Back in Master Del's house, I stride over to his sleeping form. Sleeping like a big baby, a level 87 baby. How much experience would I get for killing a level 87 blacksmith?
Last night, after I told my parents why I fell asleep, they joined brother in laughing at me. I couldn’t even shield myself from their ridicule, I was still too tired to do anything, even eating was tough.
When I finished with dinner, I crawled into my bed and passed out. The first night in over a week since my mana stabilized and I couldn’t even practice for a minute.
Why did he have to carry me home? He could’ve woken me up, like I did to him earlier that morning.
He could’ve shaken me, poured water on me, or just left me till I woke up by myself.
No, he had to carry me back home…
After, he carted me out of the mine…
After, teaching me all day…
Haaaaa, he did do a lot for me yesterday. I’ll postpone my vengeance for later. Turning away from my sleeping master, I walk out of the hut and take a big breath of fresh air.
The first rain came last night and it always seems to wake the forest up. The animals know winter is coming and are scrambling to find food. Villagers will start preparing for winters first snow. Crafters move their operations inside, leaving those with high physical stats to run the village.
Sitting on one of the stone benches, I’m not sure what to do? I woke up earlier than usual and wanted to save my stamina for work today, so I didn’t do my physical exercises this morning. The plan was to wake Del up in the most excruciating way possible, but now I realize how much I overreacted.
Del will probably sleep for at least two more hours, I need something to pass the time. Feeling the tranquility of the clearing, it comes to me. I should practice my mana skills now. I haven’t had a chance to use Inject Mana since I acquired it.
I need something to shove my mana into, so I should grab some different objects and see what happens. Standing up, I start walking around the clearing, looking for different materials. First, I grab some sticks from different types of trees, along with their leaves. I pluck a weed from the ground, roots and all. Walking over to the shed holding the “Blacksmiths” tree branches, I grab the smallest log on top.
This wouldn’t be a good experiment if I only used plants. Sitting next to Dels hut, is the cart of ore we gathered yesterday. I grab a small sample of “Lovers” iron and a pebble of magicite. With plenty of items to test, I sit back down, preparing myself to disintegrate some stuff.
A quick scan of the materials, and I decide which order I’ll start with. I’ll see how the mundane materials fare against mana first, then if I have enough mana, I’ll try the ores and silver log.
Relax… breath in…breath out. I need to be able to see how the materials react to my mana, so I can’t fully submerge myself with Meditation. Mana Manipulation is still too hard for me to use without Meditation so I can only use Expel Mana and Inject Mana with a quarter of the control I’m used to.
Grabbing one of the branches at my feet, I point it away from me like a wand. I don’t want to Harry Potter this, and blow something up by accident. Slowly I try to push my mana into the stick.
Nothing happened. Inject Mana feels like it’s trying to work, but has nothing to push. Maybe I can only inject mana that I’ve already expelled from my body? Pointing the stick away from me again, I try using both skills together in my right hand.
Ow! A small shock shot up my arm, causing me to drop my stick. When I tried using the skills together in one hand, the mana became uncontrollable when it shifted from my body to the Inject Mana skill. This didn’t happen with the goblins, but that was an adrenalin fueled situation and I did it with one skill not two.
Third time is the charm. Holding the stick still in my right hand, I plan to use Inject Mana with my right hand and fuel it with Expel Mana from my left hand. Bracing myself, I start using Inject Mana on the stick. Bringing my left hand on top of my right, I release mana through my palm.
Immediately, I feel both skills working. Staring at the branch, I slowly continue using my skills.
The stick looks like it has life being injected into it. Originally, it was a dry twig on the ground, now its color is returning, and the part I’m gripping feels softer.
I have about eight points of mana in the stick, almost nine. Suddenly, the sensation of Inject Mana hits a barrier. I think the stick is rejecting my mana. Ignoring the feeling I try to force more mana past the barrier. 13, 14, 15; at 15 mana the barrier crumbles. The stick disintegrates quickly in my hand, unlike the goblins, who slowly peeled apart.
After trying three more normal sticks, I can make some conclusions. Injecting my mana can partially revitalize a dead plant. The last stick I set aside without breaking the barrier. With my mana sense, I can observe the revitalized twig. The mana I injected slowly evaporates, leaving the twig the same as when I found it on the ground.
