Year 1, Summer, First Month, Fourth Week.
In the morning, after Karl’s parents left to work he went to Chief’s hut to find out what happened to beasts and materials. Before leaving to rest, Master Al instructed him to tell the Chief to extract the beast’s blood and mix it with some crushed herbs before it coagulated.
Karl’s body hurt everywhere, so he took his time to get to the Chief’s home.
When he arrived, Karl found Diana having breakfast. It was unusual for Diana to still be having breakfast at this time, but he guessed she was tired from the fighting.
She happily greeted him and explained what happened to the materials. Chief Omero took advantage of the overall excitement and coordinated the villagers to process the beasts. They had taken two liters of blood before skinning and separating the meat from the beasts. Diana also told him about the two brownish crystals they found inside the beasts.
After hearing about the crystals, Karl’s eyes brightened. He told to Diana that beasts form a core with an elemental crystal inside. However, since the beasts were weak and couldn’t use elemental magic the crystals would probably be low grade.
Previously, Master Al had taught Karl that elemental crystals gave beasts some useful traits. Earth crystals would give them sturdy bodies, water crystals would make them flexible, wind crystals would make them faster, and fire crystals give them more energy.
Diana finished her breakfast and brought Karl to grandma Marlen’s hut to look at the crystals. The beasts were processed in Marlen’s place because she was the only one with some experience dealing with meat.
Diana explained that grandma Marlen was from a post village and had worked under a butcher before moving to Caiset. So, Chief Omero organized for her to supervise the villagers preparing beasts.
Arriving at grandma Marlen’s hut, Karl noticed a newly build shed with rustic tables and knives. Seeing Karl’s curious expression, Marlen explained:
“Good morning kids... Or maybe I should address you as adults from now... After what you have done, you sure deserve it... Feew... Let’s forget it, it’s difficult for me since I was one of the elders that looked after you when you’re babies.” Karl blushed a little remembering how sweet grandma Marlen was to him.
“We got a lot of meat from the beasts. I would say around 120 kilos. I told Chief that if you agree we should cook the meat for everyone in the village today. It might go bad if with don’t eat it soon. Although it’ll only serve a small portion to each villager we’ll benefit a lot from it... You know this meat has magic properties and even if it’s from the weakest beast, it can be dangerous to eat it in large quantities. I remember stories about villagers dying from consuming large portions of magic meat. It does wonders for health and body development, but one needs to build up some resistance before taking large quantities.”
Karl noded while in his mind Master Al added:
‘-- Indeed, forcing an unprepared body to digest and integrate the magic properties from magic meat will cause backslash --'.
Grandma Marlen signaled for Karl to come closer. His eyes opened wide and shined when he saw the two brown crystals on top of the table. He moved forward and grabbed it.
‘-- This is a LQ earth crystal. The beast that you slew was a LT earth beast. Because of the elemental influence, its body is stronger than the other beasts of the same tier --’
Karl repeated Master AI’s words, satiating their curiosity.
‘-- Like crafting, you have to use the right materials and methods to get the best benefits from this resource. For LQ meat, it is enough to pay attention to the cooking method. To preserve its earth properties and make it digestible, you should prepare it on top of a heated stone. The earth meat is usually hard, so is better to cut it only after cooking it in the stone. The bones can be stewed with vegetables, preferably roots --’
Karl explained the earth’s properties and preparation methods to grandma Marlen. She was very surprised by what he knew.
‘Oh my... that’s very expensive knowledge... probably only noble chefs know about it ... This boy is truly something...’
Karl remembered the magic digestive and absorbing effects of the Burdock, so he asked grandma Marlen to add it while cooking.
Despite not knowing how Karl got this kind of information, Marlen trusted him and didn’t ask further. Karl took the materials and left with Diana.
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Lew brushed off the blood and sweat from his forehead, clenching his teeth he looked sorrowfully at his last guard being cut in half by the salamander’s tail.
