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Waking up later compared to the last couple days, I see dawn light trickling in and there are snippets of a conversation creeping up through the gaps in the floorboards into my room. Sitting up I feel none of the previous surges of energy this morning. If anything, I think I have a small headache as I get out of bed and get dressed in a robust set of brown leather pants that hug my calves tightly, all the way up to my buttocks.

 

‘I’ve put some weight on…’

 

I bind my chest tightly with a roll of cotton and wear a slightly loose but long red shirt that will be able to not get destroyed if I have to go diving into any bushes.

 

Heading downstairs to see the source of the conversation. I see that my father is busy with three adventurer type customers that are trying to place an order and seeing what they can get for free by promising future business to our little smithy.

 

“Oi! John, look at all dem spikey things, they could make a fine armor, no? Maybe that’ll discourage that Ursa from trying to grapple you again?” A bored archer pipes in while pointing to a stack of haphazardly thrown metal objects.

 

“Those are torch brackets for the mage guild, best not have any designs on them. Stupid idea as well, they’d just get all bent out of shape.” My father chides to shut up the man child while returning to the man in the middle who he’d been dealing with.

 

I do not want to interrupt so I sneak out without a sound. While leaving the stairs and heading to the door, I hear a thump land behind me and while I flinch, I try my best to not react further as I exit the smithy and head over to the Perdu’s apothecary beside us.

 

Entering in and hearing the gentle chime sound. I see Mrs. Perdu looking over her shoulder as she’s on the back wall organizing small pull out drawers with various dried reagents. She gives me a bright smile and nods her head towards the side door to go in.

 

“Akira, stay here please while I go get Jessica,” I say while ducking under the counter and through the door while saying a small greeting to Mrs. Perdu.

 

After entering the doorway and heading up the stairs immediately, I enter Jessica’s room and see a lump curled up under a light sheet. Having a sudden evil idea, I dash and jump onto the bed on all fours. Careful to not land on Jessica’s form but on the sheet to pin her.

 

“Time to WAKE UP!”

 

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEk!!!”

 

A cute scream escapes her and I’m lucky I’m pinning the sheet down as I would probably have just been headbutted in the face by my best friend.

 

Snapping her up in a cocoon and falling over onto my side with a struggling bundle of flailing elbows, knees, and heels, she’s giggling historically as I start to try and tickle her with my left hand as she frees herself from the blanket finally.

 

“Hahaha, stop, haha.sto...hahaha, okay stop.” She gasps out as I relent and just lie there with her.

 

Freeing herself from the blanket fully now I see she’s wearing a lopsided nightgown and what I almost took as a monster on her head.

 

“Bedhead and morning vine head looks nasty,” I comment, seeing Violet still in her hair and making the issue categorically worse.

 

“Eh… She will sort herself out soon and she likes to take care of my hair. Did you have breakfast yet? I’m famished.”

 

“Nope, not yet. Dad was busy with some adventurers and I left so as to not bother them.”

 

She cautiously looks around the room in each corner tentatively before she asks me.

 

“Akira follow you? He didn’t follow you up…”

 

“Oh no, he’s currently keeping your mother company downstairs.”

 

She hops over to a neat pile of clothes in the corner and picks up a few things and puts them in front of her body while turning to me for an opinion.

 

“I’m sure the forest would love to destroy your legs if you try a dress,” I say, having her put down the shirt and maroon dress.

 

“That’s right, we’ll be going on a longer trek outside…” She mumbles under breath.

 

We go through a couple of items and finally decide upon a tight-knit dark purple tunic with some forest green pants that have some rips showing her milk-white knees.

 

“Looks great! Mind if I join you for some breakfast? I left before grabbing anything and have no Dems to my name.”

 

“Not a problem and then we can borrow some packs and things from my parents.”

 

We head downstairs and turn right to go into the kitchen, where we find Mrs. Perdu with four teas prepped and Akira popping some nuts into his mouth while seated at their dining room table with her.

 

“Sorry to impose on you, Mrs. Perdu,” I say out of politeness, realizing that while I did not grab anything to eat, that also meant that I had inadvertently had Akira also possibly go hungry this morning.

