[Side-Effect: Pain. These pathways are extremely sensitive and essential to life, hence there will be pain when energy is exposed to them.
Host must know that these pathways decide and influence many things other than the transport of energy. Uneven application of energy to these unseen passages could result in deformations of the body and mind. But, if the technique is deployed by the system, there is no chance of this occurring.]
Daneel heaved a sigh of relief hearing this. This meant that the rumors were probably true.
Pain? Let it come, he thought. Pain was the one thing he had learned to ignore in these three months.
"Will future techniques also take this long?", he asked next. This had been bothering all the time since the system had gone offline. If each and every technique took this much time, he wondered what the difference would be between him and anyone else as the system would be offline most of the time.
[With upgrades to the system, all functions and tools shall perform better. There is also a feature called "Background Installation" which can be unlocked at a later stage to avoid such circumstances. System assures host that with EXP, anything can be solved.]
Of course, it was all about EXP. He had guessed as much.
There was one last question which had occurred to him after analyzing the system's explanation about SAT.
"If people with smaller pathways only exhale away unused energy, then why is it that they need more energy along with time to progress? Wouldn't it only be time as the net total of energy would be the same?".
[Replying to host. On being absorbed and traveling in the human body, some modification occurs in the absorbed energy. This renders it unable to be absorbed again. This altered energy is absorbed back into the earth.]
Now it all made sense. Daneel had seen this loophole and hadn't hesitated to ask, wondering whether he had understood wrong or the system had explained wrong.
Back on earth, humans plundered resources from the planet without regard. This resulted in damage to the planet. Here, it seemed to be a mechanism to counteract the resources taken by humans. Humans extracted Ether and other materials from the earth and absorbed energy. In this process, at least some of that energy would go back to the earth. He suspected that even the energy absorbed by humans when training went back to the earth in a similar way after death.
There were only 6 days left until the final test. Elenav had told him secretly that the top 3 would get certain gifts and privileges from the training hall. It was time to test out the technique and see how much stronger he could grow.
He really wished that it would be enough to beat the first ranked not-so-pudgy-now kid's arrogant face into the ground.
One Week Later
Since the past one week, the staff in charge of the Energized Training Chambers were in a pickle. The staff were in charge of analyzing the amount of Ether consumption in each chamber and finding out reasons for any irregularities.
Once, one of the earth mages in training had secretly made a hole from one of the chambers to their room. This resulted in a drastic decrease of Ether from an external source.
It had taken a week in which the staff had repeatedly had their wages cut due to not finding out the source. This was because this analysis was also a training for the staff. The job of ETC Management was a very lucrative one in the outside world. Many families and training halls always had a shortage of skilled personnel who could account for and manage the consumption of the precious Ether.
Since the start of the week, Ether consumption of the whole chamber had increased by 5 percent. Although this seemed like little, it must be noted that almost 100 people used the chamber daily. This in itself consumed a large amount of Ether. A 5% cumulative increase on top of that was actually a very large dent in the finances of the training hall.
Today was the day of the trainee competitions. Wanting to take his mind off the pressing problems of ETC Management, Jack had decided to spectate them.
Reaching just before the matches started, he asked his friend Mark who the ones to watch out were.
"The one in favor of winning is that kid with the sunken face who looks like he has lost a lot of fat in a short time. Someone was saying that he was already near the Human-1 Stage. The benefits of a high-grade body are truly something to be jealous of.", he said, sighing wistfully. People like Jack and Mark were usually people with very low-grade bodies, who had to get into side jobs like these due to having no other option. At least this job had the potential of one day becoming lucrative and respectable, unlike typical ones like becoming a merchant's assistant.
A few feet away, Jack spied a thin but lean kid who was looking at the first kid with a glint in his eyes. Intrigued, he asked Mark who that was.
"Oh, that's a kid called Daneel. He also has a low-grade body like ours but is now 6th and almost on par with those with high-grade bodies due to sheer will and effort. There is no chance of him beating the top 5, but he's being talked about around the training hall. It seems that he puts in the most effort out of everyone in the class, training even after everyone fell asleep."
"Oh, that's too bad", said Jack. He knew personally how hard it was for someone with a low-grade body to rise in the world. His own brother had joined the army with a low-grade body. He had been worked to the bone each day, claiming that it was important for him to have more of a workload on account of his potential. Eventually, he was almost driven mad by it and had to take a voluntary exit.
The matches soon started with cheers from the crowd which had gathered. Water Mage Banner was the referee, as he had the least violent way to separate two trainees. The story of Gravity Mage Viuda being the referee was still told around dinner time to new staff members. She had had to separate one kid who was beating his opponent even though he had given up. Enraged, she threw the kid towards the stand, almost killing him.
Banner simply enclosed someone in a sphere of water if they disobeyed him. This was a much more peaceful way to end fights.
Matches were 3 groups, according to potential. Additional, someone with lower ranking could challenge one above them.
Each spar lasted only about a minute, with the first person who lands 3 hits on the opponent being declared as the winner. This was implemented to decrease injuries on the growing bodies of the trainees. These were after all only kids with 3 months of training. Still, they showed great technique that made the crowd ooh and aah.
Daneel was especially noticeable, easily defeating each of his opponents by simply rushing at them and being faster than them. He also gave off a calm demeanor which made the crowd love his matches.
After the 3 tiers of matches were done, the inter-tier competitions began. By default, those with high potential were ranked 1-5, those with mid-potential 5-... and so on. The low-grade tier was last, and Daneel was currently at the top of his tier having beaten the rest.
Almost all of the inter tier matches were kids in the mid-grade tier challenging those in the high-grade one. The exceptions were 2 kids.
The first was Faxul. He had directly challenged the 6th ranked trainee. This had been Daneel's spot before.
Faxul's forte was agility. He constantly trained with Daneel and the both of them had become thick friends. At times, even Daneel with all his extra effort found it difficult to stay ahead of Faxul's dizzying moves.
As soon as the match started, Faxul jumped across the stage and landed a hit on the opponent's forehead. Dazed, he was left open and was instantly defeated.
Such a rapid exchange had fueled the crowd to cheer louder than ever. Next, it was the final match, and something almost never seen before.
A trainee with low-grade potential was challenging the trainee ranked first overall!