Mage Among Superheroes 28

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The one thing that confused me about Type F worlds was that the information seemed to only flow one way. Was there something special about Earth? Perhaps it was simply that the particular dimension I found myself in was full of holes to different worlds. They were patching them as quickly as they could, but people were also making more intentionally and unintentionally. 

Where were the stories of giant cities that nearly blocked out the sun with their towers, the whole world covered in stone? Actually… there were certainly some of those. But it wasn’t as widespread of a thing. Otherwise I would have heard people talking about ‘cell phones’ and ‘wikis’ and ‘cars’. Then again, perhaps the individuals who had thoughts of such things simply didn’t write them down, or they were more obscure. It was only the information age that brought particular specific ideas into the public eye. 

“What do you think, Midnight?”

“Perhaps it has something to do with the great number of people and some sort of psionic subconscious,” Midnight said. “I like that theory the most, of the ones presented. Stories that have more ‘truth’ subconsciously become more popular. That would be why most type F worlds have humans as a dominant factor. There’s a connection there.”

“You like that one, hmm?” I frowned. “A psionic subconscious… is that real?” It probably shouldn’t have seemed strange given the various crazy powers and stuff in this world, but not everything could be true.

“It should be real enough,” Midnight nodded seriously. “At least, the bonds Celmothians create between each other are psionic.”

“… not magic?”

“Is there a difference?” Midnight asked. “Both are some sort of supernatural link.” He was quiet for a few moments. “Turlough, why do I feel large amounts of regret flowing from you?”

I clamped down on my thoughts. Magical links could be kind of inconvenient sometimes. “I’d rather not talk about it,” I said.

“I see.” Midnight flicked his tail. “If you do want to, I will listen.”

“No, it’s just… stupid.” Psionics. Ugh. “I wasn’t really ready for the rules to shift so drastically. It’s taking some time to get used to all these powers existing.”

“You were expecting some things to change?”

“Sure,” I said. “When I stepped through that portal I knew I could wind up one some elemental plane or one of the hells or something. It was possible that everything would be fire or something. I could have ended up somewhere where gravity was subjective, or backwards.”

“I’m not sure I know what backwards gravity would be,” Midnight tilted his head.

“When it goes up.”

“But does it not, by definition, go down?”

“That’s why it’s backwards,” I said. “Also, specifically when it goes away from the surface of the plane. That’s… rare, though. Not a lot of life if you can’t be next to other stuff.”

Midnight rarely sat or stood still while we talked, though it wasn’t like there was an abundance of places for him to sit. He liked being on pillows, but seemed rather fickle on which ones. “Turlough, tell me about magic. It is very fascinating but also very tiring.”

“That’s because your mana pool is small. Like… newborn level.”

“I am an adult though,” Midnight pointed out.

“Sure,” I said, “But if you’ve never used it before…” I shrugged. “I don’t actually know, though. Because just doing stuff should have gotten you to a higher level.”

“Yet I am at a newborn level. Perhaps I did not have a level before we created the bond.”

“I’m pretty sure people here have levels… or something like it.” I frowned. I hadn’t tested some of the things that might help me determine that. Limited points and all that. “But magic seems to be rare here, even with knowledge of Type F worlds. Even among people with powers.”

“It would seem so,” Midnight nodded his head, an exaggerated motion to replicate how a human might move. “Tell me how magic works. Since I can use it, or you use it through me, I would like to know more.”

“Sure thing,” I said. I began to explain every spell I had, starting with Storage and Firebolt then ending with Familiar Bond and Enlarge. 

“Is that everything magic can do?” Midnight asked.

“No, that’s just what I know how to do now. I can make things more efficient or learn new things, but I don’t have the points.”

“Points?” Midnight asked.

“Yeah. You get points for leveling up. Each level gives that many new points.” I paused for a second. “The exact details of this are common knowledge on my world, but probably should be kept secret here, alright?” I wasn’t sure how much it would matter, but knowing about people could provide advantages. I didn’t mind people I trusted knowing, but things would be harder if the information got into the wrong hands. Until the point I was strong enough to just overpower whatever was thrown at me… which might be never. Since there could always be powers that grew to be as strong as I would be as a high level mage. 

“You do not need to tell me, if it is an important secret,” Midnight said.

“Sure I do. If we’re gonna make Familiar Bond work, I need you to know things. Though I can only tell you for sure about my side, since you seem to be a special case.” At the very least, he could more consciously choose things. Even though normal familiars were elevated above the intelligence of animals, they weren’t on the same level as actual people. “So, points. Spells all have a level. That determines their cost in terms of points and mana, as well as their power. A level 1 spell is mostly cantrips like Storage. Simple things.”

“Storing things in an extradimensional space is simple?” Midnight asked.

“Very small amounts of things, yes. Anyway, learning a spell costs one point, plus two more points for each level after 1. Upgrades simply cost one more point than the spell level.”

