Since she only had two weeks' time left before her duel against her half-brother Barnaby, Mia really wanted to invent a new spell for herself that would provide her with some insurance during the duel.
No fight could possibly be won purely with defense alone. Even the mightiest of tank characters would have to be able to inflict some damage in order to be able to win. Mia wasn't even sure how her Slime Armor defense would hold up against fire. What was she supposed to do, attempt to burn Whimsy in order to test Whimsy's fire resistance? That seemed far more like animal abuse to her. Or should she call it slime abuse?
She only had a very basic beginner's level of swordsmanship skill. After all, she had only been learning the sword for a few months. Colson had been forthright when teaching her by letting her know that the Azure family swordsmanship techniques could only be considered average as sword skills went. In that case, she wouldn't possibly be able to rely on physical skills to overwhelm Barnaby, who clearly had numerous physical advantages on her such as reach and physique. Even if he was rather chubby, that wouldn't change his physical advantages. Mia felt that the only physical area where she could outshine him was speed.
Besides, Barnaby had his self-named [Fireman] magic technique that he showed off to her. If his main method of fighting involved covering himself in flames, Mia felt that it would be dangerous for her to be anywhere near melee range when fighting him. Not only did she have to develop some type of offensive technique for herself, she wanted a ranged skill or magic spell of some sort.
What were the obvious advantages of wind magic? The first things that came to Mia's mind were range, speed, flexibility, and so on. Compared to wind magic, fire magic seemed a lot simpler in its possible combat applications. What was fire magic always the most commonly used for? Brute force and area of effect magic spells. Mia felt that wind magic was far more adaptable – as long as she could use it properly.
At most, it appeared that the [Still Air] spell might reduce the oxygen content in the air and make it slightly more difficult to breathe for her opponents, while she could easily maintain an air pocket around herself and have full access to oxygen. Indeed, this was a tiny advantage in battle, yet it was also one that she wasn't strong enough to take significant advantage of right now. Small advantages would only be useful when there was only a slight difference in power between two people. Perhaps she was being impatient or greedy, but she definitely wanted more than this at her disposal.
Mia closed the door to the storeroom and exited it, locking the rat inside again. She closed her eyes once again and began visualizing the air in the storeroom.
Mia considered magic practice to be just like physical training. One would only possibly improve by constant practice. After all, with physical skills, nobody would possibly know how to swing a sword correctly without training their muscles and sword stances first. Wouldn't magic be the same way? It was just like how constant studying was the foundation for her good grades in her previous life.
Well, this was just Mia's personal understanding of how magic worked, as she currently had no access to a magic teacher. Her father Count Hart would never stand for the embarrassment of letting it be known that his daughter was a mere E rank wind mage. She had no idea if others would be able to instantly learn powerful magic spells. Slow and steady experimentation was the only way for her.
Just like right now, Mia generally had to close her eyes in order to have better control over her wind mana. While it was possible for her to cast spells with her eyes open, it was also much harder and drastically reduced her precision and range. One of her goals was to be eventually able to cast spells just as well with her eyes open without having reduced concentration ability.
If she couldn't do anything to the rat by deadening the air, what about drawing the air towards her instead? Mia tried to envision the storeroom as a plastic bag filled with air that she was gradually squeezing the air out from. She was able to feel a faint musty breeze wafting towards her from the storeroom's direction…
The more air that Mia "drained" from the room, the more difficult it became for her to drain additional air. Not only that, Mia also found that she had to maintain her concentration to not allow any air to reenter the storeroom. For the first time ever, Mia felt like she was having some trouble. Her head was also faintly beginning to throb. Was this a sign that she was trying something beyond her power? Was this spell too much of a drain on her maximum mana pool?
Still, only by overcoming difficulties would one obtain greater rewards. Mia decided to continue the experiment despite the throbbing in her head. She wanted to see what could come about of this even if there were potential consequences. And as for consequences, Mia also felt it would be useful to know if there would be any negative effects having used up all of her mana.
Most of her control over the wind required a constant output of mana, rather than a one-time cost, as she could passively use skills like her minimap [Detection] for basically as long as she wanted. This was due to the low mana cost required for maintaining the spells. However, now that she was using multiple spells at once – sensing the rat's life force, draining the air from the room, and also preventing any air from flowing back in, she was tiring rapidly, something she'd never experienced before.
In games, when a mage ran out of mana, the player would probably have the mage do one of two actions. Either run around and hit enemies with their mage staff for paltry amounts of damage, or sit back and drink some mana recovery potions for the next onslaught of spells. However, Mia didn't want to be limited to game mechanics only. Who said that mages had to use staffs as their weapons? And was this really healthy for a mage's body in reality?
Constantly drinking potions to heal up was actually no different from using medical drugs. Anyone that always had to drink medicine every single day couldn't possibly say that they possessed a healthy body. Mia was of the opinion that she wanted to avoid becoming a potion addict if possible. Well, this was probably because of her prejudice from her previous world; she knew how problematic opioid addictions could be.
