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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
In a dim and empty lecture hall, a young apprentice knelt by the podium, stuck out his buttocks and stretched a hand out, trying to reach its base.
Who came up with this design?
The apprentice reached so hard that his face turned bright red.
Installing Sound Replication Stones in the hidden compartment of the podium?
It was indeed pleasing to the eye, but it made things difficult for teaching assistants like him who were responsible for class maintenance.
Finally, with a soft click, he successfully removed the last of the precious Sound Replication Stones.
The apprentice leaned backward and sat on the floor, panting as he looked at the Sound Replication Stone in his hand. It was smooth and polished from repeated use. He let out a sigh of relief.
Fortunately, this piece isn’t damaged.
It should be able to last ten…uhm, maybe five more lessons.
The apprentice carefully wrapped the Sound Replication Stone, then picked up a charcoal pencil and traced on the slightly faded Sound Replication Spell in front of the podium.
His movements were deft and habitual; he looked serious and focused. The complex and varied spell effortlessly appeared under his hand.
While he was at it, the apprentice even corrected a few mistakes on the design of the Barrier Spell to make it operate smoother, which may even extend the lifespan of the Sound Replication Stone.
Of course, even though he was pleased with himself, the apprentice thought that this act was best left undiscovered, otherwise he would face another investigation by the Magical Ethics Committee.
At this thought, the pleased expression instantly left his face.
After finishing the last stroke, the apprentice, with an aching back, stood up and looked towards his seat: there were two stacks of parchment manuscript paper, three sacks of test papers, and a dedicated utilities box for teaching assistants.
The apprentice sighed.
Mr. Donovan’s lecture was this afternoon.
He had to quickly prepare the paraphernalia, including the roster, nametags, recording pen, media player, models, the corresponding guest manual…
Why did such a boring topic require so many lectures?
Sigh, the Convention of All Magic is on a decline, the apprentice thought worriedly as he walked to the other side of the lecture hall and looked at the calendar on the wall.
[October 29, Empire Year 839, Saturday]
[Era of Multiple Kings Year 314, Lifetime Mage of Ascetic Tower, craftsman, poet, historian, swordsman, author of ‘Biography of the Iron Blood King’, Jericho Leon Mindis was born on this day.]
[What matters is not the choice itself but the act of choosing—J. L. Mindis]
On the calendar, the painted figure of Wizard Mindis stood on the peak of the mountains and stared profoundly at the sunrise in the distance, looking troubled.
It’s been three years.
The apprentice sighed a long sigh, then mercilessly tore off yesterday together with the patriotic Master Mindis and crumpled it up.
[October 30, Empire Year 839, Sunday]
[Day of Holy Pursuit Holiday]
[Era of Multiple Kings Year 58, military strategist, commander of the Holiness Exorcism Campaign, King Anzac died on this day.]
[Comrades, we leave our lives in this moment in order to preserve hope for tomorrow—King Anzac]
On the calendar was the back of a fully-armored chevalier, rushing down a glacier-capped peak towards a large dense army.
Expressionless, the apprentice stuffed ‘Wizard Mindis’ into his hand, crumpling it smaller and smaller.
Why did these lectures always have to be scheduled on weekends…
At this moment.
“Really?” A young man’s voice, bright, gentle and cheerful, could be heard.
The apprentice was startled. He turned around to find an unexpected guest who had entered the lecture hall without him noticing.
The guest had sat next to his seat and pulled out a stack of parchment paper rolls from his teaching assistant sack, rifling through it and reading with much interest.
“‘A Common Explanation for the Origin Theory, Metasystem Concept, Metamorphic Magic, and Spirit Summoning Spells—New Evidence from Northland Prehistoric Battlefields’?”
Just by hearing the first half of the sentence, the apprentice was shocked!
My god, that’s—
He ran towards the guest like a lunatic, but stumbled at the steps on the way and fell flat on his face.
The guest was still reading the scroll in his hand keenly, looking relaxed.
The young apprentice ignored the pain in his palms, got up hurriedly and rushed towards the guest with gritted teeth. “That’s… mine!”
