I woke up early the following morning. Not on purpose, that is. More irritating was the fact that I couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually I gave up and read some more of Jeremiah Guyard’s essays, though even those didn’t grip me in the way they usually did. I finally resorted to staring out the window at the rising sun.
I didn’t see Verity in the dining hall while I was eating breakfast. That was a little disappointing… for some reason, but I knew I’d see her in the gym at half nine, as we’d agreed the evening before.
Or so I thought, but Verity wasn’t in the gym when I got there at the appointed time. No one else was either, for that matter. It seemed that few trainees were as keen to practice as Verity, including Verity herself. With nothing else to do, I took a stroll around the edge of the gym, passing a coin from hand to hand and thinking about my battle with the assailants. The way they fought was beyond anything I’d been taught. Rather than worrying about the value of their casts compared to those of their opponent, they were finding novel ways to use their Divitaetion to outwit their opponent. The cast of force on multiple coins as an offensive move was brilliant! As was the switching up between point blank casts of trap and force, I was still suffering the effects of that last one.
And I was considered a prodigy? How adorable.
As I rounded the second corner of my third lap of the gym, at the far wall from the main entrance, Verity entered the room. She waved and I waved back and cancelled my lap of the room, walking back across the centre of the gym to her.
“Morning.” She said when I got close.
“Morning.” I returned. I didn’t mention the fact that she was late. “So what did you want to practice first?” I tried not to sound as awkward as I felt asking that. Acting as an instructor felt odd. It wasn’t something I had done before.
“Well…” Verity became quiet as she thought, though I got the sense that she knew her answer but wasn’t sure whether to say it.
“Come on.” I said, again trying not to sound awkward. “We’re going to be practising everything eventually.”
“Okay.” Verity came to a decision, “I need to practice trap.”
That made a certain amount of sense. Of all aspects of Divitaetion, trap was the one that really required someone to practice it on. You could perform trap on yourself, a move of questionable strategic value, but it was hard to really get a sense of how well you were doing when you kept blacking out. I sighed.
“Okay, are you going to practice breaking trap too?” Verity nodded. She took out a small black wallet and opened it to reveal it was full of notes. She took out two, a one dollar bill and a two dollar bill. The idea was simple. She’d cast trap on me with the one dollar bill, then break that cast with the two dollar bill. A cast of greater value than the original cast of trap was required to break it, after all. It was standard practice for… well, practice.
There was something I was a little worried about though. According to Beckman, the output of Verity’s casts seemed to far outweigh what she put into them. Even if she cast trap on me with a one dollar bill I couldn’t really be sure of when I’d wake up. Hopefully she’d be able to successfully break me out or I could be blacked out for a long while.
And of course I couldn’t forget why I was really doing this. I was here to find out what, if anything, she had been using for Divitaetion before she learned it could be done with money. Divitaetion without money… I could scarcely believe it. Being here alongside Verity meant that I could be close to an unprecedented breakthrough in the field of Divitaetion.
Now that would be something worthy of being called a prodigy for.
“Ready?” Verity interrupted my train of thought. She shook the notes in her hands slightly, as if to emphasise what she was going to do. Well if she did turn out to be able to produce uncontrollably powerful casts of trap, I was at the headquarters of the Church of Mammon, if there was anyone able to break the trap, they’d be working here.
“Go ahead.” I resigned myself to a day spent unconscious.
I didn’t spend the entire day unconscious, though that was probably how I did spent most of it. It turned out Verity was able to cast trap without a problem and, more importantly as far as I was currently concerned, also able to break her own casts of trap without a problem. As such there were no emergencies.
“Do you have a training card?” I asked. Beckman had given me a brief overview of what he had covered with Verity. There were still a couple of things she hadn’t been taught. One of those things was setting up direct debits and another technique that, in a similarly glib way, was called a standing order. Now that we’d spent several hours on trap I figured it only made sense to introduce Verity to the technique it was commonly used with, along with force.
