Fighting For My Freedom In Another World
So, thoughts about magic…
...I didn’t know the first thing about magic.
But just repeating that thought over and over wasn’t very constructive. I needed to find a way to actually learn things.
If I didn’t know anything about magic, there was no way I would find those answers in my own mind.
I could have waited until Alena woke up. I was confident she would, eventually. Wanted to believe she would.
On the other hand, I didn’t know how much time I would have. If I didn’t figure things out there was a real risk I’d just get washed along again. Stuck without any real choices. I wanted to avoid that.
And in this world, the best way to avoid it was to get better at magic.
If I didn’t know any of the theory behind magic, trying to approach it from that direction was a no-go.
But I could do magic.
I couldn’t control it, but I could do it.
Did I want to risk practicing? Experimenting? Trying things out and hoping nothing would explode?
Statistically speaking things had only exploded about once every three times I used magic. If it had happened by random chance I was screwed. On the other hand, the one time things exploded was also the one I went the most overboard.
I stood up and took as much distance as I could from Alena. Just in case.
I tried lighting a small flame above my trembling hand. It wasn’t like I could use my magic on anything else in a building where almost everything was combustible.
Before too long a tiny light appeared above my palm.
What I held in my hand was the smallest amount of fire I could conjure up. The minimum amount of magic I had been able to use until then.
If I wanted to change anything about it… Normally my only choice would have been to make it quite a bit bigger. To let it grow from the tiny flame it was, only about three times the size of what you’d see on your average normal candle, into something that was several dozen times as large.
Could I make it smaller instead?
I closed my eyes, tried to focus. I hadn’t slept. I hadn’t eaten enough. The explosion I caused had used up most of the energy I would need to use magic. I couldn’t get my thoughts off Alena.
Everything about the situation was far from optimal.
And that made it perfect.
If I ever had to use magic in an actual do or die situation, I wouldn’t have the time to rest up first. The time to gather my thoughts and focus. The time to calm down.
So perhaps it was for the best that my practice conditions were less than ideal. Something told me most things didn’t actually work that way, but convincing myself they could was at least a small comfort.
Smaller… I wanted to make the fire I conjured up smaller.
Smaller, smaller, smaller.
I didn’t know what to do, so I just focused as hard as I could. Tried seeing if just thinking about what I wanted strongly enough would be good enough.
It didn’t work.
And in a way, it did work.
The small flame in my hand did change.
In the exact opposite way of how I wanted it to. It started swelling up in size and rapidly growing larger.
I hastily extinguished it.
Even aside from the potential risks to what was around me, using more magic than I intended to would take its toll on me. Any practice I wanted to do wouldn’t last long if I did it with any larger amount of fire.
I tried again. Conjured up another small flame.
Did the same thing again, and…
...It once again did the exact opposite of what I wanted it to.
I stopped using my magic and took a deep breath.
This would take a while. But I had time, and as long as I used the smallest amount of magic I was able to I would be able to keep going for a few hours at minimum.
I tried again.
The result was the same every single time.
I had failed at what I wanted to accomplish, but at the same time I had learned something else.
If what I tried to do produced the same result, every time, without fail… I could use that. It wasn’t what I had been aiming for, but it was still consistent, and that was what mattered.
I had tried to learn how to generate smaller amounts of fire.
Instead I had learned the exact opposite. More importantly, the fire hadn’t just grown in size all at once. Not just jumped to the next set size I had been able to conjure up before that. It had grown gradually. Very quickly, sure, but that was still something I hadn’t been able to do before.
I could make my magical flames grow gradually instead of all at once. I hadn’t known if that actually was possible, but it turned out the answer was a resounding yes.
That raised another two questions:
One, how could I apply that in a way that actually was useful?
Two, how did I do what I actually had been trying to? Could I use what I just learned to help me figure out what I actually should have been doing?
What if I… Or if I...
...I ended up spending the night pondering a great variety of possibilities. Thinking about all kinds of things that involved magic. I barely knew anything, but I was also really good at making a big deal out of nothing. Or, in this case, at piling up a whole lot of loose pieces of information that I kind of barely knew something about and trying to reassemble them into an actual workable hypothesis on how my magic was supposed to work.
It probably wasn’t hard to guess that I didn’t come up with much.
In fact I ended up losing track of time by the time I was done. When I finally snapped out of it the room was already filled with light. A quick look outside confirmed the sun was already high in the sky.
I heard creaking behind me.
I turned around to find Alena sitting on the edge of the bed and stretching.
“Maria?”, she took a look around the room, “Sure feels nice to actually be able to, like… Move and stuff. I feel so stiff all over by now. Your body not doing what it tells you to is really annoying, I’ll have you know.”
I rushed over to her and leaned in close, maybe a bit too close.
“Alena? Are you… Are you okay? What happened? And I-I’m sorry for doing that to you… I’m sure what I did to you must have hurt a lot. Did it leave any lasting damage? Like, are you fine now, or…?”
“Wow, slow down. I can’t answer all those questions at once.”
Alena held up both of her hands and motioned for me to stop.
“Anyway, where do you want me to start? Or do I just go from anywhere? You know what, I’ll just do that. My illusion got hit by that explosion of yours. It hurt a lot. My brain couldn’t keep up and kind of froze up for a moment. It needed time to recover.”
“I can’t even imagine how much pain you must have been in…”
“I mean, sure, it hurt. But… It wasn’t that bad. It really wasn’t.”
“You do realise it just sounds like you’re trying to tell me that so I’ll feel better, right?”
“I meant it. I kind of like pain. In a way it was even kind of cool to get to experience something like that. Kind of exciting. You know the feeling?”
I distinctly did not. No matter which way I looked at it, it didn’t sound like Alena was trying to do anything else than make me feel better about it.
“So, I’m fine. I’m fine, Maria. There’s no need to think anything else. Anything else you’d like to know? Or can I go back to sleep now?”
“Didn’t you literally just wake up?”
“No? I was awake the whole time. I guess it might not have looked that way to you. I was just stuck processing what happened. Or at least my brain was. So now that it’s done, I’d like to actually sleep.”
“In that case, I won’t bother you. Good night.”
I tried to force up a smile.
Alena’s health was far more important than any of the things I still wanted to know. She deserved some rest.
And I had already hurt her. I at least wanted to give her time to recover properly — somehow I couldn’t convince myself she was telling the truth about being fine. Not after being exposed to that kind of thing. So what qualification did I have to bother her if she just wanted to sleep?
“But, you know…”, Alena chimed in, “You really look like you need sleep too. Join me?”
Despite the way she phrased it as a question, she pretty much pulled me into bed with her.
She wasn’t wrong, though. I needed rest.
...Not that it seemed like I would be getting much.
The bed was far too small for two people, and I was an unruly sleeper at the best of times. I didn’t think I would actually be able to sleep.
Yet, I somehow drifted off before too long.
There were two things that helped.
The heaving of Alena’s chest was strangely calming.
And at this distance, I didn’t have to wonder if she was fine.
I could already feel each time she breathed.