 

“Oh not a problem dearie, I was just inquiring with Mr. Akira here about vii-dari,” She says beaming to me a smile, while gently picking up her tea and taking a sip.

 

Almost on queue, Violet starts waving around unhappily all of a sudden as if simply mentioning her race caused her to act up.

 

“Oh, dear… She always seems upset in the morning. Would it maybe be due to lack of sunlight during the night or maybe she’s just stretching? Little Violet always seems so unhappy in the mornings.”

 

“She’s distraught because you are boiling and eating her kind. Not vii-dari. But plants.” Akira says while picking up the tea in front of him and inhaling the aroma first before downing it all at once, despite mentioning the plight of Violet.

 

Realization dawns on Mrs. Perdu about the implications. She seems broken for a bit before she manages to stammer out.

 

“B-b-but we are all vegetarian… I-I… don’t know what we could…”

 

“Do not worry about it, she is young and will come to terms with it in time. The vii-dari have long ago come to terms with it and seek balance, as they found that waging wars to try and exterminate all creatures that eat plants simply creates suffering and pushes some races to simply burn down whole forests in revenge. Thus, balance is required and the young vii-dari learn in time.”

 

Akira’s statement of tough love for dealing with Violet’s grievances did not sit well, but thinking about it, the Perdu’s cannot simply stop eating both animals and plants. What is left? Magic only? Or maybe just sunlight? Also, imagining flowers suddenly uprooting and battling small herbivores could possibly be the cutest non-fight there could be.

 

After grabbing some food and packing three bags with some essentials, water, nuts, and some dried berries to snack on. We also grab a couple of tools for harvesting some small things we might find, with a sturdy knife, we set out south while it is still morning.

 

After a good trek through the streets of the city, we manage to leave and arrive at the southern lake. Taking a small break we go over some of our findings.

 

Throwing a stone and skipping it across the lake three times before it plunks into the depths of the dark waters in the morning. I release a bit more frustration on some other stones that are not quite good enough for being used to engrave, however, they still make decent skipping stones.

 

“I just don’t like the boredom of the inner realm, ya know? It’s… well... boring…” I say as I manage to skip this particular stone seven times.

 

“I agree, it is monotonous,” Jessica confirms, helping me stew on the subject.

 

“You’d best learn to work through it if you tried other forms of mana manipulation you would end up losing a lot of benefits of strengthening your foundation. The next step after a stable foundation is to start compressing your mana externally.” Akira ponders and as he mentions this to us.

 

“You might have mentioned that… How can we? Or is it just trying to squeeze our mana?”

 

“No, visualization is important, a grain of sand in the palm of your hand. In the purest of whites. It will be horrendously inefficient and in order to benefit your training you’d need to quickly form multiple and seek a state of emptiness. However, staying permanently deprived is not possible.”

 

“So do we just make a bigger pebble to use all our mana?” Jessica asks while she squats on the edge of the pier watching the stones that I skip.

 

“No, just many grains. They are external and can be used to increase the power of a spell beyond your current limits, though there are many dangers involved in carrying exposed condensed mana.”

 

Looking down at my palm. I try to envision my mana condensing, I try to envision my spinning mana interior, move towards my palm. I’m not sure if it actually does, but if it is visualization, I visualize it as best I can.

 

Squeezing my hand shut, I close my eyes and try to imagine and feel that ember in my palm, try to feel it appear, I want it there.

 

“I can’t.” Says Jessica as she rocks backward and falls on her butt, breaking my concentration.

 

I look down in my palm and see…

 

...nothing…

 

Grabbing my last skipping stone, I put it in my palm and close my eyes. Maybe it is the compression that is not working. I close my eyes and flex my fingers around the smooth stone, trying to imagine what it feels like to compress the stone. I can feel my fingertips going white from the strain. A slight tremor in my hand as I try everything.

 

Removing the river stone from my palm, I try again, taking deep calming breaths. Again I try to imagine the pull, the compression, and a squeezing of my inner ember.

