Despite how excited Caden was at the thought of finally making some progress and gaining a level, Tam continued at a slow pace. Admittedly Caden had no way of showing his excitement, so it’s not like Tam knew. Showing his excitement would actually be a bad idea, because it would show that Caden understood what Tam was doing. Tam was obviously studying Caden, and as much as being a research subject sounded like so much fun; Caden would rather not. Tam cast a couple more of the longer lasting analytical spells that Caden was fairly certain measured his aura boundaries. It was a good thing Caden had left gaps in much of the room so Tam thought Caden’s aura was limited. For the moment, Caden was not going to try expanding his aura anywhere he thought Tam might sense it.
As Tam made his preparations Caden made his own. Caden opened up both his status and the AP purchase menu. Caden was going to try to level up and buy the skill at almost exactly the same time. Hopefully Tam would think it came from Caden’s level up, not because Caden was actively planning how to get better. Caden thought Tam believed Caden should have done something special by now. Admittedly learning directional mana control might well be abnormal, but Caden thought Tam might have attributed that to Caden’s situation. Caden had nothing else to do but practice absorbing mana.
Or, who knows, maybe lots of dungeons eventually learned that kind of skill. Caden had no idea how long dungeons typically lived, but Caden would not be surprised if they essentially lived forever unless someone killed them. Caden was a being of crystal now, its not exactly like Caden would age the same way as flesh and blood. If many dungeons were as old as Caden thought they were, there was no limit to the number of skills they might have gained. Caden, however, assumed most dungeons were not particularly bright. It’s not like his other half had conversations with him; Caden simply felt its base knee jerk reactions.
Hmm, maybe Caden should give his other half a name. If Caden were still human naming a voice in his head that wanted to kill people would probably be a bad idea. As it was, Caden doubted it would make it any worse. Okay, so his other half is a blood-thirsty brute, what name goes with that? Blood, blood, Caden knew the Latin root for that right? It was on the tip of his metaphorical tongue. Sanguine, that was it. As in, exsanguinate, to remove all the blood from a body. Actually if Caden shortened that, it would make a decent name. Exsan, that’s what Caden was going to call his other half.
Tam was still making preparations of some kind. Despite his impatience Caden found it difficult to blame Tam for being cautious. Exsan was probably a typical example of what a dungeon was like. Caden just wanted to escape to get his freedom. Exsan wanted to murder or control everything nearby until he had a decent lair.
Tam finally seemed to be finishing up with his preparations. Tam cast a last spell on Caden, and Caden focused all his attention on the mice-bugs. Tam looked to the side and cast a ball of fire towards the cage. The cage vaporized, and Caden was flooded with mana. Caden had absorbed even more than he thought because of the dissipating fireball, and Caden now had slightly more than eighteen mana. Caden immediately leveled and purchased the skill simultaneously.
Your status has changed!
Name: N/A / Exsan
Type: Dungeon Core – Soul Hybrid
Crystal Status: 100% – Undamaged
Status Effects: Mana Drain
Available Mana: 3/50
Passive Mana Generation: 20/Day
Next level: 30 Mana Cost
Subsections Available: 1
Ability Points: 850
Skills: Directed Mana Absorption I,
Limited Omniscience (Dungeon)
Soul Mana I
Dungeon Aura Expansion I
Manipulate Earth I
Titles: Reborn Soul
First of its Kind
A part of Caden worried that the name he had given his other half had shown up on his status screen. At least it didn’t put it as his whole name.
Caden pulled up the two new skills to see what they said.
Manipulate Earth I
Move, loosen, condense, generate, or destroy earth and stone within your aura using available mana.
All other skills are slightly easier to acquire and progress. Slightly lowers the AP cost of all non-summon skills
Caden had bought Learning for 200 AP and it was everything that Caden was hoping for. Caden now had a leg up on all other skills, forever. It might only be a tiny bonus, but that kind of bonus would add up over time. And the lowering of the AP cost was probably going to more than pay itself off in the future. As for Manipulate Earth, Caden had assumed he would get a skill like this at some point. Dungeons were depicted as large labyrinths in the earth, they had to make tunnels and such somehow. Caden would admit that he had worried he would only be able to do expand by summoning monsters to dig, but Caden was glad to see he had an inherent ability instead.
Caden brought the AP menu up and looked for another skill like learning. There was one, but it only applied to summons. Caden debated grabbing it right now, but monsters and plants were not in his current plan to escape, and Tam might have already seen the status change. Caden really did not want Tam to be any more careful.
