At the request of Lady Kaguya, we were invited to stay at the castle to undergo some training. It was not certain when this calamity was going to happen, so it seemed like the proper course of action was to prepare ourselves as much as we could for it.
Frankly, with all of the new insights that I had been overloaded with, it felt like there wasn’t enough time in the world to fully dive into them. If only some schoolgirl deity would invoke an ‘Endless Eight’ arc or something.
Nevertheless, I cycled between combat training with everyone, studying potion effects from Lady Kaguya, and torturing Wen Zhi with pressure points to unlock ‘Gates’.
In terms of combat ability, even without the twin’s Divine whatchamacallit, Katsys and Ludmila still struggled to gain the upper hand. Though they were both lower in level, their actual fighting experience was lacking as well. Thankfully, there was a wide-open courtyard meant for training sessions within the castle. It was even equipped with mana barriers to negate any damage to the surroundings, which allowed for some of us to go crazy without causing any real damage.
Yi Long and Chrys stared in excitement safely behind the barrier. To them, it must’ve looked like a battle between mythical heroes. Finally giving in to his urge, Yi Long wanted in on the fun. Though his movements and physical skills weren’t bad for his age, his mana manipulation skills were still rather undeveloped, making it difficult for him to handle any blows from our attacks.
Feeling a bit sorry for him, Katsys handed him a downgraded version of her magic gun, letting him have some fun firing off rounds of magic at us.
“Gave him the cheap, store brand, didn’t you?” I snickered as I played ‘cut the magic’ with the shots he fired.
“Well, it’s made with inexpensive parts such that even the common person could work themselves up to using, provided they possess enough mana,” Katsys replied, totally missing that I had tried to tease her.
My smile dropped. “I wasn’t being serious about the whole commercial thing, you know?” It may have been too late, since I had already planted that idea into her head. I apparently hadn’t learned that she could still make good on my wildest suggestions.
Chrys seemed to want to follow along as well. Since the two kids were starting to get along, we often saw Yi Long trying to teach her the forms to his martial arts style. Though she had no problem memorizing them, there was a major problem of execution – her speed.
Similar to my Atk and Mag stats, Chrys had been drained of her Mag and Spd stats. Though she could execute her attacks as normal, the movement speed that resulted under combat was… essentially her walking pace. It was almost comical to see how she made the motions to run and dodge, only to move at the pace of a casual stride. It had nothing to do with her physical abilities as the motion of her limbs moved at the correct pace, but it seemed like the adjacent environment dulled her traversal of distance like the concept of space-time had been warped. Truly, it was a strange sight to behold.
Yet, her perception of mana manipulation was fairly advanced. She could generate mana shields almost as soon as she was shown what to do, much to Yi Long’s chagrin. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, given that her previous world was in-tune with mana in nature and how she could already enhance the flavors in cooking. It was truly a disappointment that her Mag stat had been cursed.
As a result of this and her natural ability to auto-aim and auto-dodge, it seemed to be best to train her as a sniper. Using another model of the same magic gun that Yi Long played with, Katsys started teaching her how to lead with her shot. As a result, the rest of us started getting pelt with unavoidable magic shots, even from the other side of the courtyard. ‘Thank the heavens for the low power ceiling of the store-brand models!’
In the afternoon, Lady Kaguya would have some time to show me the ropes when it came to brewing mana-infused potions. Unlike the disheveled workshop of a certain inventor, the castle storeroom that held the medicinal ingredients was filled with neat jars lined in square cubbyholes and equipment that was regularly used but kept in pristine condition. I whistled at the stark difference.
“I have servants to pick up after me,” Kaguya confessed.
‘Ah, and I had my hopes up, too.’
Rather than the actual method of potion brewing, I had been more interested in learning the mana-enhanced benefits of specific ingredients. Scouring the shelves for ingredients that I had familiarized myself through culinary dishes, I plucked out each one to inquire about the intended effects.
“Ginger… that is typically added to flush toxins from the body. Cures for poisons and paralysis work well with it. And it can even stave off the effects of miasma.”
“Coriander…our warriors ask for a dose of this when they need help with focusing their mana. We’ve seen it help with flow and circulation.”
I continued to grab jars in sequence, letting the knowledge of its effects soak into my mind. My hands stopped when I pulled out a jar that contained familiar-looking bulbs with a distinct odor.
“Dwah! It’s garlic! Not the imitation Pizarka stuff, but actual garlic!” I waved it in the air in celebration. I had settled for Pizarka to give my dishes a similar taste, but nothing beat the real stuff.
Seeing that this would take a while, my other companions left to do other things with their time. Lau and Ludmila went off to study the styles of the castle guards in training. Kanade and Katsys had apparently stepped into town to do some shopping. I vaguely recalled that Katsys wanted to check for new materials. Neiya had followed Yi Long and Chrys, acting as the chaperone for the two of them. They seemed less like a master and familiar than children starved for each other’s attention. As for the twins… they just stood there with a complicated look on their faces. ‘They probably don’t trust me to be alone with their master, but is there any need for the both of them to stand there looking obviously bored?’
