Time flew by as Otto trained, isolated inside his mental casting space.
Without having to use actual mana when he simulated casting his spells, Otto's spells rose rapidly in level.
He endeavored to get a feel for the exact parameters of each of his spells by testing them on the wooden dummies and in myriad combat situations before rote casting them, over and over again.
Otto gradually adjusted to a set schedule without having to waste time on sleep.
Starting at 6AM, Otto continually cast a single spell to help raise its level.
Sometimes, he embraced the boring, and merely cast his spells at a single dummy or area all day.
Other times, he spiced things up, and he ended up in combat with mythical creatures he'd met in his past life.
Well, weaker versions of them.
He restricted himself to a single spell, and combined that spell with his well-trained combat instincts to fight these tough battles.
Of course, he would always come out victorious after a hard fight to a scene of fan boys and fan girls cheering his name with adoration in the streets.
He snickered whenever he conjured this scene: it was one of his guilty pleasures.
This lasted for four hours every simulated morning.
At ten, he stopped practicing his spells and started his routine meditation.
Routine meditation was a typically a type of channeled spell.
It required a mage to be concentrated and sitting or lying down.
The mage would then slowly channel their mana on a certain pathway through their magic network.
Its purpose was an faster rate of mana regeneration when the mage was out of combat.
Meditation as a spell was rather common, and wasn't hard to find even in Area 1.
But Otto's meditation was slightly different.
He didn't have the <Tower's > 'Meditation' spell.
As long as he sat on the ground and entered a state of deep concentration, Otto found that the mana would start to gather around him.
Then, it would slowly enter his magic network and begin to grow his mana pool.
However, Otto actually discovered a small trick.
As long as he cycled his mana repeatedly along a certain route, while maintaining his state of deep concentration, not only would his mana continue to increase, but his regeneration would be slightly, permanently boosted as well.
It was so efficient to meditate like this while cycling his mana!
Unfortunately, the task of compressing his mana, and the task of studying magic formulas, magic arrays, and magic tomes to raise his magic power and intuition respectively could not be performed along with meditation.
Still, anything that saved time was welcome.
He spent eight hours doing this every day.
Following that, it was evening.
Otto switched to raising his intuition.
For the first few months, he studied the magic tomes themselves that held the secrets to the various spells he was able to cast.
This was something he would normally never be able to do.
Even mages with astounding intuition, as far as Otto knew, hadn't bothered to study the spell tomes themselves.
It was because while the required intuition to learn a spell using the <Tower > was set at a very low number compared to a spell's complexity, that requirement might be 5 times, 10 times, or even 100 times higher to read the actual book.
Mages with, say, 500 intuition might barely be able to understand the spell tome of a complicated first-circle spell.
But what good would understanding that spell even do?
They could already learn spells much more powerful than that just by using the <Tower's > method!
Actually, it wasn't that no one had tried.
In fact, it was the opposite.
What self-respecting mage wouldn't be curious about the secrets of magic?
It was not for nothing that mages got a reputation for being secluded, scholarly, and obscure in their thoughts.
The problem was that this path had yet to yield tangible benefits even for the strongest mages, so most found it a discouraging path to take.
After all, when there were clear benefits to, say, studying magic arrays, which were similar in nature to spell tomes, most would obviously choose to learn the former.
Otto opened the spell tome that required the least intuition to learn.
It was the spell tome for <Tunnel >, the earth element spell that allowed him to tunnel into the ground.
Otto thought the spell was useful for escaping, hiding, and even fast movement to distances farther than Blink could take him.
As Otto started to read the spell tome, he found that it was still utterly incomprehensible gibberish.
Runes were scattered across the page and connected to other runes in circles and waves that didn't look anything like a magic array.
Diagrams of the magic network and explanations of why mana must move in a certain way through the mana veins littered with words and obscure explanations were scrawled across in tiny print.
Otto couldn't, even with the experience from his past life, make any sense of it at all.
He decided to take it slowly, and understand what he could.
