She looked around. The world of the sky stretched out all around her. The floor a mirror, and the ceiling, something else entirely. When she fell face first into this strange world, she hit her head directly. Kim Hye-Sung had to wonder if it was a concussion.
Someone spoke from behind her. The whole scene changed. The blue, cloudy skies of the ground morphed into lava. She flinched, and jumped up.
“Don’t worry. Hospitality, you know.”
“And the negotiator’s back. You can’t alter the terms, you know.”
“I could have kept it up longer.”
“Would appreciate if you didn’t.”
“Hah. That’s great.”
“So what are you here for? Bahamut sent you, so you must be somewhat important to get in touch with that lizard.”
“Me? I’m not the one who did. I grabbed onto a girl who grabbed onto my friend. I’m assuming that they’re the one who looked for Bahamut.”
“Your friend must be a super VIP then.”
“I don’t know about that. They don’t really talk about what they have to do.”
“So they aren’t like you? No negotiations or anything?”
“Nope. Nothing at all. Apparently they died and came here.”
“Right. No room for talks there.”
The goddess that stood in front of her was a goddess indeed. With a strangely modern attire, she could fit right in modern day Tokyo or Seoul and be mistaken as a young fashionable woman. With a long black coat matching her miniskirt, and a white shirt underneath. Her rather long dark blue hair reached down near her thighs. That right hand of hers was kept busy with a yoyo, its string wrapped around her ring finger.
“So? What’re you here for? Wanna learn some magic, I take it?”
“You’re right,” Kim Hye-Sung said.
“Well. No better teacher than me, I suppose.”
The two laughed. Of course, that was a fact. A novice must learn from a master. And that master was once a student themselves. So why should she spend the time going from master to master when she could go straight to the goddess herself? Kim Hye-Sung reached out for a handshake. The goddess obliged, and squeezed her hand tight.
“Magic is a fickle thing. You know the basics right? As in, theory.”
“There’s magic theory?”
“Of course. It’s as much of an art as it is a science.”
“So what’s there to know?”
“Well, currently, the magic that you’re using is a mix of planetary magic and divine magic.”
“There’s a difference?”
“You didn’t know?”
“Nope. Just been using magic since I know how.”
The goddess of magic, or more specifically, Ihenglass, chuckled. When she wasn’t preaching about magic, she really did just look like a normal girl. Not a goddess, far from that.
“Well. Its lesson time. You know the material plane is a planet, right?”
“Yes? But it's just a rock floating in space, orbiting the sun.”
“You’re not wrong. Lesson one, the earth, this rock, has its own large reservoir of mana. The earth’s breath of life, basically. You are tapping into that when you use your magic. But priests and bishops on the other hand, they use our mana. Essentially the same thing, but from very different sources.”
“Right, so my foundations were from you, but now I’m just using the planet’s mana?”
“More or less. Now, what do you wanna learn from me?”
“Some spells, maybe? I just want to make sure that I can take care of them, and take care of anything that wants to kill us.”
“I didn’t think you’d become a bodyguard. That brat already has one, if I recall correctly. A lady knight.”
“Heh. That’s true. But I have something she doesn’t. I’m from the same world as him.”
“Oh I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
“Anyway. Some spells, huh?”
Ihenglass cocked her head. Her eyes disinterested, and her hands far more interested in the yoyo. But she was the best. And if watching any shows had taught Kim Hye-Sung anything, these types were the best at what they do.
“I assume you are capable of basic magic blasts, yes?”
She pointed her palm towards an empty space. The energy that left her hand was incredible, to say the least. A blast the height of a human, no doubt if that had been regular space, it would have been explosive to watch. Was there anything that could match that firepower?
“Only the most basic.”
“At least it's something. Attack, support, or utility? General? Specialised?”
“Uh. General attacking magic?”
“Nope. Wrong answer. Lesson two. There’s no such thing as attacking magic. What there is however, is magic. With enough creativity, anything can be used to support and attack.”
“Okay? So you can repurpose a typically offensive spell to defensive or utility.”
“Exactly. Take a blast, firstly. Can be used to destroy someone, but also used to clear land.”
“Like a drill.”
“In a sense.”
Kim Hye-Sung nodded. That thought did cross her mind. Though, why would a goddess of this era know about drills?
“Secondly. Magic is dependent on the concept of visualisation. Of course, even that has limits. Are you aware of the laws of thermodynamics?”