In any case, after Lady Kaguya had to attend to her other duties, Wen Lu and I gave Wen Zhi a devious smile. Knowing what came next, he futilely covered himself up, a squeak of terror escaping his mouth. To be fair, it wasn’t always torture for him. There were numerous pressure points that did a variety of things. I was already well-versed in the ones that caused paralysis and loss of consciousness, so we went through those rather quickly in groups. Those pressure points stymied the flow of mana through the rest of one’s body. A lack of mana running through a body part resulted in a temporary shutdown. Of course, blocking mana to the head would result in a blackout, like oxygen deprivation.
In addition, there were also pressure points that caused a multitude of temporary benefits, like the ‘Divine Mana Gate,’ which was where a person’s mana was centralized. Tapping that point was like releasing a limiter that the body naturally maintained. One could apparently tap specific points in the body to widen the flow of mana directed to where it was needed, like one’s fingers to generate denser blades of mana.
However, the one tricky part of pressure points was that the location often did not correspond to any obvious origin point. And the effects led to outcomes far different than what I had been taught. For example, a point located on the top of one’s feet, which improved blood circulation throughout the body in my previous world, ended up causing Wen Zhi’s feet to suck up mana from the ground. A point on the top of his head, which I had been taught to combat nausea and dizziness, had instead resulted in a boost in balance and steadiness. It was rather amusing how my prior knowledge sometimes translated so strangely in this world.
Wen Zhi did not mind it so much when I had unlocked ‘Gates’ that provided useful applications such as these. It was when I made a mistake or caused an adverse effect that he dreaded.
A few locations appeared to have no impact on the mana flow itself but caused a sharp jolt of pain or worse, particularly the one that caused Wen Zhi to flap like a chicken. I had done this to a few enemies before but had never figured out how this worked. The ‘Gate’ specialists that were around studied Wen Zhi’s body as his arm continued to twitch uncontrollably. Their conclusion was that my mana had struck a nerve which caused vibrations through the tissue. Over time, the mana would disperse, causing the nerve to calm down. Wen Zhi was not happy during that hour of torture.
Another mistake that I would rather forget about was when I pinched the side of his neck with my fingers. At first, Wen Zhi didn’t make any response, but not long after, a blush crept onto his face.
“What’s wrong, brother?” Wen Lu looked at him worriedly.
“It’s uh-nothing, c-can we move on?” Wen Zhi brought his hands down to his pants as his voice jittered. His body shifted uncomfortably as we tried to detect any changes in mana.
“Okay, there is obviously something that you aren’t telling us about. I know that face when I see it.” Wen Lu looked at him annoyed. “Just spit it out already.”
“Claude, what pressure point did you hit this time?”
“Eh? Ah, you know what, I had thought to try a knock-out grip from a certain popular sci-fi series. The location that I hit though… it might have been actually… for blood circulation?”
“Circulation?! My blood is certainly going someplace, and it’s not letting up either!” Wen Zhi waved his arms in fury at me.
However, that motion had revealed the problem that he had been trying to hide. Something was protruding underneath the fabric of his pants. Obvious that he was covering his ‘pitched tent’, Wen Zhi’s face went bright red.
“Stop gawking and help me fix this!!!”
Unfortunately, I could think of no solution for it, so he had ended up stuck in this state for the next four hours. Thankfully, it didn’t end up with the same effect as ‘Hard Ten Days,’ but that medicine had always seemed a bit farfetched anyway. Apparently, that existed in Lau’s previous world also, so he flashed me a thumbs-up, which I responded with a facepalm.
Our time at the castle passed in such a manner as everyone got to know each other.
A woman dressed in the garments of a castle servant stood in an empty alleyway far from the main streets of Yakuman. This was not the typical place a servant would go, but she had an important errand to run.
An enormous warrior that few would dare to approach turned the corner, walking right up to the woman before looking upon her with expectation.
“What’s the news, Fu Yue?”
“My liege, Young Master Zhao continues to mingle with those of demonic mana. Lady Kaguya has taken it upon herself to train the group of foreigners. However, it is apparent that there are weaknesses that we can exploit.” She passed a scroll with her observations recorded on it.
The warrior nodded in response. “I will pass this to the family head, Lord Zhao.” Chen Shi Yuan, the head of the Chen family which was part of the Thunder Phoenix Clan, was the right-hand man of Zhao Lei Dao. He had been tasked to keep tabs on the group of Electi that they encountered recently.
The servant quickly bowed before leaving. Once she was out of sight, Shi Yuan unrolled the scroll and scanned its contents. A scowl crept onto his face.
“How disgusting. Fawning over the likes of a demon. How low Young Master Zhao has fallen. His father will not be pleased with this.”
Though Lady Kaguya had declared that they were safe and under her care, it was no joke to have twice as many potential demons living within the country. It all seemed suspicious to him. This gathering of those with unnatural power left the entire clan on edge. Though Lady Kaguya was from the holy family, they believed that her soul must have been poisoned by the Electi that she had summoned. No amount of training could fully prevent the purple tint that had gradually dyed her core. That was evident the longer her Electi had existed.
For that reason, the voices of discontent grew in the clans, believing that their tainted princess was influenced by the dark forces. They could not trust those that did not cultivate their powers naturally, and as such, something needed to be done to keep them in check. Only they, the most powerful clan in the country, could open her eyes and return her to normal! First, they had to get rid of those that drove their countrymen towards the path to darkness, before it was too late.
Shi Yuan smiled. They had ways to deal with them all, now that they had this information in hand.
‘Glory to the country of Sanshiro! The powers that they had cultivated were built up for this reason!’