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by Pedro Puglisi In a previous chapter, I wrote about how Apheros created his domain of Protection but didn’t go into detail on exactly what one was. To start, Domains are divided into three types, Elemental, Greater, and Minor. Only the Greater gods have access to the Elemental and Greater Domains, the reasoning believed to be the prevention of the gods going to war with each other. Minor Domains (for example: the shared one of Healing between Apheros, Ignitious, and a half dozen minor gods) are not as powerful, but as a possible tradeoff, can be shared amongst the Greater and Minor gods. The Elemental Domains are easy enough to understand, since they are associated with a mana type, but what about the loosely defined Greater Domains? When researching initially, I found it hard to get a specific answer. This is, of course, partially because church representatives refuse to give clear and concise answers, but upon collating my notes, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because domains aren’t capable of being measured by a scientific or historical standard. To help illustrate my point, let me share the story of how Apheros established his first Greater Domain. Apheros did his best to help calm the mortals as Ignitious excised then burned away the invasive monster tissue that threatened to eat away at the mortal from the inside. Their screams of pain were loud and well warranted, but they still gave appreciative bows of respect and praise once Apheros sutured the open and bleeding wounds back together. He turned to his fellow god after all the mortals’ lives were saved, “Thanks for the help Ignitious.” The dark figure, wearing black leather pauldrons that had pure white feathers trimming the underside and a blood red feather lying across the top of each, turned to Apheros after burning away the remaining viscera from their body, “I was able to gather useful data, though I will need to devise a way to prevent the specimens from thrashing about so much in the future.” Ignitious tapped their fingers on their chin, “Perhaps a numbing agent of some sorts?” Apheros let out a sigh, but managed to smile after seeing the mortals begin to comfort each other, “Has anyone ever told you that you need to lighten up?” “My Domain of Fire already encompasses the creation of Light,” Ignitious cocked their head, “you should be more than aware of this.” Apheros let out a small groan, “It was a joke.” “I don’t understand the purpose of such things.” (Author’s Note: This story takes place before Ignitious’ creation of their Trickery Domain. Also, take notice that it was Apheros that created the first pun, and not Ignitious. It angers me whenever I see someone curse Ignitious for unleashing that particular verbal plague.) Apheros shook their head, “Regardless, thanks again. We made a good team.” Ignitious nodded along, “Indeed, we’ll have to collaborate in the future. We’ll need to find a different batch of mortals to study though, these ones will be dead by winter.” Apheros twisted his head back, eyes and face clearly startled, “What?! But… we healed them…” Ignitious frowned at their friend, “Quit letting your emotions over these mortals muddle your logical thoughts. Look around, the hoard of monsters already scoured the land and what they didn’t consume was burned away in the fighting. I estimate that they’ll only be able to scavenge enough food for about a month before they begin to starve.” The god of Fire watched as Apheros fell to his knees in dread, “Hmm, I did find it odd that you’d knowingly be extending the suffering of these mortals.” The god of Nature began tearing up but began to grab from the pouches on their side to pull out seeds. He quickly began planting them in the dirt in exacerbation and started channeling mana into the seeds. “What are you doing?” Asked Ignitious in a disdainful tone. “I’m going to grow them a field so they can feed themselves. If they can gather enough food before winter—” “They can what? Freeze to death from the lack of shelter?” Ignitious scowled, “Quit debasing yourself in front of the mortals. You’re a god, start acting like one for a change.” “Be quiet!” Apheros barked, focusing on getting his seeds to sprout. “Why? So you can grow a handful of plants enough to maybe feed one mortal? The numbers don’t lie Apheros, you’d need your plants to go to seed over a dozen myriad of times to even come close enough to grow enough food for all the mortals that you just ‘saved.’” Apheros’ started breathing heavy, his vision a complete blur from the welling tears in his eyes. “You may be the god of Nature, Master of Wood Mana, but even your abilities have limits. Now quit groveling in the mud and filth, you can’t just will something into—” “I