The world was already digital in little Richard’s eyes. He’d moved past his initial confusion, starting to make use of the numbers coming from Precision. He could already sense the total mana of an average level 1 mage, and he’d set that to be ten. With that as a reference point, he was at about eight points. Little did he know of the endless possibility resulting from his actions, of the start of the digitisation of magic.
A fireball required fifteen points of mana to cast, while a general grade 3 spell needed about 20. This was why it outshone the numerous other spells of its grade; it had a lower mana requirement, was more formidable, and was easier to cast to boot. However, even in this process there were a lot of points which wasted mana, and depleting all of one’s mana in one go would injure any mage. Richard instinctively realised that there was still a lot of improvements to be made, and after countless hours of burning the midnight oil he’d actually discovered that the mana consumption could be dropped to just eight points. If the cast was perfect, the drop in power wasn’t as massive either; only dropping to ten points from fifteen. Such a fireball was far more cost effective for the damage it did, and was overwhelmingly more powerful than other grade 1 spells which had a maximum damage rating of 5.
Curiosity is the lust of the mind. Richard tried to cast a fireball the very next night, succeeding on the first try. The bundle of flames was evidently smaller than average, but it was a more vivid scarlet as well. He watched as it flew slowly towards a steel doll 25 metres away, so nervous that his heart almost stopped beating.
The fireball exploded suddenly upon contact, the flames spreading everywhere and sending a burst of hot air Richard’s way. The scorching heat and the explosion dealt a double blow to the doll, deforming it and burning it with magic flames. The doll was equivalent to a warrior with plate armour covering half their body, so one could imagine how this fireball would’ve killed someone of that level.
Success! This was the first spell that little Richard had casted from birth, and he was drowned in immense joy that very moment. He wanted to leap up and cheer, but his legs gave way beneath him and he slowly collapsed against a wall. His insides felt empty all of a sudden, as if no part of his body would listen to him anymore. It was difficult to even lift a finger.
This was the price he’d paid to cast a spell that depleted all his mana in one go. He couldn’t even bring himself to meditate, only able to quietly wait for his passive mana regeneration. Precision told him it would take 3 hours and 6 minutes to recover a single point of mana, the bare minimum before he could stand and meditate.
Richard was immensely bored as he waited for his mana and energy to recover. He started to wonder about everything he’d learnt of magic so far, since there was nothing else for him to do. He discovered that a higher level of spiritual force would enable a caster to use less mana to cast a spell, because spiritual force enabled one to be more meticulous and detailed in manipulating their mana. Beyond the actual collating of the elements to cast the spell, spiritual force was required for a lot of processes.
Richard felt like the fireball spell could be improved greatly. There were at least 16 points in the spellcasting process that could be improved— four of them involved cutting down the mana consumption, three allowed him to increase the spell’s power, and so on and so forth. Weighing the trade-offs, he first chose to reduce the mana consumption.
The next half hour was full of dry calculation, making Richard realise the importance of mathematics. He finally managed to improve on one of those 16 points, dropping the mana consumption of the fireball down to 7 without reducing its power. This would allow him to remain standing after casting a spell, even jogging a few steps instead of being limp and weak like he was now. His Precision ability allowed him to assess the condition of his own body, so with the proper reference point he’d be able to monitor his spiritual force and mana in the future.
Little Richard’s heart was now bursting with delight for the first time. He simply couldn’t wait to recover his mana and attempt to improve on his fireball, seeing whether he really had done it. The joy of exploration and discovery was so immense that it allowed the boy to see the first ray of light in months of darkness, helping him realise how miraculous and complicated the world was. Magic was so vast that even an entire lifetime wouldn’t suffice to explore just a single corner of it.
Eventually his mana climbed back to a full point, and Richard struggled his way into the meditation room. He slurped down a mana potion and started to mediate, recovering his mana in a few hours. He rushed out impatiently as soon as that was done, launching another ball of fire towards the damaged steel doll.
Richard’s mana was drained rapidly as the fireball took shape in his hands. The ball of flames trembled and flickered, but eventually launched itself out of his hands and went flying towards the doll.
The experiment had succeeded once more. Richard’s method for improvement was both feasible and effective, just that his zeal caused a tiny flaw in the casting process that slightly increased the mana he consumed. He was paralysed once more, but fortunately the mana potion’s effects weren’t done yet so he could recover quickly. He only ended up sitting down for an hour. Richard spent the entirety of that hour in calculations.
It was already daybreak by the time he got up. The day’s lesson was in mathematics, and this was the first time Richard was this serious. He wasn’t sick in the mind like Fuchsia, but he could finally see the beauty in the endless numbers. He’d truly experienced the function of mathematics, and was now living in a digital world.
Richard didn’t feel lethargic at any point in the day’s lessons. He found it easy to understand the contents of the lectures, but looking at the other students staring blankly or being deep in thought he realised it wasn’t as simple as it was for him. It seemed like the blessing of wisdom was rather useful.
The young acolyte who brought him around the Deepblue the first time around was waiting by Richard’s gates when he returned. She greeted him with a sweet smile, passing him a silver badge for the end of the month. She said it was for his income and expenditure this month, and he could examine it in the laboratory forge or just by using mana to view the content within.
The young lady had a pleasant appearance and a charming bearing. She exuded a gentle and beautiful aura just standing there quietly, but Richard only stole a glance at her as he thanked her and walked into his region.
As the two lustrous heavy gates closed slowly in front of her, the young girl stamped her feet fiercely. She had a strong urge to pry those gates open with magic, but she knew that they were forged with antimagic metal and were protected by spells. Even a level 6 disjunction spell wouldn’t be able to deal with that door, forget her strongest spell that was merely a level 2 acid arrow.
The metal gates alone cost a considerable amount, let alone the lands behind them. Land was at a premium in the Deepblue, and even if what lay behind these gates was empty it would be considered priceless.
“You! You’ve already seen me twice, but why didn’t you even ask for my name?” The young girl muttered angrily to herself. She immediately recalled that Richard had just turned ten according to the data in his profile. He was too old for someone who’d just started his magic journey, but too young to be a man. She could only shake her head helplessly and depart with regret. What was she to do? If Richard really possessed the abilities of a grown man, it would be too late to take action, and she would never stand a chance.
In the Deepblue, competition was at every turn.