C31 A broken line
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This chapter is a significant edit from its original content. If you've already read it before the change, I suggest reading again.

We were currently sitting in the clearing outside of Callum's shop-

"Wait-wait-wai- eugh!"

-and watching Callum kick the ever-living shit out of Vaughn.

"Will he be fine?"

I asked as Beryl and I witnessed Vaughn heave on the ground after a particularly heavy kick.

"Eh-"

Vaughn ended up vomiting almost immediately after Beryl was about to say her thought.

"- I think?"

Beryl winced before shrugging back to me. 

After cornering Mother and Beryl's mother's while they were still drunk the prior week, and pestering Gregor as he was trying to sleep, we managed to get their approval for Beryl and Vaughn to join my training. Come Monday, since Mother was teaching me the basics of mana, she decided we could hold the training at Callum's shop. Beryl already had a basic understanding, and even knew some basic level magic like producing weak a flame or water, so she followed along for the time being. Vaughn, however, was coming from a position of no experience in fighting or other combat-related skills; he was a rather blank slate. The start of the day was strange though, Callum gave both Beryl and Vaughn really angry looks when I introduced them and wouldn't tell me why. He even took Vaughn into the shop to talk with him, but neither would say what it was about. What started after they came out was a carbon copy replay of the fights between Callum and myself, minus the severe exertions of strength. Vaughn failed to land a strike and was parried, which Callum followed up with the kick that currently floored Vaughn and forced him to vomit into the grass. Surprisingly for a twelve-year-old, Vaughn managed to grit his teeth and pick himself up repeatedly, to which Callum began easing back his strikes and actually started going over Vaughn’s form. 

"Hey, eyes back to me, you two!"

"Ah!"

"Hey!"

Mother flicked the backs of our heads, showing little tolerance for distractions at the moment. To which Beryl and I both proceeded to whine. 

"So, as I was saying, mana manipulation. Once tapped, is something that should flow, as if it were a stream. You should feel a gradual flow of energy from within yourself, to wherever you’re directing your output."

Mother brought our attention back to her lesson. 

"The trick is to finding how to 'uncork' it yourself, as the feeling may vary. The goal here is to show you how to open up your mana veins. Mana veins are the ethereal network present in every living thing, even these blades of grass have mana veins present, only much weaker."

Mother ran her fingers through the turf that we were all seated upon.  

"When feeling for these veins, the easiest way to describe their feeling is as if water was flowing through your own body."

She outstretched a hand. 

"In its basest sense, you are allowing energy that flows through reality itself, to use you as a direct outlet rather than lie dormant."

What looked like a glowing golden gas began to emit from Mother's hand, flowing from the tips of her fingers and dissipating almost immediately after. 

"When allowing it to flow, you want to let it break free slowly. To allow it to flow fully, you would merely exhaust, or in some cases, hurt yourself. So be mindful, as we go, to open up as slow as you can manage, even if it is brought to a trickle."

The flow began to dissipate until there was just barely a visible glow to Mother's hand. 

“Beryl, I believe Kiyomi seeing someone else her age do so would help her. Would you?” 

Mother motioned to Beryl, asking her to display a flow of mana as well.

“Mhmm.”

Beryl nodded before holding her hands forward. Turning her palms upward, Beryl began to emit a glow similar to Mothers, only silver in coloration. 

“Very good, Beryl, your level of control is good. You may release it now.”

Closing her hands, the flow of mana ceased from Beryl. With the display over, Mother brought her own hands back up. 

"Kiyomi, give me your hands."

Giving Mother my hands, I immediately started feeling something begin to flow. Putting it into words would have been difficult; the easiest comparison is if you were drinking water, but through your hands. It was strange, yet it felt natural. As if it was simply any other bodily function. Until it continued flowing, and Mother suddenly broke away. For a moment, she bit her lip, giving off the impression that something was wrong, before exhaling and looking at me. 

Is something seriously wrong again?

"Kiyomi... "

"Yes, ma'am?"

I was awaiting her words. 

"I want you to try and release your flow, carefully. When it breaks free, do your absolute best to hold onto it.”

...Wait, how, though?

"You didn't really tell me how... "

I looked at her, trying to pry for further help.

