There’s been so many days now that I’m starting to forget how many since we entered the gnome colony. Has it been that long? It seemed like yesterday that we just got here. But all the days were starting to run together.
I find myself in the training room.
But to my astonishment Fox isn’t there. I frowned. She’s the one I wanted to see. I’d had a hard time not going to sleep because of being so anxious and antsy.
Sunghee is, and I’m happy to see her. She waves, where she was polishing her weapon. It’s good to see she’s productive and in a good mood. She comes over to me quickly and gives me a really tight, long hug. Of course I can see she’s wearing her shirt this time, though the top two buttons are still dangerously showing off a lot.
“Where’s Fox?” I said, and I’m very upset.
It’s starting to be a given that when I warp in here, or whatever it’s called that the two of them are together.
“She had to rest; you have to remember she’s been pushing the limits of her body for quite a while now. She’s arranged for me to work with you for a bit while she rests. Also you’re igniting and lighting up the energy sword didn’t help any. She felt her mana draining like crazy when you did that.”
“Yeah, you have to stop using the energy sword. It puts too big of a strain on Fox,” she said.
But wait, that means Fox has some kind of telepathy skill or mind to mind communication skill. The demon box should put them all to sleep. So I need to build more rapport with Fox to see if I can get that skill! I wonder how many other skills she has that she hasn’t told me about. The energy sword skill itself must have a whole ton of subset skills to learn just to be able to create it too. It was the telekinesis skill that’s taught me that some skills require two or three other skills in order to be able to figure out how to use and make them.
I was too excited thinking about it, but then my attention gets ripped back to the present.
Sunghee is also touching me a lot now. Little by little her touch lingers longer and for more time.
“Sorry, couldn’t be helped we had a boss level monster almost kill us. I’m lucky to be alive. Actually we would all be dead if Fox hadn’t lent me that energy sword,” I said.
This is…totally unexpected!
“Good thing it worked out, but you can give it back now,” Sunghee said.
“What? You’re crazy!” I exclaimed.
“If you use it like that again, you’ll put Fox in the hospital, if not worse. It’s a good weapon I know, but you aren’t ready for it yet. Because you aren’t ready for it, it’s been pulling more of the energy draw from her,” she said evenly.
“Do you understand the situation you put her in?” she asked, looking at me. Her hand is on mine; trying to help me understand that this is a situation I need to give in.
Crap. I really liked that new toy. I think I could already predict where this conversation was going…
My mouth is hanging open like a goldfish. “What?” I managed to say.
“Fox has been put into a situation of mana fatigue, due to you burning too much, too quickly. You can’t use this until you build up more strength in your mana pool and mana regen,” Sunghee said.
“So what does that mean? Will I ever get it back?” I asked.
“It means you made her sick Shun, and that could compromise all our ability to survive even if you didn’t mean to,” Sunghee gave me a head flick. It hurts. I feel the back of my throat hurts, like I want to cry. I feel responsible. If I made her sick, that’s …crap. It’s just my luck that a weapon that badass that can melt a boss that quickly would have a big cost to it.
“It was a life or death situation. I couldn’t do anything, but what I did. Rina, sixty dwarves, and myself barely escaped death,” I protested.
Sunghee gives me a hug while I relieve guilt and vent. I didn’t want to get Fox sick. I can heal her from the symptoms but it will need mana cycling through her to work out the cause.
I feel terribly guilty, and it’s amplified by the fact that I also made Asakura guilty.
“I also have something else to tell you,” I started to say, clearing my throat. Where do I begin?
I describe the new situation, including the problem of the water tunnel crossing and Asakura. Because they already know that I come to them for help when I’m having problems, when I first start talking about it Sunghee has a worried look on her face.
By the time I’m done Sunghee has her forehead being scratched nearly to death from trying to help me wrack my brain to figure it out. She is pacing the floor, going over things in her head. Sometimes I hear her muttering something in Korean. But to my face, she tries to mask her anxiety and be positive.
It’s not an easy problem with a simple fix so we don’t get much into it and focus on other things.
We first started simply going through all the exercises. Since we have the time here, there’s no reason not to use it. So we went through everything from A to Z, mana exercises, cultivation exercises, martial stances, weaponry practice, and even lessons on the Egyptian hieroglyphics. That last part was the hardest.
I was only able to gain a couple more symbols and learn how to write the ones I’d learned verbally already.
But it didn’t stop there.
“You know I’ve wanted to get my magic skills up a lot more before we try to break open the soul crystals for the other two girls. What do you think about it?” I asked, looking at Sunghee directly.
“But aren’t I enough for you?” she frowned.
“It’s not that. You are plenty wonderful. I appreciate you a lot. But I have a responsibility to handle things well. I can’t leave them in there forever right? Also a bigger mana pool from the shared connection means I can keep everyone alive,” I voiced my concerns.
She nods. “That is true. We should try to help Ayu, err whatever her name is and the other one. What are your plans?” she asked trying to probe me.
