When they finished comparing notes about Solus’ explanation for true magic, it was already late. Lith had to rush to get out of the woods before it became too dark. He wasn’t afraid of night time predators, his mother Elina, though, were another story.
“If I come back too late, I’ll get grounded for weeks. Darn it all, I hate curfew so much!”
He did not want to come back home empty handed, so he took out of the pocket dimension a couple of fat blinkers he had saved for moments like that.
The next day, Nana informed Lith that the Count had agreed to help, and that some of his best books were on their way.
Lith was forced to pretend being still engrossed in Nana’s history book, it was too big to finish it in one go. He spent that day abridging all the tier one spells on his grimoire, keeping only the name, hand signs and pronunciation instructions and a short description for each spell.
“I don’t need to waste precious pages on this cr*p. I can fake out the hand signs by moving my hands fast, but I still need to remember each new magic word when I pretend to use fake magic.
Also, if Nana wants to put me to test, I need to show her my proficiency. Sigh, all this brainless memorizing will drive me crazy. The silver lining is that by learning this stuff I can predict an enemy’s spell and counter it if necessary.”
More than once, Lith found himself wishing Solus could move his body at will. She had a much better memory, and it would save him a lot of time and effort.
The only spell Lith was really eager to try was the air magic Floating Body. With this incantation one could make float in mid-air anything or anyone weighing less than one hundred kilograms (220.5 pounds).
It had many uses, like braking a free fall, moving a severely injured patient without bumps, or moving without leaving traces and making noises while hunting or on scouting.
This was something that Lith had attempted many times on his own but with no success. He could easily make others float with spirit magic, but not himself. It was really hard balancing his whole body while focusing on the spell, the same could be said about using air magic instead of spirit magic.
A minor mistake would make him float upside down or make him spin like in a washing machine. Lith never managed to float properly, let alone moving.
“If Solus is right and fake magic is a training course, I can use this Floating Body to learn how to float for good. Then, the most natural step is evolving it into a flight spell. I can’t wait to soar through the skies like my childhood heroes!”
Right after lunch, Lith went back into the woods and started practicing. Floating Body’s magic word was “Brezza Ri Lak”, so he had no problems with pronunciation. The hand signs, instead, were quite complicated.
Having learned from his mistakes, Lith first made sure he had got the magic word right before moving to the hand signs. He took it slow and easy, he didn’t need to learn how to fast cast it, only to learn from the spell how to distribute the energy.
After only a few tries, Lith managed to cast the Floating Body properly. It was an odd feeling, much different from what he had expected.
To float it did not require a single strong updraft, but hundreds of them at the same time, each one pushing upwards with the same force to keep the balance in check.
“This is much worse than I had anticipated. No wonder I always failed in the past. Now, according to the book, Floating Body makes me weightless, standing in place. To move I need either external support or air chore magic.”
Lith started to generate weak winds, moving around like a toy drone.
“This feels great! This spell has countless applications, I wonder why it’s just a tier one despite being so elaborate.”
“Because it lasts only one minute” Solus reminded him while Lith was already falling to the ground.
After experimenting with Floating Body a few times, Lith used his own mana flow to replicate the spell. Soon it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to do it in a single afternoon. True magic, after all, was really more difficult than its fake counterpart.
Angry and frustrated, Lith started grumbling non-stop.
“It’s all so annoying, having to learn two kinds of magic for every damn spell. I’m telling you, Solus, I have seriously considered using Floating Body instead. But if I am stupid enough to do so, then I would be forced to learn all its upper tier versions, and who knows at what step lies actual flight.
This way, instead, once I get some solid foundations, everything else should come easy. Or at least I hope so.”
Lith spent all day and night practicing his new spell, Levitation, but when morning came, he had yet to succeed.
The following day, a small crate of books was delivered to Nana’s house, and she promptly handed it to Lith.
“If they were mine, I would never allow you to bring them out of my house. But the Count explicitly told me you are free to bring them home as you see fit. Lark is a very generous man, don’t abuse his trust.”