said, BE QUIET!” Apheros shouted so loudly that the continent shook. Ignitious stepped back out of fright, then grew panicked as the ground continued to rumble and shake long after the echoes of Apheros voice rang out. The sound of crackling and popping began to join in the cacophony of sounds and they managed to glimpse at a nearby pinecone exploding into a cloud of spores. The god turned back to their friend but could only see a mass of visible verdant green mana emanating from the Nature god and snaking through the topsoil. Ignitious’ looked in awe as plants began to grow at an incredulous speed. Saplings turned to trees, sprouts aged into vegetables, shoots stretched upwards into grass, vines began to spread, branches started to bud… It was too much for the god to comprehend, they couldn’t even see the source of this miracle due to the trees providing shade and the undergrowth covering every available inch of ground. The sounds of screams, however, tore them from their stupor. The mortals that Apheros had gone through so much trouble to save were growing terrified as the rapidly growing forest threatened to swallow them. Knowing that idiot would only do something even more idiotic if they were to perish, Ignitious moved to the center of the mortals and erected a wall of flames to hold back the invasive growth. A long period of time passed. Long enough for the mortals to have fallen asleep and reawaken, but Ignitious remained vigilant, and was eventually rewarded once they no longer felt the constant press of Apheros’ magic combating their own. They lowered the wall of flames, and the gasps from the mortals were numerous enough to drown out Ignitious’ own. A primordial forest of green could be seen, thickly packed with plants, but it wasn’t just that. Birds could be heard chirping, insects flew past buzzing, and even a few deer and other mammals could be heard rutting. Ignitious began to wander, and if it wasn’t for their brilliant mind, they would have been unable to locate Apheros collapsed on the ground. Ignitious looked down, and gave the idiot a few kicks to ensure they were awake, “What did you just do?” “I… created a new Domain?” Apheros stated in disbelief. “This…” Ignitious stammered, then looked up to the stars, “This changes everything…” Yep, you read that right. A god can bend reality itself to their will enough to create a new Domain. Which of course means that what a god can do with their Domain is only dependent on how they define the concept.
--- Arc Wind Spells 1 – Spell Range Component
I mentally sighed out of boredom during today’s practice, slightly saddened by the fact that even a magical fantasy school could lose its luster after a time.
Granted, it didn’t help that they were practicing Messaging spells today, both to transmit voice or allow remote hearing. The latter of course being a component that was useless for me. In fact, an observant person using mana sight could see the spell, ruining the stealthy surveillance that someone might try to perform, making my direct reading of the Air vibrations vastly superior.
Well, assuming they aren’t a god and can see my focus floating around. I still don’t know how that works; my mana sight works similar enough to Travis’ since he needs to close his eyes in order to fully engage it. The only difference being that I get a full spherical range unlike his conical vision, though that’s probably in his favor, I imagine his head would throb from the sudden expanse in field of view.
My focus however… hmmm… I don’t think it’s a spell… I don’t cast it like one… it’s just something I can do instinctually. And since “Addy” could see it, that means it’s not just my sword brain processing my spherical vision into something more familiar to me…
I kept pondering as I weaved my focus through the kids practicing their spells, eventually making my way back towards Travis after giving up trying to find an answer. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
Mattius blared using his [Message] Spell.
Oof, reminds me of the first time I taught Travis the spell.
“Adjust your input formation to the side of your mouth more, and just speak as if I’m right next to you.” Travis coached into Mattius’ [Remote Ear] spell. “Ok, so… more like this?”
“Much better.” Travis gave Mattius, who was on the other side of the range, a thumbs up.
The teenage Packer smiled, then looked alarmed, “Heads up, our favorite professor is on a warpath.”
I spun my focus to better see Professor Quinsandoral looking extra irritated today as he approached each group for corrections.
Travis scratched my pommel, “I wonder if people have been pestering him for self-study spells? I found out that we were the only two to get early access to spells, and that he’s normally quite stingy on doing so.”
