Episode 12 - Sign Ups

 

In the previous Episode:

Servants of the Rroda mansion are shocked that Kiel brought a girl home and misunderstood their relationship. Kiel finishes packing. Elaru casts a Cleansing spell on him to avoid him having to take a shower. She Accelerates into the air and activates the Eternal Beacon to teleport them to Ashar.

Episode 12 – Sign Ups

A moment later, Kiel and Elaru landed back to the ground gracefully. However, the ground they landed back on was not the same land from which they jumped.

They were standing on a large circular podium made out of black jade upon. Countless symbols were carved on it, and the carvings were filled with a glowing ink.

The podium was large enough to fit several houses. It made one feel insignificant.

From the edges of the podium, spread a sea of purple crystals. Layers upon layers of crystal formations grew around the podium.

It was a gorgeous sight, full of flickering and reflecting lights. Each time someone new appeared out of thin air, the magical carvings on the floor would light up briefly as if welcoming the travelers back home.

Elaru was quick to put her beacon back into her bag before she tugged on Kiel’s hand and led him towards a large gateway. Although no one would be brazen enough to try robbing her in the presence of Peacekeepers, letting people see her Eternal Beacon would be asking for future trouble.

For Kiel, this was his first time seeing the famous gate of Ashar. He was dazed, looking around with interest. He didn’t even question Elaru’s usage of Acceleration before they teleported, nor did he notice they were still holding hands.

Kiel looked at the few dozen Peacekeepers guarding the Gate. They were spread around the gate in a circle, standing watch like statues. Their uniforms were white with golden embroidery. They wore a few pieces of light armor, coated to be gold in color, which seemed to be more decorative than practical.

Kiel looked up to the clear sky. He could clearly feel an invisible, restrictive barrier enveloping the Gate like a dome. It prevented the people from exiting or entering the Gate as they pleased. Everyone needed to follow a set path when entering or exiting so that they could be inspected and charged fees.

Kiel looked back towards the gateway in front of them. The white marble gate, 10 m in circumference, was the only way in and out of the barrier. As Kiel looked out of the gate, he noticed the world beyond the gates was a bit blurry, and it glittered. His mana sense told him that there was a dense layer of mana in between the gates, but that shouldn’t have caused his vision to blur.

No one stopped them as they made their exit. Only those who wished to enter needed to pay fees.

As they passed through the gateway, Kiel felt a strange sensation, like he passed through the surface of a soap bubble. What was that?

Kiel was confused. These gateways were the only places where there were holes in the restrictive barrier, so what he felt wasn’t the barrier. Even if the restrictive barrier didn’t have holes, he wouldn’t have physically felt it unless it repelled him.

Kiel turned his head back to look at the gate.

“They spread a thin veil in between the gates, made out of mana wyrm tail silk. Because of its ethereal nature, we can pass through it.” Elaru noticed his interest and explained.

Ah! So that’s why the world he saw through the gates flickered and felt blurry. He was viewing it through a veil.

“Mana wyrm silk is very sensitive to Ink, so the Purge use them to test whether someone is Tainted.”

Suddenly, everything fell into place, and Kiel understood. Anyone at any point could teleport to this gate if they had an appropriate Beacon. That meant that even people outside, in the dangerous forbidden zone, could also come back inside the Shield of Aegis. However, who is to say that they weren’t carrying back with them a deadly plague – the Ink?

If they had been Tainted by the Ink then they would have to be quarantined immediately and not allowed to spread it. That’s why everyone needed to pass through the Ink detecting veil when exiting the gate.

The clear view of rows upon rows of light yellow houses greeted them as soon as they passed through the gate.

Elaru tugged on Kiel’s hand harder, telling him to walk faster. “Come on. No time to sight see! We have to hurry.”

She pulled him down the street. She seemed to know exactly where she was and where she needed to go.

The streets were bustling with people, murmurs of voices created a pleasant background melody. Kiel thought she was going towards a large “Rent-a-dragon” wooden sign ahead of them, but before reaching it she suddenly stopped and Accelerated upwards, pulling him along.

They landed on a rooftop of a building; their landing scaring a flock of yellow tiwi [tee-wee] resting on the roof, making them fly away in a sudden buzz of their wings.

Tiwi were small round birds that looked like cotton balls. They had a small sharp beak, beady eyes and short wings that create a soft buzzing sound when they flap them. They also have a few tail feathers that are several times larger than their entire body sticking out of their behind.