In a way, mana was a type of essence, a new energy that people in this world possessed. Using it up would mean fatigue for one's body. It was just like how becoming seriously injured as a battle went on would weaken your combat capabilities. Were people truly capable of unleashing their full potential when being pushed to the brink? Except for hot-blooded main character types or those who possessed special skills, Mia didn't think so. As the pragmatic type, she much preferred to always keep her HP bar safely in the green zone. This was why she was also experimenting with seeing what would happen if her mana amount reached zero.
Focusing was becoming a taxing process, so Mia decided to cancel the effects of [Detection]. She no longer cared so much about what happened to the rat. Mia simply focused fully on emptying out the storeroom of its air and stopping any air from entering back in.
Finally, Mia reached a point where her legs became wobbly and she was forced to sit down on the floor. Her head was dizzy and she was unable to stand back up right away. Nor was she able to sense the wind anymore. It was as if she was suffering from tinnitus, as there was a ringing sound in her head.
Mia shook her head in an effort to clear her mind and squinted as she brought out the Status Stone to check her own condition. Unlike a game, she didn't have constant access to seeing her own HP and mana values. Instead, she could only estimate roughly based on her own body's condition. She wouldn't have the spare time to worry about things like HP and mana and bring out a Status Stone to check these stats during a real battle, after all. This was just how real life was, far less convenient than a game, even in a world where magic existed.
She couldn't even inject any mana into the Status Stone to ascertain her current condition. Well, this was basically what she expected, and it told her what she wanted to know without even needing to check anymore. Her mana pool had definitely reached zero, and she would need to rest in order for it to be restored.
At this moment, Whimsy came out from under her clothing and propped itself against her back, offering itself as a pillow to lean against. Not only that, Mia even felt a cool sensation flowing into her – was Whimsy helping somehow to restore and accelerate her mana recovery by giving her some of its own wind mana?
"Thank you, Whimsy." Mia spoke weakly to her pet slime and stroked it as she rested against the squishy blob. She was truly grateful for everything that Whimsy was doing for her. Was this Whimsy's way of giving back to her? Mia reminded herself to constantly maintain wind magic and fatten – er, feed Whimsy as much as she could.
"Milady, are you alright? Is there anything I can do for you? Would you like some water?" Colson also noticed her fatigued condition and offered his assistance. He had basically zero talent for sensing mana and didn't know what Mia had done just now. The most he could do was ask if she needed any help with anything.
The way Colson used mana was different from mages. What he, as well as other skill-based warriors typically did was mana compression – gathering the mana within their bodies and emitting it through a medium such as a sword or gauntlet to utilize powerful skills not normally achievable by the human body without expending mana. While he was no mana expert, he knew the symptoms of mana fatigue and realized that she had overexerted herself.
"There's no need for that, thank you." Mia waved him off and glanced at Colson with complex feelings inside. Truthfully, she knew that she should be grateful to him as well, having been reminded that she should be grateful of what she had by Whimsy just now. After all, he was her first ally in this world. Was it simply human nature to want to complain about the people closest to you?
She had recruited him in the first place because she valued his knightly ideals and honor that made him a loyal and trustworthy individual. That meant that she should learn to accept the negatives of such traits as well. Still, it wouldn't do to have him being overly idealistic or naïve if he was to continue serving as one of her companions, and he would find out the truth of the world sooner or later regardless, even if not directly through her. Mia could only hope that Colson would manage to grow and mature on his own when he faced the dark side of human society. Some things had to be experienced and figured out on one's own, after all.
"Could you open the storeroom's door and check on what's happened inside?" Mia asked Colson to do this for her as she feebly leaned on Whimsy.
Colson nodded and opened the door. The moment he did so, both Mia and Colson felt a breeze as air rushed back into the storeroom. There was no source of ventilation in this room, not even a window, so the only air that otherwise circulated in the room could only enter from the cracks between the door and the frame, which wasn't enough to have immediately restored the room back to normal.
Colson stepped inside and looked around for the scurrying rat, but didn't notice any movement. He then looked around the small room and immediately saw the rat in a corner. It had apparently been attempting to dig a hole, judging by the scuff marks on the ground, as an instinctive reaction by any rat that knew it was in danger or wanted to escape.
He stepped over to take a closer look, holding a sack in hand in case the rat tried to slip past him. However, when he got closer –
"Milady! Don't come in here! This isn't a sight that you should see. What happened here! The rat has died!" Colson's astonishment was quite evident.
Mia smiled faintly upon hearing this. That meant everything she did just now had been worth it. It had been a great success!
Still, it wouldn't be meaningful unless she could repeat it and control the outcome every time as well as learn more about her own powers. This meant additional experimentation, which would have to wait for later, as she was both out of mana and needed to go to her meeting with Dega.
"Okay, here's what I'd like you to do next for me today. Catch some more rats for me, maybe around three to five. Get some of the other servants to help you if needed. Tell them that Mia Hart wants to eat rat meat for breakfast today!"
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