Sadly, I couldn’t respond due to everyone having their mana sight active, but Mattius somewhat voiced what I was thinking, “Probably doesn’t help that we both used our spells strategically enough to sway the momentum of our arena matches in our favor.”
Professor Quinsandoral approached Travis; irritation clearly visible all over him. His breathing was shallow, his balled-up hands were quaking, and his face was akin to someone finding a dog turd on their favorite pair of shoes.
“Travis, have you and Mattius gotten the hang of both features of [Message]?” The professor spoke in a strained tone.
Mattius, possibly not seeing just how angry the professor was, spoke a bit too casually, “I think so, Travis already knew how to output sound, so it didn’t take him long to learn the remote hearing extension to the spell, then help me out.”
Travis nodded along with Mattius, then gave the elf a big smile, “Before I forget, thank you for the [Air Burst] spell diagram. It helped me out greatly in my recent arena match.” “Yes, same here for the [Sand Burst] spell.”
Ah, smart move Travis. I can see some of the anger vent out of Quinsandoral.
The professor shook his head at Travis, “Almost wished I hadn’t. The other teachers have already started teasing that I’ve gone soft.” He let out a deep breath, “Well, at least you two appreciate the gifts I give,” his voice grew cold, “unlike a certain child…”
Travis began to look uneasy, “Umm, did something happen?”
Quinsandoral let out a huff, “Oh, something did…” He peered down at me, “That family heirloom that you carry, would you trade it in for some other common sword?” “Heirloom? I thought you said you got your sword from a crazed old man in your village?”
Travis leaked out a chortle, no doubt able to hear the mental curses that I was sending at him for telling that fib to his friends.
“Mattius is correct.” Travis patted my pommel, “My family doesn’t have warriors anywhere in my known family tree. I don’t even know where this sword came from.”
The professor scowled, “Hmm, bad choice of example… How about I ask you two a hypothetical instead? You’re a talented young man, haven’t even turned 60 and are already selected to inherit your uncle’s title and land. Your mother finally convinces your father to allow you to enroll at the UHK’s magic academy early and go through the accelerated program to graduate in three years instead of the usual twelve to fifteen.”
Travis and Mattius nodded along, though their faces made it obvious that it was difficult to put themselves in such a foreign mindset. Probably didn’t help that Quinsandoral was speaking about an elf.
“You perform well in your first semester, scoring high marks in Water and Air spells, and then again your second semester despite adding in Ice spells. But when it suddenly comes time to begin inscribing the two-handed battle axe your father had commissioned for you during your second year, do you honor your father’s expensive investment in your future by wielding the traditional weapon of your people? Or do you pawn it off at a shop so you can wield a god-cursed two-handed shield
The spell range went dead silent as the professor shouted out his last question. Well, at least until the sound of Mattius laughing over his [Message] spell disturbed the peace.
The professor twisted his head sharply downrange, “And what is it that you find so humorous Young Master Tatian?” “That if you’re trying to find someone who’ll agree with you, that maybe you should ask someone other than the guy who welded a spear, axe, and hammer together, then called it a weapon.”
Professor Quinsandoral turned his head back to see Travis’ nervous smile, then shook his head. “Remind me to keep you far away from my son, he might pick up more human insanity.” He let out a breath then turned his head downrange, “Young Master Tatian, did you have an actual answer to my question?” “Before I answer, I’ll need some clarification, What’s a 60-year-old elf equivalent to in human years?”
“Roughly… 15-16, I’d say. He hasn’t endured his first cycle yet, so that partially explains the moody attitude, but I don’t recall being nearly as bad as him when I was his age.” “Might just be a phase. I know when I turned 15, I refused to let my dad teach me to become a knight at first. It wasn’t until my oldest brother took me on a camping trip and had a heart to heart with me that I finally stopped being so angry at him for ruining my family’s reputation and naming me heir.”
