Outside the Airfruit Academy campus, there was a store for Magical tools with a carbuncle symbol. This store, which had been steeped deeply in history and had already been passed down for eight generations, was now at risk of closing down due to the impending calamity and the degeneracy of the Airfruit Academy. The current owner, however, was currently standing slack-jawed.
“You…wish to buy all of this?”
He always believed that the infamous ‘windfall’ was a stroke of fortune which only happened to others.
“Everything. How much will it be?”
The black-haired Summoned arrived without warning and brought with him enough profits to put him back in the black after suffering many years of losses.
“The total comes to 31 gold coins…but since Sir Customer is a regular, we’ll call it an even 30 gold coins.”
The man had bought 31 low-tier Magic Essence, which was more commonly known as Mana Drink. It was infamous for having a ridiculous price despite its actual effectiveness at recovering Magic Power, but this man had just purchased 31 of them. There were only 2 within the store’s inventory, but it was possible to get the other 29 through other stores and Alchemists.
The man had previously purchased 11 of these Mana Drinks and just like then, no haggling had taken place; The man simply bought at the named price even when the transaction amount surpassed dozens of gold coins. This instance had been no different. The wholesale value of the 31 mana drinks that had been sold to the man was only valued at 12 gold coins. The owner was prepared to lower it to 20 gold coins if he started haggling, but the man hadn’t even bothered with questions or complaint as he unhesitatingly handed over 30 gold coins. It goes without saying that the owner couldn’t help but smile.
The man’s gold coins were much purer than the average gold coins, so its value would be much higher than regular gold coins. Even if they were all gold coins, their prices could vary depending on the date of manufacture, weight, and purity.
“Then, if you’ll excuse me.”
After the man left, the owner carefully examined one of the gold coins. It was unmistakable. It was a perfect gold coin with 99.9% purity. The owner’s mouth couldn’t help but split into a wide smile.
“Dang. What does that man do for a living?”
He examined the other side of the coin to confirm its mint. That was because common coins have the mint site recorded, but the coin he now held in his hand had no such marks on it; an unmarked coin. He had no way of knowing its origins, as someone who only traded minor tools with average students, but there was only one faction who had the authority to produce unmarked coinage in the Other World: The Allied Merchant’s Guild. They weren’t openly dominating, but their near bottomless economic might and their information network of merchants allowed the Guild to become one of the hidden masters that ruled Other World. The circulation of unmarked coinage was a topic they had a great interest in for a while now.
“The unmarked coin is being checked.”
It was late in the evening when the head of the Allied Merchant’s Guild, Viceroy Horneko, received the report regarding the unmarked coin. There was black bread and a block of butter on the table. It was a humble meal which didn’t quite fit in with the image of the head of the Allied Merchant’s Guild, who held the power to move mountains of gold at will. Viceroy Horneko chewed on the stubborn bread as he lazily looked to his aide.
“…Is that right?”
He continued his meal even after he heard the report. After placing the butter on the black bread, he held some warm water in his mouth as he thoroughly chewed the buttered bread before downing it with the water. After completing his meal in this way, which was reminiscent of a cow’s mastication, Horneko finally opened his mouth.
“Where was the unmarked coin in question found?”
“It was Golden City.”
One of Horneko’s brow shot up.
“Yes. Not only that, but we also confirmed the information that several jewels we are familiar with have been identified within that district.”
“Unmarked coins, followed by the gems…”
The gems could be considered as a coincidence, but the unmarked coins, which had been securely locked away inside the Infinity Safe, being circulated could only mean one thing: The man who had emptied the Infinity Safe eight years ago was active again within the human territories. They had lost him by a hair’s breadth last time, but they couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity again.
“Contact the Assassin’s Guild. Tell them to gather their best possible force. No questions will be asked, regardless of the price.”
The reason for purchasing the Mana Drink in bulk was simple. The second hidden quest within the House of Recollections required a large amount of Magic Power.
On the desk of the currently empty House Head’s room was a precious orb, which reflected a dark, unpleasant light.
Bertelgia recognized the orb’s identity in a single glance and spoke,
“This is the Stone of Soul Absorption.”
Sungchul also knew this. There were some Anti-Mage specialists who had these stones embedded into their weapons. The Soul Absorption Stone inside the House Head’s room was significantly larger than the ones he had seen, and its surface also looked polished as if to prove that it had been passed through the hands of countless students.
“Hm. Whether it is in the past or now, a place called ‘school’ will always be the same.”
Bertelgia popped out of Sungchul’s pocket as she spoke. When she noticed Sungchul’s lack of response, she spun around in the vicinity of the stone while continuing with her words.
“Even the school that I attended had a Soul Absorption Stone at every dormitory. You know, because a Freshman with extraordinary Magic Power would come by from time to time. And to pick out those talented kids, they left the stone there. The real deal would end up breaking the stone with just their mana.”
