The incoming students of all three races that were cheering for each of the Student Council members fell silent when Tess walked in. With her gunmetal silver hair swaying behind her as each of her dignified steps echoed throughout the silent auditorium, she single-handedly changed the atmosphere inside this entire building.
As she bowed and tucked her hair behind her ear, a roar of applause erupted as both males and females alike cheered with admiration. I thought the cheers would last a lot longer but as soon as Tess started speaking, it was as if each of the students in the crowd covered each others’ mouth so that they could hear her voice.
“My name is Tessia Eralith, and I am honored to stand here as this academy’s student council president.”
Murmurs started after the crowd once again cheered for our beautiful president. Next to me, a scrawny human boy spoke excitedly to his friend beside him.
“That’s the Princess Eralith I was talking about. My older brother told me she’s been on campus since last year as a direct disciple under the Director and will start formally attending this year with us!” He leaned into his friend so only he could hear but the volume at which he spoke betrayed him.
“Th-That means she was the first non-human to set foot on this campus. Wait… she’s only a first year and she’s already the Student Council President? Is that even possible?” His friend, whom I couldn’t really see, spoke louder and louder with each word, causing the neighboring students to hear as well.
“Yeah, I heard of her as well! She’s supposedly a super-genius of some sort, right?”
“Why the hell is she so damn pretty when she’s talented as well? This isn’t even fair…”
“I wonder what I would have to do to get her to even look at me?”
The audience was filled with different talks about Tess but while, for the males, it revolved around how much of an unobtainable star she was, for the females, it was a mixture of admiration and envy. Sylvie was going crazy on top of my head as she recognized Tess down onstage.
“Kyuu~” ‘Papa! That’s Mama! She’s down there! Let’s go say hi!’ Sylv was jumping up and down so I picked her up and wrapped my arms around her.
‘Who’s your Mama!?’ I couldn’t help but sigh in defeat at her excitement. Tess became pretty close to Sylvie a bit after hatching so I could see why she was so fond of her… but ‘Mama’?
“Woah…” Elijah, who I had stopped paying attention to, firmly gripped my arm with both of his hands as if he needed me to support him from fainting.
“Woah,” he repeated. For how smart he looked, he sure acted like an idiot at times like these.
“You okay there, Elijah?” I lightly nudged his head but it just bounced like a bobblehead toy.
“…Art…I think I’m in love.” He suddenly released the hands that had firmly gripped my arm to link arms with me, as if to imagine I was Tess.
Okay, this is getting out of hand. I released my bond to attack and she promptly locked her jaw on the top of Elijah’s head, causing him to start screaming more from surprise than pain.
“Oh, sorry…” With Sylvie still dangling on the crown of his head, Elijah let go of my arm and started focusing on the stage below again.
As the crowd settled down enough for Tess to start speaking again, Director Goodsky silently disappeared.
Tess spoke eloquently enough to surprise even me. She was only thirteen, yet she had the ability to draw the crowd’s full attention with her unadorned words filled with maturity. She spoke about the principles of this academy, how this was a holy ground where students should feel safe to walk freely around. Tess emphasized the discipline one would face if anyone hurt another student outside of a consented duel.
“While I may be a first year as all of you are, having given the privilege to be inside the academy a year longer made it all too apparent to me that there is deeply embedded discrimination against the scholar mage students by the battle mage students. I, for one, will not tolerate any sort of aggression or bullying based on the trivial fact that one is a scholar mage student.” Tess’ voice never wavered as she stood behind the podium.
The crowd grew a little noisy at this statement, as everyone present had heard rumors of the hardships one may face as a scholar mage student.
“Starting this year, while uniforms and the upper courses required may be different, for the first two years, general education, that contains a mixture of both scholar mage classes and battle mage classes will be mandatory, for better assimilation between the two different types of students. After the two years are up, one may choose to switch their education specialization by taking a test, although it will be quite a difficult one.” This last statement drew in dissatisfied complains from amongst the students in the crowd. While both Elijah and I didn’t have to take a test due to my special connection with Director Goodsky, most students, regardless of background, had to test for either a scholar mage or battle mage position.
To get in as a scholar mage, an incoming student only needed a basic foundation of magic, which was mana gathering. While they had to take a written exam to test their mental acuteness, the practical portion of the exam was much more simple. battle mage students, however, had a much stricter practical exam, and actually performed basic spells or techniques depending on whether they were a Conjurer or Augmenter. It may have seemed like a cakewalk for someone like Elijah, Tess, or me, but I admit it could be quite a challenge for someone who had just awakened.
