Sheila tossed a Luminous Pearl into the room and dashed inside excitedly. Claude followed and Blackwind intelligently assumed the role of sentry.
A light layer of dust had coated everything in the room. It was most noticeable on the large table in the centre. Stacks of draft papers covered in strange scribbles still buried the table. They looked to be Sheila's doing in her youth. A candelabrum and an oil lamp stood on the desk, along with three ink bottles and a few quills. One open ink bottle revealed dried and cracked ink residue inside.
The girl dashed to the bookshelf to the left and knelt in front of it to remove a box from the bottom shelf. She hauled the heavy box up and gentled it on the table to disturb as little dust as possible. Claude's gaze shifted to the box and he saw it had a similar appearance to the one he'd found in underneath the ruins with Landes' diaries inside. The cover was also meant to be pushed apart rather than lifted off.
"Why didn't you use Magus' Hands? Isn't it heavy? Of what material is it made? You could've asked me to help," Claude said with concern.
Sheila would no doubt have cried had she dropped the box on her feet.
The girl poked out her tongue.
"I was too excited to remember the spell... This is cloudstone essence. Mama said using this box to keep magic items will keep the mana from dissipating and preserve the items perfectly."
So they were just like Xianxia pill bottles. Why did they have to call it something so ugly though? Wouldn't 'jade' have been a much better name?
The girl took one scroll after another out of the box and lay them on the table.
"Haha, you're right. There is indeed Fireball in here. We don't have to experiment any longer. What's this... Cultivate? A useless spell. Energy Barrier... A tier-one spell. This is good. I happen to be able to learn it."
Wait, Energy Barrier? Claude was stumped. He didn't think the girl's mother actually had such a scroll. It was a spell he had dreamt of owning. When he had bought the materials he needed for his array from Hurian, he was ambushed on the way back by the bearded magus. The magus used Energy Barrier to nullify his Magic Missiles and crossbow bolts and put him at a huge disadvantage. Had he not brought his spellbane dagger with him, the victor wouldn't have been him.
It was a shame the bearded magus was a broke pauper without a single tome. Claude couldn't get a single new spell, to say nothing of Energy Barrier. He had always been interested in combat spells. Though Energy Barrier couldn't stop muskets, it could nullify cold weapons, spells and close combat. It was a combat spell he much craved.
It was a truly surprising find. He wracked his brain for a trade (read: trick) to get the spell from her.
The girl continued blabbering as she removed yet more scrolls.
"Hawk Scrying? I'll have to catch a baby hawk for that, how troublesome. Damage Transfer, a tier-two spell... I guess I'll figure that out later. Stealth Sneaking... I don't want to be a thief. Lightweight Flight, a tier-one spell... I can learn it too! Hiking won't be as tiring in the future..."
Claude almost vomited blood. He finally realised these nature spells were all really practical. They were far superior to rune spells and harmless spells, at least. Rune spells were geared for alchemy experiments, and harmless spells could be convenient for daily use. He didn't know many combat spells. Only Magic Missile and a tier-one Chain LIghtning was in his arsenal. Mental Shock could be considered a unique spell that only he had, but it was not much different from a stick whack, given that his tier as a magus was still low and it was only effective against brainless beasts.
He could tell how useful those spells would be based on the names she recited. He was already salivating. Sheila, on the other hand, was still completely oblivious and continued speaking the spell names out loud. "Transmute Mud to Rock and Transmute Rock to Mud... These two are rather good. I recall that mama dug this room out with those two spells. It took her a whole month, though..."
Claude finally heard two spell names he was familiar with. The two transmutation spells were recorded in Landes' diary. Those were the two basic spells he had to engrave in his hexagram after he became a two-ring magus per the orders of the tower. It was said that rune magi with those spells had to partake in the construction work as mandated by the tower. For instance, the rocky path leading to the tower on Egret was constructed by rune magi using those two spells.
"Firewall, Hydrofalls and Maze Forest... These are all tier-two spells. I don't think I'll be able to learn the rest," the girl muttered with a hint of disappointment, "I wonder if mama kept that spell in here... I have to keep looking."
The girl flipped through the box and cheered when she took out a scroll. "It's here! With this, I don't have to worry about the mess of spells I've learned!"
"What's that spell of yours called?" Claude couldn't help but ask.
"Spell Transplant, a tier-three spell," she said with glee.
"Spell Transplant? What does it do?"
She rolled her eyes at him.
"You don't even know that? You're such a bumpkin. As its name suggests, it lets you exchange basic spells you've already engraved with something else. Too bad it's a tier-three spell. I can only cast it when I'm a four-ring magus. By then, I can switch out the spells I don't use much for more suitable basic spells.
Claude was completely dumbfounded. He had never heard of such a spell. Even Landes' diary didn't include any mention of that spell. Perhaps even Maria, someone who was well-informed of the state of magic on the whole of Freia, wouldn't know about it. She would've mentioned it if she did.
