The following morning, Delph left a slip instructing Damien and Sylph to meet him in the area. As usual, the professor worked the two of them hard. They trained through the morning hours and well into the day.
Delph made sure that both their bodies and their minds were completely exhausted and out of energy by the time he was done. Damien ran out of stamina well before Sylph did, but he regained ground on her when his mental energy lasted almost ten times as long as hers did.
Damien didn’t use his new Devour spell since it wasn’t quite ready, but Delph seemed pleased enough with his current progress. He dismissed the two of them an hour before lunch and vanished from the forest in his typical method.
“I wonder if that’s ever going to become easy,” Damien said as they walked back towards their room. He groaned as his sore muscles protested every step he took.
“Probably not,” Sylph said with a grimace. She was in better shape than Damien, but her eyes were thin and her lips were pressed together from what Damien suspected to be a raging headache.
“It does look like you’re getting more magical energy, though,” Damien said, trying to sound upbeat and failing miserably.
“I suppose so,” Sylph replied. “It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Don’t tell Delph that, though. He’ll sit outside our door and force us to practice every waking moment.”
“You already do that,” Damien pointed out. “You’re meditating constantly.”
“Meditating doesn’t make me feel like I put my head in a drum and let someone bang on it for a few hours,” Sylph said curtly.
Damien couldn’t argue with that. They lapsed into silence for the rest of the trip. His stomach rumbled, but the only thing he wanted to do was take a shower in the healing water. Food could come after his body didn’t feel like it was falling apart at the seams.
Reena was outside her curtain when the two of them got back. She raised an eyebrow at the exhausted students as they trudged past her.
“Have a fun morning?” Reena asked.
“Not particularly,” Damien said, his words little more than a grunt. “I can’t feel my legs.”
Mark peeked his head out from his own cave. “Were you training?”
Damien ground to a halt in front of the cave, torn between being socially acceptable and speaking to the other students or ignoring them and running into his room. Sylph had no such qualms. She sent Damien a smirk over her shoulder and pulled the door open, making a beeline for the shower. He repressed a groan.
“Yeah. I’m pretty fried,” Damien said. “I think my bruises are starting to form bruises.”
Mark smirked. “Then you should get better at not getting hit.”
“Working on it,” Damien said wearily. He glanced at his door, but there was no point rushing inside now. Sylph was in the shower, so all he could do was wait until she finished. “What have you guys been up to?”
“Same as you,” Mark replied. “Training and studying for my class. It’s a lot more work than I would have expected.”
“What did you get?” Reena asked. “Damien and I are in Magical Theory together.”
“Eh,” Mark replied with a shrug. “Basically just Magical Control. Nothing very interesting, but it’s a pain.”
“Nolan got rune drawing, didn’t he?” Damien asked, cocking his head. “How’s he doing with that?”
Nolan groaned loudly from within his room. “My hand doesn’t draw what my brain tells it to draw!”
“He’s not doing too great,” Reena said, acting as if she hadn’t heard him. “I guess all of us are struggling with our classes. Judging by how you look, it doesn’t seem like you’ve had much luck figuring out how to make a knife out of Ether either.”
“Huh?” Damien asked. He blinked as he realized she was talking about the assignment the professor had given them. “Oh, I wasn’t practicing that. I was doing my normal training. I’ll work on that after I take a shower and get lunch.”
“You haven’t even started yet?” Reena asked, her eyes widening.
“Well, I put some work in last night,” Damien lied. “I’ll figure it out soon enough.”
Reena grunted. It was clear she didn’t believe him. “Well, if you need help, you can knock on my… curtain, I suppose.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Damien said, desperately wishing that Sylph would finish her shower already. His limbs felt like they were a few steps away from sloughing off his body and turning into soup at his feet.
Mercifully, Damien heard the water shut off within his room a short while later. He ducked out of the conversation as politely as he could and staggered into the room. Sylph stepped out of the bathroom while wringing water out of her hair.
“All yours,” Sylph said. “You enjoy your conversation?”
Damien curled his nose at his roommate and offered no response as he waddled past her and into the shower. He threw off his clothes and hopped into the shower. A relieved sigh escaped his lips as the soothing water poured over him, causing the pain to evaporate. His headache had already started to fade by the time he got into the shower, but it was almost gone by the time he got out.
He dried himself off and stepped outside. Sylph had changed her clothes, although the only way that Damien could tell was that they were no longer soaking wet.
“Lunch?” Damien suggested. “I need to practice for my class, but I’d rather do that on a full stomach and give my head a little more time to heal.”
“Works for me,” Sylph replied, pulling her hair into a bun. “Just be prepared for the Grays and Mark to invite themselves.”
“They’re welcome to come as long as they don’t try to invite me to any more restaurants.”
Sylph raised an eyebrow but said nothing as the two of them stepped back outside, where Nolan had joined Reena and Mark in their conversation. The boy’s face was slightly singed, and the tips of his hair were burnt. Ink stains covered his hands and expensive clothes.