Upon learning about unexpected functions of magic, I couldn’t help but try to learn more. Forming mana crystals continued without issue, but I was unable to acquire any new spells without spending points. There also seemed to be no issues from simply forming them, besides the expenditure of mana. As long as I was conservative with their actual use, I seemed to be fine. I also learned something interesting- Mana Crystal Deposition could improve. It just took a while. It now had a nice +1 beside it in my status window.
Practicing with my newest spell also revealed how useful it could be. My second newest, really- Dancing Lights had also been used to some effect, but the more relevant one was the higher level and thus more costly Physical Freedom. It was useful against two of my companions. Against Acid Man, it let me slip away from his grasp. If he couldn’t cling to me, his otherwise slower movements and slower rate of damage meant he couldn’t do much. Energy Ward was much cheaper, but he would slowly eat through its protections. Though it could certainly buy me enough time to defeat him if necessary.
A bigger difference came against Ice Guy. Though one might assume that protecting myself against cold would resist his powers, that only worked to a certain extent. For example, when he formed spikes of ice they were not damaging me with the cold itself- and thus Energy Ward did precious little except keep me at a comfortable temperature while I was bruised and battered through my outfit. Likewise, being unaffected by cold didn’t allow me to move when my leg was entirely encased in ice and frozen to the ground. It just made it feel like I was encased in concrete instead of ice.
Physical Freedom, however, allowed me to deal with the latter sort of situation if I happened to be stupid enough to stand still and let it happen. Whether I used it before or after I was able to free myself from the ice. When it happened before, the ice never clung to me and sort of sloughed off onto the ground- where I could also walk over it without issue. When it was already on me, I could sort of just… pull my leg out. Though there were limits. If I was completely encased in ice before I cast it, I could basically only swivel my limbs within the ice. Testing those limits could be important, but realistically once I was fully coated in ice I would have already lost against something more directly deadly.
Physical Freedom was the sort of thing I wanted to have on all the time… and it was also the sort of thing I couldn’t afford to have on all the time. With it lasting about an hour and costing nine mana, even with the slightly higher ambient mana levels I was down around three mana per hour- and it took a third of my mana to cast it to begin with. If I was concerned about nothing else I could maintain it for seven hours if I did nothing else, including casting Translation. I didn’t need Translation anymore, though it was more comfortable for Midnight to speak English with magic involved and it was frequently useful, so I generally chose to maintain that. Force Armor lasted all day, so those were the two things I could expect to have active at any moment.
If I could figure out some way to be more efficient with mana expenditure or recovery- besides just spending more points on specific spells- perhaps Physical Freedom would be something I kept up, though I could also see arguments for Energy Ward of various types. In short, magic was good but limited in simultaneous possibilities.
Doctor Martinez performed regular checkups on everyone working for the Power Brigade- or at least, he was the one assigned to me. I thought he could probably manage everyone though. It only took him a few minutes of scanning his power through people, back and forth and finding all sorts of interesting details. Then he compared it to previous information and…
“Your physical training regimen and diet seem to be balancing out well enough. I am concerned about some of these nutrients, you may need to add more variety but the levels are acceptable for the moment. Fat levels have also increased, but are within healthy parameters.”
“…I’m fat?” I asked. “But I exercise!”
“The two are not mutually exclusive, and it is normal to have stores of fat. As long as the underlying body is healthy a moderate amount of fat is also good for padding, storage, and the like. It only becomes a concern where it interferes with your other physical activities, limiting stamina and the like.” Doctor Martinez shook his head, “Some people don’t have enough fat, though I understand individual body types vary and of course some have difficulty with their metabolisms.”
“Like Shockwave,” I said.
“It is not my job to comment upon the health profiles of anyone but my current patient,” Doctor Martinez said. “Now then, any issues? Growing pains?”
“Not really,” I said. “Why would I have growing pains? Besides the normal pain from training muscles.”
“Because of your height. Did I not mention that yet?” Doctor Martinez shook his head. “You’ve grown over an inch since we first put you in the system, and that’s compensating for changes throughout the day.”
“Height changes throughout the day?” I asked.
“The compression on your spine during the day makes it slightly variable, yes,” he nodded.
“Also I’m taller?” I frowned. “That would explain some things. Like hitting my head on the shower curtain. But why would I be taller?”
“That is something I would expect you to be able to explain better than myself. I am not terribly familiar with orcish physiques, after all. You are twenty-five, correct?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. I might be off by a year, but I couldn’t say for sure which way it would be.
“When do orcs stop growing?”
“… I assume the same as humans.”
“Assumptions are not terribly useful in determining if events are normal. What do you know? How long do orcs live, how tall do they get?”
“Taller than me, usually,” I admitted. “Some get… very tall. Like seven foot? Which is much more than the human average.”
“The averages also might not be the same between worlds,” the doctor said. “With the influence of mana and different nutrition…”
“There’s mana here, though,” I reminded him. “In… mostly normal amounts?”
“Well, I’ll keep monitoring this. If it causes you actual discomfort- not just from bumping into things- let me know.”
“Okay,” I nodded.
I was taller. Did that matter? Eh, probably not.
A lot of the time I was tutoring Jerome his mother wasn’t around. Sleeping, getting ready for work, out at the grocery store or on other errands, that kind of thing. Other times, she was around- like now.
