Chapter 120

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Chapter 120 : Mana Reading (2)

“You and you. You and…you. There. These are your partners for the next part of the exercise. For the remainder of the next two day period you’ll be training to use Mana Reading in an applicable way. Your training is quite simple.  Gigi, once more if you please.” Oliver said as he motioned for the tall, red-headed Spellsword to step forth.

Everyone was sorted into pairs just moments prior. Agni was paired with Dealla. Katrin was paired with Gates and Shula with Gigi who was currently being “borrowed” by Oliver. 

“You and your partner will take turns assuming roles. Every five minutes or so, one will be the attacker and the other will be the defender. I say defender,but really your goal is to avoid damage. The attacker will create a small, non lethal orb of mana and fire it. The defender will avoid it by applying the Mana Reading technique, that’s it! By the way, defenders, you need to keep your eyes closed the entire time.”

“What? That’s… impossible!” Dealla nearly shouted.

“And yet, it’s what’s required of you.” Oliver replied nonchalantly, without missing a beat.

Dealla gritted her teeth, no doubt as frustrations set in.

“So we’re supposed to do this…despite not having grasped the proper technique from earlier?” Gates seemed less than impressed with Oliver Pagnel’s teaching methods.

“Oh, that. There’s no big secret to it. I’ll explain in a way so that you can understand right now.” Oliver said with a shrug. He motioned for Gigi to return to her partner and then he distanced himself from his students.

“Let’s see. The easiest way to explain it is, looking in multiple directions at one time. It is nearly impossible — right? That’s what you’re doing when you use multiple magical constructs at the same time. Gates, you understand what I mean– right? I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on this sooner.”

Gates brow furrowed, even as he came to understand what Oliver meant. Gates’ adventure class was Spirit Mage. This allowed Bell Gates to call forth one or more spirits to do his bidding. In particular, Gates focused on elemental spirits as they were the easiest to manifest. He could also command many at a single time, or at least he could appear to command multiple spirits at once. In reality, Gates directed each spirit using his will and mana to have it act according to his wishes. If he didn’t do this it would be nearly impossible to manually control the action of multiple spirits simultaneously. 

Gates’ mind went into overdrive as he understood what Oliver was driving at. Spirits were sentient beings of the world of Adventia. In order to obtain their power Gates had to make a pact with the spirit beforehand and use his mana as a way to manifest the spirit. Raw mana was just that, a clump of mana with no purpose other than what the magic user deemed necessary.

“Right. But… is that all there is to it?” Gates asked. Fundamentally Oliver was correct, but Gates still felt something was off about the explanation.

“Well, as I just said — looking in multiple directions at one time is impossible. It’s better to focus on a single magical construct.” Oliver repeated his demonstration, this time using only a single orb of mana. He divided it several times, very slowly and watched the people observing him. Gates seemed to pick up on Oliver’s subtle hint while the rest looked befuddled.

“Hmm. Maybe it’s better if you feel the difference for yourselves. Everyone, follow along.” Oliver directed.

He repeated the process having everyone step through it with them. Under his guidance everyone successfully divided their magic into dozens of smaller orbs. A few were even surprised (particularly Gigi).

“So you’re saying the process matters. Instead of creating a bunch of small orbs, we just need to create a single orb and divide it? Well, I’ll admit this is way easier to handle.” Shula remarked.

“Correct. But it’s not impossible to perform the process with multiple constructs… just beyond your means.” Oliver closed his eyes and clasped his hands together — almost as if he was reciting a prayer. Within an instant orb after orb began to appear around him until nearly a dozen were in place.  He then snapped his fingers and each orb began to divide on itself until the remnants of magic were no longer visible to the naked eye.

“Mana Reading is the act of creating an area of effect with your own mana. You must maintain a connection with each particle of mana collectively. Doing so will allow you to ‘feel’ when something has entered your sphere of influence.”

“When this is done, it’s not impossible or an exaggeration to evade attacks of any type — even with your eyes closed. You could think of it as a seventh sense based around magical theory.” Oliver beamed, the first time any of the people present had ever seen him smile. It seemed the elf really enjoyed talking about magic.

