As it turned out, nearly dying several times per day was extremely exhausting. But it was also an extremely productive method of getting experience. After six sessions of it, I had leveled up to 16 and was even a good portion of the way to the next level. That was at the cost of monopolizing the efforts of Reset, and even Hammerfist looked pretty exhausted at the end of everything. I kind of wished I could keep taking advantage of Reset’s power indefinitely, but he was there as some favor to Shockwave. Besides, the three of us- with Midnight who joined after the first match making it four- all needed a break.
Charlotte sent us all home with cookies, with Shockwave’s portion being understandably larger. Even Midnight got a little batch made for him with ingredients safe for him. I returned home to a life where I’d only level up every week or less instead of almost once per day. Which was still a few hundred times better than where I had been.
“I want to join the Power Brigade,” Midnight said decisively. “I’m not sure if I really want to go out on missions and fight, but I can help with training. Both for you and other people.” His tail waved back and forth happily. Not wagging like a dog, but a slow rhythm that was almost hypnotic. “I enjoy using magic, and fighting is… not so bad.”
“That’s great,” I said. “We can let them know today, if you want. On that topic, what do you think about moving? With both of us earning money we can afford a nicer place. Also one that’s closer.”
“I am not particularly attached to the few rooms we have here,” Midnight agreed. “I want a tuna fridge.”
“That seems… excessive. Wouldn’t it be better to have a small amount that’s more fresh?”
“Yes, that makes sense. Perhaps a fridge that is easier to operate, as well.”
“If we can find something, yeah. The strength of the magnets is intentionally so they stay closed though, not sure if we can find something better. But, then again, there are a lot of things I don’t know about here.” Back in Granbold, only the rich- who could afford permanent magic items- had something equivalent to a fridge for preserving their food. Master Uvithar’s tower didn’t have anything like it… though it wasn’t really useful for learning which was the whole point of the place.
I didn’t see Khithae at breakfast, but I wanted to talk to her about my eventual move. She was the only person I cared about around here, except Midnight who would be going with me. It’s not that everyone else was bad. It was just a bunch of people trying to get by in new circumstances, but I hadn’t really made a connection with anyone else.
Back at the Power Brigade, Midnight got started on some paperwork. Half of it was already done for him to be a recurring visitor, and of course there were some talks about what he would be doing… but he could look over it himself and ask me about it later. He could read, and with Translation that meant he could read everything. I… wasn’t sure what would happen if someone couldn’t read and used Translation. People usually didn’t try, and there weren’t a whole lot of mages that couldn’t read. It kind of made picking out spells difficult.
While Midnight was beginning that process, I went through the normal exercises. Having been ‘reset’ three times the previous day I was a bit sluggish, but I still felt a remarkable improvement from when I had first begun training. Mages weren’t exactly known for their excellent physical regimens. I had natural muscle and size, but that could still be improved upon and made better use of. I would never beat someone with a bruiser power without magic, but there were plenty of people who weren’t any better than a normal person in terms of their body.
Except for the durability that came with all forms of powers. It was similar to what came from a higher level in my world. Earth’s games might have called it ‘hit points’, though it wasn’t to the same extremes that the numbers of those games implied. Except for people with particular classes that made them more durable, anyway. Mostly people learned how to not be damaged so much by anything coming at them, except for barbarians who could just shrug it off. I probably should have been a barbarian… except then I still wouldn’t have had much fighting to do, and I would be stuck standing outside some rich guy’s house baring my tusks at anyone who got close.
After physical training, I was heading to the sparring rooms. I might not perform quite as well today as usual, but I had to at least put in the time. It was my job, and it was still some experience.
As I was walking past one of the rooms I saw Max standing inside one, the door wide open. He was shouting at the ceiling. “What do you mean?”
“The thing! It is broken! Needs parts!” A familiar voice came from above, and I stepped into the room to make sure. Indeed, it was Khithae- up on the ceiling of the tall room. “Turlough!” She waved to me, one hand and both feet apparently being enough to stick to the ceiling. “Tell Max the momentum absorber is broken and needs K3 wire replacements!”
