Eventually, he falls asleep from the strain, just after taking the remedy. The stars of his memory still shine in the Duelist room where he was training, the door open just a crack.
In his dreams, this time, he faces himself in vicious combat.
Sometimes, this other Hriob is an adversary that simply cannot seem to die no matter what he throws at him, and takes almost obscene pleasure in using his own attacks against him in ways he would never have managed to make himself: Telekinesis used like a knife to cut off limbs and heads, cut arteries with a blink of the eye, sever the spine ruthlessly, even decapitate him. Teleportation used in much the same manner, or to send him inside solid rock to asphyxiate, or inside lava to burn to death in seconds drowning on solid rock, or inside a pit of venomous snakes or a battlefield between demons... or many other crafty and imaginative methods of killing a man. Any time he seems to gain the advantage somehow, the other Hriob turns it against him before he can make any headway, and it ends in his death before he knows it.
Other times, the 'other Hriob' is simply the unimaginable force of a storm, the sky itself a weapon against him, with rage and fury beating down on him from all sides. He tries to escape only to be struck down by lightning faster than he can even think, winds literally rip his flesh away when he tries to fight, he is given no quarter and no chance to do anything but try to hold off the inevitable. It isn't as cruel as the other, but at least it gave him the facsimile of a fighting chance... this nightmare version doesn't give him any such illusions.
It is as if he is stuck between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, between Scylla and Charybdis, between a Rock and a Hard Place.
As if he was his own worst enemy.
Still, rest is rest. He sleeps, spread eagle on his back on top of hard frost-laden stone, and lets the strain that could have been from weeks of rigorous mental and physical training fade and resolve into new strength and power. The kind of strain he has been facing would be too much for most people his age, but he has been used to long periods of heavy exertion as well as constant brain-wracking for weeks at a time without sleep... this is nothing he cannot handle, if it isn't right to say he was born ready for this kind of endeavor's risks and overall toll on him.
Ran walked back to the tavern. She had just witnessed Caleb's efforts bear fruit, and it put her at edge. If I was not bound by the spell card rules, in this current state, I could still inflict damage...but at great cost at self if we were to fight. She walked into the Duelist room and closed the door. Not choosing any mode, she floated in the middle of the room and started to spread kunais here and there, focusing on precise control of the density of her attack. Soon, her actions looked like a pulsating wave, had it not been deadly to anyone getting hit by a stray knife.
Hriob is awakened by the sound of Kunai whizzing past his ear, and swiftly teleports to the lobby. Someone should have warned me if the room timed out, or at least noticed that I was passed out on the floor.
Brushing himself off, he spends some time chatting with Night, and eventually it ends up with them sitting together in Night's room again, but this time when they start to fall asleep Hriob hugs her goodbye and promises to take her on a trip in the morning for just the two of them... and Misery, of course.
Scarlet was busy pondering the construct of her foe's armor. Her tail idly tapped the floor as she recollected the fight.
Let's see. Adventurer... male... red and white armor...Her thoughts wandered for a bit, as she took time to think about the pieces he wore.
Let's see... The armor was thick, so it would've taken a minute to get through the chestpiece. The pants were standard cloth, with iron greaves for boots. So why couldn't I hit him? I dragged him in just fine when I grabbed his ankle. Her whiskers twitched a little as she gave it more thought. But the chestpiece was red and white. When I tried striking him, there was an odd, white glow, then there was bright...white...fire...
Her paw smacked against her forehead at the sudden realization of the thought. Ugh... only one thing could do that to my type, but I thought it was just a legend. The armor had some sort of holy essence in it, and it was strong enough to keep me at bay... How could I have been so foolish... hmm, maybe Ixia might know something about this. The orange cat-snake, sat down on her coiled tail, hoping to come up with some sort of solution to this issue.
Caleb walked out of his room and into the lobby. He went about wiping glasses, though he had a smile on his face. He had accomplished something and hopefully it was enough. Maybe I could ask Ran for help for the casting of magic circles without casting. I wonder by what mechanism that is done.
Hriob awoke and headed out of his room, his still-damaged Monk's Spade on his back and his mind focused on training, and Night... Night first though. I'll train as much as possible, then get Night, Misery, and whoever else wants to join us to go on a little trip for a while. But for now... I need to keep at this with these elemental attributes and increased power generation training.