 

After several long moments, I slowly open my eyes. I feel nothing. None of the exhaustion or the pull of my mana that happened in the past, nor anything other than the ache of where my fingernails were digging into my skin.

 

Looking down in my palm, I see nothing but four indentations in my palm from my nails.

 

Ugh… I grab that last skipping stone and toss it with everything I have and unfortunately only get a single awkward skip before it teeters wildly and plunks into the water.

 

*Sigh*

 

“Nope, nothing here either.”

 

“Not surprising. You’ve yet to saturate your body and thus it ought to be difficult to bring your mana to your extremities.” Akira says as if he foresaw our failure on the topic.


Grumbling to myself I put my hands into my pant pockets, I managed to bash my left hand’s fingers into another skipping stone. Clenching my teeth I pull it out and pass it to my right hand, wanting to throw it as well, before I come short, realizing I pulled out my rune stone that I had made.

 

Looking at the rune on it for a moment, as if in a daze, an idea starts to come to me.

 

The rune was previously hooking onto my mana and forcing it out into the earth nonstop… What if I could simply have it hook my mana and bring it to my hand… Looking down at the rune, I pass my thumb over it before I flip it face down in the center of my palm.

 

I think I remember that the starburst component of the rune was essentially what was expelling our mana, perhaps it was the inner rune that was the one that was hooking my mana. Closing my eyes I focus on the rune. I turn inwards and try to feel my rotating core and try to see if I can feel those hooks that were grabbing and dragging at my very being.

 

Knowing that if I placed it on the ground I’d be done for and would be relegated to another fuge of boredom. I try to push my own hooks outwards from my ember to latch onto those dormant hooks that I know are out there.

 

I feel like I’m unable to make multiple hooks or do anything so complex and instead try to go simpler and just a single hook. I feel it possibly form and start reaching and grasping out into the darkness. After a short moment, I suddenly feel my core’s motion come crashing to a halt.

 

*oof*

 

That was extremely unpleasant. I try to let my hook go, but it feels like a ball of yarn coming undone, and a small strip was pulled out and severed. However, with the hook now gone, I can feel my inner being spinning again and can actually feel two. My main core and a tiny thread of me now feel as though they are distant from one another.

 

Feeling for the little strand, I’m uncomfortable with how weak the little gossamer strand feels and instead try to spin it on itself as well, compressing it. I do not know why, but it just feels right, better, safer.

 

Remembering what my current exercise is, I envision that little speck of ember floating adrift was within my palm, in the middle of that inner circle of the rune while I squeeze my hand and palm. I try to remember that feeling, of it spinning on itself where it would try to thin out like a soap bubble and how I would torture the poor little ember in my boredom and squeeze it down.

 

After a long moment of this, where my entire forearm is shaking from the strain of squeezing the stone. I open my eyes and slowly unclamp my fingers from the runestone. Gingerly moving it away with my other hand I look down and see my little ember outside the dark void.

 

There it lay in the center of my palm. A tiny grain of sand, where I could swear that it was actually glowing ever so softly when the shadow of the runestone was blocking the sunlight.

 

Looking over at Akira with a surprised and excited look on my face, I simply see him with a slight grumpy frown on his face. Ignoring him I squat down beside Jessica to show her.

 

“Hey Jess, I think I did it, look,” I say as I place the runestone back in my pocket and cup my hands to give a small opening for Jessica to see into the center of hands and I was right, it is ever so faintly glowing.

 

Looking at it a bit more and poking at it, I explain to Jessica how I visualized it along with the runestone and she promptly pulls her own runestone out to give it a try.

 

Looking over at Akira, I ask him.

 

“Looks like I was able to do it. So… What do I do now with it?”

 

“That should not have been really possible. I guess there is always room for growth and new things to learn.”

“Okay, but what do I do now?” I ask as Jessica excitedly stands up to show me her own success.

 

“Not much at present. You’ll need to form a soul bag to store them safely, less anyone uses them against you.”

 

“And how do we go about obtaining a soul pouch?”

