I ran my eye down the list of magic skills available for Lucy to learn. What we were working with was, unsurprisingly, Magic Missile.
Magic Missile – requires 20 Intellect
Concentrate your mana into a magical dart! Damage dealt scales up with distance, to a maximum of 30 meters.
Ah, Magic Missile. What a classic. Pretty much every ranged magic build started there, since it not only offered solid damage output, but scaled pretty well with early levels and there were ways to break it. My favorite was combining it with Lightning Reflexes, which allowed spamming it absurdly quickly. Sadly, that route wasn't open to Sprite-born without serious effort and foreknowledge. It was a lot easier to obtain for Spider-born.
There were a couple other options, too.
Icy Grip – requires 15 Strength, 10 Agility
Imbue your strikes with the power of winter! Increases the damage of melee attacks and chills the attacker for a short duration, reducing their speed and coordination.
Breath of Wind – requires 15 Intellect , 15 Agility
Grant your next action greater speed and reach! Also increases the area affected for area effect skills.
I wasn't sure I'd ever seen a Sprite-born take Icy Grip; it required you to both pour stats into Strength and use melee attacks, which of course weren't a Sprite-born's forte. Breath of Wind was alright, but given that Lucy had dismissed Confusion Spores out of hand, it wasn't likely to do much for her.
Lucy was staring hard at the listing, and I suffered a sudden bout of foreboding. She was going to choose Icy Grip, wasn't she? I mean, she wanted to use her wand as a dagger, which is pretty melee, and I doubted she'd see the obvious combo-ability of Breath of Wind given how she'd bypassed the ranged trainer and barely glanced at the skills from the racial trainer. Presumably she could afford it if she spent some points on Agility, though, and it would pair decently well with Magic Missile.
I leaned forward and not-so-subtly stabbed my arm at Magic Missile. As I'd expected, it looked like I couldn't actually interact with Lucy's interface, but hopefully that was obvious enough for her. Hey, maybe I'd get a behavior point out of it.
Just to be sure, I did it again, looked up at her, and said cheep! Hey look, Lucy, this is obviously the skill you should take! You'd be able to snipe stuff around your idiot party member and maybe get some actual experience! Wouldn't that be nice?
"Hey there silly, I can't read the skill descriptions when you do that," said Lucy. "No, no, stop that. Oh, do you want to get down? Here you go!" She set me down.
ARE YOU DENSE, WOMAN?! I was clearly pointing at Magic Missile! Come on, that's the best option, even with your wonky stat assignments, so just—
"You know, I think I'll take Icy Grip!"
"If you will proceed to the practice area, a trainer will teach you how to use your new skill."
Lucy started down the steps as I stomped around cheeping in anger. Oh cream, I'd forgotten the invisible wall…!
Sure enough, just then I found myself yanked off into empty space. As I plummeted toward the third step down—Lucy's forward momentum having pulled me straight past the first two—I frantically pumped my wings and strained my head toward the ceiling. Wait, was it actually working?! For a moment it felt like my fall was slowing—and then the upper bounds of the invisible wall surrounding Lucy smacked me in the back and drove me down into the steps where I bounced ignominiously head-to-tail-to-head the rest of the way down.
I landed face-first, dirt puffing out around me from the impact. Alright, that did it. I was learning to fly if it killed me! I was still in surprisingly good shape physically, given I'd just been propelled down a flight of stone steps, but I was sick of traveling like some sort of glorified hacky sack getting kicked around by the game mechanics!
As Lucy settled in with a nearby trainer to learn whatever physical triggers were necessary for Icy-flicking-Grip, I shoved myself upright and waddle-stalked over to the steps. I eyed the first step balefully.
First challenge: could I get up these on my own? The top of the step was at roughly eye level; while I was a lot bigger than when I'd come out of that diddly egg, I was still small enough that getting up this step was super daunting.
Nothing for it, I supposed. I waddled forward as fast as I could, jumped a whole quarter inch off the ground, slammed face-first into the step, and bounced onto my back.
Okay, so maybe not so much with the running start. After rocking myself back onto my feet, I walked right up to the step, threw an arm up on the top, and started scrabbling with my feet.
