If it was only a night without sleep, Claude could endure. But he'd been depleting his mana the whole evening as well. He fell asleep the moment his feet hit the carpet in the laboratory and slept through till nightfall. He only woke up when someone knocked on the door.
He stumbled to his feet and opened the door. Eriksson, Welikro, and Siori awaited him on the other side.
"What are you doing? You took so long to open the door. We thought something had happened to you. We were getting ready to break the door down!" Eriksson yelped.
"Nothing much. I was busy with experimenting the whole day. I was just pausing for a nap. I didn't think I'd be out this long. I might have slept till midnight if you guys hadn't woken, me," Claude answered, stretching lazily.
"I'll take my leave now," Siori chirped, "The branches are taken care of. They're drying in the barn."
Claude glanced at him and noticed four longtail swordfish in his hands, then nodded. The old man spoke a couple words to the visitors, then left.
"Why are you here?" Claude asked, pouring himself a glass of water.
"We came because Uncle Pegg told us you came by and fell. We decided to come say hi and smoke a couple fish. We caught twenty longtails, so we brought you and the Sioris a couple. That reminds me, make anything good?" Eriksson asked, straining to peek over Claude's shoulder into the laboratory.
"Not yet," Claude said, shoving them out and closing the door behind him, "It's not that easy. I can only just process a couple herbs now. I still have a long way to go. I've tried making a simple potion a couple of times before, but no luck. Anyway, let's go back to the villa."
His two friends had come by carriage, probably borrowed from Miss Welinda. The fish and a keg of ale were still on it. The two visitors took the fish into Claude's villa while he took the keg.
The horse and carriage were stowed in the stable and fed as well. Eriksson cleaned the fish in the meantime. Claude bought two cockerels from the Sioris. He paid two riyas, and the couple gave him a couple eggs to make up the difference. Claude 'forgot' a bottle of gran wine on his way out as well.
Eriksson drooled for half an hour straight that night while Claude made his favourite chicken wings, and he only left one for Welikro, most begrudgingly. The rest of the chickens were braised and poached in a special sauce which Claude's friends enjoyed just as much as the wings. The keg was done by the end of the night, Eriksson having downed half of it on his own. The boy had to be carried back to the carriage.
The three parted ways around midnight, and Claude headed back to his villa for a good bath. When he checked his hexagram after his bath, only a small portion of his mana had recovered. Luckily his mental energy had come back much faster.
He'd cast no less than ten spells the previous night, all but one of which had been Featherfall, and all his mana had been depleted. It would take fifty casts of the spells in his hexagram to deplete his reserve as much, on the other hand. Spells from his tome, thus far only Luminous Pearl, could be cast twenty times. Claude understood, viscerally, for the first time how important it was to pick spells to be engraved in one's hexagrams most carefully. And how much worth tomes had.
He could delay no longer, he had to set up his array the next night. He wished he could do it immediately, but he didn't have enough mana yet. He was not about to risk losing his investment to a sloppy setup because he was tired or lacked the mana. But a day was the most he could wait.
In the meantime, he would inscribe Featherfall and Projectile Defence in his tome. He'd learned how useful the spells were, and decided they were worth the pages in his tome. The rest of the time would be spent meditating to speed up his recovery.
The next day was Monday again, and Claude headed for school early in the morning. He headed straight home after, ran his patrol, handed out the duties to the Sioris, then darted home for a quick meal before turning his thoughts to his array.
The first question was where to set it up. He'd at first thought about using the laboratory, but it didn't belong to him. She'd talked about taking students and relatives there occasionally, so it wasn't the right place.
His villa was the next obvious choice. It was his now. He didn't own it, but had an indefinite lease as part of his employment contract, and no one had access to it besides himself and his mistress, though he doubted she would go in without his permission or foreknowledge.
He'd have to abandon a room to the array, however, though that was doable.
When Maria's father commissioned the villa's restoration, he'd miscommunicated his intent to the builder, who went and turned the small country house into a proper villa, rooftop veranda and everything. Her father wasn't very impressed, but he was not the confrontational type, and had simply let it be. That said, Claude loved it, he had from the moment he'd first seen it.
The small villa wasn't built directly on the ground. It was separated from the ground by about half a metre, held up by a series of pillars that ran into the walls themselves. It was called a villa, but it resembled the cowboy log cabins of the old western movies from old earth more. It had a somewhat rough and run-down appearance from the outside, but inside it was as luxurious as one would expect from a place built for a noble. The interior decking was made from yellow-rubber wood, a rare and expensive furnishing, especially in those parts.
The 'ground' floor held the kitchen, a bathroom, a hall which served as both dining room and living room, and two small guest rooms, while the first floor had one small guest room with a bathroom, and a master bedroom and en-suite bathroom. All in all the small villa could accommodate four people, more if they were couples.
Claude had only ever used the master bedroom, its en-suite bathroom, and the kitchen and hall. He could give up the two ground floor guest rooms since he doubted he'd ever have enough simultaneous visitors to need three guest rooms. One would become his alchemy room, with his array, and the other a study or office. If he ever really needed a servant, he could also turn it into a servant's quarters.
He started cleaning innermost of the two rooms, but quickly ran into a problem. The room was completely unfurnished. He had nothing on which to make the array. He'd have to buy a table or something first. And he certainly couldn't leave the windows bare, they needed curtains, thick, dark, curtains.
His mistress didn't have to worry about such matters, since her servants wouldn't dare babble about her activities. Claude, however, was another matter entirely. The first hint the Sioris caught of his magus abilities, the entire town would know.
The old couple were always polite and obedient, but he knew they weren't too happy with being bossed about by a little brat. That he earned, from the very beginning, as much as they did after decades of faithful service, didn't help. They would never deliberately sabotage him, but they certainly would not hold their tongue about his failures or... peculiarities.
If he was to make the room a proper work space, he also needed a desk and a chair, as well as a good cupboard and some shelves for his materials. He needed writing materials as well, and jars and containers. Not just any jars or containers either, but crystal ones. Landes had mentioned a couple times that magical materials had to be stored in crystal containers to retain their magical properties.