At first, Lith was really pissed off. He had completely forgot about his plea from help, and now he was flooded with useless books that he had to pretend to read. After two whole days as a shut in, his body was craving for some action.
But then he noticed that there weren’t that many history books, most of them were biographies and autobiographies of past and present prominent mages, archmages and Magi. He finally had at hand the information he needed about how much talent he could reveal safely.
Lith could finally see a light at the end of one of the many tunnels he was stuck in. So far, his apprenticeship had only added more problems to his life, getting lucky for once, made him feel really good.
He took note in his grimoire of all the feats his role models accomplished and at what age they managed to do it. Then it came the most serious part, deciding how far to push his act.
“I’m of humble origins and with no backer. Mimicking a Magus is like courting death. If even revealing less talent than Nana brought a noble to try to kill me, showing so much skill would put me on the hit list of all the major families.”
“Agreed.” Solus chimed in.
“The best choice is to keep being below Nana’s talent. If Count Lark starts protecting you, you can ramp you up to her level. A male mage of that skill would definitely be noteworthy. From then, is better to adjust your power talent based on how things develop.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Lith mind nodded.
During the following weeks, while at Nana’s house, Lith and Solus split the tasks at hand. Lith crammed all the tier one spells while Solus would read the Count’s books and take note of every relevant detail.
Lith gave her control over both spirit and water magic, making her possible to flip books and write an appendix on the grimoire.
During the afternoon, instead, they would try to make Levitation work. Little by little they were working out all the problems, sometimes even improving Floating Body foundations.
Lith completed Levitation after over a month of hard work, and by that time he had also already mastered all the tier one spells, but he was forced to wait. According to the Count’s books, that was a feat worthy of a future archmage.
So, he had to wait for another half a month before revealing to Nana the fruits of his endeavours. She was truly impressed by Lith’s skill and determination.
Nana had told him that back in the day she had needed less than a month to memorize all the book, and despite Lith being of lesser talent, he had managed to accomplish the same result with just two weeks of delay.
Nana had expected that it would take him no less than two whole months.
Nana offered him to help her during the busy hours, and Lith gladly accepted. Until completing Levitation he had not hunted for over a month. Not only the reserve of game he kept in the pocket dimension was almost depleted, but that huge break had also costed him a lot of money.
Lith needed to make up for the lost time. Officially he only knew two tier one light spells, Vinire Rad Tu (the illness/injuries detecting spell) and Vinire Dan, a basic healing spell, capable to treat coughs, light colds and not too deep cuts.
Hence, most of the times he would only get the diagnosis fee, since it would be Nana treating the patients. He could only get to heal minor injuries, yet his profits weren’t that bad.
Nana’s business had deep roots, people from all the neighbouring villages would come to seek her aid.
By spending more time in the front office, Lith discovered that Nana was so much more than a healer for the people of Lutia. She was also their protector and the strongest law enforcer.
Simply by living there, most bandits would avoid the village, and those who were brave enough to attack would quickly meet their maker before doing any real damage. Nana was also the shield for all the local merchants and population.
No foreigner merchant, young master or young mistress could bully the people of Lutia without incurring in her wrath. Sometimes she would be called even to put an end to a drunken brawl.
Lith found hard to believe she had such disposition toward the people she served, always standing ready to intervene whenever was necessary.
One day, after Nana taught a lesson to a young noble and his bodyguards, believing that he could forcefully take any maiden that suited his taste, Lith decided to find out the truth.
The old hag had already proven that she cared about money more than everything. Lith had fallen for her kind act more than once, so he wanted to know what her real angle was.
Being rude to his mentor was definitely a bad idea, so he went with a subtler approach.
“Master, I really don’t know how to express my admiration for you. Taking care of the safety of the village, basically all by yourself, and asking nothing in return. It’s really impressing of you.”
Nana laughed out loud, sounding ominous like the plumber, back on Earth, that once Lith had been forced to call during a national holiday.
“You really are hilarious, kid. Sometimes you are so wise I almost forget you are just six years old. But whenever you come out with this nonsense, you really look like a naïve child. Off course I get something in return. Have you ever wondered why my treatments are so expensive?”