ELIJAH KNIGHT’S POV:
By the time the DC officers and Student Council got out of the meeting with the professors, it was already late into the night.
I took that chance to tell them all what I couldn’t earlier—that Arthur was alive and safe.
“Yes! I knew it! I knew he’d survive.” Claire had sunk down in her chair as she covered her face with her arms, probably to hide the stray tears that were sliding down her cheeks.
Curtis just let out a huge breath of relief as he leaned back against the wall; but it was Princess Kathyln’s reaction that caught me off guard.
For once, I could visibly see her face brighten as she studied me to make sure I wasn’t lying. I could almost see her chocolate-colored eyes twinkle as they turned up and a rare smikle formed.
“Thank God,” she muttered over and over under her breath after I reaffirmed the information with an awkward nod.
“As expected of my—sniff—rival. Mhmm.” The elf that kept insisting that he was Arthur’s rival had a presuming look on his face as though he was the one that saved Arthur or something but the mucus leaking from his nose betrayed his expression.
“Heh, I knew the twerp wouldn’t die from just a fall,” the bear leaning back on his chair scoffed. Theodore tried to play it off casually but the half-grin he tried to hold back told everyone that he was quite glad.
Kai, I think that was his name, responded very indifferently with a smile that looked superficially drawn.
“Looks like I’ll get my duel after all.” The buff midget, too ugly to be deemed anything but an “attractive” dwarf, nodded in anticipation, her arms crossed to show off her bulging veins.
Ugh, I’m recalling some unpleasant memories again.
Fairly obvious that they were all relieved, they didn’t mind that he wouldn’t be back to help out with the situation at hand for a bit longer.
Just the opposite—it felt like they wanted this whole fiasco taken care of before Arthur and Tessia got back.
This was odd because, more so than the professors here, I felt like Arthur would be able to do something about this mess if our Director didn’t get back in time.
I had told the Disciplinary Committee officers about Arthur after the Tri-Union Building site was under control. Luckily no one died and only a few students were mildly injured. An emitter brought over from the Adventurer’s Guild healed them and they were taken to the treatment ward where, before their parents came, they’d given their account for what happened inside.
The atmosphere within the academy had taken a turn for the worse as there was a clear split between the students now. The newly admitted elves and dwarves were furious, generalizing that all humans were racist brutes, while the prideful human students had no intention of taking the blame for the actions of others.
The few human students that did feel bad for what had happened ended up being ostracized by both sides. In the end, they just took a neutral stance, too afraid to say anything since at this point, the situation was too volatile; everyone was trying to find someone else to blame.
It was weird how people acted more recklessly when they banded together, like they got strength from each other. Both sides became more vocal after the building was put out and almost turned physical until the professors told them all to disperse.
Restless at this whole event, I ended up stopping by the training room that Arthur had allowed me access to. I normally didn’t use it, but since both Arthur and Tessia weren’t here, I decided it would be okay.
The guard eyed me funny but the front desk lady named Chloe was friendly enough to escort me personally into the room.
“Haaa…” I let out a deep breath as I felt my mana core tremble in excitement to let loose.
Unlike Arthur, I’d been learning a lot since I came to this academy; a lot of practical aspects applicable to my magic seemed to work differently for me compared to others.
One thing I noticed was that meditating didn’t do much for me. My mana core developed and strengthened at its own pace and any conscious effort to refine more mana from the atmosphere didn’t seem to help.
Even without any real effort, I broke through into the light orange stage but after reaching this stage, I just couldn’t seem to make any gains.
I clenched my hands into fists and then released, repeating this motion as if my hands weren’t my own.
I felt mana well up in me at the activation of the spell and immediately a rock spike shot up from the ground a couple meters in front of me.
I cast, this time with more mana imbued into the spell.
Two thick spears of earth shot up at an angle in front of me. To be honest, even casting with the name of the spell was unnecessary for me. It just become a habit for me so that I could keep a firm vision of what I wanted to evoke but if I practiced more, maybe I could even instantly cast multiple streams of spells at once.
This time, the ground underneath me crumbled as chunks of earth began levitating. After a couple moments of concentration, I willed the rocks to shoot forward.
Only four of the ten rocks I shot actually hit the tree that I deemed the target, making me a bit disappointed.