The skies were clear, with no clouds in sight. The only things that could be seen in the sky were flocks of gugoo [goo-goo] and silhouettes of flying dragons and men. The sun was blazing down brightly, but it didn’t feel hot. (Gugoo are small birds commonly found in cities. 35 cm in length, with long curved feathers on their head and tail.)

Kiel looked towards the horizon. Countless rows of houses of all shapes and sizes greeted him, as far as the eye could see. Their walls in all shades of yellow, personalized by different engravings, murals, and drawings. Although most houses were made of similar materials in a similar style, each one seemed to have a personality. It showed through many different things: the engravings on the walls, drapes, and carpets hanging from the roof and types of flowers and plants decorating the houses.

The warm colors of the houses mixed with vivid colors of the decorations gave Ashar a pleasant, warm feeling. The feeling was only enhanced by the background noises. Kiel could hear soft cooing of gugoo, the pleasant chirping of tiwi followed by the quiet buzzing of their wings, and even strong swishing of dragon wings. Chatter and laugher of men and women alike, spread from all sides.

Ashar was bursting with life; one could tell immediately that it was one of the five biggest cities in Halnea.

This wasn’t Kiel’s first time in Ashar; he used to live here, before moving to Beyd.

He didn’t dislike Ashar; he wouldn’t mind calling this place home once again. Kiel’s mouth twitched into a small smile.

Elaru pointed to a complex of large buildings far in the distance. The buildings were situated on the outskirts of the city, surrounded by empty plains from one side, and a forest from the other.

Ashar University of Magic.

Kiel’s eyes glittered. That was his destination. That was his future home.

Elaru turned to him and grinned. “Let’s fly!”

Fly? Kiel looked around them – even though one could rent a dragon to get around the city, Kiel noticed many people were jumping roof to roof via Acceleration, and even more were flying around in the air purely by magic. Their presence on the roof didn’t make them stand out at all. In fact, upon further inspection of the roofs, it looked like they were specially made to be walked on.

They were not roofs in the traditional sense but orange stone platforms, sturdy enough to not crack by having an Accelerating person crash into it full force. The buildings also had wooden pillars around them for holding up carpets and drapes hanging from the roof.

At first, Kiel had thought their purpose was to shield people from rain and the sun, but they might have also served to soften the fall if someone were to lose their footing and fall from the roof.

Even though he used to live in Ashar, he had seldom been allowed to leave the house, so being in the big city was not something he was used to – it felt foreign and strange. Even though Beyd was an argel town, and argel often used magic to fly and accelerate, there weren’t many people in Beyd that flew around. It was rare to see someone jumping from roof to roof because it was considered impolite. Roofs in Beyd weren’t designed for walking and could collapse easily.

“Fly? Why don’t we just rent a dragon?” Kiel raised an eyebrow at Elaru. There was a “Rent-a-dragon” office just ahead of them.

“Renting a dragon is for people who can’t fly! Besides, those dragons aren’t racing dragons; they can’t hope to keep up in speed to two excellent mages such as ourselves!” Elaru was grinning ear to ear.

When her feet left the roof and she floated upwards, is when Kiel realized that they had been holding hands the entire time. Why now? Because her hand was pulling at his, beckoning for him to join her.

He frowned and let go of her hand. It was inappropriate to hold hands with a female unless they were romantically involved. And he didn’t like people touching him.

He pretended that the sudden loss of comfortable heat in his hand didn’t bother him.

“There is a long way to the university. You just gained the ability to cast Acceleration magic. Are you sure you can sustain it the entire way?”

There were many different ways to make one fly with magic. From the most rudimentary ways, which relied on Accelerating every few seconds, which looked like the person was jumping without touching the ground, to the most advanced ones which completely nullified the effects of gravity. Elaru was skipping the entire learning curve on to the last stages of flight. Kiel felt inferior for being unable to cast any Transmutation spells. Not that he had tried. He didn’t know any.

“It’ll be fine. I’ve seen Acceleration magic so many times I could cast it in my sleep.”

Acceleration was an impulse spell – it had immediate effect and then it disappeared. Making an impulse spell into a sustained spell – a spell whose effects persist over time, was not as simple as one would be led to believe.