Once all of my mana has left the twig, I decide to try filling it again. The second time filling it only takes six mana instead of thirteen. The barrier is also much more fragile. I didn’t want to destroy this twig but the barrier breaks without me trying, so the last of my normal sticks are gone.
Picking up a fresh leaf, I try the same tests.
Weird, it’s opposite from the sticks. When injecting mana into something, still technically alive, the barrier tries to stop any mana before it can enter. Once the barrier broke in the leaf, it only took one point of mana for the leaf to disintegrate.
Let’s try a small plant. Reaching down, I pick up the small weed. Channeling my mana, I hit the same type of barrier as the leaf. This barrier is much more resilient to my mana, it takes nearly 20 mana to finally bypass the barrier. Unlike everything so far, the weed’s barrier doesn’t shatter completely. The barrier continues to fight my mana as I pour it in.
To my surprise, the weed starts to grow. The roots extend a little and even two new leaf’s start to bud on the top. At four points of mana the weed starts turning blue, and with the fifth point, the weed starts to disintegrate slowly like the goblins. Fauna and flora are able to fight against foreign mana, as long as they are alive.
Let’s see how inanimate objects fare against mana.
With the iron ore in my hand, I check how much mana I’ve used so far. Focusing in, I can tell I’ve used about 110. The iron ore has more mana already inside than the twigs, so I’m not sure how much I’ll spend on this chunk. Forcing my own mana into the ore, it feels like cramming your clothes into your girlfriend's already filled closet. You can see the different clothes but they never mix properly.
Suddenly, the ore chunk shatters into smaller pieces. The black ore cracked into 13 smaller chunks, but each chunk is much darker than before. Looking around the chunks, brown sand and dust are scattered around the broken pieces. Reaching down again, I pick up one of the new iron ore samples. Trying to channel my mana back into the ore reveals all my previous mana is gone. Only the mana that was originally in the ore is left and it is much more concentrated.
I’ll have to find different ores to test my hypothesis, but it looks like my mana caused the waste material to disintegrate, leaving only pure iron. If I practice this skill enough, I might be able to mine with this skill alone. I could just inject my mana into an ore bed and pick out only the pure chunks left behind.
All of that experimenting on the iron ore cost me 130 mana. I only have 160 left before I reach my 20% limit.
Looking at my palm, the pebble of magicite sends a shiver down my back. Remembering the feeling from the mana vein yesterday, almost keeps me from continuing. Let’s start slowly...
“Gods! Damn it!”
My hand wont stop shaking. The little pebble is missing, I think it flew somewhere to the left of me. There’s a little burn mark where the pebble was resting on my hand.
When I tried injecting my mana into the magicite, the mana in the pebble backfired and ignited my own mana, causing a small explosion in my hand. Other than the damage where the magicite was sitting on my hand, the rest appears ok.
Conclusion, don’t fuck with pure mana!
I’m almost scared to try the last item now. Father said “Blacksmiths” trees absorb more mana making them burn better and this is a tier 6 tree. Del said they’re incredibly hard to light, so I should be fine.
Holding the small log like I did the twigs, I start injecting my mana. The concentration of starting mana is at least twelve times stronger than that of the branches I randomly grabbed from the ground. With my previous failure I try to inject my mana as slowly as possible.
50, 75, 100…
110, 120, 130
This little log is sucking up all my mana!
140, 150, and 160, that’s it. I can’t use any more mana right now.
The silver shine of the bark is brighter, and the wood looks like it was just cut, but that’s it. When I use Sense Mana, I notice that the mana that was already in the wood is forced around the surface of the log. The natural mana is wrapping around my mana, holding it inside, like a cocoon. Maybe this log can contain my mana till tomorrow, so I can try mixing my full mana pool with what I’ve already injected into the log.
I need to stash this log somewhere so Del doesn’t accidentally burn it.
Rising from the bench, I brush off some small flakes of ash. Maybe I can hide it behind some rocks?
Looking around the clearing I….
Master Del is standing in his doorway, watching me with a blank expression.
Why is he up already?
How long has he been watching me?
I don’t know what to say. Why is he standing there?! Staring at me! …Say something!
“Good morning Master Del, I didn’t have to wake you up this morning.”
That’s the best I could come up with!!!
He’s not even blinking, this is bad!
I drop my smile, as serious as I’ve ever been; I ask my real question, “How long have you been up?”
We stare at each other for another minute. Without moving a muscle, Master Del finally starts to talk.
