Chapter 108:

Toobu’s Talisman

Mad God


The days quickly went by, some even found them going way too fast as the announced competition’s deadline was getting closer and closer. Only a few were not bothered by it. One of those was Ariana, who was just finishing up her night shift, getting ready to leave the Garden. Just as she stepped out, she immediately bumped into another figure, belonging to Kyu, falling over her.


“Ah, sorry, sorry, I didn’t see-” Ariana said hurriedly while climbing back up as Kyu just hid behind her.


“Sssh! Kyu is not here!” She whispered.


Before she could ask what was going on Toobu’s silhouette appeared from the distance. He was running towards them, stopping right in front of Ariana, towering over her.


“C-can I help… you?” Ariana gulped as she never saw someone this tall. He was wearing the Inner Disciple’s uniform, his status clearly above hers.


“Yes! She still owes me 15 contribution points!” He nodded, watching Kyu with a calm look, totally unafraid of the infamous little demon.


“Kyu is not here!” She replied as she was squatting behind Ariana, hugging her legs, completely freezing her in place, not letting her move.


“Yes you are.” Toobu said, crossing his arms.


“No she is not!” Kyu answered, only watching Ariana’s leg.


“You do know that I CAN see you, yes?” Toobu sighed at Kyu’s response, “And you are talking back to me!”


“No, you can’t, because Kyu is not here!” She protested.


“...” Ariana and Toobu could only look at each other, letting out a long sigh.


“Um, Kyu?” Ariana scratched her throat after a little bit of thinking.


“Yes?” She looked up from behind her, whispering as if Toobu wouldn’t hear her that way.


“You owe him money…? You should pay back!” Ariana asked, quickly grasping on to the situation without being told about it.


“No! No points back!” She protested strongly.


“Why not?” Ariana asked with a flustered voice, while Toobu waited patiently for their exchange to end.


“Because Kyu can’t!”


“Why not?”


“Because Kyu spent it!”


“All?” Ariana flinched, quickly turning towards Toobu then back to Kyu.


“ALL!” She shouted, even a bit proud of the fact.


“Why?!” now both of them asked at the same time while Kyu just blinked her eyes in surprise. It was only logical why.


“Kyu was hungry…” She murmured with a somewhat weird expression, looking at them as if they were stupid not getting it. “Then Kyu ate so much, she evolved!” She continued to explain, straightening up behind Ariana. Looking closely, she was a head taller by now and even more slim than before.


“Haaah… okay, let’s get this straight because I am really tired and I want some sleep!” Ariana grabbed her, lifting her up easily then pushing before Toobu. “You,” pointed at Toobu “You paid her.”


“Yes, I paid her 30 points so I can train with her for 10 hours.” Toobu nodded, surprised at the sudden development.


“And you accepted the points.” She pointed at Kyu who, by reflex, nodded. “I see. So, now back to you.” She looked into Toobu’s eyes. “Why do you want your money back? Does she refuses to train with you?”


“Hm? No, but she was gone for a week! The line for her was sooooo long when I got my turn that she was full and couldn't do it! She said she felt tired and wanted to sleep! I don’t have time to be standing in line every day, I have other things to do!”


“But that is your problem, not hers, no?” Ariana asked, tilting her head.


“What…?” Toobu blinked his eyes quickly while Kyu was nodding like a chicken picking at the ground.


“Yes, yes, yes! Your problem, not Kyu’s! You are the best of best friends!” She hugged Ariana quickly, squeezing so hard the young girl let out a sharp yelp, trying to struggle free.


“S-softer… pl..please… you are… breaking me!” Ariana groaned as she finally peeled off her small yet insanely strong hands. “My sides…” She moaned, panting for air, while Toobu looked on with a strange expression, forming a small smile.


“So… You are saying… I should let it go?” He leaned forward, casting his shadow over Ariana who immediately lost the domineering attitude. She was quickly woken up from her tiredness, realizing the giant of a man before her was an Inner Disciple.


“Yes.” She answered, trying to look calm, while mind was screaming inside her head “I’m dead, I am so dead! He could fold me into two with one hand! How can someone grow that big?! Is it the food? Does everyone from the Empire get this big?!”


“Huh.” Toobu chuckled suddenly, patting her head. “Go on, I’m listening!” He prompted a smile, further scaring Ariana but she just gulped before continuing.


“If… if you have time chasing her to get back your money… Why not attack her with spells? Then you could have what you paid for!” She blurted out her first thought while her inner self just screamed, grabbing onto her own hair “Nooooooo, I am dead! I am sooooo dead!”


“But Kyu is sleepy, she doesn’t want to do it!” Kyu grumbled, pouting.


“Huh. You are an interesting girl.” Toobu chuckled. “What do you two say about this?” He asked, raising his voice a little. “I don’t have time throughout the day, waiting for my turn! But at night I am free. As I understand you are working with her!” He looked at Ariana. “Tomorrow night we meet up and you train with me!”


“Me?!” She pointed at herself “I am only at the 3rd stage!”


