Derrick’s training started, unexpectedly, with physical exercises first. Kain understood that a man doesn’t attain a body like that unless he works his butt off, so it wasn’t that surprising to see the big guy pursue such a workout routine, but currently his pupils were young children. So, no matter what, from his perspective it looked somewhat unreasonable.
There were lengthy jogging, mixed with sporadic sprinting, to warm up the muscles. Then, followed swiftly by various methods to increase endurance. Another bout of running after that.
Derrick’s reasoning for the spartan-like approach was that an Invoker often had to be physically fit in order to cast as many strenuous spells as the situation dictated without getting fatigued too early.
Furthermore, he reasoned that to become a Divine Knight just like him, one needed to lug around a heavy full body armor made out of metal. It was a part of the job description. In simple terms, unfit fools wouldn’t be able to move in those ‘protective’ gears and would end up getting killed.
A weak body doesn’t get far in either worlds, huh, Kain thought aloud in his mind, watching his sister and Katrina run laps after laps of the house’s backyard, sweat pouring out from like thunderstorm.
Beside the running and huffing girls, Derrick jogged lightly too, but he had enough leeway to speak words of encouragement to them.
“Stronger body equals clearer mind. Remember this, ladies.”
His voice was stern, hard, and unforgiving. Kain, who wasn’t involved with all that running and was watching from the sidelines, felt that this method might not be the best way to teach kids as young as his sister. But hey, who was he to judge, when the guy teaching had more experience then him?
Being a bit older, Katrina was slightly faster, and also had more stamina then Kaleena. It wasn’t a race between the girls, and Derrick made sure it wouldn’t devolve into one by keeping a close eye on them but inevitably, the difference between the girls came to light.
Just after two and a half laps, Kaleena couldn’t endure and fell, utterly breathless, her chest rising and falling rapidly. She ran to the best of her abilities, not wanting to be looked down upon by her distant cousin, but she wasn’t aware Katrina had been following this training regime for almost a year before her arrival at Riverfield. There was no way someone not as fit would win.
To compound the matters, Katrina wore a set of simple, lighter weight leather garments that didn’t restrict her movements, such as a wide shouldered tunic and loose pants tied with a sturdy string around the waist. Even the shoes were a simple and lightweight, easy to wear sort. And her abundant hair was tied back neatly with ribbons to keep them from poking the eyes.
Kaleena owned none of those apparels – up until now, Lizbeth only bought cute and adorable girl clothes for her daughter. She wanted her child to grow up as a refined young lady, not as a ruffian, but at the moment her plans were being ruined somewhat by the guest tutor’s actions.
Since Kain was there from the beginning of her tutoring by Lizbeth, he was able to make a comparison and it was like heaven and earth so far. Suffice to say, there was no way in hell the young Kaleena Lucius Lomax could compete fairly against the older Katrina Septima Lomax.
“This is disappointing, cousin, I thought you might be able to keep up for longer,” quipped Katrina, not even bothering to look back at faltering Kaleena. “Father has scaled back the intensity of the training, yet you are tired already? Oh boy, this might be hopeless.”
She was putting on airs, but Kain could see that she was drenched in sweat, her breathing ragged and heavy. She was also worse for wear, yet her pride didn’t allow her to admit she was near the limit too. Her competitive spirit was burning fiercely, and made sure she’d earn a victory from this dirty yokel. This way, she’d be able to at least forget the pain of the humiliation she felt when running from her home, leaving everything she held precious behind. Not like she’d admit that to anyone, though.
“That’s enough, Katrina.” Derrick admonished her sharply. “She’s not your enemy. Do not foster unwelcome conflict. That is not how a Septima should behave.”
And there’s a welcome conflict?! Kain retorted silently. After learning of Derrick’s exile due to him losing in the inheritance battle, it seemed like there was a bit of animosity between that of the Septima brothers. Such an environment sounded super uncool to him, and he sure as hell didn’t want a similar thing to develop here if he could help it.
“Rest for a short while. We will then commence with the next step in the training schedule.”
Derrick declared, as he resumed his jogging – except that now it broke into a full-blown sprint. Since he didn’t have to slow down to accompany the children, he was reverting back to the pace he was comfortable with.
He maintained this for a full twenty laps around the backyard. Kain knew that the whole place was quite substantial in its dimension so it was something else to see a person go around that many times and barely break out a sweat. And Derrick didn’t sweat at all, literally. It was all a very light warm up for him.