“That’s what I’m also trying to do.”
Sungchul pulled out a bag from his Soul Storage. It contained the thirty Mana Drink within.
“This doesn’t seem right…”
Bertelgia drooped her body.
“This is a scam. A total scam!”
Sungchul didn’t pay heed to her words and instead placed his hand on the Stone of Soul Absorption. Accompanying the sensation of his Magic Power draining away was a bright message that appeared before his eyes.
[Welcome to Airfruit Magic Academy’s Magic Power Measurement.]
[You are currently touching a stone that drains Magic Power, called ‘the Stone of Soul Absorption’. If you experience a chill, dizziness, weakness in your legs, or fatigue, please remove your hand from the Stone of Soul Absorption immediately.]
His vision became blurred. Sungchul immediately poured a Mana Drink into his mouth. It was only as large as a baby chick’s tear, but he could feel his Magic Power reinvigorate immediately after it entered his body.
[Good! You possess great Magical power. In that case, the measurement of Magic Power will now begin.]
[The Magic Power Measurement will continue for the duration of five minutes. The moment your hand is removed, or your Magic Power is completely drained, the test will end.]
[The test will begin in 5…4…3…2…1…]
When the countdown ended, the stone began to drain Sungchul’s Magic Power intensely. One of his hands remained on the stone while the other was busy emptying Mana Drinks into his mouth. His Magic Power was simultaneously replenished as it drained away. A white light began to fill the Stone of Soul Absorption as Magic Power came flooding in.
“This shouldn’t be. This…shouldn’t…be…”
Bertelgia stared wordlessly at Sungchul’s method of solving the quest. The test came to an end when half of the 31 Mana Drinks he had prepared were used up.
[Impressive! Your high Magic Power can only be found in 1 among 500 people!]
[The 12th House Head of the Airfruit Academy, Mardiastes extends a gift with respect towards the possessor of the most important talent: great Magic Power.]
Reward: Magic Power +5, Intuition +5
It was a generous reward. But this still wasn’t the end. Sungchul did not remove his hand from the Stone of Soul Absorption. The exterior of the Stone of Soul Absorption filled with milky light and began to grow turbulent.
[Is this still not enough?]
Sungchul held the Mana Drink in his other hand then nodded.
[That is fine. The actual trial shall now begin. However, the test from this point can be extremely dangerous, so please proceed under the supervision of the Residence Assistant of the dormitory.]
There was no Residence Assistant. Instead, there was only Bertelgia flapping beside him. When Sungchul looked over at her, she shouted with a relenting look.
The test began at that moment. The stone began to absorb Sungchul’s Magic Power at a rate incomparable to before.
“Eh? Isn’t this dangerous?”
Bertelgia spoke out in concern, but Sungchul didn’t take heed. He still had about 15 Mana Drink left. He consumed the essence when his mana was drained and continued on like a machine in this fashion.
Slam! Slam! Slam! Slam! Slam!
In an instant, the clear sound of 10 empty bottles rang out over the top of the desk. Bertelgia, who was watching the scene froze in shock.
“Is…this something a person should do?”
With only 4 mana drink remaining the surface of the Stone of Soul Absorption finally began to crack. Sungchul’s drinking of mana essence also stopped.
[Impressive. You are the possessor of astounding Magic Power that only appears once every 10 years.]
[I congratulate the birth of a great Mage who will carry the future of Airfruit, and pray for endless glory in the years to come.]
Reward: Magic Power +5, Intuition +5
He had managed to get his hands on additional rewards.
For a time, the Stone of Soul Absorption and its related quest would not be available, as it would take a considerable amount of time to restore a shattered Stone of Soul Absorption. However, Sungchul discovered a more urgent problem. He felt a familiar presence coming from beyond the door.
‘The Lich girl. She must have caught onto my plans and come by.’
They were fated to meet again at some point. After all, the girl had been carefully observing everything that was happening within the dorm.
Sungchul shoved Bertelgia, who had been flying beside him, into his pocket and whispered to her.
“Keep quiet for a moment.”
She fidgeted once as to show her acknowledgement.
The figure outside the door was the person he had been expecting.
“Whatcha’ doing there?”
Her crystal blue eyes shot forth a piercing gaze, taking a peek at the scene behind Sungchul.
“I was performing a quest related to the Stone of Soul Absorption.”
There was no reason to make up a lie for something that was so obvious, so he spoke the truth. Hearing his explanation, Sarasa moved past him to look at the precious orb on top of the House Head’s desk.
The surface of the Stone of Soul Absorption appeared cracked, like a field dried out by drought. Sarasa looked surprised as she turned towards Sungchul.
“This…Was this your doing?”
Sungchul nodded, and Sarasa’s form wavered like a reed.
