25 Mu“s Garden
They sat together in silence for a few minutes, basking in the beauty of the garden.
Elder Mu turned to Bai Qi and asked, "Do you know where the essence of your power comes from?"
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"Essence of my power?" Bai Qi asked.
"I'm not sure."
Elder Mu broke off a stick from the tree next to him and leaned down to start drawing on the ground. "Essence is a form of your will, who you are. I mentioned it before, you don't understand it's true name yet, as you progress, you'll gradually grasp what it is, but until then, I'm here to guide you down that path, and Elder Xing is here to teach you how to use it."
Elder Mu finished drawing a magic circle next to him. The circle was simple, with an inscribed pentagon, and a smaller circle inside the pentagon, not touching any of the corners. He then connected each corner of the pentagon to the middle circle.
"The basic attributes of essence follow the will of the world, with five main elements. Wood, fire, earth, metal, water."
As he spoke, he drew a circle around each point where the pentagon touched the outer circle, writing in the Chinese character for each.
"The pentagon represents the yin yang relationships between them, while the circle represents the flow of the elements. There are other elements, of course, such as light and dark, space, time, power, etc. Some mages combine a few elements, to make others, while others branch out. There are elements that branch into others or support others, me being one such example. Take wood. I have dedicated my life to the path of life, learning to control and guide the essence to my will."
Elder Mu Held up his palm and showed Bai Qi a seed sitting there. He used the stick to dig a small hole into the smaller circle and dropped the seed into it.
"To nurture this seed, I need to use my will, to bend the essence of the world to my biddings. However, different elements need to work together, I need to have control and understanding over other elements than just my main focus. Watch what happens."
The magic circle started to glow, with each circle glowing their own color. The circle with the word wood glowed the brightest, then water and earth the next, then fire and earth glowing dimly. As the circle glowed, the seed started to sprout and grow
"Wood, for the element of life, supported mainly by the earth, and water, and slightly supported by fire and metal, to make a seed grow in a matter of minutes."
The seed grew into a small tree with bright blue berries. Elder Mu picked some of them and popped them into his mouth, offering some to Bai Qi.
The berries were tart, with a faint sweetness.
"You,' Elder Mu continued, "are likely to be a paragon. Do you by any chance know what that means?"
"A paragon, a perfect being whose will is the will of the world. You hold special importance to us, you know."
Bai Qi shook his head. "I don't understand."
Elder Mu was watching his face carefully. "So you truly don't know. A paragon is one who controls all five elements, to a more or less equal degree."
"And I might be one of them?"
"Yes," Elder mu said simply.
They sat together in silence for a few more minutes.
After a while, Elder Mu sighed. 'You really are a freak. This degree of control at such a young age."
"How young is young?"
'I'm turning 500 in a few years," Elder Mu said. "Elder Xing is a freak compared to me and just passed his 226'th birthday last month. It took over a hundred years to get to where you are right now, and Xing took about 50 to make it to grade 6. You are a freak above all freaks."
Elder Mu laughed. "Might seem impossible to you, but anybody who chooses to study the will of the world will push past a mortal's limits. You can buy pills that increase your lifespan by hundreds of years quite simply."
"I didn't think that you were that old."
Elder Mu grinned. "Even among the upper echelons of this kingdoms Mage society, I am considered one of the younger ones. That's beside the point, I have the rest of the day with you before I have to hand you over to Elder Xing. In the morning you'll train with Xing, and after lunch with me, with the rest of the evening to yourself after dinner. Understood?"
Elder Mu got up and stretched his back. Then he started to walk deeper into the garden, motioning Bai Qi to follow.
"I spent my life growing these plants. Many of these here took dozens of years to grow. That there, for example," Elder Mu said, pointing to a plant that grew on top of a rock. The plant was drooping from the weight of the fruits it was carrying, a total of 3 blood red pellets. "That crimson bane plant took a hundred and forty-seven painstaking years to grow that big. In another fifty years or so, we'll be able to harvest it, as long as nothing goes wrong."
Bai Qi was shocked. "Two hundred years for 3 berries?"