It wasn't pretty, but I somehow managed to wriggle my way up onto the step. Wow, that took way more effort than I was hoping when I originally conceived of this plan. I took a gander at Lucy, who was merrily swinging her sword flat-side-first into a training dummy with no obvious accompanying ice effects. It might just be my imagination, but the trainer was looking super frustrating. Well, guess I at least had time. I approached the second step.
After more effort than I care to admit to, I finally ran into the invisible wall about halfway across the fifth step up. Alright, time for my own skill training. I waddled my way back to the edge of the step and surveyed my route. Hm, it looked like if I ran across the step diagonally and jumped off the side closest to Lucy I would have more air time, and because the risers were two to three times the height of the steps, I'd only have to bounce about twice if I succumbed to physics.
Route secured, I took a moment to strategize. What did I know about how birds flew? I wracked my brain and came up with…basically nothing. I'd never had any interest in birds, outside of the occasional curiosity about the really weird ones. I'd spent some time watching hummingbirds at the feeder outside my grandparents porch, I guess? Except those things were lithe little murder machines hungry for sugar, not…me. Okay, so perhaps flapping my wings really, really fast wasn't going to help me. I vaguely recalled that really big birds didn't flap so much as glide on…therm-thingies. Thermals? Whatever, I think it had something to do with hot air or some such. Again, not really applicable. I was constrained by my inability to get very far from Lucy, so I doubted hot air would be necessary because I was unlikely to get high enough that the air temperature would differ at all. Unless RayBanz was around, I suppose. Then I'd have all the hot air I could ever want.
Jokes aside, though, didn't gliding require a lot of freedom to do big maneuvers? Not something I was capable of, given my constraints.
Then again, maybe knowing anything about real birds wouldn't help me, anyway. I mean, I was a cosmetic companion animal in a video game, and for all their vaunted physics engines, video games didn't operate following real-world logic. Every time I'd "practiced" flying up until now I'd just been pumping my arms as fast as I could because I was in a panic, and that hadn't worked great but I swear that I'd gotten a little lift, at least. Maybe I just needed slow, steady strokes? Worth a shot.
I backed up as far as I could given the invisible wall running down the step's center, waddled for the far side as fast as I could, and launched myself into space. Steady pumps, steady pumps…I must have done something right, because for a moment I trended forwards and slightly up instead of down, but then gravity got its inevitable say, and I ended up tumbling down the risers.
I pushed myself out of my minor impact crater with a much better attitude than my first trip down, though. Something about that had worked! Maybe I just needed to find the right speed to flap?
"No, no, madam," I heard the trainer saying to Lucy behind me. "You need to shift your grip and swing with this angle."
I didn't notice whether Lucy said anything back. Of course! The angle! I was just pushing my arms up and down like some little kid pretending to fly, but obviously the movement would have to be specific enough for the game to pick up on it!
I headed back for the steps. I had to try this!
Once at the top, I practiced a few swings of my wings. Nothing lifted me into the air, but it was possible there was more than one component for activating the skill, so that didn't discourage me much. However, one of the movements—a sort of scooping swing of my arms, like I was doing some sort of weird modified butterfly stroke—felt a lot more natural. Well, nothing for it! I speed-waddled my way to the edge, threw myself off, and scooped at the air with all my might.
The first moments nothing changed; I was falling toward the riser below. In desperation, I really pushed into my scooping motion and suddenly…I was flying! My fall was arrested as I suddenly shot forward and slightly up. OH FLICK YES! This was amazing! Pa-keeng! How did my roly-poly body even move like this? Pa-keeng! Ha ha ha, I was invincible! Pa-keeng! Take that, you stupid collection of game mechan—
In my excitement, I pumped a little too hard, smacked into the top of my invisible cage at top speed, rebounded downward at an angle, and cruised past Lucy just in time to receive the icy flat of her sword to the face.
Oof, that one stung. Pa-keeng!
"I did it! Aaah, Fluff-kins, I'm so sorry! But I did it!"
Yeah, yeah, you and me both, Lucy. I raised my arm into the air from where I was thawing out on my back in the dirt. Woo!
Right back at ya, game.