Next to come was the lesson in Invocation theory, which Kain was interested in. So far, his solo practices had come to naught, as he still failed to activate any form of Invocations. He hoped for a chance to learn why, maybe a possible cause for his failures.
He was thinking that perhaps his Affinity with Elements he’d tried were bad. Because of Kaleena’s Affinity were Fire, Water, Darkness, and Light, Lizbeth tried to tailor her tutoring based on that. As he eavesdropped on those lessons, it was natural Kain had only gleamed knowledge regarding those Elements. If he had bad compatibility with those four, then obviously with his seemingly small Pool of Aeterna, he’d not be able to Invoke any spells.
It was just his conjecture at this point however. All he needed was some sort of confirmation, or a clue so he could find out for himself.
Once the girls relaxed on the covered ground, Derrick began.
“I’m sure you know this already, Kaleena, that in order to Invoke spells you need to recite the Requisite Words. This is largely correct. However, it is also true that memorizing every single lines and words of spells is plainly impossible to achieve, no matter how talented you are.”
Derrick intensely looked at both the girls, and glanced at Kain briefly, noting the boy was listening in while pretending not to. He didn’t show it in his expression, but it seemed like his suspicions might have some basis.
He continued to keep some of the attention on the boy, and spoke to the girls who hadn’t noticed anything.
“Some Invokers get around this issue by specializing on a handful of spells only. That is acceptable to a degree, but in order to achieve ranks of Expert or beyond in the worlds of Invocation, that is not good enough. It is a minimum requirement to hold mastery over a vast array of spells, even from Elements you don’t possess Affinities with.”
Girls listened attentively, their eyes glued to Derrick, who stood dead still, hands clasped firmly behind his back like a hardened military man giving out orders to his subordinate.
“So, how do you get around this wall?”
Kaleena tilted her head, while she thought about it. But she didn’t have to, not really.
“You shorten the Words.” Derrick took a pause between sentences, as if to give emphasis to each one. “The researchers working for SOIR had found that Invocations can be activated just fine, as long the Words are shortened correctly.”
Oh, really? That’s interesting.
Kain’s ears twitched after hearing that. If he didn’t need to remember the walls of text to cast spells, then all the better for it.
But then, he couldn’t help but think, what’s the reason for memorizing all those chants if there’s a shortcut?
As if he heard it, Derrick spoke. “Understand this, knowing the Requisite Words is a must for any spell. That will not change. The Invocation will fail, if you only know the shortened version.
“In the heat of a battle, it is not practical to recite every single line of a spell. In such situations, many experienced Invokers instinctively shorten the chants to suit themselves and the crisis they are facing.
“For example, if you want to create an Earth-based spell, you must chant,
Formless shapes to gather
Leaving all in the ether
Temper none the desire
Extol and soar higher.”
As soon as he finished chanting, Kain felt Aeterna’s flow right away. This wasn’t the first time he felt this particular type of Element and thus, he recognized it. It was Earth – Delilah used it just once last year to fix the earthen sink in the kitchen. She had to take a rest for the whole day after performing that, though….
A medium sized wall made up of soil slowly rose from the ground near Derrick’s feet. It’s shape was being supported by Aeterna, and Kain clearly saw the flow within it like it was a holographic display. The imagery was far more vivid than all the others he’d seen until now.
“This is a simplified form of a spell known as the Earthen Wall. It provides immediate protection to its caster from all manners of attacks, both physical and Invocational, as long as your Aeterna supply can withstand the impact of the attack.”
Then he released his control over the wall, and it collapsed back down to the ground with a puff.
“Now, you may have noticed that the chanting of the Words took several moments. Several vital, crucial moments that could’ve determine whether you survived an attempt on your life or not.”
Kaleena nodded, understanding that indeed, it took a bit of time for the spell to activate. In fact, she recalled that all of the spells she witnessed until now took some time to come to life, no matter what that spells was, or who cast it. She found that odd, but didn’t say anything.
As for Kain, he was thinking of something else – if the Earthen Wall was designed to protect its caster, then it seemed prudent to learn it ASAP. But since the Words were too cumbersome to chant quickly, activating it in the nick of time was going to be difficult.
But Derrick had a solution.
“Thus, you shorten the spell’s Words, like this:
Formless gather – extol, higher.”
Another Earthen Wall rose from the same spot right away.