“How can this be?”
Sarasa placed a hand on the cracked orb and recited a spell in her mind.
A visible projection appeared between them with information on display.
<Those that have Shattered the Shell>
A familiar name appeared within the words that were scrolling away like the credit reel of a movie.
142. Altugius Xero
148. Leonard Sanctum
149. Sarasa Xero
And finally, Sungchul’s name appeared.
151. Sungchul Kim
Sarasa stared piercingly at the name before turning towards Sungchul once again. A small Magical formation appeared in her eyes which flickered with a cold and blue light.
Strength 24 Dexterity 25
Vitality 26 Magic Power 81
Intuition 68 Magic Resist 21
Resilience 18 Charisma 18
“You’ve shattered the Stone of Soul Absorption, and your Magic Power doesn’t even reach 100?”
This was impossible, in her mind at least. Sungchul obliged her by tossing a small bottle in her direction. Sarasa instantly recognized the liquid within the bottle.
“This is…Mana Drink?!”
Sungchul nodded, and Sarasa finally looked at the rest of the room. There was a massive amount of empty Mana Drink bottles which had been piled high on the House Head’s desk.
‘My god… how much is this.’
Sarasa’s eyes grew wide, and a cold breath poured out from deep within her lungs.
“This is a sham.”
Sarasa shook as she spoke.
“You’re right. This is a sham.”
Sungchul spoke while looking back at her with indifferent eyes.
“But, it couldn’t be helped. My teacher won’t teach me any Magic, so I could only conclude that I had to raise my stats regardless of the method.”
Sarasa opened her mouth to speak but quickly shut it again. She was well aware of the situation Altugius Xero had fallen into.
Sungchul continued to watch her with passive eyes and spoke quietly.
“I’ll briefly go to visit the second floor. There is a quest there that I want to complete. I have no ill intentions, so you’re welcome to come observe from the side.”
Sarasa made no reply. Silence implies consent. Sungchul used the momentum of the situation to move past her and stepped onto the second floor’s stairs.
Once on the 2nd floor, Sungchul felt that the chill which permeated the entire dorm was one step stronger.
The area in front of Sarasa’s room had the most intense concentration of Magic.
‘She coated the place with Cryomancy.’
Sungchul moved past her room and headed towards the next quest’s location. The quests within the House of Recollections was infamous for its high difficulty and its degree of risk, but to Sungchul, who was already familiar with both the strategies on overcoming them and the various contingency plans he could follow in case of mistakes, the obstacles didn’t amount to much.
Going to the School of Alchemy in the morning and the House of Recollections during the night, Sungchul continued to grind through this ebb and flow for a whole week. He looked at his status page as he celebrated his accomplishments with some of his personal cooking.
Strength 999+ Dexterity 853
Vitality 801 Magic Power 130
Intuition 101 Magic Resist 621
Resilience 502 Charisma 18
Sungchul drained a shot glass in one go.
The alcohol was sweet, especially after raising Magic Power which had been particularly difficult. When the beginner’s threshold of 100 was met, growth would naturally come to a halt. This was why he had to rely on Alchemy so heavily, despite completing all of the hidden quests within the House of Recollections. After full days of synthesizing he had barely managed to raise his Magic Power by 1 or 2 until he finally met the goals he had set.
‘Should I slowly begin to move towards that place?’
He hadn’t received any positive news from Christian, but he had set his mind on returning to the Observatory of Cosmomancy after so long.
“Look who it is? Didn’t you decide on Alchemy? You must have come by because you were lonely without any friends. How sad…there doesn’t seem to be any friends here either.”
Leonard passionately greeted Sungchul when he returned to the Observatory, but he ignored Leonard completely as he entered. Altugius, who was obstinately sitting under a pillar with his back turned, took a quick peek before putting his head down to feign ignorance.
Once again, Sungchul took a seat next to the tower of books that had been haunting him and grabbed one. It was the thickest of the pile and was the one that had hurt his brain the most. Leonard began to taunt him while lying on his hammock.
“I’ll say this from the kindness of my heart. That book is not something a beginner like you can understand through brute force.”
The warning would have been better served much earlier, but things were different now. Sungchul was watching the words, which couldn’t be understood before, slowly form into something coherent.
The Magic tome slowly lifted itself and opened before him. Leonard’s eyes grew wide in shock.
Nothing could be hidden within the Observatory, which was a place that amplified even the smallest of sounds. The book that was now levitating in the air began to turn its pages at a rapid pace. When the information within it had finished transferring over to Sungchul, Altugius turned his head, and his aged face became full of astonishment.
During that moment of shock, a small change appeared within Sungchul. The change was then manifested into physical form.
[You have broken through the basic tome of Cosmomancy: Light that Shines through Stormy Clouds.]
[The Knowledge of the Skies and the Universe is now hidden within you.]