Attempt after attempt, they spent hours on this fruitless effort, dragged along by Zef’s continual incremental improvements. But they were too incremental. She might develop a sort of Fog-breathing eventually using this brute method of teaching, but there was clearly a greater issue at the root of how she viewed the method.
Perhaps she needed a practical application to spark the initial breakthrough.
With the sun beginning to near the western horizon, Zelsys decided that, “This isn’t working. You need an obstacle.”
So it was that they went to the store’s back yard in an effort to find something to serve as an obstacle, and indeed, they found something. The yard was walled-in by the surrounding buildings, mostly taken up by a small greenhouse containing a herb garden, but from its roof there led a channel which was suspended alongside the surrounding walls. It led to the perfect obstacle for Zel’s purpose - a two-story tower of scaffolding, atop which there sat a funnel for rainwater.
The tower was far too tall to scale with a single normal leap, but its top was a shorter distance from the ground than the branch she had leapt towards back in the E.Z.
Before she so much as spoke a word, Zefaris had already inferred her intentions from the way she looked at that tangle of screwed-together steel.
“Y’think scaling that will help me learn Fog-breathing?” she questioned, disbelieving.
Zel shook her head, and gave the markswoman a grinning look, “You’ll jump to the top from a standstill.”
“...And that was how you learned Fog-breathing?” Zef questioned, raising an eyebrow. “An extreme high jump?”
“It was the second time I ever used it, to get out of a dead end in the Maze of Dead Trees,” Zel confirmed. “First time was a life-death showdown with a mass of cancerous flesh, so I figured the high jump would be more realistic.”
Zefaris sighed in resignation, taking off her holster and handing it to Zelsys. She rolled up her sleeves, rubbed her hands off on her trousers, and took a stand at the base of the tower.
This wasn’t nearly as outlandish as some of the Fog-breather teaching methods she’d heard about from users of the art she’d met in the army, and it was downright tame compared to some of the things detailed in books. No, this was downright reasonable, and it somehow made her even more annoyed about the idea.
A clear goal, a clear logic, a clear method. No mysticism.
Deep breath in, filling her lungs as far as they would go as she lowered herself.
Sharp exhalation alongside the jump.
It was higher than she had expected, but nowhere near the top. An attempt to land on her feet, sabotaged by the slippery grass beneath. Without a word, she got back to her feet and tried again.
Breathe in. Jump, breathing out. Fall. Get up. Repeat.
And over again.
Annoyance and outright anger building.
Zelsys finally broke through the haze of winded breathing and grunting as she got back up after who knew how many attempts, offering with an uncharacteristically kind tone, “It might be a better idea to try this tomorrow.”
A major part of Zefaris wanted to give up - she was already tired enough from the preceding events of the day, and now, she had exhausted herself both physically and mentally by beating away at this fruitless task. But this failure infuriated her. Zefaris knew she could do this, the breath of Fog was there for her to grasp, yet it always slipped between her fingers every time.
She shook her head and nearly growled, “One more try.”
On a purely mental level, she knew this last attempt was no more likely to succeed than the previous ones. The primate brain, of course, didn’t care. “Try again, get it right this time, last chance,” the anger-driven Id goaded.
And so, she lowered herself into a leaping stance again, took a deep breath, and then… Everything came to a halt, for a split-second. The hyper-awareness of Fog coursed through Zefaris as her lungs filled with clean air, yet it was not just oxygen that her body extracted from this breath. With a yelling exhalation she leapt upward, her boots caving small pits in the soft soil as she rocketed towards the top of the scaffolding tower, her ascent marked by a trail of silver Fog.
Her brief moment of reveling in this accomplishment was disturbed when she heard Zelsys exclaim in amazement, “Holy shit it worked!”
Surprised by this she let out a brief laugh, and her grip on the mossy steel slipped. She plummeted to the ground, eyes unwillingly turned skyward, only to find herself landing in a pair of muscular arms, staring into a pair of silver eyes.
Sigmund had spent more than he was willing to admit on three one-liter bottles of decent whiskey. He didn’t believe it would take him that much to get blackout drunk, but he’d never gotten that drunk - he had no way to know, and so wanted to be certain. He entered the store, walked up the stairs to the upper floor, passed by the door of the women’s room, and shut the door behind himself when he entered his and Makhus’ room.
Taking a seat at the writing desk, the historian cracked open the first bottle, took a swig, and felt the fire rise in his chest the moment it went down. The fingers of his left hand began seizing already, and that was when he knew this would be a long, long evening. Swig after swig, Sigmund put away the first bottle, fighting off the encroaching seizures with sheer grit and willpower. He dealt with worse on a daily basis without anyone noticing, this was no different.
Just standing or sitting around, a seized up arm or leg was barely noticeable, and they rarely if ever lasted long enough to become noticeable. By the time he got a quarter of the way into the second bottle, he was feeling the alcohol finally take effect, his sense of balance swaying and his train of thought becoming less secure upon its rails. Another swig.