The elven instructor finally deflated, “Just a phase… Oh, blessed Zephoreas… I hope you’re right.”
--- Travis 9-11 Group Study
The deep baritone voice of a narrating dwarf echoed throughout the quiet wing of the library’s group study area. Admittedly, there were a few sounds of people snickering, but given the book choice, I couldn’t really blame anyone.
“Captain Evangeline stood on the command deck of her ship, Two Masts
, her pent-up frustration threatening to boil over at the most minor of inconveniences. First her former lover had tried to backstab her in bed, then her bounty had escaped during the night in a storm that nearly left her ship grounded. She tried to calm herself with her breathing and focus on the positives. Her ship was still in fine condition, unlike the one carrying the elven princess, and her entire crew was alive and well, plus one extra that they found unconscious in the water straddling a log.”
Jethro scribbled down a note and slid it to Bridget, who nodded, then passed it to me. They’re doing surprisingly well.
I nodded my head in agreement, then added to the paper: Since they need to focus on reading a foreign text out loud, their awareness of what’s going on is reduced. Plus, if Durinn can manage to read this out loud in a safe environment, their own presentation won’t seem nearly as daunting.
Durinn stopped to take a few breaths, then proceeded to continue reading from the romance novel I borrowed from Barry, “Extra being the descriptor for her new crewman Drozuk. His expansive back that rippled with each row of the oars, those strong arms that easily pulled up the anchors, and those large green hands that… Evangeline shook her head to clear her mind of distractions, she had a ship to run, there’d be time for… ‘venting her frustrations’ later…”
The angry orc with the same name stared daggers at me from across the table as Durinn continued, forcing me to bite my lip so I wouldn’t start laughing. He motioned to have the paper passed to him, then after scratching something down with his pen, slid it towards me. I hate you all… so much…
I wrote back but passed it the long ways around the table so everyone could see. Next time, don’t falsely convince everyone that I invited a princess out on a date.
Durinn kept reading, their face growing red and words beginning to stumble more as they reached a spicier section, “Drozuk stood in the captain’s quarters… his head aching, but… his (mumbling noise
) throbbing… he wished for his torture to end… and that the phantom sealing his memories would relent, because his willpower was quickly fading. He felt the captain’s hand caress… his pectoral… and then slide down… to his…”
The loud sound of a woman clearing her throat interrupted Durinn from their mild torture, though given the bearded’s mortified look, they probably would have preferred to have kept reading. I turned my head to see the head librarian fuming in anger at our table.
“Care to explain why you are distracting every student in this wing of my library?”
Durinn began to breathe heavily and show signs of panicking, so I quickly stood up and moved over to give them a calming pat on the shoulder. I then turned to the angry middle-aged human.
“Ma’am, we were helping our friend get over their fear of public speaking by having them read one of our books out loud.”
The librarian adjusted the glasses on her face, but still held her unamused look, “And the reason you chose to narrate uncensored smut?”
“I… was… reading the censored version…” Durinn held the book up with trembling hands.
The librarian took the offered book, allowing her to peruse the contents. Her eyes suddenly widened as she read a passage, “Oh, you weren’t lying…” She flipped to a random section further into the book, “Oh, my!” Her head turned sharply to address Bridget, “Young lady, you shouldn’t be rotting your mind with this drivel.”
Bridget spewed silent curses at me while the librarian set the book down in front of her, not taking notice of her expression as she addressed the group.
“Perhaps next time, choose a different genre.”
I nodded in agreement, then turned to Durinn after the librarian left, “You were doing great, I’m shocked you kept going for so long to be honest.”
Durinn let out a few deep chuckles, “I think my anger overwhelmed my embarrassment at first, once I realized you didn’t really give me an adventure novel to read. After that, I’ll admit I grew intrigued. You humans really do work differently when it comes time to nest.”