Kiel didn’t bother to argue with her. Instead, he concentrated on overcoming his own reluctance to fly. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was afraid he’d run out of mana, or because he was afraid to finally set out to the skies, after all this time.

Certainly he wasn’t afraid he couldn’t keep up with her magic; he had been using Acceleration magic since he was born. It wouldn’t be a challenge to beat someone who just started using it for the first time a few minutes prior.

Kiel looked back to the university, measuring the distance skeptically.

Elaru laughed, dismissing his unvoiced concerns easily. “Kiel, you worry too much!”

“And you worry too little.” He glared at her halfheartedly.

“It’s fine! It doesn’t matter if I can’t fly well or fly for long. If I fall, you’ll catch me!”

Kiel’s soft glare turned into a real one. “As if I would catch you! You can go and die for all I care! That would free me from this mess.”

She flashed him a mischievous grin and grabbed his hand again tightly, merrily pulling him upwards to the skies.

Kiel bit down on his lips to not curse. Whenever she reached for his hand, it was always so quick he didn’t have the time to dodge it.

“You’ll either catch me or fall down with me mate!” Elaru laughed. The wind was blowing her hair around her like a mane.

She was happy. She was really happy to finally be able to fly.

And Kiel felt her happiness spread onto him. Whether it was because of her powerful, expressive aura, or an aftereffect of their bond that she claimed didn’t exist, it didn’t matter. Whatever the case, she was contagious. And, after all, he had always wanted to fly as well.

He pulled up the goggles hanging around his neck onto his eyes so that the wind wouldn’t bother him. Elaru followed his suit and took out her own that were hidden under her scarf.

Elaru took the lead and accelerated quickly forwards, faster and faster, pulling Kiel along high into the sky. He struggled, Accelerated away from her, but her grip on his hand didn’t lessen at all.

The attempts to struggle free caused a weird dance to occur.

“Let go of me, woman!” Kiel frowned in displeasure. No matter how he tried to shrug her off, she had a steel grip on his hand.

“Nevah!” She laughed. Kiel even saw her flick her tongue to him briefly. How bloody childish!

“Let go or I’ll kick you!” Kiel threatened.

“Go ahead and try!” Elaru grinned, easily dodging his leg. It looked like she was a leaf drifting on the wind. Kiel frowned; he would indeed have trouble hitting her like this.

“Stop pulling me down with you!”

“Can’t you just fly us back up, mister ‘straight-A-student’?”

“Fly on your own darn it!”

“But flying with you is so much more fun!”

“I don’t care if you’re having fun! I am not having fun!” Kiel yelled over the loud sound of wind hitting their faces.

“Did you forget I can tell when you are lying?” Elaru laughed merrily. Kiel tried to divert the conversation. He did, in fact, forget that she could tell his lies apart.

“Stop it! We are attracting attention. People are looking at us!” Kiel felt his cheeks heating up; he tried his best to keep his emotions off his face. This is just too ridiculous! When was the last time he did something so unbecoming of a noble?!

“So?”

“What do you mean ‘so’?! Have you no shame!?” Kiel spat through gritted teeth.

“Yes, I am shameless.”

“Learn some shame then!!”

“Teach me then.”

Kiel glared at her, complained, even swore a few times. The wide grin never left Elaru’s face. She responded to him mostly in a joking manner, telling him she would never let him go and taunting him to try and shake her off.

“Are you deliberately going in the opposite direction?!” Kiel hissed.

“Of course not, I am just a bad flier.”

“I can tell you are lying! Is our impending demise a joke to you?” She rolled her eyes at his exaggeration.

“Drama queen. Stop worrying and have some fun!”

“How could trying not to fall to death be fun?! I am not having fun!”

Elaru laughed without a care in the world. “You are repeating yourself. Running out of curses already?”

Kiel glared at her icily. He couldn’t admit it. He couldn’t say it was really fun. Trying to steer while taking into account actions of each other; it was like a game of rock, paper and scissors.

The most fun game of rock, paper and scissors Kiel had ever had. Even though he complained the entire way, it wasn’t because he was worried about dying. He wouldn’t die as long as he had enough mana to prevent it.

He complained because he didn’t want her this close to him. He didn’t want her to spread her glee to him, nor to hold his hand so tightly, and especially not to permanently engrave her presence in his pleasant memories.

He could feel his cold and apathetic mask melting like ice under her light, and he didn’t like it. Or did he?