This patient method had never failed him in the past.
Actually, Otto had indeed tried to read tomes occasionally in his past life.
He had originally spent a considerable amount of time in doing so, confident that his brain was much better than others, and that he would unlock the secrets of these books.
And his intuition was indeed high enough back then to be able to understand some first-circle, and a rare few second-circle spells he had already learned.
But…Otto gave up trying after a period of time.
The reason was simple.
He didn't gain anything!
Even when he unlocked the 'secrets' of these spell books, Otto found that there was no benefit in doing so.
He obtained an explanation for how to cast various spells.
In some cases, he even understood them better.
But what use was that? The spells in his status screen didn't change at all, and nothing indicated to him that there was a benefit in continuing along the path.
So of course he gave up.
Still, now that he could slowly gather intuition from these spell books, he would naturally be more perseverant.
The lines of mana that snaked through the spell book for <Tunnel > were slowly unraveled under Otto's unwavering gaze.
They became little puzzles that only revealed their secrets when put together in the proper order.
Otto could feel his intuition slowly rise as he peered through the secrets of the spell book.
He deeply enjoyed such a feeling.
It was as if there was fog covering his thoughts that slowly started to recede, little by little.
He was a long way from fully understanding even this, simplest spell.
Probably because his intuitive sense for mana wasn't high enough, it also took him a few days to read and understand each page.
But Otto didn't give up.
He spent six hours each day studying only this spell book, and cut off when his mentally constructed phone sounded the alarm at midnight.
After that, it was time for his daily hour of physical training.
Otto felt rather lucky that the virtual world, and by extension, his mental space inside the virtual world was able to train his body while it was merely lying in a pod, inert.
And he took full advantage.
He even used the exact same training route for the body as Ramesthes used to train Elliott, Julia, and Jeremy.
It started with the logs course he used to find so hateful back when he was in magic school in Area 1.
Even though magic schools could be slightly elitist at times, akin to a prestigious university back on Earth, it couldn't be denied that their teaching was rather effective.
But unlike the three kids who were still struggling with the course, Otto barely took ten days before finishing all ten levels.
It was so much easier with the experience from his previous life.
He easily gained +10 Agility, just like that.
Since Otto didn't need to train or hone his already-sharp combat instincts, he basically only spent time to finish the <Tower's > training courses to increase each basic attribute by +10.
The remainder of his physical training served to keep him in shape.
Actually, doing so wasn't strictly necessary in the <Tower >.
It was common knowledge that once obtained, an attribute would only decline if one spent years painstakingly ruining their body.
It was to the point that lowering one's attributes like this was almost as hard as gaining them in the first place.
But to Otto, the purpose of exercise was mostly to sharpen his mind.
He felt that physical activity added clarity when most of his work required sitting by a book, focused on learning.
The last step of the day came after the physical training.
It was when Otto raised his magic power by compressing his mana.
Actually, it took Otto quite a while to figure out how to do this.
At first, when he tried to compress his mana, it just bounced right back like a sponge when pressed.
Many attempts were used before he figured out that in order for his mana to be compressed, it had to be 'heated up' first.
Basically, he found that once it was cycled repeatedly at a rapid rate through his magic network, it would be more easily manipulated.
Then, as long as Otto directed it immediately back to his mana core located near his heart, it would start to compress permanently under his artificial pressure.
Idly, he wondered just how magic power rose when he added points to the attribute via the <Tower >, as he didn't feel his mana cycling.
Actually, he didn't generally feel any changes in his mana at all.
But unable to find the answer, he eventually concluded it was just more <Tower > magic that he may never be able to understand and promptly stopped thinking about it…
As a bonus, this process of cycling his mana repeatedly through all his mana veins also helped raise his regeneration rate once more.
After Otto continued this process for another four hours, it would be 5AM, and the beginnings of dawn.
This was his favorite part of the day…when he took an hour to rest!
Despite how he looked to others, Otto had never considered himself a workaholic.
In fact, he particularly enjoyed comfort.