Hmm… I’m going to have to pick up a book on dwarven and elven anatomy, this is getting annoying…
I gave Durinn another shoulder pat, then followed them towards the entrance of the library where the librarian had resumed her station. There were other people behind the counter, but I decided to be brave and approach her.
She peered over her glasses with a piercing stare, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I come from a small farming village, so the only thing I know about elves and dwarves is the handful of things taught in the general education curriculum. I never even met a dwarf until enrolling here at the school.”
The librarian nodded along, then stopped me before continuing, “I know an excellent guide for you to read.” She grabbed a book loan form, then filled it out, “Sign here.”
I did as she asked, then waited as she left the counter to pull from the loaner book section. While I waited, I took notice of the other forms that could be filled out and saw one of them was for hiring a library assistant to gather research materials from not just this library, but the science academy and medical school down the street and also the national archives located just outside the judicial district.
Intrigued, and excited over a convenient way to research who Arc was, without him knowing exactly, I grabbed one of the forms. “What are you filling out?”
“A form to hire a research assistant to grab copies from the national archives. They would have a more complete record detailing the creation of Aelder Creek, including background info on the people who founded it.” “Oh, I get it. Maybe Norvin wasn’t too far off the mark, and some retired warrior brought a sword with them. Just buried me high in the tree instead of under it.”
I grinned, happy that Arc fed a better excuse for me, and hoping that he wouldn’t pick up that I wanted to search for an additional piece of info, “Exactly, I hope you don’t mind me trying to find out how you got stuck in that tree.” “No, I don’t mind, I don’t really have a way to find out by myself. Just let me know what you find.”
--- Travis Burnsday 1-3 Monster Anatomy 1
“Now, this is where things get interesting…” The High Elf professor was once again bare-chested and covered in the gore of the monster he was dissecting, “Underneath the armored chest of this crushpaw, you can see that despite being 4 hours since this mutated otter died, some of the body’s functions are still continuing.”
The professor made a shallow cut along an exposed rib, ensuring that the overhead magnifier allowed the whole class to observe as it began to quickly heal. “Make note of how the nearby fat is being consumed as fuel and nutrients for the repairs, this is why ursine and swine type monsters can be particularly hard to defeat in combat.”
The elf then stood up straight to address the class directly, “Anyone want to guess why we didn’t see the same regenerative properties when we dissected the stone-covered paws?”
Hmmm, I bet it’s because…
I raised my hand to answer, but Bridget beat me and nabbed the teacher’s attention first, “Is it because the chest had a higher concentration of Hybrid Mana instead of Basic Mana?”
“Correct. Due to its double-moted nature, the Hybrid and Higher Mana types double the amount of mana density in a creature. Which effectively doubles or even quadruples the rate of cellular growth and ensures the formation of cysts.” They moved over to where the chest-plate was set aside, then filleted the remaining skin from it to show a pair of glowing orange sacs. “I believe it’s still traditional for young Lakelander Knights to hunt down crushpaws for this kind of bounty to be used as armor or a shield. Though nowadays, they get reforged instead of wearing the monster part as is.”
I wrote down that anecdote to ask Jethro about later, then double checked my notes to ensure I didn’t forget to jot anything down. Hmmm, Hybrid Mana doubles regeneration speed… wait…
I raised my hand to ask a question, “If double-moted mana ensures the eventual formation of cysts, does that mean Wood Mages who suture wounds together using mana are putting their patients at risk?”
“Ah, a valid concern. We’ll go into further detail next semester when we go over orkish anatomy, but the adaptation that separates us from monsters is what immunizes us from having that happen. That of course being our body’s ability to break down double-moted mana into single-moted mana.”
I nodded along, writing down the professor’s words as they cleaned the blood off themselves.
“I should warn you however, that there are ways to bypass our natural defenses. The simplest being the introduction of live foreign monster tissue to our bodies. There are monsters that’ll attempt to penetrate your body using barbed spines, spores, quills, or even inject live embryos. The foreign tissue doesn’t even need to contain a cyst to cause great bodily harm, since the possibly higher mana density can cause your body’s cells to mutate from the accelerated growth and possibly even turn you into a pseudo-chimera.”