The guest finally looked up and smiled casually at him.
He had long hair that grew past his ears and a fair complexion; he was very handsome. His seated posture was elegant but striking.
A pretty boy.
Like he stepped out of a painting.
The apprentice held on to a seat nearby and forcibly halted his steps to avoid hitting the guest.
“Yes, I noticed the signature. And the commentary for why the paper was rejected,” the pretty boy chuckled. He held up the scroll at the apprentice, turning to a page of comments written in red. “‘Self-gratifying, irrational and fanciful speculation’.”
The apprentice blushed.
He felt a choking sensation as he looked at that commentary, his initial justified tone faded a little. “That’s—” he hesitated for a bit, finally uttering stubbornly, “none of your business.”
The pretty boy smiled gently.
The apprentice noticed that his clothes were different from the colors and styles commonly worn in the tower. On the contrary, his wizard robe was flamboyant in colors, fashionably designed and made of expensive materials. It seemed to give off star-like reflections in the morning light.
This is odd.
Who is he?
“So you’re him?” The guest continued to thumb through the scrolls in his hand. “The ‘fraud wizard’ of Red Horn Tower?”
The apprentice was taken aback.
Due to the unique architecture of its main tower, Soul Tower was jokingly referred by apprentices of other magic towers as “Red Horn Tower”.
But apprentices of Soul Tower would never mention this moniker. That means…
However, the apprentice regained his composure and quickly noticed another moniker.
What was that supposed to mean?
The pretty boy nodded.
“So you believe that,” the guest lifted his gaze from the scrolls, nodded gently to the apprentice, amiable as a spring breeze, “in the Holiness Exorcism Campaign more than a millennium ago, King Anzac opened the Gate of Hell and relied on the power of a mysterious devil to defeat the ancient orcs?”
The apprentice blinked. He stared at his own manuscript in the guest’s hand and understood something.
“Fraud wizard, very well.”
The apprentice sighed and held up his index finger, as if he was well-accustomed to such a situation. “Listen, I’m not a fraud, and I never said that the ancient orcs were defeated with help from a devil…”
But the guest immediately interjected, “But in your thesis, that’s the commentary that the reviewer wrote.”
He turned to a specific page in the scroll and showed it to the apprentice.
A paragraph was circled in red, with a comment beside it that said, “if you like devils so much, you should continue your studies at the Gate of Hell.”
The apprentice skipped a breath; his face flushed instantly.
Seemingly insulted, his tone was brisk, “This… this has been taken out of context!”
The guest looked at him with a grin, but did not say anything.
This made the apprentice even more indignant.
With a lightning-quick move he snatched his thesis over, instinctively flipped through the pages and rummaged out a creased page.
“See?” He pointed angrily at one of the sketches that was full of notations. It looked like a sketch of a human skeleton. “Based on the latest ancient battlefield evidence unearthed from under Arunde Castle… the remains of more than a thousand ancient human warriors with distinctive features of the era of multiple kings…most of the specimens suffered countless blows and injuries to numerous parts…”
The guest drew closer and looked at it with interest.
The apprentice quickened his pace of speech, “Whether in terms of extent or quantity, it far exceeds our imagination. Some remains even have crushed skulls in addition to pierced hearts…”
“I guess,” the pretty boy smiled as his long hair fluttered, “this meant that the ancient knights during the era of multiple kings battled courageously? Fought to the death against the orcs? And suffered severe injuries?”
“No!” The apprentice was indignant as he waved the scroll in his hand. “This meant that they suffered fatal trauma more than once during their lifetime! More than once!” he repeated to emphasize his point.
“Perhaps, the superpowers of the ancient people were stronger?” the tone of the pretty boy was still teasing, “just as how ancient orcs are physically more superior than regular orcs?”
The apprentice felt insulted.
He raised his voice, gritted his teeth and habitually raised his index finger as he tirelessly repeated, “No human being can withstand such a fatal blow, even if it was only once! None! No matter how strong-willed you are! Impossible! Even with stronger superpowers, not possible!”