His efforts to control the fleeing beasts’ situation end up with him fighting against a second rank MT fire beast. However, he didn’t have any hope of defeating it. The best course of action was to run from it.
Unfortunately, their mounts couldn’t stay still in the presence of the salamander and tried to run as soon as they felt the beast’s power. The commotion attracted the salamander’s attention, and the fleeing mounts ended up killed by fireballs.
The first two fire blasts took 12 of his guards. As they tried to get some distance from the beast, he lost another 4.
Size-wise, the salamander wasn’t that terrifying, it was only about the size of their mount. The scary part lay in the beast’s ability to use fire magic. The salamander could throw fireballs strong enough to burn a house with a spiting effort. The beast’s tail was a plus. When fighting the tail would become a fire whip, as if it wasn’t deadly enough.
As a Guard Captain, Lew was strong enough to defeat single-handed against any LT beast. But the difference between a LT and MT beast could be as high as the sky.
If needed, Lew could use some of his father’s techniques, which would give him the confidence to fend against most of the MT beasts. For survival reasons, he would prefer to keep those a secret for as long as he could.
To make the situation worse, the salamander was a fire beast. Which meant that it could use the most deadly pure element.
The fire element is known to be extreme. With attacking power higher than the other elements, but providing little to none in defense.
‘If dad was here, he could fight it! But I'm not him...’
Lew’s father was one of the best fighters from Serion. He held a position in the Royal Guards. He got the Captain position for Lew five years ago, hoping that he would succeed on it and move up the ladder.
If Lew performed well in the Eastern Border, he could get into the Kingdom Army and even into the Royal Army. Unfortunately, Lew met with a challenge he couldn’t overcome.
‘I have to use it... but I need to be smart. If I try to kill the salamander with it, I’m might be done for... But if I use it to run, maybe I can escape...’
The beast seemed to notice that he was the only enemy left and began moving to attack. Lew took a large crystal from his pouch and close his eyes trying to concentrate.
Bursts of energy started to escape from the pulsating crystal.
A dim white glow began to appear around Lew’s body. In less than ten seconds, his eyes opened. The previously black eyes were now shining white.
‘It’s not enough... I need more...’
Lew increased his grip strength and broke the crystal. The energy inside it burst in a dome of light. Lew clenched his teeth and the exploding energy was absorbed into his body. The whole process took less than 20 seconds. He finished just in time to dodge the fire tail.
Lew’s movements were clearly faster than before. But instead of fighting the beast, he turned around and ran from it.
Soon, a fireball flew towards him. The human-sized ball of fire would explode as soon as it met a target, making it difficult to escape from the damage. Although Lew was faster than before, the fireball was still faster.
Fortunately, instead of trying to outrun the attack, he tried to dodge it by changing his direction. The fire calamity missed him by less than five meters, releasing the fire blast inferno as soon as it touched the ground.
The blast traveled through the air, causing a heat distortion around. Once it found Lew, the heat was fairly bearable, but the sudden impact was enough to throw him off balance.
Lew quickly transferred energy to his legs. He managed to keep standing while stumbling for a couple of seconds before recovering his running pace. The amount of energy flowing through his body was enough to resist at least one fireball attack, but this power wasn’t naturally his, and he wasn’t used to using it.
Lew didn’t even know how much it would last. So, his priority was to run as much as he could before the energy disappeared. Fortunately, he only had to dodge two fireballs before escaping the beast’s grasp.
‘thanks to the Origin! It probably lost interest in me.... ‘
However, Lew’s relieved smile turned into a desperate expression.
‘Damn... I don’t have a squad anymore... That beast destroyed too many villages and it’ll keep destroying... Hurricane City Lord will try to pin it all on me. I tried to warn the Wind Lord, but he didn’t take any measures. I’m done... I can’t go back to Hurricane City...’
In the afternoon, grandma Marlen and other elders started a fire at the central square. Instead of only going by her experience, she adapted her cooking methods to Karl’s suggestions.