As the clear sky beckoned them closer; as the warm sun showered them with gentle kisses, as the wind ruffled their hair and clothes, Kiel forgot all his worries. For that brief while, Kiel felt free.

And for the first time in a long time, he felt content, maybe even happy? Perhaps Kiel couldn’t quite recognize that pleasant feeling because he was a stranger to happiness. He didn’t ponder and dissect ‘why’ and ‘what’ he was feeling, all he knew was that finally, after all this time…he was flying.

For a moment, he even forgot that all of this was just temporary. That he shouldn’t get attached. Shouldn’t get used to this.

And even though his mind knew that clearly, the heart was not the one to listen to reason.

The huge courtyard, surrounding the Ashar University of Magic, was paved with white stone tiles and decorated with trees, flowers, and fountains, making the building complex at the end of it look nothing short of a royal palace.

The white buildings were numerous, large and each one of them was a peerless work of art. Even Rroda main house manor paled in comparison.

Standing in front of the large buildings, Kiel felt insignificant. Like a bug looking up at a tall tree.

He took a short while to catch his breath. Kiel and Elaru’s tug-war had ended with a slightly rough landing. Kiel was aiming for the gates while Elaru was aiming for the road next to them. Naturally, that resulted in them missing the top of the gates and falling onto a nearby tree.

Usually, such a landing might have left bruises and scratches, but they were still under the influence of flying magic that made them effectively weigh less, and with their fast reflexes, dexterity and agility both of them managed to pass through the tree like a hot knife through butter.

When they were finally safely on the ground, Kiel glared and pointed his finger childishly, blaming Elaru for the fall, but instead of an apology she just laughed. Seeing her laugh warmly, with branches and leaves sticking out from her hair and clothes, Kiel almost busted out laughing too. She looked ridiculous; her hair looked like a bird’s nest.

Still, looking at her beautiful smile made it clear that she would look stunning even if she was bathed in mud and wearing rags.

Kiel was starting to like her sincere laugh. It made everything seem fun. Like life was just a game to her. There was no place for sorrow and worry. Just fun.

He could like such a world.

It seemed to bring out a childish side to himself that he wasn’t aware he possessed.

He shook his head helplessly, trying to return his mental facilities to those of a proper adult.

Kiel and Elaru passed through the gates and entered the foyer of the university in a hurry. In the middle of the foyer was a reception desk occupied by two men, looking to be in their twenties. They seemed to be packing their papers and boxes, preparing to leave.

Ahon&Rau

One of them was an argel with brown hair reaching his ears that had several dark brown strands. His eyes were chocolate brown and very warm. His appearance, coupled with his gentle aura, reminded Kiel of a cute pechuh [pe-chooh]. (Small fluffy round rodent with big beady eyes and a long bushy tail. Their fur usually comes in shades of brown or white. Because of their adorable looks and docile nature they were very popular pets.)

The other one was an elibu with shoulder length bluish gray hair tied at the back. He had a scholarly air about him and dark green eyes that looked almost gray.

Both of them had dense Mage Armours surrounding their bodies that marked them as mages.

Kiel and Elaru accelerated towards the two. “Excuse me, are you taking entries for the exam?” Kiel called out to them.

The two looked at Elaru and Kiel, noticing their ruffled appearance that looked as if they were in a cat fight rolling through the bushes. The men exchanged a strange glance.

The man with the gray hair hesitated a bit; his eyebrows furrowed when he looked towards Elaru.

However, the argel with chocolate brown hair, didn’t hesitate at all. He shrugged and smiled gently. “You’ve barely made it. We were just closing down.”

When he heard the warm voice of his acquaintance, the other man sighed in resignation and took out some papers he had just packed. He offered them to Kiel and Elaru. “Fill up these forms please.”

Elaru refused them. “I signed up for the exams months before. It’s just Kiel that waited until the last second.”

The soft, kind smile that was plastered on Kiel’s face froze. That little…! It was you that waited until the last second to tell me about the deadline!

Kiel accepted the papers and waited for the men to take their eyes off of him before he gave Elaru a sneaky glare.

When Elaru saw his face which was half stuck in a soft smile and half glaring at her, she pretended to cough into her hand to mask her failed attempt at controlling her laughter. Kiel’s distorted expression was just too funny.

