“An unprecedented threat…” Sharon sank into deep thought.
“Of course that’s just speculation. I’d like to give more details if I can, but I really don’t know anything about why we’re ‘here’.” Q emphasized the last word, which Sharon took note of.
“Mm, alright, we’ll put that matter aside for now. You’ve answered one of my questions so now it’s only fair that you get to ask one of your own.”
Q’s eyes flashed with excitement. “Then… can you teach me about magic? Where does it come from? How does it work? What does it do?”
“That I can certainly answer. Be warned though, this will be a lengthy topic.” Taking a deep breath, Sharon began to explain the intricacies of magic.
“First of all, what you call magic is what we in the professional field call æther. At one point people called it ‘mana’, and it was then later changed into ‘spirit’ for reasons we’ll cover in a moment. Regardless of which term you use, they all refer to the same energy that is constantly present throughout the world. Think of it like this; Much in the same way that pushing an object would require kinetic energy, casting a spell would require æther.
“Have you ever noticed a feeling of slight exhaustion after casting a spell? This is the æther inside your body being consumed. Extensive research on the subject has been done, and scholars have come to the conclusion that ‘æther’ is magical stamina. The more æther you have, the more spells you can cast, but the more you consume the more exhaustion you’ll feel. For example, casting a high level spell like [Fire Storm] feels like running a marathon. If your æther reserves are higher than what the spell requires then you may be winded for a while, but if you do not possess the minimum amount of æther then the spell would fail, and you very well could die of magical exhaustion.
“To expand further on this, scholars have also found that the Martial and Weapon Arts which warriors and frontline fighters use also consume æther. This brought up a large debate on whether or not Arts should be considered magic. I won’t get into details, but it was eventually decided that æther would be called ‘spirit’, named after the idea of fighting spirit, and the old belief that magic came from the guidance of spirits.”
Sharon then took a sip of the now cooled tea, and allowed Q a moment to digest this new information. “That’s a lot to take in, but it’s very interesting. Earlier you said that magic is all around the world, so does that mean it has a source?”
“That… is a slightly more complicated matter. We can indeed sense æther flowing through the world, and we have pinpointed certain locations which contain a higher concentration of æther. We call these spots, leylines. These leylines go deep into the earth, and although we cannot explore those spots due to the high concentrations of æther, the scholars have come up with a theory that there is a core at the center of the world which supplies us with æther. If you think of the core as a heart, the leylines would be veins, and the æther would be like blood flowing through.”
“The lifeblood of the planet…” Q blinked. “Hold on, if you’re able to use magic thanks to the æther in the air, then how do you restore your spirit?”
“Now that… is a very good question.” Sharon stood up from her chair and gestured towards the door. “Let’s take a step outside for a bit hm? I’d like to try out something, and it may very well answer your questions as well as mine.”
Q saw no reason to refuse, so she quickly finished her cup of tea and followed Sharon out the door. Along the way they spotted Lily who had just finished with her guarding duties. Sharon called her over, and together the whole group headed into one of the tunnels and ended up in a large arena-like space. “Lily, if you would please.”
The shy girl stepped forward and opened up a book filled with various drawings. She carefully extended her finger that emitted a faint light, and then traced a drawing of a scarecrow. Then, she peeled it off like a sticker and threw it out in front of her. Before everyone’s eyes the drawing of the scarecrow enlarged and became life sized! As the group stared with wide eyes, Sharon stepped up and made a request.
“I would like all of you to take turns hitting this scarecrow with whatever Arts or Spells you have. Ah, but beforehand please allow me to cast a spell on all of you. It will help me better analyze the movements of æther in your bodies.” Everyone gave their permission for her to cast the spell, and soon a faint layer of light surrounded their bodies.
Q was the first to step up, first using each of her Arts, and then cast [Spark] and [Ember]. Despite the power behind the attacks, all it did was make the scarecrow sway which slightly annoyed Q. She was going to use some Runes, but ended up not using them since Sharon offered to have a separate class on Rune usage later. Sunflower went up next, and most of her Arts involved buffing herself and punching the scarecrow. Kukis was last, and she mainly relied on her Myth to hit the scarecrow from a distance.
Watching all of this, Sharon was nodding and jotting down notes in a large notebook. Once everyone had finished she called them back and they waited for her analysis. A few hmms and umms later Sharon seemed to have figured something out.
“I think… I think I understand now. Why astralites are stronger, grow quicker, and fight longer… You all have cores inside of you!”
“Cores? Like, the theoretical one at the center of the world?” Q raised an eyebrow.
“Yes! I left this topic hanging earlier, but our method of using magic, or rather any kind of æther is very different from yours.” The elegance Sharon showed earlier was nowhere to be found as she excitedly explained her findings. “For us natives, we are able to manipulate the æther in the air through study and practice, and in order to utilize it more effectively we store æther in materials which can hold it. Then, through the process of casting a spell we draw out the stored æther and use it to enact our will upon the world. That’s not to say we can’t cast a spell without these tools, but it would take a much longer time compared to using one.
“But for you… you don’t need to do any of that! Instead of gathering æther or using tools, it comes from directly within you! Having æther generated inside you means that you can constantly cast spells whenever… wait. Having æther inside your body would be detrimental, unless the body itself is of a different substance? But then…”
“Oh dear, excuse me.” Lily moved past the group and began patting Sharon’s back. “Mother? Mother, you’re too focused again.”