“I woke up 30 minutes ago, after you yelled.”
So, after the magicite then.
“You picked today to wake up like a normal person?”
I’m trying to break some of the tension, but master isn’t having it.
“I didn’t need to drink as much last night.”
“Mining with you… last night, I didn’t feel as down as I usually do.”
How do I respond to that?! Looking at my feet I can’t look Master in the eyes right now, they’re so empty. My hands hurt; I want to unclench them but I can’t.
“Are you out of mana?” Why are you asking me that Del? Are you afraid to ask what you really want to?
“No, I still have 20% left.” I’ve always frozen in situations like this, hoping to fade into the background.
That’s what you say! Screw this, one of us has to be the adult.
“If you're going to stand there all day, I’m going home. Let me know when you're going to talk again!?”
Turning around, I start to walk back home. I try to keep my pace steady, every part of me wants to run home and cry. Why does this hurt so much I sh…
I stop mid stride.
The pressure behind me… I can’t move. I want to turn around and look at Del but I can’t! this pressure is the worst I’ve ever felt, more than being crushed to death. Death was quick, this feels like my soul is being grabbed from my chest.
The world is quiet. Every creature has stopped moving.
Without realizing when, Del is in front of me.
My senses couldn’t pick up his movements, he simply appeared two feet ahead of me. His blank stare is gone, replaced with rage.
“You think you can walk away!”
Meeting Del’s eyes, draws the last strength from my body. I collapse to my knees, unable to look at Del anymore.
“You think you can mock me?! Pretending, like you understand me! Trying to get me to lower my guard! Wanting to steal Stone Kin secrets!”
What secrets? I never wanted him to teach me magic. I just wanted someone to show me how to be a blacksmith.
“You deserve this, you and your whole family!”
I want to try and argue with him, but I can’t. If I could just, everything’s going black.
Bang, bang, bang
My head is killing me. My clouded ceiling has the last rays of sunlight illuminating my room. Was I unconscious the whole day?
Bang, bang, bang
Standing up I feel a little woozy. My head finally stops pounding. Looking over myself, I can’t see anything wrong with me. But, how did I get home?
Stumbling out of my room, I see a pot of stew with a single bowl next to it.
Walking over to the table, I notice father sitting in a chair off to the side. Richard and mother are applying first aid to father, who looks like he got his ass kicked. Half of his face is bruised, his arms and legs are covered in small cuts, and his exposed chest has three black handprints. How do you get a bruise like that, it’s like only the skin that was touched was injured leaving the surroundings ok?
My low voice echoes across our house.
“Thank the Gods you’re ok!” Mother comes rushing over to hug me. The last thing I remember was Del about to kill me, now in mothers embrace I cry like I’ve never cried before.
Between sobs I manage to ask again; “What happened?”
“The whole village felt the pressure from Del’s clearing. Your father was the first to arrive. He saw you on the ground with Del standing over you, so he attacked.”
Looking at dad, my eyes widen. “You fought Master Del?”
Coughing loudly, dad tries to talk without wheezing. “It wasn’t a fight, I just wanted to get you away from him. He moved so fast; I could barely defend myself. Luckily, I held out till some of the other villagers came, and he stopped rampaging. The bastard threw me through a tree.”
“And don’t call that man master again!”
“I was so worried, sweety. Your father brought you home unconscious, half dead himself. What happened? What caused him to go crazy?”
I did this to myself. I’ve been lying not just to Del but to my family for years. Are they going to freak out the same way?
“I lied to Del.” I lower my head in shame.
“Sweety, that doesn’t justify what he did!” Hugging me tighter, mom only makes me feel worse.
“I lied to him, like I’ve been lying to you guys.”
Shrugging away from mom, I look at my family. I can’t see straight with all my tears.
“Master Del told me some very personal things. Reasons why he’s out here, and I never told him what I could do.”
“He caught me practicing, and I don’t know…. he freaked out, thought I was a spy or something. I don’t know?!”
Mother and father are too stunned to say anything. Richard, pauses treating dads’ wounds, and asks the question they can’t; “What were you practicing?”
Wiping my eyes, I walk over to our fire wood. Grabbing a piece of kindling, I push my mana into it.
The three of them stare wide-eyed, as the wood regains its color and eventually disintegrates in my hands.
Looking up, I finally tell my family. “I was practicing magic.”
