The death of Fregius, the headmaster of the school of Pyromancy, came as a great shock to Airfruit Magical Academy. Early in the morning, Sungchul could see a truly rare sight. Hundreds of students were gathered on the campus. It was something that hadn’t occurred since the vital flow of new students had been cut from the school. They were looking at the large poster on the plaza message board. The news of the Pyromancy Headmaster’s passing was written within.
“My God… for Professor Fregius to have died.”
“One of the pillars that supported this school has collapsed.”
“Where is Airfruit headed for now?”
Sungchul met a familiar face as he walked while listening to the conversations among the crowd.
“Ey! Genius Alchemist!”
It was Basil Philrus who looked closer to ‘that older kid’ you knew around the neighbourhood rather than a professor. Sungchul acknowledged his wave with an indifferent expression. Basil, looking a bit embarrassed, began to scratch his head.
“Ah, well. Isn’t my face feelin’ quite heated.”
Basil had already seen rock bottom and couldn’t find a reason for Sungchul to observe formality.
“Greetings. More importantly, have you seen the poster?”
Basil, as though he acknowledged his incompetence, didn’t mention Sungchul’s attitude towards him. Sungchul looked at Basil’s smirking face and asked a question.
“Are you referring to Professor Fregius’s death?”
“Yes! Of course. However, that’s not all. There’s another story veiled beneath!”
This time, Sungchul took an interest. Christian’s death had been such a major incident for him, but it wasn’t as though the passing of the one labeled as the leader of the Followers of Calamity could be put aside. When Sungchul’s frosty exterior seemed to have melted slightly, Philrus became excited and kept on blabbering.
“Ah yes. You’ll be surprised when I tell you. Come this way.”
He brought Sungchul to an isolated spot, then looked around once before speaking with a soft voice.
“I overheard this from the meeting between professors. They say that Professor Fregius was murdered in the same method as our former principal, Professor The Grand Magnus, three years ago. Presumably, it was the same person.”
“What was the method?”
Philrus took a moment to gather his thoughts before making his reply.
“One-half of the corpse was torn asunder as though it was struck by a great force. They say it’s a horrid scene that they couldn’t sit through and it was as though someone had taken a Meteor directly to the face.”
Meteor was a popular spell within the school of Cosmomancy. It was a powerful spell that summoned a comet from the sky to critically strike an enemy on the ground.
“That’s what they say, but as you know, Meteor isn’t something that can be used indoors. If they had used it indoors, they would have blown away not only the professor but also the building with it.”
“He died indoors? Professor Fregius, I mean?”
Basil nodded. Sungchul had more practical experience with this situation than anyone else, but he had never encountered such a spell.
‘I can’t discount that it could be some derivation of a summoning spell.’
This was obvious as it was to the point that a magical academy with a wide variety of magic couldn’t make head or tail of this magic.
“Anyways, who could the criminal be? To kill The Grand Magnus and now the headmaster-to-be Fregius, he can’t be a run-of-the-mill mage.”
“The criminal is a mage?”
“That’s right. We found remnants of magic. That’s why they’re so frantic. What kind of mage could have done such a thing? It had to have been a powerful mage that could overcome those peerless mages. People are suspecting that the head of the school of Cryomancy, Robert Danton, is the murderer, but as I see it, this kind of deed isn’t something Cryomancy can do.”
At that moment, soldiers wearing shining silver armour were marching onto the campus. Countless students took the hint and began scattering away; the area naturally fell under the soldier’s jurisdiction. Basil frowned at the sudden commotion.
“Phew, they’re back. Those dogs from the Order of Purification.”
Sungchul’s gaze turned towards the soldiers as well. He also glimpsed at the man that was being escorted by the soldiers. With his white judge’s garb and a crow mask, he looked closer to a divine entity than a man.
‘Is that the Inquisitor of Heresy?’
Inquisitor of Heresy was an incredibly religious crusader of faith that worked as a clergyman within one of the two orders that followed the God of Order; the God of Order being one of the five main gods of the Other World. However, it wasn’t uncommon that the blind faith of these people gave off a bad vibe. Sungchul had witnessed a certain innocent northernmost frontier village located close to the Demon Realm disappear.
He had also killed three of these inquisitors. They weren’t particularly powerful foes. He only felt that they had the resilience of a cockroach.
‘I want to avoid confrontation, if possible.’
Basil piped up as Sungchul was organising his thoughts.
“That inquisitor. There are rumours that he is the half-brother of our former principal, The Grand Magnus.”
“That’s right. The Magnus name is a mage family known for their deep history, but the Inquisitor, who was the child of the legal wife, was sent to the Order due to his lack of talent. The Grand Magnus on the other hand, as the son of a mistress, was so talented that he managed to earn the Grand title to his name. Well, as the rumours say that is.”
