The book’s exterior looked plain, but as soon as it was opened, the mystique of magic that was hidden within became visible. The illustrations drawn in black ink sprang to life and began moving. The lines and shapes it held that were disorderly on the first page began to repeatedly rearrange themselves in a loop. The completed form displayed the shape of a magical formation. Information regarding it appeared on the bottom of the first page.
[‘Understanding magic’ is not the ability to vaguely recall the finished product, but the thorough and complete understanding of every component which forms the whole.]
Behind the illustration was a blank page with a question asking whether the illustration was properly understood. The blank page contained a similar magical power to the illustration that was filled and erased according to the gestures made by Sungchul’s finger or by a strong mental image.
Sungchul was initially intimidated by the book’s unusual approach to presenting the material and its questions, but he was curious about the content and began to earnestly solve the questions given. He focused on carefully observing the movements of the ever-changing shapes and in understanding the logic that was behind them. He was soon able to draw out everything he had understood onto the blank page through using his imagination which resulted in a visual shape.
[Impressive! You have succeeded in solving the first problem in Understanding Magical Formations (Elementary).]
Reward: Intuition +1
Intuition had risen by solving a simple problem. Before moving on to the next page, Sungchul flipped to the final page and confirmed that there were still 50 problems remaining; he returned to the front and resumed solving from where he had left off. By the time Sungchul reached the 13th problem, he saw through the many windows of the Hall that it was already dark outside.
Leonard Sanctum, who had been lying on the hammock leisurely, must have left the Hall in the meantime.
‘It seems like a lot of time has passed.’
He had managed to raise his intuition by 5 just solving some problems within the course of the day. Whenever the problem felt slightly difficult, he was assured to gain additional intuition. He wanted to solve problems for a while longer, but he had promised that he would go to meet with Christian tonight. He slipped a bookmark into the page that he was currently on and returned it to Altugius.
“I have prior engagements, so I’ll take my leave. I’ll return the book for now and come back tomorrow.”
Altugius looked at Sungchul with a disapproving face before receiving the book with an emaciated arm. Sungchul nodded and headed towards the exit, the old mage opened the book and took a peek at where the bookmark had been left. Suspicion rose in Altugius’s eyes.
“You, over there.”
He called out to Sungchul who was reaching for the door. When Sungchul turned around, he spoke with his steely voice laced thick with disdain.
“Did you truly solve it up to this part?”
He opened the book to the page marked by Sungchul and pointed at it with his finger. Sungchul lightly nodded his head.
“Is there a problem?”
“No. No problem at all.”
Altugius closed the book and returned to his seat. When the old man turned silent once more, Sungchul opened the door and headed outside towards the setting sun. When the door finally closed, the old man, who had shown nothing but disdain from the start, stared at the book in utter bewilderment and disbelief as he looked at the page marked by Sungchul.
‘A freshman who could solve up to the 13th problem within a quarter of a day? Unbelievable! Isn’t this a talent that has not been seen in the past hundred years?’
Rather than talent, it would have been more accurate to attribute it to his experience. Sungchul had been fighting fallen mages with his life on the line even before he had managed to obtain his overwhelming strength. The tense moments of life and death that repeated continuously led Sungchul to acquire the instincts to cope with magic as he experienced it first-hand with his body. After a certain point, he had grasped how to predict what kind of magic his opponent would be using by the brief flicker that appeared as the magician chanted; In other words, by looking at the shape of the magical formation. He struggled at first and almost lost his life a few times by predicting it incorrectly, but his experiences gradually helped in perfecting this skill.
Even during the battle with the Grand Mage Balzark, the head of the infamous Followers of Calamity and the devourer of souls, Sungchul overcame his opponent of higher renown than his own by predicting the mage’s magic and acting first. For someone who was able to accurately predict spells based on magic formations that didn’t last for over a tenth of a second, Altugius’s book was nothing more than a low difficulty rite of passage.
Altugius logged into the magic network which was available across the entire Academy. He was looking for information on this unknown student who had left quite an impression on him.
He was alarmed at the name, and then once again when he read the name of the dorm the student was assigned to
“What…? He was assigned to the House of Recollections? How can that be… that can’t be…?!”
