Episode 95 – Practical Exam Start
“Can you repeat that? I didn’t quite catch it?” Kiel finally squeezed out.
“I said…” Elaru stared right into his eyes. “Let’s talk about sex.”
Silence descended on the room.
Kiel stared at Elaru with his own version of a gobsmacked and dumbfounded expression that consisted of a stiff, pale face, wide eyes and tightly pressed lips. Cold sweat was pouring down the side of his face making him look quite miserable.
How can you say that with a straight face?! What is with this air of solemnity?!?
Kiel’s right eyebrow started violently twitching. He had to cough a few more times so get his voice back. “You…want to…” Kiel swallowed down the saliva. “…to talk about…” I can’t believe I’m saying this… “… sexual intercourse?”
“Well, not the intercourse part specifically…” Elaru stated blandly.
Thank the gods! Kiel let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, but Elaru’s next words made the remainder of his breath get stuck inside his throat: “What I want to talk about is making babies.”
I don’t… I don’t even…what? Kiel stared at Elaru speechlessly. I… I can’t even… begin to fathom what is going through her head…
His entire body stood completely petrified, as if he had turned into a statue.
Perhaps if it was a few days earlier, he would have just gotten up and walked away. But today, his mind turned completely blank. And then countless question marks popped up inside his head, overpowering any sense of rational thought.
Elaru’s hand twitched as if it wanted to try poking Kiel again. However, this time she managed to restrain the urge.
“To create an offspring, both the mother and the father need to provide their seed of inheritance. When their two seeds meet, if they are compatible, they will combine into a seed of life.”
When she mentioned the combining of two people as one, Kiel finally woke up from his stupor and his face fell. “Stop. I know how children are made!”
Elaru gave him a wise look as if she was an ancient scholar. “Patience, young mageling.”
Is she making fun of me because I haven’t had… intimate… relations with females!? Kiel placed his fingers on top of his eyebrow to forcefully stop the uncontrollable twitching. “Mageling? Did you just make that word up?!”
Elaru completely ignored his question and continued. “The seed of life is then nourished inside the mother’s womb, or the egg, depending on the species, until it grows into a fully functional body.”
Kiel covered his face with his hand. I can’t believe we are having this conversation…
“The seed of life eventually gives birth to the consciousness – the mind. The mind contains memories and knowledge and is the source of thoughts and feelings. The mind is the essence of what makes you – you.”
Kiel let out a low grunt of displeasure, however, Elaru continued to ignore him.
“When the mind gains self-awareness, it creates a projection of consciousness – the Mind. The Mind is simply an extension of the consciousness, a way for the consciousness to perceive the energy of the world. If the consciousness is the sun than the Mind is the light emitted from the sun.”
Elaru placed her index finger against her forehead. “The lump of flesh inside our heads does not contain our consciousness. Our fleshly body which grows out of the seed of life is only a vessel, an interface our mind uses to perceive and interact with the physical world. Similar to how the soul tendrils act as the conduit for mana, the brain is only a bridge between our bodies and our transcendent mind.”
Kiel let out a resigned sigh. He had no idea where this conversation was going, but at least it didn’t seem to be going in an inappropriate direction.
Since that was the case, he might as well just let her say what she intended to say, even though none of the things said so far were new to him. The topic of how life is created was not only thought in school but even the people who didn’t go to school knew it, for it was a large part of culture and religion.
Halneans believed that the seed of life produced a spark of consciousness which had the ability to communicate with the Origin.
As soon as the Origin felt its existence, it would pull the new and weak spark inside a timeless dream where the spark would be sheltered and nourished by the Origin.
It is believed that this dream was a trial set by the Origin. If the consciousness failed the trial, the spark would be extinguished and the seed of life would die. Otherwise, the creature would be bestowed with a soul as its reward.
It is said that those who gained larger, better souls, had passed the trial with flying colors, while those who got miserable, small souls were those who barely passed the trial.
This is why, even from the religious point of view, those blessed with an abundance of mana were admired as the favorite children of Origin, while non-mages were the discarded children, looked down upon by the society.
The Origin was absolute. Everything came from the Origin and would one day return to the Origin. Even the gods themselves could not oppose the will of the Origin.
“Now, the purpose of this baby making talk is this – just like the soul tendrils can snap, the connection between your body and mind can also be severed.” Elaru continued. “Unlike how the separation of the soul and the body causes damage to the body, the separation of the mind and the body harms neither of the two. If your mind left your body, your body would enter a state similar to a coma.”
“Let’s talk about sex?!” Kiel made an air quotation marks. “Would it have killed you if you just said you wanted to talk about this from the start?!” Kiel snapped glaring daggers at Elaru.
Elaru tilted her head to the side cutely and giggled musically. “Ah, but then I wouldn’t have been able to see you acting all cute and embarrassed.”
“ELARU!!!!” Kiel spat out through gritted teeth, barely restraining himself from grabbing the redhead by the neck. “In what way am I cute?! It was a completely appropriate response to an inappropriate topic of conversation!”
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry, sorry.” She purred softly, trying to melt down the icy glare being directed her way.
“I can tell you aren’t sorry at all!”
“Err…” Before the situation could degrade further, Elaru dropped a bomb that totally shifted the conversation onto another track. “Tomorrow’s practical exam will temporarily separate your mind and body.”
