True Path (Chapter 12)

edited August 2015 in Original Stories
Also on Royalroadl.com, my username is Jaleil there :)

Prologue: An Unexpected Slumber

“Chirp”


“Chirp, chirp”


In the Niandre Forest, two fleeting specks of crimson dashed by between the tall, ancient trees of the forest. On a closer inspection, one can see that these crimson specks were, in fact, birds chasing and playing with each other. They dashed and weaved seemingly effortlessly through the trees, narrowing missing numerous branches and leaves. One would occasionally stop and let out a quick chirp and wait for the other one to catch up, before resuming their small game of tag. Their chirps resounded throughout the entire forest, and were answered with numerous other chirps, squeaks, and screeches from the other animals in the forest. The light of the suns squeezed past the dense foliage of tree leaves, and gave the forest floor a faint and beautiful golden glow. Just the sight of the glow caused many to feel content and relaxed, temporarily soothing their fears and doubts. Unlike other forests, which emitted unfriendly auras and gave one the feeling that something was watching them, the Niandre forest caused those who passed through it to feel perfectly safe and happy. Today was another beautiful and peaceful day in the woods of the Niandre Forest, just as how it had been for countless years.


    The birds continued to zoom to and fro in the forest. Eventually, a faint, trickling sound was heard. The birds stopped their game and hopped onto the same branch. They chirped happily when they realized that it was the sound of a stream. The birds hopped into the air and resumed their flight, eventually reaching a clearing in the forest, where the warmth of the suns truly penetrated into the ground. An enormous and colorful rock laid right next to the stream. The stream ran directly through the middle of the clearing. The birds landed directly into the stream, causing two gentle splashes. They frolicked in the water, enjoying the coolness and cleanliness, while also taking a few sips, pecking their beaks into the water. 


“Yawn”


The birds froze, and saw that what they thought was a rock was actually an enormous living being, which opened its giant maw and let out a mighty yawn. A few moments later, they resumed their bath, unaffected by the giant mass. In the Niandre Forest, there was little that the inhabitants feared. 


Another unremarkable and boring day, mused Ladriath, as he laid on the ground of the clearing in the forest. This particular clearing was his favorite spot to relax in, as the rays from the suns bathed him in warm, radiant light. He rolled onto his back, enjoying the tickling sensation of the grass rubbing against his green-azure scales. 


Of course, Ladriath was a dragon. Dragons were renowned for their fierceness, regality, and pride. Currently, however, Ladriath was not acting rather dragon-like.


A puff of gray gas escaped from his nostrils as the grass touched a sensitive spot on his back. 


Ah, that felt rather pleasant.


Ladriath rolled around for a little bit, snorting and spewing gas everywhere. Suddenly, Ladriath felt a particularly strong tickle, and a bit of bright orange fire flew from his nostrils. The fire landed on the grass, quickly causing the bright green filaments to wither and grow black. Ladriath hastily patted the grass with one of his four powerful legs, while another’s claw scooped some water from the stream onto the affected patch of grass. The fire was put out, but the grass and the grass near the vicinity of the flames were completely flattened and pushed into the ground by Ladriath’s patting (stomping). It was a rather sorry sight. The birds chirped sharply at Ladriath, reproaching him for his carelessness. Ladriath let out another snort, and composed himself into a position fit for a noble dragon. But, why was he, Ladriath, acting like a newborn hatchling just the moment before?


Boring. Boring, boring, boring. How many years have passed by without incident? When was the last time I ever had a challenge or felt excited?


    Indeed, Ladriath, one of the most powerful existences in Draen, was acting like a child simply because he was bored. Ladriath wasn’t just a mighty dragon. He was the mightiest dragon currently in existence. In fact, he was the strongest being in the entirety of Draen! Large armies of minor races would instantly flee the moment they saw him. Major races feared him so much that they did not dare to even be within a thousand miles of Ladriath. During the Three’s Conquest, entire armies scattered and mass hysteria was induced simply by him flying in the skies. There was no mistaking of Ladriath’s unique green-azure color. While he was not the biggest of the dragons, he was unquestionably the strongest. No other dragon could hope to be his opponent. Whatever he wanted instantly belonged to him, whether it be treasures, food, or mates. Crying babies would instantly be silenced when their parents told them that Ladriath would eat them if they cried anymore. Ladriath went by many names. Ruler of the Skies. Earth Shatterer. Destroyer of the World. Dragon of the Gods. He Who Consumes All. (author’s note: Lol I just made up all these names in like two seconds.) Ladriath preferred to be called his true name, however.


    It was the fact that Ladriath was an existence akin to the gods that he was isolated. Back in his younger days, when he wasn’t at all as powerful as he was now, Ladriath frequently interacted with other dragons, and fought with them at times, even to the death. He remembered when armies were actually brave enough to take him on, and the multiple times he was hunted for his Core and body. Nevertheless, that was a time when Ladriath felt truly alive. Before he knew it, however, he reached the peak of mortal power, and was close to immortality. However, even after countless eons, Ladriath had never broken through to the next level: Ascension. Many of his friends and family members had also obtained the power Ladriath had, but they managed to achieve Ascension and shed their mortality and left the world to become Immortals. Even though Ladriath had the greatest talent and potential of them all, he was still stuck at the peak of mortality. And that made him frustrated.


    Nowadays, Ladriath would pass his days either by relaxing in the Niandre Forest, or flying high into the skies at night to see the countless stars that illuminated the dark sky. Ladriath had already lost interest in worldly desires and possessions. Ladriath was not a bloodthirsty dragon. Many in his situation would actively seek out and kill, perhaps even wiping out the entire world of living beings in order to quench their endless thirst for battle. Ladriath disdained such petty things. He already considered himself a being on a separate level from mortals; why should he lower himself and  do such petty things? Besides, he knew that he would obtain little benefits from it. He could wipe out an entire kingdom if he wanted with one single powerful breath of dragon fire. He had nothing to fear anymore, except for time. Even though Ladriath was at the epitome of power and had the longevity that came with being a dragon, he knew that if he didn’t Ascend, he would one day pass into the void. 


“Yawnnnn….”


    Ladriath let out another yawn, but this one was of a much greater magnitude than the one before. Ladriath was actually becoming drowsy! Normally, beings of his level had virtually no need to eat, sleep, or drink, as they took in nourishment from the world. However, Ladriath was actually becoming sleepy after countless years! Ladriath did not completely realize the significance of the fact that he was becoming tired, as drowsiness muddled his normally sharp and pristine mind. Because of this, Ladriath unconsciously was building up fire in his chest. He realized it too late, as the surge of fire exploded from his mouth, lighting up the entire sky in orange flames. Luckily, his mouth was pointed up when he was yawning. He ceased his breath. However, a lot of smoke then fell from the air, making it hazy and uncomfortable for the inhabitants of the forest. The two birds were no where to be seen. They were startled greatly, and decided that playing around with such a sleepy dragon was not a good idea. Ladriath looked around, as the grass and the green trees slowly turned into a mush of grey-green.


Oops.


    With a gentle breath, Ladriath blew away all the dust and ash away.
____________________________________________________________________________


I haven’t felt this feeling in a long time, Ladriath thought, as he laid down on the clearing in the night.


What’s happening to me? 


Ladriath wasn’t too particularly concerned, however, as little could harm him in his day and age. However, as the night continued to grow, Ladriath grew sleepier and sleepier.


I can’t be passing into the void now....It’s too early. Ladriath tried to stay awake, but his feeble attempts only made him more and more exhausted. He found it difficult to keep his eyes open. Nevertheless, Ladriath enjoyed the feeling.


This was what I used to feel before, when I was younger. It feels wonderful. Maybe I’ll shut my eyes for a little bit. Ladriath’s breath grew shallower and slower. His eyes, which could easily see in the dark as they could in the day, saw darkness approaching from his peripheral vision. Eventually, the darkness took over the majority of his vision. He closed his eyes.



    And all was gone. 
«1

Comments

  • Chapter One: The "Aspiring Scholar"

    A small figure approached the door of Eldon’s bedroom. She knocked once.

    “Bang”

    She knocked twice.

    “Bang, bang”

    After a few moments of silence, she pushed open the door, and not too gently. It slammed into the wall, where there was an indentation formed by years of abuse caused by the handle of the door. The light in the hallway seeped into the darkness of the room, revealing a lump on a small bed in the middle of the room. The lump stirred slightly when the light came over it, but further than that, it made no other movement. 

    “Eldon.”

    “Mmm…”

    “Eldon.”

    “...”

    The small girl walked to the right side of the bed, and then took in a deep breath.

    “ELDON!!!!!!! WAKE UP!!!!” Her scream penetrated right through the flimsy sheets covering the lump, which was promptly woken up with a fright.

    “Arghhh!!!!” Eldon shot upright, throwing the covers off his body. His head slammed into the side of his sister’s head, knocking her down onto the floor. Already, a nasty bruise was forming on each of the sibling's head. Fresh tears began to leak from Eldon’s eyes. However, he blinked his blue eyes once, and found that the tears washed away most of the crust that formed in his eyes. Wincing a little bit as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he slowly got off his bed, putting on his slippers. His sister was sitting on the ground, and she also was a little bit teary. She glared at him accusingly. 

    “Stupid brother! You hurt me! Why didn’t you wake up earlier!”

    Eldon sighed. “Sorry, Roxana. There are other methods to wake up someone, though.” Roxana scowled. 

    “For your information, I had already tried those other methods, and they didn’t work. Anyway, Mom told me to call you for breakfast.” Roxana stood up, brushed off dust on her legs, and left the room.

    Feeling the bump on his head, Eldon walked over to his window. He pulled open the maroon colored curtains, squinting a little bit as the bright light of the sunsrise completely illuminated his room. Through the window, he saw one of the town’s lumberjacks, Mr. Smith, hauling a cart full of wood he cut early in the morning, before the suns’ rays even touched the town. His face was full of sweat, and his arms bulged as they pulled the cart.

    Mr. Smith is rather unlucky. His only horse has been sick for a while, thought Eldon. He watched as Mr. Smith slowly advanced, and eventually reached his workshop. Manual labor, he thought. Even watching someone else work makes me feel tired. 

    Eldon turned away from the window, checking out his unkempt appearance in a small, cracked window placed on the table next to his bedroom. He saw a young and slightly chubby face staring back at him, indicating that Eldon was still just a young boy of thirteen years. A mess of light brown hair covered his head, but it didn’t look too bad on him. Even though Eldon was still developing, anyone could tell that Eldon’s face was fairly average. He wasn’t as cute as some other boys in town anymore when they were younger, and he didn’t have any handsome features developing either. As a result, he didn’t induce any jealousy, and nor was he jealous of anyone else. He didn’t speak out much either, and was naturally polite and timid. That was probably why he made friends rather easily than others. He does get a little bit talkative sometimes when he’s happy or excited, though.

        Eldon stared blankly at the mirror for a few seconds, before he heard his mother shout, “Eldon!” 

    “Coming, mother!”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Eldon entered the dining room, dressed in casual clothing. His hair was still a little bit messy, but a few more brushes of a comb would fix that. He saw his mother and sister already having breakfast. 

    “Where’s Father?” Eldon said as he sat down onto a wooden chair. He reached for a piece of bread and began chewing. 

    “Your Father went to greet the recruiters. They came rather early this year,” answered his mother, Veronica Heart,  a middle age woman in her 40s. Nevertheless, her figure was still quite good, and her slim stomach showed no sign that she had borne two children. She had brown hair like Eldon, while Roxana had ruby colored hair, like her father. 

    There was a glint in Eldon’s eyes, and he started a bit when he heard what his mother said. The recruiters came every year to recruit potential future swordsmen and magicians into the largest path school of the Talia Kingdom, the Valis Institute. One had to be at least thirteen years old before they could take the test for entering the school, and Eldon had just recently passed his thirteenth birthday. Unlike many other path schools, the Valis Institute had rather low requirements: One only had to have a good aptitude in one element or have neutral aptitude in two elements, and then one could be accepted as a student. As a result, it was a school many commoners like Eldon dreamed of getting into. He quickly composed himself within a second. However, his mother did not miss her son’s sudden excitement.

    “What are you getting excited about? Even though the Valis Institute has the easiest requirements of all the path schools, very few people even have one neutral aptitude. A good aptitude is even rarer. Your father and I, too, wanted to follow a path, but unfortunately, both of us only have one neutral aptitude.” Eldon’s mother sighed. “Even if one is able to enter the Valis Institute, very few ever graduate. One has to break through to Rank 7 in order to receive the benefits that come with graduation. Most spend their entire lives trying to break through to Rank 7, yet they never succeed. I’ve only known a few people who were able to swallow their pride and leave the school without graduating, because they knew that it was an impossible obstacle that they could never overcome.” Roxana was rolling her eyes, having heard this particular lecture quite a few times recently.

    “But I haven’t even taken my aptitude-”

    “It doesn’t matter. Being able to break through to Rank 7 requires one to have talent on a completely different level than simply passing the requirements. Honey, I know that you, like most kids your age, dream about becoming powerful magicians who can cast spells or becoming swordsmen who are able to shatter boulders and even mountains. However, you would have a much more fruitful life if you became a royal scholar. Your teacher, Mrs. Fern, says how you are much more diligent in your studies than other children of your age. She says that you have the makings of a great scholar. I hope that you do not disappoint Mrs. Fern’s expectations or mine.” 

    Eldon lowered his head, knowing what his mother said was true. Ever since he was five years old, he preferred to read books and learn quietly than going outside and play by pretending to be magicians and swordsmen with others of his age. Although he was not naturally gifted intellectually, and there were others who were able to grasp ideas much quicker than him with little studying, Eldon was quite a hard worker in his studies. He never had any intention to become a scholar, though. He could only feebly reply, “Yes, mother.” He resumed eating, and the only sounds that could be heard were of food being chewed.

    Veronica looked at her son and felt conflicted. I think I was a little bit too harsh. Eldon is still quite young, and it was careless of me to tell him the reality. I feel terrible for making him feel downtrodden. However, I don’t want my child to suffer the struggle of a path. His personality is much more suited to that of a scholar’s than that of a magician or swordsman. Veronica knew that Eldon would not have any amazing aptitudes. A child’s aptitudes were always inherited from his/her parents and ancestors, and although Veronica and her husband’s neutral aptitudes were still rather uncommon, such aptitudes were never enough to break past Rank 8. Magic power/aura seemed to be unrelated with elemental aptitude, but one virtually could never generate and obtain enough power to break to Rank 7 if their aptitudes weren’t outstanding. Veronica made up her mind.

    “Although it is unlikely you will be able to pass the requirements necessary for the Valis Institute, it doesn’t mean I won’t give you a chance to get tested,” Veronica said slowly. “BUT, if you are unable to pass the requirements, then I hope that you will wholeheartedly work into becoming a great scholar.” Instantly, Eldon’s sullen mood changed into that of jubilation. 

    “Thank you, Mother!” Eldon practically jumped onto his mother, hugging her. He was happy that his normally strict mother gave him a chance, and that was all he needed: a chance. He himself also knew of the difficulty to become a magician or swordsman, but that wasn’t going to stop him. His greatest wish was to become a magician, who focused less on close, physical combat and more on support and long ranged combat, without putting themselves in as much danger as swordsmen. He thought that being magician would be ideal for him, as he disliked strenuous physical activity. Even if I don’t have much talent, I’m sure I’ll be able to comprehend how to cast spells with enough studying and practice, he thought.  Veronica smiled at Eldon’s happiness, and rubbed his head. “Go fix your hair up a little bit more. It’s still quite messy, and you have class to attend!”

    “Oh, right.” Eldon finished the last bits of his bread and rushed to his room to find his comb. Roxana slipped behind her brother, having also finished her breakfast. She tried to move as quickly as possible without appearing suspicious.

    “Roxana, where are you going? You need to go to class also.”

    “But I went yesterday!” whined Roxana. Roxana was the polar opposite of her studious, quiet brother. She was much more confident and rambunctious; people always thought that she could become a great swordswoman if she had the talent. Nevertheless, only time would tell, as Roxana was three years younger than Eldon, and therefore could not attempt to take the test.

    “Class is something you attend every day. It isn’t a place where you can come and go as you please, young lady.” However, Veronica wasn’t too hard on Roxana, because she knew that although Roxana acted like a careless and rowdy child, Roxana was much more mature than she let on. 
    ____________________________________________________________________________

        Eldon walked to the front door of his small but comfy house, and put on his shoes. “I’m going, Mother!”

    “Have fun at class! Watch out for horses and wagons as you cross the roads. Love you!” Veronica shouted back.

    “Love you too, Mother!” Eldon quickly opened the door and left, eager to attend the test that would most likely occur in the afternoon. He couldn’t wait!
  • Chapter Two: Before The Test

    In the town Aramore, dawn had already passed, and the rays of the suns shined fully upon every house and building. Doors opened. People’s voices could be heard, talking about new tasks, new events, and new problems. A braying of a donkey or a bellowing of an ox occasionally reverberated throughout the town. Faint laughter could be heard in the air, either of children playing or of lovers flirting with each other from their beds (Author’s note: Yeah, people need to close their windows when they’re acting naughty with each other. I don’t want to hear y’all when I’m sleeping!). Townsmen began to open their workshops and stores, and merchants were quickly setting up their stalls. A brief moment later, the loud voices of merchants could be heard as the merchants advertised their variety of wares, which ranged from seemingly useless junk to expensive and exotic items. Aramore was a small but fairly prosperous town. The town head, Vincent Reyes, was a wealthy but generous man, and it was thanks to his leadership and charisma that the town attracted many traders and merchants. The town slowly came to life, and soon enough, it was bustling with activity. A certain boy was already making his way to the small school on the far west side of town, walking briskly with a sense of purpose. It was Eldon. 

