Reivyn concentrated his willpower as he controlled his mana. It was getting easier to quickly and accurately form the desired shapes he conjured with his mana. He was staring at an arrow held in his left hand while he mimicked its shape and balance to the best of his ability with water-attuned mana in his right. Having a medium to focus on had greatly enhanced his ability to maintain a consistent shape and uniformity in mana density.
He had originally thought far too simply about training his Mana Weapon Skill. He had had to stop and actually sit down to think about what he wanted to accomplish, what his tools available were, and then how to utilize those tools to do the task.
The problem had arisen when he tried to practice some strikes on a dummy with a sword conjured from fire mana. The fire sword had simply passed right through the dummy, only leaving some small smoldering marks on the surface. He had stood in surprise with his mouth wide open until a fleeting memory surfaced in his mind. He recalled that the first time he had ever made a whip out of fire mana, the weapon had passed through the birds in the sky while setting them on fire. It hadn't actually been striking them.
That led him to the most recent incident where he had wrapped a fire whip around the Revenant. It had clearly been corporeal and made contact with the target. It wasn't just a matter of intent, either. He had been operating purely on instinct in both cases. He felt he should know how to do what he wanted, and, while he clearly understood it subconsciously, he just couldn't quite make that final step.
This led to a compromise in his exercise. He had been, so far, either operating with pure mana or one basic element, and his usage of the elements could only be described as crude, at best. He would simply gather any latent elements contained in his own mana reserves and attract ambient elements and force them into his construct.
If I can use one element to infuse into the construct, why can't I use two? An idea had popped into his head.
This simple question had led to several days of experimentation that led to his making arrows out of water. He gathered his own mana and used the same crude method to attune it to water, but then he gathered the fire element into his palm, not letting it escape, and used it as a catalyst to absorb the heat out of the water arrow. The result led to a shiny, crystalline arrow made out of pure ice.
Reivyn wasn't too surprised by the notification. He had had conjectures on other mana affinities for a while now, and he had assumed that using them in combination with each other was probably the most likely way to unlock more affinities. If he had been able to reach Level 15 in his affinities while still at home, he was sure his mother, who had been the one to lead him onto the path in the first place, would have been able to properly guide him. As it was, he could only fumble about with his own ideas.
This new way of utilizing his affinities, however, came with a cost. He frowned as he looked at his Mana expenditure. Creating a simple construct out of pure mana would cost roughly 1 Mana Point per second. Once it was created, it could be maintained for a significantly less cost of his mana, as he wasn't actively infusing more into it at that point, but was instead simply holding it in place against the slow dissipation that occurred. Infusing a single affinity added 1 additional Mana Point to the expenditure.
When Reivyn had used a second affinity to create the ice arrow, though, it wasn't an addition of simply 1 more Mana Point. It had added double the Mana Points as the total of using one affinity for a total of 6 Mana Points per second. With his current mana pool, he would be able to create approximately 5 ice arrows, as it took him close to 10 seconds of concentration to complete the conjuration. That would only be if he made them and let them disperse, though. If he wanted to actually use them, he could prepare 3 arrows ahead of time.
That would work down in the dungeon where they could prepare before each fight, but it wouldn't be tenable in a situation where ambushes were a possibility. Making arrows during practice made sense, as the complexities involved would allow him to practice the Skill. He would be better suited to making stones of earth mana to use as ammunition for a sling in practice.
However... that was creating the ice element out of using two elements together. What happens if I just use the newly unlocked affinity directly? With that thought, he immediately put plan into action.
First, he dispelled his maintenance of his already formed arrow. It didn't immediately disperse in a cloud of mana like the other constructs had, but instead he watched in fascination as it slowly disintegrated in front of him. Bits and pieces would flake off to float away, and then those pieces would disperse into the environment.
Is it because it's a higher Tier mana affinity? Or is it because it's a solid shape? The crystalline structure? There's so much I don't know about this.
