After Midnight and I finished our training, we went to check on the others. I had clearly felt the effects of the Rainbow Lotus, so most of the others likely would have as well. The one most in question was Senan, Ice Guy himself. He was the only one with powers from Earth.
When I found him, he was waving around an ability I hadn’t seen very frequently, a whip of ice that bent as he pleased. It twisted and turned as he sketched out patterns of ice on the ground and some nearby boulders as targets.
“You haven’t used that much, lately,” I commented as we approached.
He turned to regard the two of us, Midnight riding on my shoulder. “It’s a bit difficult to use, and not great range. Though we have been encountering more things willing to come up close.”
“How is your training going? Getting a lot of experience?”
He pondered for a moment. “I did feel more focused for a while. Could be the placebo effect though.”
“Placebos are pretty effective from what I hear,” I nodded my head. “So should we expect cool new moves?”
“Not from me,” Senan shook his head. “Even if it works, don’t forget I have more experience already. I’m unlikely to learn something new suddenly.”
“Depends on how fast this stuff works,” I shrugged. “I got… a couple years of casual experience? Though that’s also counting the fighting we did. Actually, that’s probably most of it.” Though I should have gotten some experience for sparring while affected by the concoction, I wasn’t sure how much it would be even when boosted. Comhghall should know, but the point wasn’t for me to increase that number, but rather to improve the other things Midnight and I had been working on.
Senan shrugged, “It’s an odd topic, because it’s always possible for something to just click and a person is suddenly capable of something. Though it’s not quite so literal as for you, I suppose.”
Unfortunately he didn’t have a status window, so we had to go with how he felt. Focused was good, at least.
The next person I found was Ailen, diligently training. “How is it going?” I asked the archer.
The elf spoke without looking towards me, instead focusing on shooting consistently. There was a target a significant distance away with a bunch of arrows sticking out of it. “It is encouraging to receive a short time of accelerated growth.”
“Yeah?” I asked. “Senan didn’t seem to think that to be very useful, in his opinion. Not that he actually was negative about it.”
“Time saved is still time saved,” they said, “Besides, I am still relatively young so this is quite effective.”
“I’m glad you came along then. Plus, we needed your help fending off the beasts.”
The next of our group I found was Ceira, who was lying on her back in the middle of a field of tall grass. Midnight hopped down and ran over to her. “How are you doing?”
“Uuugh,” Ceira said. “I think I got a whole level.”
“That’s only… approximately 50 experience?”
“That’s a lot when I had less than 300 total,” she said as she pulled herself up to sitting. “I think I burned through it all already.”
“Same with Midnight and I,” I said. “It doesn’t last that long, or rather I think it’s only a small amount that it’s easy to use up. Which is good because it tasted…”
“Terrible,” Ceira and Midnight said together.
We all nodded in consensus at the memory.
“So,” I asked, “What are you working on? Any new spells or anything?”
“Well…” she sort of shrugged. “I dunno about new spells. I have some points, but I don’t think there’s much that I can actually do to help us here. I can’t portal us back or anything…”
“Neither can I, yet,” I reminded her. “Honestly, you’re already around where I was a year ago…”
“I don’t feel like it,” she said. “I’m not that useful in combat.”
“Your main problem is you’ve been fighting things you shouldn’t have to be going up against,” I pointed out. “If you were up against normal people, you could handle them pretty easily.” I held up a finger, “And you killed one of Doctor Doomsday’s robots. That’s not insignificant.”
I sat down next to her. “Wanna hear about how many times I’ve almost died?”
Izzy was done with training by the time I got to her. Not really knowing what to say, I asked, “Did you know anything about orcish culture?”
“Nah,” she shook her head. “I just wanted to punch someone. And I found a good excuse. The bullies, I mean. With you it was proper fun.”
“So how is your training going?” I asked.
“Fine,” she shrugged. “I really didn’t intend to be fighting this much. I came along to help, and I guess… I shouldn’t have expected everything to go well. It doesn’t, usually.”
I nodded, “Yeah, if you have to go rescue someone… things have already gone wrong. And they don’t usually get better quickly. Thanks for being there, though.”
“Hey, your friends are my friends too. Or at least, enough of them. I’m not just gonna sit around and do nothing.”
“But you don’t want to fight,” I said.
“Maybe if I got extra experience for it. But being able to live comfortably is enough for me. And like, punching people is an acceptable sport on Earth if I ever feel it’s necessary.”
I shrugged, “It’s also quite accepted here specifically.”
“… How are you feeling about that?” she asked.
“Now you sound like my therapist.”
I sighed, “I don’t know. Most of the time I want to punch Comhghall in the face and all of the time I know he wouldn’t care. They have a good reason to be like this and it annoys me.”
We just remained in silence for a while after that, without much else to say. It was nice to have friends.
The next morning, after wishing the concoction tasted more like mud and less like Rainbow Lotus, Midnight and I got to training again.