 

“You make one. You’ll need to find a tenacious plant and force it to subsist only on your mana. By doing so, you’ll saturate it through many cycles of death and rebirth and bend it to your will to form a soul pouch where the contents can only be touched by your own mana and no external mana.”

 

“Tenacious plant, got it. So this could replace the training in the darkness?”

 

“Can you still talk?” He asks all of a sudden in response.

 

“...Err… Yes… What does that have to do with anything?”

“If you are still able to speak, then your mana and body are not in a state of deprivation and are thus not benefitting.”

 

“Oh… So we just need to make multiple of these… Mana sands?... Mage grains…”

 

“Mana clusters?” Jessica offers another name to me as I flounder for a way to call what I have in the palm of my hand.

 

“...Mana embers?… Err… Do we just need to keep making them quickly all at once until there is nothing left? And keep it there?”

“Yes, though a state of emptiness is not possible except for a moment and will take a bit of time before you have enough mana to compress another and during that, you are not growing stronger. Also, the weakness of that state is detrimental to being outdoors and unprotected while in a weakened state.”

 

“Okay, well we can at least practice a bit to make it smoother and avoid going so far as to get a dizzy spell.”

 

We pick up our stuff and continue heading south around the lake towards one of the small ravines that feed it. Jessica recognizes it as one of the ones she had followed while with her father.

 

We follow the little ravine, taking some deer trails while we every so often pause to try and form a new mana ember. Ideally, I’d like to get to the point where I don’t need to stop and close my eyes for a bit. However, I now have three of them in my sweaty palm and am trying my best to not drop or lose them as we try to keep an eye out for some red flowers or other herbs that could be a possible easy sale to the guild.

 

We follow the stream further south and start heading uphill. It is already midday and we’ve yet to find anything of value. After using a walking stick I picked up to flick some leaves up to look at their underside, we continued on without any success.

 

I swear this place appears picked clean of everything except nasty bugs that are constantly assaulting us. We break away from the ravine and decide to head further uphill towards some more mountainous areas, hoping that we could find something.

 

We continue on and on. Our only success so far is that Jessica and I have both managed to make a dozen mana embers each. We’ve managed to find a couple of large leaves and using some vine-like weeds, we’ve somewhat managed to make a small pouch to better hold them for the time being.

 

Jessica had thought about trying to store hers in her water canteen. We had abandoned that idea when we figured it would be too difficult to recover the embers later on.

 

As we head to a higher elevation, we find a small area almost absent of foliage. Possibly only forty strides across. This area looks sickly before the rest of the forest resumed. Jessica and I take this small shortcut to make our trek easier in not having to push through any heavy foliage or wind our way through anything.

 

While we are crossing this barren little piece of land, Akira draws our attention and points to a sickly green weed with a yellow stem and pus yellow veins on the leaves.

 

“What’s this plant here? This could be useful.” He says while pointing at the sickly weed.

 

“That’s rot weed, it often kills the land around it, however, they do not propagate very far from where they are found. With it here, it almost guarantees that there will be no decent herbs or plants in the vicinity, we’d best avoid their territory if we want to find anything.” Jessica informs us while not giving the plant a second look before trying to bypass it.

 

“I’ve never come across something like this in the many states. This is a real good find.” Akira almost seems excited to find this sick and disgusting looking plant.

 

“No. Nobody will really buy it. It is useless unless we had a grudge against a farmer and wanted to go transplant it onto their land. They might put a requisition in to find the culprit that planted it, however, the chances of us getting that requisition is low as they’d just dig it up and burn it.” Jessica says over her shoulder as she is adamant to get away from the plant.


Belatedly I realize that she might be worried about Violet and how this weed could possibly negatively impact her plant familiar. Especially if this weed robs the vitality from the very land and surrounding plants.

 

“No, no, no, no. This is great. An aggressive specimen that devours the force of the land itself is perfect. This would assist tremendously in learning the rampant growth ability.”

 

“Perfect how?” I ask, as Jessica finally stops to turn around, though is still edging away from the center of the field.

