distance from town the thinned out forest that was regularly harvested for the usage of the town quickly gave way to the lush untamed wilderness that covered most of the planet since the days of the cataclysm.
Rose had taken the lead for the time being so that she could cut a path for the two of them through the thick underbrush as they went. Alex, having not received a melee class during his awakening, was not graced with a real sword as Rose had been, nor had he really had the time to attempt to get any sort of weapon with all that had been going on. Although normally she would not have one for a few weeks still until she began specialized training for her class, but since her father was a member of the guards he had been training her with real steel for a while now already.
While Rose cut their path, Alex kept up vigil so that nothing could sneak up on them. They were still fairly close to town and not likely to encounter anything they couldn’t deal with but a lucky sneak attack is all an enemy needs to take you down for good. After about half a days travel in this fashion, judging by the sun when they got glimpses of it through the canopy above, they decided to stop for a short rest.
“This seems as good a spot as any,” Rose said, looking around them. It was the same forest they had been walking in all day but there was considerably more open and the ground had a large patch of soft ferns that she knew to be safe to touch. When Alex nodded his head in agreement Rose plopped herself down the ferns and relished the feeling of taking a break.
“Rose, I feel bad that you are doing most of the work here cutting us a path through the thick areas. Why don’t you lend me your sword for a bit after this break and I will take the lead?” He suggested.
“It’s fine Alex, I don’t mind it,” Rose responded, happy that Alex had offered though. “My father always told me to never let go of my weapon in dangerous territory. You have your magic of course, but I would be defenseless if we got attacked.” She finished in a voice that clearly said Alex had not thought things through fully.
“Ah, you are right, I hadn’t thought it through fully.” He said sounding abashed.
‘Think before you speak. Your wisdom and intelligence are above what most adults achieve even. Granted you don’t have the life experience yet, but still.’ Chided Alice from within.
While the two of them had a small meal and drank from their canteens Alex made sure to take out the map and compass they had been given by Thomas and double check they were on the correct path still. Thankfully they had been finding the trail markers embedded in the trees every now and then so they were confident this was the correct direction, but it didn’t hurt to check the map, especially since the destination was a testing area for the scouts.
After about a half hour of rest, the two decided that it was time to continue their journey and try to cover as much ground as they could before nightfall. They resumed the journey the same way they had been so far, with Rose in the lead and Alex keeping an eye out of enemies. To the delight of them both they did not encounter any problems for the rest of the afternoon. “The sun is setting.” Commented Alex as Rose continued hacking as some vines and briers.
Rose suddenly stopped and froze for a moment, before turning her gaze skyward. “Oh shoot, you are right. I was so focused on just getting through this forest that I hadn’t noticed. Thanks for being the responsible one.” She responded calmly and gave him a warm smile when she turned around.
“There was a small clearing a few minutes back, why don’t be backtrack slightly and camp there for the night?” He suggested.
“Sure, sounds great!” Rose responded enthusiastically, excited to get some food in her and rest.
The duo backtracked slightly and came out into a small clearing that they had already passed through. It was just the right size for two or three people to space out bedrolls, have a fire in the middle, and still keep a reasonable buffer between the sleeping people and the edge of the forest. The perfect camping spot for the two of them tonight.
“Let’s split up for a few minutes to gather some firewood and meet back here. Even if we don’t find much, meep back every few minutes and don’t stray too far. Sound good?” Alex suggested.
“Sure, let’s get started. I can’t wait to sit down again…” She said wistfully.
The two of them started heading out in opposite directions when Alex suddenly realized something important. “Rose, wait!” He called and walked back to the center of the clearing as she did the same with a questioning look on her face. “I completely forgot! I can just use my magic to cut down one of these smaller trees or a large branch off of one.” Alex said with excitement clear in his voice. He hadn’t tried using his magic quite like this yet and he couldn’t wait to try.
Rose’s eyes lit up as she heard his suggestion. “Sure, go for it. Work smarter not harder, ya know? If we don’t have to waste time searching the forest floor that’s great!” She said enthusiastically.