He threw his questions aside and remade another arrow. The new way of conjuring the mana saw him use 1 Mana Point per second based on the pure mana, but only 2 Mana Points per second for using the ice affinity directly. The downside was that his ice affinity was still only at Level 1, and it took about twice as long to form the arrow.
So roughly the same amount of mana cost per arrow at half the speed. But that's because I'm at Level 1. If I bring my affinity up to par, it will be half the cost at the same speed. He had gained another aspect to train in.
Reivyn put the matter of the technicalities aside. He took his shiny, newly formed arrow, knocked it in his bow, took aim, and let it fly towards the target dummy. He held his breath for the fraction of a second it took to reach the target in anticipation.
Reivyn let out an exasperated groan as he closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. I'm still missing something.
Reivyn was afforded a lot more free time to work on his mana Skills, and he took advantage of it by practicing in the mornings as well as the evenings. He still maintained his position as Aide to Knight-Lieutenant Brand, though, as he was learning a lot of valuable information, both from the book and from asking any questions that popped into his head.
"Why don't I get training from the Healers?" He had asked on one such occasion.
"A couple of reasons," The Adjutant answered. "First, they're not really using magic. Yes, they're using mana to assist in their work and perform things they wouldn't be able to do without it, but it's not technically magic. Secondly, they spent, at minimum, two years of their time as Tier 1's studying the human body and basic medicine. You lack the foundations for the things they could teach you.
"Knight-Captain Reifold, on the other hand, is perfectly capable of healing through magical means. But, again, the way his mana works is of a completely different nature. You could theoretically learn the usage, but you would have to spend a couple of years working as a Squire at a church to gain the recognition required to unlock the method. Magron doesn't even have a church that has the capabilities to train Squires."
While Magron was a magnificent city according to Reivyn, it was still just in its infancy relative to the true seats of power located in the central regions of the kingdom. Magron was a County Capital in a county located on the fringe of the nation. The kingdom wasn't symmetrical with the capital located in the center. The truly prosperous cities were instead close to the border on the complete opposite end of the country where it abutted up against a higher Tier region.
"If he was an adventurer in a high level team in a higher Tier region, he would absolutely be an auxiliary Healer. As it is, it's a waste of his time and completely unnecessary for him to assume that kind of role out here. Maybe in an emergency where the Healers we have are incapable of handling the numbers or severity of wounds he could make use of his magical healing, but, as you've seen multiple times already, it makes far more sense for him to deal with any kind of threat capable of doing that to the men directly himself."
Acting as the Aide to the Adjutant had another, unexpected benefit. Reivyn had been perusing the reports and determining whether to stamp them or pass them along when his boss had given him a new task.
"Hmm... we've been too preoccupied with letting the men get experience in the Dungeon." Brand said. "Reivyn, go to the cavalry unit and pass on my order to have them perform a three-day extended sweep into the plains and forests to make sure any remnants of the beast tide aren't forming back up again. Can't let them terrorize the locals, now can we?"
"Yes, sir," Reivyn stood up and hurried out of the tent to accomplish the task. This was the first time he been tasked with doing anything other than screening reports and educating himself.
He made his way to one of the edges of the pallisade where the cavalry unit resided. They had a large space afforded to them for the sake of having to take care of their mounts, and there was a definite break line in the layout of the camp so the infantry wouldn't have to deal with the sounds and smells anymore than was necessary. The cavalry might have the upside of slightly more prestige and having versatility, but it came with the corresponding downsides as well.
The camp was alive and performing routine military duties like any other day as Reivyn made his way to the command tent. He spotted men grooming their horses, maintaining their gear, practicing with weapons, and some were performing riding maneuvers as well. Wouldn't be a bad idea to acquire the Skills required to ride a horse. I've heard that it's not just Riding, but there's also Horsemanship, Reivyn thought to himself as he watched the activity around him. That begs the question: Are there other forms of mounts? It was a question that would have to be answered another time.