    Eldon loved his town. It wasn’t as big as most other towns, but that was what he loved about it. Although Eldon preferred to study in quiet and solitude, he felt quite content upon hearing the multitude of sounds that originated from the town. He looked around, seeing familiar sights and people. In his entire life, Eldon had never really left the town, except for a few occasions when he would go into the nearby forest. It was his world, his home. But, he had a feeling in his heart that all might change when he takes the Valis Institute’s test. It was a small feeling, but Eldon had never felt this feeling before. It was a yearning for journey, for him to expand his horizons, and to explore everything that Draen had available for him.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Eldon saw his sister run past, sticking her tongue out at him. He chuckled. Although Roxana was merely ten, her speed gave many adults a surprise, and her stamina was just as comparable. Soon, he no longer could see her as she went up a small hill in the road. He continued at his brisk walking pace; there was no particular need for him to rush to school, but he couldn’t wait to discuss the recruiters with his classmates. 

    Eventually, the school building came into Eldon’s sight. It was fairly small, but it matched with the size of the village. Most kids of Eldon’s age went to school. However, since nearly all of them were commoners, much of the stuff they learned in school didn’t really apply later on in their lives. Nevertheless, a basic knowledge of the world around them didn’t hurt. Most kids stopped attending school when they were thirteen years old, as some would go on to the Valis Institute. With their friends beginning a new chapter in their lives to become a magician or swordsmen, the ones who failed the test usually began to earnestly learn their parent’s trade. Some would pick up the skill of a merchant and leave in search of fortunes. A rare few who passed the test of the Valis Institute would instead look for independent and experienced magicians/swordsmen who were willing to teach and pass down their skills and knowledge to them. 
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Most of the kids in Eldon’s class were already in the classroom when he arrived. Classes were separated by age, so everyone in Eldon’s class was more or less around his age. Some of his classmates were chatting away, most likely talking about the recruiters. Eldon saw a person with a mass of yellow hair lying his head on a desk in the back of the room, apparently asleep. It was a good friend of Eldon’s, Brien. He went to greet him.

    “Good morning, Brien!”

    Brien stirred, raising his head from his desk and let out a lazy yawn. An eye of crystal green color cracked open, and it saw Eldon. Brien opened both of his eyes. “Hm? Oh, hello Eldon! Yes, it’s a good morning.” He blinked a few times, having just woken up from his nap.

    “You’re always sleeping in class, Brien. Don’t you get enough sleep at night?” Eldon took his seat, which was next to Brien’s. 

    “I never seem to do.” Brien promptly laid his head back down on the desk, but he didn’t fall asleep again. “You seem somewhat excited today. It is because of the recruiters?”

    “Of course! This time, most of us in the classroom are allowed to take the test,” Eldon said. “You’re going too, right?” he asked.

    “The question should be, who isn’t going? Virtually everyone wants to become a magician or swordsman. This is a chance of lifetime for many.” Brien sat up, and looked at Eldon. “However, it’ll be rather difficult for us to pass. I know that your parents only have neutral aptitudes. Perhaps one of your ancestors had a good aptitude or greater, but it’s highly unlikely. Luckily for you, you still have a chance, considering that your parents have aptitudes of different elements. Me? Both my parents have poor aptitudes. I’ll be blessed if one of my ancestors pulled through.” Brien yawned again. “Anyway, becoming a swordsman or magician would be quite a pain. I think I’ll be a swordsman if given the chance, though. Maybe the physical training will cure my tiredness.” 

    “Well, I think that-”

    “Did someone say, swordsman?” A large, burly figure interjected into Brien and Eldon’s conversation. He grinned. “Brien? You, being a swordsman?” said Angus jokingly. “You’ll fall asleep in the middle of a battle.”

    “That’s probably true,” replied Brien. “However, considering your size, you’ll probably be the first to fall from the enemy’s attacks. Who could miss you?”

    “Watch your mouth, Brien. I can crush you like the twig you are!” Angus shook a meaty fist in front of Brien’s face, attempting to appear threatening. It worked pretty well, in Eldon’s opinon. Brien scoffed.

    “You’ll have to catch me first. Even goblins could probably dance circles around you.”

    Angus made a pained face. “I can never win against you, Brien.” The three laughed. “Anyway, I guess you guys already know about the recruiters.”

    “Yeah, yeah.” “Yes.”

    Angus flexed a bicep, showing off its size and bulge. “I think I’m the perfect type to be a swordsman. My enemies will be diced into meat in front of my greatsword!” Angus pretended to wield a giant sword, and swung his arms around wildly. “There’ll be nothing left when I’m through with them!”  

    Brien rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you go show off your muscles to Serene? I’m sure she’ll be mesmerized by their definition.” 

    Angus blushed. Serene was the daughter of the town’s head, Vincent Reyes. Not only that, but she was also one of the prettiest girls in the town, if not the prettiest. The boys stared at the front of the room, where Serene was currently sitting and talking with her girl friends. Even though she was only thirteen years old, everyone could tell that she would grow up to become an amazing beauty. Vincent Reyes would swell up with joy when people commented on Serene’s appearance. He was sure that she would be able to woo the hearts of many young men from influential families once she became older. Even now, her beauty caused heads to turn as she walked past people. She had a lovely face, perfectly accentuated with her long locks of golden hair. Her skin was fair, and her voice was light and dainty, like music in the air. She also had the personality and temperament of a maiden. She wasn’t arrogant or haughty, and got along with everyone quite excellently. Many young lads were entranced by Serene, and Angus was just one of them. Even Brien, who a few girls liked because of his mysterious air (caused by his sleeping and droopy eyes), couldn’t help but feel his heart jump a bit when he saw Serene’s soft and grey eyes. The boys continued to gawk at Serene. Except for Eldon. Eldon was different. The only thing in his eyes at that moment was Karis, one of the girls sitting with Serene.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Eldon saw Serene’s beauty, and he too had to appreciate how pleasing her face was to the eyes. Nevertheless, his heart was already swayed by another girl, Karis. Karis couldn’t be considered a beauty, but she wasn’t average either. Either way, she paled in comparison with Serene. However, since the first time Eldon ever laid his eyes upon her, he was head-over-heels. He loved everything about her, and noticed everything she did, however subtle. He couldn’t decide what exactly caused him to be attracted to her, whether it be her spotted freckles, her radiant hazel eyes, the two dimples that appeared on her face whenever she smiled, the moments sound came out of her mouth, or the times she would play with her smooth and long hair. Eldon rarely ever talked to her. Although he was a bit shy, Eldon usually had no major problem talking with girls. Karis was a completely different case. Whenever he saw the red headed girl’s face, his head went up in the skies. He nearly had a heart attack once when Mrs. Fern paired them up on an excursion in the forest to find certain herbs. Eldon was sure that Mrs. Fern intentionally paired them together, as she winked at Eldon when she was instructing him. While he was gathering herbs with Karis, he was sure that the entire forest could hear his heart pounding furiously and rapidly. His face turned completely red whenever Karis looked or talked to him, and he was so embarrassed.

    “Are you okay, Eldon? Your face is really red.” Karis had said.

    “Y-yeah, I know. I’m okay.” His face flushed even more.

    “Are you sure you don’t have a fever or something?” Karis reached out to feel his forehead. Before he could even react, her soft hand had already reached him. Her hand was cool to the touch, but to Eldon, it was like a fiery flame. He shook a bit.

    “YeeaAHAAHH I’m fine! I’m great, really, really great, great! In fact, I feel amazing!!! No problem!” Eldon wanted to punch himself for reacting so strongly. Karis raised an eyebrow.

    “Well, you seem fine now.” She smiled. Eldon could do nothing but grin stupidly back.

    He was glad when they were done collecting the herbs, but also regretful that he didn’t take the initiative to advance their friendship further.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    The boys were still staring. Out of the corner of her eyes, Serene noticed the mesmerized boys. She then began to talk in a low whisper.

    “Look, they’re staring at us.” she said softly.

    “You mean they’re staring at you, Serene.” said Alera, another pretty girl with black hair and brown eyes.

    “Not quite. Look at our Eldon. It’s obvious who he’s looking at, and it’s not me.” Serene winked at Karis. Karis blushed and began to play with her hair.

    Suddenly, all the girls in Serene group looked over to Eldon, Angus, and Brien before they could even turn their heads away. The boys, embarrassed, attempted to compose themselves, but the damage was done. The girls started laughing. Angus tried to preserve some face and, facing the girls, said, “What are you girls laughing at?”

    Serene smirked, “What are you boys looking at?” The girls continued to giggle even more. They then continued their previous conversations. Angus’s cheeks turned even more crimson and he awkwardly began scratching his head. Eldon looked up from the floor, and sneaked a peek at Karis. Coincidentally, Karis had also taken a glance at Eldon. Their eyes met. Faintly blushing, she quickly waved one of her small hands at him, before turning her attention back to the girls. Eldon felt his internal temperature rise by a hundred degrees as his body’s homeostasis system failed him. He felt even happier than he did in the morning when his mother gave him her approval to attempt the test. Brien leaned back in his chair.

    “She’s on a completely different level.” He sighed.

    Surprisingly, Angus quickly came over his embarrassment, and heatedly said, “That doesn’t matter. Love will find a way!” 

    Eldon tried to resume their previous conversation, “So, like I was saying before Angus joined us-”

    “Hello students!” Mrs. Fern walked in with a bright smile from the entrance. Eldon stopped talking. She was carrying a large bag.

    “Good morning, Mrs Fern!” The students said in unison. The class quieted down and took their seats. Angus smiled at his two friends and went to take his seat in the middle of the classroom.

    Mrs. Fern was a young woman in her mid-twenties, so she was around the prime of her beauty. Her optimism was a positive influence on the class, and it was in part thanks to her that everyone got along pretty well. She took her seat in front of the class.

    “As many, if not all of you know, the recruiters have come to our little town today. Unfortunately, this means that this may be the last day of class for many of you.” She smiled sadly. “Fortunately, life will move on! I know that many of you will have great success and I hope that you will just be as amazing students as you were to me as you will to your future teachers and mentors. So let us celebrate!” From her bag, Mrs. Fern took out a multitude of sweets and goods. Her family ran the bakery shop of the town, and it contained some of the best stuff Eldon had ever tasted before.

    “Wow!” “Sweet!” “Thanks Mrs. Fern!” “I love you Mrs. Fern!” “I’ll never forget you Mrs. Fern!” “I’ll remember you when I become famous and powerful!” The students shouted with joy. Some ran up to hug her. Mrs. Fern rolled her eyes and said, “Now now, let’s not be too eager. You all still have the test to take.”

    For the rest of the class, the students indulged upon the sweets and reminisced about their memories.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    It was afternoon. Eldon said goodbye to his friends and classmates, as they needed to go home to prepare for the test. Most people in the town attended the test; all the parents went to see their children take the test, and everybody else did too, because, well, everyone else is going! Eldon was waiting for Roxana, but he saw her busy talking and playing with her friends, so he left first. He could feel his heart beating stronger and stronger as time passed by. If the test was like it was every year, it would happen right after most people had dinner. Eldon went back home, but this time, he was running.

    It’s almost time.
  • edited July 2015
    Ooooooh...Seems nice. My two cents is, I think the paragraphs are to thick. But that's just me. Just my pet peeve. Other than that the story seems interesting! Keep up the work mate!

    Also another tad bit, is that some people don't like the authors note in the middle of reading..not me tho. But it annoy some people. So keep that in mind!
  • Chapter Three: Taking the Aptitude Test

      About a half hour later, Eldon reached his house, panting. In his haste to go home, Eldon ran his hardest, something he rarely did. Within a minute and with the school still in sight behind him, Eldon couldn’t continue running. On the entire way back home, he ran, rested, and walked multiple times.

    Wow, that was a bad idea. Angus thought as he went up to his front door. Indeed, Eldon was not one of the athletic types. Due to his preference to study inside instead of going outside and enjoying the sunshine. Eldon was a fairly frail child, in terms of strength. His skin was not pale, but it wasn’t as tan as Angus’s, who regularly worked alongside with his powerfully built father, Brutus Silver, one of the best blacksmiths within the Talis Kingdom. Angus helped his father out by going all around town obtaining materials and orders, and sometimes even went on journeys to find rarer metals or to meet with customers who were unable to travel. Angus was much more experienced with the outside world, and his tales of his journeys, albeit exaggerated, made Eldon somewhat admire Angus. He would never let Angus know that, though. Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile, Eldon thought. After resting a bit, Eldon opened the door and went inside.

    “Mother? Father? I’m home!” Eldon shouted, taking off his shoes and putting on his slippers. 

    “Hey, Eldon!” A manly voice greeted Eldon. Soon, a man of well built stature entered into Eldon’s view. It was his father, Leonar, a retired soldier. Nevertheless, Leonar was still the captain of the guardsmen in the town. He had just arrived before Eldon, after having made sure that there were no problems with the recruiters.

    “Didn’t you go to greet the recruiters? Where are they now?” Eldon asked.

    “The town head, as usual each year, invited them to his home for dinner.” Leonar replied with a hint of envy in his voice. “Sigh...Madam Reyes’s cooking is unparalleled. Just thinking about it makes my stomach rumble.” Leonar briefly fantasized about the last time he ate her cooking. Eldon raised an eyebrow at him. 

    Leonar cleared his throat.  “Anyway, don’t tell your mother I said that. Her cooking is just as delicious, if not better.”

    “I thought you said that Mrs. Reyes’s cooking was unparalleled.” Eldon innocently said.

    “...” Leonar coughed again. “Now that I think about it, you’ve gotten rather pudgy. It’s been quite a few months since you’ve trained with me, so part of that’s my fault. Why don’t we do some exercises right now, you know, to make sure you haven’t gotten rusty?” Leonar grinned, knowing how much Eldon disliked physical training. He had initially wanted to make Eldon follow his footsteps as a fighter, but Eldon had shown a clear distaste ever since he was a young boy. Leonar had tried to persuade and train Eldon, but eventually gave up when Roxana came along. Even since she could walk and talk, Roxana had shown a clear interest in physical combat. 

    Eldon frowned, knowing that he had been countered. “No thanks, dad. I’m sure Roxana would be glad to oblige, though.”

    “Roxana isn’t here right now, so why don’t you accompany for some little exercise right before dinner?” Leonar gestured to the wooden swords lying in the corner of the room. “We can go-OW!” Leonar screamed as Veronica grabbed his ear. Leonar looked to his right, seeing his wife.

    “Hello, my beautiful wife! I just wanted to make sure that our son is not only healthy of the mind but also of the body!” Leonar winced a bit as Veronica moved her hand slightly. “Um...Can you let go, please?”

    “Why are you bullying Eldon, hm? What kind of father are you?” Veronica let go. She looked at Eldon. “Studying is good, but it doesn’t hurt to sweat a bit. Your father is right.” Leonar patted his chest, nodding. “However, exercising right before you eat is just foolish.”

    “I was just joking around, you know. How much can a little exercise hurt anyway?” Leonar said. He looked in the direction of the dining room and took a sniff. “Seems like dinner is ready, no?”

    The front door opened. “Hey mom, dad!” It was Roxana, having just ran back home also. Although her face was a bit flushed, it was nothing like Eldon’s when he came home.

    “Hello darling!” Leonar laughed as he scooped her up in the air. Roxana scowled. “Dad, I’m not a little girl anymore. Put me down! I’m starving!”

    Leonar smirked. “You will always be my little girl.” Roxana stuck out her tongue. Nevertheless, Leonar obliged, and gently dropped his daughter. Roxana promptly ran into the dining room. Eldon, his stomach growling, naturally followed her. Veronica turned around and looked at Leonar.

    “So, what were you saying about Madam Reyes’s cooking?”

    “Damn.”

    ____________________________________________________________________________

    When the suns began to set, the Hearts had finished dinner, and were preparing to go to the Valis Institute’s Test. Eldon sat down on his bed, feeling a little bit queasy. He felt a cold flush go down his neck, and he shivered. He took deep breaths, one in, and one out. It’s almost time, Eldon thought again. He grew a little bit nervous. What if all my friends pass the test, and I don’t? Or they all fail the test, and I don’t? I hope Karis stays with me. Each year, approximately half of the test takers passed. It seemed to be a high passing rate, but in truth, many were unable to graduate. Most refused to believe it, and tried to hang on as long as possible, but the break to Rank 7 was what separated the talented from the normal. Each year, however, a few would return to the town, in sullen and dejected moods, having accepted their fate. Just last year, the 42 year old Radri Solens finally gave up, having been in the school for nearly thirty years. 

    Roxana peeked her head into Eldon’s room. “Eldon, we’re going.” 

    “Alright, I’m coming.”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    The test would occur in the town square, where there was enough room for everyone to see. While it seemed to intrude the tester’s privacy, nobody every mocked someone who failed the test. Instead, there would be applause and cheers, regardless or not if one passed the test. Virtually all the adults in town had taken the test before, and knew that this was just a glimpse into the world of magicians and swordsmen. 

