“Has he fallen asleep, Fiona?”
Fiona nodded and adjusted herself on her bed. “The moment his head touched the pillow, he went as limp as a basilisk’s victim.”
“Good. He will need his rest for tomorrow. The ride to Valis will not be easy on him. I've heard whispers of bandits causing problems nearby.”
Reo scoffed at Grant. “Nothing he can’t handle, I suppose. Bandits and beasts are easy.”
“And besides, he’s a sorcerer like us,” Fiona cut in. “You of all people should know how difficult it is fighting our kind. That doesn’t mean I’ll let him join the fight. In a battle, beasts and humans are entirely different.”
There was no response from Grant, only a shake of his head. He was a man that was too measured for his own good. Although Fiona liked that aspect of his personality, it could become excessively burdensome. From time to time, the guy should unwind. She hoped Grant would take a few days off once he returns. Though it would most likely result in the opposite.
In order to not disturb Tyrus's sleep, the three of them were chatting and relaxing in her room. For a kid like him, ample rest is necessary. Otherwise, his growth would be hindered. She became aware that lack of sleep and nutrients during childhood can lead to learning disabilities and other mental issues. With a promising sorcerer like Tyrus in their midst, she would not let such blooming talent wilt.
“What do you think about him?” Fiona said.
Reo scratched his chin. “Tyrus? I think he’s hiding a lot of information from us. That much is obvious.”
“I’m sure he has his circumstances,” Grant said. “From birth, he has lived a tough life. His appearance resembles that of a beggar and he resides in a shabby shack, as he's told us.”
“For an orphan, he sure looks healthy. Most beggars I come across look weak and fragile from lack of food. He contradicts that title. Tyrus is small, yes, but he isn’t skin and bones. I noticed some muscles in his arms and legs.”
“He is a hunter, after all. Hunting a Two-tusked boar at the age of nine is an astonishing achievement. Take in the fact he has some skill with the lightning element too. His future is bright.”
Fiona chuckled. “That’s why I had to take him in. Leaving an Elemental Sorcerer that young and talented all by himself is akin to spitting on Sthito's face. He deserves a proper education in Valis so that he can be cultivated into a fine sorcerer. I have a hunch he’ll do great things in the future.”
And once he blossoms into a powerful sorcerer, he’ll become an indispensable ally to the Lockhart’s. The Family Head will be quite pleased with the results, I’m sure.
Giggling to herself, Fiona relaxed on her bed. She turned to her friends. “It’s too bad, though. Because of his young age, he won’t be permitted to join the Explorer’s Guild yet.”
Grant snorted as he readjusted himself on the floor. “And for good reason. The minimum age requirement is eleven. Allowing kids who lack the necessary skills into the guild doesn't feel right to me. Ah, and before I forget. Fiona, will you be responsible for young Tyrus? He hasn’t a lick of sil on his name and he cannot join the Explorer’s Guild.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got it all figured out.”
“And what is your plan?”
“It’s a secret~ All I'll say is deceit will be involved.”
The man squinted at Fiona and just grunted as he rose. She stopped him just as he was about to leave. “You and Reo can sleep on the beds here. I’ll sleep in the other room alongside Tyrus. Might as well use all the four beds given to us.”
“If you say so,” Reo said. “Don’t freak him out with your loud presence.”
Fiona made a scowling face and left the room to enter the one Tyrus was in. Closing the door gently, she tiptoed and plopped herself onto the sheets. She turned her body and faced Tyrus briefly. He was enveloped by his blanket, like a mole in a burrow. There was the unmistakable heaving of soft breaths that filled the room. When she was certain he was asleep, she smirked and looked elsewhere.
An Elemental Sorcerer with a primary affinity for lightning... The winds of change have blown in my direction. I’ll need all the help I can garner on my own. I’ll show them I have what it takes…
With determination coursing through her blood, Fiona tucked the sheets closer to her skin and closed her eyes.
Fiona and the rest were waiting in the back of a covered wagon as they were driven towards Valis. A breeze as soft as a cat’s paw blew across the path. On the right were grassy plains as green as emeralds, while the left was composed of Valier Forest. Grant was using a cloth to wipe his sword and shield, while Reo was skillfully twirling a dagger on his fingers. As for Tyrus, he had been in a meditation pose for the past hour. Patiently, Fiona waited for him to finish, eagerly watching.
Thanks to Mana Sense, it allowed her to perceive the subtle nuances of energy flow within those around her. As she focused her attention on Tyrus, she noticed his mana had steadied and was pulsating with purpose. This observation piqued her interest, as it revealed a level of control and discipline in his magical abilities.
Typically, sorcerers who did not actively steady their mana would exhibit an erratic pattern, with the white energy flowing aimlessly until it was directed for spell casting. Without sufficient mana to fuel a spell, the resulting firepower would be weakened significantly. However, when the mana was steadied, the spell cast would benefit from the proper allocation of mana, resulting in increased strength and efficacy. Apart from that, meditation had other benefits.