Kiel’s eyes widened, and he stared at Elaru. “What?”
She stood silent for a while, deliberating her next words. “Have you ever heard about the Replica Dungeon?”
Kiel furrowed his eyebrows in thought. “I think I saw a guidepost with such a name inside Muni?”
“Right. It is a special place inside Muni.” Elaru dramatically paused her speech, locking her eyes with Kiel’s. “In fact, Replica Dungeon is the most precious place in the entire land of Halnea. It is the reason why everyone is trying to enter Muni. The reason why Muni managed to become the holy land of magic and an incredible power to be reckoned with.”
Kiel’s frown deepened. “How come I haven’t heard any information about such an important place?”
“It is normal that you haven’t heard about it. It is considered as one of Muni secrets. And as a part of the Muni enrollment procedure, you will be required to sign an arcane contract preventing you from revealing any of the Muni secrets to outsiders.” Elaru comforted.
“If people can’t reveal Muni secrets, how come you know about it?”
“Magical Contracts are spells.” Elaru revealed a heart-stopping smirk. “Spells can be broken.”
◈ Thursday, 30th of August 1449 A.W. ◈
Muni Exams: Day 4
The lightning storm had long passed, leaving behind only an occasional cloud. Even so, the plaza in front of Muni was enveloped in a thick cloud. A cloud of despair.
The large board towering above the examinees was filled with over three hundred different numbers. Numbers that caused some to break out in cheers while the majority broke out into mournful cries.
Over five thousand examinees had applied for the exams, yet only a bit more than three hundred had passed the first round of the exams.
The lucky three hundred were segregated into more than a dozen different groups based on their chosen practical exam.
As Kiel stared at his number displayed among the three hundred, he couldn’t help but be elated. He already knew that his number would be there, so it didn’t come as a surprise, nonetheless, seeing it there with his own two eyes gave him a special feeling of pride and satisfaction.
His number was placed into group 4, and the place where his group would have the exam was “4th floor of the Replica Dungeon”.
In fact, all of the groups, including Elaru’s 6th group, had their practical exam inside the, so called, Replica Dungeon.
After confirming their assigned timeslot, Kiel and Elaru waited for their exam time to arrive in the large Muni courtyard.
To avoid any potential trouble, they traveled under the Invisibility barrier, and even chose an inconspicuous place in the courtyard to rest in. They were worried that the Shadow that attacked Kiel yesterday would come back for another attempt.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and in seemingly no time, Kiel was standing in front of a large circular staircase located in the center of the university, that went deep underground.
There were no holes from which one could jump down. One had to walk down the stairs until they reached their floor.
Thankfully, Kiel’s target was the fourth floor, so he didn’t need to descend for long before stopping in front of a large door.
He turned towards Elaru only to see her smiling at him brightly.
She extended her fist towards him and this time, Kiel didn’t hesitate to extend his own fist towards hers, completing that strange, special handshake she had taught him previously.
Even though the meaning behind the handshake was clear. Elaru still felt the need to add: “I’ll wait for you.”
She wore a wide smile on her face, and even her aura was warm and soothing, but when Kiel concentrated on feeling her mind, he felt a discrepancy. It might have been because their bond had grown in power, but he could now feel something buried deep down inside her.
He felt a slight emotion that was so subtle he might have overlooked it if it weren’t an emotion that was completely uncharacteristic for Elaru – nervousness.
As the tinge of anxiety touched him, he understood.
She wasn’t nervous for her own exam. She had unwavering confidence in herself. What she was worried about was him.
It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in his abilities. It was just that he had too little time to prepare for the exam. It was also possible that he would have bad luck.
Kiel stared at Elaru’s flawless smile, and suddenly he felt closer to her than ever. He felt as if the two of them were not that much different after all.
Elaru Wayvin, just like him, hid her emotions behind a flawless smile. It was just that she was much better at hiding her real self than him. Or perhaps the word “hiding” wasn’t adequate to describe what she was doing. She wasn’t merely hiding her emotions, it was more like she was overwriting them with new ones. Replacing everything which she didn’t want.
Kiel responded with a small yet genuine smile. “I’ll be out soon.”
When Kiel walked through the entrance to the 4th floor of the Replica Dungeon what greeted him was a circular room that was almost completely empty.
Many white egg shaped chairs were placed inside the room. Some of them were placed in a circle around the room with their backs against the wall, while some of them were placed in a circle in the center of the room with their backs pressed against each other.
The white, shiny chairs created a sharp contrast with the walls and floors of the room which were made from a polished black stone.
The brightness of the chairs momentarily blinded Kiel and he failed to notice the white person standing in front of the chairs.
As his eyes adjusted to the light his breath caught in his throat.
What stood in front of him was the most beautiful elibu female he had ever seen.
She wore an elegant sleeveless white dress that revealed her perfect curves in a modest manner. and made her skin look even paler. Her hair was as white as snow, looking like it was made from strands of silver. It was styled up into a sophisticated hairstyle that looked classy enough to be worn on a ball, yet simple enough to be worn to work.
Her skin was flawless and near translucent, giving her an appearance of a surreal entity. Intricate elibu markings decorating her left arm looked blacker than the deepest of the night when compared to the rest of her completely white visage.