Chapter 207: Coordination
Although my bond had the appearance of a little girl that was even younger than my sister—if you disregard the two horns sprouting out from her head—she was still an asura.
After having the guards evacuate the small audience that had no intention of continuing their training regardless, I began pouring my mana into the large mana crystal responsible for powering up the defensive mechanisms within the training grounds. A low hum resounded in response and the cavern walls and rounded ceiling glowed dimly. Emily wasn’t here to power up the plate-like sensors she had installed for my previous training so the only functionality available was that of the barrier.
My sister was the only other person still inside the training room, but I had her stay near the entrance behind Boo in the rare case that one of our spells accidentally hit her.
“Do I really have to stay this far when you two are just practicing? I can hardly see you guys even with mana-enhanced sight!” Ellie shouted out a complaint as she peeked her head out from behind her bond.
Ignoring my sister, I continued to stretch out my body, making sure to be extra diligent while stretching my legs.
“Are you not going to stretch? Better yet, do you even need to stretch?” I questioned my bond, who was standing perfectly still while watching me.
“Considering I can barely use this body for basic daily functions, I’m a bit hesitant to try anything more,” Sylvie replied, frowning.
“Better to practice now than in the middle of battle, right?” I countered, balancing on one leg as I stretched my aching thigh.
Sylvie let out a sigh. “Very well.”
My bond attempted to mirror my pose, only to stumble. After a few more minutes of her violently swinging her arms to try and keep her balance as we went through a series of stretches, we began our training.
“So, how do you want to go about this?” I asked. Having only seen her use her superior body to fight alongside me or use vivum to heal me, I had no idea as to how she planned on fighting in her humanoid form.
“Stay there for a bit,” she replied, raising her arm and pointing an open palm in my direction.
Without warning, a missile of light shot toward me.
My eyes widened in surprise but I quickly reacted by coating my hand in mana and swatting the missile away.
“A mana arrow?” I looked at the shallow cut on the side of my palm. Despite the spell being similar to Ellie’s mana arrows in a way, her attack was much denser—almost solid.
“Ellie’s use of elementless mana provided me with a few ideas on how to best take advantage of my traits,” she answered, sending another arrow of mana my way after a moment of preparation.
This time the ‘arrow’, or more accurately a harpoon, judging by the size of the shining projectile, shot in a slight arc towards me rather than in a straight line like the previous one.
Wanting to verify my curiosity, I made no attempt to block or dodge the incoming spell. Instead, coating my hand in a thick layer of mana, I grabbed Sylvie’s mana harpoon.
The speed of her spell jerked my arm back but I held on firmly. I had expected it to disperse immediately, but it remained in my hand even while I was gripping down on it with sufficient force to shatter a rock.
After becoming a white core mage and practicing organic magic, I could tell that although Sylvie may have gotten the idea of her attack from watching Ellie, but the composition of the two spells couldn’t be any more different.
The raw power of her attack isn’t that high but in order to pack so much mana so densely into this form so quickly…
My mind wandered off as I contemplated all of the possible applications of my bond’s magic. By the time I looked back at my hand, the mana arrow had disappeared.
“Mana manipulation for dragons is limited to pure mana only, right?” I confirmed.
“If you don’t take into account my race’s ability to manipulate aether, yes,” Sylvie said. “Although there’s something else…”
“What is it?” I asked, curious.
“I’m not quite sure myself. After being in this form, I’ve been able to get a better grasp of my core, yet there’s a part of it that I can’t seem to access,” she answered.
“Maybe you’ll be able to access it once you get stronger,” I said. “For now, let’s see how versatile your control over pure mana is.”
I launched a dozen fire arrows with a swing of an arm. The streaks of fire spread out before converging back into a single target directed at my bond.
Before my attack landed, a shimmering barrier of light enveloped Sylvie, covering her in fire and dust from the ground around her.
“Try to create individual panels to block each projectile,” I barked out, sending out another wave of fire arrows.
Sylvie’s brows knit in concentration as she managed to conjure a large sphere of pure mana from her palm that separated into multiple panes to block my spells.
By then, though, I had already closed the distance between us and had the broken blade of Dawn’s Ballad pressed against her arm.
However, rather than flesh, my blade had met a patch of black scales that appeared from beneath her skin.
Despite my attack’s failure, Sylvie seemed to have been genuinely surprised by my follow up.
I sheathed my broken sword back into its scabbard and gave my evaluation. “Your control over pure mana is excellent and considering how dense your spells are, it seems your mana reserves are quite big. Your innate body provides good physical defense even if you are a bit slow.”
Although Sylvie held in her smile, I could tell through our bond how proud she was feeling.
“Still, I don’t think your attacks are strong enough to threaten retainers and scythes,” I continued. “What else have you noticed about this form compared to your draconic form?”
Sylvie thought for a moment. “My innate defenses are a bit weaker in this form. You held that strike back but if you had attacked me seriously with Dawn’s Ballad, I would’ve lost a limb.”
“Good to know.” I nodded. “Anything else?”