    There were already quite a few people standing around in the town square by the time Eldon and his family arrived. Nevertheless, there were still about 15 minutes until the recruiters would come. A steady stream of people was flowing into the town square, and soon enough, most of the population of the small town had already arrived. In the center of the squarer was a medium sized platform, raised about 6 feet above the ground. A set of wooden stairs nearby allowed one to step up to the platform. The town head, Vincent Reyes, was already waiting on top of the platform. He greeted everyone who arrived with a smile, but one could tell that their was a tense atmosphere around him. This particular year, his daughter, Serene Reyes, would also be taking the test. If she was able to get in the Valis Institute, then she would have even greater opportunities to meet a boy who came from an influential family. Vincent hoped that Serene would find someone that she genuinely loved and met his expectations. Serene looked around the crowd, waving to her classmates. She saw Eldon and gave him a smile. Eldon slightly blushed and waved. Suddenly, two figures leaped upon the platform. The crowd quieted down.

    One of the figures was a woman around in her thirties. She was quite a beauty, but everyone could see the powerfully built muscles on her body, pressing tightly against her light yellow armor. Nevertheless, her muscles complemented quite sexily with her curves (Author’s note: Just my type Wink ), and she made the hearts of men stir as she swept a slow yet piercing gaze across the crowd. A few pinches and kicks from their wives awoke the men from their arousal. On the woman’s back, there laid a large claymore. The other person was a middle age man, seemingly in his mid-40s. Nevertheless, there was a look in his eyes that indicated that he possessed knowledge beyond his outer age. He wore a rather plain green cloak, and held something that basically looked like a walking stick in Eldon’s eyes. Eldon didn’t really see anything particularly special about it, but what did he know? From their appearance, Eldon was certain that the woman was a swordswoman and the old man was a magician. The man coughed once, and opened his mouth to speak.

    “Greetings, citizens of Aramore. It’s that time of the year again. As you know from previous years, my name is Ganon and my friend here is Lisa. We are from the Valis Institute, and we are here to recruit potential future swordsmen and magicians into our ranks. As you all should remember, the test consists of only one simple part, which is testing one’s aptitude. So why don’t we all get started right now with Mrs. Reyes, who is standing besides me?” With a casual wave of his hands, a simple but long wooden table appeared seemingly out of no where. Seven crystal clear orbs of the same shape and size laid on the table, spread out across evenly. Ganon beckoned at Serene. Serene looked at her father, who smiled back at her. Taking a quick breath, Serene walked up to Ganon. Ganon then procured a small green crystal, from also seemingly no where. He pressed the crystal into one of Serene’s hand. 

    “Now, Mrs. Reyes, would you please step up to the table.” He glanced at the crowd. “As you all should know, the requirements for passing this simple test is either to obtain a good aptitude or at least two neutral aptitudes. Weak aptitudes generally cause no reaction at all, while poor aptitudes may cause a visible but fleeting flicker. If color fills up the entire orb, then it is of at least neutral aptitude. From then on, the density, quality, and brightness of the color will tell me of the aptitude. I will be able to tell Mrs. Reyes’s potential when I imbue the crystal in her hands with a bit of my magic power. All she has to do is to stand in front of the orbs and hold the crystal out in front of her.” 

         Ganon pointed at the crystal. The crystal began to glow faintly, and then glowed more brightly. Suddenly, seven rays of light shot out into the orbs. The orbs became murky, and the light rays began fluctuating within. Four of the orbs, after being energized by the light, faded back to their original crystal clearness. Slowly, three of the orbs began to emit a faint color, causing gasps in the crowd. The colors continued to grow in size and brightness and eventually filled up all three orbs. One of the orbs let out a dull brown color, but it filled the entire orb. Another orb glowed a rich blue, and the intensity of the color was greater. The last orb shined brightly with a pure, white light, and it lit up the platform. The light in the orb also rotated slowly about. Ganon let out a surprised but pleased expression. With another wave of his hands, the color from the orbs slowly faded. 

    “Wonderful, Mrs. Reyes, wonderful. Neutral aptitude for earth, fine aptitude for water, and high aptitude for light! You’ve done more than just pass the test. Just from your potential alone, I know that you will grow and thrive in Valis Institute.” Ganon let out a genuine smile.

    “Thank you, sir!” Serene, bowed at Ganon, with her eyes gleaming. She gave back the no longer glowing crystal back to Ganon. Ecstatic, tears began to form in Serene’s eyes. Madam Reyes, unable to hold back any longer, rushed up the platform and gave her daughter a hug. Vincent Reyes’s face was beaming, and he trembled a bit from joy as he also went to hug his daughter. Shouts and cheers came from the crowd. Serene’s friends also rushed up to the platform, congratulating and hugging her. Angus made a slight movement, but then he changed his mind. It would be weird for him to go up, with Serene’s parents being there and that all her friends who went up were girls. 

    Ganon was quite pleased. Finally, a great gem has appeared in this small town, he thought. Although Lisa had not spoken once since her arrival, Ganon knew that she was as jubilant as he was. He looked towards the crowd.

    “Now, will all the examinees please line up onto the platform.” Eldon was ready. Before Ganon finished speaking, Eldon already gave a signal to his parents and quickly walked up. On normal occasions, Eldon would have never taken the initiative, but he could not wait any longer. Ganon raised an eyebrow.

    “Well, seems like someone can’t wait any longer.” The crowd chuckled, and Eldon blushed, visibly embarrassed. Nevertheless, he took a deep breath, and stepped onto the platform, with other children behind him. Ganon beckoned towards Eldon. He placed the green crystal onto Eldon’s hands. “Now, what is your name, child?”

    “My name is Eldon Heart.” Eldon responded, his voice cracking a bit.

    “Walk up to the table then, Eldon.” 

    Eldon stood in front of the table, overseeing the crowd. He could see his parents waving and smiling at him. Eldon glanced behind him. Serene, having calmed down, gave him a gentle pat on the back. “Good luck, Eldon.” She smiled. Eldon felt his heart flutter a bit. “Thanks, Serene.”

    “Let’s go, Eldon!” Angus let out. “Whoooo!” He started clapping and whistling along with Brien, and some people laughed, causing Eldon to feel even more embarrassed. Ganon then pointed a finger at the crystal, and it began to glow. Eldon felt a strange but pleasant sensation originating from his body and entering into the crystal. Soon enough, seven rays of light shot out towards the orbs, filling them up with bright light. Eldon closed his eyes. This is it. 

    The orbs became murky and the light began fluctuating within, like it did with Serene. 

    Only this time, all seven of the orbs began to emit a faint color...
  • Chapter Four: Unexpected Results and Departure

    When Ganon saw all seven of the orbs begin to emit a faint glow, he revealed an astonished expression. Even Lisa, who normally kept a cool expression on her face, couldn’t help but also widen her eyes in disbelief. Angus and Brien stared, slack-jawed. Leonar started to blink hard and rubbed his eyes, making sure what he saw wasn’t an illusion. Even Roxana had her mouth gaping open.The entire town square was completely silent as the colors in the orbs began to fill up their respective spheres. 

    Why is it so quiet? Eldon opened his eyes. When he saw the orbs, he nearly dropped the green crystal.Holy shit! 

    What did having aptitudes in all elements signify? It surely meant the birth of a godly genius, blessed by the heavens. Surely Eldon would become one of the greatest figures in the entirety of Draen. The inhabitants of Aramore thought that they were witnessing a once in a lifetime event, and some even displayed reverence on their faces.

    Soon enough, however, Ganon’s expression began to change. He had a strange look on his face, and he scrunched his eyebrows together. The glow of the orbs grew extremely slowly. Eventually, Ganon became relaxed again, but he couldn’t help but be puzzled. The colors of the orbs filled the orbs up completely. Black, white, blue, red, brown, purple, and green. However, each orb emitted a dull color, similar to Serene’s earth orb. The crowd began to stir, and people realized what happened. They started whispering to each other, and all of them had the same strange look on their face as Ganon did. Ganon rubbed his chin, and began to speak.

    “Interesting, quite interesting. It is rather odd, Eldon. Nevertheless, you’ve passed the test. Congratulations.” Ganon spoke slowly. “You have neutral aptitudes for all the elements.” Ganon did not know how to feel. He had never even heard of someone having so many neutral aptitudes, and for all elements! Because of that, Eldon’s aptitudes were one of a kind, never seen before. Eldon did not really know how he felt either. He was happy that he passed the test, but it was really too strange. 

    Is such a thing even possible? To have neutral aptitudes in all elements? Even though he has aptitudes in all elements, they are just neutral aptitudes. Veronica thought. She was happy for her son, but she was worried. In the end, Eldon’s potential was as expected, albeit it was not exactly what people had in mind. 

    “Thank you, sir.” Eldon passed the crystal to Jake, another boy in town. Looks like I’ll have to work extra hard. I’m surprised by my aptitudes, but neutral is still neutral. Will I ever be able to become a powerful magician? Eldon wondered as he went to stand next to Serene and wait for the testing to finish. 

    “That was pretty surprising, Eldon.” Serene said, turning to look at him. She too, had been stunned in the beginning, and now looked at Eldon in a slightly different light. 

    Eldon shrugged. Sighing, he said, “It was, but my aptitudes aren’t that great.”

    “Well, on the bright side, at least you can choose to train in whatever element you want!” Serene pointed out.

    “Hm. I guess you’re right.” Eldon and Serene stopped talking, and watched the rest of the test continue.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    It was Angus’s turn. He took the crystal from the dejected Bain, who unluckily only had a neutral and a poor aptitude. Ganon raised an eyebrow as he saw Angus’s large figure come towards him.

    “You’ve only recently qualified to take the test?” Ganon inquired.

    “Yes, sir. I’m thirteen years old. My name’s Angus.” Angus replied.

    “You don’t look thirteen to me.” Brien interrupted from behind, taking the words out of Ganon’s mouth. Angus gave him a quick glare.

    Ganon didn’t say anything else, and once again imbued the crystal with his power. Eventually, only one orb was glowing. The color was a deep brown, and its intensity was only a little bit lower than that of Serene’s light orb. 

    “Well, seems like you have a fine aptitude for earth. Congratulations.” Ganon remarked. Angus’s father, who was in the crowd, let out a triumphant shout, giving his son a thumbs up. Angus grinned, being rather pleased with himself. He turned around and looked at Brien. Angus smirked, passing the crystal to Brien.

    “Looks like you’re next. No pressure. Don’t fail, bud.” Angus clapped Brien on the shoulder.

    Brien scoffed. “You wish.” Brien walked up to the table. However, Brien was sweating a bit. Angus’s father was a powerful swordsman, thanks to his aptitude. A case like Eldon’s was a freak scenario. He highly doubted that he would be the second.

    Angus went to stand with Eldon. He made sure to stand on the side that Serene was on.

    “Well done, Angus!” Serene said with her entrancing smile. Angus blushed.

    “Thanks, Serene.” Angus replied. He grinded his teeth, trying to keep his mouth from curving up into a complete U-shape.

    Brien silently prayed to his ancestors. I’ve been a good kid in my entire life...so far. I’m only a little bit lazy, and sleep occasionally...sometimes...often…



    Anyway, so, uh, if you’re all watching me up there, I hope that you can help your little descendent out.Naturally, there was no reply. Brien stretched his neck around, trying to calm himself down.

    “Whenever you’re ready, um…?” Ganon questioned.

    “Brien. Brien Crowshade.” Brien said calmly. “Begin the test.”

    Ganon pointed a finger at the crystal, and the testing process began. Angus and Brien looked worriedly from the sideline. As much as Angus and Brien bickered with each other, they were still good friends. Even Eldon silently prayed to Brien’s long dead ancestors, hoping for a miracle. The light rays entered the orbs. Brien gulped. Slowly, five of the orbs faded away, leaving an orb of dull purple and another orb of pitch black, which was like a black hole in the night. 

    “Neutral aptitude for lightning, but high aptitude for darkness!” Ganon was astonished again for the third time this night, with the first shock caused by Serene and the second caused by Eldon. This year has produced quite a good batch, he thought. Brien’s parents goggled at their son, and then looked at each other. Was he their son? Brien exhaled, raising his head towards the sky, closing his eyes. Thank you. He looked towards Angus, smirking. “What’s wrong, cat got your tongue?”

    Angus rolled his eyes. Both he and Eldon were relieved that Brien passed, but Angus knew that Brien would make school life a pain from now on, as he naturally possessed the greatest potential out of the boys. Eldon smiled. “Congratulations, Brien.”

    “Thanks, Eldon.” Brien stifled a yawn. “Wow, am I tired. All I need right now is a nice, warm and soft bed.” Brien trudged towards Eldon and Angus. 

    “I didn’t expect that from you, Brien. Looks like you’ll still be stuck with us in the coming years.” Serene marveled.

    “Looks like it.” Brien replied coolly. He rubbed his aching eyes. The stress from the test only exuberated his tiredness.

    They waited for the remaining people to take the test. Most of the rest failed, but some also passed. Karis was the last in line. 

    Eldon was beginning to grow a little worried. It’s Karis’s turn. Eldon knew that Karis’s parents both had good aptitudes, but not everything in life was absolute. Frederick, having just failed test, gloomily tossed the crystal to Karis, who slightly fumbled it. 

    “Hey, young man, be careful with that.” Ganon said sternly. Frederick didn’t turn back as he walked down from the platform.

    “Your name, young lady?” Ganon inquired.

    “My name is Karis.” Karis spoke softly, but Eldon could hear her as clearly as if she was shouting. Eldon could recognize that melodious voice in even the most rowdy of crowds. Ganon pointed at the crystal, and once again, the orbs lit up. Two orbs continued to shine after the other five slowly died out. One was of a pleasant blue color, and the other was of a fine shade of green. Eldon sighed with relief. Brien let out another drowsy yawn.

    “Good aptitudes in wind and water. Good, very good.” Ganon took the crystal back from Karis’s hand. With a final wave of his hands, the table and the orbs vanished, returning to where ever they came from. “This year’s test has ended. We have quite a few talents! Would you please congratulate our future Valis Institute’s students?” Applause broke out from the crowd. The crowd began to slowly disperse. Most who were unable to pass had already left after their failure, but a few hopefuls remained to see rest of the test go through. Even if one failed the test, one could still attempt the test in future years, but only once. However, it was virtually futile, because aptitudes never changed (Author’s note: Or do they? Hm...). Ganon let out a small sigh, and looked at Lisa. She nodded at the small group of students who passed the test. 

    “Congratulations,” she said with a surprisingly gentle voice. “We shall depart tomorrow, as we did every previous year before. Say your goodbyes and pack up whatever you need, but only bring what you can carry.” The future students nodded. Ganon cleared his throat.

    “Looking around, I can see that all of you are Rank 11 magic novices, but that will change as long as you work hard. Our Valis Institute does not have a strict schedule. We have many teachers, and classes can be easily made up. One usually is free to come and go whenever one feels like it. However, we will not assist you, so I recommend bringing a few friends along if you plan to return here someday or to go on a journey.” Ganon waved a hand at the students, but this time without any magic power. “Go home for now and prepare. We will be leaving early tomorrow, so come to this spot around sunsrise. Don’t be late!” Ganon smiled. “I guess you can consider yourselves as students of the Valis Institute now.”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Night time. Eldon was packing up his bag. It was fairly large, but Angus had already reassured Eldon that he would carry whatever Eldon couldn’t. He put in a few of his favorite books, placing layers of clothes around them for protection. Eldon cherished his books, and he had quite a few. Books were rather uncommon, but his parents didn’t mind buying a few to please their son. He looked at the small, cracked mirror on his desk. He pondered for bit, shrugged, and placed the mirror onto his books. He then heard footsteps, and looked towards his door, and saw Roxana.

    “You better get me a souvenir when you come back, Eldon.” Roxana pouted. Eldon smiled.

    “Don’t worry, Roxy.” Eldon ruffled her hair. Roxana punched him in the gut lightly. “Oof..”

    “I told you not to call me that before!” She grumbled. After a slight pause, she wrapped her arms around him. “I’ll miss you, brother. Come back and visit us every time you can, okay?” She looked up at Eldon’s face with a slightly teary face. Eldon had no defense against it.

    “Of course.” He replied. He looked up and saw his parents, smiling. Leonar tossed a small bag at Eldon. It made a jingling sound when he caught it. Staring at it, he said, “Father, this is…” Leonar raised a hand.

    “Say no more. I’ve been saving up a little money for you, ever since you were born. There should be around 50 gold coins worth inside. You can’t expect to live without money, do you?” Leonar joked. “Also, if you find being a magician not to your expectations, you can always change and train to become a swordsman and make this old man proud.”

    “I’ll think about it.” Eldon’s eyes softened. “Thank you, Father. I will gladly accept your hard-earned gift.” He placed the money bag carefully in his bag. Veronica went up to Eldon and gave him a hug, stroking his hair.

    Tearing up a little, Veronica said, “Don’t push yourself too much, Eldon. If you have any troubles, you can always come visit us, or we’ll come to you. And if you ever find yourself stuck on the path, remember, you can always come back and live with us.”

    “I’ll miss you all. I love you.” Eldon’s voice cracked and his eyes began to blur, as fresh tears trickled down his face. It would be the first time he would ever be separate from his family. Leonar also went to embrace Eldon, and for a moment, the entire family stayed together, creating a beautiful image under the glowing moon shining through Eldon’s window.

