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Chapter 119 : Mana Reading (1)
“This is….harder than Oliver made it look!” Agni groaned as she fell backwards on her ass. The rest of the adventurers who’d been invited weren’t faring any better.
Even Katrin was tuckered and the training session was only twenty minutes in. The theory behind mana reading was simple. Thus Agni kept replaying Oliver’s explanation in her head, with hopes of gleaning some sort of insight.
“Mana reading is an ability that allows you to read the ‘flow’ of mana which doesn’t belong to you. ‘What’s the purpose of this?’ you might ask. It’s rather simple. If you can sense what magic is coming your way, without the need to see it, you gain valuable time to react to said magic.”
“Of course, there are a few downsides to Mana Reading. The biggest downside is that, while you use it your mana will be limited proportionate to the range of your mana reading.”
Oliver went on to explain the steps to activating this supposedly mystical ability.
“The first step is to create a tiny orb of non elemental mana. Ideally, the smaller you can make this orb the better. The second step is to multiply the process — create as many orbs as you possibly can and sustain them. The final step is what will take the most practice. ‘Sensing’ is something that you just get a feel for. I’ll let you all try, without coaching for one hour. After all, lessons learned through trial and error are carried with you for life.”
Everyone started out diligently with a full tank of optimism. Unfortunately repeated failures had begun to take a mental toll on everyone involved.
“I can’t get it either!” Gigi said as she sank down to her knees. Ironically enough, most of them couldn’t get past step one. It was apparently difficult to create tiny orbs of magic — let alone sustain their shape. What’s more, by attempting to create so many mana constructs one was increasing their workload and spreading their awareness thin.
The group had an even tougher time when they considered Oliver’s example. None of them saw any such thing surrounding the mage as he demonstrated use of ‘Mana Reading’. Finally Katrin broke down and asked for a second demonstration.
“What? So soon? The hour isn’t even up yet. Oh well. I guess it can’t be helped. Maybe I can do you one better and give you a few pointers.” Oliver Pagnel remarked as he lifted his hand with the palm side up.
“Watch closely.” He directed.
A clearly visible orb of blue mana appeared above his palm. This orb was easily the size of a softball, perhaps larger. It then split into two, creating two orbs of lesser but equal size. This created a chain reaction in which each new orb halved itself even further until there were dozens of tiny specks of mana energy.
“I can go even further, but for the sake of this demonstration I’ll stop here.” Oliver said. He then used his control over the bundle of tiny mana particles to disperse them in various shapes. Squares, circles and even a sphere. Finally Oliver willed the orbs to surround him inside a barrier of sorts and he continued dividing them until they disappeared from sight altogether.
“It’s still active.” Oliver remarked, then with a snap of his finger he declared, “ And now the ability is canceled. That is a demonstration of the first two steps involved. Carry on.” The elven man said as he walked towards a nearby bench and took a load off. Apparently he expected their training session to take quite a while.
“That’s it?” Shula seemed disappointed.
“He just showed us division with mana spheres. Anyone can do that!” the blond haired imp remarked as she placed her hands on her hips.
No one else responded though Agni felt just about everyone present could agree.
At least, Agni felt inclined to agree but Shula’s last sentence made her reconsider.
*Can anyone do that? It seems simple but…*
Agni had been creating multiple orbs, not necessarily dividing a single source of power. She wondered what the difference was?
She decided to do a little experiment to find out. Agni mimicked Oliver’s technique with one hand and used the other to try her own method. After a couple of minutes fiddling about, Agni realized the differences were like night and day.
She and everyone else had, indeed, been going about things the wrong way. By creating multiple constructs the drain on them increased with each new creation. By dividing a single construct many times, not only did the drain exerted decrease but the smaller pieces were also easier to handle. There was another major discovery which Agni made, and that was the ability to “feel” the magic.
By creating multiple constructs Agni had to disperse her focus, and due to this she lost a connection with mana she would normally have full control over. By focusing on a single construct and dividing it up into smaller pieces, this issue was avoided altogether.
“Ah! She’s doing it! Tell me how you did it, you defective demon.” Shula shouted as she caught Agni replicating Oliver’s earlier technique.
The others quickly looked up from their own practice and were amazed to find that Agni was able to create spheres about half the size of marbles.
“That’s great Agni. So how did you do it?” Gigi asked. KAtrin too looked hopeful for an answer as they crowded the red-haired succubus. Agni was just about to spill the beans when Oliver cleared his throat rather loudly. Everyone directed their attention towards him just as he finished casting a spell. With a flick of his fingers a strange energy rune quickly faded into existence then disappeared. Agni heard a buzzing sound and she could feel pressure around the crown of her head before the same rune appeared just centimeters in front of her face. This magic expanded, fading out of existence altogether as it took effect.
[You’ve been inflicted with Silence Ailment.]
“What!? Silence?” At least that’s what Agni wanted to say. The truth was her voice was completely muted!
“No cheating. Work it out for yourselves. As you can see it took her a matter of minutes to reach stage two. There’s no reason why you lot can’t do the same.” Oliver folded his arms as a smug smile graced his face.
Agni seemed genuinely alarmed at having her voice snatched from her, whilst everyone seemed annoyed and disappointed. They went back to their own practice, making sure to linger close enough to keep an eye on Agni’s progress.
*Hey. Hey. Hey! * Shula repeated constantly, but Agni couldn’t even use telepathy at this rate. She shot a ‘i-would-strangle-you-if-i-could’ glance towards Oliver who simply shrugged. She shook her head and resumed her training, she tried to ignore the sense of aggravation setting in.
*Muzzle me will you!* She thought as she continued practicing for the remainder of the hour. During this time Agni decided to alter the training to suit her a bit. She knew that a single construct was the key to making the ability work but she practiced with two at all times. What’s more, she also practiced dividing and joining the masses both simultaneously and alternating. There wasn’t any particular reason she could come up with for this, rather she just thought it felt right.
The more she repeated these two processes in various ways, the more Agni felt proficient at them. Soon she felt comfortable enough to say she’d mastered the basics enough to try something more advanced.
Since she couldn’t speak and Oliver seemed determined to ignore everyone for the remainder of the time, Agni turned to attempting step three. That’s when she realized the ‘hidden wall’ that this training represented.
“And time.” Oliver said as he got to his feet and approached the adventurers. Out of the six gathered for training, only two had managed to reach the second step while Agni alone managed to reach step three — at least in short spurts.
Agni angrily pointed to her mouth, prompting Oliver to dispel his silence seal.
“Thank you!” She said, almost with a sneer.
Oliver completely ignored it.
“Great job. Now…let’s get serious.” He said, causing bewilderment to everyone including Agni.
“But..we didn’t even master the basics yet.” Gates remarked.
“I noticed.” Oliver replied.
“So… how do you expect us to use the technique if we haven’t managed to grasp the basics?” Gigi chimed in.
“Oh. I wouldn’t worry about that too much. There’s an old adventurer’s saying, ‘you can train for a hundred years to master what you’d learn in an hour of battle’. And I happen to agree. That’s why for the remainder of the training, until you get the technique right — you’ll be working with each other.” Oliver said with a self satisfied smirk.
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