Jennifer looked around the training hall nervously. It had been a few days since she'd agreed to join the guild’s little alliance and today she’d finally gotten a call. Despite it being her day off, Jennifer had told her parents she needed to run an errand for her master, managing to avoid giving any explanation. For now.
She walked further inside to find Viel standing nearby. He was wearing a plain shirt instead of his usual armor, leaving his muscular body much more visible. Jennifer examined the large room, smooth white stone covering every surface, all of it, layered with magical reinforcements. A stand on the left contained training weapons, some with a magical aura.
“Is this room usually this empty?” she asked Viel.
“No, but I've reserved the room just for us. This hall is exclusively for higher ranking plates. Usually it’s just the mages who like to come here to throw some spells around though. Any real Warrior class would rather go out and fight things than swing at sticks,” he said, selecting a simple wooden pole from the stand, swinging it around a few times.
“Do you have a weapon of choice?” Viel asked.
Jennifer shook her head, while staring at the assortment of practice weapons. I don’t think I’ve ever even had to touch a weapon outside of work for Master.
Viel rubbed his chin, humming to himself. “I expected as much,”
He pulled out another weapon, this time a sword. This one was also wooden, but had a light purple hue marking it as enchanted. “It’s a reinforced sword. There's a metal rod in it to maintain the enchantment, so it’ll be heavy. Hold it out for me,” he said, handing the sword to her.
Jennifer did as he asked, holding the sword in front of her with a single hand, trying to match his pose. The sword wobbled as she extended her arm, surprised by the weight despite his warning. She turned to face Viel, grabbing the sword in both hands as she inclined it towards him.
“That’s a short sword, you want to hold it with one hand so you can deflect or defend or cast magic from the other one. I doubt you'll use the weapon much with your magic, but always keep it on hand. Mages often run out of mana. And mana potions are neither infinite nor cheap. Being lax and not having a way to defend themselves in close quarter combat is how most mages die. Well, that or ambush.”
Jennifer nodded, holding the weapon with one hand as she brought it to her side.
Viel coughed once, walking a bit further away. “I’ll be teaching you the way I was taught when I was a kid. By example,” he said, standing straight with his sword hand out.
“I learnt from a retired adventurer, Armond Steelhammer, when I was around your age I think. I'm not sure what plate the old man had. He never shared, but he was - and still is - one of the best teachers I’ve ever met. He never taught me more than the basic stance, and practice routines. The lessons were all just him beating me up.” He said with a half-smile, half-grimace. “But it taught me how to fight an opponent much stronger than me. How to survive in situations where I am being overpowered. How to fight back."
“Use all your skills and spells. I won’t be using any of mine of course. And I advise against holding back. You can't hurt me, so give it your best shot. Your goal is simple, you just have to hit me once,” Viel said, standing calmly at the centre of the room, his lips turned up into the barest of smiles.
Jennifer paused, looking at him incredulously. She wasn’t sure if he was underestimating her or overestimating her.
“Alright,” Jennifer replied after a moment, swinging her practice weapon a few times. She turned towards Viel, who stood straight with one hand behind his back. His expression was impassive yet she felt an aura of confidence from him.
Alright, I just need one hit. I should be able to do that much at least.
She summoned two glass shards, floating them around her as she tried to shape them vaguely like knives.
“[Enchanted Glass Creation]” Jennifer said, feeling the glass thin as a sharpening enchantment covered them. She walked ahead, the glass spikes trailing her until she was only a few paces away. Then she let both of them rush towards Viel, as she dodged to her left.
“[Twofold Enchanting]!” Jennifer called, applying a minor haste enchantment over the shards causing them to speed up mid air.
WIth a single step, Viel moved to the side, swatting the second glass shard as it cracked into pieces before fading away. Jennifer ran ahead, keeping the sword in hand as she wove a mana bolt spell. ‘Agile Wind’ she conjured the spell, the action almost seamless as a short burst of wind pushed her towards him. Three bright blue bolts of lights manifested around her hand, launching towards Viel.
