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As it so happened, I did know a druid. There was no guarantee Ceira would be able to fix my staff, but all of her abilities currently came from this side’s ability to learn without points. I still didn’t know if others from my world accomplished such a thing, but that didn’t matter at the moment.
Since what we were doing was sort-of secret, in that interacting with myself where I was clearly Mage would put her at some risk, I ended up going to her apartment. The part of the city was quite different, fitting typical apartments for humans which were still the majority population, and somewhere around the average in most physical respects.
“Wow, have you… always been that tall?” Ceira said looking up at me.
“No. But you did see me not that long ago.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t stand right next to you. And in a car, everyone looks closer in height.”
“Do they?” I raised an eyebrow. “Even Izzy?”
“… With her seat, her head was at least closer to the same height. So yes. Anyway, uh, come in. It’s uh… set up for filming.”
Immediately after stepping through the door, I almost kicked a plant. That led me to place more awareness on my feet, and following Ceira through the tangled jungle of her apartment, filled with dozens of overflowing pots. I passed sliding glass doors leading to a balcony, which had all sorts of plants dangling over the edge. “This is a lot,” I commented. “How do you breathe in here?”
“The plants make the air fresh!” she commented. “As long as I’m not breathing in their pollen. Good thing I don’t have allergies. You don’t have any, do you?”
“Things that make you sick.”
“My constitution is healthy,” I replied.
“… Your world must have a bunch of people who really hate certain seasons.”
“I think that’s true here as well.”
We eventually made our way to the only open space in the whole apartment, which had a camera facing a funny colored wall. No, it was a sheet of cloth the same size. I couldn’t tell what color it was because it went from gray to a purplish pink to all sorts of other colors, shifting with the angle. “What’s that?”
“It’s not green,” I pointed out.
“Well, obviously. Can’t exactly use one when filming plants.”
We stood there awkwardly in the only open part of the apartment, though I’d come to understand that many of my interactions with people were awkward. Ceira looked around, her eyes eventually settling in the kitchen, where I could just make out a sink and some buried chairs and hidden cabinets. “Uh, I guess we just sit on the floor here.”
There was a single stool, but I silently agreed it would be awkward for either of us to sit on it. So we sat on the floor.
“Uh… right. Did you forget your staff? Because you said you wanted me to look at it.”
“Oh, yes,” I nodded. A small expenditure of mana, and I popped it out of Storage. “Here it is.”
“Whoa, cool. You can just pull it from nowhere? Can I learn that?”
“I… don’t know,” I admitted. “I think it’s a mage thing, and that has little overlap with druid things.”
“Oh, okay,” she sighed. After I placed my staff in her outstretched hands, she began turning it over. “Wow, this thing is super twisted. Except here, I guess?”
“That’s where there’s a metal core.”
“Cool. What sort of wood is this? I don’t recognize these patterns. I’m not really an expert, but I’ve kind of become closer to one recently.”
“Yggdrasil wood,” I said.
Her face exploded into expression. Confusion, excitement, and more. “This is Yggdrasil wood? Yggdrasil is real? How did you get it?”
“Sort of. No. A super tech individual synthesized it,” I answered in sequence. Seeing that even Ceira didn’t remember what order she asked questions in, I clarified. “She said it was supposed to be like what she imagined for Yggdrasil, based on samples of many woods. I don’t know if there’s a real one, but not in my world. Which might not be real, I guess. Does that answer your questions?”
“… How do you create a tree by mixing others? They’d have to be from the same family to breed them,” she frowned.
“I think it’s super tech. Which means it doesn’t really have to work.”
“That’s dumb. Can it make seeds?”
“It’s a stick. So no?” I tilted my head.
“Can I try something?” Ceira asked.
“That is the point of having you here. Druidic magic was used to warp it into its current shape, and should theoretically be able to return it.”
“Oh, right. I uh, don’t know how to do that.”
“And I can’t,” I shrugged. “But you should be able to learn, like everything else. It should be in the four to five mana range.”
“What’s the spell called?” Ceira asked, pulling out her phone.
“Warp Wood,” I said. “Though I’m uncertain why it should matter…”
“Just looking for a description. It helps. Hmm, I see.” She looked between her phone and the staff, gathered mana… and nothing happened, except the mana seeping out as she tried to use it. “Dammit. That’s like half an hour of recovery.”
“How accurate is that?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Normally it’s one point per ten minutes. The ambient mana in the city has increased by at least ten percent, but that’s still not much more.”
“Yeah, you told me most of that. Uh, should be pretty close to half an hour.”
“So you recover at around fifty percent faster than normal,” I frowned.
“The plants help,” she said. “Even more if I focus.”
“I don’t understand druids,” I admitted. “Though the ambient levels do feel slightly higher here, it doesn’t seem like that much.”
She shrugged, “It’s just how it works. So, about that thing I wanted to try.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Uh, I want to see if it can grow a sprout? I have a spell to make things bloom. It can even work on dead wood. It… shouldn’t hurt the staff.”
“It’s pretty unusable anyway,” I pointed out. “If you can straighten it, I could deal with whatever else happens.”
“It should only be additive, so you could sand it down,” she said. Then she concentrated. Instead of gathering a set amount of mana, it seemed like a continuous infusion over a duration. More than a few points. A weird protrusion began to stretch from it, and then… Ceira passed out.
She didn’t have far to fall, landing gently on the floor. Without even having to consider it, I knew it was mana exhaustion. I debated trying to straighten out her position, but by the time I came to a conclusion her eyes were fluttering open. “Did I…? How embarrassing.”