“No problem, it won’t be a combat exercise. You can help me out and when the furball feels hungry she can join in! I’ll count you as her substitute until then.”


“Awsome!” Kyu clapped, already agreeing on behalf of Ariana. “Thanks bestest friend!” She giggled before patting Ariana’s lower back and just flashing away, not waiting for her answer.


“I… I… noooo…” Ariana moaned softly.


“What is your name?” Toobu smiled, looking into her eyes.


“Ariana…” She answered with drooping shoulders and a hanged head.


“I am Toobu. Nice to meet you! I’ll be waiting for you at Training Field G tomorrow, at 9pm! Is it okay?”


“Can I say no?”


“No.” Toobu grinned.


“Then yes, it is okay… haaahh…”


“Awesome! Relax, it will be fine!” He laughed while leaving.


Ariana just stood there, looking up at the night sky, trying to regain her calmness, ignoring her weeping mind before going back to her room, and spent, probably her last day, in peace.


….

…..


When the next night came around and Ariana was arriving nervously to the agreed field, Toobu was already waiting for her.


“Oh, you are early!” He laughed.


“So… what are we going to do?” She asked calmly, accepting her fate.


“No hello, no how are you doing or something? Geez. Relax a little!” He patted her shoulder. “I didn’t drag you here to humiliate or beat you up! What do you see me as? A bully?”


“You could’ve gone to any of the other Inner Disciples. I am just an outer one, toiling away, clearly not talented enough to be accepted into the Sect for real. So yes. You are a bully.”


“Suuuure…” He rolled his eyes “I never saw any inner disciple to be able to act like that with that demon of gluttony!”


“It happened by accident. She is not that bad if you get to know her.”


“I know! But still, most Inner Disciples are afraid of her. I only saw core disciples interacting with Kyu, like you did yesterday. Honestly, even I was a bit hesitant to chase her, that is why I did not use any spells.” Toobu sighed, admitting it honestly. “But after yesterday, I also realized she is just another kid!”


“A kid with great powers…” Ariana murmured, rubbing her still sore, black and blue waist. “Thankfully Junior Sect Head raised her well enough to not kill us with a hug!”


“Yup!” He laughed. “But let’s get to business! You are at the 3rd stage, yes?”


“Yes. Only reached it not that long ago.”


“Okay, I’ll try to restrain my own powers, I’m still only at the 5th so it won’t be that hard!”


“Didn’t you say this won’t be a combat exercise?” She asked, twitching her mouth.


“And I stay true to that!” He laughed, patting her shoulder. “I’ll perform the spell I worked on and want to submit to the competition! Well, it is more than just a spell and I need someone's honest opinion on it! I need an outsider’s reference and feedback, because from my perspective, I may see it as perfect! While others may notice flaws that I missed!”


“I see.” Ariana nodded, agreeing with his words. “What kind of spell is it?”


“I have a special condition. Back then I thought that I could manipulate ice and fire but no, what I can do is extract energy from the surroundings and convert it for my own immediate usage!”


“I see! That explains why you were believed to have dual affinity! Kyu told me a little about you.” Ariana nodded, crossing her arms before her slim body. “So…?”


“I am honored!” Toobu laughed “So, the spell! I was studying the basic formation texts that were placed inside the library, written by Elder Levictus.”


“Ugh…” She twitched her eyebrows, feeling a headache creeping in. “I gave up after the rune mixing chapter! The permutations are almost infinite… I gave up learning it, formations are not for me. It’s like if math had a child with literature, mixed in with a bunch of scribbly-wobbly lines… for fun. You know, just to prank us!” She shook her head, annoyed.


“Exactly and- wait. Have you read it? Really?” He asked with a surprised voice.


“Um.” Ariana nodded. “Elder Isha once brought out the introduction book for us. Everyone had a chance to read it. It was horrifying!”


“And you… understood it.” Toobu asked again as he also was only scraping the surface. He already knew that this was not his preferred field to pursue… but knowing the basics should prove useful, if he ever came across an enemy who was proficient in it.


“No, no, no!” Ariana shook her head. “Not really, only one or two pages before I had a stroke!”


“Hm, see? My eyes are good!” He grinned. “You are not just one of the outer disciples huh?” Toobu grabbed onto her shoulders. “A lot of my friends wouldn’t be able to say what you just did! No wonder Elder Levictus refuses to come home yet! Nobody would be willing to join his department or grab his interest!”


“Can we… get back on track?” Ariana gulped, her shoulders already hurting.


“Okay, okay!” Toobu laughed, letting her go. “So, using my shallow knowledge of basic formations I came up with this!” He brought out a blank paper and his finger turned icy cold, shining in blue. Ariana immediately felt the surrounding air getting cooler by the second.


Toobu drew quickly with his finger on the paper, leaving an icy drawing behind that formed a circle with different, snaking rune characters. They were intersecting with each other, giving the untrained eye the impression that they were some old mural’s artistic representation.


“There!” He said, after finishing, showing it to Ariana as the bluish, completed formation was shining in the moonlight. “I tried to control my energy so it should be at a stage where you can use it.”