‘Ok, let’s see here.’ Alex thought as he scanned the nearby trees for a good solid branch. He didn’t need a whole tree for a single night after all. ‘Ah, there we go.’ He had spotted a good sized one about 30 feet up at the edge of the clearing. “Wind Bl-!”
‘Alex, wait!” Suddenly yelled Alice and he cut the magic off before it left his area of control.
‘What’s wrong?’ He asked confused, putting one hand on his chin.
‘Stop yelling all of your spells out for the world to hear when you don’t need to!’ She chastised him.
Confused, Alex responded. ‘You said you have access to my memories, right? Didn’t you see what happened in the dungeon when I attempted to use raw mana and accidentally thought of fire? My words guide my thoughts which guide the magic.’
Alice, sounding smug, ‘Yes, of course, they do. But the fact that you need words to help keep your thoughts on track just means that your mind is ill-disciplined and that you need to practice until yelling your spells aloud is not needed. Your spells launch a moment later, yes, but as we fight stronger enemies that moment will be all they need to dodge or counter in some way.’
His eyes widened and his mouth fell open slightly. ‘Ah! I hadn’t thought of it that way, I just assumed I would need to keep doing that. So I just need to practice not letting my mind wander while casting….’ Tone turning from excited to dry, he said ‘Certainly easier said than done though.’
“Alex…? Are you okay?” Rose asked slowly from nearby. He had been about to cast his spell, stopped mid-sentence and then stood there for the last while as different emotions flickered across his face with seemingly no cause.
“Huh?” He responded confused, as he turned to face Rose. ‘Ah, shit! I’ve been talking to you for a while and Rose has no idea you exist. I must look like a mad man to her right now!’ He exclaimed to Alice. “Ah, sorry Rose. Just lost in thought for a moment. Haha…” He tried to play it off, but this fake laugh was a bit too strained.
“… If you say so.” Rose responded unsurely and a bit sulky as she took her backpack off and began setting up her part of the camp. She laid out her bedroll, removed her sword belt while setting the blade right next to her in an easy to grab location, and sat down for another bite to eat before bed while watching Alex do his thing.
‘Ok, concentrate.’ Alex told himself while still worrying about the exchange with Rose in the back of his mind. He stared intently up at the branch that he wanted to cut and tried his best to fill his mind with nothing but thoughts of it being cut by wind. While doing so, he began materializing his mana in front of him and finally when the runes had finished compressing, hopefully into the correct spell if his concentration had stayed strong, he released the magic and prayed.
The loud sound of wood snapping rang out in the forest and a moment later the loud crashing of the heavy branch smashing onto the ground below. “Yes! I did it!” Alex said aloud while pumping one arm up in the air as he sometimes did when excited.
“Did what?” Asked Rose while slightly confused. ‘Wasn’t this the goal anyway? I’ve seen him do much more already.’ She thought to herself.
“Ah, but did you hear me say anything out loud?” Alex asked in a boastful voice. “I did the magic silently, which was the goal of this experiment and why I stopped mid cast earlier!” He exclaimed with pride.
“Hmm, that’s good, I guess?” Rose responded unsurely. Since Alex was the first magician she wasn’t exactly certain how easy or hard this had been. “Will we have that fire anytime soon though? It’s starting to get dark and I don’t exactly want to be out here in the pitch black with whatever is lurking in these woods.”
Rolling his eyes at the lack of excitement or praise from Rose he began cutting the branch into more manageable pieces with his silent magic. ‘Well, “I,” think it was impressive.’ Said Alice.
Alex, now smiling, began piling the wood in the center of the clearing while setting what should hopefully be enough to stop it in the night nearby. A confused Rose looked on as he just sort of tossed the wood in a haphazard pile. “Um, Alex?” She asked slowly and cautiously. “You DO know how to make a fire, right?”
Without acknowledging Rose right away, Alex turned back to the randomly thrown pile of logs and controlled a stream of raw mana to curl its way throughout and around the wood before setting it on fire. To Rose, however, it seemed as if Alex simply looked at the wood and it burst into flames. “Ah…” Rose said in shock. “Impressive.”
Grinning happily, Alex began setting up his own sleeping spot. “Sweet dreams, Rose.” He said before laying down for the night as she did the same on the other side of the fire.