“Well my concern this whole time has been if Ayumi’s soul crystal really is infected with something, and if I open the seal before my skills are strong enough I could end up doing harm right? I need to make sure the limits of my strength can overcome the aggressive growth of whatever the infection is once it’s exposed to time. What are the chances of this working out?” I asked.
She stops and pursed her lips, “it’s true you will have a better chance of saving her if you get your heal power raised a bit, and your cure disease, alter biological system skill going further first. It might also help with this, if the demon box is influencing the changes, then you can tweak those changes to be more manageable but the problem is figuring out how to use while you are learning to control it without causing harm. It also makes me curious if the alter biological system skill can be upgraded into something else. Once you open the seal too, you have to remember you will expose whatever she is infected with to real time space to act on her body. This means that with time, growth acceleration of whatever that pathogen is will begin growing astronomically or take on other problems and mutations. So you did the right thing in waiting, though I understand that we can’t wait forever. She will already have to deal with the hell of catching up for all the time she lost when you bust her out, assuming you can do so without killing or hurting her.”
“It will be hard to gain her trust too. She isn’t guaranteed to like me,” I said, voicing my thoughts. I had a crease in my forehead from thinking about that.
“That’s true, but the pheromones may help with that,” she said placing her hand over mine.
“What if she wants her freedom like Fox did before? What if there’s like something in her personality or interests that make her want something or someone besides me?” I wondered.
“That could be a problem,” she admitted. “But you have me and Asakura don’t you? Isn’t that good enough? We really like you.”
“Thanks,” I smiled.
She seemed to want to talk more, but I felt worried about progressing too quickly. Her saying it that way sort of shook up my will power on wanting to get her out quickly. I decided to play it safe for now and just go through skill practice.
“Party pooper,” Sunghee frowned as I changed our direction away from personal stuff and back to work.
I worked through all my spells to practice, including heal, cure disease, the speed buff, the resistance buff, and the 10% stats increase buff, but because I wasn’t sure how it worked I haven’t even tried to use the alter biological organism skill yet. It sounds like it may have consequences to do so, which I’m still not sure how it will work.
Surprisingly Sunghee actually can help coach with magic. It’s not because she knows magic, but because she excels in her own field she understands the mentality of how to build good habits, practice, and going through the mentality of building solidarity. She’s able to question me on what I’m feeling, and go over it with me on trying to build positive changes. It’s actually very shocking that a non-mage could help a mage. But in real life someone who is successful in one field would be able to transfer knowing how to transfer building that success into other skills over time.
We spent the most time on practice with the runic shielding, since it seems to have the best potential for protection, and keeping people alive. The heal spell can do those two ideas too, but doesn’t do so as proactively but is more reactionary from after a threat has already occurred.
“You know there might just be a way to tweak your runic shield to adapt itself to form an air bubble,” Sunghee suggests.
“Holy shit, you might be right!” I said.
“I’m not entirely sure, but it’s worth a try, but the problem is it would be faster if Fox can help you with that since I’m not a mage. Also there may be a place to get it to work or to work it at,” she said.
“How? We’d need a place with water first of all,” I said.
“Well you remember we got thrown out of the box into the demon world? That means there is that spot with the water on the beach. If we can get there then we’d be able to tweak it slowly,” she said.
“So we’d have to make the shield react to the water, and think it has to push the water back and probably adjust the size and shape of the shielding,” I said.
“Yeah, I think so too,” she said.
“I have no idea how long that will take,” I frowned scratching my head.
She nodded in agreement but now she’s hugging me again. I notice she tries to keep plastering herself against me and is trying to please me, but I’m afraid of what happened with Asakura, so I don’t want to risk getting too close to her yet.
I can tell she hates that I’m holding back. Even though I’ve told her about it she keeps coming at me. She probably also thinks that what happened with Asakura can’t possibly happen to her, but I’m not willing to risk what happened with Asakura doped on zombie mode or whatever it is being transferred to her.
We work through thinking of theories on changes to my practice and mentality on paper, while she also consults with me on how the tunnel system looks like in the cave in and looking at that problem more clearly. We’ve already been over this once, but Sunghee knows repetition and a fresh perspective can open up new angles to explore.
“So isn’t there any other options to leave where you are stuck in real time?” she asked again for probably the third time going over it.
“I’m afraid not.” I sighed, “right now it looks like the water tunnel is the only option. Supplies are low too. And the area of the cave in has cut off the other parts.”
Sunghee is staring at the map. Is it just me or has she undone another button on her shirt? This is way risqué the way she is and I can see her cleavage substantially. She tried to give me a kiss earlier but I shy away and it made her grumpy too.
Yep…she’s trying to be subtle but I can tell she’s pushing out her chest a bit and trying to angle things so that I’m forced to look inside her shirt from the side by putting me in a weird position as we go over her notes.
Yeah Sunghee is really baiting me and her eyes look hungry. It’s making my teeth and mouth ache, like before when I was with Asakura.
I breathe slowly and carefully taking in the air deeply to try to refresh my willpower.
“Well there might be a way to use the mana sword to melt and reinforce the walls of the cave in area and slowly chew away at it after melting the rock into stronger support structures. But that’s only if you can build up more power and power production,” she said, stretching out her arms and chest a little bit too close to me to be accidental.