“She says the momentum absorber is broken and needs K3 wire replacements.”
“What’s a K3 wire?” he frowned.
“What’s a-” I shook my head. “Just get down here so we don’t have to yell!”
She scampered off of the ceiling and down the wall- face first, which was not how I would have done it but she seemed unfazed by looking at the floor. “What was your question?” she asked me.
“He wanted to know what a K3 wire is. But uh, I’m going to let the two of you figure out that terminology.” I reached out to pat Khithae on the shoulder. “I’m not going to do this all the time because I’d run out of mana, but here’s some Translation magic. Make sure to listen carefully to the words the two of you are saying. It will help you learn.”
“I can speak English?” Khithae asked. “Without problems?”
“Same as me,” I said.
“Thank you. I will try not to impose… too often.” She turned to Max, her wide fingered hands resting at her waist on her toolbelt. “The momentum absorber needs K3 wires.”
“I don’t know what those are,” Max admitted.
“The yellow ones? About this big?”
“Ah, we have a very different name for those.”
“If you find me some I can put it back together, no problem?”
“Really? That’s great.”
I left them alone to deal with work. It seemed that while Translation did its best to translate technical terms- and usually succeeded- it still had problems with measurements. Khithae should have literally said some letter and ‘3’, but whatever gauge that was could have counted up or down and might use a different measurement system then on Earth. So it was a correct translation, but still meaningless. As for her actually doing the repairs… it seemed she was confident in that work. Were momentum absorbers common in her dimension? Or just on her planet? I honestly didn’t know much about it. Perhaps I should have asked more about that, and what she did before. I doubted she’d just been a janitor.
After sparring with the regular group, I had time in the afternoon to do some research. I was in the market for a new offensive spell, and I wanted one that would work. Shocking Grasp and Firebolt were good to some extent… but Maks was fully immune. It wasn’t that I wanted to beat him in particular, but I was under the impression that fire and lighting based powers were quite common in the grand scheme of things, and so were resistances to them. That… was the general case in my world as well. Fire and lighting we by far the most commonly used elements. They were quite impressive after all.
I waved to Saveliy the librarian as I walked to the internally networked computers. I still wasn’t quite sure if there was a person under the mass of hair, and it was awkward to ask. The computers… didn’t have him listed. Either he didn’t have a power or the Power Brigade simply deemed it didn’t need to be on record.
My thoughts went back to the fight with the rocker. Everyone had quite a bit of trouble defending against his sonic based attacks. Energy Ward worked, but that required making the specific choice to protect against it. Same with everything else, but if I were going to walk around with a single protection at a time it would probably be fire. It was simply the most common, and some spells even had protection from it as a side effect of other features. Lightning was a close second, with cold being not uncommon. Acid usually only came up with oozes and slimes and a few dragons. Sonic was the rarest… and thus the best.
From the information I could find in the database, it was likely that sonic would be similarly effective in this world. It was rarer in both the areas of offense and defense that specifically applied to it, and even bruisers who were generally resistant to everything could be shaken up by it if it were used properly. And simply having a higher level spell would be more effective, as that was how they worked. More mana at once and a higher power… and of course more consequences if I screwed up the attack.
The specific spell I had in mind was fifth level. Spending the same amount of mana as Haste on something that could miss… was an unpleasant thought. Even with another level under my belt, that was still basically a quarter of my maximum 21 points and almost an hour of regeneration time. But misusing any spell was a waste, and the power might be necessary. So Sonic Lance was added to my repertoire.
Of my 16 points for reaching the same level- having saved none from the level before- I had 7 left. Enough to upgrade any of my spells once, even Sonic Lance itself. However, I wasn’t willing to commit to it so strongly before I got to test it out in a practical sense. I’d seen Master Uvithar use it a few times as a demonstration, but simply seeing and reading about something wasn’t the same as doing it yourself.