Yet, the girl took out those scrolls before him generously without worry that he would lust for them in the slightest. Anyone else would've already killed for those spells.
Claude couldn't help but stroke her head to mess up her hair. She had called him a bumpkin after all.
"What are you doing?!" Sheila snapped.
"You must remember never to show anyone else these scrolls," Claude said with a solemn expression, "They're really precious; completely priceless for magi. They can't be bought with all the money in the world. Most magi would lose their minds and immediately try to kill you for them. Before you can defend your legacy, never tell anyone else you have these scrolls, understood?"
The girl turned her gaze away.
"I won't tell anyone else, of course. But I trust you."
Words no longer worked on him. He swooped in for a tight hug and planted a kiss on her little lips.
Sheila's body stiffened as she tried to push him away, but strength left her and she gave in to the pleasure. Her mind was blanked and she couldn't think of anything but the feel of his lips and the taste of his tongue as it bound hers and explored the inside of her tender mouth.
He relented only as she started struggle for air. She burrowed into his embrace like a shy kitten, her arms wrapped around his neck. Her cheeks glowed like charcoal and her eyes glossed over like window panes on a misty morning.
"You're... you're picking on me again..." she whispered, more as a wet whimper than an actual utterance.
Claude squeezed her for a moment.
"No. I couldn't even if I tried. You're too cute. I don't even know how to begin to spoil you..."
He lowered his head again aiming for another kiss, another round of sweet violation, but Sheila had found her strength and pushed their bodies apart.
"Release me, you meanie. I'm going to ignore you."
Claude gave up and let her go.
"By the way, how many spell scrolls did your mother leave?"
Sheila sighed and rolled her eyes at him before counting the scrolls.
There were nineteen in total. Those scrolls could be used as reference for her to learn the spells. Additionally, one simply had to infuse mana in them to use the spells inscribed on the scroll without having to memorise it.
There were six tier-zero spells in total. Hawkeye was an appraisal spell for nature magi, much like Eye of Appraisal was for rune magi and Insight was for battlemagi. It allowed the caster to see further and also clearly in the night. The only drawback was that it caused the caster's eyes to turn triangular following frequent use. It was a huge deal for women who cherished their beauty. Perhaps that was the reason Sheila's mother didn't teach her the spell.
The others were Enlighten, Vine Wrap and Fireball. One of the two other tier-zero spells was Bee Swarm, but it might be more appropriately named it if were called Bee Breeding. To use the spell, one had to look for suitable bees in the wild to be put into the formation. Then, mana had to be infused within on a daily basis to accelerate the bees' life cycle. As generation after generation of bees came about, they would be familiar with the caster's mana and see them as the queen of the nest. Only then can the caster use the bees for attack or defence.
The last tier-zero spell was Cultivate. It was similar to Returning Spring. However, Returning Spring was for recovering damaged plants while Cultivate was more suitable for cultivating new plants and cross mixing them.
There were six tier-one spells, Energy Barrier being the first. Hawk Scrying, contrary to what its name suggested, wasn't an upgraded version of Hawkeye. A magus would have to first find a baby hawk and place it within the spell's formation. After that, the magus would have to use Enlighten on it and allow the hawk to be familiar with their mana. By the time the hawk grew enough to fly, everything it saw could be seen through the scrying pool cast by the magus.
It was practically a drone with a camera. The only bad thing about it was that it could only be used for not longer than thirty minutes every 24 hours. Otherwise, the hawk's body would be harmed by mana overcharge and its life expectancy would drop.
The third was Stealth Sneaking. It was similar to the stealth skills used by rogues in online games. It blurred one's body and allowed one to hide within the shadows without worry. The fourth was Lightweight Flight. Once cast, it decreased the caster's weight greatly and jumping from mountain to ravine would no longer be an issue. It was no wonder the girl said that she would have a much easier time scaling mountains.
The last two spells were Transmute Rock to Mud and Transmute Mud to Rock respectively, which Landes' diary mentioned. They were ideal for construction.
There were four tier-two spells, namely, Damage Transfer, Firewall, Hydrofalls and Maze Forest. Claude thought the most useful among them to be Damage Transfer. It could divert physical and magical damage to a nearby target like a large tree or one's teammate. Its biggest flaw was the limited range. It only worked within a radius of three meters.
The other three spells seemed to be area-of-effect spells. Firewall was as its name suggested. Hydrofalls conjured a large rush of water from the sky that could sweep the enemy off their feet. Maze Forest had to be cast in a forest, and it could cause the target to be trapped in the illusion of an endless forest that they couldn't escape from.
There were only two tier-three spells, Spell Transplant and Ent Guardian, the latter of which could convert a nearby tree into an ent to defend the caster from enemy attacks. It was tough and powerful and its only weaknesses were its slow movement and fire.
There was only one tier-four spell, Summon Stone Giant. The caster could call forth a giant golem made of stone to attack or defend. Even though it was as slow as an ent guardian, one advantage it had was ranged attacks. The giant could fling boulders weighing some sixty catties up to fifty meters away.