Chapter 5: The Chosen Growth Path

Chapter 5: The Chosen Growth Path

{…and that’s the last one master.}

“Guuuhhh” I dropped my arms as I finished the final movement then sat floor into the lotus position.

I took in a long breath then slowly begun to summon mana.

“Pray I don’t mess it up.” I could loosely control the feeling of mana trickling out with occasional sputters here and there.

It’s such an odd feeling.

While there was no physical symptom, I could feel ‘mana’ inside a bit like a sneeze. I was careful as I pushed the sensation down my neck then into my chest. While there was no permanent damage in losing control apparently it hurt quite a bit like getting hit with a pipe.

“Oh no, how am I supposed to split this thing in half? Oh shit.”

Pop.

“FUCK” Goddamn this really does hurt.

“Holy shit more like getting hit with a truck will a bruise seriously not from?”

I ruptured the mana inside multiple times trying to split it each time feeling like my chest caved in.

“Screw tiny cuts.” I had been scared of popping the balloon-like feeling inside of me so I was using tiny ‘nudges’ to split it.

Quickly, I summoned the mana and pushed it down to my chest.

“Oh, that did it.” I split it in one swoop.

As I sent the two halves into my arms I realized I was too reserved in the amount of mana I summoned at the start. Like they had been wrung dry the mana disappeared after it hit the areas I exercised.

The guide had said to spread it all across your body regardless of the muscles being worked so I repeated it one more time.

{Soon master will be able to summon mana throughout the body directly. Alright, time for the next exercise~}

Since my start in magic began with feeling it in my head it’s where I was most comfortable and had the most control.

Feeling a little refreshed, I jumped up and continued the training.

———-

{Nice. We’re done for today master.}

I slumped to the cage floor from the lotus position after finishing the final mana convergence. My shirt was drenched in sweat.

“I can only imagine the pain tomorrow morning.” I was already limping.

Not only that I had also used quite a bit of my mana after failing so many times leaving me with a mental fatigue similar to sleep deprivation too.

Apparently, the stronger you were the more mana you would need, hopefully, by then I wouldn’t fail the mana summon.

“Can you give me an update on my combat data?”

{Let’s see… I would say tomorrow master will have his combat data at strength 1100 and agility at 900 or so.}

“What!” I jumped up at the great news.

“Over 100 point increase in both!” This is amazing!

Isn’t this really incredible, is this some kind hidden talent!? I could catch up to Runter in a couple of months of doing this every day and Mrs. Eddy in a little over a year!

I fell on my knees and clasped my hands together staring into the sky.

“God of this world I’m so sorry I dismissed your existence, but I was wrong you were looking after me the whole time. Forgive me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

{Ehhhhhhh…Master… It’s only rising fast because I don’t think you’ve ever trained. I never actually thought you would begin essence training. I saw you large mana and weak body and assumed you were just a mage. The growth will slow down significantly after a couple more of these types of jumps.}

No…

I fell back down onto the cage floor like a puppet with its string cut.

“I guess I shouldn’t be greedy.” I traced my finger on the ground. My strength and speed on Earth are probably really athletic after one day.

“Is there a way to increase mana too?” I flipped to my back. I didn’t want to have my growth be uneven.

{Master doesn’t have his own mana lustrating technique? Every cadet I’m sure practices mana lustrating, but it’s rare for someone to practice both physical body training and magic since mages just use spells can augment the body in battle.}

“Mana lustrating?” It was my first time hearing any of this.

{Master’s mana is quite high so I thought you had some technique to increase your mana pool. Let me compile the techniques available to you.}

Having an AI was so convenient! A list appeared above of me as I laid on the cage floor. Most of the ones that were public domain were quite outdated based on the AI’s opinion, so I mostly paid attention to the ones only available to cadets at the academy.

“Meditate inside this magic circle… brew a potion made of roasted roots?…hunt hyres? Hyres as in the monsters I saw on tv? Then cast this spell over their bodies?”

These looked dangerous. Just how hard is it to increase mana? I was a bit worried.

“Can you show me some the one’s Mrs. Eddy or Runter use?”

Whatever those two are using must work well so I might as well do the same. I’d rather not risk myself on some difficult unproven technique.

{Master… I’m sure those two use techniques that they developed, found, or bought and use consumable lustrators made of expensive ingredients.}

I clicked my tongue. It made sense at least.