 

“It eats the vitality of the land. You need a soul pouch that would survive off only your own mana. You’d just need to attune it to your mana forcefully and if it is capable of devouring this much vitality, it would be perfect for learning rampant growth.” He says more and more excitedly as he hovers around the couple plants, examining them.

 

“Akira, Jess is probably worried about how it will affect Violet. We can always find something else. Let’s go. Also, how else could we learn rampant growth?”

 

“The vii-dari will be fine. As long as Jessica does not bleed out, she would not be able to be affected by something as small as this. Her magic vitality is much more tightly bound to her being.” He says while moving some of the dead leaves and stones away from the base of the plant.

 

“So, don’t bleed out, great advice there Akira.” Jessica seems a bit off-put with how dismissive Akira was about her concerns while wholly engrossed with the sickly green and pus yellow plant.

 

“How else could we learn rampant growth?” I ask, trying to steer away from the topic of Jessica bleeding out.

 

*sigh*

 

“Other methods of acquisition of the rampant growth ability usually involve trying to force a seed to sprout in salt alone or within the very air or on top of the snow in the dead of winter. Essentially finding inhospitable environments and forcing plants to take root and survive. It is not easy and is an arduous task.” He responds to my inquiry with a sigh and almost a bored tone as if he were reading from a dry history book.

 

“Inhospitable environment, check. Would within a fire count? And for how long?”

 

“Yes, though that would be even more difficult and would require even more time to attempt such a thing. Feasible, but too convoluted. As for time? Those methodologies would possibly take a season or a few winters depending on your luck.”

 

“... I hate to ask this, but if we tried using the rot weed?”

 

“Maybe a couple of days, astronomically faster if just a few plants are able to devour this much vitality out of the environment.”

 

Sighing I go over to the ugly little weed and grab it at the base of the stem and yank it clean of the ground. Akira seems to be momentarily stunned by my action. He looks at me as if I just willingly gambled away my life savings and he moves to block the other ugly weeds from my tender administrations.

 

“Now what do I do with it,” I ask as I wave the plant like a wand in front of Akira and I see him look like he almost wants to pounce and relieve me of my ugly wand.

 

*hiss*

 

He breathes in through his teeth trying to calm down and I cannot help but to smirk at how irked he is. Jessica joins me and is also enjoying the slight distress Akira is feeling over this weed.

 

“Similar to what you did with grass in the classroom. Force it to devour your mana. I’d suggest using ten grains of condensed mana. Ten would be about the maximum amount of mana you had when you initially tried feeding those grasses over the course of an entire day.”

 

“Wait! Ten embers are how much mana we had back then? How about now? How much do we have?” I ask, as this is news to me, and would help us to gauge how far we’ve come in just a couple of days.

 

“It’ll be much more, but you will not know unless you test it out in a safe place.” He says while gesturing to the woods at large and all of a sudden I feel a lot more exposed out here, especially if I were to faint and go to the dark realm.

 

Looking at my small leaf package, I know that I have twelve at the moment which may have been my maximum mana well depth.

 

Sitting down cross-legged, I dig a small hole in the ground and jam the roots in before squishing the dirt around it and look up to see Akira wincing at my replanting skills.

 

“Now what?” I ask as I grab and start to unfold my small parcel of twelve grains and leave two in leaf before transferring the rest to my palm.

 

“Nurture the plant before you, similar to how you did with the grass before, however this time, focus through the grains to impart your will. However, focus on the end goal of the seed. Try to will your mana to force the plant to form a seed. This will kill the plant, but ideally, the seed will contain traces of your mana and on a few more cycles of rebirth it will attune with your mana. This will make it more… flexible… to your will.”

 

Jessica squats down beside me and I can see that Violet seems to be just fine as she appears to be a slightly larger set of horns on her head. Violet does not seem to be in distress by being so close to the rot plant.

 

“Okay…”

I place the palm face up with the ten embers within and place the stem of the recently transplanted rot weed in the crook of my index and middle finger.

