3 Unrelenting Practice

In the following weeks, Lith's days consisted of a strict routine.

During the day, when he was all wrapped up, he would only focus on practicing the breathing technique and learning as much as he could about his family and their language.

At night, he would practice magic until exhaustion made him fall asleep. Then as soon as he woke up, he would start again until Elina would get up for the day.

More than once he tried taking a break, but it would never last for long. Living as a baby was not easy. On the contrary, it was very stressful.

He could not speak even the words he had already understood to avoid scaring his family. He could not move. He could do nothing but watch, sleep, eat, and relieve his bowels.

He was not used to being so helpless and dependant on someone else for every little thing. Too much free time would bring him to the verge of insanity.

So, he would practice and practice, trying to adjust to his new reality without overthinking about how absurd his situation was.

As Lith's powers increased, so did his control. After a few weeks, he felt confident enough to try earth magic and water magic.

He would always be careful, never conjuring more than a few droplets of water or manipulating a handful of dirt. He discovered that it was possible to make the elements float in mid-air, changing their shape and size by continuously spending mana.

After that, he shifted his night training on focus and control rather than power. His mana was very limited and he much preferred doing a few elaborate tricks perfectly rather than a lot of stuff at the risk of blowing his cover.

No matter how common magic was, Lith doubted that a baby practicing it would be anything less than shocking, if not even terrifying.

Lith was afraid of being abandoned by his family, or even worse killed.

He was once again scared of death since he now had too much to lose. What were the odds of finding another world where magic existed, to be born as a baby in a loving family?

Zero, none, nada, squat.

He had to play his cards well, and play them as close to the chest as possible. Before revealing even a hint of his talent, he needed to know what the standards of this world were.

How much talent was considered good? How much divided being considered a genius from being labeled a monster?

His mind was constantly filled with worries and only training would alleviate his anxiety.

After three months, he had become good enough at silent magic to try fire magic on the fireplace.

The fire was already lit, and when everyone was busy talking and eating during breakfast, he tried making the flames dance at will. It ended up in failure, since the flames were too strong and the distance too big for his mana to have any effect.

Yet he kept trying, since he could still sense the flow of magic going from himself to the fireplace, hence making it a good training to expand his mana sense and range.

The only downside of all that training was that Lith would get hungry faster. Luckily, he was not Elina's first glutton and she had no shortage of milk.

Another month passed, and Elina started weaning him.

This event was meaningful for two reasons. The first was Lith noticing that food wasn't abundant in his household, so even if he still had a limited vocabulary, he could still read his parents' worried expressions every time he needed to be fed.

Despite still being a cold-hearted, cynical misanthrope at his core, Lith could not help but feel guilty about it.

They loved him like a child, whereas he would consider them nothing more than hosts, like a parasite. The only exceptions were Elina and Rena, his big sister, the only one that aside from his mother would take care of him.

With their constant love, affection, and care, they had managed to crack his emotional defensive wall. The more time he spent with them, the more he would consider them part of his real family rather than just people who he was leading by the nose.

He started limiting his training to not exceed the amount of food they could afford.

Even that required quite a few tries to find the right amount, since too little would cause even more worry than too much.

The second reason was world changing discoveries.

Being forced to stop training magic as much as possible, Lith now had free time that he dedicated to practicing the breathing technique that he named "Accumulation".

That way, his inner energy, that he had long dubbed as "mana core", grew faster to the point of hitting a bottleneck.

Apparently, his body wasn't big, strong enough or both to hold an indefinite amount of mana. Lith had never noticed that before because his baby body was rapidly growing and he had only so much time to expand his mana core.

So, without him realizing it, his body and mana core had developed together.

But now the balance had been broken, and practicing Accumulation would make every fiber of his body ache, so he was forced to stop.

Luckily, he was still well-fed and developing fast, so despite not being able to perform any physical exercise, the bottlenecks would not last long.

The second discovery was the result of him being forced not to practice magic or use Accumulation.

While studying his bottleneck status, he found out that it was possible to modify the breathing technique by removing the breath holding step. That way, the world energy would just flow in and out of his body, energizing him like a good night's sleep.