I felt in this world strength was your competitive advantage above all else. It meant guilds, clans, and parties were extremely picky with who they brought in and shared techniques. Even Mrs. Eddy seemed reserved when describing in detail what she used in her experiences.

“Consumable lustrators they can’t be that expensive right? Something like an energy drink?”

Curious, I checked out the potions listing on a popular auction website mTrade.

{Master..}

“Buy for 5,000 scales!” A banner at the top of the consumable section flashed showing a set of 100 tiny vials that glow a faint purple.

My face twitched seeing the high price.

“We guarantee the quality or your money back! These same amethyst roses potions used by students at the famous Laurent Academy!”

These aren’t even the most expensive, just what the average student here took and I couldn’t even buy half a semester’s worth.

“Filter by price?” I clicked the option.

“THREE MILLION!? Who even has this kind of money to spend 3 million on these tiny drinks.” I stared at the listing of 100 vials glowing a bright white. It had sorted by highest price first.

I took a breath then clicked it again.

“Raw clacka roots, 100 scales per kg” Even the cheapest was too expensive for me.

“So what do I use this for just drink it like a vitamin?” I angrily exited back to the homepage

{Yes for mana lustrating the minimum is two for most. One similar to mana convergence in pure meditation and one is consumable. But I believe most cadets here do three once a day for the maximum benefit, the last being killing hyres. For the first two methods, the returns diminish greatly after the first use before the mana body has time to rest. Essence infusions can also be done every day, but it doesn’t help increase your mana, but I’m sure master doesn’t want to do Essence infusions.}

“Three? What’s the third method and what’s the Essence infusion?

{You really don’t remember anything… the third is performing your duty as an adventurer through absorbing the mana body of a hyre.}

Hmm, I wasn’t clear on what the mana body really was, but I assumed it was something akin to the soul.

“And the other? Essence thing is it dangerous why wouldn’t I do it?”

{It is not dangerous, but is master not a follower of Scales? Did master forget his religion too? The Holy Scales teachings believe hyres are man’s sin, infusing oneself with a hyre to increase your physical strength is seen as sacrilegious.}

So it’s not dangerous, but taboo. It helps with no effects to me I don’t care, but I should probably keep the fact hidden so I don’t end up burned on a stake.

At the moment my own knowledge was limited to that of Laurent city and what I watched on television if I didn’t have the help from the AI for more nuanced things.

“Can you prepare study materials about the different types of mana lustrating and information on essence infusions. I’ll choose the methods after I understand it more.”

{Very well master and don’t worry I’ll keep this a secret~.}

I felt like the AI had winked at me.

A document appeared floating above my head. I was happy it looked quite thin. I had an inkling that getting my mana lustrating methods chosen needed to be decided right away.

Looking over the document it explained that mana was compounded over time confirming my thoughts.

I limped to the kitchen for some water then went to take a shower while reading ‘Mana Lustrating’ as I walked.

“What a normal title. How cute.” Is this to hide the fact that it contains essence infusion?

I began to read through it taking notes of methods that seemed possible with my current skill level with my thoughts.

{Ormick’s Circle: Renowned genius magus one day released all of his research to the public most notably his Mastercraft, but uncompleted, sedentary mana lustrating technique. His death came soon after the shocking release, although he was acquitted, many still believe the leader of his research circle hired assassins to make an example of him. Many praise the incomplete circle for its great efficiency. Some are wary of the potential long-term effect of using an uncompleted magic circle.

Laurant’s Silence: Founder of Laurant city released his personal mana lustrating technique to its cadets on the first day of academy’s existence. Although simple, its easy to understand design gives users of this technique the peace of mind. Inefficient, but easy to perform.

Ulus’ Tea Time: A combination method of a consumable and sedentary method. Ulus’ Tea Time is boasted to be more efficient than individual techniques due to multiplicative properties of its magic circle when doing a consumable method while performing its sedentary technique. Must use a consumable lustrating technique, else its efficiency is far worse than individual methods. Passive helps water affinity.

Holy Hunter’s Heart: After killing a Hyre place its body within this circle. Apply a small amount of light element to begin the reaction then allow for the mana within the hyre to complete the spell. A glowing white marble should appear, its size and luminosity depend on the strength of the hyre, absorb the clarified mana orb. Orb can be stored with no expiration. Passive increases one’s own mana body size.

