Gray goop with a swirl of rainbows in it sat in a cup in front of me. It seemed inadvisable to drink it, but the person here with the most experience with the situation was the one telling me to do it. So I drank it.
It tasted like mud. Which would have been fine, if it hadn’t been followed up with an acrid taste- both sour and bitter together. Not in pleasing amounts or with anything else to show for them, either. The mud really helped to dull the taste.
“Bleh,” I stuck out my tongue after I finished. “Why would anyone drink this?”
The old shaman shook his head, “Not for its taste, obviously. It is only for the effects.”
I was glad I had finished so quickly, because I felt a wave of nausea. I could concentrate on suppressing that, instead of experiencing it twice at once. Midnight was having a more difficult time with his. The thick concoction was in a bowl, lapping it up as quickly as he could. But his anatomy simply wasn’t made to drink such a thing quickly, so he got to experience prolonged contact with the flavor. But it was kind of important that he also ingest this thing.
I didn’t begrudge him a short break through. “Are you sure this is okay for me to consume?” Midnight asked.
Comhghall nodded. “The giant wildcats eat rainbow lotus just as much as any of the others. In fact, I don’t know of anything that can’t consume it… regardless of its enjoyability.”
My stomach felt odd. It was full of mana, but it also felt like it was trying to kill me.
The scarred orc caught my eye. “While he finishes that, we’ve got business.”
That business was punching each other. I don’t know if it really helped with my stomach, except it made me stop thinking about it. I didn’t really think much about how I moved my body, I just did my best to keep up with Comhghall. Not that I thought that I ever had a chance of beating him, but the harder I worked the more I would learn, probably.
“I think that’s enough,” Comhghall said as he held my arm twisted behind my back. “We need you at your best working with your friend there. Might be best to start with a spar.”
Midnight looked up at me, and I looked down at him. I could feel the doubt in his mind. “What? You get to be Enlarged, obviously,” I said. “And though it’s not your only way to get experience, it’s still increased right now.”
He swished his tail. “Very well. I accept a sparring match. Even if it is weighted in your favor.”
I shrugged, “Well, I don’t have anything that can just make you a humanoid.”
The larger sized Midnight did have the advantage of a low center of gravity. However, he also couldn’t make use of the normal advantage a feline would have- claws. Out of respect for not seriously hurting each other and Francois’ clothes, as well as Midnight’s claws that might get tangled in said clothes, we had previously decided that would be best. In turn, I was not allowed to throw strikes.
Because of the rules, it ultimately evolved into a sort of wrestling match where winning was difficult to parse. Eventually, both of us were laying on the ground breathing heavily. We couldn’t relax for long, however, as the old guy dragged us off for training.
Soon enough we were by the river- not that it was ever far, running through the middle of the village. “Now then, despite what I said earlier… it is likely best for you to start with something other than attempting to create a portal. Though your previous attempts at teamwork there will be beneficial, it is better to begin with lower mana cost spells, both to avoid side effects and give you more attempts before running out of mana. Storage is your cheapest spell, but I think I would suggest one of your level 2 spells. Something with visible effects.”
“That leaves Firebolt, Shocking Grasp, and Grease,” I said, looking to Midnight.
“We’re already best at Shocking Grasp,” Midnight said. “So perhaps that?”
Firebolt would work too. There was a reason we were by the water, I imagined. But Shocking Grasp didn’t have any risk of flying about. “I agree. So then… what do we do?” I looked to Comhghall, the one who seemed to know what he was talking about.
“Simple. Gather half of the mana for your spell. Each of you. Then, cast it together.”
He said that, but I knew the default result would be each of us casting a powered down Shocking Grasp. Still, we had to try to have any chance of success.
The mana required was a paltry amount. It only took a moment to gather, and I felt it was the same for Midnight. And then… I released my grip on the mana, and felt he did so as well.
Small bits of lightning coiled around our individual limbs.
“Clearly that wasn’t it,” I said. “Should we try reaching out or something? Mentally, I mean. Physically, that’s a good way to zap each other.”
Midnight nodded, “I know we can do it if it’s possible.”
We both let the magic fade away into the ground. Then we tried again. We gathered about a point of mana each. I sort of tried to pull Midnight’s mana into me, and then… a burst of lightning appeared between us. Force Armor shattered, and I was glad we had the habit of keeping that up at all times.
“I’m fairly certain that wasn’t supposed to happen,” I said. “Sorry. I sort of tugged on your mana. Was that incorrect?”
“You’re asking me?” Midnight asked. “How should I know? But at least we know for sure that it does something.”
“Good point,” I agreed. “Normally, nothing could have gone wrong.”
I refreshed Force Armor on us. Comhghall was just watching, but he didn’t seem to have any guidance to offer at the moment. So it was time to try again.
Maybe our problem was timing. I began to count down for our subsequent attempts.