“I recognize a few runes.” She leaned forward a little. “This is some kind of… trap formation? No… Its convergence point… mmm… this is clearly energy subtraction here and… here is an equation for balancing the influx of heat created by it… that alliterates with the…” She took it from him, looking over it, mumbling to herself a little as she scanned it again and again.


“Yep.” Toobu nodded. “A mix. See this rune? In the 12 o’clock position?”


“It is unfinished. You missed a stroke from the left, going through it.” She added immediately.


“Precisely. It is the trigger rune! You need to draw it with your own energy to complete it. When you finish it, if you try to read it out in your head you will realize it even rhymes. Your description is the most true I have ever heard!” Toobu sighed loudly. “This is math mixed with writing a poem! Fucking insane if you ask me! Anyway, Try it!” He laughed with a proud voice as he knew no others from his age bracket who could come up with a formation like this.


“What… will happen?” She asked immediately, refusing to do anything just because he said so.


“Relax!” He grinned at her reaction “It will activate the formation! My special powers are imbued with it! It is going to drain your energy a little and of course, from the surroundings too! It is going to convert it and immediately release a fireball, mixed with your own powers. It is a one-time use thingy by the way!”


“So it is a talisman in the end.” Ariana said, inspecting it again.


“You can call it that if you want, but instead of luck, it brings down the wrath of the user~”


“It won’t blow up in my face?” She looked up at him suspiciously.


“No? Why are you so fussed about it?” He sighed, pouting. “I tried to match the strength of someone in the 3rd stage! This is going to be fine! Come on, try it and tell me how it feels!” He urged her excitedly.


Ariana in the end just took a deep breath, looking at the paper, before finishing the last rune. As she did so, a strange feeling came over immediately. She felt her body jerk, like if someone bumped into her, going through her body from behind.


What happened next did so in an instant. The paper turned to ice but it was not clear. It was tainted with blackish, dark, foggy color because of Ariana’s affinity. In the next second it formed a dim yet hot fireball. It was mixed with orange and black colors as it flew forward, exploding after a few meters releasing the two powers mixed together, into a loud and powerful explosion, leaving behind a small crater. The now icesculpture in Ariana’s hand quickly broke down, cracking loudly, falling into million little pieces, scattering on the ground.


“Nice! First time I see it work with others’ powers! It is a success~” Toobu laughed happily “How was it?”


“Weird.” She answered honestly, going through the process again in her head. “It jerked me at first, I almost let go of it! The conversion went pretty quickly but the time it took forming the fireball could be shortened.”


“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows. “I am listening.”


“Can you make me another one?”


“Sure.” He nodded, drawing up the second, giving it to her and it was followed by four more before Ariana nodded and started explaining.


“Here, here and here.” She pointed at the runes as Toobu made another one. “These three runes are redundant, you could leave them out because here, at 9 o’clock, this rune does exactly the same thing as those three! You probably left them in before switching methods. Also, cutting them out won’t affect the rhyming of the formulas. If you cut them out you can shorten the fireball’s forming by around… 0.3 or 0.4 seconds.”


“Great! I knew I needed someone else’s input!” He laughed happily, not offended by her words at all, surprising Ariana who spoke without even thinking about it.


Toobu immediately drew up a modified version and as the young girl said, the spell came out much faster. In the end they spent the whole night, going through talisman after talisman until Toobu was exhausted but happier than ever.


“Nice! You know what? I don’t even mind my lost points after this! I’ll go back, summarize everything then submit it! Thanks a lot!”


“N-no problem.” She nodded, getting back to reality as the night of experiments were a nice change for her. It was satisfying. It even made her a bit sad that the night ended so fast.


“Did you sign up too?” Toobu asked.


“No.”


“Why not?” He asked with sincere surprise.


“I don’t have my own spells yet. I am still just reaching a state where I may be able to manifest my affinity. So I am just taking my first steps, so to speak. There will be other opportunities, I’m in no hurry at all.”

“Mmm… I see, I see. But you know, you can submit theories too, yes?”


“No theory is sound without testing it out. I don’t want to make myself into a laughing stock, thank you.” She shook her head.


“I see, I see…” Toobu nodded before stretching as the sun was also rising behind Ariana, blinding him for a second. “Well! The sun is up, I think we had a productive night, didn’t we? Here. Catch!” He tossed a purple card at her that had 10 points on it.


“This?” Araina blinked her eyes, surprised by the sudden action of his.


“Hey, you helped me greatly!” He laughed loudly. “I never liked to take advantage of others! Mmmh, I’m hungry as hell! Plus I need a good sleep too! Take care Ariana! See you soon or when you join us, Inner Disciples!” Toobu waved as he left, leaving behind a surprised girl, looking at his back as he disappeared from her sight.


It only took a few seconds for a smile to form on her face, pocketing the card before leaving herself too. She was oblivious to the fact that a few days later, when Toobu submitted his spell at the end, he named Ariana as a co-author on his paper.