She asked for the help of some strong teens to gather rocks and place them above the fire, forming a stone table.
Once the stones were heated, she placed the large pieces of beasts’ meat on top of it. The sizzling sound of the meat touching the stone made their mouths water.
The hyena’s meat was very hard and would take a lot of work to slice it. Fortunately, Karl’s modified knife was sharp enough to cut through the joints. Also, Karl told Marlen that they shouldn’t cut it too much before grilling it.
After some time, Marlen noticed that the meat was losing up from the stone and the borders were started to change colors. She instructed the helpers to turn the meat over.
Once again the sizzling sound invaded their ears. But something else made them salivate even more. The turned side that had been grilling against the stone looked very tender. One of the helpers couldn’t help himself and poke the meat. The sight of the stick going through a layer of meat, causing it to form shreds made some villagers drool.
To break their daze, grandma Marlen moved and added some flavor herbs and Burdock leaves on top of the meat. But the appetizing smell made the situation worse. Marlen could only sight and smile understandably. The villagers usually starved, on top of it, they never ate meat before.
With some difficulty, Marlen was able to get the villagers’ attention and instructed them to start several fires. While the meat finished grilling, she wanted to start preparing the broth.
The villagers didn’t have the equipment to cook large amounts of food, so they had to cook in several small pots.
Soon the water in the clay pots was boiling and they started to put sliced roots in. Previously, Karl explained that the roots would be ideal to absorb and enhance the earth’s attributes. Besides the Burdock’s roots that Karl collected, the villagers only planted taro and yam for roots.
To finish the broth, they only needed to add the beasts’ bones into the boiling pots. Initially, they thought that taking the bones out would be very difficult because of the toughness of the meat. But once it was grilled in the stone, the bones were easily taken.
Marlen tried to be fair, dividing the bones equally between pots. But she took notice of the pots with more bones. Later, the broth on these pots would be given to the team. As an elder, she couldn’t be greedy nor digest too much magic energy anyway.
Karl was excited about the elemental crystals but he didn’t know what to craft with them. So he decided to look around and ask other villagers for ideas, just like he did when he was having problems with the Toughness Rune.
He wanted to create something useful other than weapons. He would, of course, try to improve the weapons, but he would need more than that to make a difference.
Instead of going astray with fantastic ideas, he was trying to focus on something practical that could be craft with the materials in hand. To make good use of the water crystals he had to look for things that involved water.
Because the villagers only use water for a few things his options were very limited. So, he decided to look at these activities to get inspiration. It didn’t take much for him to think of something interesting.
To water the plants, the villagers would draw water from the well. Although the process was very simple, it took the kids too much time to do it. Sometimes, they even need to ask for help because they weren’t strong enough to draw the bucket.
Since the drawing process was something common, he didn’t think of it initially. But as soon as he started to pay attention, he realized that drawing water was one of the most tiring works. And that was just talking about the work at the fields. Every family would also need to draw water to clean, cook, and drink. If he could use magic to make the drawing easier, it would be great.
‘Master AI, can I use the water crystal to move up water from the well?’
‘-- Yes. The most common use of elemental energy is manipulating the correspondent element. The elemental energy will naturally attract the element. To understand their attraction you can place the water crystal near water and see what happens. --’
Karl took out the crystal and brought it close to a puddle. When he got to a hand distance from the water, the crystal reacted. He saw the faint blue energy spinning slowly in the crystal and the water on the puddle stirring.
He moved the crystal a little closer and the water started to flow upwards to the crystal. He quickly retracted the crystal and the water fell. He repeated the process, pulling his hand a little slower. The water flowed higher, but in the end, it still dropped down.
Karl had an idea. He tried again, but this time he pushed spiritual energy into the water crystal. The water quickly flowed from the puddle and circled the crystal forming a water dome. Karl was very excited. He asked a kid to let him use the bucked she was carrying and tried to pull up the water in the bucket.
