Year 1, Summer, First Month, Third Week.
“Karl, why did you do something so stupid? You could have died son! We have to stop this madness right now!” Kanin demanded with an angered voice.
“No Kanin! You’ll not destroy our son’s future because you’re afraid of magic...”
She looked at Kanin furiously. But seeing that he wouldn’t back out, she shifted her attention to Karl. The son and mother pair were very close, but Karl didn’t look for her earlier. Feeling betrayed she added:
“Of course, he should have told us before doing anything... But maybe he didn’t because he knows that you’re unreasonable!” Reiner was angry and afraid for her son’s life, but she couldn’t not defend him.
When Kanin thought about how Karl has been keeping secrets from them and that it could be his fault, he calmed himself and even became ashamed. Chief Omero took the cue and entered the conversation:
“I understand you’re afraid of putting him in danger... But don’t be mistaken, with the tribute increase we’re all in danger... You know what will happen when we don’t meet the quota.”
After listening to Chief Omero, the room became quiet as Karl’s parents remembered the years that the village had to give children as slaves. They didn’t know which was worst, starving or giving up children to be used as slaves.
To end the awkward situation Chief Omero said before leaving:
“You should talk about it yourselves. I’m leaving...”
“Sir! Doeng Village was razed by beasts yesterday... It’s only a resource village, the victims were all commoners. There were a few survivors, after interrogating them it’s clear that the beasts were running from something, just like the first incident.”
“Humm... I don’t like it... after destroying two villages the beasts didn’t stop... I would rather send word to the Wind Lord in the Wind Capital, but we have to respect Hurricane City Lord’s reputation... Chief Guard! Sent a messenger to Hurricane City Lord’s Manor, inform them that there’s a good chance that a higher tier beast is pushing other beasts towards the cities. Also, sent another messenger to Captain Horacios of the Second Eastern Post, tell him of the situation and that some beasts might come in his away.”
‘the City Lord will do nothing about it... That arrogant noble born Horacios will also ignore me... But it can’t be helped, I need to do everything by the book... In the end, the nobles will shift the blame on to me, I have to think of a way to avoid being a scapegoat... Father knows the head of the Wind Lord’s private forces, maybe its time to use this connection... ‘
“Dad, for the thousandth time. I found the book on the Path coming back to the village. It was a magic book and disappeared after a read it. It’s a magic book, probably found me because I have a strong desire of learning magic. Now, I can help the village. Why is so difficult for you to accept it?”
“Karl, I’m your father, something isn’t right here... You’re messing around with magic and if the Kingdom discovers it, you’ll be taken. Do you understand? If you have knowledge on your head, they’ll pull it out. If they can’t, they’ll kill you... Before, it was just playing when your mother put all these crazy things in your head. Now it’s dangerous.”
“You’re being an idiot! After the registration ceremony, why would they pay attention to him? We just have to hide it from the guards and everything will be ok... Our son deserves better than dying working in the fields. I always knew that he was special... “
‘-- Just boil the leaves and stalks. It’s better to save the Burdock’s root for later. It’s a LQ plant, but it can help deal with the excess magic energy in your body --’
After coming back to the village, Master AI gave Karl an overview of the plants' effects. Since their effects were limited and Karl only had a few plants, he decided to use them sparingly every day, so they could last and have better effects. Today’s pick would be the Burdock.
Karl didn’t find a lot of the Burdock, but the plant was big and its leaves, stalks, and roots were all edible. The plant didn’t taste good and was very bitter. Aside from being nutritious, its major effect was to purify the blood.
The roots offered the greatest effects and would be better used in another opportunity. So, tonight only the leaves and stalks would be eaten.
The reason why Master AI advised Karl to eat the Burdock tonight was that its effects could help him deal with the excess magic energy poisoning. Although magic energy could make the body stronger, for someone that wasn’t used to being exposed to a higher magic energy density, it would be detrimental.
The magic energy poisoning could cause discomfort, nausea, fever, and in the worst cases, it could cause damage to their spiritual energy channels.
The safer way should be exposing someone from a young age and gradually to higher levels of magic energy. However, if one could use a potion or other means to purify the excess magic energy that entered the unprepared body, the magic energy would become nourishment for the body. So, Karl decided to use the Burdock leaves and stalks tonight.
He also sent some to the others in the team.
“Move! Form a line around the merchants. Don’t go out of formation to attack, wait for the beasts to get close enough.”
Captain Lew jumped forward, positioned his sword horizontally, and slashed through the hyena torso finishing it in one attack.