I knew I wasn't mistaken. He managed to get it without any aid.
By the time she felt giddy, Tyrus had finished already. He slowly opened his eyes after taking another deep breath. He noticed Fiona surveying him and tilted his head. “Did you need something from me?”
“I’m curious about your progression. What have you learned so far?”
Tyrus's lips formed a thin line as he pinched his eyebrows. “Sadly, I don’t think I learned much. Ever since I met you, I feel like what I know is a drop of water in a vast sea. All I can do right now is manifest the lightning element with my palms. And to increase my mana reservoir, I would meditate every other day. I recently found out breathing exercises are key to developing mana.”
Fiona nodded every so often until Tyrus finished. “Amazing! I’m guessing you learned all of that in a few days?”
“It’s been a week since I awakened, so a little longer.”
“And you’ve already learned how to cast one spell with just a glance. It usually takes a Fledging Sorcerer a few days to even see results. The reason being is that they acquire spells during their adjustment period. You need to establish a connection with the ambient mana in your surroundings and from within. A closer connection leads to greater control.”
A look of realization crossed Tyrus's face as his mouth hung open. “I see… so that’s what it was.”
Fiona was curious but didn't ask for clarification. If he considers it important enough to talk to her about, he'll do it eventually. She had an aversion to making people do things they were not ready for. In fact, she loathed such actions. Understanding the severity, she knew a single action could hinder their development as an individual.
Tyrus's element manifestation sparked her curiosity. The crackling energy of lightning coursed through his palms, displaying a level of control and mastery that caught her attention. She wondered what he had in mind as he sat there, seemingly deep in concentration.
Minutes passed, and Fiona watched with growing concern as Tyrus’s magic faltered. The flickering sparks of lightning grew dimmer, eventually dissipating into nothingness. It was then that she noticed a change in his demeanor. His breathing became labored, and he clutched his chest in distress.
“Three minutes… and ten seconds this time,” he said.
Grant looked up from his polishing. “Diligently training your magic, are you? Fearless and a hard worker. Exceptional qualities to possess at a young age.”
“He really is determined to become a powerful sorcerer,” Reo said.
“A future like that is imminent for him, given his current state. His resolve dwarfs most kids his age–and dare I say, our seniors at the academy.”
Tyrus wiped his forehead and glanced at the group. “Academy? Seniors? You guys… go to school?”
Oh right… He doesn’t know, Fiona thought. She cleared her throat. “Grant, Reo, and I are students of Valis Academy of Sorcery. We’re actually in our sixth year.”
“If you’re still in school, then how old are you guys?”
“We’re sixteen,” they said in unison. Tyrus was so shocked by the reveal that he snapped his head back and bumped his head onto the wood. He yelped as he rubbed his head carefully.
“I thought you were way older than that,” Tyrus mumbled. Fiona was unsure whether to laugh or be annoyed by that comment. Did she really look that old for a sixteen-year-old? Compared to others her age, she could say with confidence she was slightly above average. There wasn’t a wrinkle or a blemish in sight because of her youth. Maybe the stress was catching up to her?!
Amidst her internal dilemma, Tyrus snapped his head directly at the coachman. For a moment, his gaze lingered, and his eyes scanned around as he cupped his ears. Strangely, he even sniffed toward the backend of the carriage a few times.
“I think I hear… voices?”
As soon as those words left his mouth, everyone in the carriage lurched forward as the vehicle came to a screeching halt. A horse neighed, and the coachman started yelling curses at it afterward. Grant managed to move his sword aside just in time as the kid collided with him. Reo quickly regained himself and leaped out of the carriage. Grant and Fiona followed along. Tyrus was about to exit also until Fiona stopped him and shook her head. Before he could protest, she had already joined the others.
Their eyes were immediately drawn towards Valier Forest as they spilled out. Like rodents from a sewer, armed men with smirking and detestable faces came out from the area and circled the carriage. Fiona identified the greed spilling out of their eyes and the hostility emanating from them.
“Why is it always bandits?” Fiona grumbled. “Always targeting travelers or merchants. They should get an actual job.”
“You know damn well they don’t have the brains for another job,” Reo sneered.
That comment from him got some of the bandits riled up. They began inching forward, their smirks replaced by scowls. When Fiona looked back, she noticed an arrow sticking out of the horse's eye socket. Looking again at the floor, the coachman was also lying there with an arrow in his head. She shook her head and focused her attention elsewhere.
“Thanks to them, our trip to Valis will be delayed! Let’s deal with them quickly for Tyrus’ sake.”
At her command, Grant and Reo pushed forward as Fiona prepared a spell, ready to burn her enemies to ashes.