I hold the shovel up as far as I can get it and dump it onto the stupidly tall and thin pile that’s only being kept up by basic Earth Manipulation.
“Huh, it’s about as tall as she is, Annei. Are you really sure that isn’t enough?”
“She still doesn’t have the skill we’re currently going for. Maybe the trick for her is to have multiple pillars up at once? We’re probably going to have to shut off all the spells she’s using her Gift to keep up.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’m shutting my Gift off now. I’ll get to work on the second pillar.”
“How about we eat lunch first? Maybe keeping it up in the air while you’re doing something else will be enough to get it?”
“I guess that may work. Come on Lilith, let’s eat.”
I walk over to the picnic blanket that Sister set up for us again, while constantly keeping Earth Manipulation up in my head. It’s a whole lot harder to do than it is with my Gift, but I should be able to manage it.
I sit down, it looks like Sister prepared meat for us today.
“So, Lilith? Who is it that asked for a sword trainer for you? Was it you, or was it Mother?”
Oh no, we’re jumping straight into this, huh? No, I expected this. I just need to soothe it over to the ebay of my ability. With Rain in my head, it shouldn’t be that difficult.
“Huh? Lilith has a sword trainer? I haven’t heard of that?” Sister asks, looking lost.
“Yeah, me neither. What’s more, it’s Wolstan that’s teaching her.”
“Huh?! Wolstan?! Wolstan, as in Wolstan Norsl?! He’s here?!”
Why does everybody except me know him? Well, he did say that the last time Brother saw him was when he was 3 or 4. Maybe he was involved in the Amber family before leaving before I was born? That seems to be the most likely scenario.
“Yes, he is. So Lilith, just why is he here? Serving as your sword instructor no less?”
“I’m terribly sorry Brother… I had convinced Mother to get me a sword instructor without telling you. I wasn’t involved at all with picking one out though…”
“Why? You already have a Gift, and you’re already learning normal magic. What do you need a sword instructor for?”
I can’t tell him the truth, but I still have to give a satisfying enough answer. Something that sounds like Lilith would say it too. I have to figure it out now, too. How difficult, but with Rain in my head, I should be able to think of something.
“Well, I’ve been thinking, and… well, I’m probably going to wind up in the military because of my Gift anyway, and I thought that in order to prepare for that, I should get as strong as possible…” I say, trying to sound as upset about it as possible. Play towards their emotions and all.
“Lilith, I understand where you’re coming from, but I feel as though you’re taking on far more projects than you can handle. You’re eight, Lilith. You should be playing.”
“Brother, aren’t you the one who said there’s nothing wrong about being an all rounder instead of focusing on one thing?”
“Er, uh, well…”
“She certainly has you there.”
“Oh shut up, Hana! Help me here!”
“Sis, do you really think that you can handle all of this? This is training with a Gift, normal magic, and swordsmanship. Can you really keep those three things going?”
“Of course I can, they all go hand in hand. I train my Gift to help me be better with using a halberd, training for earth magic requires building up strength which also helps with halberd training.”
“Yeah, Wolstan’s training her with a halberd instead of a sword for some reason.”
“Wouldn’t that nearly come up to twice as high as she is tall.”
“Not quite, but nearly.”
“Pfft, just imagining that is hilarious.”
“You’re not helping, Hana!”
“Hey, I can hold the practice one just fine. Wolstan also says that I should get the strength to hold a real one from this.” I decide not to tell them about how Wolstan told me I’d mostly stay the same size. I’m sure he’ll bring that up to Brother at some point, and I don’t want to see their reactions to that…
“I know this really doesn’t help my case, but…” Brother sighs, “You just got the earth pillar skill…”
“Huh? Seriously? How do people even know when they get skills?”
“It’s supposed to be obvious, I’m not sure how you’re not getting it. Is it just because you’re never paying attention when you get them?”
I ignore Brother’s comment and turn to look at the pillar of earth I made with my own two hands and a bit of earth manipulation. Using earth manipulation to shift the base a bit quickly knocks the whole thing over.
Holding out my hand over the rubble I imagine using the skill, and creating a pillar of earth out of the dirt. Sure enough, the ground shakes, and slowly a mound of dirt rises up out of the ground that’s a little over my height.
The purpose of this skill is to pierce into enemies and knock them directions, but the best mine could do is knock someone off their footing. That’s very useful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still very underwhelming.
“Don’t worry sis, you just need to practice for a bit, and you’ll definitely get it up much faster!”
“Yeah, keep in mind what you’re manipulating too. We’re on dirt. If we were on bedrock, the pillars would be way more durable too.”
That… that is actually incredible information from Brother! Sure, we’re standing on dirt, but below that is surely a layer of bedrock. If I manipulated that instead… yeah, that’s probably the trick to it.
I continue swinging the halberd as Wolstan instructed me. Swirling it around, and hitting from the side to throw sword men off.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Keep it up in both directions. Make sure to return to your original stance each time.”
“Hey Wolstan? You’ve taught me the basics of middle guard at this point. Maybe we could try something a bit different just this once?”
“Oh? And what do you have in mind?”
“Just a bit of a practice duel. I’m sure you outclass me, but I want to see just how much I’ve gotten a hold of.”
“Hm, alright. Aim the halberd at me.”
Huh? Was it that easy? I was expecting him to be a lot harder to convince. I hold the halberd towards him anyway though.
“We’ll begin on my mark.” Is he not going to grab a practice sword? “Ready, get set, go!”
He charges at me, and I instantly forget all of my training. I do what I had intended to do though, and summon a pillar of earth right under his left foot. He tumbles down like intended, and I thrust my halberd at him.