A sharp gust of air blew dust into the air as Jennifer jumped to the side, preparing another mana bolt. Her eyes widened in surprise as Viel cut through the three mana bolts in a single swing, fast enough she almost didn’t see it.
This is ridiculous.
Jennifer circled Viel, preparing another shard of glass which she launched toward him. Two mana bolts sped around the shard as she launched herself towards him with a sharp blast of wind.
She raised her sword, swinging it towards the towering man. She saw him turn his legs sweeping out as he tried to kick her down. She turned dodging, screaming her skill out as she saw a dark blur move towards her face.
“[Lune Stone: Guard]!” she used the skill, her mana reserves burning away as a shimmering barrier manifested. She felt the spell groan against the force of the strike as she was pushed off balance.
Jennifer stumbled, and turned around when something hit her hand sharply. She let out a pained yelp, dropping her sword when the world spun around her. She felt her legs leave the ground and with a thud, she fell to the floor. A wooden sword pointed at her throat kept her down. She panted, staring at the weapon with blurry eyes.
I could do nothing...and he didn’t even use any skills.
“Awfully familiar isn’t it?” Viel said with a smirk and Jennifer swallowed, grabbing his hand as she pulled herself up.
“You fought surprisingly well, I was impressed by how you used your wind spell to move around so quickly,” he said with a smile.
“But?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“But. Your footwork is terrible. You don’t know how to breathe. Your mana efficiency would make an apprentice mage cry and most importantly,” he said, leaning ahead as he tapped her forehead.
“You were far too easily distracted, your eyes kept shifting to my sword and that’s why you didn't notice when I kicked you to send you tumbling. Listen, carefully, and remember this for me. Mage or Warrior or Archer, it doesn't matter. You should never take your eyes off the enemy. That is the first step. Understood?”
Jennifer nodded and Viel returned a nod of his own.
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh. You’ll have time, and experience. For now, we’ll need to fix your basics. Oh, and Nathaniel will be handling your magic combat sessions.”
“Let’s start with some basic stances and exercises. Don't worry, nothing too difficult,” he said, giving her a cheerful smile as he patted her back hard enough to set her stumbling again.
Jennifer swung her sword in a wild circle as she stumbled. Then she turned, gulping at his smile, a foreboding feeling growing in her gut.
Jennifer stumbled. A far too common occurrence today. Her legs shook as she fell onto her knees, panting from exertion. Sweat and grime covered her face, her limbs trembling as she sat there, gasping for breath.
“Giving up already?” Viel asked in a cheerful voice, not a single sign of exertion on his face as he continued swinging his sword in silent mockery of Jenn's heroic efforts. She didn’t reply, too busy trying to get air into her lungs.
“Here, have this. I think we’ll call it quits today,” Viel said, tossing her a small vial filled with an orange liquid. Jennifer caught the stamina potion in her shaky hands, knowing that despite its fragile appearance it wouldn't break if she dropped it. Again. This was her third of the day, and she drank the bittersweet concoction with her still trembling hands.
"Still... can’t... get used... to the taste," Jennifer said in between her gasps as the cool liquid made its way down her throat.
“There’s a hastened restoration potion mixed in. Normally it’d be a terrible idea to use healing potions just to accelerate your muscle growth as it’d just eat into your body. But since the prince is being so generous, we’ll be using some potions to speed things up,” Viel said, patting her shoulder.
“Take a few minutes to rest before you head off to Nathaniel,” he said, walking off. Jennifer flopped onto her back, laying on the cold floor as the potion spread through her body. Unlike a healing potion, there was no sensation she could trace. Not even the pulling of the effects must be slower in comparison.
What a monster.
Jennifer thought, her mind playing back the training session. Jennifer had never thought of herself as being particularly good at fighting, but being so thoroughly outclassed in each and every aspect, had resulted in a strange feeling of awe in her.
