Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 245

Mimic Beast was the spell Sheila prized most highly. It was the simplified version of the ancient spell, Morph, and required a wild beast's skin in good condition, complete with all its limbs and skull. A rune formation was inscribed on the skin which would activate when put on and turn the wearer into a real wild beast, strength, agility, etc. included. The transformation's duration depended entirely on the magus' mana.

Sheila boasted that she could stay in beast form for a full half an hour. During that time, she would be a real bear and reign supreme in the jungle. Nobody could pose a threat. She didn't have to hide from other bears either. The worst that could happen was getting into a fight. Her beast form was superior to real bears, however, which came the closest to being her equals, so she didn't have much to worry about.

Claude wasn't that impressed, however.

"It seems useless to me. Other issues aside, wouldn't it be hot wearing such a thick pelt? Winter is one thing, but I'd dehydrate in that thing in the summer, not to mention the smell! The benefits hardly seem worth the effort and discomfort. Just use a musket!

"And why's a pretty magus brawling with bears? Surely you have better things to do. On top of that, this bear's a male. What if you run into a female who's more in the mood to mate than fight? Come to think of it, I shouldn't have removed this bear's junk. Maybe you'd give them a good time..."

The girl paled at his indecency. Had she been in a better condition, she would've leapt at him and mauled his arm off. How could he mock her favourite spell? She wasn't, however, so she rolled her eyes furiously instead.

"You lowly thug... Mama was right. All men are good-for-nothings..."

Claude was nothing if not a sweet-talker, however, and was quickly in her good graces again. He just had to promise to teach her how to use a musket.

Her second spell was Vine Wrap. It created vines from nothing that could be used to bind an enemy. According to Sheila, a one-ring magus could only make one vine. A two-ring magus like herself could make two. Despite that, the vines could be stacked and the spell could be cast repeatedly to bind the same target better, or bind others as well. She'd used the spell four times to tie the bear down. She'd had it firmly under control, but it had struck out with hateful power in its last moments and struck her with it.

Claude had tasted the spell's strength, so he knew it wasn't worth much against magi. While it had got him, it had not prevented him from casting spells. He'd needed only a fraction of a second to cast Magus' Hands and tear himself free and snap Sheila's spear and knocking her out.

Even so, Vine Wrap was one of the spells he wanted. Had he more space on his hexagram, he would've wanted to make it one of his basic spells. Despite its shortcomings, it still had its uses, especially in tight spaces.

Her third spell was Smog Trap, but it was completely useless to Claude. Eye of Appraisal detected them all without any trouble. He could avoid them by avoiding the ripples left behind when the trap was laid. Naturally, common, mundane people and animals would still fall for them, and that allowed Sheila to lay claim to witch's forest. She said each trap could last five or six days, but when she was a one-ringer, it only lasted three.

It was too bad it rained endlessly during the season. All the traps she had laid in the forest had been 'washed' clean, which was why the black bear was even capable of barging into her shack in the first place after taking a whiff of the smell of good food cooking from within.

She said that if the bear hadn't barged in through the walls, she would have been able to cast the trap by the windows to chase it away. Smog Trap could also be cast in the hand, but it travelled too slowly through the air to be useful in actual combat. Anyone that saw it coming could evade it with no trouble.

Her fourth spell was Enlighten. It couldn't be used frequently, but it allowed the magus to form a mental link with their familiars. In fairy tales and folklore, magi of the ancient past could subjugate mythical magic beasts and bind them with a blood pact to make them their loyal servants.

But blood pacts were formations that required lots of magic materials to execute, and the depletion of said resources also caused magic beasts to go extinct. Most people saw magic beasts as materials rather than useful familiars, and blood pacts began to fall out of favour. In time, magi began to adapt to using simpler animals as familiars. The key was to give its mind a kick-start, 'enlighten' them, if you will, so that they could understand the magi's intentions through speech, gaze and gestures.

Enlighten could also be used to quell frenzied animals, but only a four-ring magus or above was capable of that feat. Sheila said that her mother ran into a black bear fighting a wild boar in the forest and she used Enlighten to calm the two beasts down. They merely sniffed at each other before leaving. As a two-ring magus, all she could do now was calm wild bees and prevent them from stinging her.

The fifth spell was Returning Spring, also known as Floragenesis. As its name suggested, it was used on plants. It sped up plant growth, often producing large and delicious fruits. The blueberry shrubs in the forest were the result of her efforts with the spell. Sheila said they were her favourite fruit. Her mother used it to cultivate the herbs she used. It was also the first spell she'd learnt. Long ago, a wildflower she'd been cultivating wilted, so her mother taught her the spell. She cast the spell on the flower before going to bed, and woke up to find it alive again.