Kiel’s glare disappeared in an instant when the brown-head turned to him and offered him a signature pen.

Signature pens were filled with a special ink that acted as a glue for mana, so the first mana which came in contact with it would be stuck to the ink. This allowed the person using the pen to sign documents with their own mana – first mana the ink came in contact with after getting out of the pen was the mana of the person using the pen. Since everyone’s mana was unique, their mana could be used to verify the identity of the person who wrote the signature.

Kiel thanked the man politely and started filling up the forms.

Unfortunately, Elaru didn’t give him the peace and quiet in filling the forms. Instead, she started conversing with the two. Apparently, they were assistant professors in the university, and because of the University policy (“Important Muni stuff must be handled by Muni staff”) they had a draw to decide who gets the job of taking entry forms.

They drew the short sticks.

Kiel also picked up that the term “Muni” [myoo-nee] seemed to be a slang term used by students and teachers to refer to Ashar University of Magic. After all, “Ashar University of Magic” was a mouthful. People shortened it to “Magic University”, but since that was also too long, eventually even that got condensed into Muni.

Kiel also caught their names – Rau Eryey [ra-oh er-yeey] and Ahon Tonrai [ah-ohn ton-rah-ee]. Their last names were familiar to Kiel.

Eryey family was one of the noble families. Their specialty was healing magic, and they owned a chain of hospitals and medicine shops.

Tonrai, on the other hand, was a side branch of the Ruyle [Roo-yel] family. Ruyle family was also one of the noble families. They specialized in breeding, taming and raising beasts. They also had their own quest lodge, dragon racing tracks and owned a chain of “Rent-a-dragon” offices.

Kiel was surprised how the university could make two nobles take entry forms. Draw or no draw, it sounded ridiculous! This university was indeed something else…

Elaru didn’t seem surprised, neither at the draw nor their last names. Kiel wondered if it was because she wasn’t aware of their status or because she was used to hanging around nobles.

Kiel looked at the first form; he needed to fill in the regular stuff: name, gender, race and date of birth. But after that, there were a lot of other questions such as information about the pets he would be bringing (or, in his case, wouldn’t be bringing) to the dorms.

He also needed to write details about his roommate preference. Explanation of the question gave some good examples: “I dislike animals so I wouldn’t like my roommate to have one.” and “Since I am an elibu, I’d like my roommate to be an elibu as well.”, and some bad examples: “I’d like my roomy to be a hot girl!” and “I want to room with a noble!”

When he filled up these forms last year, he was greatly surprised to find this question. He wasn’t aware that they would be required to share a dorm room. It made no sense to Kiel. The university was huge and luxurious; it wouldn’t pose any problem for them to give everyone their own room. So why did they force them to share? In fact, how did they expect nobles to accept sharing a room with someone else?

Wait…why wasn’t there a question asking them if they would be staying in their dorms in the first place? There were plenty of people who lived in Ashar and didn’t need a dorm room inside the University. Was everyone required to stay in the dorms even if they didn’t want to?

Last year, after his initial confusion, he left his roommate preference empty because he didn’t intend to enroll. But this time, he stopped to think about it.

He didn’t care who he got as his roommate as long as the person wasn’t annoying. However, he couldn’t write “Someone who isn’t annoying” as his answer. He was tempted to write “Not Elaru Wayvin” as the answer, but that made no sense since he wouldn’t have been paired with her anyway. He would most definitely be paired with a male freshman.

After a brief pondering, he decided to leave it empty this year as well. If he had a problem with his roommate, he could always switch rooms with someone else. Right? That’s how it usually worked in the university dorms, right?

And besides, what were the odds of getting someone annoying?

Kiel suddenly felt chills travel down his spine.

He looked up to Elaru, and then checked out the two professors, but nothing strange was taking place. He spread his mind to check his surroundings, but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Why did he suddenly get a bad feeling?

Kiel shrugged and shook his head. Elaru might be right; he was worrying too much.

He continued filling the papers until he reached a section about the practical part of the exam. He needed to pick which practical exam he would take, assuming that he collected enough points to be eligible to take it.

There were many types of mages entering the university with varied specializations and skills; it was unrealistic to expect everyone to have the same skill set and even more absurd to test for it. Therefore, university prepared different scenarios examinees could choose to better display their particular skillset.

Kiel slowly looked over his options, the only thing he could go by was the name of the scenario; they didn’t provide any additional details.