She stared at the ceiling as her racing heart started to slow down, a sudden drowsiness washing over her, as her eyelids began to droop.
‘Wait for me, I’m heading to you.’
Her eyes shot open at the voice, she got up trying to search for the source when she heard the doors slide open.
“Wow, he really got you good, huh? You look terrible,” Nathaniel said, as he entered.
“Was that...telepathy?” Jennifer asked, her surprise causing her voice to climb to an uncomfortably high pitch.
“Ah, yes, sorry, did that surprise you? Viel always said I was bad for that. Yes, minor mind magic. I don’t have the talent for it though. I need to be in close proximity to send messages, and they can’t be long either.” Nathaniel replied with a grin.
“Must be handy for combat?” she asked, indulging in the conversation to let her body recover a bit more.
“Not as much as you’d expect. I can’t use these in combat, not quick enough. My class compensates for my lack of skills and affinities, but it can only do so much,” Nathaniel replied, taking a look around the hall.
“Nothing is broken so I guess he went easy on you,” he added and Jennifer almost choked on her breath.
That was going easy on me?!
She stared at Nathaniel, who seemed oblivious of her gaze as he paced the side of the room. “Let’s get started, shall we? We’ll keep it simple today.”
Jennifer shuddered slightly as he echoed Viel's word's from only an hour earlier.
“Hah! That look on your face tells me more than you would think. No, I’m not going to push you like he did. I'm not a monster. Also, I assume you know the basics: Sensing, Internalisation, and Manifestation?”
“Yes, I do,” Jennifer replied, her knees still wobbling as she pulled herself to her feet.
“Perfect, I won’t waste time going over them then. Which is great since we don’t have time anyway. What I’m going to teach you today, is what separates affinity from regular cast spells. Affinities, in their purest forms, will produce varied effects based on the exact affinity you have,” Nathaniel said, putting his hand ahead as a small flame manifested on the tip of his finger.
“If you simply pour your mana and manifest the element you have, something like this will happen. A representation of the element will form at the point of manifestation - typically your hand - and it will be just mana given form. Now, for multiple affinities, you can combine this in various ways to do something like this,” he said, as a bar of metal formed on his hand, he grasped the metal, a thin blade extending from it, forming a dagger of pure flame.
He waved the solidified fire about, heated air causing a popping noise. He tossed the blade into the floor, the blade sizzling as it cut through the solid rock of the training arena, piercing the ground before it started to vanish into motes of light.
"So? I already knew I could make my glass into a blade. I don’t think a glass blade is too helpful though," Jenn said, creating a blade of her own. She didn't throw it into the ground though, as she knew it wouldn't be nearly as impressive as what Nathaniel had done.
“A blade or many other things. But this is just the basic application of your affinity. Where our abilities truly shine are with specific spells tailored towards our specific affinities. Or applying an affinity to general spells.” Nathaniel said, a small orb of light formed above his hand before turning into a floating red spark and then becoming a dull glowing ball of earth.
“Bear in mind, not all affinities work with all spells,” Nat said, as he grabbed the ball of glowing rock midair, squashing it.
“I’m assuming that with three affinities you are able to use multiple variations of each spell? Perhaps even combined affinity effect spells?” Jenn asked.
“Ah, well. I can use multiple affinities. But they're not quite as independent as you would think. I was born with all three and they tend to merge into each other when I use them. One of the reasons I was hailed as a prodigy perhaps. Not that it did me much good besides upsetting the family when I failed to become the next coming of Zweir. A prodigy at ten is just an above average guy at twenty five.”
“Anyways, unfortunately for you, I don't have many glass spells outside of scrying and the divination school of magic, perhaps a couple illusion spells. So instead of that, we’ll apply it to one of the spells you already know. Pick one you’d like to try.”