Between these two shocking events, it was the latter that caused him to tremor so intensely. The old man’s eyes fluttered vigorously. He immediately pulled a staff from the air and tapped it on the ground. The magical lift that had been inoperable until now spewed mystical lights as it reactivated. The old mage then rode the lift down the cliff and headed towards the House of Recollections.
The old mage called out a girl’s name with a hurried voice as soon as the tightly shut doors of the eerie dorm flew open. The blond girl revealed herself beyond the hallway like an apparition. The old man approached the girl and held her hand tightly in both of his and asked her cautiously.
“Sarasa. Did anything strange… happen?”
The blond girl looked at the hurried old man as though he was crazy before pulling her hands away and spoke with a shocked expression.
“Eh? What is this crazy talk? There’s no reason anything strange would happen.”
The girl who had been looking at the old man with an exasperated expression suddenly recalled something and said
“Ah, some weird guy came here. He said something about the Aged Jorgbart assigning him to this dorm. I tried to scare him away, but maybe it’s because he’s a summoned, it didn’t work.”
“I see. Sarasa, I was worried. I thought something might have happened to my sweet Sarasa because of that guy…”
Altugius looked at the girl with a worried gaze once more and expressed concern. Sarasa only looked annoyed and shot back with a sharp tongue.
“What do you mean something could happen? I’m the strongest student on leave. It might not seem like it, but I’m still a lich, you know?”
Regret flashed across the old man’s eyes. He worried that his excessive concern had reopened a past wound for the girl.
Sarasa looked directly at the conflicted old man before placing both of her hands onto his that held his staff.
“Don’t worry, grandpa. Shouldn’t we be more worried about you than about me?”
The little girl’s hands were as cold as the breath which came from her lips.
“It still isn’t too late. It might be wiser to transfer from Airfruit to Logotete.”
When they met, Christian’s appearance had improved once more. Especially his crude wooden claws, which had been in place of his hands, had been replaced with prosthetics that somewhat resembled a human limb. Sungchul watched Christian manipulate his new prosthetics to hold his drink with a passing gaze before speaking.
“Is the state of Airfruit that bad?”
“Yes. There was a full-time headmaster before, but after Magnus’ questionable death, the headmaster’s position has been empty for 3 years now. There have been several motions to appoint a new headmaster from the faculty, but the fierce conflict from the main schools, the school of pyromancy and the school of cryomancy, has continuously delayed it which caused the school to fall into its current desolate state. To make matters worse, the Followers of Calamity have also appeared… It could be said that Airfruit’s fate is sealed.”
Christian hung his head and deeply apologized to Sungchul for his poor decision. However, Sungchul didn’t show much of a reaction. He was only interested in one thing.
“Is there more to gain from Airfruit or is there more to gain from Logotete?”
Christian answered readily as though he had been waiting for this question.
“Logotete is a rising name. It can’t be compared to Airfruit that has stood for thousands of years, but it has proven to be very stable without much internal conflict in comparison. It also has the greatest professors of the Necromancy school of magic.”
This school of magic was useless to Sungchul. What he needed was a single powerful blow rather than an army of corpses.
“It is difficult for me, who had recommended it, to say this, but Airfruit has lost its ability as an educational institute. If I had known of this ahead of time…”
If Christian went as far as to say this much, it had to be the truth. At the very least, he wasn’t someone who would bluff or exaggerate the truth. With just this much, Sungchul would have given considerable credence to transferring from Airfruit to Logotete, but there was something he wanted to confirm before making up his mind.
“Do you know of the old man named Altugius Xero?”
“Yes. I have heard of him. He never managed to leave much of a name behind, but there is a rumor that he is the greatest Cosmomancer that Airfruit Academy has ever made.”
Curiosity flashed in Sungchul’s eyes. The old man looked like someone that has been forgotten in the flow of time, but to have such a history… Sungchul recalled the old man’s back when he was sitting alone in the empty hall before he asked his next question.
“Then why couldn’t he leave his mark on anything?”
If one had the skill, his name would naturally be left behind in history. Whether that was through fame or infamy.
