Chapter 76-A Small Spark
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While I’m glad that I can finally start using magic, that in of itself happens to be a problem. Although I knew that taking in mana wasn’t an enjoyable experience by any means, I didn’t expect to end up in a state of pseudo-illness. The best way to describe the sensation was a long lingering feeling of nausea and lightheadedness, which was far more annoying than dangerous. 

Still, getting sick might be a good thing considering my situation. Because as of now, both Sekh and Minerva decided to take care of me for the rest of the day. And that is how I ended up in my bed with Sekh sitting on one side while Minerva sat on the other. 

“Alright Minerva, how do we decide who’s going to feed him during dinner?” Sekh asked while stroking my forehead with her hand. 

Sitting up a bit on the bed, I affectionately bopped Sekh on the head, prompting a rather sheepish smile from her. 

“Sekh, I just feel like shit right now. I can still feed myself.”

“I know,” Sekh replied while cutely rubbing her head with both hands. “But this is a prime opportunity for Minerva and I.”

When I looked over at Minerva, I saw that she was practically squirming about in her chair. So it seems she’s also picked up Sekh’s hobby of feeding me. 

After being stared down by Sekh’s puppy, or kitty, eyes for a few minutes, I finally relented. 

“Fine, but are both of you doing it? Or is it just Sekh?”

Unsurprisingly, Minerva also nodded vigorously in conjunction with Sekh. Well, she did say that she liked the experience, it was just something she couldn’t do in public. 

So around dinner time, Sekh brought in a large bowl of chicken soup along with some bread. 

“I made this soup myself,” Sekh proudly declared, a cocky smile plastered on her face. 

“Thanks, love you,” I replied, prompting Sekh’s tail to wave around happily. 

Before Sekh could sit down, Minerva came through the door, having returned from her work. And amusingly, she even came with her own set of cutlery, despite Sekh having prepared some for her already. 

“Minerva, I wasn’t going to steal your opportunity,” Sekh told the other girl teasingly when she saw the cutlery in Minerva’s hands. 

“I just brought it in case you forgot,” Minerva argued. “But thanks for remembering.”

After the two of them had their little moment, they turned their attention to me.

The first one to start was Minerva, oddly enough. Despite having done so once before, Minerva was rather jittery and nervous as she raised the spoon towards my mouth. And as much as I would like to tease her, I decided to just cooperate and make things easier for the already blushing Minerva. 

Once I got halfway through my meal, Minerva switched out with Sekh. And in stark contrast to Minerva’s timid movements, Sekh was well practiced from all the experience she’s accumulated with me. 

“Well I’m feeling quite fine now,” I told the two of them. “Though I really appreciate you two taking care of me.”

“And I appreciate you letting us take care of you,” Sekh commented. “It’s good that you can’t really get sick, but we do like taking care of you. Especially since you already do it for us.”

“Hey Azel, if you don’t mind, would you like some cake?” Minerva suddenly asked. 

“You already bought some right?” I asked her, prompting a shy nod from Minerva. “In that case, how about we go downstairs together.”

Without waiting, I hopped up from my bed. And although I could move around safely, it wasn’t necessarily easy. My head still felt a little muddled and a slight queasiness remained. But that wasn’t an issue since both Sekh and Minerva offered their shoulders to help me walk. Though I ended up relying on just Minerva since we’re pretty much the same height. 

While Zeph had told me that the worst effects of circulating mana through the body happens immediately, those with lower thresholds tend to be more strongly affected afterwards. 

Yet in spite of all the signs pointing at me having an average or below average mana threshold, neither Sekh nor Minerva had their spirits dampened. In fact, they were both elated that I was even able to use magic. 

When we arrived downstairs, Minerva went right to the kitchen and came back with a cylindrical cake that smelled like rum. I couldn’t help but smile a bit, considering how Minerva knew what type of dessert I would have liked.

“Consider this a celebration since you can now use magic,” Minerva told me as she set the cake on a table. 

“Should we invite Zeph in that case?” I asked in response. “Or did you want it to be just the three of us?”

“The latter,” Minerva told me after a pause. 

“I don’t mind some intimate time with you two then,” I replied, tapping Minerva on the nose teasingly. 

