Chapter 5: How Is That Called Stealing?
When Han Shuo woke up, he found himself lying on the small wooden bed in the warehouse, covered in ice cold water. In front of him, little fatty Jack had a wooden pail in one hand and was climbing onto a stool with great effort. He intended to dump the ice cold water right on top of Han Shuo.
Han Shuo was already freezing his butt off as it was a bit chilly that day. He gave a great yell as he saw Jack about to tip the pail over, “Jack, what are you doing?!”
Little fatty Jack was stepping onto a stool that had been trashed. It wasn’t the sturdiest to begin with, and his legs wobbled in surprise when he heard Han Shuo’s yell. His hand jerked, and all the contents of the pail came crashing down on Han Shuo’s head as the pail flew and smashed into Han Shuo’s chest.
“Ugh… I say Jack, are you trying to kill me?”
Han Shuo started shuddering uncontrollably after the second pail of ice cold water. Not only that, but it hurt like hell when the pail itself hit him. He immediately starting cursing loudly.
“Sorry Bryan, I thought the first pail wasn’t enough to wake you up. This stool of yours was wobbly to begin with, and I was surprised when you yelled, that’s why my hand slipped and I dumped the water all over you!”
Little fatty Jack was extremely apologetic and started wiping off Han Shuo’s neck with a random rag that he had found on the ground.
Who knew that it would provoke a scream from Han Shuo like a pig being slaughtered? He hastily scrambled away and said, “Uh Jack, that rag in your hand is covered in bone dust that metamorphosed during necromancy experiments. It feels like little needles are prickling me, are you trying to stab me to death?”
“Ah…. sorry Bryan, I didn’t mean to, I really didn’t mean to!”
Jack was dismayed as he quickly threw the rag far, far away. He was thankful that there was no bone dust on the side that he had been holding.
“Achoo… Achoo… ah forget it. Jack why am I here? Didn’t I get hit by Lisa’s Agony of the Soul because that dickhead Bach used me as a scapegoat?”
His neck breaking out in red patches, Han Shuo kept sneezing as he rushed to peel off his sopping wet clothes. He quickly groped for the black towel that Bryan used and dried himself off.
“Bryan, you have so many scars over your body!”
Han Shuo took a good look at his new body, for the first time, upon hearing Jack’s words. There wasn’t a single inch of unmarked skin on his body as far as his eyes could see. He heaved an inward sigh and once again felt pity for Bryan’s circumstances.
“Scars are a man’s memories and medals of honor, what the hell do you know about them. Hurry and tell me, what happened after I fainted?”
“Classes happened to start after you passed out from the Agony of the Soul. Lisa said a few words and ran off to class. I yelled for Uncle Saru and the two of us carried you back!”
“So Uncle Saru had been by… Oh yes, what did Lisa say before she left?”
Han Shuo nodded as he continued to wipe himself off. Uncle Saru was the necromancy major’s oldest errand runner, he was fifty some years old and quite kind to Bryan and Jack. When Bryan had arrived at the academy, Saru had already been an errand runner for more than ten years.
“Lisa said it was too bad for you. If the Agony of the Soul had landed on Bach, he would have been fine after suffering for three days since he’s a magic apprentice. But you’re not a necromancy student and have no mental strength at all. You’ll probably suffer for a month. She said you bothered her when she was sleeping last night, and hurt her foot because you put rocks in your pants, so she won’t dismiss the Agony of the Soul!”
“Damnit, how dare Lisa treat me this way! I’ll take care of her one day!”
Han Shuo’s face darkened as he listened to Jack’s words and started cussing. His actions startled Jack as the latter thought, this isn’t the first time Lisa’s been this way to you, I’ve never seen you do anything to get back at her.
When Han Shuo was done venting his spleen, he thought briefly, “Bach has mental strength because he’s a magic apprentice. He only has to suffer for three days, and I have to endure this for a month? Heh heh, my potential is great. If I learn some necromancy, maybe I can get better in three days.”
“Bryan, you’re an errand slave, how could you learn magic?”
“Then how do the students learn magic?”
“They first have to meditate and learn to sense the magical elements. When they’ve cultivated their mental strength, then they need to study the knowledge contained within the books of magic and practice the magic incantations. They ask the teacher if they have any questions!” Jack said matter of factly, after he thought for a short while.
“There we go, I can meditate. When I’ve cultivated mental strength, can’t I look within the books of magic to learn the incantations written there?”
“But you don’t have a book of magic?”
At this point in the conversation, Han Shuo had sidled around to Jack and suddenly threw a friendly arm around him, smiling winningly at him, “But I have you, don’t you clean the library?”
Jack was shocked and promptly created some space between the two of them. He said with a panicked expression, “Bryan, you want me to steal books for you?”
“How vulgar! How can that be stealing? I’m just asking you to borrow some books for me. You can put them back when I’m done with them. No one reads those foundational books anyways, who would know? Jack, I’m in dire straits today because I was trying to help you. Now shouldn’t you help me too?” Han Shuo said earnestly to little fatty Jack.
Jack wavered upon hearing Han Shuo’s words, but finally agreed to “borrow” magic books for Han Shuo after Han Shuo gave him a puppy-eyed look.