Our professor stopped to take in our worried looks, “Luckily for you, your mana levels are already high enough to protect you from most of the common threats that could kill a commoner if not removed quickly. And any monster meat procured in the field requires a certified chef to prepare before consumption, so there’s no real risk of becoming a necromancer by accident.”
A student raised their hand, “I thought necromancers ate people?”
The High Elf sighed, “In order to become or remain ‘functional’ and not a rabid beast, an infected person can consume raw flesh from one of the four races to reduce the effects of Stage 3 mana sickness enough to allow ‘clear’ thinking.”
They paused to emphasize their next point, “Under no circumstances are you to ever resort to cannibalism. Even cooked flesh can cause minor psychosis and loss of empathic ability if enough is consumed in a short period. There is no known cure, and research in this field is banned in all three kingdoms.”
Bridget and I sat down on a bench outside during break after I snuck into the cafeteria to grab an extra sandwich.
“Sure you didn’t want to try a bite?”
“No, I’m good.” Bridget waved me off while she compared our notes from class. “Looks like neither of us missed anything. She returned my notes then reached into her bag to pull out a different book.
I finished swallowing my current mouthful, “What’re you reading?”
“I’m applying to enroll in the optional medical track next semester, so I’m doing some preparatory studying so I can start off ahead.”
“Oh, nice. Are you going to join Reidar at the Medical University for classes?”
“No, there’s enough demand that they do satellite courses here on campus.”
“That’ll be convenient.” I bit back into my sandwich, enjoying the blend of deli meats, cheese, veggies, and some weird creamy sauce that had hints of onion, garlic, and I think parsley and a few other herbs added in.
Bridget turned to stare at me for a bit, then smirked, “Did your favorite half-orc make that for you?”
I finished my sandwich, then licked my fingers clean before responding, “Not sure, haven’t run into them for a few days now. Did I remember to tell you he’s Reidar’s squad brother?”
“No, but Mattius found out when he was talking to Reidar before the show and shared. Do you think he’s avoiding you?”
“Not sure, Reidar didn’t mention anything… though… he did have lunch with him that day. Maybe something happened?”
Bridget shrugged her shoulders, and made a teasing grin, “Maybe he got told that you weren’t worth the effort?”
I scowled at my friend’s and Arc’s following laughter.
--- Arc Steelsday
Travis stirred awake a good half-hour before the alarm. “You awake?”
“Yeah.” Travis sprung out of bed, then began his usual morning stretching routine, letting out the occasional moan of pleasure that I, in absolutely no way at all, found jealous. “You done fondling yourself?”
Travis twisted to give me the stink eye, “Wake up on the wrong side of the scabbard again?” “You know me, I’m not a morning person.”
“But you don’t even sleep…” “That’s irrelevant. Now, what are we spending your short bout of free time on? Your letter to Caldia?”
Travis visibly debated in his head, “No, let’s work on that over break, I want to try a couple of different tones.”
I rolled my metaphorical eyes at Travis; the kid was definitely overcomplicating the matter. He must have decided on something else though because he went to grab a book. “A Human’s Guide to Elves and Dwarves – A ‘How to Guide’ When Interacting with Our Coastal Neighbors”
He sat down at the desk in his room, then opened the book and scanned the table of contents before turning the pages to a section far into the book.
“Unlike the elves, dwarves do not have a set time during the year for mating season. In fact, the need to build a nest by burrowing into the ground can happen at any time once a dwarf reaches maturity. Some dwarves are on record going as many as 60 years before feeling ‘The Urge’ between cycles, and there’s plenty of instances of younger dwarves immediately going into another cycle after leaving the nest, though this generally only occurs when no children are born from the union.”