 

Closing my eyes, I feel for the plant and envision my rotating core. However, instead of forming a hook to be shorn off. I seem to be able to feel the ever so faint presence of the mana embers in my palm. I try to send a tendril of mana from my spinning core to the grains and instead of having a piece of it ripped off, I feel as though my tightly bound ember blooms a bit and a small petal leaves willingly to catch an invisible wind within the darkness as it seeks the mana embers in my palm.

 

Feeling it part me, I try to will it to be guided along and pick up an ember along the way, envisioning this little ember to carry my will and try to just envision a seed. Realizing too late that I do not know how the plant forms a seed or what it looks like, I only hope that with the little petal, that it carries my intent of ‘form a seed’.

 

It somehow feels right. As though the intent resonates with what I wanted to be done and acknowledges it. I try again and my core ember loses another petal and feels slightly weaker, however, it is slightly easier to add my intent to this petal.

 

Remembering that feeling, I quickly send off another and my concentration slips slightly and I think as I part with it, my last thoughts or intent were: ‘Form a seed and make sure your siblings are doing so as well’.

 

I redouble my concentration and send off a fourth one without any problems or slip-ups. On my fifth, I feel much weaker and somewhere in the back of my mind, I can hear and feel Jessica and Akira vaguely telling me to stop in the back of my mind.

 

With a monumental amount of effort, I pull away from my core that was blooming and instead tells it to compress and wrap back up before I slowly open my eyes.

 

“...op! Cara Stop!” I hear Jessica yelling while shaking my shoulder. I feel a bit tired and look around to see a dead and desiccated plant in front of me that is slowly falling apart and drifting away like dust in the breeze.

 

“Well, damn. I guess I failed?” I ask as I look down to see that I at least have five embers remaining.

 

“Wow, that was so fast! Ah, no, you succeeded, the seed ought to be underground in the roots. It was growing pretty fast for a second there and became a slightly darker green before it started to shrivel up.” Jessica tells me excitedly.

 

“But I only used five grains? Didn’t I accidentally kill it?”

“No. You doubled your mana expenditure and mixed an equal part of a grain of sand with your own mana, thus, using about tens worth. Five grains and probably five from your mana states.

 

The desiccated stem snaps between my fingers as I start to gently dig in the earth and manage to pull out a bulbous little triangle about the size of my thumb. It is sickly green with ugly pus yellow veins that almost seem to be pulsing and I quickly drop it out of shock.

 

“That is pretty good. You’ll probably need another ten grains worth to force it to grow to maturity and ten more to force it to produce another seed. Doing so will force it to thrive off of your mana and your mana alone. You’ll be wanting to try and embed that intent during the growth phase before forcing the seed phase.”

 

Jessica moves beside Akira and tries to repeat exactly what I did with one of the weeds that Akira was guarding.

 

After a moment to settle in, I watch Jessica repeat the same steps I did and after a little more time than I think it took me, I watch as the yellowish stem brightens slightly from where she holds it. The slight vibrance traces the stem up towards the leaves and while the green of the plant does not change at all from the sickly green, the pus yellow veins do seem to brighten a bit and maybe shift a bit to a brighter yellow.

 

I watch the embers glow with a soft light in her palm. Slowly, one by one, wink out of existence as the plant changes slightly.

 

As the fifth grain disappears, so does a sixth, seventh and eighth. On the ninth one, however, the plant almost convulses as the ends of the leaves quickly curl inwards and shrivel up, as if losing all their water. The rest of the plant loses its vitality quickly from the top and edges inwards towards the stem. The plant is shriveling upon itself and the stem seems to get slightly brighter near the top. That is until it appears to almost swallow the light down into the earth and the rest of the plant dies above ground.

 

Jessica’s eyes flutter open and she frowns a bit as she looks down to see that only one ember remains in her hand. However she digs into the earth and pulls up a similar triangular seed, however, it appears that the yellow veins of hers are much brighter and more stable and not pulsating as mine were.

 

“Damn. I could have sworn I had it. Seems like I could not mix my mana with the grain as well as you did. I ended up wasting a lot more.” She says slightly disheartened.