Demonic Hunter’s Heart: After killing a Hyre place its body within a mirrored version of Holy Hutner’s Heart’s spell. Apply a small amount of darkness element to begin the reaction then allow for the life essence within the hyre to complete the spell. A crystallized black gem should appear, its size and matte level depending on the strength of the hyre, absorb the life essence. Crystal can be stored no expiration. Passive helps physical combat strength.

Clacka Root Drink: Cut and roast clacka roots, over high heat until black and shiny. Grind roasted root into a coarse powder then steep in boiling water. Strain out the clacka roots then drink the dark liquid. Magical properties are only available when brewed, effectiveness falls to nothing within 30 minutes after brewing. Passive effect helps earth affinity. Locations Tole Forest, Drowsywood, and Verdant Marsh.

Amethyst Rose Powder: Forage Amethyst roses petals, crush into fine powder, 3 g is the most effective dosage. Can be compressed and placed in capsules, can be stored indefinitely. Passive helps all affinities. Locations Tole Forst, Verdant Marsh, and Ohta Plains.}

I wanted to also add the Amethyst Rose Liquid method to the list, It was the method that made the vials I had seen in the marketplace, but after seeing the requirements and the skill required I decided to save it for later.

“Clacka and amethyst rose bushes grow in Tole Forest I can forage for both on the weekends, ahh, but hyres roam there.” I had plenty of experience camping and foraging, but I had only hunted with my bow a handful of times.

From the monsters, I’ve seen the ‘wild game’ would be much more ferocious.

I should probably stop calling them monsters too.

Curious I pulled up the web search bar and looked up more information on hyres. There was conflicting information. Some claimed all hyres were inherently evil and breed to spread malevolence. Others claimed hyres were a diverse species having unique qualities different from regular animals.

Knowing now Laurent was a city ruled by something like that of the Catholic Church I leaned towards the latter.

“But why is absorbing the mana body orb seen as okay and absorbing the essence seen as bad?” From what I read it was just the decree from Scality’s teachings.

In my eyes, they seemed exactly the same thing for different purposes. Yet, Scality still allowed essence orbs to be used in equipment. Seemed hypocritical.

“Well, regardless it doesn’t matter to me. I still need a weapon for next week.”

Beep! The laundry machine was instant so I quickly changed back into the comfortable athletic shorts and t-shirt then hopped into the living room.

“Can you order that meatball dish again for dinner.”

{Sorry master, that was only for lunch today it will be available again next month.}

“No!” I was crushed I’ve never had meatballs that good.

“Can you order something with a lot of meat and carbs then?”

{Okay~}

The food had arrived quickly while I browsed mTrade for weapons. Having gotten used to the interface I made sure to put a price range of under 2100 scales at the start. I happily searched eating the dinner of a creamy chicken pasta that was just as good.

“Wang Gear, Kyunter Equipment, Leistung. Why are they all one of three brands? ” I took another bite of my food as I questioned.

Everything new and labeled ‘fully grown’ I saw in my price range was from those three. The weapons were quite plain, but the specifications looked decent to me and the popular models had a ton of positive reviews too.

{I told you master to look at more expensive used grown models or high-end new growth type weapons only. These cheap fully grown weapons won’t last a year don’t fall for them!}

“Why? Look at the new grown greatsword from Wang Gear for 299 scales. It’s rated ten times stronger than the new greatsword that’s a growth-type for 1499 Scales.” Not only would I have a stronger weapon I could buy clacka roots too.

{Growth-type weapons have a higher build quality and are cheaper in the long run! Its strength will surpass that of that cheap grown gear in a matter of time since they used tried and true magical metals and alloys instead of their weird advanced alloys.}

“The growth-type really is that much better?” I still felt that prioritizing strength now with a grown new since I was so weak.

{Yes, master!}

It was quite adamant on this.

“Okay… I’ll trust you.” The AI probably understood this better than me.

I tapped on the filter removing the ‘new grown’ tag and begun scrolling through the listings again. At a glance, I could see the listing now contained dozens of different brands.

“What the hell this weapon has two in one! It’s like those reversible jackets no?”

After scrolling through hundreds of postings of large greatswords, crossbows, katanas, and gem-encrusted mage maces I came across a short video of a glaive transforming into a bow.

“It says its a spearbow?”

{The spearbow? Let me see, it is a fairly new weapon developed and sold by Asahi Heavy Metals around a decade ago. It was branched off the great success of the crossbow-wand hybrid which are now more popular than maces. However, spearbows’ popularity never really picked up and is quickly falling further after the initial interest. Many found that finding two teachers was prohibitive to advancing so they choose one path either the spear or bow instead.}

I could see why that happened.