Returning Spring was a true treasure. It was the perfect spell for herb cultivation, and was thus a perfect fit for magi that were also apothecaries. Not to mention its possible benefits for agriculture in general. He couldn't believe the girl had only ever used it to grow a couple blueberries.

He wondered how he should rate the spells. They didn't fit any of the categories he'd learnt. Mimic Beast, Vine Wrap, and Smog Trap might have some combat support applications, but Enlighten and Floragenesis had no combat applications at all. They were likely not considered rune spells either since they couldn't be used in arrays.

"Mama said that we're nature magi, neither rune nor battlemagi. We come from a school of magi that respect and worship nature. We love freedom and peace and promote balance between the human world and nature and strive to live without wasting magical resources to maintain the magic civilisation. Instead, we use the insights we receive in nature to further our foray into magecraft. Nature magi like my mama live secluded lives in the forest and seldom show their faces outside," she explained.

Rune magi conducted alchemy experiments, battlemagi dominated in battle through the collection of magical resources and artifacts, and now, another type of druid-like nature magi joined the fray. However, Sheila's mother was a bad example for her as a nature magus and succumbed to her greed for more magical resources and never returned from her excursion to the magic ruins.

"Alright, I agree to trade for your five nature spells. What do you want in return?" Claude said with a smile.

"I... I want those two spells of yours... Magus' Hands and Fine Control," she said with her head lowered shyly, "I... I know that those spells are really precious, so if you agree... I want to trade all five of mine for them..."

Even if the girl didn't know about how rare Magus' Hands and Fine Control were, Claude didn't covet them as priceless treasures, even after Maria told him that his spells were forbidden and couldn't be bought even if one had money. To him, these spells were the basic tools used by the rune magi, the lowest common denominator in the magic civilisation, so how precious could they really be? Perhaps a substantial number of magi knew those spells. How else would they experiment with alchemy otherwise?

He thought trading two spells for five was a great deal. It wasn't like he had much use for those two spells at present either. He couldn't do any experiments. Apart from making his life a little bit easier, there weren't many chances for them to shine. Instead, he would have to worry anxiously about being discovered each time he used them. But for the girl, those spells would be immensely helpful for her feral lifestyle. At least, she would no longer have to cut open each of her catches with tools and her own hands any longer.

"Alright, let's trade. But I won't trade only two of my spells for five. Take the other three as well and we'll call it even. Let's hope you can learn that not all men are bad from this."

Sheila blushed, pouting.

"I don't need your pity. I know you're already making a loss by trading those two spells for mine. I know you're a good person, but I don't need your pity or help."

Claude almost vomited blood. He had been friend-zoned before he had even said anything. How could she say she didn't want his help with a straight face when she was laying in his bed?

He closed the window and pulled the curtains to make sure nobody could see the illumination that was about to light up the room. He shut the doors, too. Myjack and Gum were busy marinating the two sacks of bear meat downstairs and probably wouldn't notice anything.

He turned around only to see a look of fright on her face. Nervously clutching her blanket, she squealed, "W-what... what are you planning?"

What? Don't you wanna see me demonstrate the other three spells? Girl, what's going on in your head? What did you think I was gonna do? I know it's a good opportunity now that you're weak and barely able to put up any resistance, but the stiff bandages are a real turn off, you know?

He looked at her awkwardly. "I am going to demonstrate the other three spells I'm going to trade, alright? I'm a soldier and the ones outside are my subordinates. I can't let them find out I'm a magus. I wonder what you thought I was gonna do..."

He stretched his hand out and held out a ball of light. "This is Luminous Pearl. I use it as a light at night. I believe it should be really helpful for you. At least, you won't have to be afraid of the dark any longer."

With a shake of his hand, the ball of light dissipated. He drew another spell formation in the air with his finger and a small ember sparked alight on his fingertip. "This is Kindle. If you learn this, you won't need flints to start fires any longer and won't have to worry about eating raw food if you don't find any fire starters."

The flame was put out. He drew another spell formation and picked up an empty cup. With a wave, a stream of clear water appeared out of thin air and filled the cup up.

"This is Hydrogenesis. You won't have to worry about having no clean water to drink." After some hesitation, he continued, "There's another spell called Appraisal that'll let you observe the ripples left behind from casting. I used it to avoid the traps you laid in the forest. You may pick three out of those four spells to go along with Magus' Hands and Fine Control. I'll be trading five spells for your five. It's an equivalent exchange."

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