Later that night, Jack stealthily crept up to Han Shuo and took out copies of “The Foundations of Necromancy” and “A Magical Dictionary” to hand over to Han Shuo. He exhorted Han Shuo to be careful and cautious at all costs before finally surreptitiously sneaking away.
As an errand slave, Bryan had no right to learn how to read. However, as an errand slave, who had to do anything and everything in the course of his job, he had picked up quite a few words over the past six years. All of this knowledge had been left to Han Shuo, and he was able to read the words in the two books.
Han Shuo shut the warehouse door after Jack had left, flipped to the first yellowed page of “The Foundations of Magic”, and started reading with every bit of interest.
Magic was a method of communicating with the magical elements of the world by using mental strength. There were four ways to use magic, through incantations, magic scrolls (or objects), hand seals, and magic matrixes.
Necromancy had once been an extremely prosperous branch of magic. At the height of its popularity, all dark magic had been categorized under necromancy. It was a pity that after its fall from grace, necromancy had become a subcategory of dark magic instead.
Necromancy was a field of magic that had started by simply controlling souls and skeletons. As it progressed and forebearers continuously experimented, its repertoire of spells had continuously grown. It slowly formed into a school of thought and became the representative of dark magic.
Mental strength was the foundation of all magic. The only way to cultivate mental strength was to sense the magical elements, through meditation, that regular people could not perceive. One was only considered a magic apprentice if they cultivated mental strength through meditation.
Thus, the first thing Han Shuo did after studying “The Foundations of Necromancy” was to meditate and try to get a grasp on mental strength. However, he came up empty handed after meditating for seven days. There wasn’t a trace of mental strength to be found.
Han Shuo could only meditate at night during those seven days, he had to be the diligent and bumbling Bryan during the day. He had to continue to perform an errand boy’s daily chores of cleaning, sanitizing, bug killing, and trash dumping, otherwise he would have no place at the academy.
Thanks to the Agony of the Soul, Han Shuo’s brain would suddenly spasm with pain a few times every day. He fainted dead away the first two times, but possibly acclimated after that and managed to stay on his feet.
Han Shuo’s half mad, half village idiot reputation also spread during this time. However, although he looked like a blundering madman, he still finished his assigned duties everyday. Thus, Babylon Academy did not kick him out upon seeing that his work was still completed.
As for what the necromancy students thought about Han Shuo’s crazy eccentricities, they were of one mind. Han Shuo had formed a habit of running errands after working for six years. Although he was a bit crazy, some habits were difficult to break and thus he still finished his duties everyday.
Except for one thing. Han Shuo would always somehow have a “headache” whenever the students approached him for experiments these days. He became even more out of control when his head hurt, and sometimes completely wrecked the lab. There was nothing the students could do as they knew that he had been hit by Lisa’s Agony of the Soul, and had gone a bit mental.
Even now, no one knew why Lisa had given Bach such a beating, but Bach was depressed nonetheless. He often thrashed Han Shuo on the basis of a flimsy excuse. Bach was a magic apprentice and stronger than Han Shuo, so the latter always ended up in much worse shape, even when he pretended to be crazy and hit back.
Han Shuo would break out into loud curses every night when he returned to the warehouse. “Bach you scum, just you wait. One day I’ll beat you so bad that even your mom and dad won’t recognize you.”
He’d been thrashed by Bach again today, and the latter had a small skeleton as backup. Han Shuo was naturally not a match for the two, and even now was covered in black and blue bruises. The difference was, Han Shuo felt that his strength was growing stronger these days, along with his appetite. Whenever he was still hungry after his rations, he would ask Jack for some more food.
Although it hurt like no other every time Bach beat him up, Han Shou would train according to the principles of the solid realm when he returned to the warehouse. All his aches and pains would disappear during the night, and he would be in fine spirits the morning after. The next time he got into a fight with Bach, he noticed that Bach’s hits hurt less and less.
Han Shuo would immediately return to the warehouse after each beating and started training. That little bit of magical yuan within his body unknowingly grew bigger during this time as well.
It seemed that his body was slowly reforging itself after each cycle of beating and training, and the magical yuan slowly changed from the size of a thumbnail to the mass of a thumb.
This both excited and scared Han Shuo. He was excited that the magical yuan was growing stronger, and that his body and spirit were improving. He was scared that seemingly because of the magical yuan becoming stronger, he found it harder and harder to control his temper. Han Shuo would easily commit actions that he would later regret.
He retrieved “The Foundations of Necromancy” from underneath the small, wooden bed and started meditating habitually after a short perusal of the book. He circulated the magical yuan randomly throughout his body. Places that had aches and pains were greatly relieved after the magical yuan had travelled past them.
That sliver of magical yuan slowly traveled from his neck to his brain as Han Shuo was meditating. It was at this moment that a familiar pain started emanating from his brain. Han Shuo knew immediately that Lisa’s Agony of the Soul was about to strike again.
Suddenly, just as Han Shuo’s brain was hurting, the magical yuan slipped into the center of the pain. This was the first time that the magical yuan had moved into his brain when the Agony of the Soul was also flaring up. Han Shuo felt as if a cannon had gone off inside his brain, and fainted again after another round of intense pain.