To bring up all the water in the bucket, Karl had to push all of his spiritual energy. The girl was excited but afraid when she saw Karl controlling the water. Soon, Karl’s spiritual energy was emptied and the water dropped. He thanked the stunned girl and left to think about what to do.
‘So this is why elemental Mages only control one element... It takes too much energy to control an element without the affinity, right?’
‘-- Very good. It becomes even harder for a Mage to control other elements once their affinity increase. Likewise, if your spiritual energy has affinity with an element, it becomes easier to control it. --’
‘But how can I use the water crystal if I don’t have water affinity? And if I craft a tool, how’ll the other villagers use it without having spiritual energy and water affinity?’
‘-- Good questions. First, we should talk about what happens when the water and the water crystal interact. The water-energy in the crystal has a property called Affinity. The water affinity is what attracts the water, but to do it, it needs energy. When the crystal attracted the water without you doing anything, it used its own water energy plus the environmental energy as fuel. That is why it could not pull much water. But once you powered it with your spiritual energy, the effect was stronger. --’
‘So, I can use an energy crystal to power the attraction of the water crystal and water?’
Karl already got used to testing instead of just waiting for a ready answer, so he brought together an energy crystal and a water crystal and tested it again.
It worked better than before, but it was still lacking in pulling force.
‘-- To move the water you only need water affinity and magic energy. In your test, you are powering the water energy, which is increasing the water affinity. However, if you power the affinity directly, the effects will naturally be better. Therefore, you need to extract the water affinity from the crystal and use magic energy to fuel the attraction. --’
Karl’s eyes brightened as the process became clear.
‘-- Since we are talking about extracting energies, you should learn about the extraction Arrays. Let’s begin with the Extraction Array, which is represented by a pentagon. --’
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‘--The pentagon’s concept is Growth. It has the aspect of sustenance. Like the roots of a plant that drain nutrients from the ground to power its growth, this array extracts magic energy to power the Array design. --’
‘-- This Array can extract magic energy from anything placed inside of it. The extraction process will only start if other active Arrays are connected to it. The word active simply means that the Array is working and consuming energy. The extraction rate will depend on the quality of the Array and the energy consumed by the connected Arrays. --’
‘-- The Extraction Array will only extract energy. To separate elemental affinity you can use a similar Array, the Properties Extraction Array, which is represented by a pentagram. --’
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‘-- The pentagram’s concept is Uniqueness. It has the aspect of selection. It will search and select the unique energy properties in what is placed inside of it. --’
‘Humm... Master AI, you told me that elemental energy has different properties, like elemental affinity, physical properties, and even emotional properties. How can I select which property the Array will extract? When using the water crystal, I just want to extract the water affinity, not the physical and emotional properties, like flexibility and coldness. ‘
‘-- It is good that you are paying attention to the details. Remember that the aspect of the Array is selection. When drawing it, you can also focus on the property you want to extract. That will, however, make the Array specific for an element. --’
‘Awesome! I can use the Properties Extraction Array to get the water affinity and power up using an energy crystal inside the Extraction Array... But Master, how do I connect these Arrays? Once I get them to work, the water will be attracted, but how do I get it to move upwards? Will I have to pull it up with a rope or something?... It would be easier than pulling the bucket, but still seems too much work...’
‘-- Do not be impatient. Remember, one step at a time. First, you need to learn how to draw the Arrays. --’
Evening came and the villagers gathered in the central square.
The sight of the two thousand villagers made Karl sight in amusement. He clearly knew the size of the village, but seeing them all together, even the sick and children, had an impact on him.
But when he looked at them attentively, his astonishment turned to sadness. They were too miserable. Their bodies had marks of poverty and work abuse. The fewer clothes they used to cover their private parts, all scraps. They weren’t looking expectantly to the Chief, they were looking for the food behind him. That’s all they could think of.
He never realized before, how lucky he was to have a small family, to eat a little more each day, to have a dream, to long for something more than just surviving.