Basil continued to tell more stories, but they were all irrelevant gossip. Sungchul ended the conversation appropriately, then turned to head towards the school of Cosmomancy. It was at this moment that a crowd of mages was heading in his direction. It was a group of students wearing uniforms dyed in blue accompanied by a middle-aged magician. He was acquainted with the middle-aged magician.
Stocky jaw with a sharp nose. A face with indifferent blue eyes. It was the headmaster of the school of Cryomancy, Robert Danton. Sungchul recalled the scene of him tossing out Leonard Sanctum in the most humiliating manner after the news of the Headmaster of Pyromancy’s death. That Robert Danton was looking at Sungchul right in the eyes. Without notice, he stopped before Sungchul.
“Can we speak briefly?”
“If it’s only very brief.”
Robert didn’t react to Sungchul’s brash reply, but the students behind him were livid.
“No manners. Who do you think this person is that you can speak to him with your back so stiff?”
“Just an alchemist. Know your place!”
Robert held up his hand to command his underlings to cease the racket, then looked at Sungchul to speak again.
“Just a moment is fine, so come by my room.”
“I can’t spare a lot of time.”
The ends of Robert’s lips twitched. He turned and headed to his room first, then Sungchul followed behind while receiving nasty looks from his students.
“Oh, my. Why did he come already? I… I couldn’t make my request yet!”
Basil’s only request was a small wish to keep his spot as the professor of the school of Alchemy.
“I heard the rumours. They say you’re a preselected among the summoned.”
Robert began speaking as soon as he took his seat. Sungchul simply nodded.
“I am also from a preselected group. It’s been 15 years since I arrived here.”
He spoke as though it was a distant past, but to Sungchul, he was still green. Sungchul had been summoned approximately 25 years back. Though, his appearance and age looked years apart.
“So, let’s cut to the chase as you’ve said that you haven’t much time. I’ll speak plainly.”
Robert rose from his seat, closed all of the room’s curtains, then took a brief glance around before standing behind Sungchul in the end.
“If I may ask, who is your backer? It doesn’t matter if you can’t say, but it’ll help me understand you better to overcome any misunderstandings so think carefully and speak.”
He directly asked for Sungchul’s background. Sungchul could only think that he was an honest person before several candidates for names popped in his head. He filtered the names based on their strength and the difficulty for Robert to get in contact. Soon a faction appeared in his mind, and he spoke its name firmly.
“The Ancient Kingdom.”
“The Ancient Kingdom…?!”
Robert wet his lips.
“Isn’t the Ancient Kingdom a place that forbids magic? Why would a group that stands against magic send you here?”
“You should be well aware that they use plenty of it behind the scenes, right?”
Robert broke into laughter after hearing this and didn’t ask any further, but it wasn’t clear whether he believed in Sungchul’s words. Tension flowed between the two of them as Robert opened his mouth once again.
“I saw your skill first hand, although strictly speaking, it is the strength of the backers behind you. On that line of thought, why not lend your strength to me?”
“What do you mean?”
Sungchul threw out his question on his feet.
“Join my side. After Fregius’ death, there is no one but me to lead the school. It is but a shell of an institution, but we can try to lead it into a better direction. I need a lot of support for that purpose.”
Sungchul circled the room as Robert returned to his seat and spoke again.
“Is that your actual name?”
“I believed it as a fake name. I even checked it when you created that 5th level alchemic item. I thought, ‘Ah, this friend wants to attract the school’s attention with such a name’.”
He misinterpreted the situation to match his own expectations. Sungchul continued to listen to what Robert hoped to ideally achieve. He managed to determine a single line of thought within Robert’s dull story. Robert didn’t believe that Sungchul produced Elfir’s Medicine, despite the truth of the matter. It could have been that the man wasn’t familiar with alchemy or that there was no one to advise him otherwise. Whichever case it was, it was to Sungchul’s benefit. It was due to this misunderstanding that Robert was about to begin negotiations with the most dangerous man that stood with no friends nor allies.
“Anyways, I don’t know who your friends are that stand behind you, but I can tell that they are willing to devote their heart and soul for you. I know this because I was also a preselected. I guess one could call it the difference in temperament felt between preselecteds. I know this better than most.”
Robert continued to speak vaguely until finally, he said what was on his mind.
“I need gold coins. A significant amount of gold coins. It is almost assured that I will be the principal, but there are many areas that will require large funds to expedite the process.”
“What can you do for me?”
Sungchul asked sharply.
“If you become my strength, I’ll give you an important position within Airfruit. Naturally, a position that your backer will be pleased with. People might say that Airfruit is finished, but its name still holds value, so it isn’t a bad trade.”