"Kiyomi... the best way I could put it, think of it as peeing from your hands... "

"... "

I was now no longer looking at her for help, but for what reason, she would have to give such a strange example.

... Peeing... from my god damn hands... woman, are you serious? 

She then proceeded to sigh.

"It's the best explanation I can give; my teacher taught Cressida and myself the same thing."

Holy shit... she's fuckin serious...

I sighed, trying not to continue my protests at her poor explanation.

Peeing out my goddamn hands... It's almost as bad as a fuckin lieutenant trying to read a map... 

I looked down to my palms, my hands just barely open. I simply stared for a few moments, trying to search for any feeling remotely close to Mother's description. After a few moments, Beryl spoke up. 

"Kiyomi... it's-ah- it's alright, if you can't really let it flow... it's your first time..."

What the fuck are you talking about, Beryl?! Do I look stressed?

"Mmmm."

I was actually frustrated; not long after Beryl's input, I actually noticed myself. Something felt clogged, as if it were sealed permanently. Like I was trying to open something never meant to be opened. 

"Kiyomi, you should stop. Seriously, calm down, you look like you'll burst a vessel.”

Mother was now leaning forward some, about to nudge me. My mind felt out of place though, and I wasn't able to really register her movement. Then, as she was about to break me free from my own internal struggle, it broke free.

Holy shit! Wait, fuuu- ah.. tired...

“Oh, careful!”

Mother managed to catch me as my sight began to fade, and I nearly blacked out. After just a second, my sight faded back in and I could see again.

“Hey, Mama, I feel kind of tired.”

“I know, I can see that. You just let a significant amount of mana flow. What you just experienced was the onset of mana exhaustion, that’s why you’re tired.”

Mother explained, before letting me go and allowing me to regain my own balance.

“Did I do it?”

I asked, curious if I managed to succeed.

“Well… in a way, you did. You just didn’t… do it the way you should be able to.”

Mother tilted her head, smiling awkwardly. Just as she looked to be returning to her own thoughts, all three of us found ourselves having our attention caught by sudden yelling.

“Stop exposing your damn ribs’!”

We all turned just in time after Callum’s yelling to witness him striking Vaughn in the ribcage just under his right arm. I winced as I remembered a similar strike I’d received some time back. Strangely however, Beryl also winced then looked away.

Why are you reacting like that? It’s not like you’re next.

Vaughn was currently on his knees, burying his forehead into the grass and holding his sides as he was gasping for air. Just as Callum was about to say something else, Mother spoke.

“Callum, could you do me a favor?”

Mother yelled from where we sat.

“Huh? What?”

Callum responded, thrown off by the sudden interjection.

“Could you go get Lorn?”

Mother asked, resulting in Callum standing and throwing the wooden swords tip into the ground.

“Are you serious?”

He was now holding his arms out to the side.

“Yes, for gods sake, the boy could use a rest anyway. It’s his first day, Callum, and he’s already crumpled on the ground!”

“Tch, I’ll go get Lorn, it’ll probably be half an hour, though.”

Callum brushed off Mother’s defense of Vaughn as he turned around, heading around the building to go to the Guild. As he walked away, I managed to catch a strange comment but didn’t pay it much mind.

“You won’t be saying that in a couple of years.”

What’s his problem today?

With that thought in mind, I’d already gotten up to check on Vaughn. Looking at him, the guy was fighting back tears still; just barely breathing in a controlled manner.

Damn, I’m bad at this kind of stuff… Uhhh…

Doing what managed to come to mind, I knelt next to him and reached to rub his back lightly. As I did so, Beryl’s own hand was and my own nearly stacked on each other. We both ended up looking at each other weird for a moment before we smiled; then, nodding and bringing each of our hands to one of his shoulders.

“Hey, Vaughn, you can come sit with us. He’s gonna be gone a while.”

I tried coaxing him to his feet so we could get him to where we were sitting.

“I think one’s-ah- broken.”

He barely squeezed out, waving a hand around his ribs.

Fucker, I don’t care if he fucks with me, but this is some fuckin kid he’d never met before. Vaughn, I’ll hit the shit out of Callum later with my ball during some catch for you.

