Leon had ten healing spells in his first-aid kit, all of which he had to use to regain the use of his left arm. Even then, his arm was still covered in light burns, but he could move it without pain if he was careful.
[Well, that was certainly enlightening,] Xaphan said flippantly in an attempt to lighten the mood.
[… That’s one word for it, I guess,] Leon muttered sarcastically.
[At the very least, we learned two things,] Xaphan continued, ignoring Leon’s comment. [The first is you need to focus on controlling the magic you borrow as well as only taking what power you need. The second is that the power I gave you was a little wild and outside of my own control. Fortunately, these are very fixable problems.]
[All we need is time and practice. For now, I’ll focus on regaining the proper control of my power; it shouldn’t take more than, say, a week or so.] Xaphan decided to be cautious after Leon’s injury. He estimated that it would only take a day or two to shake off the rust and bring his flames under enough control so as to not burn Leon again, but he wanted the extra time to make sure he had gotten used to the sudden jump in power.
[I think I’ll take that time to make a few new healing spells,] Leon said, looking over at the pile of spells he had just used and then to his burned arm. It still hurt to move the arm quickly, but the spells had healed him enough that apart from a lot of peeling skin, there weren’t many obvious signs of injury, especially when he wore long-sleeved shirts. He was sure he could heal what the spells hadn’t in a week.
Despite that surety, Leon used the first few healing spells he made that night to clean himself up. His peeling skin had vanished during the night, so while his arm appeared to completely heal, holding a shield during training still caused some discomfort.
The week passed quickly with hardly a single word exchanged between Leon and Xaphan, but finally, it came time for Leon to have some real practice with Xaphan’s power. To make sure he wouldn’t be disturbed, Leon took the huge stack of healing spells he’d drawn up during the week and ventured out into the maze of gorges and cliffs in the north-western part of the Academy.
[So, has this been enough time for you to get a good handle on your power?] Leon asked, with only a tiny hint of sarcasm.
[It has,] Xaphan responded, ignoring Leon’s tone. [Are you ready to see what you can do with it?]
[Of course. Anything I need to know before we start, though?]
[Plenty. I guess the first thing I ought to mention is that part of the reason you were burned so badly last week was that you couldn’t stop the flow of magic out from your soul realm. I’d guess that problem was because you didn’t try until the flow had grown too large for you to properly handle, so keep it slow and ramp it up gradually.]
[Another thing, demon fire is very potent. Just about anything can burn within it, so be careful about what you do with it. Don’t go starting any large fires, keep it in control. Again, go slow until you have a good idea of how much you can handle.]
[Then let’s do this.]
Leon briefly smiled before his face turned deadly serious. He gently pulled on the connection between him and Xaphan and called forth the demon’s power. He kept it as minimal as he could, letting the heat from the connection trickle out slowly, before channeling it into his arm and out into his palm. There, a small red flame appeared in the center of his palm, no bigger than the flame of a small candle that leisurely roiled and flickered as if it were burning in slow motion.
The first time Leon used Xaphan’s power just after leaving the prison, this was all the power he had been able to call upon, so there was hardly a need for caution. This time, however, he had to hold back the demon’s power that tried to burst free from his soul realm. The longer he held the flame, the more intense the pressure became. He felt like a flimsy dam trying to hold back a raging waterfall after barely a minute, which caused him to extinguish the flame and immediately stop summoning Xaphan’s power.
Leon took a deep breath as the heat from the flame disappeared.
[You didn’t burn yourself this time. Progress,] Xaphan said mockingly.
[Screw you, demon! I may have gotten burned, but at least I’m always in control of my power!]
[If you’re so confident in your strength, how about you go about raising yourself from third-tier power to fifth-tier power in a matter of minutes and see how well you control yourself then!]
Leon grit his teeth in frustration. Xaphan did have a point; the demon had gotten used to his atrophied third-tier strength, so there would understandably be a short period of adaptation to the sudden spike to fifth-tier.
After a few minutes of rest, Leon began again. He kept the flame small, merely testing himself to see how long he could hold it. He made it about a minute and a half during his second test, about half again as long as the first try that morning.
[Hmmm. I’m going to try something,] Xaphan said as Leon extinguished the fire again.
[I might be able to help you call upon only what you can bear. Might. I’ve never had to share my power before, so I’m learning as we go, too. Let’s try again.]
For a third time, Leon summoned the demon’s magic. This time, however, the pressure in his chest that came from his soul realm was greatly diminished.
[Whatever you’re doing… it’s working,] Leon mumbled, trying to concentrate on keeping the flame lit and under control. Xaphan was himself too busy concentrating to reply.
Leon managed to last five minutes that time thanks to Xaphan’s assistance.
[It seems like it will be a collaborative effort if you ever find yourself needing to call upon my power,] Xaphan said after Leon put out the flame in his hand.