Reivyn approached the tent to the sergeant in command of the cavalry. The Company Commander was present and performing his duties in the encampment, but he was the only officer besides the Knight-Captain and Knight-Lieutenant. Most of the duties of command that a junior officer would perform were actually handled by the most senior sergeant of each platoon.
"I have orders from the Adjutant," Reivyn instructed the sentry standing guard. While the cavalry sergeant wasn't rated to have two men guard his tent that a legitimate commissioned officer would, he was still performing the duties of one. The sentry was more a means to prevent him from being interrupted by anyone who fancied dropping in than any kind of guard.
The man ducked his head into the tent to inform the sergeant before straightening up and waving Reivyn in. Reivyn nodded his thanks to the man and entered. The tent wasn't nearly as bare-bones as the senior officers's tents were. As an experienced NCO, he knew what he could and couldn't bring along with him, and he had some possessions to provide a more cozy living environment, as well as some things to entertain himself during downtime. The man was reclining on his cot, reading a book as Reivyn went inside.
"Sergeant, upon the orders of the Adjutant, you are to perform a three-day extended sweep of the plains and forests below," Reivyn said without preamble. The sergeant marked his place in the book before sitting up. He looked Reivyn up and down. He clearly knew that Reivyn was acting as an Aide to the Knight-Lieutenant, and, as a more mature man, he didn't posture or try and assert his seniority over his junior.
"Alright. Did he give any specifics?" The man asked.
"No, sergeant," Reivyn answered. "Standard procedures. You pick the men, you pick the route, you make the plan. The intent is to make sure none of the beasts from the beast tide congregate together again to pose a threat. Nothing complicated," Reivyn knew from the book he had been given by the Adjutant that the Aide had to anticipate the orders of his boss. This might be a test of the older man, or he was just used to doing things in this manner. Either way, Reivyn knew the purpose of the orders.
"Ok. Orders received," the sergeant said. Reivyn gave the man a friendly smile and a wave as he exited the tent. Once he stepped back out into the sunlight, he was greeted with a notification.
Reivyn was surprised that he had gained a level in this particular Skill. Based on what Knight-Lieutenant Brand said about Strategy, it must simply be because I gave an order that was acknowledged. Come to think of it, this is the first time I've ever given a command to someone.
Satisfied with his own explanation, Reivyn returned to his duties as an Aide.
Reivyn wasn't satisfied with only unlocking one additional affinity. He had done the thought experiments and laid the groundwork. He sat on his cot and focused his mind. There was no need to do anything fancy, shape-wise, as he was simply testing out combinations he could think of.
He formed the mana ball with practiced ease. He already had a combination he wanted to try out, so he got right into it without hesitation. He infused the ball with the earth element and watched as it took on the characteristics of a small stone. Once he had accomplished that task, he set about adding the fire element to it.
He had considered how he wanted to go about doing it. He wasn't sure if the method used in combining the elements had any tangible benefit, but there was no harm in trying. He chose to start from the inside out. He added the fire element to the interior and slowly suffused the entire pebble with it. Nothing seemed to happen for a while, so he increased the intensity of the fire mana.
Eventually, as he watched the stone, cracks started to appear on it. Bright, glowing orange light radiated out from the interior, and the color slowly spread to encompass the entire mass. It wasn't just red, however, as dark, dark splotches of black also accompanied it. It reminded him of the demon that had appeard from the depths. It started to wriggle about and move like a thick liquid instead of a solid object after his mana had been drained considerably.
He released the mana upon getting the notification, and then he had to immediately fumble about to regain control of the construct. Like with the ice arrow earlier, it didn't immediately dissipate. It had lost its cohesion and started to fall to the floor, and a small speck had dripped down to the ground, causing a hiss as it started to burn the surroundings.
