Mage Among Superheroes 87

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The clock ticked in the background, resounding in its loudness for the silence in the room. I had been recalling my experiences to Doctor Patenaude, and he took the information in continuously. And maybe more, since I didn’t really understand how his sensory stalks worked. They weren’t eyes, but they did give him some sort of information about emotions or something. Then I reached near the end.

“Is that all?” the therapist asked after a long stretch of silence. “Or do you have more you would like to add?”

“… I smiled when Great Girl slammed the lake monster into the ground. Is that an emotion?” I tilted my head to look at Doctor Patenaude as I asked.

“It’s certainly a representation of it. What do you feel caused this? The enjoyment of battle, perhaps catharsis?”

“The second thing, I guess,” I said after a few moments. “I don’t really enjoy fighting.”

“Is that so?” he said. More notes, but when wasn’t that the case. “Let me ask, do you enjoy exercise?”

“Sometimes,” I shrugged awkwardly in my reclined position. “But sometimes Meztli pushes us so hard that I only really feel pain and fatigue, lying there in a puddle on the floor.” For Acid Man, that was sometimes literal- he couldn’t feel muscle pain the same way when he was transformed. “But sometimes it feels good, I guess. It’s nice to work towards growing stronger.”

“And what’s different about combat?”

“Well… you can get injuries, or die,” I said lamely.

“I was under the impression neither of those were particularly a concern for you.

“Well,” I shrugged again. “I guess not. Especially with people to help heal me up. Obviously I don’t want to die, but it’s not that scary to think about it.”

“I am glad that you have at least some concern for your life. Now then, while I cannot advise you as a client to get into dangerous situations, since you will inevitably end up in them it’s useful to gain what you can from them. The provide you with experience- something that due to your Aspect of the Barbarian you cannot obtain otherwise. In turn, that allows you to grow stronger, so ultimately it should be a gratifying experience, should it not?”

I couldn’t help but agree. “Of course. Leveling is great.”

“And for that reason you seek out sparring and combat scenarios. Which ultimately means you find it enjoyable to some extent, I would imagine.”

“Well, but…” My mouth wouldn’t form the words to say anything. “Maybe on some level, I guess. But saying I enjoy battle would be… wrong.”

“Because…?” Doctor Patenaude prompted.

“What do you want me to say? Being violent and angry is wrong.”

“I would posit that perhaps there is more to it than that. Being angry is perfectly natural. Violence without a purpose is quite unhealthy, but it is the unfortunate state of the world that sometimes it is necessary. This is why we have professions like yours.”

I didn’t have much to say to that, but I still wasn’t really feeling better like I was supposed to. And the fact that I wanted that meant I was maybe not happy with how things were even before therapy prodded me.

—–

I was looking at my points again, and found that- if it was possible at all- I might have too many. The events of Halloween had led to me leveling up again, before I even spent anything from the previous level. Getting nearly bitten in half seemed to be worth quite a bit of experience- though of course there was more to it than that. There was that treant before it, and the Sonic Lance inside the kraken-thing definitely caused some damage. Supporting Great Girl slamming it around likely also contributed some of that. 

But if I could get in fights with giant monsters more… I could level so quickly! If I survived. We were kind of lucky Great Girl was nearby and finished what she was doing, or someone might have died. Could have been me, could have been Sirine, could have been the kid- Pablo. And while I wasn’t exactly fond of the second, Sirine having worked with Handface and caused us a lot of trouble, she did save the kid and then help me. Though she might not have recognized me at the time, it meant she wasn’t all bad.

Before I made any choices, I wanted to figure out some things. Like how supers were supposed to fight underwater. The answers were as follows:

“I don’t,” Shockwave said plainly. “Are you crazy? Water resistance is so much stronger than air resistance.” A pause, “I can fight on top of water though.”

“Mostly the same,” Captain Senan admitted. “I just have to be cognizant of precisely controlling my power, but since I can unfreeze things if I entrap my arm or something it’s only momentarily dangerous.”

“Carefully,” Acid Man said. “My form is difficult to maneuver in water.”

“That’s really not my job,” Shockfire said. “If I had to, it would depend on whether I had any allies. If alone, I could at least be somewhat effective by electrocuting the area around me- I can reabsorb anything that flows back my way at the same time.”

Calculator was thrown onto the end. “I am glad you are thinking about such situations,” he said. “Personally, I would avoid such a domain if possible. Fighting against others under the same restrictions is unpleasant, but fighting against water specialists on their terms is basically conceding victory slowly… if you’re good enough to not lose immediately.”

So there was all that. Fortunately, my defenses worked quite well underwater. I was quite fortunate to have the first part of everything solved for me. Water Breathing kept me from just dying, but it didn’t make me otherwise functional. If I hadn’t learned it I might have survived anyway, since Midnight and the others would have been not far behind me, but that was only possible survival.

There was one final conversation.

“Grappling,” said Great Girl. “And by getting my opponent out of the water.” She also had a number of recommendations for me. “How about Freedom of Movement? That just kind of works. Oh, or Control Water. Just get rid of it, and there’s no issue.”