And this hour was meant for him to relax and enjoy life.
He was used to being alone in his past life, and didn't require companions in this one either.
Only, even after spending a mere few days together, he found he did miss the incessant chatter that came from being around his three future 'teammates.'
He decided just to enjoy the solitude while it lasted.
Otto often conjured a snowy day where he sat by the fireplace in his mansion, curled up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book.
Or he directly changed it to day time and went out to sunbathe on the beach, or to nighttime to look up at the 'stars'.
This was the time when Otto felt freer than ever.
His contentment, in turn, allowed him to work that much harder and more easily when it was time for him to focus.
Just like that, 400 days passed in relative silence.
Otto stretched his neck as he stepped out of the virtual pod.
His body felt a little sore, probably from all the passive training he'd been doing.
He looked at the surrounding virtual pods and nodded with satisfaction as he realized they were all in use.
His gaze turned to the pile of goods in front of his pod.
His eyes lit up!
He praised Aeselvell in his heart for her efficiency.
Though it had only been two days in the outside world, she had managed to gather so much good stuff!
Piles of herbs and materials were meticulously arranged with labels in numerous boxes in front of his virtual pod.
Otto also saw the powders required to create mana ink and the conductive surfaces on which he could draw arrays.
Finally, and perhaps the most important for Otto was the group of small sheets of paper on the left.
The papers were covered with intricate drawings and diagrams across the surface. At a glance, it looked arcane and abstruse.
Otto had no way of understanding them.
Of course, it didn't dampen his excitement.
Since he knew what they were.
With enough of these, he would be able to learn the basic spells of each element.
In turn, leveling them to the maximum would once again allow his strength to soar.
Otto carefully handled the spell formulas, then grabbed everything in front of him and shoved it in his mental space.
He also made sure to contact Aeselvell before heading back into his virtual pod and expressed his satisfaction and hopes that she could continue to buy more materials.
Once Otto was securely in his mental space within his virtual pod, he took a look at the spell formulas in front of him.
There were 24 in total, mostly the easier to purchase basic spell formulas of each element.
<Lesser Area Heal>
There was only one spell Otto wouldn't use, which was <Lesser Stealth>, since he already had the enhanced version <Shadow Stealth> which was both more effective and lasted longer than regular <Lesser Stealth>.
The intuition requirement of these spells was also comparatively lower.
Now, there were two ways Otto could do this.
The first was straightforward and simple. He could directly learn these spell formulas.
Since the formulas were single-use, they would disappear after being learned.
Then, the spells would appear in his status screen for Otto to use.
The second method required him to study these spell formulas to gain some intuition and knowledge before learning them.
This was the most efficient route for Otto, since he could gain attributes from them.
Moreover, these spells had lower intuition requirements than even the spell <Tunnel > that Otto had been studying.
He might even be able to understand more about them.
Otto thought for a bit before he decisively chose the latter method.
He would make the most out of every spell formula he had, and would not choose to learn them before thoroughly studying and understanding every spell he learned.
Time flew by again as Otto continued his mundane routine consisting of increasing his magical attributes and studying the spell formulas.
On the 235th day of his second period of seclusion, Otto had an epiphany.
He had been studying the spell <Lesser Fireball>, that to learn, required a whopping 2 points of intuition.
The spell model was nowhere near as complex as the spell tome for <Tunnel >.
Plus, with Otto's unceasingly increasing intuition, he found the spell formula easier to understand each day.
And on this day, he finally finished reading the model.
He looked at it as a whole to engrave the formula into his memory when suddenly, something happened.
The spell formula crumbled!
Otto raised his eyes and looked around him in shock and bewilderment.
Why did it just crumble?
It wasn't until he heard the pleasant chime of a <Tower > notification did he understand what had happened.
[You have learned, through tireless effort, the spell formula <Lesser Fireball>.]
[Your intuition has greatly increased.]
[Congratulations. You have made an exceptional achievement.]
<Achievement Type: Creation>
Description: Learned an official <Tower > spell through one's own efforts.
