Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 66

Amidst the silent void, Claude traced a hexagram with his mental power. Soon, countless points of light appeared in the darkness around him, peppering the void like stars in the night sky. The lights were multi-colored and moved inexorably towards the hexagram.

So this is what essence photons looks like... I can't usually see them with my normal eyes, I have to use my mental power to sense them, Claude's thoughts echoed audibly in the endless void, disembodied from his perspective.

The pinpricks of light moved ever faster, cascading into the hexagram.

The red pinpricks slowly outdid their multi-coloured brethren and soon dominated the scene. Red ones should be fire, so the green ones ought to be wood. What were the blue ones then? Water? The white ones were light, but what were the dark ones? Darkness or earth? No, the yellow ones were earth, so the black ones were indeed darkness... but what about the silver ones? The gold ones were probably lightning, and if the blue ones were water, then what colour was wind?

Wait, to which element was he most attuned? Which should he focus on attracting? He stared at the pinpricks and noticed the red ones outdoing the others. That certainly made things a lost simpler for him. If he really had the greatest affinity for fire, then he could just follow Landes' direction directly; he wouldn't have to worry about how well suited they were to his element.

Following the instructions on the diary, Claude used his mental power to rotate the hexagram so only red pinpricks would flow into it.

The six triangles soon flashed brightly and, illusion or not, Claude felt the hair on his body stand up from the heat. He connected the six triangles and guided the essence into the central hexagon. The light flowed into the central hexagon like water through a funnel, or flames through a hole. Unlike the triangles, the hexagon didn't fill up, the light simply vanished into it like the animations of light falling into a black hole he'd seen at an observatory back on earth. There was one change, however, the lines that were the hexagon's borders thickened slightly, like someone was tracing over them again.

Claude started trying to guide more pinpricks into the triangles once they were empty, only to realise there were none left.

He sighed and opened his eyes. He should wait several more days before doing it again. Landes said that one should not meditate too often. Meditation drained mental energy, and it was not healthy to drain one's reservoir so much so frequently. Claude, however, didn't feel like he had the last time he'd exhausted himself. That said, he had no intention of trying his luck. Experiencing that pain once in his lifetime was once too many already.

He turned his gaze to the sandglass next to him. Only half an hour had passed. He was surprised. He'd half expected time to fly by during his meditation, but that seemed to not be the case. His mental energy was also far from exhausted. He could do this four more times right now without emptying himself completely.

He got out of his room onto the roof, sat down, and got to work again. He drew the hexagram again, and found that what had at first looked like retraced lines, were in fact the three dimensional expansion of the hexagon in the middle of the larger formation. Instead of the two dimensional face it had originally, it was now turning into a three dimensional hexagonal prism.

He continued his meditation until he heard the war god shrine's bell announce the morning. He didn't remember how many times he'd completed his meditation cycle, if indeed he'd not simply just been meditating continuously on a single cycle the whole night. Despite that, he didn't feel any exhaustion. On the contrary, he had never felt livelier.

For all his diligence in taking notes, Landes had not mentioned the changes the formation would undergo. Claude would only be a first-ranker once he could fill up that bottomless pit.

It might have been an honest omission on Landes' part, he had penned the diary years after the fact.

No wonder Landes had been so proud of taking just three months to fill up that well, if it kept growing as he poured more essence into it, how long would it take him to do the same?

Claude suspected he had a high fire affinity as well, how high he didn't know, and his mental power was at least as strong as Landes', but he doubted he could match Landes' feat. He told himself he would be happy with doing it in six months.

He couldn't do anything else until he became a first-ranker, anyway. He didn't have any useable mana, much less knew how to channel it, and he doubted he would until he finished filling up that bottomless pit. It could be done using external sources of mana, but magic resources were all but extinct now.

Claude stopped reading the diary. There was no point in reading more until he could put the information to actual use, anyway. He would only frustrate himself by knowing what he couldn't do yet.

He didn't feel the need to sleep for the next two days, despite neither sleeping nor meditating again for the two days. He decided he would stop sleeping entirely, and meditate instead, since it seemed to work even better at replenishing his energy levels.

He woke up from one of his meditation sessions three nights later to find the house's lamps burning and a crowd outside.

He wondered what was going on that had the whole building awake, but then he heard the rushed steps clambering up to his room and his little brother and sister crying.

"Claude! Claude..." he heard his father call as he slammed against his bedroom door.

"I... I'm here!" he answered, uncertain what was going on.

"You.... what are you doing on the roof?!" his father yelled as he burst into the room.

"The... the attic was a little too stuffy, so, I... I got up the roof for some fresh air and fell asleep," he answered, quickly, "What's going on?"

"What's going on? You dare ask?!" his father snapped, "Get back inside!"

Claude re-entered his attic obediently.

It turned out that the town guards had spotted him on the roof during their midnight rounds. They'd thought someone was trying to break into the building through the roof and charged to the house and woke up his father. The commotion woke the rest of the building up as well.

His father chided him for nearly half an hour before he gave the boy a chance to speak.

"Well? Tell me you're up on the roof just because it's cooler up there! You woke up the whole building and did it falling asleep as well! What if you fell off the roof? This is ridiculous... Where do you get that kind of courage..."

"Umm... Sir," the guard responsible for the commotion stuttered, "We'll take our leave since the situation's been resolved. Apologies for waking you."

"Don't apologize. You did the right thing," Claude's father replied, rationality winning back control over his mind, "Thank you for your efforts. If it hadn't been for you, my foolish son might've really ended up in big trouble."

He saw the men off with a smile, then glowered at his son again.

"It's four in the morning. Get back in bed! I'll deal with you in the morning!"

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