    (Author’s note: Sniff. I tried.)
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Everybody else going to the Valis Institute had already arrived when Eldon got to the town square. A small crowd had gathered to say goodbye to the thirteen year olds who passed the test. Lumbering with his heavy bag, Eldon spotted Angus and Brien, who were, of course, bickering with each other.
    “Hey guys.” Eldon placed his bag down for moment, breathing a little quickly.

    “I, Angus, had said beforehand that I would help carry your bag.” Angus picked up the bag with one hand as if it were nothing, and placed it into the enormous bag he was carrying.

    “Thank you, Angus.” Eldon gratefully said. Angus rubbed his nose.

    “Not a problem. Anything I can do for my little buddy.” He said proudly. Brien frowned.

    “Why don’t you carry my bag also?” He protested. Angus snickered disdainfully.

    “You want me to carry such a small bag? You can carry it easily by yourself.” Brien narrowed his eyes.

    “You better watch out.” He scowled threatening. “Once we start training, my potential will allow me to be the first one to kick your butt.”

    “Psh. Can you even lift your legs that high?” Angus snorted.

    “You-”

    Eldon could only sigh helplessly as they began to fight with each other again. He always wondered how the three of them managed to be good friends. Were Brien and Angus even friends, anyway?

    Ganon looked around, confirming that everyone had arrived. “It’s time to leave, students. We’ll have to leave the town first before we can starting traveling quickly.” With that, he began to walk towards the east gate of town. Lisa was close behind him. Relatives and friends of the students said their quick goodbyes, with kisses and hugs. Eldon hugged his parents and sister again.

    “Be careful, Eldon.” Veronica cautioned as Eldon was walking to follow Ganon and Lisa. He looked back, seeing his mother and father standing next to each other, with Roxana in front of them.

    “Don’t worry Mother, I will.” With that, Eldon joined up with Angus and Brien who had also finished their goodbyes.

    “This is it, guys.” He announced. “A new chapter in our lives.”

    “I’m ready for anything.” Angus replied, with a new and fierce resolve gleaming in his eyes.

    Brien did not respond immediately, but there was not a trace of tiredness lurking in his eyes. “Same here.” With that, the boys stopped speaking. Although there was no visible change, they had already begun to shed their childishness, in order to prepare for what was to come. They stepped out of the town, where Ganon was waiting. With a jarring creak, the giant wooden doors of the east gate began to close. Eldon and his friends gave one last look at what was their home for their entire lives up to now with heavy hearts.

    “Boom”

    Slowly, they turned around to face the unknown. But this time, they could clearly feel the beckoning of adventure, of glory, and of power. It was as if a blindfold was lifted from their eyes after all these years. Energized, the students washed away their sadness, and walked forward with a new spring in their steps.

  • Chapter Five: Teleportation and Arrival (Part One)

    Ganon and Lisa trotted down the small road leading away from the town. Eldon and the rest of the students followed close behind. For about half an hour, the small group silently went down the path. Eventually, the open grounds gave way to the forest that Eldon and his classmates had entered before to pick herbs. Eldon grew puzzled. 

    Wasn’t the Valis Institute somewhere in the northwest? Why are we going east? 

    The recruiters stopped right outside the forest, and turned around. The students looked at them, expecting something.

    “We’re about to enter the forest now.” Ganon said. “I know that you all have come here before, but this time, we’re going a little bit deeper. Be careful, and stick together. Beasts do not usually come near to the fringes of the forest, but we might encounter a few things, so be prepared! Do not worry too much. Lisa and I should be more than enough to handle whatever might come for us in the forest.” Ganon paused. “Any questions?” Eldon raised a hand, and Ganon nodded at him.

    “Sir, why are we going into the forest?” Eldon asked. “I thought that the Valis Institute is in the northwest direction.”

    “The distance between Aramore and the Valis Institute is about a thousand miles.” Ganon replied. Some of the students gasped. “Normally, for people like Lisa and I, a thousand miles is not too much of a problem. We can probably reach the Valis Institute in a few days if we wanted. However, how can I possibly bring all of you along? If we were to walk, it would probably take about a month, not accounting for any of the potential dangers and obstacles we may meet. It would be foolish, and some of you may even perish on the way.” The faces of some of the students couldn’t help but grow pale. Brien had an unpleasant expression on his face, as he couldn’t even imagine potentially not even being able to sleep on a bed for a month.

    Nikolas, another one of Eldon’s classmates, piped up. “That still doesn’t explain why we are going into the forest, sir.” 

    “I was just about to explain.” Ganon smiled. Cheeky kid. With a slight movement of his hands, Ganon procured a fist sized azure stone out of thin air. “This, students, is a magic power absorption stone. It will be able to absorb large amounts of magic power much faster than I can from its surroundings and allow me to cast a teleportation spell.” Excited murmurs broke out. Teleportation? To be able to instantaneously travel from Aramore to Valis Institute? Although the students had a basic knowledge of magicians and swordsmen and learned about teleportation in school, they did not expect that they would have the chance to teleport so quickly.

    Such a spell would probably require massive amounts of energy, Eldon thought.

    “Usually, I have a few fully charged absorption stones on me. However, I had already used them up for other matters, and neglected to charge them up. Forgive this old man. If I were to attempt to teleport all of you now with my inner magic power, I would most likely become exhausted and fail.”

    “You don’t look that old, sir.” Alera (Author’s note: Decided not to make her a forgotten one liner side character.) noted. 

    Ganon’s eyes gleamed. “I don’t? Believe me, I am older than I appear to be. Anyway, the reason we have to go into the forest is because the density of magic power is much greater than that of the surrounding areas. It would take days if I started absorbing in the town, and it could potentially even attract some magical beasts. Absorption stones are delicious and valuable to most minor races. As a result, we may attract a few creatures, but there shouldn’t be anything major. The edges of the forest only have a slightly higher density of magic energy than the outside, so we will trek in a little bit deeper to accumulate magic power faster.” A flash of light sparked from Ganon’s hands and entered the stone. “I’ve activated the absorption of the stone. Let us go.” With that, the small group entered the forest.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Eldon saw some familiar places as they walked on the increasingly narrow path in the forest. A few notable gnarly trees stood out to him, and he recognized a small gap under one of the trees, which was surprisingly comfortable to sit on to answer nature’s call. He saw the giant rock on the left side of the path, which Mrs. Fern had warned her students not to lose sight of while they were searching for herbs. As long as they could see the rock, then they should have been safe. Eldon kept looking back a while after they passed the rock, until it was obscured by the branches and foliage of the trees.

    Ganon glanced at the stone, which was glowing with a dim but growing blue light. He saw a clearing on the right path of the forest. “The density here is good enough. Let us wait for the stone to finish charging in that clearing. I need to control and sync with the energy.” Eldon and the others waded through the knee high grass. Suddenly, Eldon felt something land on his leg. It was a small black beetle, slowly making its way up Eldon’s pants. Feeling a bit tingly, Eldon gently picked it up and placed it on a nearby tree. The group reached the clearing.

    “Now, it’ll take only a few minutes or so until the stone has gathered enough magic energy for us to teleport. When I finish the teleportation casting, you MUST be in the spell.” Eldon, Brien, and Angus went to sit on a nearby log.

    “Weather’s pretty good today. Thought it was going to rain before, but seems like not.” Brien picked up a fallen branch on the ground and began to strip off the smaller branches protruding off of it.

    “This calls for a quick snack. You guys want any?” Angus said, rummaging through his giant bag.

    “No thanks.” “I’m good.” 

    Angus shrugged. “Suit yourselves.” He took out a shiny red apple, and held it up to the light. “Little bit bruised.” Opening his mouth, he took a giant bite, taking a third out of the apple in one go. Eldon sat quietly on the log, watching Ganon concentrating on the absorption stone. He could hear Angus’s chewing. Lisa was next to Ganon, using her eyes to observe the area. Her head suddenly stopped in mid movement and looked to her right. 

    “Goblins!” Ganon barked.


  • Chapter Five: Teleportation and Arrival (Part Two)

    A sudden scream pierced into Eldon’s ear. He jumped up, his heart pumping. Fearing for the worst, he began to run. It was Karis who let out the scream. About fifteen or so goblins had emerged behind Serene’s group, and it was thanks to Alera’s keen hearing that the girls hastily sprinted away from the place where they were relaxing before. However, Karis had stumbled and fell, and she was unable to get up. 

    The ugly green creatures closed on to her, making guttural sounds in whatever crude language they spoke. While goblins were smaller than human adults, they were a bit larger than the average thirteen year old. One of them gave Karis a disgusting grin, and raised a crudely made club. 

    “No!” Serene wailed.

    Eldon was already running towards Karis with Nikolas and Brien close behind, but he was not going to make it in time. Angus let out a mighty bellow, throwing his half eaten apple fiercely towards the attacking goblin’s head.

    However, before the apple reached the goblin, the goblin suddenly froze, and loosened its grip on the club. It fell and hit Karis on the shoulder, jarring her collarbone. A fine line had appeared horizontally across the goblin’s stomach. Blood began to spurt out of the cut, spraying Karis, causing her to scream again. The apple then reached its target, causing the now dead goblin’s torso to crumple sideways, twitching. The bottom half of the body was still standing limply, and the inner organs of the goblin could be easily seen in gory detail. Alera gagged, and Eldon could hear Nikolas throwing up behind him. The rest of the goblins jumped back, with a trace of fear on their faces. Eldon didn’t pay attention to the corpse and only had eyes on Karis. Groaning a bit from the exertion, he lifted the stunned Karis by her armpits. Brien hurriedly rushed from behind, assisting him. They glanced up and saw Lisa, with pure bloodlust radiating from her. She was wielding her gigantic claymore, whose tip dripped red with the goblin’s blood. Although the bloodlust wasn’t directed at them but at the goblins, Eldon and Brien couldn’t help but shiver a little.

    “They must’ve been attracted by the concentration of magic energy from the stone!” Ganon shouted, slapping his head with the hand that didn’t hold the stone. 

    He cursed inwardly. The dense concentration of the forest makes it difficult for me to sense the fluctuations of energy within living beings. Only when the goblins came close enough was he able to sense their presence. I’m ashamed to call myself a Magic Adept. Ganon sighed, knowing that his mentor would punish him for endangering the students.

    “Try not to spill any more blood if you can help it, Lisa! Combined with the energy in the stone, it's a perfect buffet for many magical beasts!” While Lisa and Ganon could easily fend for themselves, they still had the students to look after. Ganon was already beginning to cast the teleportation spell, not waiting for the energy in the stone to charge up enough for the spell. It’ll continue to absorb anyway. Time to use my own reserves too. A powerful surge of magic energy entered Ganon’s body from the stone. He began to glow with a reddish light.

    “I know, Ganon. Everyone, huddle near Ganon!” Lisa said. “I’ll hold back the goblins.” Although the goblins instinctively knew that they were no match for Lisa, the allure of the absorption stone was too great. However, whenever a goblin snarled and stepped forward, Lisa would simply increase her aura, sending the creature scampering back. Eldon and Brien quickly carried Karis over to Ganon, with Alera and Serene almost in hysteria, seeing their friend covered in blood. Angus took out a few pieces of cloth from his bag, and they began to quickly wipe off the blood. 

    “Karis! Are you okay!” Eldon said, with worry all over his face. Karis shook her head and looked up.

    “I think I’m fine now. That was quite unexpected.” Karis replied, her voice quavering a bit. “Thank you, Eldon, for saving me.”

    Eldon couldn’t help but blush.

    “No, you should be thanking Lisa. I wouldn’t have been able to reach you in time.” Eldon spoke softly. 

    Karis smiled a little. “It doesn’t matter.” She winced a little. Eldon knelt on his knees, his eyes full of concern. “I think I injured my ankle, and my shoulder hurts whenever I try to move.”

    “Don’t worry, Karis.” Ganon said, as magic energy swirled around him. “We’ll get you healed in no time soon.” Suddenly, a spell formation formed under Ganon’s feet, and grew slowly to encompass the students. “Lisa, let’s go!”

    Lisa gave another glare at the goblins, and dashed towards the group. She entered the spell, with the goblins howling behind, scrambling after her. However, Ganon had not yet completed the spell. One of the quicker goblins, snarling, attempted to jump into the formation, wildly waving his club. Angus made a fist, twisted his powerful body, and smashed it hard against the goblin’s face, knocking out some of its teeth and the goblin itself.

    “Not bad.” Lisa commented.

    “Prepare yourselves!” Ganon cried. A powerful beam of light emerged from the formation, shooting up towards the heavens. The goblins skidded to a halt, averting their eyes from the blinding light. When they returned to their senses, the only thing that was there was the slightly scorched earth where the group had been standing on.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    When Ganon completed the spell, Eldon felt as if his soul was loosely attached to his body. He felt incomparably light, and the only thing he could sense/see was pure whiteness. He faintly felt others around him, most likely the other members of his group. The whiteness began to fade in mere milliseconds, and before Eldon could even think, he found himself standing on the ground again, this time on a luxurious carpet.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Eldon attempted to orient himself, feeling slightly dizzy from the spell. After a few seconds, he recovered. A warm voice entered into his ears.

    “Welcome, children of Aramore, to the Valis Institute.” Looking up, Eldon saw a woman standing, looking to be around her 50s. Just from her voice and appearance, Eldon thought she was an older version of Mrs. Fern. Lisa bowed to the woman. “Enough with the formalities, Lisa.” The woman said, smiling. The woman sweeped her eyes over the group, and saw Karis, lying on the floor, still splattered with some of the goblin’s blood. “Good heavens!” The woman turned on to Ganon, glaring fiercely at him. Ganon shrank back; it was obvious that he feared this woman. “Explain yourself this instant, Ganon Stark! How did the poor girl end up like this!”

    Ganon whimpered. “Goblins attacked us when I was casting the spell. I couldn’t-”

    “NO EXCUSES!” The woman roared. Eldon changed his mind; Mrs. Fern never had such a fierce expression on her face. “GOBLINS? Mere goblins?!?!?” Ganon looked down.

    “Well sis, you told me to hurry-”

    “WHAT?”

    “...Nothing.”

    “I will discuss this later with you.” Slowly, the woman drew back, composing herself. Ganon breathed a sigh of relief. She walked up to Karis, who flinched a little. The woman chuckled. “Don’t worry, girl. I’m only like that to my idiotic little brother.” A soft light radiated from her hands. She placed a hand on Karis’s right shoulder and ankle, without anyone even telling her where Karis was injured.

    She must be a powerful light magician. Eldon mused. Light magic was the most powerful in healing spells. Sure enough, Karis was standing, her injuries completely healed. 

    “Let’s clean you up also.” The woman pointed a finger at Karis, and the blood slowly disintegrated into nothing. Karis was elated.

    “Thank you, Miss…?”

    “Carolina.”

    She looked at the rest of the group. There were eight of them: Eldon, Angus, Brien, Nikolas, Serene, Karis, Alera, and Rosaline. “It seems like there are quite a few of you this year. Very good.” She smiled. “This room is specially meant for teleportation, as you can see by the markings on the floor. It makes sure that you don’t accidentally teleport into something.” She looked her her brother. “How are their aptitudes?” 

    Ganon told her their aptitudes, having memorized them all. There was a surprised look on her face when she heard about Serene’s and Brien’s aptitudes, and she too was stunned by Eldon’s. After Ganon finished speaking, she clasped her hands together. “Looks like we have quite a few with potential this year! In the Valis Institute, our housing facilities are usually separated by wherever you come from, so you’ll meet some familiar and unfamiliar faces soon. Once you exit this room, the male’s living quarters are on the right, and the female’s are on the left. You all are fairly early, which is something my brother got right. The entrance ceremony takes place tomorrow.” She paused, glancing out of the door. “Sorry for the briefness of our meeting, but I have rather urgent matters to attend to with Lisa and Ganon. I’m sure your fellow townsfolk will be glad to get you acquainted with the school’s surroundings. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Carolina glanced at Lisa and Ganon, and then went out the door. They followed. Ganon looked back.

    “If you guys have any problems or anything, just ask your seniors and they’ll get you in touch with me.” With that, he exited the room. 



    “Well, that wasn’t as grand as I expected.” Brien stated.

    “There’s an entrance ceremony tomorrow, so I guess that’ll be pretty grand.” Rosaline added. 

    “Let’s go find some rooms first, alright guys?” Serene said. Everybody agreed, so they walked out of the room and into a hallway. Directly across from the teleportation room was an open hallway with a set of marble stairs leading down to what seemed to be a gigantic living room, with multiple chairs and tables. It was the first floor of the building. There was even an extremely large open space in the room where there was a large raised platform. On each floor, there were two large windows that showed a bright view of the outside. Even further across the living room was the entrance of their building. They saw the door close just as Ganon left. 

    “Wow,” Angus whistled. “This place is pretty nice!” Eldon couldn’t help but agree. The living room itself was already larger than Eldon’s house. Currently, there was no one in the living room. Everyone felt eager and couldn’t wait to explore the Valis Institute, clearly forgetting about finding the rooms. Brien started walking to the right, leaving everyone staring down the staircase.

    “Where are you going?” Eldon inquired.

    Brien looked back. “Let’s not be too hasty here. We should find some rooms to sleep in first. I’m already feeling a little bit tired. We have to find a place to put our stuff anyway.” The others woke up from their wonder, and the group disassembled.

    “See you guys soon.” Serene said. The boys nodded and headed their way.