Unlimited Spell <Lesser Fireball>
Otto's eyes slowly widened.
This was also possible!?
Was this a secret he couldn't access in his past life, or was it just that no one had learned spells with this method?
And by unlimited spell, did that mean…
Otto's breath hitched.
He felt he had just found the real path of magic!
The spell <Lesser Fireball> was deeply engraved in his mind in a way the other spells he knew weren't.
He could instinctively feel that it could be raised past the limit of level 10!
What did that mean?
It had unlimited potential for growth!
In other words, if Otto had enough mana and enough time to level it, he could burn down an entire planet with the simple spell model for <Lesser Fireball>!
It was an unbelievable reward.
Otto even felt like he was in a dream.
But he soon calmed down from his excitement.
His eyes closed.
Otto felt he had finally grasped a method for unlimited potential improvement on the path of magic.
But...the question still bothered him.
How come this hadn't occurred when he learned spells like this in the past?
How come other mages hadn't been able to do the same?
Suddenly, a thought entered his brain.
Otto felt like he understood something.
Perhaps...one needed to have a 'Qualification' to use this method of learning spells.
After he created the pseudo-spell 'Analyze' back in the <Tutorial > and was rewarded for his efforts with the official 4th circle version of the spell, he had gained the Qualification.
He hadn't understood what the Qualification was used for, but Otto thought he might now have an inkling.
It could be a qualification to learn how to cast 'true' magic!
Only…he looked at the rest of the formulas somewhat sadly.
It took him over a hundred days to learn a single spell model that required a tiny 2 intuition to learn directly.
How long would the other spells take him to learn?
Otto now fervently believed that a full 16+ years in seclusion might not be enough.
Still, now that Otto understood the benefits of learning the spell from the page, it wasn't something he could give up easily.
Moreover, Otto had a vague hunch.
That learning spells by rote like this was the 'true' way of learning a spell.
And embarking upon the 'true' path of magic would yield huge rewards later down the line.
Otto sighed lightly.
But his eyes held a smile.
He resigned himself to long, arduous path of learning.
But first, he checked the spell details for <Lesser Fireball>.
<Lesser Fireball: Unlimited>
Shoots a fireball at an enemy to deal (120 + 1% magic power) damage.
Mana Cost: Variable
Cast Time: Instant
Otto understood that the 'variable' under the mana cost meant it could be manipulated at will.
His excitement surged once again.
The 'unlimited' moniker in the spell's title wasn't only referring to its level cap.
Because Otto's hidden attribute <Control > was so high, it meant he could generally manipulate a spell and use more or less mana to exhibit more or less power with it.
With mana bolt, if he poured in 10 mana into the spell, it could blast <Tutorial > buildings to pieces.
Similarly, if he reduced the mana by a tenth, a lethal shot became a mere scratch.
But there was a limit.
Otto couldn't pour in more than 10 mana into the Mana Bolt because it would destabilize the spell itself.
Similarly, the spell wouldn't fire if it didn't have a tenth of a mana point.
This wasn't something his control attribute could affect: it was like a natural law of first-circle spells.
However, this natural law had been broken with this new spell, <Lesser Fireball: Unlimited>.
Otto could directly pour hundreds of mana into this new spell.
It not only wouldn't destabilize, but its power would continue to grow without end.
He could also conjure a 'fireball' as small as a candle's flame and the spell would still light.
With this particular spell, it felt like a small boon.
But if the same mechanism worked with other spells, it could be completely game changing.
Take Blink, for example.
At the moment, Otto couldn't affect the distance he could travel because the spell was only supposed to open a small cavity in space in which to move.
But if Blink became 'unlimited,' Otto would be able to direct the size of the cavity.
With enough mana, he could even use it to teleport across cities!
Otto envisioned a radiant future of himself making it past the 99th tower floor wielding the 'true' magic he had long desired.
For now, though, he still had a long way to go.
He calmed himself and starting meditating, the peaceful seclusion environment infecting him once more.