Episode 140 – Magic Talent

Previously:

Friday, the last day of Muni entrance exams, Special exam. As it turns out, the Spell Replicating exam Kiel chose was not designed to test spell replicating ability, but rather, to test for a special talent that can only be revealed through the process of spell replicating. Kiel is tasked to spell replicate several artifacts, including Clay Mines. Unfortunately, an accident happens while testing his Clay Mines and an explosion occurs. Examiners are thankfully fine but they start arguing with each other. They give Kiel a final artifact, whose enchantment he doesn’t need to replicate but to just draw it out. However, Kiel finds that the enchantment is too small and he can’t sense it clearly with his mana sense. In this stressful situation, Kiel manages to see a flash of light inside his head for a brief moment, showing him how the enchantment looks like. After he successfully draws out the spell design of the enchantment, examiners get excited and ask Kiel to be their disciple.

The examiners started to argue with their teeth bared, like starving hounds fighting for a fresh piece of meat. They even started tugging and pushing each other like a bunch of kindergarten kids.

And then it occurred to Kiel that…

What the bloody meep???

…he had absolutely no idea what was going on!

Episode 140 – Magic Talent

Kiel stood gobsmacked and frozen, unable to make sense of the sudden twist.

“Enough! Don’t you see you are confusing the poor boy!” The old grandma glowered menacingly, her pipe almost falling out of her mouth. “Act with dignity! We are in the middle of the exams!” She berated, instantly quieting everyone else.

She puffed out a cloud of white smoke, glaring left and right, daring anyone to speak up again. When she settled her gaze on Kiel her eyes turned gentle. “As you might already know, in our university, professors are required to mentor at least one student, providing them with their personal teaching, supervision, and guidance.”

Kiel already knew as much. One of the main reasons why all Muni graduates without exception were the leaders of their generation was because of the invaluable one-on-one tutoring of a Muni mentor. Most of the times, if mentors were satisfied by their charges, they would turn them into their disciples and put in more effort than required by Muni into teaching them.

And if they really liked their charges and wanted to continue teaching them in the future, regardless of their mentor/mentee status, mentors would take their charges as their personal disciples. Kiel had even heard many stories about Muni professors being so impressed by a student that they took them on as a succeeding disciple.

Just the title of a personal disciple of a master was enough to raise the status of the student in question, let alone becoming a succeeding disciple. There could be only one succeeding disciple to inherit the master’s legacy and it was naturally a very sought-after position. The relationship between a master and his succeeding disciple were often times even closer than kin.

“Just as there is a tough competition between students for the mentorship of esteemed experts in a certain field of study, there is also a tough competition between mentors for recruiting talented students suited for their field of study. That’s why it had become our tradition to look for suitable candidates to take under our wings as early as the entrance exams.” The gray-eyed granny took out the pipe from her mouth and let out a sigh that turned into a wisp of white smoke.

“My colleagues just got very excited upon seeing your talent in magic. Your weaving is exquisite, mana abundant, and even your mana sense is extraordinarily accurate. As such you are perfectly suited to join our Sapphire Division that specializes in magic theory related professions.” The granny glanced back at other professors giving them a death glare.

Usually, Kiel would have been very proud to have multiple esteemed experts vying to make him their disciple. In fact, the first half of granny’s words did make him happy.

But when she praised his talent instead of his skill, all that satisfaction evaporated into thin air. Now, not only didn’t he feel happy, but on the contrary, he felt sourness swell up within him.

For people talented in magic, magic would come naturally. They would learn it quickly and easily.

But would a non-mage ever be able to learn magic quickly and easily?

Of course not.

No matter how talented, one needed to practice magic to learn it. And without mana, how could one practice magic? A person with a lot of mana might be able to repeat the same spell thousands of times in the single day, an average person perhaps several hundred of times, a non-mage, several dozen at most.

If their talent was the same and they put in the same amount of effort, what would take a year for an average person to learn, would take a month for a person with an abundant mana. As for a non-mage? Ten years.

Mentioning talent in front of a non-mage… was equivalent to rubbing salt into his wounds. Even a godly talent wouldn’t be enough to overcome the disadvantage of being born as a non-mage.

Thus, what Kiel detested the most was being reminded of it. Reminded of how much more effort he had to put in to walk the same distance as everyone else. He didn’t need or want a constant reminder of the blood and sweat that paved his path!

And as if that wasn’t enough to irritate him, the reason why these professors suddenly shifted their attitudes towards him was because they thought that he had a very accurate mana sense. Which again, was something he didn’t have!

It would have been better if they didn’t say anything at all!

He wasn’t sure what was worse – not being appreciated for the talents he did have, or being appreciated for talents he didn’t have.

Unaware of the irritation brewing inside the black-haired boy in front of her, the grandma harrumphed: “But recruiting isn’t the main purpose of this exam, and neither is magic talent.”

Kiel wasn’t sure if her goal was to remind her colleagues or him. Most likely it was both.

“You’ve been wondering about the purpose of this special exam, haven’t you?” Granny’s gaze softened once again, and her tone lost its edge.

Kiel nodded his head rigidly. Grandma smiled at him appreciatively and took out the pipe from her mouth to refill it. “This story began almost eight centuries prior, with the building of D’Arca…”

Grandma let her words hang in the air while she put more Crystal into her pipe. Crystal that she was pouring in resembled coarse salt, white and glittery, but if one looked closer to it, it had a bit of a green tint to it.

Kiel didn’t smoke so he wasn’t all that familiar with the different Crystal flavors, but it wasn’t hard to guess the type of Crystal from the rich scent, reminiscent of grass or tea, which was spreading in the air.