    “Don’t try to sneak into our rooms at night.” Alera teased, causing the boys to feel indignant. However, she was already walking away, laughing with the rest of the girls.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    There were quite a few doors on the boy’s side. All of them were closed. They tried knocking, but when there was no response they attempted to get in. All of the doors were locked.

    “Seems like everyone’s out.” Angus remarked, trying to rotate a door knob. 

    “Wait, there’s one room that’s open over there.” Nikolas pointed out. They walked over to it briskly. Peeking inside, they saw a fairly large room with four separate beds and drawers, and there was even a balcony!

    “Sweet! I was expecting bunk beds and a cramped room. Looks like the Valis Institute is quite well off.” Brien said. He instantly went to the bed on the right closest to the door. He plowed straight on to it, lying face down.

    “It’s quite a coincidence that there’s just enough beds for all of us.” Nikolas joked. He closed the door.

    “Ahh...It’s surprisingly of a good quality too!” Brien happily said, sniffing the bed sheets. He took off his pack and put it down on the right side of the bed, and continued to lay there. 

    Angus raised an eyebrow. “Okay, then.” He went to the left bed near the window, notedly the farthest away from Brien’s. 

    “I’ll take this bed then if you don’t mind Eldon.” Nikolas said.

    “Not a problem.” Nikolas took the bed beside Angus’s, so Eldon took the bed next to Brien’s.

    “Angus, can I get my bag, please?” Eldon asked. 

    “Hold up.” Angus took off his bag, placing it on the floor. It made a soft thud. “Here it is.” Angus took out Eldon’s bag and handed it over. Eldon began to unpack, taking great care in handling his books.

    “Snore”

    Brien had already fallen asleep. Eldon didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. (Author’s note: I’ve always wanted to use that line :’) ).

    Angus snickered at the sleeping Brien. “Look at this punk. Completely vulnerable. I could thrash him right now if I wanted.” Nikolas stifled a laugh.

    “Knock, knock”

    Besides the fast asleep Brien, the others looked up from their unpacking. Angus went up to check who it was.
  • Chapter Six: The Valis Institute (Part One)

    Angus opened the door, revealing a boy around 15 years old. He took a brief look around, and then looked at Angus.

    “Hm? I was wondering why this door was closed. You guys are new, right?” He asked.

    “Yeah, we just--wait…” Angus scratched his head. “You are...Finlay?”

    The boy revealed a surprised expression, and then it was as if a lightbulb popped up in his head. “Oh! You guys are from Aramore! I remember you all! Angus, Nikolas, Eldon, and I guess the sleeping guy is Brien.”  He laughed. “I don’t know what you eat Angus, but you’ve gotten even bigger than I could possibly imagine.”

    Finlay was another one of the kids from Aramore. Although they had not interacted much back in Aramore because of their age difference, Eldon had a good impression of Finlay. He was known to be extremely laid back and mild-tempered. Eldon remembered that Finlay had wanted to be a swordsman. “Senior must be quite a powerful swordsman now.”

    Finlay smiled. “No need to call me senior, Eldon. We are all friends. Alas, you overestimate me. I am just a mere Intermediate Sword Apprentice.” He sighed. “The real monsters of my age are already at the Threshold level.”

    “That doesn’t seem to be much of difference. You’re all still in the same rank, right?” Nikolas asked. 

    Finlay shook his head. “It wouldn’t have been a much of a difference if, let’s say, I was a beginner and they were intermediate. However, there are multiple levels between us. Not only that, most of them come from influential families, so they have already gone through training ever since they were young. In the Valis Institute, if you have great potential, the Institute will provide you with precious materials. My talent can only be considered average.” He looked down a bit. After a slight pause, he became all smiles again. “What am I doing? Being your senior, I should give you guys an overview of the Institute! I don’t have classes until the afternoon anyway.”

    “Senior, I’ve noticed that there is a large area in the living room.” Angus said. “It’s for battle, right?”

    “Indeed. Whenever one of us makes a breakthrough or wants to test out a skill, we usually show it off to the others on the platform.”

    “I don’t understand. What if an attack goes awry and collapses the building?” Eldon asked, worried.

    “Don’t worry. The building is magically reinforced, and we can activate a barrier around the platform if needed. We never seriously fight on the platform, though. Most of time, it’s just a light spar or demonstration. If you ever need critique on your technique and power, just ask any senior who’s available in the building and they’ll usually try to help you.”

    “Show us some of your moves, Finlay.” Angus eagerly asked.

    “I don’t know, guys…” Finlay scratched his cheek, but then saw that Nikolas and Eldon were also looking him expectantly. “Okay, maybe I’ll show you guys a few moves, and then I’ll give you all a tour.” They cheered, causing Brien to stir.

    “Can’t someone sleep in peace nowadays..” He grumbled, getting out of the bed.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    In the living room, Finlay and the other four stood on the platform. Finlay made a motion with his hand.

    “Alright guys, I’ll first show you my aura. Step back a bit.” Finlay warned. The four retreated about 10 meters away. Closing his eyes, he stood about shoulder width apart, and breathed in deeply. A faint purple glow emerged from his body, and then steadily began to increase in intensity. 

    “Ha!” He roared. All of a sudden, the purple aura around him shot up and began to swirl around him in a frenzy. Finlay’s face grew a little pale, and his muscles seemed to bulge out against his clothing a little bit. Eldon widened his eyes in shock. After a few seconds, the aura settled, and color returned to Finlay’s face. He opened his eyes, and smiled at the gawking of the thirteen year olds.

    “This is nothing, really. True experts don’t even need a second to fully activate their aura, and they can do it effortlessly, unlike me.” Suddenly, Finlay dashed towards them, and before Eldon could even blink, he was already in front of them. The four flinched. Chuckling, Finlay moved back to his original position, almost appearing to be a blur in Eldon’s eyes. “Aura is a swordsman’s main power. Once you obtain your sword, it can be infused into sword and increase your battle power greatly.” He clenched his right fist, causing his aura to fluctuate. With another great shout, he bent his knees and shot his fist out straight in front of him.

    “Boom”

    Eldon felt his hair flutter from the wind caused by Finlay’s punch. He was completely stunned. All he saw was a purple blur. This was the power of someone whose talent was considered average?!?

    “Woah!” Angus pointed to the ground under Finlay’s feet. Sure enough, there were two indentations about a few centimeters deep, showing how mighty that punch was.

    “Don’t worry about it. The platform has a self-repairing mechanism. It’s slow, but it can handle something of this magnitude.” He relaxed his pose, and his purple aura slowly seeped back into him. His appearance went back to normal. “I don’t know if you guys want to be swordsmen or magician, but both paths can make you powerful. If you want to go down the swordsman route, you will have to do a lot of physical training along with growing your aura, and it is pretty brutal. However, it’s required for you to take a basic swordsman and magician course in your first year, so that you can see where your true potential lies.”

    While Angus, Brien, and Nikolas all had shining eyes, Eldon was unswayed. I’m definitely not fit to be a swordsman, he thought. He looked at his tender arms and pinched his cheek, and then glanced at Angus’s right arm. It was probably twice, no, three times the size of Eldon’s guns.

    “Come, I’ll give you guys a quick overview of the Institute outside.” Finlay raised a hand and beckoned at them.

    Suddenly, Ganon entered. 

    “Don’t you have an urgent matter to attend to?” Brien asked.

    “I’ve completely forgotten something.” He said. He took out a bag and tossed it to Angus. “Inside this bag are badges that indicate that you are students of the Institute. Prick your finger with the pin, and your blood will bind with the badge.” With that, Ganon quickly rushed out. Bewildered, the four complied with Ganon’s words. Eldon took great caution when he pricked his finger on the pin. 

    “What about the girls?” Nikolas asked as he stuck the pin to his shirt.

    “There won’t be too much of a problem today because many new people like you guys are arriving. Just give it to them later when you have the chance.” Finlay said.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    “One word to describe the Valis Institute: huge. There’s so much stuff that I’ll just tell you the general layout.” Finlay said as they walked out of the door. The thirteen year olds looked around, absorbing everything they could see. Eldon looked behind at the building, and found it to have similarities with the buildings around them. “This is one of the residential sections of the Valis Institute.” Finlay commented. A few people were walking around outside. Some were absorbed into books that they were holding, while others were chatting with each other. A few carried swords on them, causing Finlay to look at them enviously. “You don’t get to have your own sword until you become a Junior Swordsman.” The suns were shining brightly.

    Hmm? Eldon pondered. It was just sunsrise before. Is it because we moved to a place so far away?

    “The Valis Institute lies inside the city Versales. We are in the north of the city. Although Versales is not as large as the capital of the Talis Kingdom, it is still one of the biggest and most influential, thanks to the Valis Institute.” Finlay pointed to his right. “That direction is the north. If you keep going that way, you’ll leave the city and the Institute, and enter the Erdanian Forest. Legend has it that the Erdanian Forest used to be a sacred place, devoid of any kind of violence or evil. However, the forest is dangerous now. It goes on for miles, and you can even see the Wrathful Mountain from here.” Finlay raised his pointed finger up a bit, and the boys, squinting could see a tiny speck in the distance. “Well, sort of.” Finlay smiled ruefully. “For a few miles in, the forest isn’t that dangerous at all. You’ll probably go in a little bit quite frequently this year during some classes. Once you get deeper into the forest, you’ll encounter stronger and stronger beasts. We have patrols around the forest anyway to make sure that powerful beasts don’t come charging towards the city. Anyway, let’s head towards the center of the Institute.” Finlay turned and began walking west (Author’s note: Actually south, but you know what I mean.). The four thirteen year olds followed, close behind.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    After about 30 minutes of a walking, the group reached the center of the Institute. Eldon felt a bit tired from the walking.

    This place is a lot bigger than I thought.

    In the center stood a giant statue which depicted a man wielding a stuff. Even though it was only a statue, it seemed to exude power and regality. 

    “That, my friends, is the statue of the founder of the Valis Institute, Alex Vermont. He founded the school about five hundred year ago. It was said that he was just another commoner, but with his talent, he became a Apex Legendary Magus. He was probably the most powerful being of his time. He founded this school in hopes of providing equal opportunity to commoners. It was said that he had lived up to three hundred years, and could’ve lived even longer. However, he suddenly disappeared one day, and his fate is still unknown.” They stood in silence for a while, admiring the statue and the person it depicted. Finlay turned to face the direction of the forest.

    “I’ll tell you the general location of the major places in the Institute. To my west is the Feldar Library. It contains thousands upon thousands of different books; you can find nearly anything you want to learn about in the library.” Eldon made a mental note to go there immediately afterwards. “To the south is the Valis Institute Hall. There, you can buy and sell many things, ranging from magical items to raw materials stripped from a beast’s body. You can also go there and validate your ranking. You can easily tell whether you rank up or not, but you can get rewards and greater school privileges if you confirm your rank there. To the east is the main building, and you guys will go there tomorrow for the entrance ceremony. Most classes take place there. In the Southeast is the Battle Arena. You can go there to have friendly sparring matches, or settle a problem with a fellow student. Violence against fellow students is strictly prohibited, and if you are caught abusing weaker students, you are punished heavily. You can even be expelled. Tournaments are regularly held in the Battle Arena and prizes are given to winners to motivate students to train harder.” Finlay continued to mention and point out buildings to them as they ambled around for a bit. Before they knew it, it was already midday. Angus’s stomach grumbled.

    “Haha. Looks like someone’s hungry.” Finlay said. “Tell you guys what; I’ll treat you all out in the city for lunch. There are places to eat in school too, but I’ll give you guys a special treat today.”

    “Well, I won’t say no to that.” Angus replied, patting his stomach.

    “Are you sure Finlay? That sounds like it might be expensive.” Nikolas said.
    “No worries. You get a monthly pay depending on your rank, and there are various jobs in the city and Institute you can take to make some money. The stronger students go out to hunt beasts and sell the body parts of the beasts.” 
    ____________________________________________________________________________


  • Chapter Six: The Valis Institute (Part Two)

    Damn, Finlay regretfully thought, as he saw Angus tear through his 8th helping of steak. He sneaked a peek at his money bag. Oh well. I can’t take back my word now or my name isn’t Finlay. Helping out my fellow townsmen is a good enough reward for me.

    “This place has pretty good food,” burped Angus, rubbing his stomach. “Andy’s Steaks, right? I’ll remember this place.”

    Nikolas leaned back in his seat, picking his teeth with a toothpick. “I thought the Valis Institute was pretty big, but the city’s just as amazing. I’ve never seen so many people. And the number of merchants! They’re literally everywhere.”

    “Of course; we are from a town. How can it compare with a city?” Finlay smirked.

    “Ding, ding”

    Finlay stood up and looked at the clock inside the restaurant. “It’s 1:00 PM. My classes start soon. You guys should get your schedules tomorrow at the main building.” He rummaged into his money bag, taking out a few silvers and coppers. “That’s for the cost of the food. I’ll see you guys later!” 

    “Bye!” Eldon said.

    Finlay got up and left. Eldon stood up.

    “I’ll be going to the library now. I’ll see you guys later too.”

    Brien snorted. “Typical Eldon.” 

    “Don’t stay out too late, you hear me Eldon?” Angus joked. Eldon smiled.

    “Who are you, my mother?”

    “Haha.”
    ____________________________________________________________________________
    In the afternoon, Eldon managed to make his way to the library. He stopped in front of it, sighing when he saw that he had to go up a bunch of stairs. 

    Feeling quite worn out after all the walking he did today, Eldon reached the entrance of the library. The library was rather magnificent. There were two enormous statues of what Eldon recognized to be dragons on the top of the stairs, staring down on him. Eldon was surprised by how well crafted the statues were; it felt as if they could come to life in any moment. The building’s exterior was mainly painted white, but there were linings of silver etched generously on the building; a close look revealed that the etchings were all decorations of various things, and they were all obviously carved with great care. It probably the most beautiful building Eldon had ever seen before. Taking a deep breath, Eldon went inside.

    Books. Books everywhere. Eldon had never seen so many books in his life. He stood in front of the entrance, goggling. A lady sitting on a desk in front of the entrance raised her eyebrows but said nothing. Only when a few people gave him some weird looks did he wake up from his trance, feeling slightly embarrassed. He walked swiftly to the closest bookshelf, trying to act natural. Taking a quick sweep across a shelf, he found something that caught his eyes. 

    A History of Praxus

    Eldon had never seen such a thick book before in his life. He took the book off the shelf with both of his hands, groaning from the weight. Stumbling a little, he heaved the book over to a nearby desk, almost slamming it on the desk. Feeling slightly eager, Eldon sat down and began to read. He lost the track of time as he became completely engrossed in reading.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Time flew by. Before Eldon even noticed, the library was nearly empty as nighttime approached. Nevertheless, he still continued to read. He had even forgotten about dinner. 
    Suddenly, Eldon jolted straight up. A peculiar feeling originated from his chest and spreaded out. He had never felt such a feeling before in his entire life. Is there something wrong with me? He shivered, thinking that he was being watched.

    He felt a hand pat down on his shoulder, causing him to jump out of his chair. He turned around and saw Angus. “Don’t scare me like that, Angus!” 

    “I knew you would still be here. You need to pay closer attention to the time. You eat yet?”

    Eldon shook his head.

    “I got some food back in the building. We should go now.” Eldon sighed, reluctant to part with the book. He still had a lot to go through, but he had already learned a lot.

    “You can borrow the book, you know.” Angus gestured at the lady who sat at the desk in the front. 

    “Great!” Eldon happily said. Angus picked up the book for him, and they went to the lady. Angus placed the book on the desk.

    “I haven’t seen your faces before. I suppose you’ve just arrived today.” Eldon and Angus nodded. The lady smiled at Eldon. “Very good. It looks like you have quite a passion for reading.” Reaching under her desk, she took out a bronze colored card. “This will be your library card. I will activate it and bind it to you. The rules for borrowing are very simple. You can loan up to 20 books at once, but you must return them after one month. The card will turn red if you are tardy in returning the books, and we will be able to track you.” The card glowed yellow. “Place a finger on the card.” Eldon obliged, and felt a tiny spark. The lady retracted the card, and placed it on the book. “It’s all yours now.”

    “Thank you.” Eldon said gratefully. The lady looked at Angus.

    “Would you like a library card also?” She asked.

    “Maybe some other time.” The lady nodded.

    “Let’s go.” Eldon said. Angus took the book, and they headed back to their living quarters.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    After quickly eating the food Angus had saved, Eldon began pore over the book again in the living room after finding a comfortable chair and desk. Although it was dark outside, there were special magic crystals hovering about, giving Eldon enough light to read. He wondered where they came from. After a few hours, Nikolas came into the living room.

    “Eldon, get some sleep.” He said, rubbing his eyes. “It’s almost midnight.”

    “Alright.” Eldon slowly got up from the desk, and carried his book to the room. Brien was already sound asleep, and even Angus was heavily snoring away. Eldon went to his bed, and placed the book on top of his drawer. Another small magic crystal was glowing on top of his drawer.

    “How do we turn off these things?” Eldon asked.

    Nikolas touched the crystal on his drawer, and it went out. “Touch it.” It became dark.

    “Good night, guys.” Eldon said, tucking into his sheets.

    “Night.” Nikolas mumbled. The other two continued to lay there, sound asleep. Eldon shut his eyes.



    ...
    “snore”
    ...