Karl looked at his parents and finally understood why his mother filled his head with fantasies. She probably didn’t believe that he would succeed on it, she just wanted to give him something more to live for. Just like her parents did for her.
Reiner seemed to guess what Karl was thinking and could only look down avoiding his gaze. Surprisingly, her hand was firmly held by her husband. The man that always criticized her actions, smiled and said:
“You were right! He’s special! Just the four kids did more for the village than all of us... I’m proud of him... I’m happy, but... I need to stand firm and protect him. I have to be the one bringing sense to him so you need to keep cheering and supporting him.”
Reiner’s heart finally calmed down. She felt a little guilty about her true feelings. She didn’t know where her hopings ended and the pretending started. Of course, she wanted for her son to live a better life, full of fantasy and dreams, but was it actually possible? Would he hate her the way she hated her father if he ended up being ordinary?
She smiled. Her worries disappeared behind the image of her son.
‘He’s truly special! It wasn’t for nothing! Maybe... I’m sorry, father! I’m sorry I doubted you... My son did it!’
Chief Omero was at the center of the square, standing on a small podium commonly used to make announcements. Grandma Marlen and other elders had kept the fire going to provide them some light. Around 2000 villagers were crowded in the central square looking attentively at Chief Omero.
“I guess everyone is concerned about the increase of annual tributes. Unfortunately, we can’t argue or do anything against this kind of decree because we can’t survive without the barrier. They’re smart and know that we can’t fulfill the quota, so they’re trying to force some of us to slavery.”
Many villagers were closing their first tight with anger while others had dropped their heads in sadness.
“However, that’s not entirely true. The Origin pitied us and send something to resist the nobles’ oppression.”
He paused and look at all the faces. The villagers became confused. They understood Chief Omero’s words but for them, it was impossible to go against the nobles. From time to time, the merchants brought word of an elimination campaign from the nobles against a rebel village. To rebel against the Kingdom was the same as condemning the village to destruction. Even so, when the villagers heard this, a secret spark of hope ignited inside of them.
“You probably heard about the kids going out and bringing back meat... When young Karl was coming back from his ceremony this year, he received the Origin’s grace. He was given something to help us resist the Kingdom’s oppression. Karl learned how to craft magic tools!”
Everyone was shocked and looking at Karl with disbelief in their eyes. They didn’t know what a magic tool was, but they knew it was powerful since the magic word was on it.
Karl was also shocked, he couldn’t understand why Chief Omero revealed his story and why he was saying that it was a gift from the Origin to fight against the Kingdom. In his mind, Master Al spoke:
‘-- Interesting. The Chief of your village has some interesting plans. Do not be afraid, for now, this will benefit you. He has some ability in manipulating the villagers --'.
‘Manipulating? Is Chief planning something? What is it?’
‘-- Karl, you still have a long way before you can grasp the undercurrents. For now, just think about how the Chief brought up feelings of sadness and powerlessness in them right before presenting a solution, uniting all in hope and hate against the Kingdom. Of course, he can’t change their submission mentality in one day, but he has planted a seed --'.
In the podium, Chief Omero continued:
“To save us from starving, to help us fight against beasts, to give us access to resources, the Origin taught Karl how to craft magic weapons. With the weapons, Karl and a group of friends slew two beasts.”
Several villagers looked at Karl with awe.
“We have been suffering for so long. Now it’s time to change our lives. If the kids have shown the courage to face and defeated the beasts, we adults should also have the courage and face our problems!”
After the speech, everyone moved to get a portion of food. Grandma Marlen was coordinating the serving, each person would get some broth and a small piece of meat. For them, eating this much was really a feast.
Every adult, child, and elder was delighted to taste the flavor of the meat, they savored the best they could. To Chief Omero, this was the best closing for his speech.
From this moment, the villagers from Caiset had experience magic, hope, and happiness. From this moment, they would long for these feelings every day of their lives.