“Mana exhaustion will get anyone,” I said.
“Yeah I just thought… my maximum increased slightly, and I thought I had more. But that previous attempt and it being more difficult than anticipated…” She smiled awkwardly.
“Quite understandable. It takes a while to improve your level. My growth has been greatly accelerated lately, but less than a year ago I barely had more capacity than your current state. Just keep getting levels. Though you could also try absorbing mana crystals, I don’t know if that would be good for you.”
“I thought those just helped you recover quickly?”
“I found a way to use them to boost my maximum beyond that from my level.”
“Oh, I think… visiting the sequoias did that for me as well.”
“Did it hurt?” I asked.
“No?” she tilted her head. “Why would it?”
“… just wondering.” Was there something else mages were supposed to do? Could Ceira also absorb crystals? I didn’t know if she could even make them, that hadn’t come up. If that was a mage thing, it might hurt her to try. So if we tried anything, it would have to be a smaller crystal.
“Well, can I hold onto this for a while?” Ceira asked. “I need to spend time trying to learn Warp Wood, and I’d still like to see if I can make it properly sprout.”
“Sure,” I nodded. “It would be better if it was fixed sooner, but as it is there are no other options for repair. So I will be using a backup weapon, if I have to get into melee combat.” I would also need to remember that I couldn’t use the dispelling feature, either.
I also planned to explain my ideas- and the potential risks- to see if Ceira would help with my studies. Hopefully, I could learn something interesting.
A soft mewl came from the back room, beyond another forest down a hall.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Nothing!” Ceira said.
“It sounded like a cat. Maybe one broke into your apartment?”
“No, everything’s fine. Anyway you should go.”
“… There’s nothing wrong with having a cat,” I said as Ceira attempted to push me out the door, which was impossible for a number of reasons even if there was a clear path.
“Don’t tell Midnight!” Ceira said.
“It’s just a cat,” I said. “Not like you have a dog in there.”
“Haha. Yep. Definitely not.”
It was always easier for Midnight to come over to my place, because mine was… roomier. In short, I didn’t have to hunch over, and the only thing Midnight had to deal with was doors, instead of constant back pain.
“So, how’s it going buddy?”
“Looking into other duties with the Brigade had taught me a lot,” he said. “But… I’m not as effective away from you. I’m not brave enough to not go around with defensive magic, so it costs more.”
“You mean stupid enough.” Midnight tilted his head, and I continued. “It’s not brave to go around without proper defensive magic. It’s stupid, and you know better. And you’re right, it’s more efficient when we can share spells.”
“The same with enhancements,” Midnight said. “Like, Haste and stuff. It’s very useful utility even if I’m not fighting, but I can’t really use it on myself since I can use it to support others. I’m not that useful around HQ with our spells, and if I’m supporting anyone out in the field it might as well be you.”
“Sorry to hear about the spells,” I said. “Actually, if I hadn’t done the familiar bond, you might have full class abilities now. So you could level and get points and even make your own choices. That might have been better.”
“Nah,” Midnight dismissed that quickly. “I can’t imagine things would have gone better any other way. You’re my good friend who saved my life. I like having this bond.” Midnight’s feelings were very clear, not muted in the slightest. “I probably wouldn’t have access to the same power I have now, if I were on my own. Not as much mana, and all that.”
“Speaking of which,” I said. “Did you ever figure out if your mana capacity improved?”
“A little bit,” he said. “Less.”
“That’s… good?” I tilted my head. “It means we probably shouldn’t try the same with you. Speaking of which, I’m planning to do it again.”
“Why?” Midnight asked. “The first time was four points. Then two. Then one. You’re willing to go through that pain for less than a single point of mana capacity?”
“And to know how the limit works. I think it’s heading towards double the size of mana crystal I can make. But I need to know for sure. And I’m not certain if I can reach it. Is it really going to be an infinite series, or will this one or the next one fill in the last slivers?”
Midnight sighed in an exaggerated fashion. “Well, I guess you have to, then. For SCIENCE.”
“Magic,” I said.
“You’re sciencing magic,” Midnight said. “And magic has rules.”
“Okay. Then… let the experiments begin!”
Ceira sat on a stool scavenged from her kitchen through a lengthy expedition. “Alright guys,” she said talking to the camera. “I’m still getting some comments about the decreasing posts on my gaming channel, asking why that is. So I’m just going to say it again. I have magic now. So I’m not ‘wasting time on a gardening channel’. I’m using freaking magic!”
“Do I cut that part out? Eh, I’ll leave it in.” She straightened up. “As for your more constructive comments, I’m pretty sure I can’t make a wood computer, but I’ve been trying to encourage some plants to grow into sorts of panels?” She held up a few examples. “They’re not much good yet, but that’s the idea. About the aquaponics idea, I don’t really have the room. And I-”
A sudden burst of barking marked a puppy chasing a cat across the frame of the camera. The puppy caught up to the cat and pounced on it, bringing them both to the ground in a heap.
“Cel! Bun! Settle down!” Ceira called towards them as they ran back the other way, this time the cat giving chase. “Ugh. Should I leave them in? Does Midnight watch this?”
Constant editorial decisions were made, but the ones she didn’t think about were the most important. Such as the small corner of the frame where a twisted length of wood could be seen. That was the sort of thing that wouldn’t matter unless someone or something was watching for it, but there were all sorts of eyes throughout New Bay.