    “SNORE”

    Nikolas and Eldon groaned.
  • Chapter 6.5: Awakening

    On the same day of Eldon and his classmates’s arrival in the Valis Institute, business was just as usual in the Erdanian Forest during the morning. The stronger, more powerful beasts laid deep in the forest, where the abundance of magical energy was greater. A couple of experienced students wandered around, looking for beasts to kill. The teachers of Valis Institute took great care of protecting the students, and only about a dozen or so students had been killed in the year so far. Usually, if a patroller finds a student crossing a boundary in the forest that led to an area full of beasts stronger than the student, he/she will warn them. However, they will not force the student to comply. If he or she dies, then it is because of their own foolishness, and the Valis Institute does not need people who will grow up to be reckless with their power.

    Somewhere within a few miles away from the Valis Institute, a small stream flowed in the forest. The trees around this stream curved around it, as if trying to block it from the sun. It was rather shallow, and contained no fish. The water was crystal clear, and many stones and rocks could be seen through the water. A few particularly large rocks were partially submerged in the water. There were quite a few pretty pieces of stone. Some were round, others were oval, and some had strange shapes. Nevertheless, they were all of a different color. However, under a few of the rocks in the stream was a particular stone. This stone was very strange. It was significantly bigger than the rocks covering it, but if one did not observe closely, then it would be easily missed. It was about the size of a human fist, but what was extremely abnormal about this stone was that it was perfectly round; it was too round to be made of from nature’s hands. The color was strange too. It was a dull grey color, making it seem even more lifeless than the other rocks surrounding it. Other from its spherical shape, there didn’t seem to be any particular value in the stone. However, if word of its existence got out, then even the most powerful experts in the entire world would come out of their hiding, and fight each other to the death just to get their hands on this stone. Because this stone was a Dragon Core.

    Not only was it a Dragon Core, but it was also the core of the most powerful dragon that had ever existed in the moral world: Ladriath. Although the core seemed lifeless, it was still unimaginably precious. To have this core could potentially mean to control the entire world.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Ladriath’s core had laid in that stream for untold years, before the continent Praxus even existed. Once a dragon’s mortal body was slain, its consciousness would be left in the core. However, those who are able to slay a dragon can easily deal with the core. If a dragon managed to survive and exist in its core, then its lifespan could be easily extended for countless years. A Dragon Core can do very little by itself when compared to when it was within its body; its true power could only be shown in the body of the original dragon. However, the only way Dragon Cores were ever removed was by killing the dragon or literally ripping the core out of its flesh. How Ladriath’s core was removed from its body is unknown, but it is unlikely that it has survived till this day. An extremely long time had passed since Ladriath’s core separated from its body; his consciousness surely was gone, and his soul must have long passed. It’s such a shame, for the most powerful mortal dragon to somehow pass away in his sleep. How his core was separated from its body would probably never be known.



    The day grew into the afternoon.



    Suddenly, a faint flicker sparked in the middle of Ladriath’s lifeless core. It was of a bright azure-green color, similar to the color of Ladriath’s scales in the past. The flicker increased in intensity a bit, before weakening. Soon, the flicker was small that it seemed like even the slightest brush at the core would end the flicker’s life. Whatever was trying to emerge from Ladriath’s core would be lost.

    The flicker grew smaller and smaller, before condensing into a tiny ball, the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

    “Whoosh”

    Suddenly, the azure-green ball expanded in size. It spread out frantically, as if it were gasping for breath. Eventually, the ball’s glow covered the entire core, and continued to shine, growing brighter and brighter. Soon enough, the entire area around the part of the stream the ball was hidden in was lighted up in a bright azure-green color. At the rate the intensity was growing, it was bound to attract magical beasts and the Institute’s patrollers. Eventually, the light stopped growing, and began to shrink, as if it was being absorbed by the core. A few minutes later, all the light was contained inside the core, swirling about. The azure-green color started solidifying, spreading evenly across the core. Soon enough, the light faded, but this time, the once dull grey colored core became azure-green.

    Ah. That was a good nap. 

    Ladriath had awoken.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    After lying dormant for so long, Ladriath’s mind was extremely sluggish. Slowly but surely, however, his memories began to come back. 

    Have I not passed into the void? He thought. He stretched his wings out. However, they didn’t obey.

    Hmm?


    WHERE IS MY BODY!?!?!?!
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    After a while, Ladriath calmed down.

    Good news is, I’m not dead yet. But what can I do with just my Core? Although a Dragon Core contained all of the power of the dragon, it was extremely fragile, and could collapse and implode with the slightest disturbance. Using its power, Ladriath could cast some dragonic techniques and move around. It did not change the fact that Ladriath was extremely vulnerable now, however. 

    I don’t know how long I’ve slept. Why I slept. But I need to check my surroundings for now. Ladriath scanned the area with his powerful soul. He had no fear of being noticed, because although his power was greatly weakened by the long slumber, that did not affect the ability of his soul scanning. 

    This doesn’t seem to be the Niandre Forest, although it feels familiar. This place is overrun with beasts, though. Ladriath paused. For some reason, although my body is gone, my core still feels attached to it.

    Perhaps my body is still out there? A dragon’s body could exist for a very long time. Even after a dragon dies, as long as it dies of age and not from grievous wounds, then the body would remain. Ladriath felt his weakened power continue to grow smaller.

    This is bad. I must have slept for eons. Normally, Ladriath’s Dragon Core would have a seemingly limitless amount of energy stored within. However, virtually all of that energy had escaped. Ladriath began to absorb energy from the air.

    Hmm? What is this crap!? Ladriath thought, bewildered. How can there be so much impure qi in the air? 



    I can barely absorb any of this energy...It takes too much effort. Ladriath could feel his power weakening.

    I need a body, and fast. In the past, Ladriath would have had no problem, but the energies in the air were too impure for him. Once he merges with a body, he can connect their souls and sustain his life; then, he could concentrate on increasing his core’s power. Ladriath was forced to accept that the only way he was going to survive was that he had to merge with another organism’s body. However, who was Ladriath? He was a mighty and proud dragon. It showed how desperate he was that he had to lower himself to fuse with an inferior creature’s body.

    To think that I’ll be forced to do this...Should I just enter the void? Ladriath thought.

    No! I’ve been gone for so long. There might be some interesting things that I can experience in this world.Ladriath began to search for a suitable body. However, it has to be known that Ladriath cannot possess the body; he would have to destroy the soul, and that would not help him at all.  

    Ladriath found a wolf-beast with three eyes. No, I don’t want that…

    He found a rat-beast. Definitely not that...It’s too weak.

    Ladriath continued to search, but the more he searched, the more time that passed. He grew increasingly frantic. I won’t last till the next day.



    Argh! I don’t want to possess any of these beasts! With an internal roar, Ladriath expanded his soul sense to over 10 miles.

    !!! 

    Humans! Ladriath grew slightly wary. He doesn’t know how far humans have come after so long. Merging with a human would grant him greater chances to explore the world, but how could Ladriath possibly trust a human? If he merged into a body of a human, then as long as he stayed quiet, then the human would never notice. However, Ladriath did not want to remain forever passive. He knew that if the human ever revealed Ladriath’s existence, then both of their lives would be over. 

    Ladriath’s scanning passed over the library, where Eldon was currently reading. Suddenly, Ladriath stopped his search, having felt Eldon’s soul.

    This sensation...It’s extremely similar to Aevas’s. Aevas used to be one of Ladriath’s closest companions when he was younger. Aevas was probably the strongest demon Ladriath had ever met; he was even stronger than Ladriath himself, albeit Ladriath wasn’t as powerful as he was when he was younger. However, Aevas had suddenly vanished one day; Ladriath did not know whether he died or Ascended. How can this be possible, for a human to have a soul virtually identical to Aevas? Ladriath hesitated. He remembered what Aevas had told him during one of their conversations before a battle.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    “Ladriath.” Aevas had said, looking up at the dragon.

    “Hm?”

    “If you ever meet someone with a soul extremely similar to mine, just know that…” Aevas paused.

    “Continue?”

    “Just know that you can completely trust that person, even if it means entrusting your core to him.”

    Ladriath snorted, spewing out a bit of gas. “What makes you so confident? Think that it’s going to be you reincarnated? I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. Although I have no proof, I’ve learned from ancient knowledge that my mother passed down to me. Souls are cleansed after death, and are completely reborn.”

    “Oh.” Aevas paused. “Just trust me. You may not have any other options.”

    Ladriath yawned (Author’s note: This was before he was at the peak of his power, so he still has worldly needs). “I trust you, my friend; there is no reason for you to lie to me. I doubt I’ll ever be forced into that kind of scenario, though.”

    “You never know.”

    “Meh.”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Was Aevas a psychic or something? Ladriath thought in the present. Screw it. I have few other options, and this one seems to be the best. Ladriath marked Eldon by leaving a bit of his soul within. Hmm...There are still other people around. I can’t just teleport...Humans sleep at night, so I’ll wait.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    It’s time. Mustering his remaining energy, Ladriath teleported into Eldon’s room, where everyone was currently asleep. His teleportation was silent and quick, only leaving behind a flash. Suddenly, a figure arrived at the location Ladriath was just at before. It was Ganon, who was punished by his sister and was forced to patrol.

    Huh, must’ve been my imagination. Ganon shrugged, and disappeared into the woods.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Exhausted, Ladriath could barely float his core over Eldon’s still form. Eldon and Nikolas had managed to fall asleep, despite of Brien and Angus’s unceasing snores. Too...tired…
    Slowly, Ladriath approached Eldon’s chest. With a flash, the core then sank into Eldon’s chest, as it would in water. A few seconds later, Ladriath’s core had disappeared. There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary.

    Eldon turned onto his side, mumbling.
  • Chapter Seven: Communication and Beginning of a Friendship (Part One)

    When Ladriath speaks to Eldon, it’ll be like “blahblah”

    When Ladriath thinks to himself, it’ll be like blahblah
    ____________________________________________________________________________


    “Knock knock”

    “Wake up!” Finlay’s muffled voice passed through the door. “You guys have about two hours or so until the entrance ceremony.”

    “Ugh…” Nikolas moaned. Slowly, he got up from the bed. There were dark circles under his eyes. He and Eldon had barely gotten any sleep last night. “We’re going to need to get some earplugs.”

    “Snore”

    Nikolas threw his pillow at Brien.

    “Ah-WAH? Oh…” Brien rubbed his eyes. “It’s morning already?”

    “You guys know that the bathroom is in the door and the end of the boy’s side, right?” Finlay asked in the hallway.

    Angus let out a mighty yawn, having also woken up. “Yeah, we got it. Anyone cooking in the kitchen?” 

    “One of the girls from Aramore, I think Serene, is making breakfast for everyone.” Finlay replied. Instantly, the three boys jumped off from their beds. Serene’s mother was an amazing cook, and some of her skills had been passed down to Serene. Angus opened the door, and greeted Finlay.

    “Haha, looks like you guys are quite eager.” Finlay looked inside, and saw that Eldon was still sleeping. He frowned. “What’s wrong with him?”

    “Probably exhausted from last night.” Nikolas replied. Brien went up to Eldon’s bed, and start to gently slap Eldon’s cheeks.

    “Wake up, sleeping beauty.” He cooed, causing the others to laugh. However, Eldon continued to lay there on his bed, showing no response. “Oi, rise and shine!”

    Eldon stayed still. Angus took in a deep breath.

    Brien went to stop him. “Don’t-”

    “WAKE UP ELDON!” He bellowed.

    “ARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    On the way to the living room, they saw a few people emerge from their doors, having been woken up by Angus’s shout. A few were quite irritated, and Angus apologized to them. They also met a few other people from Aramore, including Lucy, Angustus, and Franz. 

    Why do I feel so tired, Eldon thought, walking along side with his friends. It’s like I have no energy at all.

    “That would be partially my fault.”

    Eldon blinked. Now I’m hearing voices. I must be really tired.

    “Yes, you are.”

    Eldon looked around. “Did you guys hear someone say ‘Yes, you are.’?”

    Finlay frowned. “Nope.” 

    “That happens to me sometimes if I don’t sleep for a while.” grumbled Brien. “Makes you hallucinate and stuff. I remembered when I thought I-” He paused. “Nevermind.”

    “No, no, I would really like to hear.” Angus grinned. Brien glared at him. Eldon paid them no attention.

    “Don’t worry, human child. I am within you.”

    Eldon was spooked. Did he incur the wrath of a ghost or spirit? Wh-what do you want with me?

    Eldon could hear a deep chuckle reverberate in his mind. “Relax. All you have to know is that I have no ill intentions against you. You would be already dead if I wanted you. So I suppose your name is Eldon? Your large friend has quite a loud voice.”

    Eldon did relax slightly, but he wasn’t about to open his arms up to something that just appeared a few seconds ago. Yes, my name is Eldon. He paused. Um...What is your name? What are you? I mean, who are you? The voice remained silent for a while.

    “Although we’ve barely known each other, one of my closest friend had told me to trust someone like you, and he had saved my life quite a few times. When I tell you who I am, do not panic. Do you understand? No one can find out about me, or both you and I will die.”

    Hesitating slightly, Eldon thought, I understand. Eldon wasn’t sure if the being was threatening him, but he wasn’t going to risk it.

    “My name is Ladriath, once the most powerful mortal dragon in existence. Currently, I only exist in my core and I survive off your soul.”

    ...Okay.

    “Hm? Don’t you know who I am?”

    Sorry, but I’ve never heard of you before, so there was no particular reason for me to panic. But did you say that you’re surviving off my soul? Eldon had never known that souls existed, because he did not undertake a path yet.

    For people to have forgotten me, Ladriath thought. “There is no reason for you to fear. No permanent damage has been done; I merely needed to attach to something in order to survive.”

    Eldon was unconvinced. How long have you been...inside me? 

    “Since yesterday. I merged into you while you were asleep.”


    ____________________________________________________________________________


  • Chapter Seven: Communication and Beginning of a Friendship (Part Two)

    Eldon and his friends were busily eating Serene’s cooking in the living room, sitting together around a circular table.

    “How is it?” Serene asked while she was making more.

    Angus was in an excellent mood. Will I be able to eat Serene’s cooking everyday?

    “It’s too delicious.” Angus said after swallowing.

    “Can I have seconds?” Brien asked, holding up his empty plate. Serene smiled.

    “Of course! Just wait a little bit.”

    Finlay was astonished. “I’ve heard rumors of Serene’s cooking, but something like this!” Although he had already eaten breakfast, Finlay continued to wolf Serene’s cooking down his throat.

    Serene faintly blushed from all the compliments, while Karis and the other girls looked at her, slightly envious.

    “Sigh...Serene is virtually perfect.” Alera said. Even though Serene had arrived yesterday, she had already attracted much attention, and currently, some other people in the living room were sneaking peeks at her. Alera saw Eldon, staring at his food.

    “Ho...Does it not suit your tastes, Eldon?" Alera asked.

    Eldon continued to stare blankly. In his mind, he was currently answering Ladriath’s questions about the world.

    “Eldon?” Karis said. She poked him in the arm, startling him.

    “Oh, Karis!...No, the cooking is really good!” Eldon began to quickly eat his food. The others stared.

    “What’s wrong with him?” Rosaline wondered.

    “Don’t mind him. We were kept awake last night by these two’s snores.” Nikolas gestured at Brien and Angus, who rolled their eyes. “He’s sort of out of it right now, but it should clear up.” 

    What the others didn’t know, however, was that Eldon was currently talking with Ladriath in his mind and wasn’t paying much attention to their conversation. Brien glanced at the clock hanging on one the walls of the first floor.

    “We should go soon. It’s still a bit early, but we don’t have to rush. It’s annoying to be late, because you start to hurry, and that makes me tired.” The others agreed, but Eldon was once again staring blankly at his finished plate.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    The group was leisurely making its way towards the main building. Since Finlay was not a new student, he had no reason to go and said goodbye to the group. Everyone was busily talking to each other except for Eldon, but they paid him no mind, thinking that he was still a bit out of it from exhaustion. Eldon was already growing used to Ladriath’s presence. He must have caused the feeling I felt in the library yesterday. Eldon had read a bit about dragons. He knew that dragons were known for their regality and pride, but also were fiercely loyal to those who were friendly to them or aided them. Having such a powerful ally would be of great benefit. Ladriath was also quite courteous in talking with him.

    “You don’t have to focus too much when you’re communicating with me.” Ladriath said. “Just think, and you’ll be able to easily speak with me. Anyway, I still have some other questions.”

    I will try to answer them within the best of my abilities, Eldon replied.

    Ladriath liked this boy. He was well mannered and polite; he needed to have more confidence, though. He was also glad that he was able to speak with someone without him/her trembling in fear. Although he didn’t know it, he was already growing very comfortable with the boy, thanks to his soul being similar to Aevas’s.“Let’s see...Why is the qi in the air so impure?”

    Qi? Eldon thought. I have never heard of something like qi before, but it is said that magicians and swordsmen absorb magical energy from their surroundings in order to increase their strength. I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer to your question.

    Ladriath snorted. Having questioned Eldon while he was eating breakfast, Ladriath that it would be nearly impossible for someone to have the abilities of a swordsman and a magician, or why else would the paths of magicians and swordsmen be separated? This magical energy is probably the impure qi that I’ve been sensing. No wonder all the human’s I’ve scanned seemed weak to what they were back then. I doubt that most humans even know how to refine impure qi. After Ladriath attached his soul to Eldon’s, he did not have to worry about sustaining himself, and could focus on refining the impure qi into something that he could absorb. “Another question. Where is this place?”