Most results were either the first option, where nothing happened but us individually casting part of a spell… or the second, where it appeared between us and exploded. Though we did get better at containing the explosion, I think.
“… Maybe we should swap to Grease?” I asked after the third time we had to replace Force Armor.
“Well, the river is right there in case we get ourselves.”
“It should fade away on its own. Magic, and all that.”
We gathered mana. And then… a patch of black appeared on the ground between us.
“Hmmn,” I frowned. “That… worked, I think.”
“Why, though?” Midnight asked.
A good question, to which I had no direct answer. But I did have theories. “We might be changing the point of origin.”
“Okay?” Midnight tilted his head.
I gestured between me and him. “The spell originates between the two of us. So when it’s supposed to latch onto someone, it doesn’t have a target and goes wild. But Grease is supposed to originate away from the casters already, and I automatically aimed it between us. I imagine you did as well, since that is where we’re focusing.”
“I think I get it,” Midnight said. “So how do we know?”
“We aim things. Starting with Grease. First, we pick different locations. Let’s say…” I pointed next to us, “I aim here, you aim there.” Comhghall might know some of this stuff, but he wasn’t revealing anything. Then again, we didn’t need help right now. “We’ll learn something no matter what.”
Even without verbal timing, it was actually pretty easy to cast our spell. We both knew how much mana it took. Half each, though that might become a problem soon- Midnight’s pool was about half mine. Just a little more, really.
The results were immediately apparent. The Grease appeared unambiguously where I intended. “There’s our answer,” I said. “But there’s something more. Come next to the water with me.” I moved closer to the river, so I could properly see in. “Stand over there somewhere, please.”
“Firebolt?” Midnight asked.
“That’s right,” I agreed. “Though that gives me another idea. Like if we attempt different spells. But first, Firebolt. Aim for the water, obviously.” It didn’t matter if I overrode the control sometimes. It was better to be certain. We probably wouldn’t light a house on fire, but it was better to avoid the very possibility.
I reached out my hand, aiming my Firebolt… though I had the feeling it was a pointless endeavor. The two of us gathered mana, and a Firebolt appeared… between us. At least it kept the correct angle to hit the water.
I sighed, “I was afraid of that. Looks like it splits the origin point between us. Not just for self-targeted spells, I mean.” Grease was another type, targeting an area. It didn’t really matter if its origin point was between us unless we blocked it. We should check if that happened.
After a little bit more testing, Midnight was tapped out on mana. We were both using and recovering the same amount, so his lower pool was the limit. “We should try something else, after our break,” I said. Normally, it would have taken four hours to recover his mana to full- but that was only at the minimum rate. Here, it was somewhere around five or more times as much, though that still gave us a decent time to wait. Probably best to have lunch.
After we returned, we started with another simple attempt. A Firebolt into the river, just like we’d done before. It would only cause a simple sizzle and have little other effect. But instead… we failed. Two pathetic Firebolts came from us, aimed at the river.
“Good thing you kept your focus proper,” I said to Midnight.
He nodded proudly, “Of course, I take this very seriously.”
We tried several more times before finally managing to share our mana once, creating the full bolt between us.
I grimaced, “Why is this suddenly so difficult?” As I asked the question, I knew the answer. I considered my full stomach. “Oh right. We probably finished processing that sludge.” Hopefully we didn’t waste it- though I doubt Comhghall would have let that happen. I looked towards him, since he was still watching our training.
“That’s how it is,” he confirmed. “It amplifies magic and all sorts of experience gain, but it doesn’t last. Don’t worry, you’ll have more for tomorrow though. Same for your friends.”
“Is there some reason we can’t have more now?”
“Better to wait,” he said. “You don’t want to deal with the side effects.”
Good enough. Though I was curious about that. “What about the wild animals that eat Rainbow Lotus?”
“They deal with it because they have to. It reshapes their bodies quite rapidly, but painfully. It’s not the same that happens to humanoids,” he looked at Midnight. “Or, people in general I suppose. Not feeling any pain, are you?”
He wasn’t. And Midnight confirmed that verbally. “Nothing I shouldn’t be. A little bit of bruising from earlier, maybe.”
“Good. I was certain the effects would be positive in any case. It’s hard to go wrong with Rainbow Lotus. It’s just possible to be more or less efficient.”
“How many days of training do we have?”
“I have rationed enough for a week, for you and your allies. It will be much more efficient and tolerable to spread it out. I imagine you have noticed some fatigue.”
“Well, we were practicing, but I do feel rather sluggish,” I admitted. I thought about the others. They had their own ideas for how to train. Though I did wonder in particular about Senan. Unlike the rest of us, he didn’t have a class. So would it be effective for him? I hoped so. The easiest thing to do would be to ask. Though we could continue to train without the boosted effects for the rest of the afternoon, now that we had some idea of what we were doing.