“Eh? Really?” I asked.
“It’s the longer route but has potential. Of course it would mean digging for weeks,” she replied.
“Are you sure it would work?” I’m pacing now trying to figure out if this is better than the other idea.
“Well you would basically be using the energy sword as a welding torch and melting the stone together, and then putting more rock up in layers and doing the same thing over and over in order to reinforce the ceiling and walls forming it into a cylindrical tube, until you had a good doorway and foundation from solid rock melted together. But I doubt Fox’s mana will hold up, since that sword is essentially peeing away her mana force in a jet stream. You have to solve that problem first.”
“Scratch that idea; we can’t risk losing Fox when the other idea is so close to completion then. We’ll just have to work at getting some kind of device that can hold enough air for three or four gulps while we swim across,” I sighed heavily.
“But you also have the problem of who will take the devices back across. You won’t be able to make a separate device for each dwarf. You’ll have to share and go in batches, because you won’t have enough time or fuel to make 63 of those things. I think the dwarves know that too. So the hardest part is the ones that are on the other side have to wait for a man to bring them back and bring them across in waves, all while the goblins are trying to pick them off. That’s going to make the dwarves sick thinking about who gets that part of the luck of the draw,” she said.
“Dang, your right. You know it’s nice to have someone to go over these ideas with,” I said.
“I know right! It’s fun! Of course we can do other things too,” Sunghee suggests, while her hands are playing with the bottom of her shirt. She’s getting ready to lift her blouse off, but I stop her. Even with her blouse on, I’m surprised by how much her nipples poke out.
She gives me a confused look when I stopped her from lifting up her shirt. I’m not sure she’d even doing it on her own without being coerced. That makes me uncomfortable.
I know it’s the pheromones at work. It’s hard for her to resist and for me too. It’s like when you are trying to work and have to go to the bathroom and are getting antsy while you try to resist. The whole time I’m with Sunghee feels like that now. I have to get up and walk around a lot.
I may have to cut down on individual time alone with each of them, because I’ve underestimated the tow and pull of the pheromones. Should I cut it down to like a specific interval of time with each of them and not go beyond that?
“Party pooper,” Sunghee pouted. She stuck her tongue out at me.
I just smile back. She’s pretty wonderful and I’m grateful for her help. She’s also pretty charming too, exuding a strange sort of sexy confidence that the others don’t have. Fox in contrast, has experience, but is too logical and dour mannered.
We keep practicing. She believes that my practicing the runic shielding over and over with a strong foundation and mastery will help to deal with this.
To do so it turns out it’s as simple as, having Sunghee take turns hacking holes in my runic shield with a dagger in attack mode against me. We do this for hours while I recast it when it gets low. Also when my mana felt strained, we also then added a second weapon and me trying to block with my weapon in addition to the shielding.
Is this the new form of grinding?
It’s tiring…I can feel real mental strain in trying to maintain the shield under pressure and from the mana drain, and recasting.
But I can feel my skills increasing. She used to have me on the ground within seconds of engaging me, and now I’m able to last nearly a full minute before she can push me down or trip me up. It’s very humbling, but I still feel grateful that her skills are so good. It means I have a lot I will be able to absorb from her teaching.
Sometimes she stops to review the basics with me. I could have gotten offended that she was talking down to me, but then I realized she wasn’t. She was just showing me that everything comes from having a strong base, and the simplest basic skills made the most difference when properly grounded.
She also has me concentrate on trying to mentally picture the runic shielding magic thickening as much as I can both while it’s being hit and when I’m casting it at the start.
She is cutting five inch slashes across it. As she does so, one by one sections of the shield start to look like broken windows of a car again, and again. But I can see progress. After two hours straight of this, the same type of slash is now only cutting four inch slashes. When the shields give out I just recast. Somehow my mana is holding up, but I’m feeling a difference.
I’m shocked and didn’t notice it, until she pointed it out.
I feel all sweaty though from having to work so hard. My clothes probably smell terrible too. She assures me that she’s been trying to put the same amount of force in each swing, so that we could measure the progress over time.
We then try an exercise of using the shield to push against the rock wall of the training room. This one is harder, but sure enough if you do it long enough it can make cracks in the shielding. We do that exercise when I’m trying to rebuild more mana.
I’m partly through it, when suddenly I’m ripped back into reality, with the feeling of some kind of strange vertigo overtaking me.
Of course, I was woken up earlier than expected when this was all going on. It seems that in the night, Asakura in zombie mode had pulled me out of the dream state by trying to initiate feeding with me without my knowing.
I woke up to find she’d been going at it like before having impaled herself onto me in cowgirl dominant position. Asakura really has turned way too sexually aggressive. Does she even realize it? What will happen when she gets her mind back? Or will she stay like this forever?
It’s too hard to make her stop and it feels so good anyway…
I can put up with it just for a little while right?
This was a good experience with Sunghee however. It helped build her up in thinking she's part of the team and not just compelled to help. I was able to get a lot of training ideas from her.