There were many scenarios tied to a specific profession such as “Healing and damage control”, “Herbalism & Alchemy”, “Arts & Crafts”, “Engineering and enchanting”, “Beast handling”, etc.

There was also a variety of scenarios that required or could be completed with a varied skillset such as “Hunt” and “Apprehend and rescue”.

It was here, faced with so many different options, that Kiel understood that even now, with the abundance of mana, he was still severely lacking as a mage.

Having plenty of mana couldn’t turn him into an incredible mage. Mana could only open the path for him that leads towards that goal. It was up to him to walk down that path.

Currently, he could cast a variety of magic spells, but most of them were low-level spells every mage knew. Granted, his execution of them was flawless, but what he could do with them wouldn’t be enough to excel in any of the offered scenarios.

He had no specialization; he wasn’t particularly skilled in any area.

Kiel felt cold sweat rolling down his back.

Didn’t Elaru say in her previous evaluation that he was skilled enough to get full points in the practical part of the exam? What scenario did she have in mind? He looked up at her, like a little pechuh asking for help.

When he realized what he was doing, he quickly looked down to his papers, disgusted by himself. He didn’t need anyone’s help. He was always on his own, relied only on himself. That made him independent, competent. That’s who he was. He didn’t need help!

He exhaled quietly, calming himself down.

He went to the top of the listed scenarios and mentally gave them his evaluation of what skills were needed to excel in that scenario.

“Healing and damage control?” That needs knowledge of healing magic, familiarity with the bodies of argel and elibu, medicine and medicinal plants, diseases and ailments.

He continued down the list, often stopping to cross over a scenario that he thought was impossible for him.

Soon enough he was left with only a few options. Most of the left over options were vague and Kiel couldn’t tell exactly what skillset would be necessary.

There was only one scenario where the required skillset was quite clear – “Battle Royale”. Obviously, the test would require him to show his combat prowess.

He was alone most of the time with his only opponents being trees, so he found it hard to gauge his own battle capabilities.

Still, Kiel felt that this was the test he had the highest chance of excelling at.

The magic that he was the best at was acceleration magic. And even if he couldn’t beat his opponents, he could at least run around fast enough to avoid their attacks. In the worst case scenario, it could turn into a battle of attrition, and since Elaru’s mana pool was larger than most people, he would win when his opponents ran out of mana.

Kiel circled the “Battle Royale” option, satisfied with his choice. He wasn’t useless after all. He even had a few days before the exam, that he could use to brush up on his skills and prepare.

His satisfied smile quickly left his face when he turned the next page of the sign up forms.

He needed to report his “special skills” so that Muni could prepare to test his speciality. Special skills were different from the practical exam. You could get special points only if you had extraordinary, rare abilities. The main purpose of this test was to give peerless geniuses a higher chance to be accepted into the university and separate them from everyone else.

There was a large list of offered “special skills”, such as “Aethernea wielder”, “Possesses flawless recollection”, and “ingenious breaker”.

Kiel went over the list quickly. His heart tightened.

Elaru made it sound like all his problems would be solved if he had enough mana. When he finally felt a sea of mana rolling through him, he felt like he could do anything. That he was now better than everyone else. He even entertained the thought that he would score the highest on the exam and make his family shocked. He thought that these exams would be his stage. That he would show everyone that he was a genius mage. He would finally get the respect he deserved.

Looking at it now, if he didn’t ace the practical and if he didn’t apply for a special exam, he couldn’t hope to reach the top 10.

He would pass the exam but he would at most be above average among other nobles.

In fact, his grandfather might even say that his performance embarrassed their family name. He might even be ridiculed in the end.

His fist clenched. He wouldn’t be able to surpass his ass of a brother. He would always be in his shadow.

His knuckle turned white and he was slowly losing all feeling in his hand.

When his eyes passed over “pure mana wielder” entry, he gritted his teeth. He was a pure mana wielder, but he couldn’t let anyone know about it. It felt unbearable. Those 25 points were so close yet out of reach!

His mind echoed with ridiculing words of others. He could see them sneering at him, mocking him. Telling him how unremarkable he was. How he was never special. And even if he was no longer a non-mage, he was still a nobody.

The voices got louder and louder, his head hurt, his breathing became raspy.

And when the voices became so loud he thought his head would explode, suddenly everything went quiet. His eyes focused on two words.

