I back away from the machine and sigh. I hit the 10th rank in the Dancer of Death which made the speedup I get from essence permanent. Without effort all of my movements rely on essence.
The machine reads 2,800 psi. Monumental by Earth standards, but not uncommon on Anfang. Mark could punch through a tank if he so pleased.
Yuna scares me when she hits at 3,500 psi. Even Yalinda hits well above average at 1,900 psi.
The proctor nods and notes our figures down, “Good, the pass mark is 1300.
“Go see Wendell Orbos to check your elemental affinities,” the proctor says. He points to the south and I see a blond curly man sitting by himself.
We move through the crowd and reach the table Wendell sits at. He has his chin on his hand. Eleven marble sized stones float above his hand.
I cough to announce our arrival.
“Finally, about time someone passed…” Wendell starts. “Oh, we meet again.”
A smile overtakes my face as I nod, “Hello Wendell.”
Not missing a beat he gets straight to business, “Today’s test is a little different. It involves showcasing what elements you’ve got an affinity for in the creation step.
“Please showcase for me what elements you can create from thin air, then I can test how deep the affinity goes.”
With an open palm I begin to conjure a sphere of each affinity. The sphere of wind comes the easiest, it looks like a tiny maelstrom the size and shape of a golf ball.
A sphere of fire flares to life to its side, followed by a solid sphere of ice and a bright sphere of light. Each takes longer than the last to form while I maintain the others.
Windell marks the results down on a piece of paper. “Good, have you had any luck combining them?”
The spheres fade as I dismiss them and I start to conjure the mixes I’ve been able to craft. Fire-Ice is beyond me or any combination involving them.
Of the seven combinations, the hardest is by far the Wind-Light-Fire combination. The uncontrolled natures of wind and fire compound on one another, so I have to showcase it on its own.
Windell notes the latest results down and his smile eases my tension from the exertion. “Good work, this next test will hurt a little bit, so bear with me.”
Windell takes out a box of spheres that he places around me in five circles, each larger than the last. Once he’s placed the final stone he holds out his hands and they rise from the ground and circle me.
What’s going on? This seems a bit intricate to be a normal test. Seems Windell’s full focus is on the test, so I’ll ask after.
“In most cases, we would test the elements you showcase; however, you’re not most cases,” Windell informs. “This will send a pulse to your lifeline within your dantian and force a hint of your true talent through your seal.”
Oh, cool I think until a massive surge of energy shocks my dantian and the seal cracks. I have filled my dantian with all 16 elements and neutral which rush out. The intensity of the essence makes me scream. Bile and a metallic taste hit my mouth as I expel black blood all over the ground.
That was the 65th compression all over again only 34 times worse!
I don’t catch much of what happens next because I’m forced to my knees and doubled over holding my stomach.
“Wendell, when you said it would hurt, you weren’t kidding,” I lament.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen like that, exactly,” Windell admits. He extends his hand to me and asks, “Are you okay?”
A flash of pain shoots through my right arm and I grab it by instinct.
“Not exactly,” I say, “my seal cracked and now every so often a few hundred Sky Realm cultivator’s worth of essence shoots through my body.
“So, how did I do?” I wonder and help myself up.
Windell sighs and holds his hand out. The spheres collect in his hand and form a small pyramid. The top sphere shifts from color to color. Small series of circles and arcs extend from all of the spheres as though I can make out what intent is used in their construction.
It’s so complex, and after a few seconds I have to turn away, my head throbs. Strange, I didn’t see that before my seal cracked. Was it suppressing something about my eyes, too?
Agony wracks my body in striped waves. A look inside myself reveals the latticework that makes up my body’s dantian is shifting. Before it was a brilliant white, each dense elemental wave that hits it shifts that section into a brilliant gold. Upon checking the density of my full body dantian my eyes shoot open.
“Windell, is there a place I may be able to take a bath?” I request, a blush flowers across my face as I ask this. “That test made me feel unclean for some reason.”
Windell scratches his chin, “Hmm, I suppose that’s my fault, so sure.” He pulls out a key and continues, “The newcomer dorms are empty right now, take this to the room marked on the key and give the hall monitor my name if you encounter any trouble.”
Once we separate from the crowd, I pull Yalinda’s hand into mine and pull her closer.
“Please prepare a bath with our best ingredients,” I ask.
Yalinda’s time with the Vibrant Lotus gave her many years worth of experience in the area. Some customers would demand to use the product upon purchase.
The only time I tried to make the bath, I washed a few dozen black coins down the drain. If you process it in the wrong order, or use the wrong amount of fire essence to release the medicinal properties you make a toxic bath that will eat away your skin. I was lucky and only singed the bottom of my foot which healed after a few days.
“Are you sure, Anessa?” Yalinda counters. “Those are so expen…”
A deep kiss ends the conversation and I smile as we part. I’ve been holding that back for the past few hours. “I’m sure, that test may have hurt, but it’s forcing a change and I want to capitalize on it while the effects last.”
Yuna glares at me and turns her head away in a huff when our eyes meet. Her feigned jealousy is cute. While Yalinda prepares the bath I give Yuna some attention which sates her, for now.
I enter the bathroom with a towel for modesty. Yuna and Yalinda stand by the bathtub which gives me pause.
“I can get into the bath on my own, you know,” I tease.
“No, you can’t,” Yalinda says. She places her hands on her hips and adds, “You said our best ingredients, which are only 100 years old. The garbage Gaylan has sold you in the past may be old, but it’s of the lowest quality.
“There are numerous grades of herbs. The ordinary grade you’ve been using is at the bottom. These are seventh grade, or heavenly grade, and a one year old plant is ten times better than the best that Gaylan has been selling you.”
Yalinda taps the tub, “We will help you into the tub so you don’t slip from the shock and drown.”
You win, Yalinda. She gives me a stick of leather to bite down on. It’s going to hurt that bad? Grand.
Yuna takes my left and Yalinda takes my right and they lift me into the air in a double bridal carry. The embarrassment falls away when I touch the water and my teeth gnash against the bit in my mouth.
Yuna and Yalinda both wince as their hands touch the water but they continue without a fault. I am so lucky to have them.