If I couldn’t meditate to strengthen my mana core like everyone else, I might as well get better at controlling the spells at hand.
I learned in my Mana Utilization class what affinity towards a certain element exactly meant. For a mage with very little affinity to fire, it basically meant that mage had to be a lot more precise in conjuring the spell, which also meant that the vocal incantation of the spell needed to be longer. Each verse of an incantation that we chanted shaped the type of phenomenon we wanted to occur. For the rock bullet spell, a mage with little affinity would need to have a verse for each step he took: beginning from the shape of the rock, the density, where it would be made from; if you added in a spin to the bullet you would need to have a verse for that as well. Not forgetting the initial trajectory of the spell either, or if you wanted the rock bullet strengthened so that it would pierce the target, or explode upon impact—all of these would add up to a pretty long chant.
All these “factors” of the spell could easily just be imagined by a mage that had great affinity to the element. Mages stuck with the element that they had the highest affinity towards so that they could best utilize their mana and mental capacity.
For me, the earth below me felt like an extension of my body; maybe it was because I grew up with dwarves but I always had this nagging thought in the back of my mind that even amongst them I wasn’t normal. I didn’t mean not normal in a genius sort of way like Arthur was, but in a freak-of-nature sort of way.
Well, I guess Arthur was sort of a freak of nature in his own way…
It was an odd little train of thought. Those facts about my body or my disposition weren’t top-secret stuff, but I didn’t explicitly tell anyone either. I considered telling Arthur about the differences in my body, but I always missed the timing and it just didn’t seem urgent enough to pull him aside and tell him.
It was good in a way because I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could some day catch up to Arthur if I trained hard enough.
Yeah, I know he was a solid yellow quadra-elemental mage with a dragon’s will and he somehow had freakishly superb skills in close combat but hey, a guy could dream, right?
I conjured more spells, half to practice, half to relieve the pent up frustration. I wanted to catch up to Arthur, not because I wanted to be better than him, but because I wanted to help him. I felt like he always had his own battles he was facing. As his best friend, I wanted to have his back, whether through good times, or through war. I didn’t know what sort of things he was going through but if I was going to be with him, I needed to get stronger.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
I wanted to turn back, but it was too late; I was already inside the portal. The trip through the transportation never lasted longer than a few moments of unpleasant dizziness but this time, it felt longer… no. It WAS longer.
“Kuu…” Sylvie, who stuck to my head like glue began trembling.
‘It feels wrong, Papa,’ Sylvie transmitted, her inner thoughts traced with worry.
The journey through the transportation gate looked as though you were fast-forwarding to your destination. You’re standing on a platform as a blur of different colors race by as the background gets lighter and lighter until you disappear into the light, exiting out the other end. It was a peculiar sensation that I couldn’t seem to describe in words but this time, it was different.
The space around us distorted into a blur of colors like usual but instead of getting brighter, the color around of us drained and turned dimmer and dimmer, until it was pitch black.
‘Papa, I’m scared.’ Sylvie’s trembling on my head was the only way I knew my bond was still there.
This was the first time Sylvie had told me she was scared. There were times when she was on guard, or alert, but she was never frightened.
The sensation of travelling through the gate that normally made me nauseous also ceased so I tautly augmented a ball of flame above my palm.
“What the hell…” It was bizarre. The ball of fire that was supposed to be giving me at least some sort of vision didn’t do anything. Almost like trying to color in a red ball on a black piece of paper, it had no effect on the pitch black darkness.
An unsettling feeling loomed over me. I crumbled to my knees and instantly augmented my body with mana.
I was scared.
What sort of monster was here that had a thick enough malicious intent to make me fall to my knees?
I couldn’t stop shivering and the mana in my body dispersed, refusing to listen to me from the lack of mental control I had over myself.
For the first time in a long while, I felt like a child—an actual, helpless child in front of the boogeyman.
“Who’s there?” I tried my best to roar but my shaking voice betrayed me.
Just then, a pair of eyes came into view out of nowhere. I knew exactly whom this pair of eyes belonged to. I was sure of it; yet, it didn’t comfort me or help me in knowing at all.
The pair of glowing white eyes speckled with stars, that captivated me the first time I saw them, grew close. An authoritative voice that was devoid of emotion pierced through me, as if he was speaking directly into my ear.
“At last. We now have a bit of privacy to peacefully converse.”