Every time he emphasized, the pretty boy beamed and nodded.
As if he understood well.
The apprentice took a deep breath and turned to the next page.
“Then, a few of the remains that I personally excavated from the ground and thawed from a frozen state, I swear, the residual flesh on those things still had signs of life. If not for my quick reactions…I’ve listed the specific data on the thousands of remains uncovered by our research team here…”
But the apprentice stopped speaking abruptly.
The part of the thesis to which he pointed was full of red circles, its original state almost unidentifiable. Various comments were written in distinct handwritings: “Statistical method used was too rudimentary”, “Has selective bias been taken into account”, “Recommended that new specimen be selected”, “Tests are unconvincing”, “Correlation does not equal causation” etc.
The most offending one was: “Did you learn math from a swordsman?”
The pretty boy seemed to be holding back laughter.
The apprentice blushed as he stuffed the thesis into the sack.
“Anyway, this is beyond the scope of explanation of ‘Edge Sharpening Skills’, ‘Physique Fortification Magic’ and ‘Material Affinity’ of Alchemy Tower as well as ‘Light and Shadow Flute’ and ‘Soul Body Theory’ of Soul Tower, let alone some superpower like “will affecting the body”.”
He was still explaining diligently, “I don’t think you would be able to find that even in the most extreme of places such as Ascetic Tower…”
The guest nodded, encouraging him to go on. “So?”
The apprentice adjusted his breath; his eyes lit up. “In known historical materials, even though rare, there are indeed a few records that mention similar things that ignore fundamental principles and radically alter life form…”
Ignore fundamental principles, radically…
“You mean…” The guest muttered calmly, “Bright God Church’s… Religious Exorcism Records?”
The apprentice paused.
The pretty boy chuckled. “So, we’re back to devils.”
The apprentice cleared his throat. “No, not entirely, and not necessarily Bright God… But,” he was trying hard to justify something, but eventually gave up and said softly, “Yes, for the most part, yes. At least that’s… the potential circumstantial evidence that can currently be referenced.”
The apprentice looked dejected. He pressed his elbow onto the sacks containing the papers. “What I mean to say is, if we are willing to let go of prejudices and re-examine the relevant religious books and even legends, it will, I mean, it may be of help.”
The guest understood something. “So the reviewers think that you are advocating mystical or even religious theories that claim ‘devils exist’ and such like?”
The apprentice’s expression turned gloomy. “They even scoffed and asked me if I went to a sermon at Gate of Hell again.”
He stared miserably at the crumpled thesis in the sack.
God have mercy, he’s only been to Gate of Hell once, alright?
Even then, he was tricked to enter!
That big sister who preached looked so intellectual, so mature, so beautiful…
Who knew she liked…
The apprentice shook his head to dismiss the unpleasant memories.
When he smelled the reeking of blood from human sacrifice, he immediately left, alright?
“Your title, I understand it now,” the guest suddenly said.
The apprentice looked up. “What?”
The pretty boy touched his chin lightly. “A Metamorphic Magic that takes effect at the origin level… Using contemporary metasystem hypothesis to explain those long-despised ancient Spirit Summoning Spells…”
The guest used the terms from the thesis adeptly. “You are trying to establish a line of reasoning that can be accepted by wizards—explaining incomprehensible mystical phenomena from the perspective of modern magic.”
The pretty boy looked up. “To try and get it past the review? In order to apply for funding for further research?”
The apprentice scoffed and seemed to be quitting on himself a little. “Still didn’t get it past the review, did I? And the archaeological excavations are over now. It’s over.”
The large lecture hall was silent for a while; the two were separated by a seat, silent.
A few seconds later, slightly unexpected by the apprentice, the guest did not comfort nor ridicule him—this was the best treatment he has received in more than a month.
“Divine Art,” the pretty boy turned around and asked earnestly and solemnly, “Why not Divine Art?”
The apprentice was stunned. “What?”
The pretty boy lowered his head, a spark flickering in his eyes. “Ignore fundamental principles, radically alter life form. In countless religious records and legends, miracles and Divine Art have exhibited identical effects, have they not?”