“…and therefore the energy spirals into… huh?” Sharon blinked a few times, and then a blush slowly crept up her face. “M-my deepest apologies for showing you such an uncouth sight.”
Q couldn’t stop an amused smile from forming her face. Noticing Sharon’s expression drop, Q was quick to explain. “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. You just reminded me of a fr- acquaintance. That’s all.”
Hearing this, Kukis narrowed her eyes and looked at Q. Q in return felt her stare and the two of them had a silent conversation with their eyes. This lasted for only a few seconds as they returned their attention on Sharon who had finally regained her composure.
“Once again, I apologize for my conduct. I was simply delighted to be able to solve one of the many mysteries involving astralites.”
“Haven’t we shown up in the world before this?” Q asked.
“While that is true, the records say that the astralites in the past only appeared to assist us, then left immediately after. We hadn’t had a chance to interact with them so closely until now. This entire situation with you astralites mixing in with our people has never happened before, so there are many things to be discovered and recorded. Speaking of which, I must write down everything that I’ve found out here!” Just as she was about to run out of the room she added, “oh, and Q, if you’d still like to get some lessons on Rune Magic then I ask that you wait here a little longer. I won’t be long!”
With that, Sharon left the arena and the remaining girls chattered amongst themselves.
“That was one heck of an origin story.” Q was in awe at the knowledge she had just learned. “Magical mysteries, astral origins, and so much more! Oh my! Anyway what are you two going to be doing? I’ll be waiting here for more magic lessons.”
Kukis took a moment to look up and thought to herself. “I think… I’ll start to earnestly look for a Class. Turns out ‘alchemist’ is a profession so I need to find an actual class for combat. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out. Do you want to join me Sunflower?”
“I think I’ll stay and learn some more about magic. Maybe I’ll become a Rune Meister too!”
“Yeah! Magic buddies!” Q shouted.
“Alright then… decisions, decisions…” Kukis wandered around the town for a while pondering on what class she should choose. “I should probably ask Mod who’s got what and decide from there.”
Searching for a quiet place, Kukis sat down and opened up her friends list. As expected all of the usual members were online. Not that they’d ever stop playing this for any reason. Heck, even Simon of all people got sucked into this game despite what’s happened in the past, and that’s saying a lot.
She sent a message to Mod and waited for a response. While she waited, she began watching the people passing by. The town was becoming livelier by the day, due to the large scale PvP event coming up. The astralites were beginning to don the clothing (or lack thereof) of their respective houses that they decided to side with. Kukis even noticed some women wearing small pins with a rose on it, and mentally reminded herself to grab one at some point. She remained like this for a good half minute before finally getting a response.
- [Kukis]: Hey Mod, got a class suggestion? Q’s becoming a Rune Meister and there isn’t an alchemist class.
- [Master of Disaster]: Soz, was in a dungeon.
- Class huh?
- Ever think of becoming a barbarian?
- [Kukis]: Not you too!
- I swear to god, you and Q are going to frustrate me to death before I get killed by a mob.
- [Master of Disaster]: No wait I’m serious.
- (though it’s good that Q’s already figured it out)
- Barbarians are good okay?
- High survivability, high damage
- People say they’re dumb as rocks, but they’re not necessarily like that
- From what i’ve found about them they even have a magic-based subclass
- Which is weird but totems and spirits or whatever.
- Also it’d balance out our team.
- You don’t even need to fight up front if you use your Myth.
- [Kukis]: Don’t think I didn’t notice you trying to cover up that previous comment with all these short messages.
- But really, a barbarian? That feels so… inelegant.
- [Master of Disaster]: Says you. Just because the public opinion on them is that they’re uncivilized savages doesn’t mean that they really act like that.
- And besides, this is a Class, not a way of life.
- Think of the benefits! With the high constitution you can tank most attacks just fine, and their combat instincts makes them a threat at close range.
- Also you could probably swallow any poison and be fine.
- [Kukis]: You’re really pushing for this huh?
- [Master of Disaster]: Hey, you asked for an opinion.
- And like I said earlier, it’d balance out our party.
- [Kukis]: I’ll think about it.
- What’s everyone changed their class to btw?
- [Master of Disaster]: I’m a Mage, focusing on the Earth and Lightning elements for Burst damage and CC.
- Rouland has gone full tank and turned into a Knight.
- Vam is an Archer and has somehow learned to fire arrows like a gatling gun.
- [Kukis]: I feel like you’re forgetting that we don’t have a healer.
- [Master of Disaster]: Who needs to heal, when you can kill them before they hurt you?
- [Kukis]: OH. MY. GOD. You can’t be serious
- [Master of Disaster]: （‐＾▽＾‐)
- [Kukis]: I thought we agreed to not do those crazy stunts again!
- [Master of Disaster]: That’s what I originally thought, but then I changed my mind once I realized this game can copy real life a lot more closely than we think.
- Meaning some ‘special’ tactics can be put into play
- [Kukis]: Unbelievable.
- …If you’re serious I guess I can’t stop you. Thankfully Q and I found a girl who seems to be a good fit for a healer.
- Also I can make potions now, so that’ll help.
- [Master of Disaster]: Hah! I knew you’d agree.
- So with that, I have the full consent of all our members!
- The Deadlight Brigade is back!