“No.” Verity answered, dashing all the plans that I’d just made. I suppose I should have expected it though, considering what Beckman had said about the one time he had let Verity cast with a bank card. Thinking about that now, I wondered if I really wanted to let her start casting with a card.
“I’ll get a hold of some for tomorrow.” I said, tossing those doubts out the window. I was her teacher now, in a way, and I should do all I could to train her. “Before that, Mr Beckman told me that no one has taught you to cast search.” Verity shook her head.
“No. What does search do?”
“It allows you to perceive when Divitaetion is cast by others.” I began my explanation, “along with the type of cast performed, and its value.” Verity raised an eyebrow. I could tell that she was already thinking through the implications of what I had told her, and how such a cast could be used. She proved me right when she, almost immediately, asked me this:
“Do you use it in fights? To tell how much you need to break your opponent’s casts?” I shook my head.
“Acolytes rarely make use of it in battle, and you’ll see why. The effect is… disorientating.” Search manifested itself in the form of visual stimuli. People had many different ways of describing it, and it seemed that the effect appeared slightly differently for everyone. There was one commonality that search shared for everyone: it hurt to look at. The effect was bright and noisy and absolutely not the sort of thing you wanted to subject yourself to in the middle of a fight.
Search was also one of the hardest casts to teach. While all the others could be demonstrated with ease, all you could do was tell someone that they could cast it and hope that they’d get the hang of it. I’d read that this was apparently the reason search looked different to everyone.
I took out a five dollar bill and cast blade. As the most visually impressive cast, looking at it was generally the easiest way to learn search.
“Try to cast search with a one dollar bill.” I instructed. “The range and duration of a cast of search is dependant on the value put into it, but one dollar will give you a few metres and that will be enough to see my blade.” Verity nodded and took out a one dollar bill.
“This is how Isambard found me, isn’t it?” she said. I nodded. With that, silence fell as Verity focussed on casting search.
Beckman had told me that Verity had picked up most cast fairly quickly. It seemed that, since she’d worked out casting heat all on her own, she picked up new aspects of Divitaetion with ease. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to be the case for her when it came to casting search. I readjusted my expectations. Search tended to take a while to learn, and it seemed that not even Verity Pour, thought by at least one man to be a deity in human form, was immune to this struggle. Our training for the day finished with Verity never managing to successfully cast search.
It occurred to me that this first day of practice was the longest stretch of time I’d spent with Verity. We even ate dinner together, though Faith and Trey joined us.
“Isambard is busy.” Faith answered a question I hadn’t asked.
“Are you recovering?” Trey directed that question at me.
“Yes. The painkillers are helping.”
“I can’t imagine you’ll be in a hurry to tangle with the assailant again any time soon.” Faith said. Verity piped up.
“Hugh isn’t on the investigation anymore.” She said.
“Oh? What are you up to then?” Faith asked. For some reason I hesitated. I wasn’t at all considering telling Faith the truth about my task set by Tom Beckman, Verity was sitting right there after all and Beckman had already stated that he couldn’t trust Faith, among others. I looked at Verity. She didn’t jump in this time.
“I’ve been assisting Verity with her Divitaetion practice.” I confessed.
“Oh?” Faith said again. The tone of her voice communicated that she was asking a question, despite the fact that no question had been asked.
“He’s been trying to teach me to cast search.” Verity elaborated.
“Always a tough one.” Trey commented. “Whenever I’m teaching it I always make sure to give a detailed explanation of what search is meant to look like. It helps trainees with casting it for the first time.”
Whoops. My vague description of casting search being “disorientating” probably wasn’t too helpful for her.
“Why don’t you help her out?” Faith suggested. “What does search look like for you?” Before Trey could say anything more, Verity interrupted.
“No no that’s okay. Hugh can tell me tomorrow.”
Late that night I lay in bed, wide awake, thinking of how I was going to teach Verity Pour to cast search the next day. I never thought I’d feel so enthusiastic about teaching.