The pretty boy paused at each phrase, “Revive the dead, put flesh on bone, restore the body, for a divine cause.”
The apprentice was silent for a while before he spluttered, “My…That’s not the main point of my research. I’m not a Bright God follower, not a…fraud.”
He was visibly upset.
But the pretty boy looked at him for a long while, then smiled. “Actually you’ve already thought of it, haven’t you?”
The pretty boy’s words had an enchanting power, “And there are actually more records of miracles and Divine Art, which are even more detailed,”
“But you didn’t put them in.”
The apprentice trembled slightly.
After a long while, the apprentice exhaled and patted his thesis. “Even when I’ve written it like this, I’m already being regarded as a fraud…”
He seemed to have resigned to fate. “I’d still want to be able to earn a living.”
The guest fell silent.
“I thought Soul Tower was progressive,” the pretty boy said softly, “Here, everyone has and deserves an ‘independent and free soul’.”
The apprentice scoffed disapprovingly. “However independent, they are human.” He leaned back in his seat and looked up at the ceiling, his tone unbearably disappointed, “However free, they are wizards. Innately they will reject certain things,”
These words made the pretty boy pensive.
“They don’t believe that, beyond their path, lies other paths that can be deemed ‘rational’, and sweepingly dismiss these as ‘foolishness’—based on the standards of magic,”
The apprentice was engrossed in the topic. “They believe that, even if they can be doubted, can be proven false, and even have their own established arguments refuted, these must and can only be done by their own methods—otherwise it would just be fools’ speech, irrational,”
“They believe that everything in the world must be explained in accordance with their recognized logical principles for it to be reasonable,”
“Because magic is advanced, magic is the truth.”
The apprentice sighed. “As wizards, we are so ‘advanced’,” he was listless, “that we are unable to be more ‘advanced’.”
He fell silent from frustration.
“It’s too wide.”
The apprentice was puzzled.
The pretty boy ran his fingers through his hair. “The scope of your complaint is too wide, but it’s irrelevant to magical concepts,”
“It’s simply about wizards, simply about humans.”
The apprentice was dumfounded. “I don’t understand?”
The pretty boy laughed casually and shook the apprentice. “The reason your thesis was rejected was because of—politics.”
The apprentice’s expression changed. “Pardon?”
Disregarding courtesy, the pretty boy lightly prodded the apprentice’s forehead. “To be precise, it is about the right of speech, dominance and vested interests in magical research, and the politics of personnel and structure in Magic Towers.”
The apprentice stared at him, stumped.
What…what does that mean?
The pretty boy pulled out the manuscript from between them. “Particularly arguments such as ‘we should adopt a humbler attitude and re-evaluate religious legends’. The reason they rejected such arguments is because of what happened recently.”
The apprentice was puzzled.
The pretty boy smiled enigmatically as he rifled through the thesis. “Three months ago, the Seat of Million Laws lost to the Northland Diocese at the Truth Debate,”
The apprentice’s expression changed.
The Seat of Million Laws represented Soul Tower. He was aware that they did not do well at the debate; they even suffered mocking comments from apprentices of Seat of Power for that.
But isn’t it normal to have victories and losses at a debate?
What did that have to do with his thesis?
The pretty boy went on, “Unfortunately, among those present was the Duke of the Northlands cum Provincial Governor, which had a profound impact and serious consequences,”
The pretty boy grinned. “With the approval of the Arunde family, together with the strong recommendation from Bright God Church, the young bishop from the Northern Diocese was able to head south to visit Capital of Triumph, head straight into High Palace and preached to the imperial nobility, including the royal family. Reportedly, he hit it off with His Majesty and chatted away like old friends,”
“This incident has become a delightful anecdote, passed on with approbation throughout all 23 provinces of the empire,”
“There are even rumors that His Majesty intends to make this young but knowledgeable Northland bishop the Prime Minister of the empire in order to replace Count Renato who is under fire for failing to quash the rebellion.”