The sun has set, and as if by some stereotypical coincidence it starts to pour outside. I’m sitting at the table explaining my magic skills to my family, slowly finishing my dinner. They even broke out the candles we rarely use, expecting this to take a while.
Mom looks skeptical; “I don’t see how you have been practicing for so long, and none of us have noticed it?”
“You walked in on me a week ago, mom. Remember when I was recovering from the karhu attack, I told you I was meditating.”
“I thought you were joking!”
“I mostly meditate before I go to bed. I stay up for a few hours practicing, and wake up late because using mana drains someone like stamina.”
“Since when could you use magic, sweety?” Dad finally asked me a question, I was worried he would be like Del, but he reassured me with his big smile.
I won’t tell them about my past life, but I need to get most of my secrets out. I love and trust my family the most in this world.
“I started practicing a little before I turned two.”
All three of them are stunned. Their faces bring a smile to me for the first time tonight.
“It’s hard to explain, but I’ve always been able to sense mana. To me, mana is like the air we breathe, and as I got older, I could sense it better and better each year.”
Richard suddenly had a look on his face; “You said you practice every night, even when you were two?”
“Yep, I would wait for you to start snoring, then practice for a few hours.”
“So, nights I thought you were asleep, you were listening to me!?” Richard turns red, then the parents thought about what he said and turned red as well.
“While meditating, I try to block everything out. It got a lot easier after you left, though.”
This is going better than I thought.
“If you have been practicing this much, what level are you Aaliyah?”
Leave it to brother to ruin the mood.
No this is important two, sharing your stats shows how much you trust someone.
“I’m level 38, almost 39.”
“That’s the reason I didn’t want to show you my stats when I had my Awakening. I know it’s late but here is my status page:”
LV: 38 Experience: 37,284/ 48,950
Health: 1000/1000 Stamina: 632/666 Mana: 500/500
Status Points: 106
Skills: Sense Mana (LV46), Acting (LV25), Meditation (LV45), Expel mana (LV28), Charm (LV33), Running (LV31), Cleaning (LV17), Mathematics (LV26), Writing (LV12), Mana Manipulation (LV9), Wood Carving (LV8), Drawing (LV5), Axe Skills (LV11), Inject mana (LV3), Mining (LV4)
“That’s not all.”
With everyone focusing on me, this makes it a little harder.
“Inject Mana is a tier 4 skill.”
Before anyone can say anything, mother demands everyone’s attention. “That information doesn’t leave this room. Aaliyah never tell someone about tier 4 skills. It’s dangerous for villagers to advertise skills like that, nobles have been known to “collect” people with higher tier skills.”
“Did you tell Del about your skill?”
“No mother, he reacted before I could explain myself.”
“Good, you don’t need to see him ever again.” Dad demands, I can see where he stands.
“Please stop, I know Master Del overreacted, but after the time I spent with him I know he’s a good person.”
“A good person wouldn’t have hurt you like that, or tried to kill your father.”
“Mother, I can’t tell you secrets that aren’t mine; but I can say, if Master Del wanted to kill dad, he could have done it with one blow.”
Everyone looks shaken with that remark.
Dad is the first one to recover and looks at me with serious eyes. “Sweety, what are you planning to do?”
Looking down, the sound of rain helps me to relax and think.
“I’m going to wait for spring, then I’ll get my apprenticeship back!”
“You sure that is a good idea, sis? Waiting to apologize doesn’t usually work.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. If I tried to apologize tomorrow or even a week from now, he might do something stupid. He told me he only does work when someone asks for something, and with winter coming fast, he’ll probably be inside the next few months, anyway. After he calms down, I’ll sit and talk to him.”
“Till then, I’ll take some time to practice magic. Maybe work with dad some more. And mom, you still want to teach me to cook, right?”
The rest of the night passed with more hugs and a clearer conscience.
Clearer, not cleared. I need to start planning what I should say to Master Del.
I really am lucky, laying in bed listening to the softening rain. A second life, a great family, and a master that was excited to teach me. This was my first mistake in this life, but I refuse to believe I can’t change it.
Raising my hand towards the ceiling, I remember the promise I made to myself. I will become the strongest human I could be.
I had the best head start I could ask for, so I can’t complain on the first bump in the road.
Trying to relax, I know I can plan better with my family, tomorrow.
Falling asleep, I just hope these nervous stomach cramps go away soon.