While Bai Qi looked shocked, Elder Mu couldn't be prouder. '"Usually, the crimson bane plants produce one pellet every three hundred years, but with the help of a master botanist, we managed to make a mutant strain, not only shortening the harvest time considerably but also tripling the harvest."
"Are the pellets that useful?"
"Useful? One of those could set you for life in any mid-sized city if you decided to sell it. It acts as a base layer in hundreds of different potions, stabilizing energy fluctuations from mixing volatile ingredients. It's invaluable for any master alchemist, but rare and extremely hard to grow. That's beside the point, we're almost here."
Elder Mu led Bai Qi into a shed at the very middle of the garden, isolated from all sound. The noises that animals made as they flitted around the garden slowly had gotten filtered out until there was only silence left. The inside of the shed was quite spacious, being made larger with special compression formations. It was filled with tables with papers strewn around, and different tools from table to table. The back of the shed had a large table, with a chalkboard behind it.
"Sit down," Elder Mu said, pointing to a desk in the middle of the shed, as he took out a stack of books. He cleared out his table and took out some chalk from his desk. "No matter what any old geezer says when they bedazzle you by drawing in the air, a simple chalkboard is the best for teaching, no energy wasted, no theatrics, and it's relatively easy to clean up."
After saying that, he redrew the circle with the inscribed pentagon on the chalkboard. He handed Bai Qi the books that he had taken out, as well as a piece of paper and pencil.
Noticing the look on Bai Qi's face, Elder Mu grinned. "Did you think that learning how to control the will of the world was as simple as fighting stronger enemies and breaking your limits? We've long since surpassed the age of barbarians, and well into the age of research."
'"The study of essence and will is the study of the movement of energy, and how we shape it. There are different ways to constrict and guide essence, the beginning being magic circles. Fundamentally, magic circles are the foundations, until you learn to disregard it."
"I can cast fireballs and such without the aid of magic circles," Bai Qi said, piping up.
"And you can. Of course. The brain and our dantian act as the primary controllers of essence. However, while you might find fireballs, relatively small projections of your essence, easy enough now, scaling it up even a bit more gets more difficult, more quickly. Large scale spells will need quite a bit of concentration, and mental strength and a way to make up for it is to look at external sources of guiding essence. Without it, scaling something up would be impossible. Try it. Cast a small fireball next to you."
Bai Qi did so effortlessly, casting a flame orb to hover steadily in front of him.
"Now make it a bit bigger. It's the size of my fist, make it double in size."
Bai Qi did so, the flame orb growing in size.
'Once again, double it."
This time, Bai Qi could feel his brain being strained as he focused on the ball of flames, pushing it to get bigger. After a few moments, Bai Qi couldn't do so. The flame ball had even begun to dim in light, the flames flickering and threatening to go out.
"That's enough. The first step, actually, is to use chants. You have skipped that portion entirely because teaching you would be a huge waste of time, as you're already capable of chantless casting. The next tier is magic circles. The books in front of you have all the information you'll need to know by the end of next week, so it will be pretty busy from now on."
Bai Qi flipped through the books, all of them containing various circles of different sizes, colors, and symbols, with a detailed description under each of them.
"After you understand magic circles, and are able to draw a few from memory, we'll move on to understanding formations, inscriptions, and other ways essence is shaped and projected into this world."
Elder Mu continued to talk about the magic circle on the board behind him, making several notes and explaining how each element interacted with each other. As the lecture went on, Bai Qi continued to ask questions, and Elder Mu continued to patiently answer them, and time flew by. Before they knew it, it was dinner time and Elder Mu walked Bai Qi through the garden into the mage tower's back entrance. He opened up a doorway leading to Bai Qi's room.
"Dinner will arrive in a few minutes, you can freshen up, tomorrow morning Elder Xing will fetch you for the more practical portion of training. If you need anything, there is a blue crystal in your drawer, just tap it 3 times where it shows and someone will respond. Good night," he said, closing the door behind him.
As Elder Mu had said, dinner arrived after five or so minutes. After eating, Bai Qi lay on his bed, staring at his ceiling, hesitant of falling asleep, afraid of where his dreams might take him. As the moon rose, and the night grew darker, he slowly drifted away into slumber.
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