The middle-aged man took this pause as his chance to butter up to Kiel. Thus…

“Here, your lips are looking a bit dry. This explanation will take a while…”

…he offered him a bottle of water that he pulled out of nowhere, well, at least Kiel didn’t notice when and how he got his hands on it.

“…there is no need. Thank you for your good intentions…” Kiel responded politely, even squeezing out a bright smile through those dry lips. Grandma squeezed too, but not a smile, rather, she squeezed her eyes into a death glare, making the man retreat behind her like a startled tiwi. The fact that her pipe lit up with flames at this moment only served to add more intimidation to the picture.

“Ahem…” She coughed, meaningfully, or it could have been that she choked on the smoke, Kiel couldn’t tell.

“…D’Arca was envisioned as a modern, most magically advanced city. Building it required the making of countless magical components, artifacts, and enchantments. And of course, many enchanters and spell replicators to make them.” Grandma delved into the story.

“Lord Alann Farhice, as the leader of the project, set up a large-scale artifact manufacturing factory, hiring all kinds of different people with the only requirement being an ability to reproduce low-level enchantments. Enchanters, spell replicators, normal mages, or even people who weren’t mages, he accepted them all with open arms, giving them a chance to turn their lives around.”

All professors straightened up their backs, their expressions showing great respect and even reverie for the great man that was Alann Farhice.

“Those that worked hard were rewarded and encouraged. Lord Farhice would even personally inspect the products and meet the workers. If he discovered talented workers he would even sponsor their study of magic.”

“A great man he was.” The middle-aged man nodded his head, looking as if he was ready to give the man a salute at any moment.

They would probably faint on the spot if they knew that the man they were praising into the heavens was… not as perfect as the books portrayed him.

While books praised Alann Farhice for his contributions in modernizing the society by making magic artifacts available to everyone, they failed to mention that his main motive for doing so could be summed up in two words – saving money. What history books spoke of as a noble act of extending a helping hand to poverty-stricken populace had another name in Alann Farhice’s book – cheap labor.

Still, Alann Farhice might have had many questionable personality traits, but no one doubted his great vision, intellect, hard work, and humility. It was actions that spoke louder than words, and his actions never failed to make the future brighter to everyone involved.

This story that the granny continued to narrate was no exception.

Apparently, after many months of production, on one of his inspections, Alann Farhice discovered several artifacts whose enchantments deviated from his original design. The curious thing was that the mana density of those enchantments wasn’t as high as the original, yet their performance was higher than the original!

Alann Farhice, while not a mage himself due to the lack of mana, was still one of the most accomplished spell designers and inscriptionists. His spell designs weren’t something that anyone could just casually improve.

When he went to meet with the workers that had improved his spell design, he realized they were uneducated peasants who had no knowledge of magic theory. In fact, they didn’t even realize that they had managed to produce several artifacts whose enchantments were of higher quality than the original, let alone know how it happened.

They weren’t particularly skilled at weaving magic, and their talent didn’t seem that high either, their improvement speed just average.

Thus, Alann concluded that their “handwriting” was just coincidentally very suited for the enchantments they were doing which ended up inadvertently creating several enchantments that were better than the original. After all, it wasn’t strange for people to have a special affinity for a specific type of magic.

And thus, Alann Farhice rewarded the workers for their contribution by promoting them to do better-payed enchantments.

However, after some more time passed, these same workers, somehow, again managed to improve the new enchantment they had been given to replicate.

Once could have been a coincidence, but twice? Unlikely!

Was it possible that these people had a special affinity for two completely different enchantments? It didn’t seem likely.

Alann decided to look into this matter more thoroughly and soon he noticed several peculiarities. These people all had below average amount of mana so the number of enchantments they were able to do daily was several times lower than average. Yet, their improvement with each spell cast was several times higher than average, meaning that they were actually rather talented in magic.

The reason why their talent wasn’t discovered earlier was because, due to them doing fewer enchantments, the time it took for them to improve was the same as average people making them not stand out at all.

It wasn’t that these people had a special affinity towards those enchantments in particular but that their talent was extraordinary, to begin with. It was only natural that mages with great talent for magic could improve their spellcasting abilities quickly through repeatedly using magic.

Anyone else would have dropped the matter at this point, but Alann Farhice didn’t do so. Something didn’t feel right to him.

Looking at those new and old enchantments, he had asked the workers: “Why has your ‘handwriting’ changed?”

Their answers were surprisingly similar – they felt it would be better “this way”. They followed their own intuition when it came to weaving the enchantment.

Do talented mages have a strong intuition when it comes to casting magic? – Alann pondered. But if that was the case, then why was it that mages with even greater talent than those workers needed years of experience to improve their spells?

This intuition, sense of right and wrong, what is better and worse – it wasn’t something granted by talent, but rather, experience!

Coming up in the next episode:

“A lot of examinees with good spell weaving skills are tempted by the prospect of extra points so many apply for this exam every year.” Grandma responded vaguely. Kiel almost choked on his own saliva. Wasn’t he one of those examinees?!

Kiel felt that he was missing a piece of a puzzle. Something wasn’t quite right.

Perhaps it was some kind of Aethernea he hadn’t been aware of? Not that he was knowledgeable in this area, he had only heard rumors of three, perhaps four, Aetherneal gifts, and knew nothing more about it. Still, he had every intention to fix this lack of knowledge as soon as he got access to Muni library. And knowing the names of those Aetherneal gifts was a good place to start.

This time it was Kiel’s turn to start coughing, for he almost choked on his own spit. Good thing he refused that bottle of water. Had he been drinking it now, he’d be spewing it straight into the faces of the examiners.

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