Struck by the series of baffling terms and events, the apprentice’s head—which was chock-full of corpses and skeletons—felt dizzy. “So?”
The pretty boy closed the manuscript, propped an arm on the armrest and leaned towards the apprentice, half smirking. “So now the top brass of not only Red Horn Tower, but all three Great Magic Towers need to urgently regroup, save face, steady the ship and re-instill confidence in the people that: magic is the truth of the world, wizards are the right path for humans,”
The pretty boy waved the thesis and gently tapped the forehead of the confused apprentice. “Yet you coincidentally submitted this thesis at such a time,”
“Saying ‘hey, maybe the stories written by those frauds might have a point’, and even wanting to apply for funding to set up a research unit?”
The apprentice started to understand. He removed the crumpled thesis from his forehead and stared blankly at the guest.
“If they allowed this…” the pretty boy scoffed. “What would become of the authority of magic in the minds of all scholars in this time of panic and low morale? What about the rights of court wizards to speak to the great clans of the empire? What if the nobility no longer believed in reason and turned to the mystic? What will happen to this entire research system, proof methodologies and principles, and their instructive status within the entire magic system that we have spent thousands of years to perfect?”
The apprentice clutched the thesis tightly to his chest and blinked bewilderedly.
“Most importantly…” the pretty boy chuckled and reached out a finger to prod the apprentice’s forehead, “if what saved mankind a millennium ago wasn’t magic, wasn’t wizards, wasn’t the intelligence and strength of humans themselves, but some illusory gods and devils… then what, again, would become of the absolute advantage over church and faith that we have built brick by brick in the hearts of the people ever since The Great Reconciliation?”
The apprentice took a deep breath. He felt slightly indignant after he managed to sort through the logic. “But… But if this is the truth…”
The pretty boy interjected him abruptly in a cold tone, “Then this truth ought to be buried, never to see the light of day,”
The pretty boy’s expression turned livid, but retained a grave aura. “Unless this truth benefits us and will not affect the absolute ruling status of wizards in the eyes of the world,”
The pretty boy reached his hand out and tapped the apprentice’s forehead again—he seemed to particularly enjoy this small gesture—and said, “Knowledge, is also built through authority,”
“First, I love my teacher, only then can I love the truth.”
The apprentice shook his head to avoid the guest’s small gesture.
He carefully contemplated every word the guest said.
A question was resolved, but endless questions bubbled up.
He looked at the guest skeptically. “Who… did you say you were again?”
The pretty boy sat back in his seat, his smile becoming more mysterious. “I didn’t, but…”
He lifted his chin, reached his left hand out, and subtly concealed his arrogance in a playful tone. “Macinta. Macinta Renato,” the pretty boy said softly, “Nice to meet you.”
The apprentice instinctively shook his fair hands, a noble’s hands that have clearly not seen much farm work. “Err, yes, nice to meet… Wait a minute, Renato?”
The apprentice’s expression changed.
His surname is Renato, and he’s a young wizard…
He started to remember something. Initially he scrambled to recall it, then at the moment it struck him his whole body trembled!
“My god, you’re that…” he pointed in horror at Macinta, “orthodox empire imperial noble, descendant of the founding members of the six stars, youngest son of the current prime minister, fiancée to Princess Milan of the royal family, the one that’s only interested in magic and not interested in becoming a government official…”
Macinta listened with a smile to the apprentice listing all his titles, seemingly quite accustomed to it, and seemingly relishing it.
The apprentice was mildly stunned. “Something’s not right here. I seem to remember Tower of War snatching you from us before we could get to you… Why are you…”
Tower of War.
Macinta paused for a bit. “Yes, I am indeed an apprentice at Alchemy Tower.”
The apprentice nodded plainly, “So, you’ve been sent to visit by Muscle Men—ahem, apologies, I mean Alchemy Tower. Which lecture will you be attending?”
But Macinta shook his head. “No. I am here to learn,”
“I am the beneficiary of the new ‘Horn of War’ Dual-Tower Joint Council Training Program.”
Horn of War.