In retrospect, it was a good idea to exclude Zeph from our dessert, since the medium sized cake was just large enough for the three of us. But unlike last time, we just ate normally instead of feeding each other, mainly because Minerva was concerned that someone would walk in on us. 

As we were walking back upstairs for the night, I felt Minerva lightly tap me on the shoulder. 

“Are you planning to continue training your magic tomorrow? You seem a bit tired after all.”

“I’m still not sure yet,” I answered with an apologetic smile. “If I still feel like shit then I won’t. But if not, then I want to get to developing my ability as soon as possible.”

“Don’t push yourself,” Minerva requested, prompting a snort from Sekh to the side. 

“You shouldn’t push yourself either then,” I told Minerva.

“I won’t,” she replied.

“You promise?” I asked in a half teasing, half caring tone.

“I promise,” she relented, Sekh now barely holding in her laugh to the side. 

That night, the three of us ended up sleeping snuggly together. Nothing sexual, just intimate cuddling. Though I think Sekh is also developing an interest in using Minerva’s chest as a pillow. 

The following day, I woke up feeling mostly normal. Maybe a bit of the discomfort remained from yesterday, but it was so faint that I had to focus to notice it. Still, it’s a bit disappointing to know that my threshold is rather ordinary. Especially considering how I had to endure having a malevolent deity as a roommate within my head compared to other people just being born with a superior threshold. 

The next two days I spent with Zeph were probably some of the worst in my life. It wasn’t difficult per se, rather it was a discomfort that could hardly be experienced anywhere else. In essence, I spent numerous hours intaking something that felt disgusting, then almost vomiting. All for the purpose of finding out roughly how much of the poison I could consume. Actually, it sounds like competitive drinking now that I think about it. 

Regardless, Zeph made the most of my suffering. In conjunction to her own knowledge, she consulted both local mages and a book about magic to determine where my mana threshold roughly was. It was in fact, below average. Thankfully it wasn’t low to the point that I couldn’t really use magic, but it was certainly meager compared to someone like Zeph or Mikael. 

But my rather limited capacity didn’t dissuade Zeph. Even though I was clearly rather lacking, Zeph insisted that she train me herself. 

Before I could start properly training with Zeph, there was the other issue regarding my work as Isaac’s substitute. Although I had taken a long break, things were mostly functioning well. In fact, the destruction of the rebel forces at the Mizarel estates had instilled fear in the outlaws within the region, greatly improving the situation. Still, the administration asserted that my presence was required. 

Considering how I’ve been cleared by the priestess of Sol and my body had recovered from my ordeal with Aentaerope, I decided that it was a good time to return to my post. Fortunately, I didn’t get drowned in paperwork for the first day so I could start Zeph’s training without worry. 

“The basic step in manipulating mana is being able to expel it forcefully from your body,” Zeph explained to me. “Although mana naturally disperses from your body you want to propel it out at a much faster rate. And you use this mana to manipulate the mana around you, almost like creating ripples in the water to move something on its surface.”

“That makes sense,” I replied. “But how exactly do you use your powers then?”

“That’s simple,” Zeph explained. “Your element can be infused into the very mana, sometimes with the addition of other matter such as fire mages using bodily sugar, which affects the nature of the mana. In my case, my body infuses the mana I manipulate in order for it to affect the air it travels through.”

“Please don’t tell me that learning to infuse my element into mana is also going to take as long as figuring out how to use mana,” I said wearily. 

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Zeph assured me. “It just comes naturally while you learn to manipulate mana. The main issue is properly controlling your element. Especially since you’ll have one that isn’t regular so you won’t be able to rely much on the knowledge passed down from other mages.”

So I’ll be fumbling around in the dark once again. Well, I hope my ability can compensate for all these inconveniences. 

The first day of my training was surprisingly successful compared to the past, although this was meant to be normal. Although my handling of mana was rough, I was able to forcibly expel mana I took in out of my hands and feet. As such, I could use this crude method to move the mana around me, much to my excitement. However, Zeph reminded me that the goal was for me to be able to move the mana around me fluidly. 

To hammer in her point, Zeph proceeded to circulate all the mana around us like water moving around in an ocean. From what she told me, the masterful manipulation of mana requires one to expel the mana out of the body while controlling both the rate and direction of the mana. 

