10 Chapter 10 - Soup for Lunch
Joseph woke up, feeling very refreshed the next morning. Stu had bags under his eyes when he served breakfast. Apparently, he hadn't gone to sleep the night before as he was busy working on new recipes. He seemed to be obsessed with seeing what he could smoke in the smoker other than meats.
All of the comments that Joseph had mentioned the day before had his head twirling, and he had been working on new recipes as well. He was so preoccupied with the new ideas, it never occurred to him, to ask where Joseph might have encountered any of the dishes before. He was hoping it didn't occur to him, or that he assumed it had something to do with his father's traveling habit.
Fortunately, his father could simply order him not to talk about anything concerning him if it became too much of an issue.
In only three days, it would be time to depart again, and Joseph was determined to comprehend the FOOD rune. He spent all his waking time in his father's study, staring hard on the rune and concentrating on nothing else. The trance that had taken hold of him the first time did not return, and he found it incredibly difficult to stay focused. Staring at an object that he knew was not moving, but appeared to be, reminded him very much of the optical illusions from his other lives.
After two hours he simply couldn't handle it. His head was splitting. Maybe there was something he wasn't doing right. He went to talk to Stu. On his way, he checked in the system, and those agonizingly slow two hours still counted towards his goal.
Stella was in the kitchen, stirring soup.
"Is Stu around, Stella?" he asked, sniffing something that looked like a thick stew, in another pot.
She whirled around in surprise, obviously not having heard him enter.
"Oh! I'm so sorry! Master Stu is asleep. He was standing at the table, talking about smoking something, when he just fell over, out. I can try to wake him, if you want?" She glanced over at the cot uncertainly, where Stu's feet were just barely visible.
Joseph smiled in amusement, and turned to the table. There was an assortment of different foods scattered. Some had been smoked, and others were probably ready to be smoked.
"No, that's alright. What are you doing?"
"Well," she said, still uncertain. "Since Stu is the one who normally cooks for everyone, but he's out cold, I figured the master would get upset if there wasn't anything to eat for lunch. Except, the only thing I know to make is soup, so I hope that's okay?"
"You made all this by yourself?" He looked around at the numerous pots of varying types of soups, all boiling away and about ready to be eaten.
"Well, there are a lot of people to serve. I also have breads to go with them all. I just hope I didn't forget anything." She looked around, obviously worried, and Joseph couldn't help but chuckle at her disheveled appearance.
The girl couldn't be much older than himself, and he couldn't imagine preparing all of this.
"Even if father doesn't like it, I think you will be okay. The fact that our bellies will get something in them, will be enough."
"Well, I tried to make all of them the same, but I ran out of some of the ingredients, so I tried to improvise like Master Stu does sometimes…" she trailed off, looking a little lost.
"He said that you should always add buckwheat flour to the potato soup, but normal flour in the others..." her voice trailed off again as she ran from one pot to the next.
His head was starting to feel much better after witnessing her troubles. Even if she got something wrong, she couldn't possibly have done worse.
"I'll send for some of the slaves to help you serve this up. And if Stu gives you any trouble for it, just remind him that he needs to try smoking cheeses. That should distract him well enough for you."
She nodded, still with that lost look in her eyes, looking around at the pots.
He left her to the kitchen, ready to try studying again. Maybe he just couldn't handle trying for so long. He would set a time limit of an hour and rest for fifteen minutes before starting back up, until he could talk to Stu about it.
Lunch was fantastic, and he never had to say a word to his father about the incident. His headache was starting to come back around the edges by supper time, which had him a little worried. Fortunately, Stu was up and he could ask him about how long he should study at a time.
His response was very reassuring. What he had been doing, by setting a time limit and allowing his mind to rest, was exactly what he should be doing. Apparently, most children couldn't handle concentrating for long, and headaches were the number one clue that it was time for a break. Though, Stu assured him that he shouldn't have to worry about it. No one could stand to stare at a piece of paper and think about it for that long. The willpower necessary would just be impractical. The more he practiced, the better his mind should get, and the longer he could handle it.
Joseph remained quiet after this revelation, and allowed Stu to continue.
Stu informed him, that it often took months for a rune to be first comprehended, not to rush it. Joseph decided not to tell him that he had studied for almost ten hours that day.
The next day he managed to get twelve hours in, but only because he had to sleep less. He was able to squeeze in eight more hours while they were packing and preparing to leave. Stu gave him some notes so he could keep working, but they were mostly descriptions of what the known spells could accomplish. He would have to comprehend them on his own. While the system could help him, he was glad to know what the required path was.
Certain spells had to be learned before others, and some, while not required, made learning others easier if they were learned first. That information would save a lot of time and effort, and he wouldn't lose a lot of valuable time.
After thinking about it, Joseph figured it only made sense that in order to more easily comprehend later spells, one should have to comprehend the base rune completely. Once he had the food rune figured out, he would need to learn test food, then decay, then purify food. If he tried to skip decay, then purify food would cost extra magic to cast.
As they got on their way, the trip was mostly uneventful. He spent the entire time pouring over FOOD, and studying Stu's notes during his breaks.
It was the first time he could remember such a depressing update. Maybe other mages had books about the study of magic itself, but learning by trying to comprehend just one rune wasn't making any real progress.
The next town didn't have any mages so he continued his study, and started working on externalizing mana. Fortunately, the rune FOOD was on magical paper, to allow him to study it, but soon he would have to figure out inscribing. True mages could trace the rune in the air, but beginners could use the magic paper. The magic paper would be used up in a single attempt, so he would have to spend hours practicing the rune before actually inscribing it with magic.
If he had the rune on the magical paper, he could use that rune to cast a spell, otherwise he would have to spend another 200 hours learning to write it in the air. He decided to go ahead and use the paper to cut down on the time needed to accomplish his mission of casting his first spell, so he could get those five life points and cut down on his needed hours for sleep even more.
Because he had no bonuses learning to externalize the mana, it would take 200 hours. Then it would take 50 hours for each method: gaze, area, breath, missile, and jet. He realized it was no wonder that most mages took years to learn magic.
After only half an hour, he was exhausted trying to externalize his magic. When he checked Stu's notes concerning it, he saw that it was normal for an adult to only last about an hour during training. It was reassuring to know that as a child, he wasn't doing bad, and he knew that he would be able to work up to that hour.
BASIC FOOD RUNE COMPREHENSION COMPLETED
TIME LEFT ON MODIFIED FOOD RUNE FOR THE TEST FOOD SPELL – 100 HOURS
TIME MINIMUM TO EXTERNALIZE MANA – 250 HOURS
TIME UNTIL INSCRIBE RUNES INTO WORLD – 200 HOURS
TIME FOR GAZE – 50 HOURS
TIME FOR AREA – 50 HOURS
TIME FOR BREATH – 50 HOURS
TIME FOR MISSILE – 50 HOURS
TIME FOR JET – 50 HOURS
Joseph was ecstatic to have finished his first rune, and even though the hours listed seemed like a long time, he would soon be able to diversify into more spells and other runes.
Checking the system, he saw that once he was down to just three hours of sleep, it wouldn't let him go any less without another 10 points and a reason to justify stepping beyond humanity. He looked back over the required hours of study before casting his first spell, and saw it was 650 hours. Sitting back, he felt a bit intimidated for a few minutes. Then he remembered that was nothing compared to the years that every other mage had to endure.
It was time to throw himself into this wholeheartedly!