“My control over mana is better in this form, but my dragon form allows me to utilize more of my mana in a single breath—albeit a more unrefined form,” my bond explained, twirling several orbs of mana around her hand as if to emphasize her point.
“I see,” I muttered taking a few steps back. “There are a couple more things I want to test out, Sylv. Can you conjure a square pane in front of me?”
I could feel her curiosity flare up but I hid my intentions from my bond.
With a twitch of her wrist, the spheres of mana that had been orbiting her hand shot out and converged into a bigger orb before flattening out into a flat square.
“Keep it stable,” I ordered, reeling my fist back.
I punched Sylvie’s panel of mana and while it trembled from the impact, it stayed where it was.
“What about distance? How far can you conjure a spell and keep control over it?”
She didn’t answer, instead, she stretched out a hand and willed the panel of mana that I had just punched away. The spell changed into a spherical form as it hurled toward the back wall of the room. Sylvie then closed her outstretched hand into a fist, suspending the orb in midair.
“Move it left,” I ordered, concentrating on the shining orb.
Upon Sylvie’s direction, the orb easily darted left and stopped just before it hit the wall.
I gave another order. “Bring it back, change the shape of it into an arrow.”
I led Sylvie into a series of exercises, gradually adding more orbs and having her manage them until there were ten orbs, five of which I had instructed Sylvie to change into a flat panel. By the end of the drill, Sylvie was sweating profusely, but I had a pretty good idea on how we were going to coordinate in battles.
Four days had passed in the blink of an eye. I spent the majority of the day in the training grounds, drilling with Ellie and Sylvie until the two of them were mentally and physically drained. It was a great change of pace for myself as well and I felt my control over my white core steadily improve. While Sylvie had yet to ‘unlock’ more of her abilities hidden away in her core, and we hadn’t had the chance to attempt at any sort of coordinated fighting together, she and my sister had still improved greatly under my scrutinizing tutelage. After our morning drills of target hitting for my sister and multitasking with ten or more mana spheres for my bond, we took a break.
Sylvie, Ellie, Boo and I rested near the grassy patch beside the pond, eating the sandwiches brought to us by a hulking woman that was apparently a chef inside the castle.
“Hey, Art,” my sister called as she absentmindedly picked the vegetables off her sandwich. “What would you say are the biggest drawbacks of fighting using pure mana? From what I’ve seen while you and Sylvie were practicing these past few days, her spells seemed really versatile, even against all of your elemental attacks.”
“Stop picking them out and just eat it,” I chided, gently slapping her hand. “And to answer your question, I can think of three big reasons why most mages prefer to use magic of their elemental affinity rather than just pure mana spells. First reason is that it uses up a lot of your mana reserves.”
“More so than elemental spells?” Ellie interrupted.
“Pure mana can only come from your mana core, which—as you know from experience—is often time consuming to gather and purify. Elemental magic also uses mana from your core but it’s also powered by the ambient mana that consists of all of the elements,” I explained.
Ellie’s brows furrowed as she tried to wrap her head around the concept. “I’m not sure I follow.”
I thought for a moment, trying to come up with an appropriate analogy. “Ah, so it’s kind of like this. Imagine I’m on top of a snowy hill and I’m trying to hit you, who’s at the bottom, with a snowball.”
“Why am I the one getting hit?” she frowned.
I looked at her with a deadpan expression. Sylvie chuckled beside me as she tossed a sandwich to Ellie’s drooling bond.
“Okay, okay. Please continue.”
“A mage using elemental magic would first make a snowball with his hands but instead of just throwing it, he would roll it down the hill so that the snowball picks up more snow from the ground. By the time it hits you, we’ll say the snowball turned into the size of Boo,” I continued.
Boo let out grunt upon hearing his name but quickly turned his attention back to Sylvie, who was the only one feeding him.
“Now, a mage using a pure mana spell of the same ‘power’ will have to make the snowball and pack it with more and more snow until it’s the size of Boo before throwing it down at you. See the difference?”
“That sounds like a lot of work,” Ellie admitted. “Okay, what are the other reasons?”
“It’s harder to effectively control pure mana once it’s been expelled from your body, and”—deciding it’d be easier to just show her the last reason, I willed a field of stone spikes to shoot out from the ground a few dozen yards from where we were—“unlike what I did just now, pure mana spells must originate from the caster.”
Just by looking at my sister, I could see that the proverbial light seemed to have lit up in her head.
“Anyway, since we’ve taken a break, why not continue a little longer?” I suggested, getting up.
“Yes!” Ellie agreed, bolting up as well. “Hey Sylvie, can you do what you did earlier and make those moving panels? I want to try to hit them!”
“Sure,” My bond smiled. “Shoot some mana arrows off course so I can practice reacting as well!”
A smile escaped my lips as I watched the two run off when the doors to the training room opened once more. A single guard came running in, and just by his expression, I knew it wasn’t good.
Sylvie and Ellie’s eyes followed the guard that stopped in front of me and saluted before speaking.
“General Arthur! News of a massive corrupted beast horde has come from the Wall. Commander Virion is currently waiting for you in the dock with a team of mages to go with you as back up.”