The apprentice understood. As the name suggested, it referred to the mainstay in the world of magic, the two Great Magic Towers, Alchemy Tower and Soul Tower, colloquially known amongst wizards as ‘Tower of War’ and ‘Red Horn Tower’, but…
“Dual-Tower, Joint Council Training?”
The apprentice looked at Macinta in disbelief.
“That’s right.” The pretty boy nodded, his bright smile seemed to clear the gloom in the lecture hall, “For two and a half years, I’ve been a—Joint Council scholar.”
The apprentice goofily scratched his head.
Why did these words sound odd? Something’s not right…
According to legend, didn’t these two towers contemptuously refer to each other as “Muscle Men” and “The Thinkers” respectively, significantly divergent in every aspect, from magical concepts to organizational structure, from the relationships between their higher-ups to competition between their apprentices? Didn’t they want to strangle each other at every opportunity, and swear never to associate with each other?
Macinta cleared his throat and retracted that smile that would mesmerize half of the young ladies and a quarter of the young men in the empire. “Listen, I have a research project at hand,” he looked at the apprentice earnestly and continued, “perhaps you would be interested.”
The apprentice scoffed in his mind.
‘Why barge into an empty lecture hall first thing in the morning and yammer at someone.’
It’s magic audit season. Looks like the organizer of a bogus research project, after failing to reimburse large sums of mysterious accounts, is trying to recruit suckers to make up in numbers and scam funding…
The apprentice said lazily, “So, what’s the research topic?”
Macinta smiled. It was obvious that a Fluttering Hex had been cast on his hair; it fluttered freely in the air. “As you said, some subversive topic, some directions that may not be recognized, some matters that require introspection, some things that we can obtain only by overthrowing deep-rooted and unassailable beliefs.”
The apprentice responded half-heartedly, “Oh…”
‘As expected, even the research topic is unfathom…’
Until Macinta said the next sentence, “And our research site is the underground of Arunde Castle in the Northland Province, in the mountains.”
After a few seconds, the apprentice’s expression changed suddenly as he understood.
He stood up in an instant, looked at Macinta, and for a moment forgot to admire the latter’s magnificent beauty. “Underground, in the mountains, you mean…”
Macinta chuckled softly and stood up as well. “Yup. That old place mentioned in your thesis, the ancient battlefield ruins of the era of multiple kings where you participated in the excavation, that ancient underground transportation route,”
The pretty boy walked up to the apprentice. He was taller than the latter by an entire head and towered over him.
“Colloquially known as—’Black Track’.”
The apprentice was completely stupefied.
But Macinta did not let him off. He artfully revealed insider information that even the apprentice was unaware, “After Red Horn Tower was forced to withdraw from the ruins under the joint pressure of the Empire Official Research Unit, Ascetic Tower and Bright God Church, the disposal of the site fell to the Northland Provincial Governor,”
“And the duke of the Northlands, an expert in papering over issues, was only going to seal the cave entrance and erect a ‘We KO-ed the Ancient Orcs’ monument and consider the job done…”
“But unfortunately, I’m close to the heir of Duke Arunde, so he delegated this task to me,”
The pretty boy leaned down and touched the apprentice’s forehead with his own. “You know, I could use someone like you in erecting a monument,”
His pupils were azure, like the depths of the ocean.
The apprentice ignored Macinta’s overly intimate actions and subconsciously gulped. “You mean… carry out fake works, and do something else instead… Isn’t… isn’t that illegal?”
Macinta laughed, but did not answer directly, “What do you say, would you join?”
The apprentice took a few steps back and eased his breathing that quickened from Macinta’s intimacy.
He glanced at Macinta in astonishment then looked at his own thesis.
But a few seconds later, the apprentice who had figured something out looked solemn. “There were many people involved in that previous excavation,”
His expression was gloomy. “For example, my mentor, Wizard Donovan. You should go to him.”
Macinta stared at his expression and laughed. “Donovan? The Donovan that’s one step away from the title of Master?”
He scratched his chin, pensive. “How should I put this. I’ve studied the entire collection of his work, from the early years to the present.”
