TS39: For Later
The hope that he could talk to Chris quietly faded as Jove and the group entered the gym. A dozen and a half students in green robes sitting on the benches as Chris and a smaller mouse sparred back and forth. Chris had his sword out and it flared with brilliant yellow lightning. The mouse used a metal staff that seemed to flow like water as it swung and thrust.
Evan jeered, â€œCome on Keith. Whatâ€™s taking so long? Heâ€™s a freshman.â€
With a single motion, the mouse lunged forward in a overhead strike with the staff. Chris switched to an underhand grip and blocked the staff. There was a horrible screech as Chris blade solidified into stone and slid down the staff, stopping an inch or so from Keithâ€™s gut. Meanwhile, the staff bent during the block, forming a blade at the tip that wrapped around and paused a similar distance from Chrisâ€™ spine. Except Chrisâ€™ other hand was holding the middle of the blade. There were a few moments of silence. Chris and Keith separated and bowed to each other.
Mark leaned forward and whispered, â€œWho won?â€
Mug whispered back, â€œChris did. But not by much.â€
Two other students walked into the center of the gym as Chris and Keith walked off. Keith asked Chris, â€œHow did you change elements without an incantation?â€
Chris shrugged. â€œItâ€™s one spell.â€
Evan intercepted them before Jove got there. The spotted leopard grumbled, â€œThat was a really impressive move Chris. How did you ever manage to learn so much? My father never let me learn any combat magic.â€
Chris just shrugged.
Jove walked up. â€œIâ€™m sorry to interrupt, but I need to speak with Chris.â€
â€œOh?â€ Evan said, â€œI suppose. And heâ€™ll want a break after the duels heâ€™s had.â€ He gave Chris a pat on the back, â€œMaybe next time, you can see how Iâ€™ve improved.â€
â€œDuels?â€ Jove looked at the crowd. It made sense to him at least. An informal test of ability and magic. â€œJust practice right?â€ He paused, â€œWhereâ€™s Julius?â€
Evan laughed. â€œHeâ€™s a lot of trouble. Most people would only twist their ankle trying a move beyond their ability. He actually managed to shatter his knee. Karl took him to Magus Walton.â€
Chris blushed at that. He looked at the ground and sighed.
â€œItâ€™s not your fault,â€ Even comforted, â€œHeâ€™s taking remedial combat because he forgot how to function without magic. He was expecting the earth to strengthen his legs and overextended.â€ He looked at Jove. â€œGood to see you again. Seems my lodge brother has once again caused you concern. At least we have time for proper introductions.â€
Jove tensed. He didnâ€™t want to wait to talk to Chris, but he knew there would be time enough. â€œOf course. Iâ€™m not sure if I can do a formal title. I donâ€™t have an element or a facing.â€
Keith looked a little stunned. The mouse asked, â€œHow is that possible?â€
â€œHeâ€™s the null that was in the Gazette.â€ Even shrugged, â€œWhy donâ€™t you say whatever feels most natural?â€
Jove thought about his magic. It could be Venator or Praeda depending on what it mimicked. Perhaps it would also shift elements as well, unknowable. An empty template filled by how it was used. There was an element for that but Jove didnâ€™t feel certain just yet. He extended his hand, â€œI am Jove, an unconventional mage. Iâ€™m not a null.â€
â€œUnconventional?â€ Evan raised an eyebrow. â€œAnyhow, Iâ€™m Evan Dagaan, Earth Venator and Vice Justice of the Earth Lodge. Itâ€™s good to meet a friend of Christianâ€™s.â€
As Evan did not take Joveâ€™s hand, the mouse grabbed and shook it. â€œKeith Flores, Earth Venator. You might hear me referred to as Metal Mouse. Iâ€™m the marshal of the Earth Lodge. I hope our world isnâ€™t too overwhelming for you.â€
Nervous energy gripped Jove for a moment. â€œNothing I havenâ€™t been able to handle.â€ It was the fact heâ€™d been able to handle not only Atlantis but also the recent attempts on his life that made him feel overwhelmed. â€œI seem to adapt easily.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a tough one.â€ Mug gave Jove a hearty slap on his back, almost knocking the fox off his feet. She continued, â€œIâ€™m Mug, Fire Venator. I donâ€™t want Chris to overshadow all the new students. Especially everyone from Otherworld. How about I go next round? I donâ€™t have much formal training, but Iâ€™ve been in a lot of fights.â€
Keith shook his head. â€œThatâ€™s not what weâ€™re about. Itâ€™s natural to want to fight when you learn magic, and we use this training to keep track of the basics. Tossing around rocks or fire is simple and I must admit itâ€™s fun, but thereâ€™s much more to magic than that. Earth is also the provider of fortitude and strength. More involved uses include gravity and metals. Earth is the element you go to if you want to make a floating island. I assume you want a job when you graduate?â€
Mug nodded, â€œI suppose.â€
â€œIn this world, weâ€™re â€˜havesâ€™. A mage can do a full month of work in a few minutes, if you know the right spells.â€ The mouse gestured around, â€œDo you think these stones were placed by machines or by workers? This whole place was built in a day by a powerful earth mage. A fire mage made sure it stays warm in the winter and cool in summer.â€
â€œSo Fire can cool things off.â€ Mug shook her head, â€œI just want to bust some heads.â€
â€œMages used to lord over others with our power and there are places where thatâ€™s still legal. But we can also be productive. We can build houses, make forging stones that cut crafting time in half, make sure that those on our land donâ€™t starve or die of plague.â€ Keith took a breath and poked at the much larger rottweiler. â€œYou need to choose. Youâ€™re from a gang, right? Were you there out of fear, so you could break the law, or did you actually want to make your life better?â€
â€œWe kept order in places where the cops were too afraid to go!â€ Mug grabbed the front of Keithâ€™s robe and attempted to lift him off the ground.
Keith smiled. Jove could see the Earth energy rooting the mouse to the ground. â€œThen you can make their lives better.â€
â€œBut theyâ€™re in Otherworld.â€ Mug snapped back. â€œWeâ€™re not allowed to go back there.â€
Evan interrupted, â€œThere are rumors that might be changing soon. But, there are always rumors. Of course, there are rules for importing a whole group of mundanes ever since the Croatia incident. Still, Keith has a point and even battles between mages are more than who can knock each other around. Sit this one out and when you get proper control of your magic, weâ€™ll talk about some light sparring.â€
Mug looked at the ground. â€œAll right. Iâ€™ll wait.â€
Jove looked around, â€œIf itâ€™s okay, Iâ€™d like to go check on Julius.â€
With a smile Mark said, â€œIâ€™ll go too. I donâ€™t really want to see the fighting.â€
Elsa put a hand on Markâ€™s shoulder. â€œNo, Iâ€™m sure Jove and Chris can handle this by themselves. Besides, itâ€™ll help if you see magic in a non-threatening context, right?â€
Chris looked around and started walking. He looked back, â€œComing Jove?â€
The fox nodded, â€œOf course.â€ He looked at Elsa and mouthed a quick thanks.<< TS38: Another Monster || TS40: Must Say >>