Sam Witman was angry. Becoming an FBI agent was one of the best moments of his life, but he accidentally infuriated a superior several years ago. Afterwards, he was transferred to the Anomaly Containment Unit. Frequently mocked internally as "The X-Files", they had the duty to investigate unusual occurrences, and if possible, prevent harm to the general public.
It may sound lofty, but 9 out of 10 cases he got assigned ended up as drunk hillbillies rambling about UFOs. Sam was sick of it, his career had halted and he was ridiculed constantly by his peers. Even more so, he didn't want to deal with the actual weird stuff that occasionally happened.
Recalling a case from a year ago, some hysterical old woman had made a fuss about ghosts haunting her attic. He went in assuming it was yet another false alarm when a shadow darted out and grabbed his left arm. A burning pain had run through his entire body, his gun was useless against the thing. After narrowing escaping, a special containment team was called in to mop up the mess.
Feeling the familiar burning pain, Sam looked down at his left forearm. A black handprint was still visible even a year later, like the damned critter had tattooed him, a crappy tattoo that flared up in pain occasionally.
Sam was called to this city several months ago when a slew of disappearances started. People just got up in the middle of work, meals, or even sleep and wandered off never to be seen again. No credit card activity was discovered, and their phone gps failed not long after taking off.
Some time after, another weird occurrence was reported in the same city, several affluential people were found wandering the streets early in the morning, all of them were found to have attended the same party. Narcotics came in to investigate, but contact was lost with all officers on site. The ACU sent a team in with a full dose of mental stabilizers and seized three paintings.
Questioning the party host revealed where the paintings came from remarkably easy, and thus Sam was on stakeout outside a condo building for over a month. All he had seen was an old woman coming and going from the address in question, no anomalies whatsoever. The ease of gaining the address made him think this was the wrong place. As far as he could tell it was just a retired woman and her shut-in son living here.
'Wasting my time...' A Uniformed Officer was assigned from the local precinct to help with the stake-out, the guy just wouldn't stop talking, it was grating on Sam's nerves. Sighing to himself, Sam went tuned the guy out and kept watch for anything unusual.
Jim had completed another session of Serene Mind and began thinking of what to do today. He grabbed he mom's old sewing kit and started working on the leather which had piled up in his inventory.
[Leatherworking Has Reached Level 3]
[Infusion Crafting Has Reached Level 5]
[Armor Crafting Obtained]
[Leather Bracer - Quality: Common]
[Defense - 10]
[Infused +80 Vitality]
'Mm, pretty good.' Using the Horn Rabbit pelts, he crafted a set of smaller items to be worn. Bracers, Shin Guards, Gloves, Boots. Libta was playing with a Tiny Cat Statue while Astril was browsing the internet. *yawn*, an entire day passed uneventfully.
[Leatherworking Level Max]
[Infusion Crafting Level Max]
[Armor Crafting Has Reached Level 4]
The next day, Jim started searching for pricing on copper and iron, after selling the paintings before he wasn't impressed with the amount he would get for selling it. Jim felt he was lacking in the crafting department, he was still reliant on the shop for his weaponry and tools.
His doctor's appointment was today, instead of calling Joan he just used his stealth skills and ground shrink to head downtown. As expected, the dosages of his medication got lowered, he felt it was time to lose his dependency on them anyway. It was a bit refreshing, like having dropped a weight he didn't know he was carrying.
Jim headed outside the city again, he purchased the spell Earth Wall from the system for 700 points and created a large room in the middle of the forest. He needed a place to practice his noisier and more disturbing skills in private.
Firstly, he wanted to try casting multiple spells simultaneously, Create Water and Create Soil were both rather simple. He tried drawing the mental magic circles in parallel to each other, his concentration failed and they broke apart. Activating Focus and Parallel Processing caused it to become far easier, a small stream of water and a bunch of falling dirt appeared in front of him.
[Simultaneous Casting Skill Obtained]
'Good, it worked.' Jim began studying the magic circles in closer detail. He didn't just want to be able to fire off magic, he wanted to truly understand it, how it worked and functioned. Flame and Create Fire were rather similar spells, the main differences being the power output and propulsion. As Jim compared the circles, he found the points which were similar and memorized them, There were over a dozen points where the circles differed from each other though, so he became studing Create Water, Create Soil, and Light Orb. They may be different elements, but Light Orb creates something and keeps it stationary just like Create Fire. While Create Water and Create Soil create things but are then subject to gravity.
'Is this it? No...' Experimenting, Jim was drawing magic circles in his mind, repeated failures to incorporate portions of one magic circle to another didn't get him down, he felt it could be accomplished.
Noticing it was getting dark, he broke down the house and headed home. Libta still hadn't uttered a single word, appraisal didn't show any bad status and inspecting her throat didn't show any problems either. 'Is she just naturally mute? Or is she choosing not to speak?' He understood that the girls had been hunted and even sold as meat now and didn't know what kind of effect that would have on their minds.
Astril still shot him the occasional distrustful look, but he just ignored it and carried on. Jim understood that he would be unusual in her eyes, but he had no intention to change himself for her. Rude? He had given her Food, Shelter, and Medical Care without demanding anything in return. He didn't feel that bending over backwards to assure her would make any sense.
While thinking over the possible magic circle functions, Jim nodded off.
I was unhappy with how I wrote chapter 31 originally, it has been heavily rewritten. If you read it soon after it first came out you may wish to go back and re-read it.
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