Midnight didn’t interrupt, but I could tell he was eager to hear more.

“Upgrades decrease the cost by… about five percent. And they usually increase the power by five percent as well.”

“That seems inefficient,” Midnight said. “You could learn an entire new spell for the cost of one or two upgrades.”

“Sure,” I said. “But what if you need the spell you have? For example, Force Armor. There are stronger defensive spells, but they cost significantly more mana, usually don’t last as long, and one of them needs a handful of diamond dust. Do you know how expensive that stuff is?”

“No,” Midnight said. “How expensive?”

“It’s like, two hundred and fifty gold coins for a few pinches,” I shook my head. “Which is a lot. It could take years to save up for on an apprentice’s stipend.”

“I see,” he flicked his tail. “How much is that in dollars?”

“Uh…” I shrugged. “I don’t know, except that gold is still expensive here.”

“And diamonds?”

“Those too, probably.” I wasn’t sure which one of us had the feeling of curiosity, but I looked down at my phone. A quick search told me what I needed to know. Diamonds were still expensive. It was kind of hard to tell which things being sold were diamond, since a lot of them just had a jumble of words which didn’t make me confident. “Ugh, to get enough I’d need like… ten or twenty thousand dollars worth of diamonds.”

“Is your life not worth that much?”

“Sure, but only if I have the money, or the points, or the knowledge of when I need to do that.” I sighed, “Or the mana. I still need to get more levels.”

“Do levels give mana?” Midnight asked.

“One point per level, with five as the base at level 0. That’s why you could use Storage five times.”

“Right,” Midnight nodded. 

“Now what were we talking about before that? Oh right. At some point, the efficiency of using spells better makes up for having new spells. There are all sorts of debates about that, but at my current level I don’t have the points or the mana for any big spells, and if I used one poorly I’d completely wipe myself out for no gain. And probably a lot of collateral damage I’d have to pay for.”

“And how do you get levels?” Midnight asked.

“Oh, right. Well, most people can kind of do anything. Things related to your class are better. Mages study books on magic, for example. How best to use things and whatnot. Reading for leisure even helps too.”

“Is that why you spend so much time reading?”

“No,” I shook my head. “I just want to learn more about the world. I can’t actually get experience that way. I was born with Cur- Aspect of the Barbarian. It just means I can only get experience through combat.”

“I see. That is why you were eager to join something like the Power Brigade, despite the dangers?”

I nodded. “That’s right.”

“But you wouldn’t need levels if you didn’t fight.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you telling me you would be content storing a single can of tuna when you could do so much more?”

“Like what?” Midnight asked.

“Conjure tuna from midair, for example.” I smiled.

“It is imperative that you increase your level to obtain more powerful magic,” Midnight said seriously. “How can I help that?”

“I’m not sure, honestly,” I shook my head. “I didn’t study familiars in depth, but I believe the master could get some experience from their actions. Except with my Aspect… well. I’m not going to ask you to fight just to make me advance a little more quickly.”

“I would not mind, if it helped,” Midnight said. “At least in the safety of the Power Brigade, sparring there.”

“I’ll have to think about that,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to get too used to your assistance and then go on a mission and not have you.”

“A fair point,” Midnight said. “So, what about my own level? Am I limited by your Aspect of the Barbarian?”

“I… don’t know,” I shook my head. “I don’t even know if you can get levels. But… probably. How much experience do you have?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, just look. Oh, right. You didn’t grow up with this. Ok, so imagine yourself, and think about your level and experience. You should get an image there. For example, I have 524 experience. I’m so close to level 14 it’s crazy!” I wanted to punch something, but the only available target was Midnight. Regardless of being unsure if it would provide experience, that wasn’t an appropriate thing to do to any sort of friend, and especially not a familiar. Unless everyone agreed to a spar, of course. “Anyway, just do that but focus on you, like, you know…”

 

Midnight Deathstalker
Level: 1

Experience: 6

Familiar Bond provides access to:

Storage +1 

Firebolt +1 

Shocking Grasp +3 

Grease +2 

Force Armor +6 

Mage’s Reach +1 

Translation

Haste

Disguise

Enlarge

 

“I believe I see it,” Midnight said. “It says I am level 1, with 6 experience.”

“I know,” I said, as I was looking at the very same thing in front of myself, as if it were my own. 

“Why are all these +’s crossed out?” Midnight asked.

“That would probably be… Familiar Bond not being improved enough?” I was supposed to know these things, but nothing was working quite right now. I noticed that Midnight didn’t have points, either. “Can you try something? Focus on me and think about the same sorts of things.”

“… I believe I see it. You do not have a surname?”

“That’s what happens when you don’t have parents,” I shrugged. “Can you see everything?”

“How would I know? It begins with your name, level, and experience, then covers all of those same spells. The final thing is Remaining Points.”

“That’s everything,” I said. Well, I wasn’t sure if this was normal. But it was probably fine. Though I could think of one possible flaw. “Let’s test something. Could you try to learn the Light spell?” With only a single point, I could only learn something on the cantrip level. 