“That’s physics, isn’t it? What does that have to do with magic?”
“Energy cannot be destroyed. It can only be converted between forms,” Ihenglass carried on without caring.
“So mana’s a form of energy.”
“You pick things up quickly. Mana can be converted into many different forms. A mage can conjure fire, but that’s just changing mana into heat. As such, mana is limited.”
“Got it. But what about visualisation?”
“I’m glad you asked. There are limits of magic, and the more realistic and probable your visualisation is, the better. You must be intimately familiar with how it functions. If you want to draw water out of a person, can you visualise and see the water circulating around their body?”
Kim Hye-Sung nodded. Closing her eyes, she pictured a scene. A bed of flowers blooming beneath her feet. Of course, with a lack of experience, nothing happened.
“Of course you’ll fail.What, you thought you could do it first try? Stick with theory for now.”
“Just like mortals and us, you either become okay at everything, or godly at one thing. Which?”
“In my previous life, before all this, I specialised in something. And turns out, division of labour is certainly something. You think homo sapiens survived while neanderthals died out because of luck? Well, partially. But we humans need to specialise. Whoever is stupid enough to become a generalist...”
“Good answer. Lesson three. Yes, with your mortals, there is always another one that can cover your weaknesses. And you can cover theirs.”
The goddess seemed to smile. But behind those eyes... Did the gods and goddesses have emotions? Was that not an element of mortals? If these pantheon members were perfect, or at least close to it, surely they would act with logic.
With a snap of her fingers, the sky changed. A myriad of colours filled the screen. The goddess sighed, and with a push of her hand, the distance between the two increased by an order of magnitude.
“Blast me. Give it your best shot,” Ihenglass said as she taunted with her hands.
“If you say so. You’re the goddess.”
Kim Hye-Sung closed her eyes and concentrated. Visualisation. That was what the goddess said. She imagined the mana going through and around her body. Starting at her toes, up her legs and into her chest, before leaving through her palms.
If a prodigy was described as gifted and talented, what would she be? She was just someone that worked in a lab her previous life, had nothing to do with magic. God given gift, perhaps. Her negotiation skills were absolutely nothing to scoff at. When her boss first offered her a salary, she changed the deal. An extra 30% that she didn’t deserve.
“Hot damn. Humans are another breed altogether. Elves have the time to hone their skills for centuries, but you? You don’t have any time at all,” said Ihenglass.
She opened her eyes. The goddess, or rather what was left of her, remained as a head, a pair of arms, and legs. Contrary to how a normal person might react when their entire torso’s destroyed, she simply chuckled. The floating hands clapped, and the corpse disappeared like smoke.
“You didn’t actually think that you could hurt a goddess, did you?” she spoke from behind.
“Good. Can’t let you get in over your head. Illusion magic. Like it?”
Kim Hye-Sung turned around. There she stood, in her full divine glory. Her mouth opened as she blew a bubble made of pink gum.
“Great for utility.”
“It is. When a mage gets good enough, they’re able to create their own spells. Now, let’s find what you’re good at and what you like. Or rather, you do.”
“Cuz you’re the goddess.”
“Yup. Defensive magic? Hypnosis magic?”
“Eh. All not really super appealing to me.”
“Hey don’t worry. You’ve got lots of time here.”
The goddess certainly wasn’t wrong. But something just scratched at her mind. Just something that felt off. Like how a person would think that something was wrong, and only realise that they left their wallet at home.
“Wait hang on. You said something that we’re from different worlds?”
“No time for that. Catch!” The yoyo flew towards her face.
“Rude. What do I do with this?”
“Nothing. It's a distraction. Spar me.”
“You’re literally a goddess.”
“Yes, I am.”
She didn’t seem to mind the power difference. A goddess sparring against a human. Inconceivable. Kim Hye-Sung stood tall, and stared at the goddess and her divine beauty. The goddess was close. The soft breathing tickled her skin. So even gods had to breathe. Up close, her appearance was truly godly.
Short eyelashes. And ocean blue eyes. A symmetrical face to top it off. Within Kim Hye-Sung’s chest, her heart warmed up. Just how attractive was the goddess?
“Are... Are you getting turned on?” the goddess asked.
“I think so. Oh you’re so beautiful. Should I be the top or bottom?”
“Yeah, because they’re screwing with you.” The goddess pointed at someone to the side.