Kain nodded slightly, having seen the example. He felt the flow perfectly, and thought that when the time comes, he’d be able to replicate it. Hopefully.
What he got out from that, was the idea of the lengthy chants not being strictly necessary as long as the Invoker was familiar with the spell itself. The caster still had to know the Requisite Words to the spells, since that was closely tied to knowing how the spell worked – or, at least tied to how an Invoker was taught to imagine the spell.
“See how it’s done? Do understand that, different Invokers find different ways of shortening the length of the Words. If you wish to cast the Earthen Wall, you may find different wording to mine that works for you. It’ll naturally come as you gain experience and increase your skills via training.”
This time, it was Kain’s turn to tilt his head, confused at what he just heard.
What the. So this chant shortening thing is useless to us beginners? Why’d you bother telling us all this stuff in the first place?
Then he felt Derrick’s deep gaze sweeping over him like a thick curtain. Pulling a poker face, Kain stared back until the older man turned his eyes away.
In the meantime Kain’s back was drenched in sweat.
Why was he looking at me? Did he figure something out about me? No way, he just arrived yesterday. Wait, does he possess some kind of special skill or something, that lets him see stuff?
Whatever it was, Kain thought it was dangerous to remain close, and chose to go elsewhere, preferably well out of the suspicious gaze’s scope but not too far away, so he could still spy on the lessons.
He got up, and totted away quickly. He was going to go around the stable, and stay there for a bit as he knew the wooden structure would provide some cover while he continued to eavesdrop.
Going around the corner, he didn’t check where he stepped on, and tripped, falling head first into a newly dug up midden.
Needless to say, it was a rather stinky affair.
After everyone had a good laugh at his expense, Kain was put in the crib at the nursery for an afternoon siesta. Both Kaleena and Katrina were also given some time off the relax as well. So naturally, they went to sleep, in their respective rooms.
As for Derrick, he left the house with Lizbeth to take in the layout of the village and meet up with Damien later on, who was out doing his job, which entailed him consulting many farmers of Riverfield on how to seamlessly expand the crop fields and the resulting yield. Truly riveting stuff, that.
As usual, Delilah and Rosy were asked to look after the kids. But Rosy was busy mending the mess Kain made with the midden, and Delilah were preparing for supper, only to check on the sleeping children now and then.
Basically, Kain was pretty much alone, totally unattended by anyone really. Perfect time to try out the new spell he overheard earlier on: the Earthen Wall.
He was itching to cast a spell – absolutely anything would do fine, no questions asked. So far, whenever there was a chance, he’d try to cast one, and inevitably fail and black out. The cycle repeated over and over until, his impatience had ballooned to a point where it couldn’t be dismissed easily.
He just had to do it, find out whether he had the talent or not.
Previous experiences taught him he couldn’t cast either of Fire and Water Element Invocations. Initially, he refrained from trying to cast those two as they were rather unsafe to do so indoors. Imagine, if he lose control, he’d end up burning down the wooden house, or wayward water would rot the timber and give off not only the terrible smell but cause fungi to grow too. Not very appealing thoughts either way. But as desperation seeped in he tried them all, regardless of dangers.
However, he had an Earth Elemental Invocation spell to work with, a first time it happened. The Beginner’s Guide was always with either Lizbeth or Kaleena so he never got the chance to take a proper look, even now. Maybe, if he had access to that book already, he wouldn’t have to struggle this much. There was no point in thinking about it now, so Kain decided not to worry about it anymore.
The trouble of practicing an Earth Elemental spell, was that, he had to be outdoors to perform it. Otherwise, how would he be able to manipulate soil?
Since he was not allowed go outside, he came up with an unlikely alternative. He was going to try raising the wall remotely. The reason was simple: when Derrick activated his spell, the soil didn’t rise up where he was standing but a bit away from him.
Kain interpreted this phenomena as the proof that the Earthen Wall could be raised as far from the caster’s location as long as certain conditions were met. He didn’t know of the said conditions yet, but crucially, he had a good line of sight on the target area from the windows of his nursery, meaning at least three of the requirements to cast Invocation were met.
He knew the Requisite Words, he knew what the spell’s end result looked like, and he had the target in sight. The only variable being the amount of Aeterna he had to exert, and whether he could meet the demand for it with this weak body of his.
