11 Magic Principles

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As soon as the first rays of daylight broke through the thin hide of their tipi, both Ikaris and Ellie tacitly dashed for the nearest out-of-sight bushes to empty their bladders. The liberating rush of relief was so exhilarating that they almost forgot the hellish night they had just been through.

A few minutes later, they returned to Ikaris' tent, their faces a little embarrassed, but undeniably more relaxed. The fatigue accumulated by their sleepless night overtook them with a bang, but there was also one other need they had to satisfy urgently before even dreaming of going back to sleep:

Their thirst.

As the village gradually woke up, the aboriginals came out of their tents one by one, but not everyone did. Krold was still in his tent and Ikaris didn't think twice about clapping his hands loudly next to it to cut short his sleep.

" Goddamn it! Can't we sleep in peace here?!" The warrior's angry voice rang out from inside his tent.

The teenager smirked, clearly proud of him, but he had the good sense to sneak away before traipsing back in a short while later, once the barbarian's foul mood had subsided.

"Hmmph, I should have known! Couldn't you wait a bit before reclaiming a couple of bones and tendons?" Krold bellowed, squinting his eyes ominously.

Ikaris averted his gaze with a nervous chuckle, then casually asked as he twiddled his fingers,

"I need you to help me start a fire, is that okay?"

A sneer was the only answer he got. When the warrior walked away, he thought it was all over, but a few minutes later the aborigine returned with enough twigs and dry wood in his arms to start a campfire. Krold then lit a fire near the boy's tent and after thanking him he took care of the rest.

Quickly, he fetched three long branches measuring about his height, then placed them in a triangular shape around the fire, tying their upper ends together with some twine taken from one of the tents. Then, without qualms, he dismantled one of the unoccupied tents and hung the watertight skin over the fire after moistening it. He then poured all the water contained in his new waterskin and waited for the water to boil.

Not sure how long it would take to kill all the pathogens, he let the water boil for more than fifteen minutes before pouring some of it back into his waterskin to rinse it several times. Once the waterskin was about clean, he poured the rest of the water into it, but he only had about a liter left.

Some of the dirt precipitated out, but without proper filtration he could not truly get rid of the murkiness in his water. But at least now he could drink safely.

Pacing impatiently, he licked his lips in anticipation as he waited for the water to cool enough to drink. Right next to him was Ellie, who was giving him puppy eyes, but he ignored her completely.

'With your behavior from yesterday, you can just go die of thirst for all I care...' Ikaris seethed internally as he stared at the waterskin in his hands.

Unable to resist any longer, he finally drank the scalding water, but despite its muddy taste it was the best drink of his life. Loud gulping sounds resounded non-stop, until he took the empty waterskin from his lips and let out a loud,

"Hah! So good..."

Ellie had a pitiful look on her face and he felt she was about to burst into tears again, but against all odds she held back this time. She knew she deserved what was happening to her and she swore to herself that she would change, that she would no longer be a coward.

Who knew how long this good resolution would last?

Ikaris then wanted to visit Malia and Grallu to ask his questions from the previous day, but as he entered the cottage he noticed a figure lying on the ground. On closer inspection, he recognized one of the prisoners from yesterday.

'So, there was only one survivor this time... His name was Oliver, right?'

Ellie turned livid as she discovered that the other nine prisoners were nowhere in sight. Then it suddenly hit them. Where were the other bodies? There wasn't even a trace of dried blood left in the village square, as if someone had done the cleanup during the night. On the other hand, the bowl in front of the altar was empty again, a sign that the offering had reached its target.lightsnovel

'Must be for those Guardians Krold mentioned yesterday.' He mused, though Malia's glowing eyes also came to mind at that moment.

He had always thought there was something wrong with that gaze, but he didn't have the nerve to ask the dreadful question.

Besides the sleeping prisoner, Malia was not there and Grallu was still sleeping. Ikaris wondered where the young woman had gone, but he quickly lost interest and decided to come back later. With a docile and quiet Ellie this time he went back to get water from the pond and pestered another villager to help him start a new fire.

More than two hours after Ikaris, Ellie was finally able to quench her thirst and tears of joy ran silently down her cheeks at that moment, making her look even more pitiful.

"Thank you." She murmured bashfully after finishing the waterskin almost by herself.

Still, Ikaris found their method inefficient. He was going to steal a few more wineskins from Krold or the other villagers at the first opportunity.

When he was getting bored, he saw Malia emerge from the jungle with a bear-sized boar on her shoulders, a listless expression on her face. He also realized at that moment that he and Ellie were the only villagers in the village. Krold and the other aborigines were nowhere in sight.

'They've gone back to capture more prisoners.' He remembered what Koko and Krold had told him.

No one had forced him to join a squad yet, but sooner or later he would have to contribute too if he didn't want to end up in the place of those prisoners some day.

According to Krold, the blood was for the Guardians, but the reason these prisoners were spending their first night out was actually to protect the other villagers. With targets in evidence, the likelihood of the Crawlers attacking a tent was minimized.

When there were enough new prisoners for the ritual, the question did not arise and the wretched prisoners would be made the scapegoats for the night to come. But when there were not enough prisoners... Then the squads and villagers who had captured the fewest prisoners in the past days would be the first to be sacrificed.

Just thinking about it gave Ikaris a chill.

Mustering his courage, he decided to go back to Malia. She was now behind the thatched cottage with her game and the boy realized only then that there was a private workshop as well as a small fence and some kind of wooden trapdoor that probably led to a cellar. He couldn't verify it, but he was sure there was enough food inside to feed everyone in the village for several months.

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Hearing footsteps approaching, Malia interrupted the butchering of her prey and shot an icy look in their direction before mellowing as she recognized Ikaris and Ellie.

"What do you want? If you want meat, hunt for yourself." She grumbled curtly as she gutted the huge boar with expert movements.

Ikaris did not respond immediately, but kept his thoughts to himself. Who did she think she was fooling? A boar like this weighed several hundred kilograms. It was surreal enough to see such a small woman lift it alone, but to keep it for herself? If she didn't suffer from congenital stinginess, then he could deduce that she needed all that meat, which was even more disturbing.

"No, I came to ask some new questions regarding magic." He explained instead.

The boy told her about his experience in the jungle the day before, his fight with the two goblins and his discussion with Krold. Malia listened quietly as she worked and clarified his doubts, answering all the questions he raised.

"A Secondary Spark, how can I explain it simply... Basically, your main Divine Spark is your magic power in general. It grows slowly as you use it. A Secondary Spark is the same thing, but it is formed when you cast the same spell often. The Confederation calls this principle Optimization.

"When you first cast a spell, you are making a wish, but the magic is flowing through your body. Even though it is a fleeting moment, your body undergoes both short-term and long-term transformations. For example, you may use your Divine Spark to wish to run faster in order to outrun an enemy, which if repeated often will result in a Secondary Spark, or a Skill that you might name Enhanced Speed or Speed Boost. It will allow you to cast that spell more easily, more quickly, more efficiently for a lower cost.

"However, after some time, usually several months or years, you will also come to realize that you run faster even when you are not using magic. This is what the Confederation calls the Principle of Transcendence.