[Fine by me,] Leon said. He was starting to get a good handle on calling upon Xaphan’s power and had already started thinking of how to maximize his time holding the fire. On his fourth try, he tried mixing Xaphan’s magic with his own, an idea that wasn’t theoretically terrible, but it left Leon feeling drained after only ten seconds. He guessed this was because he still lacked sufficient control over his own magic due to only being a third-tier mage that it felt so draining.
But, he had made Xaphan’s power a little easier to control, even if it didn’t last nearly so long as the previous attempts.
The two practiced for the remainder of the day. Leon’s final practice run before he returned to the Snow Lions’ tower lasted for almost fifteen minutes.
The next day, the pair changed their focus. Instead of trying to maintain a tiny flame for a long time, Leon tried to conjure a larger, more useful flame. He didn’t try to summon a flame roughly the size of a torch or magic lantern as he had the week previously, but instead only increased the size of the candle-sized flame by about half. He quickly found that such use of Xaphan’s fire was quite inefficient, as such a small increase more than halved the time he could keep the flame lit.
Despite this inefficiency, Leon continued down that road of training. Keeping a fire the size of a candle lit was hardly practical for battle, so he needed to learn to handle greater amounts of Xaphan’s power.
All throughout the next week, Leon would venture off into the western mountains whenever he got the chance. From a certain perspective, this kind of training wasn’t productive for him, as he was merely learning to use borrowed power. His time in the long-run would be better spent working on ascending to the fourth-tier. However, when Xaphan brought this up, Leon responded that there would be hardly any point to making the contract between them if he never learned to use Xaphan’s power. Besides, what Leon wanted was strength, and Xaphan’s demonic fire would certainly give him that, even if it that strength was only temporary. Plus, it wasn’t as if Leon completely neglected his own training; it was a tough decision for him to make, but Leon cut into his sleep time to make some extra room in his schedule for meditation and working to increase his own power.
Fortunately for him, he only had to keep this schedule up for another week. With Xaphan’s help, Leon was able to conjure a small explosion of demonic fire out of his hand that had a range of about three feet, and he had enough control to do so two or three times before the burns accumulated enough to disable his arm. During this time, Xaphan also had to teach Leon how to douse the flames so as to not kill anyone he didn’t mean to or set everything around him on fire.
Leon sighed in pain as he slid to the ground with his back against a large boulder. The ground all around the secluded crevice he had been practicing in was scorched and blackened, with the rocky walls not looking much better. It had been hard practice, and the skin on his left arm that was cracked and bleeding from the heat was proof of the intensity with which Leon had taken to his training. In fact, he had gone through more than three-quarters of the healing spells he had written, a total of more than one hundred and fifty that all went to treat his burns.
He had grown so used to the sensation of pain that Leon could barely even feel the fire that ravaged his arm during practice, but he had to force himself to take a break whenever he felt his arm started to grow heavy and lethargic, as he knew that the damage was severe. It got so bad that Xaphan had to intervene.
[You’ve already gotten enough of a handle on my power to fight with, there’s no need to keep pushing yourself. Slow down!]
[I suppose,] Leon muttered, as he pressed more healing spells onto his burned arm. [I just want to learn enough control so that I don’t have to worry about burning myself if I ever need to use your power.]
[No amount of control will lessen that risk right now. What you need to focus on is your own power. If you ascend to the fourth-tier, you’ll probably be able to call upon much more of my power before your arm is burned to the point of disability. Ascension to the fifth-tier, I’d guess, would allow you to use this level of power with relative impunity. You don’t specifically need control, you need to get stronger.]
Leon couldn’t argue with Xaphan when his entire left arm had been covered in healing spells. The demon’s fire was truly potent, but Leon felt that the pain had been worth it to have such a power that no one would ever suspect in his wheelhouse.
[You’re right, I should double down on my own training,] Leon said quietly. [Though I am looking forward to when I can use elemental magic for real, rather than relying on you for it. Throwing even this small amount of fire is rather… intoxicating…]
[I don’t like that tone…] Xaphan replied with a worried tone.
[Relax, I’m not talking about getting reliant on your power. If using only your magic were this fun, though, I can’t wait to see how it feels to use lightning,] Leon said, every word dripping with anticipation.
As soon as his arm was healed, Leon drew his sword and began practicing. He flooded his body with magic, but the thought of learning how to use his own elemental power had made him too restless to meditate.
He’d rarely trained so intently with his father’s sword before. Usually, if he were to practice his sword techniques then that was what he wanted to concentrate on, saving the flooding of his body with magic power for when he would meditate.
But now, he was doing both at the same time, even if the sword movements were only meant to keep him moving. And as he moved, a comforting warmth spread out from the handle of the sword and throughout his entire body, though Leon was so into his training that he wasn’t even aware of it.
Thank you to my Sixth-tier patrons:
I Dewa Bagus