Tessa woke up in a cold sweat, panting and gasping for air as the morning sunlight came in through the window. Clenching her blanket and slowly calming down as beads of sweat ran down from her forehead. Her breathing was rapid, but quickly slowed and returned to normal. Releasing her grip on the blanket, she relaxed as it was just another weird dream. Staring down at the bed and putting a hand to her forehead.
“Why am I having dreams like that?”
After calming down, she took notice of a package that had been left at her bedside with a letter atop it. Reaching over, she took the letter and opened it:
This be your new set o' armor an' clothing. I didn’t have tha time ta forge a new set for ye, but it be made with what was in tha marketplace. It shou' serve ye well an' help keep ye alive. Remember ta meet Hei in Redbrick Park after you’ve gotten out o' bed.
After reading the short message, Tessa slowly got out of bed and stood up. Stretching her arms and back after having been stuck in bed for a short while. Additionally, she noticed her body didn’t really hurt anymore. She was still stiff and sluggish, but there wasn’t any pain anymore. Poking her wound curiously, it responded with a sting of pain. It wasn’t fully healed, but she was now able to walk around, just like Torgrak predicted.
Opening the package up and lifting the clothing out, it looked reminiscent of her old clothes. Any markings of Unity Academy’s insignia had been removed or patched over with a different one. Additionally, it had a soft shifting of metal chains hidden in the cloth. Feeling the inside, the chains had been integrated between the layers of cloth.
“Well, at least I know where my old clothes went.”
Putting it on, the armored clothing was immediately heavier but not uncomfortable. It felt like a curtain of chains had been slid across her body. She felt protected, but comfortable at the same time. Where her robes before weren’t much more than slightly padded cloth, this was actual armor. Also, for as thick as the cloth is, it’s weirdly comfortable. The best comparison she could make for this armor was a winter coat, and she should be feeling much warmer than usual with the cloth’s thickness. Yet it wasn’t, it felt no different than the patient gowns she wore just moments ago. The best guess she could think of is that Torgrak must have done something with alchemy or something to make the armor so conveniently comfortable. But that was something to figure out later.
With her new armored clothing on, she then looked around to see if her staff was in the room as well. She didn’t expect it to be, but was hoping it’d been brought back with her. She wasn’t able to find it, but came across her satchel finding it underneath the bed. At least she had this, and maybe she’d stop by a postal office to send her letters while she’s on the way to Redbrick Park.
Leaving the infirmary and Adventurers’ Guild, Tessa found herself wandering around without really knowing where she was going. Even looking for a map or some kind of way to get her bearings. Eventually, she asked a guard for directions and was on her way. Dropping the letters she’d written for her parents off and headed to the residential district.
It didn’t take long to arrive at the edge of the park, but upon seeing it Tessa thought it looked more like a miniature forest than any park she’s seen before. There were a number of trees with a winding path that went in and around them instead of cutting straight through. Entering, she walked along the dirt path and looked around as some critters ran or flew about. Birds chirping and fluttering in the sunlight and giving her funny looks with cocked heads.
Soon enough, she found herself at an empty clearing in the park and was welcomed by her other mentor, “Good morning, little kitten~.”
Tessa’s head turned in his direction, bewildered at his greeting. Hei was resting in one of the bigger trees, relaxing as he waited for his student. Tossing some fruit to Tessa, Hei dropped from his seat in the tree. Compared to what Tessa remembered, he looked a lot more casually dressed than before. His armor and cloak replaced with a more casually formal attire. A purple button-up shirt with straight black slacks and a pair of ballroom shoes. Narrowing her eyes, there even looked to be a bit of lipstick slyly hidden by the collar of his shirt.
“Why did you call me k-,” Tessa then felt the top of her head, confirming her suspicions, “ah.” She greeted him back, “Good morning.”
Hei started to walk to the center of the clearing, Tessa following right behind him as she ate the fruit he passed over. Once they got to the center, he turned around to face her. Taking a relaxed pose with one hand on his hip and the other gesturing to her.
“Tell me how much you know about spellcasting.”
Swallowing the rest of the fruit, Tessa cleared her throat and recited what she’d learned, “In spellcasting there are the four base elements, the dualities, and the composite elements. More specifically, fire, air, earth, water, light, darkness, lightning, metal, ice, nature, force, and null. The base elements and dualities also have unique properties, and composite elements will have elements from their bases. Fire is destructive, air is swift, water is flexible, earth is resilient, light empowers, and darkness weakens.”
“And what of force and null?”
“I...don’t know much about those. Information about them at the Academy was sparse at best.”
Hei put his hand to his chin, pondering for a moment, “Fair enough, they are rare to encounter. I’ll briefly explain them. Force is raw arcane power, it can damage just about anything but isn’t powerful against anything at the same time. Null, however, is used to describe anything that doesn’t fall into the other categories. It’s the rarest and most unpredictable of all kinds of spellcasting. For example, a spell affecting gravity would fall under null’s domain.”