“When feeling ‘The Urge’ a bearded dwarf will dig a tunnel into the earth and decorate it to attract the attention of a beardless dwarf. Should the beardless dwarf find the display alluring, they will bring an offering that the bearded dwarf can add to their display. If the gift is considered satisfactory, the two (or on rare occasions more if the display attracts enough mates), then seal off the entrance to the nest from the inside. Common gifts include gemstones, stone carvings, potted plants, and kitchen utensils; each one carrying their own meaning.”
Hmm, that’s definitely a departure from any human courting ritual I’ve witnessed, both in this world and my last, but it’s nothing too crazy, I guess. If I remember right, bowerbirds build colorful nests to attract a female, and the smartest ones are often the most successful.
Travis kept reading for a while, stopped to chuckle when the book explained what bringing glassware meant, then shut the book before giving me a rub on my pommel and getting up to get dressed.
--- 8-12 Morning Drill
Travis did a doubletake, then scratched my pommel after returning from their morning jog and moving to sit down for today’s survival skills lecture, “Shouldn’t Adrian be taking today off?” “Yeah, I noticed that… His private tutor looked confused at first too. Want me to keep an eye on him?”
Travis tapped my pommel to confirm, and after the lecture broke for the usual interval training, I moved my focus over to watch Adrian return to his tutor.
The old commando put Adrian through a familiar routine of balance and stability exercises, then forced him into a plank that had his feet rested on the edge of his shield. The commando leaned down, once Adrian was busy focusing on keeping his back straight, then spoke in their gravely tone.
“Care to explain why you didn’t join your family for church today?”
Adrian winced, nearly losing balance, but managed to steady themselves, “My dad is still gone on his current trip… and the thought of talking to my uncle and cousins…” Adrian’s feet began to spin the shield to one side, but he managed to trigger his mana correctly and power his legs back to the top without losing grip. He took a big breath to calm himself, then finished his thought, “What if… they know? And what if they don’t? Will they…” Adrian’s arms trembled, causing his mana to amp up unevenly and eventually fall over.
The tutor reached a hand down to help Adrian back up, “If they don’t accept you, that’s their
problem, not yours.” He gave Adrian a small mana-rich food item, then patted him on the shoulder, “You were doing well there, but your lack of focus is harming you.”
Adrian fidgeted, “I just… can’t get over how my dad was so forward about me being a brothel baby, but never once hinted to me that I was half elf. He didn’t even force me to learn elvish, that was something I begged him to teach me.”
The commando gave a genuine look of surprise, but quickly remembered his training and instead gave a more subtle head tilt, “You and your dad both know elvish?”
Adrian ate the treat, then smiled, “It’s how he became so successful. I can only speak it though, and not fluently enough to not pause before each sentence.” He shook his head, “I still remember when I first started, and dad told me that there was male, female, or neutral prefixes, then day and night suffixes of just the word ‘sun’ that you weren’t allowed to mix up. Plus, formal versions when addressing the sun directly or indirectly.”
The commando nodded along, “I tried to learn it multiple times, but gave up when I couldn’t even accurately copy down a written document.”
“Yeah, all those tight loops, squiggles, and diacritics… I had to give up the written language because I couldn’t practice while on the convoy wagon.”
“Hmm, speaking of convoys, you said that your father changed his route after taking you in? I wonder…” the old commando visibly pondered for a moment, “If you’d like, I can ask one of my old coworkers to look into your situation.”
Adrian shifted his feet, but eventually nodded to agree, then started to get back into position for another plank before suddenly turning back, “Hey, can I ask you an elf question?”
Adrian darted his eyes around, then gestured for his tutor to bring his ear down so he could whisper. The old commando’s daunting presence failed him as he leaked out a chuckle strong enough to make his entire body shake.
“Nope, that’s normal. They’re all shaped like that.” He gave Adrian a pat on the shoulder, then pulled him in to whisper, “Just a warning, you’ll probably get some weird looks your first time with someone, but I can personally attest that I’ve never had any complaints. Even a few that say they prefer.”