The tall, stern-looking student stepped up next, silencing the crowd with a wave of his hand.
“My name is Clive Graves and I am your Student Vice President. As the President mentioned, this year contains many changes. Along with the assimilation and freedom to move between the two student types, there will also be no limit on how long a student can attend this academy. While in the past, the professors here pushed students to graduate after four years, it is becoming more and more apparent that many graduating mages’ capabilities are becoming less than satisfactory. Therefore, the Director has declared that instead of a time limit on graduating, in order to graduate from Xyrus Academy, one needs to fulfill a list of requirements and pass the graduation exam.
While the conditions to graduate have become many folds harder, the time limit to graduate has increased to ten years. In that time, we fervently hope to produce top class mages in both theoretical and combat fields. We welcome everyone here—humans, elves and dwarves alike—to this Academy.” Clive bowed, the rest of the Student Council following him.
The last part of the announcement wasn’t exactly news for any of us. It was announced quite recently though, which made me think that it had something to do with the new Continent. Was this Academy being used to produce higher quality mages in case of a future battle against the new Continent?
“That’s the firstborn son of the famous Graves family! Make sure you don’t get on his bad side,” the boy next to me whispered, again, in a pointlessly loud volume.
After finishing up the ceremony, all the new students were dismissed to their dorms. Filing out of the auditorium, my eyes unconsciously looked for Tess, but she was nowhere in sight. Outside, the trees arched over the marble walkways producing small showers of fall-colored leaves. The students were all excitedly chatting amongst their peers, getting to know new people. Walking deeper within the campus to where the dorms were, I saw a few female students pass by Elijah and I, doing a double-take back at us and giggling with their friends.
Elijah sighed. “I feel like I become significantly less better-looking when I’m next to you.” Elijah’s shoulders hunched as we walked along side-by-side, Sylvie pitifully patting Elijah’s head from on top of mine.
“Well, even if most come after me, some of the girls will have to eventually settle for you, right buddy?” I teased, giving him a playful wink.
“Screw you.” He hit me on the stomach as the both of us laugh.
Suddenly, a loud explosion startled the both of us as well as the students walking around nearby. Something was happening at the end of the marble walkway. After a quick exchange of glances, Elijah and I shot off.
“I don’t see how a short-ass dwarf like you can even hope to be a proper Augmenter. Why don’t you stick to forging some weapons for real warriors like me?”
“What da hell didja say? Who do ya think ya are, anyway?”
I stopped running a good distance away and shook my head when I realized what was going on. It was just stupid posturing between two students. The explosion had been made by the human, hitting his fist on a nearby tree with mana.
“Couldn’t this become dangerous?” Elijah looked around where some of the students had to deliberately walk around the two of them, just in case they started fighting. We were amongst the last to leave the auditorium so most were already deeper within the campus or inside their dorms, so there weren’t many people around but if they did start fighting, some of the students in the vicinity may get caught up in the mess.
“They wouldn’t dare do something like fight on the first day, right? Let’s just go.” I tried to nudge my friend to a roundabout route avoiding the two arguing students.
“Come on, we have nothing to do besides unpack anyway! Let’s just see how good they are. Look, the human looks to be a second level augmenter.” He pointed at the brawny human.
Looking at them, both the dwarf and human students had battle mage uniforms, but the human had two stripes on his tie while the dwarf only had one.
“My name is Nicolas Dreyl! Declare the duel, short-ass, so we can start! Or are you all bark and no bite?” the human smirked, placing his right hand on the badge pinned to his left breast.
“Tch! Yer gonna be sorry.” The dwarf that was a head shorter than his opponent with a bulky build looked awkward wearing the blazer uniform but the way he carried his giant battle-axe with ease told me he was more than what the single stripe on his tie told us.
The metal badge on both the human and dwarf glowed brightly as the dwarf placed a hand on his badge and started chanting. “I declare a duel between me, Broznean Boor, and Nicolas Dreyl!”
“I accept the duel!” The two badges glowed different colors until they synced together, producing a loud ‘ping’ sound.
The badge on the battle mage uniform and the pocket watch on the scholar mage uniform acted as artifacts for the dueling system, creating a barrier around the users that could take a certain amount of force. When the barrier broke, the duel was considered over, and the other party the winner. It took around 24 hours for the artifact to charge another barrier where, during that time, dueling was prohibited. Mages of a higher level weren’t allowed to issue a duel with lower levels to keep it fair, which was why the human had to taunt the dwarf to start the duel.