Heading to the bar to start for the morning, he greets Caleb with a pleasant 'Good Morning', then gets to work tidying up the bar alongside him, and also brewing some coffee for the Fox-eared man on a hunch.
"Morning." Caleb stated as he closed his eyes. He yawned a bit, still tired from what had happened yesterday. He continued his work nonetheless, including having the fire pit fed with more logs. "So how goes your training?"
Ran walked out of the Duelist room. Mastery of the density of attacks was the fundamental of the battles under the law she abides by. As she walks out of the duelist room, she spots Caleb and Hirob. "Hello. Green tea please. Jasmine, if you have it. Oh, and something meaty with rice." She sat down at the bar table, looking at Caleb, assessing if any changes had happened . I don't detect any maladaptive changes. Anyone who does this haphazardly would have problems, but the rumors I heard of thaumaturgists are true.
Hriob smiles. "Different... that's for certain. The Ethers and Remedies put together with some meditative focus on channeling my energies hasn't increased my resistance to magic, but it has sparked levels of mana generation I never knew I was capable of having. It's not a perfect defense, but it has greatly increased my capacity for energy and self-awareness of my spirit enough where I can better buffer myself against magic from the inside-out, at least diluting the harmful energies with my own to the point I can handle them better."
Then, pouring Caleb a hot cup of coffee, he adds, "It also had an interesting effect... normally what people might say is that I'm a Void elemental, and a very unusually pure one at that since in some senses of the word I'm literally a void for magic to fall into and come out of. But now... my swords were linked to my soul, and this regimen has had an odd effect on me through them. I'm pretty sure I'm beginning to take on Wind-and-Lightning Elemental characteristics."
He stops, looking at him as he rests on the bar's counter. "But how has your training been going? I did notice those swords last night, and they were almost terrifyingly impressive. What kind of changes did you manage?"
Noting Ran, he nods another 'Good Morning' her way, and begins her meal while telekinesis starts her jasmine tea.
Caleb listened intently to what he was saying. "So basically, you're saying you're beginning to take on the power of your swords. Not too bad."
He paused, almost letting go of a glass when Hirob said he saw swords. "Wait...you saw swords?! How?! You shouldn't be able to see swords! I keep the generation effect of the reality only in its intended area, not in the periphery." He blinked, and put the glass down. He then looked at his hands. Does that mean...?
Frowning, Hriob says in a concerned tone, "It was spread out over the entire forest, though not exceptionally strong this far out. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed, but you should know I'd pick it up easily enough when others would miss it."
He hands her Ran's Jasmine tea as he does though, and gets back to finishing her order of rice and lightly grilled chicken. He seasons it lightly to bring out the flavor, but sears it to keep the meat tender and juicy.
"He tapped into a latent mana pool that he had all along." Ran stated as she sipped her tea. "The fox demon that he merged with himself. The fox demon is no more, but the essence remains. He tapped more into the essence." She continued to drink her tea, closing her eyes and smiling. After a while she put it down. "Once he did, the magnitude of the 'reality creation' became stronger and the 'reality' became much more 'real'."
"Interesting... I suppose that explains his ears then." Hriob smiles at that tidbit of information with a playful chuckle, but his eyes stay focused on Caleb. He looks like he just had a revelation of some kind... I just hope it isn't a bad one.
"And how about you, miss Ran? Anything interesting happen for you recently?" He smiles at her as he hands the lady her meal.
Caleb closed his eyes and shook his head. "As long as the swords outside do not pose a threat...there shouldn't be a problem. They did vanish in the end, didn't they?" Caleb looked towards Hirob. He was glad to have found a way to improve on his power, but if it meant to harm other people he didn't want to in the process, he didn't see the point of it. If it's so, I'll need to test out the full capabilities now.
Ran shook her head. "I just got practice when I can, that is all. I busy myself with magical theory, and mainly focus on honing my spiritual energies. That is my 'practice', so to speak." She closed her eyes and shied. "I stated before that I am a being far different than what you two are accustomed to, so I am sorry if what accounts to me as practice is what seems to be dull for you."