“Alright, here’s the plan,” I said. “I want to try out gathering different amounts of mana. After all, your maximum and fatigue threshold are both lower, so if we’re pushing our limits for something… it’s better if we can distribute things between us proportionately.”
“Oh, that sounds useful,” Midnight said. “Though perhaps only if we’re doing things we shouldn’t be able to?”
“Doing things we shouldn’t be able to sounds like a great use of teamwork,” I grinned.
Since we had some weird magic goop inside of us, it was probably best to get cracking. According to Comhghall it was used up when gaining experience, but that didn’t mean the effects wouldn’t just fade on their own given time.
We began with simple and safe spells. Grease was a good one because it didn’t cause any damage or permanent effects and was quite visible. And unlike Shocking Grasp which could normally be prevented from causing harm, it didn’t explode when the mana for it was off on its own.
The first cast didn’t work out for us. I wasn’t sure if we spent too much mana and the spell failed or something else, but either way the intended two-thirds to one-third ratio was screwed up. Or perhaps we failed for other reasons. After a few more attempts, we finally got it.
Our second success made me quite glad we were going with a safe spell, as instead of affecting the area in front of us where I was aiming, it half splattered over my right arm.
“Well that’s… concerning,” I frowned. “I know grease hits things in its path but…”
“You shouldn’t be in the path,” Midnight said.
“Right? I think… we’re going to have to try something. Time for Energy Ward.”
Specifically, I protected us against fire. Energy Ward could wholly block at least three uses of Firebolt, so even if something went catastrophically wrong and both Midnight and I were hit with the full force of two spells, we should be fine.
“Okay Midnight, we’re doing Firebolt again. Aiming for the river,” I said. We edged closer to it. “Ready… go.”
Both of us began to gather mana. Instead of me pushing to gather mana faster, Midnight instead took a more leisurely pace to keep his proportion. That was sensible, as that was the way things would be least likely to go wrong. Rushing to gather mana could result in easy mishaps.
Fire scorched my right arm, or rather sprayed off of it as the spell appeared between us and struck the Energy Ward. It was clearly aimed in the correct direction… but it was also clearly skewed much towards my position. “Ah… I think I get it,” I nodded.
“Me too,” Midnight said. “It’s closer to you because more of the mana is yours.”
“Let’s try again just to be sure, but we’ll stand further apart,” I said.
And indeed, we got the answer we were looking for. For a spell like Firebolt that had a point of origin at the caster, that was how it worked. Or rather than originating at the caster, it might be at the center of mana, with some leeway for a caster’s body. Then again, that might just be directly adjacent to a continuous portion of mana and… none of that mattered right now. We did discuss the possibilities for a short time, but we also continued just practicing our synergy.
It worked about the same way as the day before, which is to say our practice was phenomenal for the duration of the Rainbow Lotus, and then much rockier thereafter. However, because we were splitting the mana costs more fairly- whether or not we successfully cast a spell- we were able to continue longer after the Rainbow Lotus ran out. Eventually, both of us had just the mana we had regenerated, which was more or less equal.
“Let’s use up some of the rest, but an even split,” I said to Midnight.
“Yeah, I want to know if it’s actually easier,” he agreed.
And as it turned out… it was. Even without the Rainbow Lotus being active, an even split of mana meant we were able to pretty consistently cast spells with the cost shared between us.
“Alright,” I said to Midnight. “So, we know how to do this, and how spell origins get screwed up… but there’s one other thing we can test.”
“Umm… is it Storage?”
“… I don’t want to mess with that right now,” I shook my head. “So, two more things at least. But no, what I meant was our ability to share spells. I want us to split Enlarge, with the intention of affecting us both. Will the mana explode between us, give us reduced effects, or work as if just one of us cast it properly?”
“Hopefully the last one,” Midnight said.
“That is what I want to aim for,” I agreed.
One and a half mana each, and we both ended up quite large. That was a relief.
“I’m not certain it would have worked this well without our practice,” I said to Midnight.
“Same,” he agreed. “Our synergy is definitely improving.”
“When we get back to the Brigade, we should have them record things to determine if we’re using my upgrades or yours, or some combination,” I added. “For now, I would suggest we always aim for our proportion of the maximum mana, since we won’t be trying to conserve mana for Gate anyway. Just the opposite, really.”
“Sure thing!” Midnight said. His voice sounded confident, but I could feel something underneath.
“What’s wrong buddy?” I asked.
“… I want to visit home.”
“We’re returning to Earth,” I said. “I promise you.” Since that was the same feeling of homesickness for me, it took me a moment. “Oh! You mean Celmoth. Well, once we get to Earth… if we can do that, of course we’ll get you home. And if we’re not good enough, we just need more practice! I already told you we’d bring you home when we could, didn’t I?”
“Yeah,” Midnight nodded, more calm. “Just to visit though.”
“Hey, if… if you want to move back, that’s okay.”
“Are you kidding? And leave Earth to be overrun by Bunvorixians? I wouldn’t do that to you, Turlough.”