Agni had to admit, what Oliver had just done was impressive. He’d shown them how difficult it could be to focus on a handful of magical constructs. He then shattered their perception by commanding dozens simultaneously for himself. Finally after a few seconds, Oliver released his technique. Rather than observing the dispersion of Oliver’s mana, Agni ‘felt’ it fade away. It was most accurately explained as a certain “charge” in the atmosphere dispersing.

“This is a bit much for you as beginners. All you really need is one. One construct, with enough mana infused into it. Then split it into smaller orbs. As small as you deem necessary. There is no strict rule that you need to create ‘particle’ size mana.”

“This is simply my technique. Furthermore, you don’t need to be confined by the shape or size of your Mana Reading field. Do what works for you. A cloak that assists with close encounters. A wide field that compensates for lack of movement. Your training now will be to develop a technique suited to you. Today and tomorrow are all the time you have. So take it seriously and make the most of your time. Now, let’s get started.” Oliver’s explanation was finally done and for once everyone looked excited to learn a new application of magic.

Oliver had them stand three meters apart in pairs and alternate roles as he explained before. He instructed the attackers to show no mercy, while giving them only one rule — to avoid seriously injuring their partner.

At the start of their practice Agni immediately thought back to the ‘hidden wall’ of this particular training. Oliver had explained a great deal, but he had not explained how to overcome the obstacle that everyone was now encountering.

Agni chose to use a basic sphere shape for her Mana Reading field. She expanded it outwards to create a radius of one meter in nearly all directions. She then closed her eyes as instructed and signaled for Dealla to begin.

Of all of the trainees, Agni and Gates seemed to be closest to mastering the ability. There was just one problem which Agni could not create a solution for.

The sting of Dealla’s magic bursting against Agni’s chest and forehead was annoying. The training wore on for nearly an hour and every single time Agni would get hung up after the two minute mark due to one issue. A lack of mana.

Creating the sphere was no problem. But each time Dealla would fire off some mana it would collide with Agni’s, destroying her mana particles in the process. Eventually, after a certain amount of time, Agni would simply have no particles left to utilize the ability properly. Furthermore, since she was in the middle of training , Dealla didn’t give her any time to perform the steps needed to recreate another Mana Reading field.

Everyone struggled with the same issue, but not all of the trainees understood why. Gigi’s aptitude for the technique was horrible. So terrible in fact that she gave up on evading blows just to re-activate her ability most times.

Agni was 100% sure that this wasn’t Oliver’s intent — to train them in a way that might place their lives in danger. Yet, the elf said nothing. He observed for nearly two hours before calling the class to an end.

“That’s enough, for today. You all made pretty good progress. Tomorrow, we’ll meet in sparring room one. Ten A.M. . Don’t be late.”

Oliver’s appraisal of the training session left everyone bewildered. They felt like fish out of water flopping wildly in the mud.

*Pretty good progress? What?* Agni thought even as she wiped a bead of sweat from her brow. She nodded in Dealla’s direction and turned to Katrin.

“That was…different. Not what I expected at all.” Katrin said. It was unusual to see Katrin displeased, about anything. Yet the training session had clearly left her in a tizzy. She was pouting, though Agni doubted that she herself realized it.

“See you tomorrow Shula.” Gigi said as she blew a kiss in Shula’s direction. Gigi then latched onto Gates and had him escort her out of the courtyard.

“Looks like you and Gigi had fun today…” Agni remarked as Shula floated over towards them.

“Do you want to die?” Shula growled. Apparently she was also in a bad mood, though Agni felt that maybe the Shula’s discontent was different from Katrin’s.

“Let’s go take a bath!” Agni said suddenly. She had no clue where the idea came from, frankly. The chapel had showers but Agni really felt a soak would be ideal for shifting the mood for everyone.

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Almost immediately Katrin’s eyes lit up. Shula liked the idea, but naturally refused to let it show.

“Excuse me.” The voice came from behind Agni.

“Oh, Dealla.” Agni replied as she turned to face the Draken Knight.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

Dealla’s request was unexpected, but Agni saw no reason to decline.

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“Sure. Why not? Although, I have to warn you… The person we’re going to visit has a serious problem with keeping her hands to herself.” Agni said, accompanied by a slightly nervous chuckle.

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