 

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll figure something out. Yours looked different than how you described mine. Yours was more yellow and focusing on the stems.” I tell her about my observation and we compare notes as it seems like mine focused more on the leafy bits of the weed while she had somehow focused more on the core of it.

 

After discussing a bit more, we take our seeds and pocket them while leaving the last two plants. I had asked Akira if he wanted to try himself, as he seemed quite interested in the plants, however, he had mentioned that if he tried, it would have injured me similar to what happened with Zoe and him trying to heal her.

 

Not wanting to faint in the middle of the woods, we avoid that and continue on. We are a bit more aggressive in producing more embers as we march up this mini mountain for a bit more and after finding nothing we turn around and head back towards the stream from a slightly different angle, so as to cover some new ground.

 

After producing another twenty embers each, we stop for a bite to eat and to grab a drink of water as it is getting later in the afternoon. We try using our new harvest and plant the rot weed. I managed to quickly grow mine to maturation in six embers and to get the seed in four. I am told that the plant did not look as sickly and was a slightly darker green.

 

Jessica was also successful and managed to use nine to get it to grow to maturation and then only six to get a seed. She managed to figure out after I explained how I bloomed my ember and instead of having a strip ripped off, I was able to have a much easier petal fall off and have my will and intent bestowed to it.

 

Hot off our recent success I managed to force mine to grow and die again in only eight embers in total and I was able to open my eyes and watch the usage of the final two. I am feeling slightly dizzy and we take a small break this time.

 

“Once the plant is sufficiently saturated with your mana, your intent will become easier. It will be more pliable and you could force it to only grow a single leaf, or control how that leaf is formed. This is the next goal. To fully control the growth and make a soul pouch from a leaf or leaves, and to start to form a soul book as well.”

 

Akira had been explaining to us our next major milestone as it seems we had been making incredible progress with the rot weed. He had said that it was most certainly due to the nature of this weed and how it voraciously devours the vitality of the land and other plants. We are simply forcing it to change its diet to our mana alone and it will become incapable soon of ever-growing without our mana. Even if someone else tried to supply it, it would simply reject it outright.

 

I kind of feel bad for it. I’m essentially turning it into a drug addict. Except, in this case, my mana is the drug. A rampant growth drug for it, while taking it through multiple rebirth cycles. I kind of do not hate it so much anymore. I’ve managed to improve its health considerably and instead of being a puke green, it is now a slightly more vibrant green.

 

“At least we managed to get this. We’ve otherwise been mostly unsuccessful in finding any plants of value or those caterpillars.” I say to the group while resting my sore feet from our trek across what feels like a mountain range, but we’ve only been hiking up a few aggressive hills in the forest.

 

“You’ve been looking for caterpillars? We’ve passed many, why have you not picked any up?” Akira asks us.

 

“What do you mean by ‘many’? We’ve been looking in bushes constantly!?” I ask him, as he seems to have seen something and never bothered to tell us.

 

“I thought you were simply looking for herbs and plants? Was that not why you were always looking at the ground?”

 

“Maybe we never said anything about it with Akira? He was watching Zoe when we went to go pick up the requisition…” Jessica mentions while trying to think over the past day and if we had ever mentioned it to him.

 

“They’ve been on the topside of some leaves in the trees that we passed. You could possibly see them from their shadow on some leaves when the sun was overhead. Or if their weight forced the leaf to turn so as to see them.”

 

“Nobody told us that, and there was no mention in the requisition that they’d be up in the trees instead of in bushes on the ground,” I grumble out.

 

“If you are able to improve your mana a bit more and form a soul pouch, we should be able to look at how to use your mana to search for small areas. Especially if you are able to form your mana externally.” He says while mentioning something I’ve never heard as being possible for Plant mages. I know that water mages can sometimes feel the location of fish, or that earth mages could easily find hidden doors or traps. This is a first for being able to possibly simply search an area with mana alone.

 

We ask a few more questions and it seems like we’d be trying to scatter exploded embers of mana and try to feel them fall or rest on objects before returning to us to possibly show us what might not be visible from our point of view. It seems like the mana requirements are astronomical depending on how big of an area you wish to search.