“Spell replicator”

He stared at the two words dumbfounded.

“Spell replicator”

His eyes widened. How could his mind go so off track?! He could weave anything! It didn’t matter if he didn’t know a spell, because as soon as he was confronted with it, he would learn it very quickly.

Spell replicators were mages whose job was to replicate spells. They would be given an enchanted item, a magic artefact, or even a spell design itself, and they would use it to replicate the spell. Spell replicators had only two skill requirements. One, they needed to be able to weave mana flawlessly, so flawlessly to be able to create a perfect replica of another spell.

And two, in case they weren’t given a spell design but shown the spell, they needed to have a mana sense powerful enough to sense all the details in the given spell, to be able to replicate those details.

His weaving was flawless! And his Mind was very sensitive to mana! That is exactly why he could have such flawless weaving.

He fit both requirements!

Kiel’s eyes lit up.

He circled the two words on his paper and smiled unconsciously.

No one could beat him in basic mage capabilities. He lacked knowledge, but not ability.

He would shine like a Xium gem! He would show everyone that he wasn’t a common rock! His family would feel endless regret for the way they had treated him.

After filling up the initial form he was greeted with a bunch of papers with rules and regulations that he needed to be aware of (and sign that he had read them). He also needed to sign a document that stated that he takes all responsibility for any damage (or death) caused by the exam and the university is in no way accountable for it. It was the university’s way to avoid any legal responsibility.

After he passed the filled papers back to the elibu going by the name of Rau Eryey, the man passed another paper to him. The paper contained the schedule of the exams so Kiel would know when and where he was supposed to take his exams.

The friendly argel took out a round ceramic plate, the size of a large badge, and another signature pen.

The argel man used the pen to write large, bright blue numbers on the plate – “5642”. He than turned the plate around to the other side and offered the plate to Kiel.

“Sign your name here, on the back.”

Kiel took it and quickly wrote down his elegant and curvy signature.

Ahon Tonrai’s chocolate eyes seemed to smile as he explained. “This is your proof of identity and your exam pass.”

Finally, Kiel had got his exam pass. He smiled softly and thanked the man. He had made it! He managed to sign up for the exam! All he had to do now was pass it.

Ahon continued speaking in a gentle and pleasant voice explaining the purpose of the plate:

“This is your entry number.” He motioned to number “5642” that he had written on the plate. “For the sake of privacy and ensuring everyone receives equal exam conditions, we don’t use your real names on the exam but instead refer to you by your number. Don’t lose it. You can’t enter the exam without it.”

Kiel thanked the man again politely, smiling his charming smile, before bidding both men farewell.

He noticed that Elaru seemed to have gotten pretty friendly with the two while he was filling the forms. They waved them goodbye and wished them good luck on the exams:

“Hope to see you in school!” Ahon smiled brightly.

“You most certainly will!” Elaru grinned back.

While they treated them both with respect and good intentions, he could tell both of them were especially friendly towards Elaru.

Kiel didn’t know why that fact made him feel uncomfortable. They clearly didn’t have any bad or indecent intentions. Was it that he envied people who could make others like them while still staying true to themselves?

He shook his head and put it to the back of his mind. It was beneath him to feel jealous.

Kiel and Elaru exited through the foyer through the university gates in silence. After they were out of earshot and line of sight, Elaru turned to Kiel and asked: “What now? Any places you want to visit?”

Kiel looked towards the horizon into the golden setting sun that died the sky orange. It had been a long day.

“It is getting late. The only place I want to visit is an inn.”

“Hmm, I know of a cozy little inn nearby that has an excellent cook.” Elaru suggested with a smile.

Kiel didn’t protest her suggestion. He had never stayed in an inn before so he had no idea what Ashar inns were considered good, or where to even begin searching for one.

Kiel quickly found out that his definition of “nearby” didn’t match with Elaru’s definition of “nearby”.

The only reason why he chose not to complain was because the small inn in front of them didn’t look bad at all.

It was a small tavern but it looked well cared for and friendly. It was in a good neighborhood filled with little houses which were glued to each other like canned fish. The houses were built from warm colored bricks and decorated by pots of flowers.

Kiel stared at the wooden sign in front of him showing a large pot and two words – “Hot Pot”.

Hot Pot? Seriously?

He shook his head and followed Elaru inside.