Whew, I can't be careless with these things, he thought to himself as he regained control. He stopped feeding it mana to maintain it, but he kept his connection to it so that it would float harmlessly in the air while it slowly disappeared.
Hmm, it can't just be combinations of mana that unlock new affinities. Let me try something.
He conjured an arrow made of ice in his left hand and then simultaneously created a long stick made of earth mana. He used his Mana Sight to look closely at the structure of the mana that made up the ice arrow, and using it as a medium for concentration, he started to manipulate the mana making up the earth stick to match the crystalline structure.
Sweat beaded his brow as he conducted the complicated operation. The mana didn't fight his control, but it would still tend to move out of the careful structure he was creating. He had to constantly move back to shore up the weaknesses, but as more and more of the earth mana took on the aspect of the ice arrow, it began to work with him. After reaching just past half-way to completion, it became exponentially easier to arrange the structure properly. As he approached the final touch, the earthen stick began to change to a lighter color, and when he finally accomplished his task, he held a silvery metal rod in his hand.
Reivyn released his hold on the mana objects and collapsed back onto his cot. He gulped down some air to help him recover. He hadn't spent any Stamina in the exercise, but the drop in Mana and the mental fatigue combind to give him the phantom feeling of physical exhaustion. He checked his Mana Points after he had calmed down.
Just enough for one last experiment tonight, he thought. I wonder what happens if I combine all four of the basic elements?
He once more made the pure mana orb. He wasn't sure if combining all four of them together one at a time was possible, so he bore down on his willpower and gathered four separate strands of attuned mana simultaneously. He positioned them equally across the globe, and then shoved them all towards the center all at once. For a brief second, they clashed with each other in the center before swirling around each other and combining with a silent pop.
A bright flash blinded Reivyn as he had been staring wide-eyed at the orb. He closed his eyes tight as he lost control of the mana, and when he was able to open his eyes again, a dark shadow remained in his vision in the form of the mana ball.
He threw his hands into the air in triumph. He had been successful.
Another week of training and working as an Aide passed. Reivyn continued to hone his mana Skills each day. He didn't ignore his martial Skills, though, and he set up a rotation where he would do about an 80/20 focus. He could slowly feel himself improving in both his mastery of the Skills and in his affinities.
With the passing of another week, another opportunity to delve the Dungeon appeared. Apparently there was some sort of mechanism where the Dungeon would reset for each individual or Party each week. It didn't occur on any set day for everyone, but instead it was tuned specifically to the people involved and would maintain the progress of the dive for a week before starting over.
The second exploration of the Dungeon went much smoother, and not just for Reivyn's squad. With the information gathered, all of the squads pressed on and defeated the boss room. They handled the upper floors by sending teams of four down each path while the rest of the squad continued on, and they would break into three groups that leapfrogged their way down.
With proper preparation, the boss room wasn't all that difficult to handle, either. It turned out that the ogre turning on his handlers was the rule, not the exception. It seemed like a scripted event. Nobody continued on beyond the boss room, though, as nobody wanted to potentially run into the powerful Revenants or any other possible demons.
Reivyn was seated at his customary desk going through reports. Normally the canvas of the tent was thick enough to block out any ambient noise from the outside, but the peace and quiet was abruptly interrupted by some loud sounds coming from outside. The noise didn't have the hallmarks of an emergency such as a sense of urgency or panic associated with the incoming noises, but it was loud and sustained.
"Ask one of the sentries what that racket is," Knight-Lieutenant Brand finally said. Reivyn stood up and poked his head out of the tent flaps. He could see a flurry of activity in the distance as he queried one of the men standing post outside.
"The Adjutant wants to know what all this noise is about," he said. The man turned towards Reivyn, and with a smile on his face gave him the answer that he had been anticipating for a while now. Reivyn quickly returned to the Adjutant to let him know the news.
"Sir, the permanent garrison has arrived," Reivyn said with undisguised jubilation.
"Well, it looks like we'll be able to go home soon," Brand said with a smile.