“I’m not sure. That’s something I can’t confirm, but according to rumor, I heard he caused a huge incident during his formative years.”
“Yes. It even led to him killing the vice-captain of an assassin guild in a duel.”
“That’s hard for me to believe.”
Suspicion rose in Sungchul’s mind. The Assassin Class was known to be the bane of the Mage Class. In a duel between two equally skilled opponents, it was certain for the mage to be killed by the assassin. Assassins had many techniques that could be used for negating a mage’s attack and could force a critical blow to a mage in just an instant. And if this assassin was the Vice-Captain, the second best of the assassin’s guild? In a one to one combat? This was a scenario any average mage would have no hope of winning.
“Is that the truth?”
“Could be. I can’t say that I know the truth behind it. I’ve only heard of it as a rumor that was floating around, after all.”
“But if it is the truth, the assassin’s guild wouldn’t have left Altugius alone, would they?”
If Christian’s story was true, there was no way that Professor Altugius could still be breathing. The assassins lived by the iron-clad rule that ten brothers had to take revenge for the death of a brother. If someone with the rank of Vice Captain were to die, then the head of the guild himself would call for a kill command. He recalled a certain dark-skinned man’s face in his hazy memories.
‘Shamal Rajput. If that guy handled it personally, not only Altugius, but the entire Airfruit Academy would be eliminated overnight.’
Sungchul looked at Christian with a bored expression while having these thoughts. Christian, who felt that he was being interrogated, spoke nervously.
“I can’t guarantee this, but as far I as know, the assassin’s guild that lost their vice captain and Airfruit Academy entered into some kind of an agreement, and Professor Altugius disappeared from the public eye.
Sungchul stroked his chin and nodded. That made more sense. The number 2 of the guild of assassins, known to have gathered the greatest of assassins, had lost a duel against an unknown mage would have been enough to plummet the guild’s reputation into the dirt. It would have been a more profitable trade for the guild to simply hide the truth by locking up Altugius within the school.
“What will you do then? If you wish to go to Logotete, I’ll get you set on the procedure. After all, there are still some gold and jewels remaining.”
Sungchul stood at the crossroads once again. Airfruit Academy had lost its function as a school, and the rumors regarding Altugius wasn’t assuring. Thus, if he remained within Airfruit, it would mean he would be taking on a very heavy risk.
He couldn’t say for sure, but this moment felt extremely similar to when he had first stepped onto Eckheart’s trials. Whether it would be a boon or not was something that could only be determined after he took off the lid. But Sungchul was an unreasonable glutton when it came to growth. He would take the path with the greatest danger if it also had the greatest rewards.
“I’ll remain in Airfruit. If I can learn magic from the man who defeated a vice captain of the Assassin’s guild, there would be nothing better than that.”
The next day, a new face made its way to the Cosmomancy building. Rather than a student, the man’s clothes resembled that of a homeless person. The man climbed up the cliff to report to the observatory every morning. He borrowed the book from an old and stubborn professor and read the book until late into the night. After a week had passed, he had completed the book he got from the old man and spoke when he returned it this time.
“Are there no other books?”
The old man didn’t speak as he pulled out another book from his soul storage.
One book, two books, three books… The books he pulled out from the storage continued to increase in number. When he had pulled out the 18th book, he curtly spoke to this mysterious man he had yet to accept as his disciple.
“I’ll lend you these books, but I’m only going to lend you books, nothing else.”
Sungchul steadily looked at the books that were piled up to his height, grabbed one, and went to a corner to pour over it.
‘What an odd fellow.’
It wasn’t an act or a trick. Sungchul was genuinely holding the magic tome and reading its contents as he turned the power written within the tome into his own. That genuine passion was enough to awaken some forgotten emotion that laid buried deep within Altugius. The way he looked towards Sungchul began to change, but he couldn’t find it in himself to express any such emotions; Which was all because of the wolfish bastard lying lazily on the hammock who was watching him carefully. When their eyes met, Leonard Sanctum made a strange smile while muttering aloud.
“Ah! When will I get to learn some Cosmomancy. Doesn’t anyone feel bad for the disciple that only has his dear old teacher in his heart.”
This former disciple of his, was currently a Follower of Calamity.