“… Sometimes I forget about the cross-world inspiration. If you mean Physical Freedom for the first, they are likely both very good, yet somewhat expensive at this point. The first lasts long enough to be useful regardless.”

“I have a question about that, actually,” Great Girl said. “Not the cost or duration, necessarily. But from the games in our world, it allows you to attack unrestricted. There’s some interpretation on that and differences from versions, but it could be a difference between you being able to stab things and being able to shoot them. Or maybe just letting all of your spells work underwater, if they’re ‘attacks’.”

“I don’t actually know that,” I admitted. “When I was studying in my world the emphasis was mainly on freeing yourself- or preventing- enemy spellcasting. Water was mentioned among many other things.”

“Also, Physical Freedom? Is there a Mental Freedom?”

“Of course,” I nodded. “You get it.”

“Huh,” she frowned. “Weird.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” I frowned. 

“Why is it two different spells?”

“Why would it be the same spell?” I asked. “One transmutes the area around you to allow your body to move uninhibited, while the other provides routes for your mind to resist mental influence. They’re very different.”

“It’s transmutation?” she asked. “Not abjuration?”

“It’s both,” I answered.

Her eyes began to sparkle for some reason. “Dual-school spells? Amazing!”

“Is it?” I shook my head. “It’s just a description of methodology. It doesn’t really do anything. But you sure know a lot about this for someone who isn’t a mage.”

“Well, uh… my friends talk about it a lot.”

“You say that a lot,” I said. “But I don’t think that’s how it works.” I pondered for a few moments. “I wonder if I should get Mental Freedom as well?” Now that I thought about it, I needed to proof myself against future troubles like Sirine. Counting on resisting without the aid of magic was stupid- and there was always some effect that way. Magic could entirely negate something minor, or reduce something that would have been overwhelming.

Both sounded good, but I also wanted to upgrade some things to increase their efficiency and power. Like Stoneskin. The Freedom spells were both towards the limit of what I should be casting and would strain my mana, but I shouldn’t need both. If I was able to use whichever I needed ahead of time it might work out. It seemed a bit early to get two new ninth level spells, but Physical Freedom could come up in a lot of cases. For example, I could fight on grease or slippery ice- or underwater, which was the whole thing here.

 

Turlough (No surname)
Level: 22

Experience: 1283

Storage +3

Firebolt +2

Shocking Grasp +3

Grease +2

Force Armor +6

Mage’s Reach +2

Translation +1

Haste +4

Disguise

Familiar Bond +3

Enlarge +2

Energy Ward +1

Sonic Lance +2

Scrying

Shield +1

Stoneskin +1

Physical Freedom

Remaining Points: 1

Mana Crystal Deposition

Water Breathing

 

Eventually I settled on purchasing Physical Freedom and upgrading a few things. Enlarge came up frequently, and I was reminded that I should use it on Acid Man more- in a way he was restricted by his size. Sonic Lance was a strong offensive spell but a bit too expensive, so slightly improving that would help as well. Next I upgraded Storage. If I found myself in a similar situation as before, I wanted to be able to pull out a spear or something. If I were going to face more monsters, I needed some options for offense that didn’t cost mana and a gun wasn’t always the right choice. At least, not the ones I had access to. 

Because I upgraded Storage, I also improved Familiar Bond. That would allow Midnight to take advantage of the improvement, as well as the third improvement to Shocking Grasp, Force Armor, and Haste. I had probably spent too many points on the latter already, but I couldn’t help it. It was good, and Shockwave’s enthusiasm was great. Midnight might need to use it on his own, so he might as well take advantage of those spent points.

Now I needed to learn to use a spear or something.

—–

It seemed we were going to start with the ‘or something’, specifically a baton. Actual class schedules were pretty freeform due to how mercenaries worked, but there was always a beginner’s group. I’d done some work with them, but I couldn’t really say I’d learned what I needed to.

Meztli explained why we would be starting with a baton. “It’s something we can teach you to use properly while still being less lethal than other weapons. These will be slightly more flexible and lower in weight to reduce injuries, but the form will be the same. Turlough here has kindly offered to provide defenses so people can be more serious, but please avoid the head regardless. Concussions and other damage to the brain are much harder to heal. And if you’re fighting a criminal you really need to stop, many of you have powers that would be more expedient. Though if you’re in an actual battle, don’t concern yourself with niceties like that.”

She instructed us quite clearly, and we were even allowed to attempt simple sparring with the weapons- everyone had some combat experience and knew control already. Normally I liked sparring but something about it felt weird.

After the lesson was over, Meztli approached me. “What’s wrong? You looked dissatisfied.”

“I’m not sure if this is for me,” I said.

“Really?” she asked. “You seemed to pick it up quickly. You’re doing quite well.”

“I suppose. It just feels weird.”

“You like sparring unarmed, though,” Meztli pointed out. “You just have to treat weapons as an extension of your body. You seemed to do just fine though, like I said. Maybe it will just take time to get used to it.”

“Maybe,” I said, looking down at what was effectively a wooden club in my hand. “That could be it.”

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