“Hey Beryl, would it be fine if we rolled him onto your tail?”

I ended up asking, as we were checking on him together to begin with.

“Sure thing, probably best he saves his energy.”

 

After pulling Vaughn to our spot, Mother tended to his wounds, and grabbed our attention once more.

“Kiyomi… I should tell you WHY I sent Callum to get Lorn. We discussed Mana veins, and how every living thing has them. But, they are not the same in every living thing.”

Mother began drawing with her finger in a small grassless patch of dirt.

“I’ll draw it, as the exhaustion could knock you back out if I make this too boring for you. In most sentient beings, they have veins that traverse their entire bodies. Moving from the core and extending further out to the each of the limbs. They are usually very tight and follow a set path that is constrained by the beings form.”

Completing the drawing, it resembled a stick person with small branches leaving each limb; pointing in the same direction as said limb.

So it’s literally a network similar to the vascular system…

“Do you still follow, Kiyomi? It’s hard to tell when exactly you’ll go under again, so you need to tell me.”

Mother prodded.

“I think I’m good, for now.”

My mind felt clear enough, for the time being, my arms felt heavy, and my tail wasn’t really able to lift itself, but I was absorbing what she was saying. Nodding, she continued.

“As I said before, that is the case in MOST beings, not ALL beings. In some beings, the network of mana-veins is a far cry from its common form.”

Bringing a finger back to the drawing, Mother rubbed away the branches and replaced them by drawing new ones that branched out haphazardly.

“This is traditionally common in larger monsters, or monsters with a much greater physical potential said monsters body should allow.”

She then drew a set of horns, and a tail with a spade on the stick figure.

“In your case, your mana-veins are indistinguishable from a monsters… It’s a more devolved network that almost completely negates any ability to direct any mana whatsoever… Meaning… Well, Kiyomi, it means you can’t- Ah, this is harder than I thought it would be. Kiyomi, I’m sorry that you would find this out in this manner.”

Mother’s tail began to curl around me where I sat.

Why is she so cautious with how she speaks? Just tell me!

“Kiyomi, you can’t use magic…”

Mother and Beryl sat there looking at me for a few moments, looking at me with concern.

“Hey… Why are you both looking at me like that?”

I actually felt my temper rise for a moment; At least Vaughn’s been consistent, the boy’s been staring at the… grass… Why are you starring too?!

“Hey, answer me! This is scaring me a bit!”

For the first time, I felt myself expressing anger at anyone other than Callum. Which managed to shock Mother enough that her tail actually twitched, and she came back to her senses.

“Sorry, it's just, I expected you might take that news harder. You can’t use magic, Kiyomi. You should not bottle any thoughts or feelings on it. It could affect your cohesion with team members who… can.”

Beryl looked away as Mother said this, the corners of her mouth almost turning downward.

Now that you mention it… I hate these emotions… I hate this… She’s right, I’m being driven to frustration by this, and I can only feel it getting worse…

“Can you just keep explaining?.. Please?”

I ended up pleading to Mother to avoid the topic; I felt like something bad would happen if I delved further on this. The feeling of ‘Deja-Vu is imposing on my thoughts.

Sighing to herself, mother drew some lines around the figure, giving it an outline.

“I’ll do my best; Lorn will undoubtedly go over this with you when she arrives. So, in the case of beings like you, Kiyomi, this form of mana-vein has a more specific purpose than a normal pattern. This purpose is to shield and augment your body. It can shield you from some magics, natural hazards, and smaller physical attacks. It also can, well, make you slightly stronger and faster than you already are. That’s probably why you managed to drain almost all of your mana so quickly. When you were getting frustrated, you burned off your mana all at once from exerting it all on your body… Kiyomi? Are you feeling tired? You’re bobbing your head.”

My body felt heavy for some time now, but I can feel it actually giving out now. I think this is what she was waiting for.

Mother started leaning me towards her lap as I could feel my body giving out. My legs felt like dead weight, and my tail may as well have been made of lead; I felt my eyelids forcing themselves closed. The last thing I remembered was her sighing, then saying something before my eyelids clamped shut.

“Rest up, sweetie; you deserve it.”

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