    We are on the continent Praxus, and this place is the Valis Institute, where young people come to train in order to become a swordsman or magician, Eldon replied.

    “Praxus? I have never heard of such a continent before.” Ladriath realized that his slumber lasted much longer than he thought it had before. “So I guess you’re here to become a magician or swordsman, right? What are your elemental affinities?”

    Eldon was stunned. This sentient being inside of him must have existed a long time ago. Yes. What do you mean by affinity? Like how easily I can practice an element?

    “Yes.”

    I have neutral affinity in all elements, Eldon said.

    Ladriath was stunned; Aevas had told him one day that he too, had neutral affinities for all elements. Ladriath was always astonished by how powerful Aevas had been, even though his affinities restricted him. Ladriath grew even more convinced that Eldon was Aevas reincarnated. “Child, do you want to become powerful?”

    Eldon was surprised, but also a little excited. Although he did not understand the significance of the Dragon Core within him, he knew that the being inside of him was quite extraordinary. I’ve always wanted to become a powerful magician, so that I’ll be able to protect my family and become someone that my parents and sister can be proud of.

    Ladriath was amused. “Eldon, with your neutral affinities and the impure qi in the air, it would be virtually impossible for you to become what you desire.” Eldon became slightly crestfallen. However, you have a Dragon Core within you. What if I told you that you could be someone powerful with the abilities of a magician and swordsman?”

    Eldon was astounded. Is such a thing even possible? He asked.

    Ladriath grew rather smug. “There are very little things that are impossible for me. Child, do you want to become a Cultivator?”
  • edited July 2015
    Chapter Eight: Dragon Core Enhanced Cultivation

    A Cultivator? Eldon could not help but widen his eyes in disbelief. Although barely anything was known about the path of cultivation, nearly every person knew that it was once regarded to be the ultimate path. In fact, the path of the swordsman and the magician are said to have been inferior derivations of the path of the cultivator. Originally, there was only the path of the cultivator, but it became nearly impossible to practice as the qi in the air grew impure. However, even if it became nearly impossible to practice the path of the cultivator, that didn’t necessarily mean that the ways to practice it would be lost, and that puzzled Eldon. But, Eldon knew that Ladriath was a very ancient being and that it would not be preposterous to say that he knew how to practice cultivation. It’s said that the ways of practicing it have been long lost, Eldon cautiously thought. No one knows how to become a cultivator anymore.

    “Such a thing does not apply to me, Eldon. The reason that I rose to power was because I was the most talented and monstrous cultivator the world had ever seen before.”

    I thought that only humans could practice paths, Eldon replied. Ladriath scoffed.

    “Humans. Humans know very little about how the world works.”

    “Eldon, you want to go back to Andy’s Steaks for lunch later?” Angus asked.

    “Sure, but I think I’m going to get something else instead of steaks this time.” Eldon said.

    “It’s a damn steak shop, Eldon. What else are going to get? Potatoes?” Brien smirked.

    Angus clapped his hand on Eldon’s shoulder. “You’re a growing boy. You need meat, lots of meat!” Angus gave a meaningful look at Brien. “Their potatoes aren’t that bad either.”

    Ladriath continued. “You are rather lucky to have met me, Eldon. Although your affinities are merely neutral, you still have good potential.”

    How? Eldon asked.

    “Think of it like this; the elements have not accepted you, but neither have they rejected you. Affinities can be changed, but you don’t need to know this now.”  Ladriath sighed. With the impure qi in the air, however, becoming a cultivator is nearly impossible. BUT, I am able to refine the qi, and through that, cultivation becomes possible. When I chanced upon you yesterday, I was on the verge of death because I was not able to absorb the impure qi. When I tried to refine the qi, I found out that it took too long and my core would eventually run out of energy and break apart. My soul would then have no substance to reside in and therefore perish. By attaching my soul to yours and merging my core with your body, it makes it possible for me to survive. Dragon Cores are quite peculiar. Even though you are just a mere mortal boy, just having a body my core can reside in makes it possible for me to survive and thrive. The speed of my refining and absorption of qi has dramatically increased thanks to you. Although my power cannot be compared to what it was before, my cultivation level remains the same. With enough time, I can bring back the power in my core to what it was originally.”

    What does that have to do with me becoming a cultivator? Eldon asked.

    “Don’t be hasty, child. Although I had just begun refining and absorbing yesterday, the amount of qi I have accumulated is quite vast. Right now if I wanted to, I could infuse so much qi into your body that you would quite literally explode.”



    “If you couldn’t tell, I was joking before. Once you are as ancient as a being like me, very few things interest you anymore. That is partially why I have decided to make you a cultivator; it will be quite interesting to see how you will fare in this world of impure qi. With me, I am sure that you can become quite powerful. Have you attended any classes yet?”

    No. Right now, my friends and I are going to the entrance ceremony.

    “I see. Hmm…Let me explain to you how I am going to make you a Cultivator. Pay attention.” Ladriath paused for a few seconds. “You had said before during breakfast that swordsmen and magicians absorb impure qi, or as you know as magical energy in order to increase their rankings?”

    Yes.

    “Cultivators more or less did the same thing, but our rankings are different. I will explain that later on also when you began your training. However, cultivators became powerful because they absorbed pure qi, not impure qi. I am sure that, thanks to the concentration of impure qi in the air now, cultivators have more or less died off. Refining impure qi is extremely difficult. I doubt that you could ever learn how to refine qi in your entire lifetime even if I tried to teach you. However, you do not have to worry about that at all, and nor will you ever have to absorb this impure qi from the air. I will provide all the pure qi for you and nourish your body and soul with it.”

    Don’t you also need it to sustain yourself? Eldon asked. Ladriath snorted.

    “It is true that I still need to refine and absorb qi for myself in order to survive. However, you are underestimating the extent of my abilities. The amount of pure qi I can absorb is nearly limitless compared to the amount you humans can even absorb impure qi. Because I merged my core to your body and attached my soul to yours, providing a little bit to you is no problem at all. This is the reason why I said you can become a powerful cultivator. My core is meant for the body of a dragon. You are a human; the body of a human and the body of a dragon simply cannot be compared to each other. You will virtually never run out of pure qi thanks to my core and that means you can train almost nonstop, ideally. However, the human body is quite fragile; even the most powerful of human cultivators that had challenged me to battles were quite squishy. Although I can replenish your qi when you exhaust your supply, damage builds up in your body over time. In a battle, I can heal your wounds and rejuvenate you with pure qi for a few times, but anything after that will start to deteriorate your body and harm you instead of helping you. Nevertheless, your training speed will surely be multiple times faster and more effective than your peers.”

    Eldon was elated. If everything Ladriath had said was true, then Eldon would surely become a powerful cultivator. You said that magicians and swordsmen derived from cultivators; does that mean I can also cast magic spells?

    “Of course. However, if you only focus on spellcasting as a cultivator, you will never get anywhere far. The fundamental basics of a cultivator is training one’s body. Merely absorbing qi is not enough. You need to learn how to control it and make it a part of your body, and only through grueling physical training will you be able to unleash the full potential and power of a cultivator. The most effective training is exhausting your qi storage and body to beyond their limits. After you have done that, I will begin to replenish your pure qi in a very short amount of time. You have a clear advantage over others even though your affinities are neutral. With a powerful body, will you be able to tolerate and handle more pure qi and thereby increase your personal power.”



    “I can tell that you are not the type of person who focuses on training one’s body. However, that is something we can change. Let me tell you the whole truth right now. With your current affinites, you will likely not get far at all in any of the paths without me. And even if you train cultivation but refuse to exercise your body, you will not get far ahead either.” Ladriath was silent for a while. “I have some terms if I am to teach you to cultivate. One: You must NEVER reveal to ANYONE that you are a cultivator. In school, just pretend that you are a magician and cast spells. Two: After you become powerful enough to graduate from this little place, I want you to leave and travel.”

    Travel where? Eldon thought.

    “Anywhere. I want you to explore whatever there is to explore. As long as I can meet new and interesting things, I will be content. A few battles with powerful beasts would be entertaining too.”

    Eldon pondered for a while. Physical exertion is something I dislike, but...It looks like I’m going to have to confront with it soon. The temptation of becoming a cultivator was too powerful to resist for Eldon. Alright, but I have a question. Won’t people notice my abnormal growth and training speed? What if someone finds out that I am a cultivator?

    “Back in my time, my ability to manipulate my power was unparalleled. I am confident that no one else today can even come close to matching my ability. I can easily suppress your true power and cloak your body with impure qi.”

    “We’re at the main building now, guys.” Nikolas announced.
  • I find this story extremely good and the chapters are perfectly written ; Not too long not too short and with interesting detail......But I have to ask how often would you update the series....Dude I am hooked to the story and I would like more....Hope it continues with more chapters and great work
    =D> =D>
  • I take back what I said this is downright the best story on this side of the forum.
  • I agree ^ I feel like this story has the most potential to be an awesome story. Just hope you keep up the work!
  • This could be a good story, sadly I'm not a fan of shounen Mc's, but since he is still a kid it may get better, 3/5 for now tho.
  • i want mooore please update coz i'm hungry for chapters.... :) this is an amazing story i hope you update more

  • edited July 2015
    Chapter Nine: It's Still Not the Entrance Ceremony Yet...

    “Woah.” Brien whistled, looking at the main building. “I should’ve visited this place yesterday.”

      Eldon had to agree. The main building’s size made even the library’s size pale in comparison. Eldon thought that if he had to run from one end of the building to the other, he would probably be completely out of energy by the time he finished. However, there was much more to that than merely size. Like the library, the building had multiple engravings and etchings. Eldon counted about ten floors by counting the windows, but each floor was enormous. Even the living room in Eldon’s living quarters did not match up in height. There were four towers on each corner of the square shaped building.

        Tilting his head a little bit up, Eldon could see a tower taller than the others looming above the building. It was not as thick as the other towers, but everyone could feel that there was much more to the tower than what met the eye. The building itself seemed to exude a faint golden aura as if it were alive and possessed power. Quite a few of the new students were already entering the building.  

      In front of the building’s giant entrance stood two men, one on each side of the entrance. A few other new students were staring at them and seemed afraid to go inside the building. Both of them stood completely still as if they were statues. The one of the left was a warrior clad in full armor, wielding a magnificent longsword in his right hand and a giant kiteshield in his left. His face was completely covered by a full face helmet that only had openings for the eyes and mouth. His eyes glowed a faint red, and a faint mist seemed to exude out of his mouth.

         Nikolas felt a bit uncomfortable because he thought the eyes were staring at him, but when he walked a little bit away from his position, he found out that the eyes were still staring at him. However, everyone else also thought that the eyes were staring at them! The other one of the right was a domineering magician, who used both of his hands to wield a plain staff that had a white orb attached upon one of the endpoints of the staff. Although the staff seemed fairly simple, it seemed to be pulsating and alive within the hands of the magician. The magician wore a decorated blue robe with a red cloak hanging off his shoulders. Eldon knew that the two men in front of the entrance were extremely powerful experts, and he felt pressured by their intense gazes. However, the pressure quickly lifted, surprising Eldon.

    “Although humans have become weaker, it seems as if their craftsmanship skills have never been better.” Ladriath praised. “Even the sculptures in the front of the building almost fooled me until I probed for souls.”

    What sculptures? Eldon thought. However, on a closer inspection, Eldon was shocked to see that the two men in front of the building were indeed sculptures! They were completely immobile, without a single breath coming out of the two.

    “Guys, these are sculptures.” Eldon said, shocking the rest. A student hastily walked closer to the sculptures, and with a fleeting movement, he poked the magician sculpture.

    “Wow, he’s right!” The student announced. The students who then had gathered in front of the sculptures slowly began to enter the building. Brien gave Eldon a surprised look.

    “You got some sharp eyes, Eldon.” He praised.

    Ladriath continued. “Both of the sculptures have had qi stored inside of them, and the amount is not small. Whoever was able to imbue so much qi inside these two sculptures and retain it in there was definitely not a common expert. The pressure you felt came from the killing intent the expert stored inside the sculptures. Of course, the killing intent was very faint, so it was easy for me to block it for you.”

        Angus was still looking at the building, admiring its artwork and craftsmanship. “I wonder where the Valis Institute gets all this money.”

    “Oof!” Angus felt something small collide with his back. Turning around, he saw a boy of small stature sitting on the ground. He had a rather slick head of black hair and he wore round eyeglasses.

    Rubbing his behind, the boy said, “From various clans that back the Institute, of course.”

    “Sorry about that.” Angus said. The boy took Angus’s outstretched hand and pulled himself up. However, since Angus had such immense strength, the boy felt himself lift off the air before landing back on his feet.

    “You are really strong, my friend. My name is Vernis.” He shook hands with Angus, while sneaking a peek at the girls in Eldon’s group. They are really cute. His eyes landed on Serene. Jackpot. Vernis had already decided to befriend Angus in order to get closer to the girls. Although he seemed to be a timid little bookworm outwardly, his heart was that of a player. His skill as a player, though, was questionable. He was rather unsuccessful back in his village.

    “I’m Angus. These are my friends…” Angus introduced Eldon and the rest to Vernis. Vernis said hello and smiled at all of them, but also gave deep bows to the girls. Brien raised an eyebrow and Nikolas coughed a bit.

    Vernis gave a sweeping look at the group. “From what I see, you guys probably have come from a town from the southeast, no?”

    Rosaline was surprised. “How could you tell?”

    Vernis gave another practiced smile. Although Rosaline could not compare with Serene, her dark wavy hair was still quite pleasing with her face. This girl will be my first conquest, he thought. “People from the southeast tend to wear more clothing and prefer the colors brown and white.” He pushed his glasses up. “There are eight of you. That is much more than what a normal village can produce, so I knew that you all came from a town. Eight is still a rather large amount for your usual town, but it is too little for a city. It’s just a simple observation.” Nevertheless, the others were rather impressed.
    “Where are the other people from your place?” Eldon questioned.

    “I come from quite a small village, and unfortunately, I was the only one who was able to pass the test.” Vernis gave a sad smile, inducing sympathy from the girls.

    “You can sit with us during the entrance ceremony.” Rosaline said. “I’m sure everyone won’t mind, right?” She said, looking at the boys.

    “Sure.” No problem.” “Whatever floats your boat.”

    Brien yawned.

    “How amusing. Although his looks aren’t good for a human, he knows how to talk.” Ladriath commented.

    You can see? Eldon asked.

    “Through your eyes.”

    Oh.

    Ladriath paused. “I do give you privacy when you go to the bathroom.”

    ...Okay.

    “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go.” Angus said.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    The interior of the building was much simpler than the outside, but it was still nevertheless quite a work of art. Like the outside of the building, the walls inside also seemed alive and pulsating. Across from the main entrance was a large lobby with three hallways. One went right, another went left, and the last one continued down from the entrance. There was a desk where a lady was sitting. She looked up from her work and smiled.

    “New students, hmm? Go down that hallway and you’ll get there.” She pointed at the hallway that was parallel with the entrance. Squinting, Eldon could see that the hallway led to the outside.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    There are a lot of people, Eldon thought as he reached the end of the hallway and was met by an enormous tract of grassland. It seemed to be right in the middle of the school, and there were numerous chairs placed neatly around. There was also a large platform, much bigger than the one back in Aramore, and something like a podium on top of it.

    “Looks more like a graduation ceremony to me.” Nikolas commented. He looked at the front of the rows of chairs. “Seems like we got some VIPs.” Vernis pushed up his glasses.

    “But of course. Although the Valis Institute has rather lacking requirements compared to other smaller and more elite schools, many of the major clans nevertheless send their children here, usually along with their own personal instructors. The fame and well known name of the Valis Institute is what draws many of them here. In fact, many clans settle major disputes and problems by having their most talented progeny compete in the competitions that the Institute holds. Hm...I’ve gathered quite a lot of information about this school before hand. Although merchants rarely come by my village, I always squeeze out as much information as I can get out of them. I also spent most of the day yesterday studying about the school and notable people.”

    Vernis took out a small notebook out of his pocket. “Hmm...let’s see…” He flipped through his notes. Looking up, he pointed at a male and female pair sitting in the front. Both of them were blonde and had blue eyes. There was a commanding air around them. “Ah. Those two are Jarvis and Elena, twins from the mighty Grandus Clan. It’s said that both of them are dual-elementalists, and possibly even tri-elementalists!” The twins were surrounded by quite a few admirers, but none of them dared to approach close to them and sit next to them. A few people had also already eyed at Serene previously, but Angus would always cough and the eyes would divert away.

         Vernis chuckled. “As you can see, there are already people trying to curry favors with them. In this world, having many connections is vital to one’s success.” Vernis pointed at another person sitting with his arms crossed. This person was sitting by himself, but that was because people were too afraid to approach him. Although he was not as large as Angus, his tan and bulging muscles could clearly be seen under the rays of the suns. “That, my friends, is Damien Farseeker. The Farseeker Clan is known for their aptitudes in earth. This year, it seems as if they have quite a good chance for the intra-school competition, and perhaps even for the inter-school competition. Damien Farseeker is confirmed to have a mighty aptitude in earth.”

    Brien inhaled sharply. “Damn. Looks like you have some competition, Angus.” He said, nudging his elbow into Angus’s side. Angus frowned.

    “Just because his aptitude is higher doesn’t mean I’m disadvantaged.” He confidently said.