Regarding this, Sungchul stared unflinchingly at Robert as he spoke.
“I want to hear more details.”
“I will give you a position as a professor if you want. As you know, the current professor in charge of the school of Alchemy, Basil Philrus is quite incompetent. He’s someone that has to be kicked out.”
“Isn’t it too early? I’m a foreigner that hasn’t even been here for a year.”
“I didn’t mean to give it to you immediately. Several preparations need to be made first, but once I’m headmaster, I can prepare you to be on Airfruit Academy’s greatest elite course to set you on the path to valedictorian. How about it?”
Sungchul didn’t reply. Robert wasn’t pleased with Sungchul’s response, but exerting more self-control, he spoke softly.
“Is it not enough?”
“I only want the secrets of Cosmomancy. If you can notify Altugius to allow him to hand over the secrets of Cosmomancy, I’ll ask my backers.”
Robert began to frown. It looked as though something was on his mind. After significant time had passed, A thin smile formed on his lips, and he nodded.
“I’ll give it a go, but it won’t be easy.”
“What does that mean?”
“Altugius is quite stubborn. I’ll put in a word, but he isn’t someone who is liable to listen to others. He wouldn’t listen to that vicious Fregius, so what are the chances he’ll listen to me?”
“Then it complicates things.”
“But, he also has a weakness. It is time. Once that girl he treasures so much begins to rot, I’m sure his ears will open. Will you wait for me until then?”
Sungchul nodded for now. He knew nothing would change whether he agreed or not at this point.
Robert, who became much happier, looked at Sungchul attentively. The man who had been observing Sungchul’s face with narrowed eyes like a viper suddenly opened his mouth.
“Now that I think about it, you must be trying to gather some strength if you desire the secrets of Cosmomancy.”
“Isn’t strength everything in the Other World?”
Robert rolled his eyes and spoke as though he had been waiting for that exact reply.
“I can’t attest to the quality of the secret as I’ve never seen it myself, but I feel as though it’s greatly exaggerated. It also seems as though there might have been exaggerations mixed in with the rumor that Altugius managed to kill the vice-captain of the Assassin’s Guild. Mayhaps, the vice-captain wasn’t in peak form.”
Robert continued to speak empty words until he slipped in his true intentions.
“Why not put aside Cosmomancy for the secrets of Cryomancy?”
Sungchul sharply shook his head, and Robert’s face twisted ever so slightly. Sungchul, seeing this reaction, had an immediate thought.
‘Should I test him?’
During the time he fought against the Followers of Calamity, he learned more than just combat techniques. He experienced commonalities in mental states and habits of mages and learned how to agitate, anger, or calm them.
“I was ordered to learn the secret of Cosmomancy or learn something equivalent.”
The trap was set.
“Is it not possible for Cryomancy to be that substitute?”
“Cryomancy or Pyromancy aren’t suitable as substitutes.”
“Why do you believe so?”
“It is too common.”
These words were to agitate Robert’s pride. Magicians tended to be crafty but were also known to be extremely prideful. As expected, Robert’s eyes changed. It fell into the same patterns Sungchul had experienced countless times before.
Robert took a deep breath before fixing his eyes onto Sungchul, then spoke.
“If you seek a path that leads to true enlightenment, I can help guide you a bit. Not too deep, but just a little. Just enough for you and your backers to be satisfied with.”
“What are you speaking of?”
When Sungchul asked, Robert made a wicked smile.
“To witness extinction very briefly. Just a bit of it.”
Bad vibes always proved to be accurate. Sungchul looked at Robert in a different light.
‘Is this bastard also a Follower of Calamity?’
The entire school was rotten. He briefly thought of the possibility that most of the core members of the school were Followers of Calamity, but his expression remained unchanged. He made a leisurely smile instead and held a hand out towards Robert.
“That is exactly the purpose I came to Airfruit for.”
As he spoke, he opened his Soul Storage and pulled out a crate.
‘Oh… to already have a Soul Storage. This guy is an unexpectedly powerful figure.’
Robert’s heart skipped a beat as he waited for the crate to open. Sungchul opened the crate with crude movements. Blinding golden light flooded out of the crate and obstructed Robert’s vision. Sungchul felt a wide smile form on Robert’s lips as he grabbed one of the golden coins.
The golden coin without a mark.
The unmarked golden coins.
Sungchul handed Robert one of these golden coins and spoke to Robert in a firm voice.
“Never speak that you got these coins from me. Unless you wish the entirety of the Ancient Kingdom as your enemy.”
“I swear upon my name.”
Robert replied with a smile from ear to ear.
The fish had bit down on the bait.
Grand in this world is a title of nobility. Hence, ‘The’ being added before it