Sylver’s journey to the heart of the swamp was annoyingly peaceful.
According to Ria, he had been walking for over 4 hours, with absolutely nothing to show for it. Ria used the time to continue practicing levitation and mastered it enough that Sylver decided it was a good time to introduce the idea of levitating while having someone interfering with you.
And while it wasn’t strictly necessary since Ria could make Sylver’s magic ineffective, Sylver put his foot down on having her perfect the basics before moving on to anything else.
It turned out that it was comically easy for her to adjust her telekinesis to cancel out Sylver’s magic. It was as simple as increasing or decreasing the amount she was pushing herself away from the ground.
For a human mage in training, this would have taken roughly a year to master. Adjusting your spell mid-cast was a lot easier said than done. Casting a spell was hard as it was, but changing the structure while it was active was the equivalent of writing with one hand, and drawing a picture with the other.
But for Ria, it seemed to genuinely be a trivial matter. The biggest issue was that she couldn’t perceive the mana Sylver was throwing at her, and had to react, instead of preemptively adjusting her spell.
For the average mage, this would have been a death sentence.
But Ria reacted faster than Sylver was capable of casting his spell. So fast that Sylver couldn’t even say anything, if she was faster than him, she was faster than every other mage they were likely to ever encounter.
Sylver wasn’t even being arrogant when he said he was well within the 1% in terms of casting speed. Aside from the fact that he wasn’t limited by his physical muscles, and cast directly from his soul, he was also just plain fast. Even within the Ibis, he wasn’t a mage anyone would ever describe as a “slow” caster.
He wasn’t the fastest, but amongst the arches, he was the 5th or 6th fastest, and that’s taking into account that his magic was considered to be the slowest to cast. Light was quickest, then plasma, gas, liquid, solid, and darkness usually had the casting time measured in minutes, not seconds.
If not hours.
Even when Sylver pushed himself, and tried to throw enough feints that Ria would get confused and mess up, it genuinely did more damage to him and his pride, than it did to Ria’s floating staff. And this was Sylver using the simplest of the simplest of magics, he didn’t even want to try and use something with more than 1 frame.
If he had to compare it, this was probably what it felt like trying to fight one of the rabbits. By the time your fist reached the empty space where their head had been one-thousandth of a second ago, they were already a couple of kilometers away.
But similar to the rabbits, Ria’s speed came at a cost. With her inability to sense mana, it would only take two spells being cast simultaneously to make the magic she used to cancel out the first spell go out of control, and break her apart.
Then again, if Sylver hadn’t made her stop canceling his magic to train, even that wouldn’t affect her. In a certain sense, Ria had the perfect magical defense.
“What’s next?” Ria asked suddenly, as Sylver ran out of feints to test her with, and began to repeat himself.
He was quiet for a while, as he thought about which direction to develop Ria’s abilities and skills and then had to figure out how they would work with her relying solely on sigils.
“The next logical step is telekinesis on something other than yourself… But that’s… It’s not inherently difficult, I’m just struggling to figure out how you could do it…” Sylver said, as he rubbed his chin, and continued getting bad news from his shades.
“Isn’t it just directing the force used for levitation towards something else?” Ria asked, and could somehow tell Sylver wasn’t going to answer with a simple “yes.”
“Do you remember how I mentioned that it’s important to know if you should be moving or standing still?” Sylver asked.
“Oh no,” Ria whispered with a hint of genuine fear.
“I mean… If you brute force it, it could work… You mentioned something about encryption?” Sylver asked as Ria disappeared from sight.
He just kept walking while he waited for the liquid metal woman to come back from being flung high into the air in her attempt to move a small branch on the ground.
She stopped her fall a fraction of a second before she would have hit the semi-liquid muddy ground.
“Why did I go up, when I tried to move it forward?” Ria asked calmly, as Sylver turned to look at her, and could see a couple of ice crystals melting on the tips of the ribs embedded into her staff.
“Because the flow of mana in the air is flowing counterclockwise, because you were more than a meter away from it, because it weighs less than you, because we’re above sea level because it’s floating in a liquid with a higher viscosity than distilled water at 0 degrees Celsius, because-”
“How does your brain not explode from thinking about all that whenever you want to move a branch?” Ria interrupted, just as Sylver finished warming up and was about to get really specific.
Sylver vaguely gestured behind himself, as the branch Ria had attempted to lift floated into the air and floated towards them, and was followed by about 20 small pebbles Sylver found buried near the branch. He moved the branch in front of them and then had the rocks orbit around the branch.
“Normally you would spend a couple of months trying to lift a pebble, and very gradually your mind would start to see a pattern, even if you couldn’t put it into words. That’s not an option for you. You’re like a wizard, but without the adaption wizards have,” Sylver explained, as he let everything fall down into the water below his feet.
“So what do I do?” Ria asked.
“Is the encryption thing going to take too long?” Sylver asked, and could tell right away he’d hit a sore spot.
“The parts I’ve managed to decrypt seem to rely on an element I currently don’t have. Considering her original function, my best guess is that she needs a physical host, with what you refer to as a mana core, and mana channels, to use magic…” Ria explained, with a tone that was far too upset, considering she knew what she needed.
Sylver waited for her to continue, and during that time guessed the reason she wasn’t thrilled about becoming a mage.