The human mage took out dual swords from his dimension ring and got into a stance as the people around start backing up to avoid getting caught up in the fight.
“Go dwarf!” Elijah started cheering in favor of Broznean, getting dirty looks in the process.
I studied the two augmenters and saw that the level two human was a red core stage mage while the dwarf was still at black stage. This should be interesting.
“HAAP!” The human student roared as his two broadswords glow a dim yellow color and the earth surrounding him started trembling.
“JAH!” The dwarf leaped up and propelled himself forward by pushing off of a nearby tree, charging his battle-axe as well with earth attribute mana.
“Ooh! Both are earth-attribute augmenters, Art!” Elijah got more excited as leaned closer towards the fight as Sylvie curled up, sound asleep on my head.
“Tremor Smash!” the dwarf shouted, placing his left palm on the head of his axe and making the dull glow condense.
With a resounding boom, the power of the blow from the dwarf forced the human to skid back, even as he blocked with both swords. I could see his arms shaking as he grimaced.
The human boy lowered his two swords and dashed towards the dwarf who was already in a defensive stance. The dual swords scraped along the ground. As he got into range, he swung up, a trail of earth followed along, creating twin blades of earth after each sword.
Not bad. While it wasn’t surprising that the dwarf could already use his earth attribute element, it surprised me that a human in the red stage could already augment his earth attribute to that degree. He was talented in that sense.
“Shatter!” The dwarf’s body glowed yellow as he stomped his right foot hard onto the ground, creating a ripple around him that broke the earth blade approaching him into fragments. The dwarf blocked the human’s two actual blades with his axe but got a little scrape on his arm from the upward swing.
“Earth Pillar!” Nick exclaimed. Following the upward swipe, he stomped hard with his leading foot directly in front of the dwarf, creating a pretty fragile column of rock from the ground that hit the dwarf squarely in the stomach.
“Oof!” The dwarf’s body lifted into the air from the force of the blow and his shield broke with loud shattering sound, signaling that the duel was over.
Cheers went off from the humans that gathered but the dwarves amongst the audience groaned in embarrassment.
Elijah just sighed and started to leave but before I turned to follow him, I saw a slight smirk on the human’s face as he once again imbued mana into his two blades.
That fool wasn’t planning on finishing it with that. He was going for the final blow.
If I were to use a long-range technique, that’d create even more problems, but if I went there and directly interfered, everyone would know my face.
I was partly frustrated that Elijah couldn’t figure out that the human was going to cast another technique. If Elijah interfered with a spell, it would be more natural since he was a conjurer.
There was this way, too. Sorry, Tess.
“Is that the student council president I see coming over?” I deliberately yelled louder so that the human boy that won the duel would be startled.
Just like I anticipated, he clicked his tongue and put his swords back into his dimension ring, jerking his eyes around to find the president.
The crowd that was talking amongst their friends, analyzing the duel, all started looking around for Tess.
“Where’s the student council president?” Elijah stretched his neck above the crowd to look for her.
“Oops! I must’ve been mistaken!” I just shrugged my shoulders and turned to walk past when a hand firmly grasped my shoulder.
“Are you picking a fight with me or something, brat?” It was the human that was just dueling; Nick or Nicole or whatever.
“Yeah! What the hell, man?! Getting us excited for nothing!” I saw some of the humans evidently disappointed at not being able to see their idol in person.
“I thought I saw her. Once again, my bad.” I used my hand to peel his hand off my shoulder, giving him a wink.
“Yeah, your bad.” He snatched his hand away before he walked off, spitting on the ground in front of my feet.
“You know, a good piece of advice if you want to graduate. I don’t think killing that dwarf boy would’ve done you any good.” I stood still as Sylvie spat directly at the back of his neck.
He instantly whirled back around with his two swords in his hands once again. I could almost see a vein bulging out of his forehead like it would in a cartoon.
“Pfft.” Oops, I shouldn’t laugh in this situation. I took a quick glance back and saw that Elijah was just shaking his head, knowing it was too late.
“You dare—?” The thirteen-year-old boy with swords too large for his immature body dashed towards me in a manner I found clumsy, preparing to cross-chop with his two blades, his face bright red in anger.
I raised an eyebrow as I lifted one hand up to stop the blow. Why make myself look foolish?
Just as I prepared to shatter his two swords, a voice stopped him straight in his tracks. It was the voice that all of the new students heard not too long ago, and the voice probably every male had fallen in love with. It was also the voice of my childhood friend.
“Do you dare?”