“Don’t be such a baby~! Aqua Beads are expensive and hard to find, so you still need to learn how to use water magic!” Mei scolded me, while taking a small and mysterious cardboard package out of the luggage. Without much fanfare, she casually ripped the top of it off and sprinkled a crystalline powder into the fishbowl.
I muttered “No fucking way…” It wasn’t hard for me to figure out what she was doing, once I saw the picture of a brine shrimp on the front of the package. However, unlike the kind on Earth, I noticed that little critters were almost instantly starting to grow and move around. Sure, they were tiny little fuckers, but it was still impressive.
“How the hell do I form a magical bond with these things though?”
She giggled, sitting down cross-legged in front of the bowl and motioned me to do the same. Then she placed her palms on the glass and I could see a few faint light-blue tendrils moving through the water.
Those tiny critters were immediately drawn to the mana and started greedily consuming the nutrients that were infected with that azure mana. Their nearly microscopic bodies were rapidly growing and transforming as she explained “When it comes to Martial Arts, I might not be very impressive… but don’t forget that your Mama Mei has been raising and taming Beasts for nearly four decades! Back in BT Class, they always used animals like these in order to teach kids. I’ve heard that in the olden days, they used a different method, but that was hundreds of years ago… Don’t worry, I have plenty of packets left, this batch was just to give you an example of what you’re supposed to do.
“So~, here’s the basics! The more intelligent and powerful the creature, the harder it will be to raise and tame. It’s also possible for smarter Beasts to connect with you, even if you didn’t raise them from a baby. As I’ve probably already told you a thousand times by now, my favorite animals are sharky-poos~! They’re just so adorable~… Ah, and they’re strong too. The problem is that sharks are really smart and have trouble bonding with most people. Fortunately, with my bloodline, I have a much easier time getting them to trust and love me~…”
While she was talking, Mei was smiling gleefully and totally ignoring the little shrimps that were ferociously devouring each other within the fishtank. However, eventually there was only a single, inch-long, bright-blue ‘thing’. I’m not sure if you really understand what a brine shrimp actually looks like, since they’re usually super-small, but yeah… That bastard had sixteen legs that just sort of dangled off the sides and moved around as it swam. The back was mostly straight, but it was super flexible. The shell on the head kind of reminded me of a double-sided battle-ax, with a large beady black eye on each side.
My gorgeous naked teacher placed both hands into the tank and allowed the aquatic centipede monster to swiftly swim around her hands. It seemed to nibble on her skin occasionally, devouring her salty sweat that was filled with Elemental Water Qi. Eventually though, it started chewing on her flesh.
“The lower the intellect, the easier it is to form a master-servant bond. That’s why Beast Slavers tend to choose creatures like ants or wasps. Besides that, it’s also their natural instinct, so there isn’t usually any resistance. Supposedly, it also has to do with souls… People like us, have powerful souls. That’s why we were born as Humans and not insects. But, since it’s really rare for any souls to ‘choose’ to become a brine shrimp, they’re soulless creatures that don’t have the ability to think beyond eating, mating, sleeping and other basic instincts.”
That inch long critter kept trying to bite Mei, until she made her hands all scaly and grey. Then a thick blue goop extended from her palms. The shrimp got scared and hastily swam away, trying to escape. It swiftly reached the glass and started using those sixteen legs to crawl along the sides at a ridiculous speed. However, once it became exhausted, it started slowly approaching the strange gelatinous substance. The moment it started drinking, the poor bastard exploded into an azure mist.
I stared at the chuckling woman and frowned, grumbling “Was that really necessary? I don’t care if they have souls or not, it’s still fucked up to pointlessly slaughter them… You could have at least let it go free into the ocean.”