Hei paused for a moment, “...Don’t worry about it. Just think of it as the thing that keeps you on the ground.”
“Continuing on, do you also know what the components of a spell are?”
“Yes! There are three! The somatic component, required physical motions such as tracing a symbol in the air. The verbal component, the vocalization of the spell. And the material component, required ingredients for a spell to be cast but often replaced with an arcane or divine medium.”
“You’re quite the bookworm, aren’t you~?”
A mysterious, phantasmal clapping could be heard going off around the area. Tessa shifted her gaze around, confused and looking for where it was coming from. Or was the forest somehow alive and congratulating her on being studious? Did Hei hear it as well, or just her? He just stood there, seemingly unfazed by the sudden applause.
“Now, can you tell me what the weaknesses of spellcasting are?”
“Um...other than running out of my own limited pool of energy, I don’t know what else there is.”
Hei closed the distance between his face and hers, eyeing her very suspiciously, “That penny pincher told you about magic, didn’t he?”
Tessa felt incredibly small before Hei, his eyes turning dark like a void. She tried to stammer out a response to hopefully get him out of her face, even if only slightly, “O-o-only that! H-he only told me about having a limit. N-nothing else.”
Hei eased himself back, the whites of his eyes returning. He sighed, annoyed that Torgrak had overstepped his bounds.
“Regardless, you’re going to learn what to keep on guard for the most when it comes to spellcasting.” Hei took a few steps away from Tessa. “Obviously you should avoid direct combat, but spells are also weak to other things. And I think it’ll be easier to show you the first weakness instead of explaining it. Darkness.”
Hei’s eyes glowed acid green for a moment and then suddenly everything around Tessa went dark. But it wasn’t any normal kind of darkness. Tessa couldn’t see anything, including her own body. Feeling her hands, they were still there. All the smells of the forest and earth were still there, and she could hear the crunching of dirt underneath her feet when she moved. It was just impossible to see right now.
“Now, try and cast any spell that comes to mind.”
Knowing she was still in the park comforted her a little, was still figuring out what the lesson here was. Trying something basic to see what happens, she held her hand open, “Light.”
However, the spell didn’t seem to work. She’d done it correctly, and there should be an orb of light floating right in front of her. The familiar surge of energy had run its course through her hand, and yet she wasn’t sure if it’d actually worked or not. Trying again, the surge came but it was still uncertain as to whether it worked or not. Even trying a third time, the result remained the same.
“I think something’s wrong, I can’t cast my spell.”
The darkness suddenly retracted itself, daylight returning and everything went back to normal. Tessa rubbed her eyes, wondering what had just happened, but also seeing the orb she’d tried to create three times now right in front of her.
“Many spells require the ability to see, I’m sure you can think of a number of spells that wouldn’t be all that useful if you couldn’t.”
“So the first weakness is blindness?”
“Yes and no. But for the sake of simplicity, never get in a position where you aren’t able to see what you’re targeting. The spell I used, Darkness, creates a sphere of magical darkness. And anything within that sphere will, more often than not, be just as blind as you were.”
“Okay...but if I can’t see, how would something else under the same effect be able to benefit from it?”
“There are exceptions, such as myself, but that’s a lesson for another day. Returning to your lesson, how can you use what you’ve just learned against other casters?”
“If I’m not able to properly cast while blinded then...neither would an enemy?”
Hei tries to rephrase his question, “If someone who could cast a spell wanted to throw something like a fireball at you, do you think they’d do it while they can’t see?”
“And that’s because…?”
“Because if they can’t see...they can’t hit their intended target?”
Hei let out a heavy sigh, “Would you shoot an arrow blindfolded?”
“No, that’d be dangerous and possibly injure anything other than where I’m trying to...Ohhhh.”
“Your hair may be golden, but you’re far from first place.”
“Never mind, but now you understand the first weakness of spellcasting. The second one I don’t have the means to demonstrate, so I will have to explain it. But first, answer me this: have you ever been able to cast a spell without the verbal component?”
“Uh...I think I’ve seen other people be able to cast one or two very minor spells without words, but I’m not able to.”
“Alright, so would it be fair to assume that most people who can cast spells require the verbal component of their spells?”
Hei rolled his eyes for a moment, “Okay. So if we’ve both agreed that most spells require the verbal component, what do you think would happen if it became impossible to use the verbal component?”
“They...wouldn’t be able to cast their spells.”
“Correct. And if someone tried to force it, the spell would likely fail or self-destruct.”
“So the second weakness...is the verbal component?”
“Yes, that is the second weakness of spellcasting. If the caster can’t speak, they’ll more often than not be useless. And now that you know the two weaknesses, you will have to guard against them. While I did limit your sight with magic, remember that in combat there are permanent ways of removing a spellcaster’s ability to see or speak.”