Lith named this new technique "Invigoration."

After several tries, he discovered that the world's mana could allow him to stay awake for several days, but not indefinitely.

Each time he would use Invigoration, the energizing effect would last less, and only sleeping would reset its effectiveness.

But the most important discovery, as almost always happens, was made by chance.

After adjusting his food intake, Lith's greatest enemy had become hunger. Not the slight appetite that can be fixed by a candy bar or the hankering after a busy morning.

It was the kind of hunger that never goes away, always lurking, even right after a meal. Even though Lith was not starving, it was something that he had never experienced.

Among all the misfortunes of his first life, food had never been an issue. He had always been able to eat to his heart's content, even allowing himself to be picky about food.

But now he was so hungry that he ate every meal until the last bite, and if his body had allowed him to, he would not hesitate to lick the plate clean.

In the good days, when the portions were larger, it was like white noise, annoying but easily ignored. During the bad days, though, either because the rations were smaller or because he had lost himself in the practice of magic and consumed too much mana, it would become a thorn in his head.

He would be so hungry that he would experience headaches all day long, often feeling light-headed and incapable of focusing. Food would be the only thing he could think or dream about.

Of course, he was not the only hungry one in the family. Aside from Elina, only his siblings Orpal and Rena would be tasked to feed him.

And while Rena had a big heart and strived to be like her mother, Orpal was angrier and hungrier by the day. He would often daydream about the days when he and his twin sister were the only children in the house.

Now he not only had to fight each day for his parent's attention, but also for food and clothes.

Once he had a room all to himself, but now he had to share it with Trion. It was just a matter of time before Lith would come to take away what little personal space he still had left.

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Orpal could not understand why a family as poor as his own would keep making kids.

It was winter, so there was not much work to do. Hence there weren't many occasions to restock their food supplies, and they had to last until spring.

It was the toughest time of the year for all the farmer's families, since the food was meant not only for men but also for the animals.

Orpal was sick of seeing Lith gobbling up all the food, to the point of dubbing him "Leech".

So, whenever it was his turn to feed the little vermin, he would take some spoonfuls for himself, but Lith was not easily bullied.

As soon as he noticed the spoon was not aimed toward him, he would start to cry madly, and Elina would run to his side, foiling Orpal's plan.

Lith never cried unless he needed to be fed or changed. It made their parents both really happy and paranoid about him. Since he would never cry wolf, they took every wail very seriously.

That day was a really bad day for Lith. He was starving because of his growth spurt and it was Orpal's turn to take care of him.

Both their parents were out. One of the cows seemed to be suffering from frostbite.

Orpal took the plate full of creamy soup for the baby and gulped down a full spoonful.

Lith immediately started to cry, but there was no one to hear him.

"Cry all you want, *Leech*." Lith was now able to understand most of the common words included Orpal's mockery. "Today is just you and me. No mom in shining armor to come to your rescue." After saying that he gulped down another one.

Lith felt like he was going crazy. Once again, he was helpless. His so-called magic was useless in his time of need. What could he possibly do, aside from blowing his cover?

Ventilate him? Wet him? Using fire was too dangerous. A single meal was not worth burning down a house.

Lith's hunger was eating him, making his rage go above and beyond what he would have ever thought possible.

'You fu**er!' He inwardly yelled. 'Feeling so tough robbing a child?'

Then he saw the third spoonful moving toward Orpal's smug face. A good half of his meal was as good as gone.

Lith's anger reached a new peak, his hatred burned like fire.

'You are not my brother!' He inwardly yelled. 'You are nothing but a filthy thief. Trash!'

And then, instead of clicking, he felt something breaking inside of him, like a dam that could not hold the raging waters anymore.

'I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON THAT SPOON, YOU SH*T!' Lith waved his arm against Orpal in a final struggle, and so it happened.

Lith felt the mana radiating out of his body, reaching the spoon already in Orpal's mouth, and pushing it down, hard.

Orpal started to choke, and after removing the spoon from his throat, he puked his guts out.

Lith was so astonished that he almost forgot about both his rage and hunger.

He had discovered something wonderful, a power that no one else in his family seemed to have.

Lith had discovered spirit magic!

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