Adrian let out a big sigh, and was about to end the embrace, but his tutor held him in place to ask a follow-up.
“Out of curiosity, do you…”
Adrian smirked, “Nope, daily.”
The commando nodded, “Suppose you would have noticed something was off otherwise. There was a big incident I think about 30 years ago, when a dozen visibly half-elf spartan recruits were believed to have gone mad during the winter solstice according to their squad-leaders.”
I pulled my focus away, feeling ashamed for viewing something so private. I decided to make note of the useful info that I had gained, then Messaged Travis before sealing away my memory, “Your friend should be ok, nothing to worry about.”
--- Travis Rocksday
I went up to the counter with Drozuk to grab my now usual order of snacks for our group study at the spell range.
I nodded and shifted my shoulder patch so the attendant could see it and confirm. They peeked, then went to grab the stack of tied together boxes. Drozuk pulled the boxes from the counter, allowing me to lean and peer in.
“Out of curiosity, I’ve noticed that a certain half-orc hasn’t been serving whenever I come by for food.”
The worker grinned, “Oh, we’ve noticed that as well. Did something embarrassing happen? Trying to get info out of a Spartan is a lost cause.”
“Not sure, last time I saw him was before he had lunch with his squad-brother.” I gave my best mischievous smile, “Could you tell him that I said ‘hi’?”
The worker began to chuckle with a touch of malicious intent, “Oh, I will.”
I turned around to see Drozuk giving me a confused look.
“So… wait, are you flirting with him now? Or…”
I let out a groan, then gestured for him to follow.
Mattius grumbled while practicing moving his [Sand Burst] spell, “I swear, the curriculum at this school is all over the place. No spells week one aside from Auras, then ‘hurry up and learn Orb and Blast spells’ the second, and now ‘whoa calm down, we’re about to spend the next three weeks going over theory and maybe
learn a few utility spells.’”
Jethro let out a deep laugh, set the spell diagram he was going over aside, then addressed the group, “It’s intentional. You’ve probably also noticed that the basic training is arranged differently from what your brothers told you.”
Mattius nodded, “Yeah, they were shocked when I told them we were practicing sword techniques day one.”
“That’s because mages need to be able to defend themselves as soon as possible, not just for our arena fights, but off campus as well. It’s been quite a few years since the last incident, but it’s not unheard of for a student to get attacked by someone who couldn’t get in.”
That turned a bunch of heads towards Jethro, and even caused my enclosed section of the spell range to go silent.
Drozuk tilted his head, “But… why?”
“Well, consider the following question, how angry would you have been if you didn’t get in? What if your best friend got in, and despite you both making a pact to either both enroll or both reject, they change their minds? How angry would you be then?”
Drozuk and the rest of us went silent to ponder the question, until he finally turned to look at Jethro with a sad set of eyes, “You’re speaking of a specific incident…”
Jethro nodded, “His statue is the one just inside the front gate.”
We all kept quiet for a good while in the range, the only loud noise being Mattius’ held spell finally going off. I went to go grab a snack with Drozuk and Adrian and shared a look with the two, “Anything to look forward to in Water Spells 1?”
Adrian shook his head, “Not unless you want to know what ratio of Earth Mana to add into your spell arrays to draw salt water, murky water, or sludge.”
I drooped my shoulders, “Really?”
Drozuk gave my shoulder a pat, then teased in a sarcastic tone, “Cheer up lover-boy, I heard next week we get to learn how to make stuff float
I shook my head, “Why do so many people want to become Water Mages?”
Drozuk began to chuckle, “You get the safest job during the flood, and even bonus pay if you help with the cleanup.”
Adrian nodded along, then suddenly had an epiphany, “I just remembered, you said your village only had a small creek nearby, right?” I nodded to confirm, which only made him buzz with excitement, “That means you’ve never seen a Water Mage go wake surfing!”
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