It was an incredibly morbid thing to think about, but Tessa was glad to learn this now. She’d never really thought about it, but those would be the ways to keep a spellcaster in check.
“Is there a magical equivalent to Darkness that affects the verbal component?”
Hei’s eyebrow shot up, surprised she’d ask about that, “There is. It’s a spell called Silence. It operates very similar to Darkness, but restricts the ability to hear and talk.”
Tessa’s eyes glowed a bit, glad that there was a less violent way to exploit the second weakness, “Is it something I can learn?”
“It is, but not for a while. If you were to try and use it now, you’d run out of energy before even finishing casting it.”
Knowing she couldn’t use Silence humbled Tessa, but learning it existed did make her happy. Also, it felt like she was learning more forbidden knowledge. Like a drip of poison had fallen into her mind. If she learned something like Silence, she’d possibly be able to overcome the difference in strength between herself and her peers. If rivaling someone else in power wasn’t possible at the moment, perhaps learning the ways to manipulate the battlefield would give her an edge.
“Now that we’ve gotten the lecture out of the way, it’s time to actually give you some training.”
“Yes,” Hei pulled what looked like a small ball wrapped in a cloth out of his pocket, “but first I need to know your affinity.”
“Oh, I know what my affinity is. I’m a light-type.”
Hei’s face immediately turned skeptical, “You are a light-type?”
“Yes! My parents had me professionally examined in Solis. I’m a light-type with a pull towards healing and support abilities.”
Tessa beamed with enough happiness and light to rival the sun while Hei frowned and rolled his eyes. Removing the cloth from the ball in his hand, it was revealed to be a crystal ball. And as he held it, a swirling tempest of winds twirled inside it. A miniature tornado maintained within.
“This orb will tell you the affinity you received at birth. In my case, I was born an air-type”
“But I already know what mine is, so that’s not necessary. I’m a light-type.”
Hei huffed, annoyed at her blissful ignorance, and tossed the crystal ball to her. Afraid it might break, Tessa catches it. And what should have been a shining white light, was instead a purple glow.
“Light-type, huh? I don’t know about you, but I think you’re a force-type.”
Tessa handed the crystal back to Hei, smiling and dismissing the result, “This must be some kind of mistake or trick, I am a light-type. Even the head priest said so himself!”
Realizing Tessa is too far gone, Hei takes the orb back and returns it to his pocket. “Alright. Then conjure the orb of light for me again.”
Tessa nods and does so. Watching her closely, Hei scans and analyzes what she’s doing. Four seconds go by and the orb of light materializes in her hand. Hei seemingly repeats Torgrak’s frustration from the previous day, sliding a hand from his forehead down his face before letting it fall.
“I’m still learning, but there are others in Solis who can do it much better than me.”
“Right, and I’m not a menace to society. Do it again, but keep in mind the same purple energy that you saw just a moment ago.”
“I don’t think that’ll work.”
Hei’s eyes narrowed sharply, the dark void returning to his eyes, “Do it.”
Tessa closed her eyes, remembering that purple glow that was in her hand just a moment ago. Using the same words as before, she tried to create a ball of force energy in her hand. But, unlike the four seconds it took for the previous white light, the purple orb appeared near instantaneously.
Hei mumbled under his breath, “God I hate you indoctrinated idiots...”
Tessa turned her head to him, his words too quiet for her to hear, “What?”
Tessa released the energy, the orb of force energy dissipating, “Well, I think that was just a fluke. But I am a light-type, I swear. So I’d like to train my natural abilities! Uh, please!”
Hei took a deep breath in before letting it all out, “Alright, then we’ll focus on your natural abilities. Take a seat in the center of the clearing for me.”
Hei walked off towards the trees at the edge, Tessa slowly sitting down but looking at him partially puzzled. Once he was at the treeline, Hei pulled out a small contraption and started to explain what was going to happen.
“So, right now, you have a very weak foundation when it comes to your light spells. And because of said foundation, your spells aren’t going to be very powerful in return; average performing at best. So what we’re going to do is get you to a decent starting point first.”
Hei started to wind up the contraption, rotating what looked like a handle all the way around.
“Create an orb of light energy, and maintain it until this little device makes a very loud sound after ten minutes. If you cannot maintain it during the entire duration, we’re going to have to start again. Sound simple enough?”
“Good, because that’s all we’re doing for the rest of the day.”
Tessa couldn’t help but feel like this wasn’t really going to help her. But from what Torgrak had taught her briefly and Hei’s understanding of magic, she should at least give it a shot. Summoning the orb of light, it took the full four seconds and focused on keeping it in front of her. Constantly shining and floating.
“This shouldn’t be too hard.”
Hei released his grasp on the contraption, setting it at his foot and just watched as Tessa maintained her orb. Leaning against the tree and picking some fruit from the tree to eat while he watched this little show.