Climbing out of the crib, Kain approached the window sill, and once he had a good view of the front yard, he picked a spot on the ground that was not likely to be easily seen by people passing by. A small, shaded spot behind a row of trees near the road looked a good bet, as it was hidden from the sights, and a few days ago the old man gardener dug up in order to plant new flowers. The soil was already overturned so any disturbance wouldn’t be noticed, plus the seeds hadn’t gone in yet so the damage was going to be minimum too.
He concentrated hard, and felt his way around Aeterna that were lazily swirling about in the air. He then tried to guide it to the spot, all the while imagining the Earthen Wall coming to life. Finally, he whispered the Words: “Formless gather, extol, higher!”
And absolutely nothing happened.
Well, he did sense some minute amount of Aeterna leaking out of him, but other than that, nothing at all.
Fighting the disappointment, he thought about the cause, and concluded that maybe he should’ve started with the full, un-shortened Words first.
Okay, fine. I’ll do it the hard way, then. No biggie.
Once more, Kain breathed in deeply, and imagined the spell. He began guiding the flow of Aeterna toward the shaded spot down on the ground, and murmured the words.
“Formless shapes to gather
Leaving all in the ether
Temper none the desire
Extol and soar higher.”
He felt minute amount of Aeterna leaving him, just like before. And just as before, nothing happened.
A deep frown gathered on Kain’s face. This was strange, to say the least. This Earthen Wall was certainly not a basic spell by any means, so the Aeterna expenditure should have been great, at least as much or more than all the others he had been trying up until then. Yet, only a small amount left him, and nothing was happening as far as he could tell.
I wonder…. Do I need to touch the ground with a part of my body for it to be active?
Kain looked at the wooden floor, his gaze narrowing. Indeed, the only difference he could think of between Derrick’s attempt and his were the proximity to earth.
If that were the case, then he had to go downstairs. He didn’t want that.
What should I do? Can I just pour more Aeterna into the spell, and force it? Hmm.
He felt less of resistance when trying to invoke this particular spell. He had no basis other than that, plus him being able to see the flow of the completed spell’s Aeterna more clearly than any others, to determine he might have an Affinity with Earth Element. If he was right, then using up more Aeterna than necessary seemed like something he should try out.
So, he got ready for the third time, and began to concentrate even harder than before, guiding much more Aeterna down to the target area. And he spoke the Requisite Words in full.
He felt it. He definitely felt it through his soul. Triple the amount of Aeterna escaped his body, then it continued to increase. He felt Aeterna flow through the house, down to the ground, and towards the spot.
The soil moved. It truly moved. It was only a small hiccup-like bump that quickly rose and fell, but the point was, it bloody moved.
Kain punched the air with all his might. The sense of satisfaction overflowed out of him like a surging tide, and he began crying unexpectedly.
He was happy. He finally used an Invocation. After such a long time of trying in vain, it finally worked. He wasn’t a talentless hack as he feared. He had a future. That was such a relief for him, knowing this. How could he not cry, after worrying himself to near-death?
After wiping out the wayward tears, he felt motivation swelling in his heart. He was under no illusion here; this was merely the beginning, the tentative baby steps. He still had a long way to go from here. He knew all of that.
But still. What a feeling it was, knowing he wasn’t a trash. Earth Elemental specialists were commonly employed as civil engineers in this world, tasked with building bridges, towns, castles, what-have-yous and earned big bucks wherever they went. Plus, he heard that Invokers with his Affinity were on the rarer side as well.
If he just diligently train himself, then surely, he’d have no problem in the future as far as living expenses were concerned. He wouldn’t become a burden then, which made him even happier, knowing that. Indeed, it wasn’t as glamorous as knowing fancier, more explodey Invocations, but the benefits were probably better.
He did make up his mind about not becoming a heroic person after all. Having Affinity with Earth Element worked the best for him under the circumstances. He was really pleased with the outcome right then.
When he inspected himself, it seemed there were more than half remaining in his Aeterna Pool. Emboldened by this revelation, he tried to cast another Earthen Wall, but with the shortened Words.
“Formless gather, extol, higher!”
He spent the equal amount of Aeterna, and it worked once more. The bump rose and fell, just like before. Another success.
This time though, he was almost out of Aeterna reserve, and felt unsteady on his feet, lightheadedness assaulting him severely. He felt like fainting at any moment. But since he was already used to it, this much was fine. He could handle it.
He dragged his weakened body back to the crib, and dived head first, a wide grin etched on his face.
He slowly drifted off to a content slumber, knowing his journey had finally begun today.
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