He quickly moved to the next beast, a grey wolf, thrusting his sword at the beast’s neck. But the wolf was a rank one LT wind beast and thus faster than the hyena.
The wolf dodged the attack sideways and dash forward with bared fangs. Captain Lew took a jump back and positioned the sword in front of his chest blocking the wolf’s attacking path. The wolf jumped far to find its target, but the sword blocked the attack, only its claw clanged against the hardened iron sword.
Soon, five more wolves joined to attack Lew’s group.
‘Damn... They’re faster than other first rank LT beasts. If it was only three wolves, I would be able to defeat them, but 6... I have to move the guards and merchants to safety... damn! ‘
The beasts didn’t leave room for Lew to formulate a plan.
Up until now, the beasts were moving deeper within the Kingdom and didn’t stop to chase people. But now that they were far enough from what was scaring them, they wouldn’t lose the opportunity of hunting prey.
The wolves circled the Captain, looking for an opening to attack. Lew took this opportunity to give the commands to the line of guards on his back. They would move slowly towards the south. He would also move back but at a slower pace. As soon as they were far enough he would take his mount and try to escape the beasts.
His subordinates had urged him several times to make a retreat and let the merchants and commoners flee by themselves. But doing it was equal to letting them be eaten and serve as a distraction for the beasts.
He couldn’t agree with this shameful act. To Lew, his job was to protect the First Section of the Eastern border and all the people living on it, both nobles or commoners.
Most of his fellow Captains and guards would laugh at his principles, but his father taught him about honor and duty, and he would be dammed before faulting them.
Lew clashed with the beasts again. This time he exchanged a scratch on his arm for a cut on one of the beast’s back, hoping to frighten them away. Unfortunately, the wolves continued circling him.
“Guards! Leave now! Once you’re clear, send a messenger to the Post and asked the vice-Captain to send reinforcements. Tell him to only keep five guards at the Post. The rest shall move in three teams to contain the beasts at the other villages. This is an emergency, if we can’t contain the beasts they’ll destroy all villages in our Section. Go!”
Fortunately, the grey wolves were coward beasts. They wouldn’t go all-in if they felt threatened. They could only probe Lew with attacks from time to time. This way, he was successful in stalling for time until the guards moved far enough.
Lew tightened his grip over his sword and prepared to run. However, when he looked back at the trees where his mount was supposedly tied, he saw nothing.
‘Damn! I sacrificed myself to give them an opportunity and they steal my mount... That’s what I get for being honorable...’
Leaving one hand supporting the sword, Lew moved the other hand, slowly to the pouch on his left side. He quickly located something inside and held it hesitantly.
‘I shouldn’t use it, it’s my only worthy possession...’
Lew’s hand came out empty. He didn’t delay anymore. Moving the absorbed magic energy to his feet, he crouched and prepared to attack. The extra energy boosted his dash making him faster than the wolves.
His first attack slashed through the chest of the leading wolf, making it cry before dropping to the ground. The two wolves beside the fallen one jumped at Lew in response.
Instead of stopping after the slash, Lew made use of his momentum to spin around extending his sword to cut around him. The movement stopped the attacking wolves, but only left a cut on the leg of one.
The wolf winced but resumed the attack with bared fangs. Lew jumped back using the spare energy from the first attack, landing two meters back and escaping the attacking wolves. He held the sword tight and prepared for the next attacks while absorbing more magic energy from the surroundings.
The painting Lew fended from several attacks, always moving back but failing to cause significant damage. Unfortunately, the death of their leader didn’t make the wolves give up on him.
Lew started to reconsider saving his trump card. The sweat was flowing down his face, his body was hurting and the wound on his arm was starting to react. Normally, he would use magic energy to purge any effects from the wound, but how could he spare energy in this situation?
He decided to take a risk. Instead of using energy to match their speed, he would use it to power his attacks. His plan was one attack, one kill. Pretty simple and straightforward. He could only hope for it to work.
The first wolf to attack was dispatched easily with Lew’s empowered slash. He turned to his right to slash the second one, only to have his left calf bitten by another wolf. He pushed the pain away, rolled on the ground, and slashed at the neck of the offending wolf.
He only had time to roll to his other side before thrusting the sword in the belly of his prior intended target. Thankfully his fighter instincts acted fast enough to avoid him being beaten to death by the wolf. His father was right, when it matters instincts would trample over ability.
He didn’t have the strength to stand but somehow did it anyway. Limping over his right foot, he roared and slashed the sword around.