“Thanks for introducing me to your friend,” Tylissa said. “She’s really helping with these new powers.”
“That’s… good to hear,” I agreed. “Understanding powers is important.”
“I’m thinking about trying to get another job,” she said. “Though I’d like to have some savings first.”
“Financial stability is important,” I nodded. “I hope your powers help with that.”
“I have to admit, training powers is a serious time commitment,” she sighed. “But I think it will be worth it. Izzy is very flexible with when she helps train me, which is great.”
“Listen,” Tylissa said. “You should probably talk to her. I know your friendship is… strained… but it would be worth doing.”
“Mhm,” I said noncommittally. Lots of people said that, but maybe they didn’t realize how difficult it was.
After a few awkward minutes, Jerome came in to break up the silence. “Turlough! Wait until you see what I learned.”
“Ooh, what is it?” I asked.
“He’s been talking about it for the last few days,” Tylissa said, “But he hasn’t even show me yet.”
“Well it’s… I don’t know if you would find it that exciting…” Jerome shook his head. “But anyway… watch this!” He gathered his mana, only a small amount but it formed in his hand… a ball of light. It was easily visible in the middle of the room.
“Oho!” I grinned. “That’s different. Is that… the actual Light spell?” I had taught him Dancing Lights, but it created separate units of light. Even pressed together they didn’t have the same brightness as this.
“That’s right!” he said, waving his arms excitedly- which also waved around the light. It was attached to a point and not free-floating like Dancing Lights after all. “I learned it all on my own! You talked about it of course, but I didn’t have to see you do it.”
“That’s great!” I nodded. “I knew you were smart, but managing something off of just a description… that’s quite difficult.” I idly cast Dancing Lights. Clumping them together over my hand just made an uneven mess.
“I haven’t been able to do anything else,” Jerome said. “Anything unique or new. But that one I managed, and it looks just like you said.”
I nodded, poking the mass of lights I had. There was no sensation of touch, of course, and it didn’t move from physical prodding. I let it disperse into nothing. “It really is the light spell,” I agreed. “That saves me a point trying to compare them. I’m impressed.”
“That is pretty neat,” Tylissa said. “I don’t really understand magic, but I’m glad you learned something new.” She looked down at her hand, “Yep, still nothing. Well… I need to head out. Stay safe, don’t burn down the house!”
“We won’t,” Jerome and I said together. It was mostly brick anyway, but I also was very clear to Jerome about when it was okay to use offensive magic.
Formal training was good and all, but Jerome had invented a sport he called light jousting. The rules were simple, and most importantly it was safe indoors. He’d discovered by accident that light magic could affect other light magic- which is why Dancing Lights clumped into a lumpy mass instead of just being four spheres in one- and that applied to other people’s spells as well. Which wasn’t that surprising, since most forms of magic were self-interactive.
Light jousting began by each of us forming Dancing Lights around ourselves. Then we would send them forward, with the goal being hitting the other. Since we could only deflect the lights with other lights, that required them to bash into each other- or make a mad rush for the other mage, but that was why one usually stayed on defense. It was difficult to actively control four separate things at the same time anyway, two at once was much simpler with the others left in reserve for special maneuvers.
Jerome was generally faster, but I had more subtle control over my magic. I had almost two decades of experience on him, after all- even if it wasn’t with this specific spell. As he was the one who invented it, he of course had practiced against himself before mentioning it, so we were fairly evenly matched.
He liked risky maneuvers, and I liked seeing what he would do. Today, he was stepping forward, getting dangerously close to me. Our Dancing Lights were pressed up against each other, holding the others back. If one slipped around, they could spring forward to strike their target… but that would also leave both sides open. With my control I was prepared to slip his to the side and make an attempt… however he made his move first.
It wasn’t an expected one either. Instead of trying to break the engagement, he almost held onto my Dancing Lights while thrusting forward with his fingers. It was only my quick reactions and greater combat experience that gave me a chance. His finger had almost reached me, mana building up for the Light spell. It was not specifically allowed in light jousting… but nor was it ever said that only Dancing Lights was appropriate. I could cancel my spell and block, but that was a risk.
I deflected it to the side, but unfortunately the manner in which I did so still had me lose. I touched his outstretched finger, which meant he succeeded in his task. If I could cast the Light spell coating my hand should have been a reasonable counter. That was what I had wanted to do, but I didn’t know Light.
“Aww man,” Jerome said. “You figured it out? I thought I would get you.”
“But you did,” I said.
“I dunno,” he shook his head, gesturing, “I kind of figure blocking with your own Light should count.”
We agreed on that, but I didn’t know the spell. Yet looking down at my hand… it certainly looked like Light. “Yes… one moment.”
I managed to confirm something in my Status window.
|Turlough (No surname)|
Shocking Grasp +3
Force Armor +6
Mage’s Reach +2
Familiar Bond +3
Energy Ward +1
Sonic Lance +2
Remaining Points: 0
|Mana Crystal Deposition +1
Well, that was interesting. But how could I learn it so easily when I’d put in so much effort to try to learn other things? Perhaps the demonstration from Jerome helped, but that didn’t seem to fully explain the matter. He didn’t have a clear example of Light to learn either. Curious, but unfortunately I was unable to figure out how this worked.