However, this process would take a long time to master. Although mages are often ranked based on their thresholds, since this affects how long they can function, one’s ability to manipulate mana is nothing to scoff at. Though the issue is that those with naturally higher thresholds can sometimes just brute force their way through more technically skilled opponents. 

While I was working within the citadel the following day, one of the servants rushed into my room with a letter in hand. Before she could speak, I noticed the seal of the Iasor imperial family on the letter. Well, it looks like Alexios has finally given his order on the situation in Damask. 

After receiving the letter from the servant, I carefully opened it with a small knife. Upon reading the letter, I couldn’t help but heave a sigh. 

Due to my success as Isaac’s aid, Alexios requested that I serve as a substitute until a suitable replacement could be found. However, he did promise to provide a sufficient reward and that I was not obligated to perform any other duties for him. In essence, I could govern without having to serve as his personal guard dog. 

“And you’re alright with this?” Sekh asked me when I told her about the letter’s contents.

“Yeah,” I replied, causing Sekh to look rather confused. 

“Didn’t you want to avoid the Iasor government?” Sekh asked me.

“I still do,” I answered. “But I still want to do my utmost for the people here. More importantly, I don’t have to serve as an object of fear. Instead, I can use this to further improve my reputation.”

“Alright, but watch out for any schemes to get you further ensnared,” Sekh advised me. “I recommend having Minerva help you sniff out such maneuvers.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told her before rubbing her head. 

However, I wasn’t quite so opposed to the idea of being appointed as the Doux of Damask. Considering how I was pretty much doing all the duties of a Doux, it wouldn’t be too rough a transition. And if I have children with both Sekh and Minerva, being a Doux would allow me to find better opportunities for them. 

For now, I’m content with continuing my role as Isaac’s substitute. Whether I become a Doux or not depends not just on my desires, but the emperor’s decree as well. So I’d rather ignore it for the time being. 

More importantly, I still have my lessons with Zeph during the afternoons. And although it took time away from work, I’m considering it to be an investment. Well it would be a worthwhile investment if my ability has practical use. If it’s just a destruction ability with absurd limitations then I’d either have to develop it or call it quits.

For the next two weeks, I persisted with my regular schedule. Morning training with Zeph and Gregorius, work, then afternoon magic training with Zeph, more work, and finally fluffy time with Sekh and Minerva. Overall, it was a very well spent two weeks. 

In regards to my progress with mana manipulation, I’ve developed a basic understanding of how to manipulate atmospheric mana. Although crude, I’m capable of controlling both the direction, travel rate, and expulsion intervals of the mana sent from my body. 

But after developing my magic, I’ve come to truly appreciate Zeph’s skill with her magic. Even though her ability with the bow is excellent, it can’t compare to her magical technique. Now I’m curious about how well Mikael’s abilities measure up. I’ve always heard that he was superb, but I’m interested in seeing how it is now that I can use magic. 

According to Zeph, one’s element or ability just naturally infuses itself into mana within the body. However, strong activation required a strong mental image. Otherwise, the result was a much weaker and less controlled version of the ability. Additionally, one can control their ability so it doesn’t infuse into mana, though its applications. 

It was a fairly regular day when the big revelation came. I was just practicing moving my mana around when an unusual sensation struck me. It felt like something within the mana just changed. Instead of the somewhat gross slimy feeling, the mana being expelled from my fingertips felt vigorous and pure. It felt almost...chaotic. 

As I sent the infused mana into the atmosphere, the air suddenly crackled where the infused mana was. It was fire for sure, but unlike it didn’t stream from my hand. Instead, there was just a quick explosion that fizzled out in less than a second. 

“Azel, you saw that right!?” Zeph yelled immediately after seeing what happened.

“Yeah, I saw it,” I answered. “It was an explosion right?”

“Yes, exactly,” Zeph said triumphantly. “It’s excellent.”

While I was showing nowhere near as much outward enthusiasm as Zeph, I was practically dancing within my own head. I had something that might just prove to be useful. I just hope it’s enough compensation for the hell Aentaerope put me through. 

Sorry if the whole magic training feels prolonged with rather short descriptions. But I purposely did so to capture the agonizingly dull and tedious process of discovering magic. No book cramming or hardcore meditating. Just waiting until your body cooperates.