“It would have just ended up as food for some random fishy either way, so what’s the difference? Don’t get so attached to every insignificant shrimp that you raise… Their purpose is merely to become food for stronger creatures. Even if you raised it, at the most, you might be able to form a master-servant bond and enslave the stupid thing. But~, that wouldn’t be Druidry. A bond of Companionship is far stronger and more complex. It’s a process where both of you share your innermost thoughts and desires, changing each other… For example, I used to hate violence and fighting, but after I bonded with my Megalodon ‘Steve’… The point is that you need to choose wisely and pick something special, not just any random animal that slightly interests you.” She pulled her slimy hands out of the water and all of that thick blue gooey stuff stayed in the murky water.
However, she wasn’t able to see or hear the same ‘world’ as I could. At first, the brine shrimp really were soulless husks, but once they started absorbing mana and evolving, they were different. I wasn’t totally sure what the hell was happening in the beginning; when they were eating each other though, I could hear extremely quiet cries and screams. After the last one exploded into a nasty pulpy gunk, there was a tiny little wisp of bright-red light remaining in the tank.
It was almost like an Unranked Spirit, but not quite there yet. All of that residual mana in the bowl was being slowly absorbed in order for that strange ghost to sustain itself. Mei smiled at me and pulled out another packet of eggs, along with some more nutrients. She told me “I didn’t kill them just for the fun of it though. Their deaths will make this next batch of shrimp much stronger than the last. I won’t give them any excess Qi this time and they shouldn’t start eating each other in order to get stronger, since they have plenty of food floating around already.”
As she sprinkled in the second packet of eggs, I watched that strange crimson wisp enter inside of one of the little newly hatched shrimps. While the others were kind of pinkish at the start, that ‘possessed’ crustacean was glowing bright-blue. Also, even though most of the tiny creatures were focusing on gobbling up the easily available food in the water, that special lunatic was going on a cannibalistic rampage.
Mei watched it all with indifference and told me “See how most of them are avoiding conflict and minding their own business? That’s how they’re supposed to act… This one is special though. It usually takes a few tries to get an aggressive brine shrimp to appear, so we were pretty lucky this time.”
I sighed dramatically, muttering “I don’t know about luck, but the reason that one is stronger… I’m pretty sure it’s because it has a ‘soul’ of some sort. It’s not quite on the level of a Spirit though.”
She frowned, sternly lecturing “Levi, even if you feel bad for it, you can’t bond with a brine shrimp. It’s just not something you can tame. They aren’t intelligent enough to understand your intentions and they don’t last long enough. You’ll never be able to raise it to Rank-G before it either explodes or dies naturally. I’m sure that there are probably plenty of people on this boat who can sell or give you some decent fish eggs. Time is the most crucial element when you’re trying to raise a tameable Beast. Don’t be in a rush… You’re going to need to experiment to find out what type of animal you’re most suited towards before being able to form any lasting bonds of Companionship.”
“Ugh, seriously, if I can’t tame these things, then what did you want me to do with them? I don’t really understand what the purpose of this little ‘lesson’ is? You could have just told me this shit without going through all the trouble…” I noticed that compared to the first time, without her tendrils of mana, those critters were growing much more slowly. Of course, it was still way faster than ordinary brine shrimp from Earth. All of that Qi definitely had a major influence on the speed of growth for short-lived animals.
On the other hand, even though one year on Genesis was equivalent to four-hundred and seventy-two days on Earth… Well, I definitely still looked like I was only ten years old, not thirteen. I was pretty sure it had to do with the magical ‘age’ runes on my left hand, but it could have just been the influence of mana. At the time, I didn’t really have enough evidence to figure that kind of shit out.
Mei giggled, “Isn’t that obvious Sweetie? You need to practice your ‘feeding’ technique! I probably made it seem really easy, but it took me decades to reach my level of control… Brine shrimp are cheap. You can go through thousands of them without spending more than a few copper coins. That’s why they’re used as test subjects so often. Now hurry up and start your training! Who knows when a battle might happen, and you need to learn how to raise a Beast before picking one out.”