Finn sat at the table of his parents’ home, a young man of fifteen. Today would be the beginning of his Ko’Rin, the rite of passage undertaken by both the halflings and the centaurs for over a hundred years. After the great beast was destroyed and its wall of fire purged, the two races had found their people on the outside still warring against each other.
Having been forced to survive together for so long, those that had fought the great beast moved to unify their people. They had long since discovered that their races actually had many things in common, once they were able to understand one another. Both races shared a love for exploration, the centaurs having only been restricted to their grasslands due to a mistaken belief.
More importantly, even their gods seemed to have similarities. Both the love domain of the halfling goddess, as well as the fellowship domain of the centaur’s Tryval shared a few characteristics. This was enough that it had been able to gradually quell the hatred each side felt for the other. Though, no centaur would ever doubt if something as small as a halfling could be dangerous again.
Now, Finn prepared himself for his Ko’Rin. In truth, it was not a dangerous mission, not truly. Since the unification of the two races, halfling culture had changed a lot. Now, children were forbidden from roaming the world aimlessly, instead staying in a city with their families while they learned the knowledge they would need to survive on their own.
The Ko’Rin was the final test. All of the children his age, regardless of gender or race, would set out from the city as a group. They would wander for one six months before returning. But when they did return, it would not be as a child, but an adult. Sometimes, the groups would split up during the journey, but it was always suggested that they stick to a larger force as much as possible.
Soon, his father appeared, walking through the open door to the room. In his hand was a large leather pack, big enough to fit a young halfling if he wanted. “You ready, Finn?” His father asked with a smile, to which the young boy nodded.
After handing over the pack, the two of them walked together out of the house. Outside, his mother was already waiting for the two of them, and the three walked to the northern exit of town. Once there, they found dozens of other families, both halfling and centaur alike. Standing at the front was a lone centaur woman smiling at them all.
“I think this should be everyone.” She said as she mentally counted the crowd. “As you all know, the Ko’Rin is a sacred rite. Since the time of the great beast, the Lord and Lady of the Land have offered us this test. Before our young are to become adults, we must send them out to experience the world. The good and the bad, the bounties and perils. But they must do so together, without the prejudices of the old to burden their young hearts.”
“When you leave these walls, you will be but children. Children who must survive in a harsh world with the knowledge you have been given, and the friends by your side. In Tryval’s name, I pray for the safety of you and your fellows. In Aurivy’s name, I bless your path. Many partnerships have been found during the Ko’Rin which last a lifetime. Cherish everyone with you, for you will all be relying on each other.”
After saying that, she took a deep breath, her face becoming more serious. “Some of you, however, will wish to venture alone. To explore the world with your wits and weapons, and nothing more. This is not against the will of the divines, so I shall bless your paths as well. Whether your hands be linked or bloodied, you will always have a home to return to. And when you do return in six months, it will no longer be as children. You will have earned the respect of an adult.”
Finally, she slowly trotted off to the side, her arm sweeping gently towards the land beyond the city’s gates. “Now go, children of the city. May the Lord and Lady watch over you, as they have watched over all of us in our times of need.”
With the ceremonial speech finished, there was a brief moment of silence. The silence was broken when the first person, a young centaur boy, stepped forward. His face showed a mix of anxiety and excitement, but he was still moving forward. And with that as the signal, the others followed one by one, their families watching with wet eyes.
There would always be those lost to the Ko’Rin, but for those who returned, they would have the strength and wisdom to decide their own fates.
“Well…. I was not expecting that.” I muttered slightly as I watched the end of the ceremony. I was happy that the two races had reconciled their differences, and seemed to be living in relative peace. But I hadn’t really expected them to nearly give up their nomadic ways.
That said though, I could still see a large number of both race wandering the lands. There were just far more of them in cities than I had anticipated. Also, it was hard to say that they had completely reconciled. I was still able to see a few cases where slavery had cropped up, although a brief investigation revealed the vast majority of such to be criminals serving their sentence. Very few cases could be seen where someone had been forced unjustly into such a position.