It took Lew a couple of minutes to realize that the rest of the wolves fled and he was alone.
‘-- Runes are much more complicated than Arrays. While Runes can directly change reality, magic Arrays are Keys to move and control magic energy. --’
‘-- There are basic and complex Arrays. The basic Arrays represent the behavior of magic energy and the complex Arrays are combinations and modifications of basic Arrays. Therefore, the basic Arrays, like the Rules, are finite. While the complex Arrays are limited by the creativity and capacity of the Alchemist. --’
‘-- To effectively draw and modify an Array you have to comprehend the concept of the form and imprint it using spiritual energy, just like the Runes. The most important and simple Array is the Execution Array because it invokes its contents. So every Array is formed from the Execution Array. --’
Master AI projected the Execution Array in Karl’s mind.
***Image in the comments***
‘-- The concept of the circle is execution. It has two aspects: Origin and Space. Like the Origin, the circle is the beginning and the end at the same time. Also, the circle creates a magic space and everything important will be placed inside. --’
To help Karl comprehend the concept, Master AI projected the correspondent feeling on his mind.
After training for a couple of hours, Karl was able to successfully draw the Array. His ability to imprint was several tiers better and the Array concept seemed to be much easier than the Runes’ Also, after sleeping, Karl’s body processed the excess magic energy and his spiritual energy improved.
With only one day of training, Karl was confident he could draw the Execution Array several times a day. So, Master AI taught him the Absorption Array.
This Array would absorb magic energy into the drawn material.
***Image in the comments***
Master AI explained that the hexagon form represents Concentration. It has the aspect of Development, that given time, would accumulate power.
Karl took two days to comprehend the concept and draw his first Absorption Array. He learned that this Array was fundamental to his work, without it he would need an unending source of energy crystals.
After draining its energy an energy crystal would become obsolete. Fortunately, the Absorption Array could be used to charge the crystal.
Basically, the Array could absorb magic energy from the environment, while transferring it to the crystal. Like the Runes, the magic Array only needed magic energy to be activated. Therefore, once the Absorption Array was exposed to the environment it would start working and absorbing energy into the crystal.
Of course, the absorption rate would depend on the quality of the crafting, while the capacity would be limited by the quality of the crystal.
Initially, Karl thought that using the Absorption Array would transform the energy crystals into an infinite source of power, provided that the environment had enough energy. But Master AI revealed that every material was finite. A LQ energy crystal would only last one year at most and its capacity would constantly decrease with usage.
At the border of the Eastern Forest, 50 kilometers southeast from Caiset Village, a woman ran from a low tier beast.
Darla was a Mage who specialized in stealth and stealing. Six months ago, she accepted a job commission from a mercenary group. The group offered her a lot of money in exchange for her help in stealing a salamander’s egg in the Eastern Forest.
Normally, she wouldn’t accept the request because the salamander was a MT beast. But the group promised a lot of money and guaranteed that she would only need to steal the egg and run.
At the time, she didn’t think it through and accepted. She was desperate for money. The shadow materials that she needed were very rare and expensive. Since her family stopped investing in her after she failed to advance, she had to start working as a hired Mage.
The first part of the mission went just like planned, but once she stole the egg, the salamander went crazy. Even though she used Shadow Cover, the sleeping beast was capable of realizing that its egg was taken.
The beast became furious and destroyed everything in the vicinity. The rest of the group told her to run the other way while they attracted the beast’s attention.
She escaped the blazing inferno with few wounds, but walking out of the Forest wasn’t easy. She lost herself a couple of times and met with a lot of beasts.
First, it was fine because her magic was suited for hiding, so she passed unnoticed to most of the beasts. But she was unable to hide all the time and had to fight with some beasts.
‘Damn! I have to lose this beast... Why did I accept this mission? It’s crazy, coming to the Eastern Forest and messing with a MT beast... It’s all their fault! Father told me I was special, made me suffer, train, and then... I was discarded, like a broken tool! If I survive, I’ll destroy him... Damn you, Wind Lord’
The wind beast finally caught up with Darla and attacked her.
Darla tried to Obscure the beast by pushing shadows to its eyes. Although the shadow mass was able to block the beast’s view, its trajectory was already set on her. The blind beast clashed with Darla, hurting her with its weight and claws.
Darla broke some bones in the fall but refused to give up. With sheer will, she maintained the magic obscuring the beast’s vision. Unfortunately, the beast’s instincts were enough to guide it to her.
In less than a minute, she died, razored by the beast.