    Vernis continued. “Although it’s possible for one to win against another of higher aptitude, the difference in ranks is usually what separates the weak from the strong. Before you are thirteen, your human core has not fully developed, so any attempt to channel and absorb magical energy is dangerous and risky. However, many clans have some methods around this. They may either speed up the development of the core, or give to their children a method to absorb qi indirectly. Nevertheless, these methods are still a bit dangerous, but they do give quite an advantage. Most of the people you see sitting in the front have already reach Rank 10; some are most likely even intermediates. When one begins to absorb and channel magical energy, one’s progression is usually constant along with others, even if one has high talent. That is why many clans start their children’s training slightly earlier to gain an advantage over their peers from other clans. Once you reach the threshold of Rank 8, though, then that is where the talented is separated from the talentless. The peak of Rank 8 is an insurmountable barrier for many. The talentless will be forever stuck at Rank 8 while the talented with break to Rank 7. After Rank 7, everyone’s progression varies.”

    Eldon tilted his head. “Humans have cores?”

    “Yes.” Vernis responded. “However, human cores are incorporeal, so they dissipate after the death of the human. If this wasn’t the case, then our race would probably be driven to extinction because we slaughter each other off for our cores.”  

    Why does everyone have similar progression in the beginning? Eldon asked Ladriath.

    “That was not the case in my time, but considering the impure qi in the air, it seems as if it takes a few years before one can completely display their talent. When one reaches the higher ranks, one is also usually able to naturally purify the qi somewhat without any training, albeit it is not too effective without training.”

    I thought the qi in your age was pure, Eldon thought.

    “There are different levels of purity, Eldon. The impure qi today cannot compare with the pure qi of my time, but I could still further purify that qi to a whole other level. For a human today to reach the level of the humans in my time would be many times more difficult. Back then, one was usually able to become stronger without being stuck at such an early bottleneck as many do today, I assume. Nevertheless, it seems as if humans have somewhat adapted to the impure qi. The sculptures in front of the entrance of the school were imbued with qi by someone who would still be considered quite a powerful expert back in my time. I suppose after Rank 8, humans are able to somewhat match up with their ancestors.”

    Ladriath paused, remembering the power that Aevas had shown. “Listen, Eldon. I was a bit hasty in what I said before about how you could not get far in any of the paths without me. That came from a part of my instinctive disdain for the weak. However, I had met someone who completed shattered in everything that I had believed in before.”

    Ladriath sighed.“Humans still do not understand enough. You all may think it is impossible for a person with low affinity to break past the so called insurmountable barrier of the peak of Rank 8, but there is a whole world out there. Nothing is for sure. I am confident to say that even if you had never met me before, with enough luck and hard work, anything is possible. All you have to do is believe in yourself. The weak will only stay weak if they believe it is so. Do you understand, Eldon?”

    Eldon gave a slight nod. Satisfied, Ladriath stopped speaking.

    Vernis continued to point out notable figures. There was Leylin from the Ashlen Clan, Samuel from the Dawn Clan, Elizabeth and Victoria from the Sedecia Clan, and quite a few others. Although they all came from numerous clans of varying power and significance, all of them had aptitudes above everyone else. The group found some seats in the middle of the chairs, and asked a few people politely to move around so that they could sit together. Eventually, after twenty or so minutes, everyone had arrived.
  • Thanks for the chapter bro! Don't tell anyone but, *whispers* This is my favorite story on the forums!
    Keep up the amazing quality writing.
  • Chapter Ten: The Entrance Ceremony

    “Cough” 

    The chattering of the students quickly died down. Looking up at the platform, they saw that there were already quite a few teachers standing by attentively on the platform. Standing behind the podium was a rather elderly man. Since when have they been there?

    The elderly was the one who had coughed a few seconds ago. He was most likely the headmaster of the school. The man wore a set of dark green robes, and there was small buckler hanging off his belt. Eldon thought that he looked like the typical old doting grandfather, but then he saw his eyes. His eyes were a color of deep gold and had the clarity and clearness of a youth, but also had the sharpness of age. Ladriath probed the elderly man with his soul sense.

    “Oh? I’ve underestimated humans yet again. This man knows how to actively refine the impure qi in the air, and the purity is pretty good. Hm…”

    If he can refine impure qi, could he be a cultivator? Eldon asked.

    “Possibly. Although impure qi and pure qi have great differences, they still are made up of the same fundamental thing in the end. Swordsmen and magicians are not cultivators simply because they only practice a part of true cultivation, and not the whole of it. Nevertheless, his skill of refinement cannot be compared to mine.”

    Why don’t people who know how to refine qi teach others? Eldon thought.

    “If you had a rare treasure, would you share it with others?” Ladriath replied. “In this world, power is everything.”

    The old man cleared his throat and smiled down at the students. "Greetings, new students of the Valis Institute! As you can all most likely tell, I am the headmaster of the school. You can all just call me Mr. Baruch. Well, let’s just keep this simple and concise. After the ceremony, you all will get a schedule of your classes, which you will attend today. For your first year here, everybody has the same classes, but you can request for extra or more advanced classes. As you all may or may not no, there are the intra-school competitions in six months. There are multiple competitions that are usually divided depending on one’s ranks, but everybody here can and will be participating in the same competition, regardless of your rankings. You, the first years, will be attending the Rising Path Competition. You will be able to show off your prowess and skill in front of many people, and you can even be sponsored and supported by powerful people. The top three of the competition will then attend the inter-school competition, but that’s for another day. I know that many of you will become powerful swordsmen and magicians who fight for our Talis Kingdom.”

    Applause broke out in the crowd of students.

    “I like this guy.” Brien shouted to Eldon while clapping. “I thought that he would go on and on and make me fall asleep.” 

    “It’s still pretty short for an entrance ceremony, though.” Angus piped in. His claps were booming, causing Eldon’s ears to tingle a bit. Brien frowned and began clapping louder, adjusting his hands for the optimal clap.

    “Clap” “CLAP” “CLAP CLAP”

    “Clap Clap” “CLAP CLAP CLAP”

    Before they knew it, Brien and Angus were clapping at each other nonstop after everyone had already stopped. They froze, finding themselves standing up next to each other with their hands in mid-clap.



    “Pff”

    A few snickers could be heard as Angus and Brien slowly went back to their seats with poker faces.

    Mr. Baruch did not seem to notice the disturbance. He looked at the first row of students. “This year, we have many people with great potential. However, you must not become complacent and arrogant with your powers. I hope that you all will be able to lead your fellow students on their paths.” He paused. “Before Rank 7, everybody more or less advances at a constant rate. However, there will always be someone who stands above them all. Whoever wins the intra-school competition will become the first year’s president. I will also take that person as my personal disciple.” Excited murmurs broke out. Everyone knew that the headmaster was the strongest person in the Valis Institute. 

    Mr. Baruch smiled. “Well, what are we waiting for? The teachers behind me will give you your schedules.”
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    “Hello, Miss Carolina.” Eldon politely said as he went up to her for his schedule.

    “Hello, Eldon.” She smiled. Next to her was a small desk with a pile of papers. She took a piece of blank paper. “Give me your badge, Eldon.”

    Eldon took his badge off his shirt and gave it to her. Miss Carolina pressed the badge onto the piece of blank paper, and words slowly appeared on it. She gave the badge and paper to Eldon.

    “The badge helps us to arrange your schedule with your fellow townsmen.” She said. “After a few days, you will get a few more classes depending on your aptitudes. There are also quite a few electives you can choose from. However, you have neutral aptitudes in all elements, so you are free to choose whichever aptitude classes that you desire and fit your schedule.”


    Eldon looked down at the paper.


    Eldon Heart: First Year Schedule


    Monday-Friday

    (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) A General History of Praxus: 8:00 AM-9:00 AM (Room 531)

    Basic Magician (Core) Class: 9:05 AM-10:05 AM (LRoom 420)

    (Tuesday, Thursday) General Knowledge of Beasts: 10:10 AM-11:10 AM (Room 405)

    (Tuesday, Thursday) General Botany: 12:30 PM-1:30PM (Room 610)

    Basic Swordsman (Body) Class: 2:30 PM-3:30 PM (LRoom 623)

    Basic Training: 4:00-5:30 PM (Training Grounds) 


    Saturday-Sunday

    First Year Combat: 1:00 PM-5:00 AM (Forest Entrance)


    “Can you give me a quick overview of the classes, please?” Eldon said.

    “Of course. In the Valis Institute, knowledge is as important as power. You will be learning various things about the world in the general classes. In the magician class, you’ll learn how to absorb magical energy into your core and transforming that energy into the form of spells and enhancements. In the swordman class, you’ll learn how to use the magical energy in your core to enhance your bodily strength. In basic training, you just take what you learn from these two classes and put them to practical use. Usually, you’ll spend the first hour working your body out, so prepare for that. After that, you can spend the rest of the time with a swordsman or magician teacher and further your strength by sparring with them or sparring with a fellow classmate. In First Year Combat, you’ll start off with fighting against weak creatures and slowly make your way up to stronger beasts in the forest.

    “Where are the training grounds?” Eldon asked.

    “It’s to the north when you exit out of the main door of your residence.” Vernis piped in from behind. Miss Carolina stared at him, and he hastily retreated behind Eldon.

    “Also, today is Sunday, but classes start tomorrow.” She said. Eldon thanked her and stepped off to the side to wait for his friends. 

    “Go to the training grounds today.” Ladriath said. “We begin training.” 

    Yes. Eldon said anticipatingly. 

    “Let me see your schedule, Eldon.” Angus said while walking over. Eldon passed his schedule to Angus, who briefly scanned it. “Cool. We have the exact same classes!”

    “We actually begin training tomorrow…” Brien complained from behind Eldon. “Sleep well tonight.”

    “Who’s that fellow near the girls?” Nikolas frowned.



    Near the Aramore girls was a young male noble, who had quite a few other girls around him. He was well built and of medium height, and had short black hair. There was an air of power around him, but there was also a hint of arrogance in his dark eyes. Nobles were always sought after to be befriended, but many would reject commoners. However, this particular noble was Lazus from the Slytha Clan, and he enjoyed the company of beautiful women ever since he was young. As a result, he was much more experienced and mature than the average boy of his age. He had spotted Serene, and liked what he saw. 

    “Hello, my name is Lazus.” He said while giving a confident smile to Serene. The other girls who were around him gave her nasty glares, but she ignored them.

    “Hi, I’m Serene.” She replied smiling. Lazus was quite handsome.

    “I haven’t seen your lovely face before. Are you a noble?” He asked.

    “No, I come from a fairly small town in the southeast.” She said.

    “Really? Well, the men in your town must be lucky indeed to have such beautiful women like you.” He gestured towards Serene and the other girls. They giggled.

    “You’re quite a smooth talker.” Alera noted.

    “I don’t deny it.” Lazus replied. He greeted the rest of the girls. Serene saw Eldon and the others looking at them. Angus didn’t seem too happy.

    “Hey guys! Can we see your schedules?” Serene beamed as she and the other girls made their way over to Eldon and the rest, causing envious stares from many people around. Lazus promptly followed. 

    Serene quickly glanced at the Aramore boys’ schedules. “Wow, looks like all of us from Aramore have the same schedule.” 

    “Who are you?” Angus said to Lazus, and not too friendly.

    “Oh, hello! I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Lazus from the Slytha Clan.” He offered a handshake to Angus. “I suppose you are from Aramore also. You’re quite lucky to be friends with these girls.” Angus continued to glare at Lazus. Eldon fidgeted. He himself did not look forward to meeting new people so suddenly, but he was not in a mood for a quarrel. Fortunately, Brien hastily went to take Lazus’s hand. Lazus didn’t seem to mind.

    “Sorry, Angus is shy when it comes to meeting new people.” Brien lied. Angus stepped on his foot, but Brien didn’t react. “I am Brien; it’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

    “I can say the same back to you.” Lazus followed right up. He shook hands with the rest of the boys except for Angus. Vernis gave Lazus a long stare. 

    A worthy opponent, he thought. 

    “Although we’ve just met each other, I’ll like to invite you all to lunch with me; how about it?” Lazus asked.

    “Lunch with nobles will take a long time.” Ladriath said. “You’ll end up being too full for training.”

    However, before Eldon could speak up, the others had surprisingly agreed. Although Angus did not like this Lazus person, he would never deny a chance for free and delicious lunch.

    Eldon hastily made up an excuse. “I would like to join you guys, but I have something important to do right now.”

    “What on earth would require such importance before classes have even started?” Nikolas said mockingly.

    “He probably can’t wait to go to the library.” Brien rolled his eyes.

    “Yeah, there’s a book I’m looking to borrow and I’m afraid someone else will take it before me.” Eldon fibbed.

    “Ha, I was right!” Brien snorted.

    Karis laughed; her voice caused Eldon’s heart to flutter. “You can still eat lunch with us though, Eldon.” Karis twirled her red hair with a finger. “I’m sure the book will still be waiting for you.” Eldon looked at her.

    “Eldon…”

    Training can wait, no? Eldon asked Ladriath.

    “We either go now or I won’t teach you anything this week.” Ladriath harrumphed. “Once you become powerful, all the girls will come flocking to you.”

    Eldon sighed. “Sorry, I really have to go. It was nice meeting you, Lazus. I’ll see you all later.” 

    Eldon reluctantly departed and headed for the training grounds. 

    “Skipping lunch is bad for your health, Eldon!” Angus shouted from behind. Eldon waved his hand.
  • Finally! I was waiting for a new chapter! (Not to pressure you or anything...) Thanks very much for the new chapter! Keep up the great work! :D
  • Great story, great characters everything is great, but the freaking oajdhuiaesoiufagsodh author not OHH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! srsl dude just plz I beg you remove THEM!!!! AND PUT THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTERS...or just delete.....It just destroys the immersion when reading!!! rly..... example: "I am reading this great funny or serious part and then just see this character is a side character..." wuuuuuuuuuuuuuut !!!!!!!!!!! fk I don't want to know that and I don't need to know that god... well anyway everything is good, but that and it's one of the worst things..
  • Rimge said:

    Great story, great characters everything is great, but the freaking oajdhuiaesoiufagsodh author not OHH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! srsl dude just plz I beg you remove THEM!!!! AND PUT THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTERS...or just delete.....It just destroys the immersion when reading!!! rly..... example: "I am reading this great funny or serious part and then just see this character is a side character..." wuuuuuuuuuuuuuut !!!!!!!!!!! fk I don't want to know that and I don't need to know that god... well anyway everything is good, but that and it's one of the worst things..


    wat?
  • Rimge said:

    Great story, great characters everything is great, but the freaking oajdhuiaesoiufagsodh author not OHH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! srsl dude just plz I beg you remove THEM!!!! AND PUT THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTERS...or just delete.....It just destroys the immersion when reading!!! rly..... example: "I am reading this great funny or serious part and then just see this character is a side character..." wuuuuuuuuuuuuuut !!!!!!!!!!! fk I don't want to know that and I don't need to know that god... well anyway everything is good, but that and it's one of the worst things..





    You might wanna restate what you said. Clear up your mind and say it again please. You were all around town lol. Anyways just say that again
  • Love the story so far! When do you update/plan to update? I really hope you keep up with the story!
  • Rimge said:

    Great story, great characters everything is great, but the freaking oajdhuiaesoiufagsodh author not OHH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! srsl dude just plz I beg you remove THEM!!!! AND PUT THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHAPTERS...or just delete.....It just destroys the immersion when reading!!! rly..... example: "I am reading this great funny or serious part and then just see this character is a side character..." wuuuuuuuuuuuuuut !!!!!!!!!!! fk I don't want to know that and I don't need to know that god... well anyway everything is good, but that and it's one of the worst things..





    Oooh! He said don't put the authors notes in between paragraphs and that you should put it in the beginning of the chapter cuz it gets him outta the zone!
  • This story is great and it can only get better. Keep this up. I am your fan!!!
  • edited July 2015
    Haha, I'm glad you guys like it :D, even if you are perturbed by the author's notes; I'll try to keep that at a minimum. I started this story on a whim, so I'm taking it pretty slowly. I try my best to avoid plot holes and right now, I'm working to set the power levels of the rankings xD. Can't make Eldon too OP at the start simply because he's the MC; it's got to take some time for a scrub (jk) like Eldon. Oh well, I can still change a bunch of stuff around since it's just the beginning of the story. Regarding to how many chapters I dish out, um....probably a chapter or so a week, but that's the minimum. This is just a little hobby I do whenever I have sudden inspirations or random happy feelings (not that many when one has college apps to worry about TT A TT).
  • Denerate said:

    Haha, I'm glad you guys like it :D, even if you are perturbed by the author's notes; I'll try to keep that at a minimum. I started this story on a whim, so I'm taking it pretty slowly. I try my best to avoid plot holes and right now, I'm working to set the power levels of the rankings xD. Can't make Eldon too OP at the start simply because he's the MC; it's got to take some time for a scrub (jk) like Eldon. Oh well, I can still change a bunch of stuff around since it's just the beginning of the story. Regarding to how many chapters I dish out, um....probably a chapter or so a week, but that's the minimum. This is just a little hobby I do whenever I have sudden inspirations or random happy feelings (not that many when one has college apps to worry about TT A TT).




    It's cool bro. I understand. On a whim? For real? Your whims are gold. I'm cool with once a week. Anyways.. good luck with college!
Sign In or Register to comment.