Agile Wind perhaps? It’s the one I’ve gained most insights on recently. But, wind and glass may not work and it’s a movement ability as well. Wind blades? Too taxing to cast. Guard and glass sounds awful. Mana bolt I guess.
Jennifer, weaved a mana bolt, the spell shining as it manifested above her hand without launching.
“A mana bolt in stasis, you're full of surprises aren’t you? Do you have a skill for altering the spell?”
“No, umm, I just picked it up one day. I noticed that the spell pattern can be kept the same, and I could start the spell but instead of applying it and letting it manifest I could loop it on itself, causing the mana to stay within the spell matrix without leaking, freezing the spell.”
“Amazing. And you picked this up on your own? Do you have a teacher?” Jennifer shook her head as Nathaniel rubbed his chin, a grin growing across his face.
“You certainly have a high mana sensitivity threshold. Not sure about your mana pool, but from what I sense it isn’t shallow. Have you considered picking up a mage class Jennifer? I'm not asking you to change your class now, that would lose you far far too much. But we could try and work towards a class evolution. You're close to level 20 right? We could evolve your class so that it has a mage base without losing your skills.”
Jennifer stared at him as she considered his offer.
Do I want to be a [Mage]? I'd never really considered it. Mages have to fight far too often for my liking. But it’s not like I can avoid combat now. Can I really be one? This easily?
“I don’t know...I’ll need some time to think,” Jennifer replied honestly.
“Take your time, there’s no rush. Let’s continue with our lesson first. A mana bolt is actually perfect because of its lack of inclination towards any one affinity. Well, besides lightning I guess. Anyways, normally I would ask you to repeatedly use the spell while trying to apply your affinity to them, but since you can hold the spell, try to pour your glass through the magic. Don’t rush it, take your time. Just pour the glass into the spell matrix, feed it your affinity tinged mana.”
Jennifer nodded, exhaling as she focused on the spell. The mana bolt had a simple structure to it’s spell matrix, making it easier to control. Slowly Jennifer poured her glass mana into the matrix. She felt her glass mana rising, denser than her normal untinged mana. She coaxed it into forming the mana bolt, filling the spell with the far denser glass mana. The spell started to distort, twisting under the different density of mana and she frowned, struggling to hold it’s shape.
“Take your time Jennifer, don’t rush it,” Nathaniel said, his voice close yet feeling far away.
Jennifer exhaled as the spell broke apart, wincing at the small backlash as the mana swirled in a storm near her hands.
“Try it again, this time let the mana have its space. It’ll want to move a certain way, let it. As long as you keep the spell matrix intact, the spell won't break.”
Jennifer prepared another mana bolt, a slightly larger one this time. Instead of pouring her mana through a fully formed spell, she let the matrix feed on her glass mana, guiding it into the shape needed to form the bolt. A shimmering light formed above her hand, fluctuating as tiny shards of glass appeared.
Jennifer closed her eyes, trying to feel the mana flow as she guided and formed the spell. Her mana moved lazily in her body, the glass affinity mixing with the untinged mana, causing both to swirl together as one.
She opened her eyes, watching a bright and sharp bolt of white mana floating above her hand. It looked solid, light curving around the shard and bouncing off in multiple directions.
“Good, now release the spell,” Nathaniel instructed.
Jennifer let the spell manifest, breaking the loop as the mana matrix snapped together. The bolt grew brighter, increasing in size, launching forward, Jennifer almost smiled but moments later the spell dissipated as the bolt shattered into pieces, fading away.
“Close, I think you just need a bit more practice, exactly what we're here to do,” Nathaniel said with a smile.
Jennifer nodded, forming another bolt. But her efforts were interrupted when she felt the system present a prompt.
Glass Tinged Mana Bolt (Spell)
A Bolt formed of Glass and Arcane mana that is able to pierce creatures.
Her lips curved upwards, as she continued to practice her brand new spell.
At least this training is fun.