“Ah… You don’t want to manipulate a dead body to cast a spell…” Sylver said.
“I don’t want to manipulate an alive one either. But aside from that, I can’t. I’m restricted to inorganic materials. To put it in a way you would understand I’m a fish that can swim in water, but I can’t do anything other than flop around on land,” Ria explained.
Sylver could do little more than shrug his shoulders.
“Hmm… So you can manipulate her because she is a machine, but you can’t have her manipulate someone else, since that would require you to indirectly manipulate them… When you say you can’t, do you mean you don’t know how, or-”
“I mean; I am incapable of it. The same way you’re limited in what kind of magic you can use, I am limited in what kind of item, object, or device, I can interact with. These bones aren’t organic, and yet they can very clearly use magic, so if I can figure out how they’re doing it, I’ll be able to do it too,” Ria explained.
“What about that fire you summoned back then?” Sylver asked as the aforementioned ball of fire appeared near a hand Ria had formed.
“It’s limited. Just look,” Ria said, as she tried to throw the ball of fire away, but it barely traveled two meters before it fell down towards the ground.
She then produced a small icicle that did the same.
The next spell would have made her stick to a wall if she was near a wall to stick to.
“That is… very strange…” Sylver admitted as hot air began to rise from Ria’s body and staff.
“I now realize they’re all utility functions. There are more, but I haven’t finished decrypting them. Everything I’m able to do on my own is meant to help me force my way through armor, to get inside the wearer’s body,” Ria explained in an understandably defeated tone.
“Hmm…” Sylver said.
He already knew Ria couldn’t do what SAM did when she was a bunch of worms. The worms only worked the way they did because they had a kind of swarm intellect, they all shared one brain, at least that was the way Sylver understood it.
Which meant that right now they were limited to giving Ria a “body” to move around. They weren’t even worms; they were “nano-bots” as Ria called them. Which Sylver understood just meant they were very small worms, small enough that they were like sand, but even smaller.
“What about the bones?” Sylver asked, with a gesture towards the 3 ribs.
“Also encrypted. But I can manually activate the sigils. To be honest with you, I don’t think they’re actually encrypted, they’re just built in such a way that only someone capable of sensing mana could understand the code,” Ria explained, as one of the shades finally returned with some good news.
“How long will it take to decrypt?” Sylver asked, as he reached out and grabbed Ria, and turned towards the right, and started to quietly move towards the first monster he would hunt.
“I have no idea. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen. It’s like trying to decrypt a book, written in another language while being blind. Not to mention I’m functioning on solar power, and the tiny amount of mana I’m able to convert into electricity,” Ria explained, as Sylver used [Fog Form] for a few seconds to float through a bunch of bushes.
Ria had mentioned the power limitation before, but there wasn’t much Sylver could do. Apparently, the lightning created from mana wasn’t the right type, or more accurately, Ria couldn’t absorb a significant portion of it.
She theorized that she could build a steam engine, but the idea was shut down almost immediately. Sylver wasn’t a craftsman, but as a mage, he knew when something was too complex for mana to leave it alone. Anything fancier than the inside of a clock had a nasty habit of warping and breaking apart.
Some areas were safe from this effect, dwarves and their mountain kingdoms, but the nearest one was months of travel away. Sylver didn’t have the time to spare, and more honestly, he liked dwarves, but he hated being in their domain.
Lola was already looking for alternatives, so Sylver wasn’t going to think or worry about it too much.
“We’ll figure something out. There’s not much point focusing on simple magic, since you’re able to memorize a spell after casting it once, give me some time to figure out something you can do that I can’t,” Sylver said, as Ria perked up.
“Like teleportation?” Ria asked, and Sylver froze, and realized that his answer wasn’t going to be “no,” but a confused, and hopeful-
“Actually, yes. I’m not sure if you have enough capacity, but if I just charge up the mana crystals while you’re casting…” Sylver said, as his “prey” turned around and made eye contact with him.
It was a giant dark red reptile standing on its hind legs, armed with a terribly familiar shade of dark red claws, teeth, and of course, matching dark red alligator-like scales. It was about 15 meters tall, and about 3 meters wide.
It might have been the way the sunlight shone on them, but the dark red claws, teeth, and scales looked just a bit like the wooden weapons the witch hunters from earlier had used.
[Lesser Fafnir – Mystic Hunter – 249]
[HP: 176,552 – 82%]
[MP: N/A – N/A]
[Stamina: N/A – N/A]
[Corpse – N/A]
[Soul – N/A]
Mystic hunter, I wonder what this monster is used to hunting? Armed with magic distorting armor? Magic distorting claws? And magic distorting teeth?
Sylver wondered as he felt an unpleasant feeling move down his spine.
He walked out of the bushes he had been semi-hiding in, and through the moss-covered stumps, and tree trunks, tilted his head so his mask was more visible to the monster.
With a wave of his hand, a large cylinder of dirt rose from the swamp ground, and protectively hid Sylver.
The monster made a noise that could be loosely interpreted as a chuckle, as it reached the cylinder in the time it took Sylver to blink, and with a single swipe of its claws, shredded the earthen barrier into nothing. It very briefly wondered what the little grey spheres inside were supposed to do, as they spilled out, and promptly detonated.