But he falls too far to the right and dodges that way. He runs at me while leaning way too far to the right to be able to stand properly. In an instant he’s right next to me, taking a stance to strike with his hand one of his scabbards.
Every last fiber of my being is screaming at me that I’m about to die.
I find myself not in the training grounds any more. I’m in some sort of classroom with a very depressed looking student. “Lilith, you’re enviable, you know that? Leave me alone. I won’t help you if I see you dying, and you should be the same way.”
I snap out of it, and find myself back on the training grounds. I’m laying on the dirt, having dropped my halberd.
“Lilith! Lilith!” I hear Wolstan yelling at me, it’s a worried yell. I grab my halberd and sit back up.
“Y- yes sir?!” I yell, looking him in the eyes. He looks terrified.
“Lilith, are you OK?”
“I’m perfectly fine, sir.” I say, standing up.
“Right, right, that was my bad. You are way too young to have been on death’s door, even if you don’t act like it. I couldn’t have expected you’d panic that much if I let out killing intent though…”
“Um, sir? I kind of… blacked out there for a moment? What happened?”
“I grabbed my scabbard with the intent to kill you. You held your halberd up in a defensive position, looking like you saw death itself. Then I think you fainted, and fell over. You were out for a long second before you sat back up like nothing went wrong.”
“O- oh… sorry for worrying you.”
“Don’t worry about it, it was my fault.”
I’m not interested in such a mopey conversation so I decide to change the subject.
“So… how did I do? Where can I improve?”
“Right, so that earth pillar of yours wasn’t a bad idea per se, but it’s an incredibly basic spell, a whole lot of people before and after you have come up with the same idea all on their own. With a bit of experience I was able to counter it easily.
As for when I got up close, it’s a mixed bag. It was good because you definitely understand when someone’s about to kill you, and it's bad because that was an absolutely horrible way to handle it.
Now holding the middle part of your halberd towards your opponent is usually a good position to take when someone gets in close. You can use it to block attacks and wrestle the opponent into submission. But you’re so small trying that is basically a death sentence.
What I’d recommend is forming a sharp earth pillar right between you and your opponent and stabbing them in the gut with it before they can attack you. Beyond that, you're better off going by experience rather than memorizing exactly what to do.”
“I see… so we’ll be doing more practice duels like this then?”
“That’s right. You’re already good enough to come up with plans and follow through with them in an actual fight. We’ll keep practicing like we’ve been doing but those will be warm ups for our duels.
I’ll be switching fighting styles and weapons to keep you on your toes, but for now it’ll be about slowly getting better in actual fights rather than learning the basics.
After I decide you’re good enough with middle guard, we’ll switch to another one, got that?”
“Yes, I understand. That… took a bit out of me though. I’m sorry, but can we be done for today?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll try not to give you such a fright tomorrow.”
“Please do.” I say as I walk away.
I couldn’t admit it, but the real reason I’m leaving for today is to think about that vision. That was a new person, but I recognized that uniform from the visions I had that night. They’re still consistent.
First things first though, what caused it? The only thing that links the visions of that night and that vision together is that they both occurred near death. I was actually trying to use my Gift in the first case though, I didn’t think of it once back then.
Checking my mana though, I realize at some point I had to have used a lot of it. Much more than that earth pillar would have used up. I had to use that mana somehow, so was that because of that vision?
That seems to be the most likely theory. Did I use my Gift instinctively then? Was I so close to death there, that I used my Gift to try and figure a way out of it? I would have had to use it in the same way that I did that night. That seems likely too.
Most importantly though, this proves that those visions can be replicated. It isn’t easy, but I know how to have them again if need be. They also remain consistent too. They aren’t random, there’s a pattern to them.
I’ll keep with my original intention and only truly believe that they’re visions of the future if some of the visions start happening in real life. Even then though, this is only reinvigorating my want to act on those visions as if they’re visions of the future.
I have everything working as intended though. I’m getting stronger as intended, and now I might be able to replicate those visions if need be. I need to keep doing as I’ve been doing, and everything will work out fine for me.
I walk into the library, and Brother looks up at me surprised.
“Lilith? You’re done already?”
“Yes, Wolstan let me off early. We’re moving onto practice duels now.”
“Oh, and how did that go for you?”
“I felt like I was going to die.”
Brother cringes at my joke. Yeah, that was a bit morbid of me. I’m really sorry about that.
“Are you asking to start studying magic early today?”
“No, I was just wondering what skill I’d be acquiring next.” I’m not lying, I want an idea of where my progress will be going from here.
“Right, about that, I did a bit of reading and prepared a chart about some of the more basic earth manipulation skills. I was thinking about talking it out with you.”
Oh? Brother reaches up to the top shelves and grabs a folded up piece of paper. He unfolds it and shows it to me. It literally looks like a skill tree. At the far left in a box he wrote “Earth Manipulation,” and branching off of that is a whole bunch of different skills and paths I can take with names of the skills, and a basic description underneath it.
I look around the thing. It starts out pretty basic on the left, but as I look further right the bigger and more complex the spells get. Stuff like “Earthquake,” “Meteor Shower,” and “Earth Sense.” I figure these are all months down the line at least, so I look more towards the left side of the page.
Even here though, there’s quite a lot of options for me to pick from. I figured earth would be a pretty simple element, but it appears that I was wrong. This world is actually incredibly creative about the ways I can use the element. There are so many options, each of them pretty good.
I have to make a decision though, so I have to pick one to go after next. I can go after the others later, but now I need to pick one to commit to. Alright, I think I made my decision. Something that’s sure to be incredibly versatile.
“I want to learn to make Earth Golems!”