Caden still had some mana, so it was time to test out his new ability. If Caden could manage to manipulate stone well enough then he could grab himself and run. Admittedly his mana gen was still not high, but it was double what it was before. Telling the stone to move turned out to be like expanding his aura; it was easy. All the knowledge Caden needed was already there in his head. Admittedly Caden did not have a head anymore, but that was beside the point. Caden was able to lift a tiny space of the wall by half an inch before the runes in the wall burst into action.
The entire array lit up with light. Then from the center a beam of light emerged and disintegrated the stone Caden had raised. Caden stopped for a moment. This, this was going to make things more difficult. For the moment Caden focused his attention farther away and destroyed a hidden section of the earth so Caden had something to work with. When Caden ran out of mana he had an empty globe about three feet across and some hundred feet away from him behind the back of the wall. There was air in pocket… it really ought to be vacuum. Of course Caden don’t know why he was expecting anything different. Caden had. quite literally. dematerialized stone into nothing, or at least, air. Right, its magic, not like it has to make sense. Caden wanted to have his body back just so he could bang his head into the wall.
While Caden was commiserating with himself, Tam seemed overjoyed with how things had gone. He seemed utterly unsurprised by the beam of light, and smiled as he dismissed the various spells. When Tam dismissed the last one. Caden once again got some mana to work with. For the moment Caden just moved stone around in his practice chamber. Caden could turn stone into dirt and back again without any trouble. Condensing the stone was slightly more intensive than turning stone into dirt or sand. Creating any material out of nothing proved to drain mana very quickly. Fortunately Caden had plenty of stone to work with. Unfortunately, Caden ran out of mana fairly quickly.
Tam had walked out again while Caden was working. Caden went back to his normal mana absorption practice. It was slow, but Caden was gradually making progress. Night came and the lights dimmed without him seeing Tam again. Caden continued his practice and contemplated what he should do if Tam gave him mana again. Obviously if Tam gave him enough to level then that was first priority.
However, Caden did not want Tam finding out that his aura had expanded quite a bit behind the wall. That meant Caden really did not want to expand his aura anywhere Tam could even potentially feel it. Caden had been hoping he would find an actual cavern somewhere that he could expand into, but he had not found any spaces bigger than tiny geodes. If Caden found something with life, he would be able to gather mana from the deaths of creatures living there. There might be any number of possibilities, but Caden would not know until he could experiment.
For the moment Caden decided that he would show Tam that he was “learning.” It’s what Caden’s skill said and what Tam would probably be expecting. Caden would just protrude stone from different locations and see what happened. Maybe Caden would make the room look nicer; something to show Tam he was experimenting, even while Caden was doing something else with any excess mana. Also, Caden wanted to study what the heck that beam was doing and what his own skill did when it moved the stone around. The more Caden could learn, the more options he would have. Caden still had no idea how his own aura worked; calling it magic and just leaving it alone was not going to cut it for him. It might take him a while, but Caden was going to learn how the hell everything actually worked.
Despite his determination, Caden had not made very much progress when morning came around. Tam came in, looked around and cast a spell at Caden and the disintegration enchantment. Caden absorbed the dregs of the spell on himself and practiced with his earth skill out of sight, trying to watch as carefully as he could what was happening. Caden could not see anything, but Caden simply added this to his list of things to practice. When Caden tried to hold mana in place in the future, he was also going to watch the place he was holding as carefully as possible. Caden was not going to accept that it just happened without something making it happen.
Tam was gone the rest of that day and all of the next. Caden did not seem to be getting any closer to seeing what the heck he was doing, but he was getting better at holding the mana in place, even if his speed of absorption had not changed at all, despite all his practice. That night Caden got a pop-up, much to his relief.
Your skill Directed Mana Absorption has increased in level. It is now Directed Mana Absorption II
Caden looked at his skill to see if it gave more details, but its description was unchanged. That being the case, Caden started experimenting with what had changed. The area Caden could focus on was once again smaller, allowing him to focus slightly tighter on an area. His speed of absorption had drastically changed; it was twice as fast. When Caden tried to see if he could hold mana in place better, there was no difference. That made him stop for a moment and think.
Caden had been continuously trying to up his speed, but that had not changed until Caden gained a level in the skill. Freezing mana in place, however, had gradually improved. It did not seem to have changed as a result of his skill gain. Caden had been in a similar situation before when Caden gained Directed Mana Absorption the first time. Caden was slowly developing a theory as to how skills and skill gain worked. In his world the theory would have been insane, but this world operated in a way similar to a game. If Caden gained a separate skill from his practice holding the mana in place then Caden would have good evidence for how it worked.
As always, comments are welcome. Feel free to speculate on how the skills work!