Midnight’s face scrunched up in concentration for a few moments. “Did it work? Was I supposed to learn it, or you? Because I tried both.”

“… nope.” That was good. I imagined he would generally respect my desire to spend my own points, but accidents could happen. “That’s what I expected though.”

“I see,” Midnight said. “So I will need to help increase your level so you can learn the Conjure Tuna spell.” He paused for a moment. “You said you were close to a level?”

“One point away,” I nodded.

“How can you tell? I see it is 524, but it does not indicate that you would increase in level at 525.”

“You just learn it,” I said. “It’s another formula. It requires five more experience per level. So to go from level 0 to 1 is 5, and 1 to 2 is another 10 for a total of 15. 525 for level 14.” Not everyone memorized the experience tables or learned the formula to calculate it, but I had a lot of time to study as a Mage. And I really cared about levels, since I had trouble getting them.

Midnight took a few steps and raised one paw, then extended his claws. “A single point, you say? Then we must fight, so you can achieve a new level!”

“I mean, I’m going to spar at the Power Brigade again tomorrow. But I just ended up here today.”

“But you could level right now,” Midnight said. I could feel his intentions. He was ready to fight… though also not planning to just spring something on me.

“If we fight here we’ll burn down the apartment. Also, I don’t know if us sparring would help?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Midnight commented. “But perhaps we should find out tomorrow, in a controlled environment.”

—–

So, that was how I found myself standing in front of a not-cat, who also happened to be my own familiar, ready to fight. We agreed on some simple rules, first. If we went all out I would absolutely win. It would be pretty simple for me to just reapply Force Armor to myself until Midnight ran out of mana, after all. He had enough for a combined total of three Firebolts or Shocking Grasps, after all. 

Instead, I first cast Force Armor on the both of us. I was pretty sure that he would get the full effect on himself, since I was the one casting it. If not, it was as fair as I could make things. After that, we would each have six points of mana to spend. That meant I could do the same combination of those spells. Each of us could also choose to use Haste, but that would be the only thing. Enlarge or Mage’s Reach would be half of our mana, and I didn’t feel either of those would help us.

Meztli stood nearby, ready to oversee our little spar. “I’ll assume you both know when to stop. If not… this is all on you. Get ready… begin!”

The spar was never going to be fair to begin with. Given the constraints we had it was going to be short no matter what, but I had the advantage of size and reach and experience using my spells. Midnight opened the battle with a Firebolt that I dodged. As he charged towards me I could see him start to spark, the sign that he had Shocking Grasp ready for when he touched me. He was fast, I had to give him that. Four legs was good for him. Unfortunately, that hardly mattered.

I may have gone a little bit overboard because of the fighting determination resonating between us. As he was approaching, I cast Grease- quickly followed by Shocking Grasp. Midnight managed to keep his feet as he slipped towards me, but the spell still limited his mobility.

I followed that up with a sweeping kick down low that sent him flying. I felt the electricity coming from both of us, playing against the Force Armor we both had. It didn’t break but… Cat Buddy spun through the air. “Crap, are you alright?”

He landed on his feet, a little bit unsteady. His teeth approximating a human grin looked a bit fearsome, but I could feel the friendly emotion behind it. “You should know your own magic enough to understand I would not be harmed by that. Though I must admit the kick was a miscalculation.”

Midnight charged again. I would have loved to repeat the same tactic, but I could only use one more spell. I could have done both at half power, but I hadn’t told Midnight about weakening the effect to conserve mana so that seemed unfair with what we had discussed.

I prepared Shocking Grasp and a kick once more. I did lower the power of the Shocking Grasp a bit. Force Armor should be pretty weak even though we didn’t fully affect each other with our first attacks, and I didn’t want to cause real damage. He might not have actually been a cat, but he was certainly cat sized. Still, I felt his determination to fight so I wasn’t going to just not take him out.

Without the ability to cast Grease again, Midnight was swift on his feet and ducked under and around my kick, darting between my legs. As I began to spin around to catch him behind me, I stepped on something and lost my balance. It was embarrassing to fall onto my rear, and I wondered what I could have slipped on. Had I lost track of where my Grease spell was?

Then I saw the can of tuna. “Pfft.” I couldn’t help but lay on my back laughing. My armor wasn’t broken, and at this point Midnight definitely couldn’t win… but I couldn’t say I had won either. “That’s a good one. We’ll call this a tie, which is pretty impressive to be honest.”

Midnight stood proudly. “Of course. I haven’t watched you sparring for nothing.”

Meztli just shook her head. “Well, I guess the match is over then. Yay?”

I shrugged. “I suppose so.” Then I looked at something and grinned. Level 14. So I could get experience sparring with Midnight! That would have been a great revelation if the Power Brigade didn’t always have someone willing to spar, but still… it was an interesting option that hadn’t existed before.

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