I nodded my head, realizing that Tryval and Aurivy had to have guided their two races quite a bit in order to get that kind of result. And this did give me hope for the eventual cooperation of their races, as well as others when they later met. After all, the conflict between those two had been extremely severe. If not for them taking this Ko’Rin completely unsupervised, it was entirely possible that racist tendencies would still leak through to the younger generation. This way, they faced life and death together, building a bond in the same way that they did when fighting the dragon.
So this is how you watch the world. I heard Leowynn’s voice speaking to me, reminding me that she was still within my spiritual realm. It really is different like mom said.
“Once I get a bit more experienced, I might be able to look at it like how you imagined.” I spoke out loud with a small smile. “Do you want to come out?”
Sure. Came the happy response a moment later. With a thought, I once again brought her out to materialize in front of me. “If it’s okay, could I look at one of those?” She asked almost immediately, a hand pointing towards the three blue information spheres I had recently purchased.
I nodded my head. “Alright. These two are related to ki, so you should be able to understand them better.” I explained as I set aside two of them, taking the other one myself. “I don’t think you had any experience with natural energy, so this one wouldn’t likely be of any use to you.”
She smiled happily as she looked at the two spheres. Choosing one at random, she picked up the sphere that gave information about ki paths, closing her eyes to focus on it while I began absorbing information on natural energy. I could feel the knowledge rushing into my mind, stopping now and then to sort and process it, constantly amazing myself by the depths it reached.
From the very first line, ‘No basic energy stands above any other’, I knew that there would be a lot to gleam from this. And after I had gotten around halfway through, my focus, as well as Leowyn’s, was suddenly interrupted by the door slamming open. “Dale, Dale!”
Judging by the excited tone, I already knew who it was. Glancing over, I saw Ryone grinning like a madwoman. It even took her a few moments to process that Leowynn was standing right beside me, at which point her face softened quite a bit. “Oh, hello Leowynn. Is your training alright? Are you able to come out again now?” She asked, a mix of nervousness and hope on her face.
Leowynn laughed lightly. “It’s fine, mother. You don’t have to be so worried. I like it up here, really. But what has you so excited?”
“I’m quite interested to know that myself.” I chimed in, raising a hand.
“Oh! Right. Udona came to show me something and I think you need to see it.” Her face once again showed the zealous worship that let me know this was something related to a new form of magic.
“Well, we better get going then, Leowynn.” I said with a light chuckle. “When Ryone gets like this, she won’t be satisfied until she shows and explains everything she can.”
Though I said that, Leowynn seemed almost as interested as Ryone herself, so the two of us quickly agreed to join her. No sooner had that agreement been expressed than the three of us had transported to Ryone’s little testing area. Leowynn let out a small yip of surprise at the sudden movement, but looked around in awe at the thousands of random spell diagrams that lined the floor.
Udona sat in a chair nearby, her head slumped over as if half asleep. Her golden hair was in a mess, and bags were forming under her eyes. It was only when she heard Leowynn that her head jerked up. “Huh? Oh, hey guys. I take it she told you?”
“No, no she did not.” I denied, shaking my head. “Could you?”
“Uhm… okay.” She nodded briefly. “A kitsune just unlocked the elementalist class. Apparently, he’s earned it for a while, so once you bought it he got it almost right away.” Saying that much, she yawned heavily, bringing one hand up to cover her mouth.
Looking at Ryone, her eyes seemed even more tired. “Can I go back to my room now? My incarnation is writing a new song, and I really wanna focus on that.”
“Show them first, then you can go.” Ryone urged, waving her hands as if to get Udona to hurry it along. “This is your discovery, so you get the limelight this time.”
“Okay…” She sighed gently, slowly standing up. Her pink slippers about fell off when she stumbled forward, and I had to wonder just how much of her focus she was splitting for her incarnation, or if she even had two of them going at once. At least, that's how Terra had been when she was doing so. “Can you set up a couple of targets for me, then?”
As soon as she had asked, a line of wooden dummies appeared around fifty meters away, causing Leowynn’s eyes to widen slightly. However, Udona just shrugged her shoulders and turned towards them. “Watch close. The first spell will be normal, the second will be as an elementalist.”
