Chapter 34:


Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

So, thoughts about magic…Bookmark here

...I didn’t know the first thing about magic. Bookmark here

But just repeating that thought over and over wasn’t very constructive. I needed to find a way to actually learn things. Bookmark here

If I didn’t know anything about magic, there was no way I would find those answers in my own mind. Bookmark here

I could have waited until Alena woke up. I was confident she would, eventually. Wanted to believe she would. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

And in this world, the best way to avoid it was to get better at magic. Bookmark here

If I didn’t know any of the theory behind magic, trying to approach it from that direction was a no-go. Bookmark here

But I could do magic. Bookmark here

I couldn’t control it, but I could do it. Bookmark here

Did I want to risk practicing? Experimenting? Trying things out and hoping nothing would explode? Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I stood up and took as much distance as I could from Alena. Just in case. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Before too long a tiny light appeared above my palm. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Could I make it smaller instead? Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Everything about the situation was far from optimal. Bookmark here

And that made it perfect. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Smaller… I wanted to make the fire I conjured up smaller. Bookmark here

Smaller, smaller, smaller. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

It didn’t work. Bookmark here

And in a way, it did work. Bookmark here

The small flame in my hand did change.Bookmark here

In the exact opposite way of how I wanted it to. It started swelling up in size and rapidly growing larger. Bookmark here

I hastily extinguished it. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I tried again. Conjured up another small flame. Bookmark here

Did the same thing again, and…Bookmark here

...It once again did the exact opposite of what I wanted it to.Bookmark here

I stopped using my magic and took a deep breath. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I tried again. Bookmark here

And again. Bookmark here

And again. Bookmark here

Again. Bookmark here

Again. Bookmark here

The result was the same every single time. Bookmark here

I had failed at what I wanted to accomplish, but at the same time I had learned something else. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I had tried to learn how to generate smaller amounts of fire. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

That raised another two questions: Bookmark here

One, how could I apply that in a way that actually was useful? Bookmark here

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? Bookmark here

What if I… Or if I...Bookmark here

...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. Bookmark here

It probably wasn’t hard to guess that I didn’t come up with much.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I heard creaking behind me. Bookmark here

I turned around to find Alena sitting on the edge of the bed and stretching. Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

I rushed over to her and leaned in close, maybe a bit too close. Bookmark here

“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…?”Bookmark here

“Wow, slow down. I can’t answer all those questions at once.”Bookmark here

Alena held up both of her hands and motioned for me to stop. Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I can’t even imagine how much pain you must have been in…”Bookmark here

“I mean, sure, it hurt. But… It wasn’t that bad. It really wasn’t.”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“In that case, I won’t bother you. Good night.”Bookmark here

I tried to force up a smile. Bookmark here

Alena’s health was far more important than any of the things I still wanted to know. She deserved some rest. Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“But, you know…”, Alena chimed in, “You really look like you need sleep too. Join me?”Bookmark here

Despite the way she phrased it as a question, she pretty much pulled me into bed with her. Bookmark here

She wasn’t wrong, though. I needed rest. Bookmark here

...Not that it seemed like I would be getting much. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

Yet, I somehow drifted off before too long. Bookmark here

There were two things that helped. Bookmark here

The heaving of Alena’s chest was strangely calming. Bookmark here

And at this distance, I didn’t have to wonder if she was fine. Bookmark here

I could already feel each time she breathed. Bookmark here

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