The apprentice burst out laughing. “You’re confident alright.”
He looked at the noble young master in front of him. “In his lifetime, Wizard Donovan has written 163 papers, 12 books…”
“No,” Macinta shook his head and interrupted him. “To be precise, it is 192 papers, and 13 books,”
The apprentice turned pale.
The pretty boy merely carried on casually, “Including some of his exercise manuscripts from his youth, and a book that is currently being edited but is yet to be published.”
The apprentice froze.
It’s one thing that this guy is handsome. After all, there are still many people in this world who are on the same level of attractiveness as me.
But, he’s obviously a dandy, and he’s quite young?
Don’t tell me…
Macinta did not notice the apprentice deep in thought. “But unfortunately, I discovered that the once-revered Master Donovan has become conservative and backward. His latest books and papers are all banal commentary, conventional and having no intention of breaking free from the orthodox,”
His words revealed deep disappointment, “Master Donovan, is old now.”
The apprentice was taken aback at first. He then retorted with an indignant tone reserved for disciplining students, “Hey, kid…”
But Macinta did not let him go on. “And in recent years, the rare few interesting works of his…” the pretty boy looked up and directed his gaze squarely at the apprentice clutching his thesis, “were all co-authored with an unknown student cum teaching assistant of his.”
The apprentice froze.
Macinta stared fixedly at him and whispered, “An apprentice that was demoted from first-class to third-class three years ago due to a serious violation of research ethics—Taurus Mill.”
Silence filled the lecture hall.
The young apprentice, Taurus, kept silent.
A few seconds later, Taurus coughed. “Indeed. But Master Donovan is still my mentor and employer, I think it’s best you go to him first…”
But Macinta ignored his words as before and cut straight to the point, “Don’t you feel indignant?”
Macinta laughed sarcastically, “You’re clearly very talented, but because of a so-called ‘political mistake’ you’ve been permanently stripped of your qualification for evaluation and promotion,”
Taurus’s breathing quickened.
“You’re in your prime, but the future is dim. For the rest of your life, you can only be a third-class apprentice? Even when your manuscript is being reviewed anonymously, it keeps getting rejected?”
In the lecture hall, one was making backhanded queries, and the other was clinging to his thesis.
They faced each other in silence.
Taurus struggled to resume his breathing, “Listen, three years ago, if not for Master Donovan protecting me under pressure…”
But Macinta’s queries kept on coming, and pierced straight through his chest like a sword-style imbued with superpowers, “Don’t you feel indignant?”
The pretty boy’s tone was austere, like a prophet of god. “You are clearly ambitious and curious, but can only hide behind your mentor, handle some chores, quietly proofread and verify data for him?”
“And…” Macinta glanced around the lecture hall, “Maintaining Sound Replication Stones?”
Taurus clenched the rejected thesis tightly in his palms.
Macinta slowly reached out a hand. “Now you have a chance, to prove yourself,”
His tone was filled with temptation. “Join me. Return to the proper path of magic. Tell those who have rejected you that, one fine day, they will only be worthy of looking at your back.”
Taurus lowered his head, his expression unclear.
He slipped into complete silence.
Macinta was in no rush; he merely waited for Taurus quietly and patiently.
He seemed confident about the latter’s response.
However, a few seconds later, Taurus looked up and said, “I reject,”
The apprentice struggled with his words and he sounded them out gradually. “I’m happy here,” Taurus clung on to his thesis, his voice trembling, “I chose magic because I’m passionate about it, not for fame and fortune.”
Macinta was slightly surprised. “Really?”
The pretty boy started to re-evaluate Taurus. “You know that, for you, this will be a rare opportunity? At the very least, I will be able to provide you with an adequate income…”
Taurus interjected Macinta suddenly, “Listen here!” His expression was tense, and his knuckles were white from clutching on to the thesis. “I’m still busy. I have to prepare the facilities for the next lecture…”
The apprentice did not go on.
Macinta raised an eyebrow. “Alright,” he nodded and said regretfully, “What a pity.”
The pretty boy stared at the apprentice, but the latter kept mum, seemingly unmoved.