Ihenglass was beautiful, yes. But those two, they were on a completely separate level. The goddess waved for them to come closer.
“They’re done, by the way. Bahamut’s group. Exciting developments have happened.”
“Like what? Did she start trying to kill him?”
“Earlier than expected.”
“What? That Iris bitch?”
“Yeap. But if you wanna go, you gotta go through me first.”
“Did you plan this?”
“Maybe. But we are gods, not omniscient. C’mon. Fight me if you wanna go.”
“You must be kidding me.”
“I am not.”
“Fight you? Seriously?”
“Seriously. Come at me. With everything you got. I can ensure that no one will be dead.”
The goddess spoke with a certain nonchalance. One that only a person without having suffered could use. Kim Hye-Sung gritted her teeth.
On one hand, this was valuable experience. On the other, the goddess didn’t seem like she would hold back, even for a mortal. Not just mortal, but inexperienced.
Visualisation, visualisation. How could someone kill a goddess? No matter what, it was impossible to see. Even the great Buddha himself could only trap the Monkey King beneath a mountain.
Her hands moved. Speed, power, strength. She closed her eyes for just a moment. In a breath, she jumped forwards.
The rush of air was familiar. When she opened her eyes, she could see it, for just a brief second. A length of mana, about the height of her thumb, wrapping around the goddess. Three rings that coiled around Ihenglass, and bound her in that spot.
“Not bad. Binding magic. What do you plan to call it?”
“I don’t know. Do I pass?
“Hm. Your magic didn’t work on me though. Lesson four. If someone is able to overwhelm your magic with pure mass of mana, then you need to run. Shoot a blast at me. I’ll show you how to defend.”
Kim Hye-Sung fired off a basic mana blast. A solid column of concentrated magic rushed towards her opponent, twisting and turning as the goddess evaded. Just as it got close, she dodged just by a small margin.
“You’re already using soul tracking magic. Not bad. You’re skilled, probably prodigy level.”
“Oh, thank you.”
Her steps were less steps and more teleports. Her body vanished, in a rather pixelated style. But when she stopped and let the bullet laser magic blast collide, it didn’t even touch her body. A shield made of small hexagons the size of a hand formed in front of her. Curved, it looked like it could form a larger sphere around her.
“Defense magic. Mana, when hardened, is able to block magic attacks.”
“Great. Can I go now?”
“Sure. Outrun me.”
“Huh. Repeat your question?”
“No problem. Outrun this.”
A staff appeared in her hand. Made of a sleek, solid piece of translucent silver crystal, like a long piece of smooth glass. Towards the top, the crystal turned clear where a prism sat. Within the cone, colourful lights danced and mixed. When the goddess pointed the staff towards Kim Hye-Sung, the prismatic lights lept out and raced towards her.
“Either run or block. And I can assure you, I will keep it up if I need to.”
“Way to just throw me into the deep end!”
The light beam approached. Kim Hye-Sung turned on her heel and took off. Out of the corner of her eye, the attack chased. And it got closer. There was no way to outrun it. Then in that case , the best way to handle it was to take it head on.
She turned around. The beam was too close. She tried to see the defense mechanism, those green curved hexagons. Closing her eyes, she prayed. To no god in particular, especially when a goddess was trying to kill her.
“Congratulations. That’s pretty much all you need for magic. You can figure everything else out yourself.”
The world slowly came into view. In front of her, not far away from her chest and midriff, the shield stood strong. Thin, and yet it looked tough but fragile. It resembled glass. The remnants of the beam dissipated as it collided with the shield.
“Oh. Oh thank god.”
“You’re welcome. Now go. I’m sure they’re waiting for you.”
“Oh, and, traveller? If anything happens with a certain... God, then good luck. And I’ll try to stop them from fucking around with you and your friends.”
“Them? Ah, them. Yes, please.”
“Yeah. They can go a bit too far sometimes. Uh, once they got a prince so horny that he raped his entire servant roster. Not exactly what our code says.”
“Got it. See ya.”
“Yeap. Good luck. You’ll need it. Just remember. Do action X, and result X will happen. If you do action X in Y manner, result Z will happen.”
The goddess swiped. For a brief second, all that Kim Hye-Sung saw was darkness. But shortly after, she stepped onto a glassy sky. Iris, that woman that talked to Francis, was holding a knife to one of the Francises.