One of the classes William was looking forward to, eventually, was Practical Combat Magic. Having experience was obviously very important, and thus there were duels between students in those classes, as well as at other times. For this sake, there was a special arena, designed with magical wards to protect those outside the arena, as well as to prevent any kind of debilitating or deadly attacks inside.
Currently William, Lila, and the rest of the new students were watching one such duel. Marius Cyril, who had given William the tour, was up against someone William didn’t recognize, which was basically everyone. Both of them got into position, and readied their staves. Then, the match began.
The opponent started chanting slightly before Marius, and they released a bolt of lightning. However, Marius countered by creating a wall of earth in front of him. Next, a fireball was shot out by his opponent, but he blocked it with a sphere of water. The battle continued on in that fashion, with Marius countering every spell, but he seemed unable to find a good time to attack. Finally he failed to counter a ball of ice, which struck him in the chest, and he was defeated. It seemed he’d been unable to cast his spell to defend, likely from lack of mana. His opponent had been either more conservative in their power usage, or better at manipulating it.
William turned to look at Lila. “What did you think?” Lila slightly frowned. “Disappointed, huh?”
“Yeah, they’re both so slow at casting…”
“Well, that’s because they don’t have the right technique.”
“I guess, but I can make bigger fireballs.”
“Then the mana in the area would be depleted faster.”
“That only matters if it takes more than one… and I could just move somewhere else.”
William grinned at the last comment. “In fact, neither of them took a single step from where they started. What a waste.”
After he got back to his room, William got some paper and started writing furiously. He wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to do this, be he couldn’t just leave things as they were. It was obvious that Marius was able to identify what spell his opponent was using, because he countered them all quite well. In that case, why did he still lose? More importantly, did he have to? The answer was no.
William considered writing a similar letter to the other competitor, but didn’t actually know his name. Upon thinking about it, he didn’t like the way the other guy looked after he won. Maybe he was biased, but based on the cut of his robes and expensive looking staff he’d had, William thought he was a noble, and that made him want to help him less. Marius might have been a noble as well, at least he didn’t appear poor, but he also didn’t walk around with a sneer, as far as William had seen.
After he finished writing, William went and found Marius. “A teacher told me to give you this letter.” William felt that advice would be better received if it were from someone in authority.
“Oh, thank you… William, isn’t it?” William nodded, and left. Marius opened the letter to read it.
I had to opportunity to observe your duel earlier this day. I believe you did an admirable job recognizing incantations and coming up with counters, and this is indeed an important skill to wizards. However, I made some observations that I believe will help you improve your application of your skills. Sometimes, an outside observer can provide the needed perspectives for growth. I urge you to read and carefully consider my words.
While a wall of earth is a wonderful elemental counter to a lightning bolt, and will quite easily negate such, it must be created with precise timing. You do have such a skill, indeed, and the ability to exercise it, but your magical talents could be used better. For example, if you had used the same timing to take a single step to either side, the lightning bolt would have missed entirely, and you would have been free to counter attack with a spell of your own, in the same instant.
Likewise, water is quite adequate for blocking fire, but it is not always necessary to completely absorb the energy. If you had fired a rather smaller ball of water, or indeed even a ball of earth, when the fireball was in transit, its explosion could have been triggered earlier than intended, having its full power impact, but at a safe location. This would save on effort, though it requires timing as well as accuracy.
The letter continued on as such, then ended:
Finally, the lack of mana could have been avoided, not only with the more conservative use of spells, but with the very mobility that saves energy in the first place. I think you will find, upon examination of these words, that being a wizard is not just about making a bigger fireball than the opponent. Indeed, it is not even just understanding the elemental weaknesses of the spells. Instead, it is about understanding the spells as whole, including how they relate to your surroundings.”
The letter was unsigned. William, though he’d been practicing, was still rather poor at being polite, even when he used polite language, he was blunt. Although Marius did not know William had written the letter, he felt the bluntness of the words. If Marius had been arrogant, he may have torn the letter to shreds, and thought about revenge for the somewhat insulting letter, if he could find the owner. Instead, he kept the letter. Though it was painful to have all of his faults pointed out to him, he was the kind of person who would fix them, instead of loudly proclaiming nothing was wrong with what he did. It still looked like good advice, even if it was mostly just telling him he did everything wrong.