Macinta sighed and turned to leave.
Just as he was about to turn around, the silent Taurus shut his eyes tight and bit his lower lip.
As if he was suffering.
At that moment.
Macinta did not turn around. “I heard that you’re from a family of knights in the Chauvinistic Region, is that right?”
The apprentice’s expression changed.
Taurus looked up cautiously. “Why?”
“Nothing. I asked around at the tower,” Macinta was unhurried, and did not turn around either. “You have a fiancée who’s your childhood sweetheart. After adopting religion, she took an oath to serve the gods, broke the engagement, and became a nun for life?”
Broke the engagement.
For a moment, Taurus’ mind froze.
The thesis in his arms was moaning in pain.
“Hey, Muscle Man,” after a long pause, the spaced-out Taurus mumbled, “It’s none of your business.”
But Macinta was like a predator on the hunt. He caught the scent of blood of its prey and chased it down. “Well, you, dear Taurus, only tried to squeeze your way into a Magic Tower after the age of 18, and pledged to pursue the path of magic… yet you remained obsessed with explaining the mystic with magic, is it because of her?”
Taurus looked up suddenly and yelled, “Of course not!”
Macinta turned and looked at the mildly trembling apprentice with a subtle expression.
Taurus realized that his attitude was wrong.
He cleared his throat and made an effort to recompose his tone, “The, the direction of my research and my attitude towards it has always been such. It is not affected by anything outside of work.”
His tone was firm.
Macinta smiled. “Good then.”
He started to turn around again and said, intentionally or otherwise, “Oh, by the way, just so you know,”
“That nun fiancée of yours, due to her religious devotion and exceptional work, has been handpicked by a young bishop to be his personal assistant.”
“Ah what a coincidence. It’s Bishop Sigurd, who was an honored guest of His Majesty, the one I mentioned earlier.”
Macinta’s voice crept into his ears like the legendary whispers of the devil; he was defenseless.
“As a holy nun admired by believers, your fiancée—pardon, ex-fiancée—is deeply trusted, and bathes in god’s grace,”
The air in the lecture hall crystallized.
After a long while.
“Fine. I get it,” the apprentice said vaguely.
Macinta looked at him as his tone turned grave again. “I’ll be leaving then,” the pretty boy said casually, “I wish you and your thesis the best of luck.”
Macinta turned around, strode forward and sighed spontaneously. “Those missionaries, they sure have a knack of bewitching people, don’t they?”
He walked away slowly.
Taurus thought distractedly.
She didn’t adopt religion because she was bewitched by a missionary.
It was because…
With a thump, the thesis in Taurus’ hands fell to the floor.
Taurus snapped out of his daze.
He bent down silently to pick up the thesis that was crumpled by him beyond recognition.
The thesis that was covered in red ink had a line of commentary on the top of its last page.
Although it was anonymously reviewed, this did not stop Taurus from recognizing his mentor’s handwriting:
Magic, ultimately, is about human knowledge.
Don’t lose your way in the infinite pursuit of curiosity and lose your heart.
Taurus’ breathing quickened.
About human knowledge…
His fists clenched tighter and tighter.
His heart raced faster and faster.
Taurus voice rang throughout the lecture hall.
The footsteps stopped.
Macinta turned around slowly and looked at the apprentice with a calm expression.
“Joint Council scholar…”
Taurus panted heavily. He stared fixedly at the thesis in his hands, his expression shifting, as if hesitant, as if remorseful.
“Your research project or whatever the hell it is…”
A second later, Taurus looked up with a determined expression.
He chucked the parchment paper away decisively.
As if throwing out the past.
“When does it start?”
Macinta looked at the apprentice from a distance without answering, an inexplicable emotion in his eyes.
Until he beamed contently.
“Soon, my dear. Soon.”
Macinta’s smile was warm, but Taurus’ expression was cold.
“But don’t worry,”
“Trust me,” the pretty boy stared at the apprentice before him, his tone brimming with the satisfaction of a predator that had caught its prey, “we have plenty of time ahead of us.”
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