“Mages are mostly self-study so they really only needed one bowman teacher if they used a crossbow wand. But I really like it though.”

After looking at the specifications and low price, it looked even better.

I opened up its product page summoning a virtual 1:1 model of a double-ended spearbow to look at. It was a long glaive with blades on both ends. Each blade had serrated portion closer to the polearm and each blade was facing an opposite direction.

It was very pretty the projection in front of me even reflected objects inside the room.

I clicked on the transform button on the overlay to see the bow form. The glaive transformed in a blink of an eye. The blades now flared outwards from each end. It had a diamond etched grip and a smooth mirror finish arrow rest.

“The bowstring and arrows would both by created using magic.”

{This is a good deal master, it’s even the fully handmade flagship model, 5 empty skill slots for the spear and 5 for the bow, no runic engravings, pure heavy tungsten, and a growth-type at its infancy so if master infuses enough mana it will become pure mithril, then adamantium, and possibly more.}

I looked at the price one more time.

“1999 scales…even on clearance” It was just under my limit. I looked at the pulldown menu.

“Upgrade to 99% infused. Create a mithril weapon with just a little of your own mana!”

Oh, they sell them infused already also? I hovered my finger over the only option.

“This option will add 9,998,001 scales to the base price of 1999. Are you sure?” I choked on the bit of food I was working on.

How much mana does it take to convert it!? More importantly how much for it to equal the cheap grown weapon for 299 scales.

I’d have to find out myself.

I closed the pull-down menu and added the base spearbow to my cart. I really wanted it. Luckily only Asahi produced the spearbow making my choice easy.

{Good choice master even if you only use one form it will still be better than the mass-produced grown.}

“Done.” I exhaled. For some reason, I had been the one to complete this order instead of the AI.

“I only have 111 scales left…”

Ding dong.

{Master your weapon is here.}

“What. Isn’t that too fast? It hasn’t even mourned the loss of my money yet.”

I quickly went to answer the door.

“Hello, I have an Asahi Glaivebow for a Mr. Gracile.”

Two men had come to deliver my package one armed with a giant greatsword on his back with a big build, he carried in his hand a giant box, the other man wielded a thin with long wand with a bald head. Their clothing looked more like tactical gear than that of delivery workers.

“Yes, that’s me.”

The man with the greatsword handed me a long maroon colored cardboard box.

On the top it at the center it had in gold lettering “Asahi Heavy Metals.”

“Please check the serial number and confirm the contents of your purchase.” He bowed respectfully at the door.

The two followed me in as I opened up the long box inside on the kitchen table. They had stood off by on the side without sitting. I guess I would be cautious too if I were delivering one of those weapons worth tens of millions of scales.

The cold weighty feel of the tungsten glaive felt nice. I didn’t know much about weapons, but I could tell this was of extremely high quality. Even the leather sheaths on both ends looked artfully stitched.

“Serial number AGM02003.” was etched at the center. I double checked the receipt in my overlay. AGM02003.

“Yup this is the one I ordered.” I looked at the two.

“Great!” Their expression softened.

“Welcome to the Asahi family. Your membership and authenticity card are also inside the box. The complimentary supply of maintenance materials is also available to order on our site for Asahi weapon owners. We, the Asahi family, hope you enjoy your new partner.”

I seemed to have misjudged them. They looked quite intimidating, to be honest especially the pressure they radiated, but I guess that was part of the job.

“It’s nothing. Thank you for showing me such great care even though I bought the base version.”

Both of the men smiled and prepared to leave collecting the documents I had signed. As I handed him the confirmation of receipt the bald mage spoke up.

“It is good to see a young student that understands the quality of artisan weaponsmiths. It’s rare today for people to grow with their own weapon. You know what, here are both of our cards feel free to contact us when you’re doing your looking for an internship the Asahi Guild is small, but we will welcome you if you choose to do so.”

The two-handed me maroon cards with gold lettering, much like the spearbow’s box, containing their contact information. They both gave me a nod with that the mage grabbed the large man’s shoulder and they both instantly disappeared.

{Mitsumi Asahi: Cardinal Swordsman and Shiro Asahi: Cardinal Spatial Mage, have been added to contacts. }

“So spatial mages teleport?”

{Of course master, goods transportation is a very lucrative specialization since learning spatial magic is very difficult.}

“The ability to teleport…”

I wanted to add that to my list of things to learn…


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