As soon as they entered, they noticed a middle aged, short, plump woman sitting at the reception desk. Her almond eyes were reading the newspaper while her thin lips were sipping on a glass of lemonade. Her brown hair with a few orange strands was tied into a plat on the back of her head covering her argel round ears.

Kiel could tell the woman wasn’t a mage because her mana drifted around freely, showing no sign of forming a Mage Armour.

The woman didn’t bother to look up before saying “Sorry, we’ve got no available rooms left.”

Kiel stopped in his tracks and would have walked out if he didn’t see Elaru completely disregard the woman’s words. Elaru leaned on the counter. “What about that nice little comfy one on the attic?”

A flash of recognition washed over the woman’s face and she looked up in surprise. When her eyes fell on Elaru her face spread in a wide grin. “Dear, you are back from your quest? What took you so long?”

Elaru scratched her head sheepishly, giving Kiel a side glance. “Ah well… I got sidetracked.”

The woman noticed Elaru’s glance and shifted her eyes onto Kiel’s soft smile, before looking him up and down.

“What do we have here?” The woman chuckled warmly before taking a sip of her lemonade. Her thoughts were written clearly on her face: Where did you pick up this pretty boy?

Elaru turned towards Kiel, smiled in delight and motioned her hand towards the woman. “Kiel, this is Mira. She and her husband own this little tavern.”

Then she put her left hand on Kiel’s shoulder and motioned towards him with her right hand. “Mira, this is Kiel.” Kiel noticed how she purposefully avoided mentioning last names. “He is my…”

Elaru struggled to find the right words. Friend? Colleague? Fellow future student? Partner?

“…mate!”

And of course, she had to choose the word leaving most room for misunderstandings. And the way she said it wasn’t helping either. She said it with pride, glee and delight.

Mate was a tricky word. When used to refer to a male and female pair, it would mean the two are romantically involved. When used by people of the same gender, it would mean they are good friends.

Kiel’s smile froze.

He wasn’t sure if Elaru used the word “mate” as a short for “soulmate” or if she was trying to say that he was her good friend. But at this point, it didn’t matter. He had to fix the damage.

The argel woman, whose name seemed to be Mira almost choked on her lemonade. After a strong coughing fit she managed to squeeze out. “Mate? Is he the reason you got sidetracked?”

“Yeah!” Elaru nodded before Kiel could stop her.

Woman looked at Kiel sternly, like a mother inspecting her future son in law.

Kiel’s eyebrow twitched. He was just about to fix the misunderstanding but Elaru beat him to it.

“So is my room free or not?”

Mira turned to her surprised, but nonetheless took the keys from her desk. “Well…yeah…”

“Then we’ll be taking it!” Elaru declared.

Kiel almost face-palmed himself.

Mira was flabbergasted. “But there is just one bed in there!”

Elaru didn’t quite get the problem. She looked at Mira, confusion written all over her face. “So?”

“There is two of you!” Mira tried to clarify.

But Elaru, being Elaru,…misunderstood completely… “Ooh! Don’t worry it’s a double bed so we can both fit!” She waved it off.

Kiel stood frozen. He wanted to set things clear but he didn’t even know how to go about fixing it.

Elaru snatched the keys from Mira’s shaking fingers and waved her bye. “We’ll be coming down to dinner soon! Mmmm, I sure hope chief’s special is on today’s menu!” Without further ado, she ran up the stairs gracefully. She knew exactly where the room was.

Kiel stood glued to the spot, his face frozen into a soft smile. It wasn’t until Elaru called out to him that he was shaken out of his stupor.

“What are you standing around for? Come on!”

Kiel rubbed his temples and slowly followed her upstairs.

How would he resolve this issue?! This girl had no common sense!

Coming up in the next episode:

“What do you mean it’s big enough?!? However you look at it, it’s a one person bed!!”

Who the heck is Wade?!

He sighed and removed his hand. I’ll just have to teach her some mann…”What the heck are you doing?!” His thoughts were interrupted by the sight in front of him.

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3 Comments on "Episode 12 – Sign Ups"

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Footnoter
1 month 9 days ago

Giving the pronunciation guide right next to the word feels rather obnoxious and it’s very immersion breaking, if it has to be done at all perhaps a footnote would be better?

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Footnoted
1 month 9 days ago

The frequency with which it is done makes it worse.

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