As for other options, I considered upgrading Familiar Bond. That had to do something. I just didn’t remember what. Obviously if it only decreased the mana cost it was kind of pointless. I wasn’t planning to replace Midnight several times per day or something insane like that. If I thought real hard, I could come up with something I thought I remembered reading. Maybe allowing him to make use of my upgraded efficiency? If nothing else, his status window didn’t show any +’s. At some point I would have to do it just to know for sure.
I sighed. There were so many things vying for my points, and even though I was elated to be actually getting levels it seemed like it was never enough.
After work, Khithae found me as I was leaving dinner. Our schedules didn’t always line up exactly- and of course with her apparently just having just changed jobs, it wouldn’t necessarily stay the same. She grinned widely as she saw me. “Turlough! Good to see you. As you saw earlier, I got the job with the Power Brigade. And… earlier you helped me out with Max. A lot, really. He’s patient enough to let me try to explain things, but there were many words I didn’t know or couldn’t pronounce right. Having some time where we could properly talk helped a lot. I even got promoted! Sorta. At least, I’m being allowed to make some electrical repairs.”
“That’s great!” I said. “I never really asked what you did before.”
“I didn’t think it would matter much. I was basically doing odd jobs, working on whatever people needed. But I hadn’t seen the inside of technology here, and how it was so similar and recognizable.” She nodded, “I will still be needed for the purposes of cleaning difficult to reach places, but I should also be working with repairs. Max said it would pay more, too. If my work checks out and I actually get the promotion.”
“I’m sure your work is good,” I assured her. “The Power Brigade seems pretty interested in actually having people do work they’re good at, so I imagine you’ll get that official pay increase soon enough.”
“Either way,” Khithae shrugged, “It is better than my other job. Because it is ‘risky’. Even though working unsecured required some assurances, I do not find it to be of higher risk than most jobs.”
“Yeah?” I asked. “The ceilings get pretty high up though. A thirty or forty foot drop seems like a problem.”
She shrugged. “I am under the impression that humans injure themselves falling off ladders very frequently. As for myself, I am nearly as comfortable on the ceiling as I am on the floor. It is like… working on the roof of a building. People could fall off, but they are cautious so they do not.”
“As long as you’re happy I don’t really have anything to say about it,” I replied honestly. “Midnight would probably cry up there though. Even the counter is too high for him.”
“I heard that, you know,” Midnight said as he approached. He didn’t eat in the cafeteria because he had the appearance of an animal and they didn’t have proper containers and utensils for him anyway. But he could always find me. “I came to let you know I found another one of those robot rats.” He seemed interested in including Khithae in the conversation, since he spoke her language.
“Another one?” she asked. “It is turning into quite the infestation. I wonder if the Power Brigade has the same problem?”
“… I hope not,” I said. “Wandering around in an apartment they could be the creation of some sort of mad tech super who made self-propagating robotic life. But if they were sneaking into the Power Brigade HQ, they’d be spies. The security is pretty good about picking up forbidden electronics though.” It hadn’t been intended to catch extra people standing openly on someone’s shoulder, which was how Midnight had gotten past the first time. But any security system would have its flaws- if nothing else, in that someone had to run it.
“I should ask Max,” she said. “Normal rats are not a problem, but robotic ones might chew on the wires. And live through it, I mean.” She smiled. “Thanks again Turlough. I already much prefer this job.”
“No problem,” I said. “I was glad to recommend you. On a related topic, Midnight is going to be working at the Power Brigade as well. We’re planning to move closer. Of course, I just paid this month’s rent here. It’s not that much, but seems kind of a waste to just bail on it. But… that’s the eventual plan. We’ll have to stay in contact somehow. I imagine we won’t chat much at work, but if you have a phone…”
“I’m sure we can figure something out,” Khithae nodded. “I will miss you at meals, I think, but my progress with the language is good. I might ask for your magic occasionally though…”
“Gladly,” I said. “I can’t quite do it all the time, but occasionally shouldn’t be a problem.” Another thing to spend points on for the sake of efficiency. I did use it all day, so perhaps I should have done it sooner. But better Translation wouldn’t help me out in a fight, so I hadn’t really thought about it much.