 

The route back takes us a lot longer as we take frequent breaks to create mana embers and then use them up to force the rot weed’s seed to go through a rebirth cycle. I had tried one time without the embers and it really seemed as though I needed them to bridge the gap. Otherwise, the plant seemed to only take what I provided at the same slow pace as when we were trying to force mage Vast’s stupid grass to grow.

 

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll see if I cannot maybe simultaneously use the runestone to create an ember and pass a petal to it to maybe do it all in a single step.

 

My last incarnation of the rot plant looks drastically different than when we initially found it. Instead of being a puke green and pus yellow veins. It is now giving rise to a darker green leaf and an almost liquid gold like veins. I seem to have a little more control over it with every rebirth cycle and I think I’ll try to get it to a dark forest green leaf with an actual gold set of veins if I can before I try making this soul pouch or soul book that Akira had been mentioning to the two of us.

 

On our way back we managed to finally find four caterpillars and pulled off their little fluffy manes, before putting them back on a leaf.

 

“Four down, sixty or a hundred and twenty more to go,” I say exasperatedly as we return the last little guy and finally get back to the southern side of the lake from this morning.

 

We continue to head home and after a very long day, we get back to the Perdu’s Apothecary a little before the sun starts to set. Jessica is so excited to show her parents what she managed to accomplish, she ushers all of us into the small backyard of the apothecary where they grow a few simple plants.

 

“Okay, watch this!” She says excitedly to her curious parents as she digs a small hole with her fingers and uses her last three embers to fuel the growth of the plant from seed to seedling until it is an almost fully mature plant.

 

It takes a few moments, however, Mr. and Mrs. Perdu are initially astonished by the speed of growth of the plant before they become horrified.

 

“Oh! Devourer no! My garden! That’s a rot plant, Jess! Quick Adam, go get something to dig it up and we’ll need to burn it fast!” Mrs. Perdu says to Mr. Perdu in a slight panic as she starts to realize what the plant is as it starts to mature. As a seedling it was not as obvious, however now that it has grown, they are somewhat positive of the classification of the slightly different looking rot plant.

 

After doing our best to calm them down once Mr. Perdu comes back. We show them how Violet has been unaffected and to assuage their fears, we take the shovel that Mr. Perdu returned with and transplanted the rot weed and some earth into a dining bowl from the kitchen and put it up in Jessica’s room. Jessica had used the last of her embers to try and show her parents what she could do and did not have enough to force the plant back into its seed form.

 

After answering some questions to the two concerned adults. We all join the Perdu’s at their dining table for some supper, much to an aggrieved Violet who protests from atop Jessica’s head about the humans eating plants.

 

We go over how we’ve only managed to collect four Dens worth of caterpillar manes over our arduous trek through the woods. We feel that we’ll be better prepared tomorrow and agree to meet up once again to go complete our requisition now that we know where and how to find some of the caterpillars.

 

We returned to the smithy and find a note that my father had a good sale and left us some food and that he’d gone to the local tavern to drink and possibly drum up some more business, as it seems that a lot of adventurers are passing through for a possible large hunt requisition.

 

Not wanting to repeat Jessica’s mistake, I leave my seed alone and wish Akira a good night as I head up to bed. I see him again jump up into the rafters to rest on the large cross beams and I feel very guilty that he has to put up with such poor sleeping conditions.

 

I go into my room and grab my only pillow. I can sleep without one. I head back to the stairs and toss Akira, my only pillow to hopefully make his sleep a little bit better. I feel guilty, but without any Dens for him to stay at the inn or tavern, there is little I can do besides offer dad’s bed or my bed…

 

Ugh... I banish the thought and jump into bed after getting changed and begin tossing and turning as I try to fall asleep without a pillow. My mind keeps circling around and around and most of my problems keep coming back to how few Dens I have and I cannot ask my father for much more.

 

I need to finish this current requisition and find some other serious ways to earn some Dens for food and possible lodging. Or at least better-living conditions for Akira.

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Dragonkinn02

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