While she was speaking, I could see three glowing red diagrams appear in the air in front of her. At a glance, I could recognize them as the homing fireball spell Ryone had showed to me a while back. Unsurprisingly, what came out was a large fireball, which split apart and hit several of the targets, lighting them on fire.
However, as if to not give us any time to react, the same spell diagrams appeared in front of her again. Udona’s voice suddenly seemed to turn serious, echoing throughout the room. I could feel the natural energy stirring as she called out to it. “As the one who commands the physical laws, come forth.” The first of the three diagrams began emitting a red lightning that arced along it.
“Become a blade and pierce those who stand before me.” This time, the second of the three circles lit up, before the third joined it with the final verse of her chant. “Let walk the armies of flame, my soldiers of conflagration.”
With all three circles imbued with whatever power she was channeling, the spell activated. What had before started as a fireball now had a different shape. A tall figure, a man made of fire. In one hand it held a sword the seemed to extend half its length.
Once the flame warrior had formed, it ran forward towards the targets. With every step, an afterimage appeared behind it, forming an identical soldier. Although the flames seemed to weaken each time, their numbers more than made up for it.
By the time the ‘army of flame’ had reached the dummies, there were enough of them to make it seem as if a wall of fire had appeared. I couldn’t even properly discern what they were doing until the spell ended, and they all vanished. At that time, I was able to see that over half of the wooden dummies had been sliced clean through, the rest having numerous stab marks on their bodies.
Leowynn and I were both watching in awe, our silence broken by a yawn coming off from the side. “Okay, can I go back now?” She asked, seeming like she might fall asleep on her feet.
“Sure.” Ryone said with a nod. “I’ll have Terra send up some of those comics you like later. Thanks for helping us out with this.” Her fox ears seemed to perk up slightly at the mention of the comics, before she vanished from the room. Afterwards, Ryone turned to face the two of us. “So, questions?” She asked with a wide grin.
“What, and how?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“The power of an elementalist, to combine natural energy with magical spells, enhancing their power. Whenever a druid casts their magic, they send out their mana to the surroundings to deliver a command. Udona did the same thing, she simply used her voice to give the command. You could probably do it without, but it’ll be a bit easier to focus on the spell diagrams if you aren’t also using mental communication.” Ryone explained, briefly going off into a tangent before I snapped my fingers to get her attention.
“Anyways! By commanding the natural energy to merge with the spell, you can give it new effects. The most obvious is a boost in power, but other things can be done as well. Udona was able to shape a fireball into a walking figure because of how she wielded the natural energy. This should be able to supplement various missing effects within a spell diagram, and maybe even replace it altogether.”
“Restrictions?” I asked as I looked to her, wanting to get this over with. It was exciting, and I might even give it a try later, but I was more interested in getting back to learning more about natural energy.
“Hmm… I haven’t done any research yet to be sure, but I have some speculations. Most likely, you won’t be able to change anything defined by the spell diagram. A fireball is a fireball because it is a shapeless ball of fire. Udona simply gave it shape. She wouldn’t be able to make it into a ball of ice like that, or anything. Let me run some tests, and I should be able to tell me.” She nodded her head, sinking into thought.
Just as I was about to return us to my room, Leowynn spoke up. “Could I help?” She asked, looking at Ryone. “I wasn’t ever able to help you with your experiments when we were alive… but how about now?”
“Of course!” Ryone blurted out automatically, and then immediately used a hand to cover her mouth. “I mean, of course you can, Leowynn. I just didn’t want you to do any of that earlier because it’d mess up your strength ratio, and I didn’t want to let you get hurt by that. You don’t have to worry about that anymore, so I’d love to have you helping me.”
Leowynn grinned suddenly, walking over towards Ryone, before turning around to glance at me. “It won’t be a problem if we’re far apart, right? I don’t know how far it is to the room…”
“It shouldn’t be.” I said, waving it off. “The energy here isn’t limited like that, so you should be able to go wherever you want.”
“Alright.” She gave a determined nod. “I’ll come back to the room to finish studying later.” I nodded in return, smiling as I went back to the room. Looks like I have a few more things to think about.