Kaidus hovered high above the 11th ward. He had flown straight to Zorin Academy upon entering Ferrent. In the darkness, his cloak blended in with the night and concealed his descent onto the academy farmlands.
He did not know how long the trip was going to take when he first set off, but only 12 days had passed since he left on that night. The ryes should have just ended, and class will begin again tomorrow. Flying all night for all those days had worn him out, but he was happy that he made such good time.
“Rrrargar!” Zeeke greeted him as he stealthily entered the academy gates in the middle of the night.
“Shhh!” He attempted to hush the gate seer. Zeeke stopped and looked at him curiously. “I’ll bring you something tomorrow. Please be quiet for now.”
“Rarrrr!” It replied happily. The spirit hushed up and enthusiastically followed him as he made his way to the west side of the academy as if to guard him, only stopping after he had entered the lodging house.
*BANG BANG BANG!* Kaidus woke up to the sound of banging.
“Kaidus?” someone asked from the other side of his door.
Quickly putting on a new shirt and trouser, he made his way to the door. “Yes?” A familiar man stood on the other side.
“The headmaster would like to see you. Please see him in his studies.” The man was one of headmaster Nylen’s assistants.
“When am I to meet him?”
“As soon as possible. The headmaster will be waiting.” Having delivered the headmaster’s summon, the man promptly took off.
‘That old man…’ He thought to himself.
Having not washed up after getting to his room last night, Kaidus refreshed himself before donning a new set of clothes. Without a need to hide himself, Zion was back in ring form and on his finger. Kaidus made his way to the marble building in the north side of the academy—where the perplexing headmaster was waiting for him.
‘That note was a longshot, but surely he couldn’t have realized what is going on… and I never mentioned when I would be returning, how did he know?’ He wondered as he trudged across the academy grounds, pondering about the odd summon.
Passing through the doors of the marble building where the headmaster resides, an attendant led him to the old man’s study.
“Headmaster, Kaidus is here.” the attendant called out.
“Good, come in.”
“You wanted to see me?” Kaidus asked, entering the room.
“Yes yes. Come and sit down.” Headmaster Nylen motioned to the chair across from his desk.
Kaidus took the seat, unsure about the old man’s objective this time.
First it was a night ambush, second was the council, then the invitation from the Mystiks guild, now this. Every time they met up, something was bound to happen.
The old man stacked his papers, then laid them down neatly onto the desk. “Did you have a productive leave of absence?”
“Good. Glad to hear it.” The old man brought up his earthen arm and intertwined it with his other, setting them on the desk. “Is everything okay?” the old man questioned, looking him in the eyes.
“Yes.” Kaidus replied, confused at the question.
“Has anything strange happened around you?”
“No. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Well, that’s good to hear. I thought that with your sudden absence, something had come up.” The old man replied, pulling out the note Kaidus had left with Zeeke.
“No. After our discussion, I took the time off in case my family might be in danger. Nothing’s happened so far. Sorry for the sudden disappearance.”
“I understand, and I’m glad nothing has happened.” The old man smiled. “I called you here today, because I wanted to share some news with you and see if there was anything else you may have recalled since our last conversation.”
“I’ve told you everything, headmaster. I don’t see how I can be of any more help.” Kaidus replied.
“I see…” the old man paused for a moment. “Here, take a look at these.”
Headmaster Nylen pushed a stack of paper toward Kaidus.
The top of the stack was a picture of a man’s face. Behind the picture was a report of the pictured individual, detailing who they are and what they’ve done.
A short haired man with well-groomed facial hair and hollow cheeks.
“Rasiur Vaethol, 47, Known agent of Tal’hrus…. Apprehended twenty-six days ago in the outskirts of a small village that he and his team were burning to the ground… The Mystiks guild barely managed to get there in time to save a handful of survivors… Fifteen bodies found dead in the village, another twenty-four charred carcasses were excavated from the ashes: men, women, children… Objective was a silver mine recently discovered two turns ago by the locals…. With a group of ten that killed six members of the guild during their pursuit before being captured. Currently held in 12th ward’s Mystiks guild. Interrogation is left with Master Luliene… ”
One after another, he looked through the papers, etching their faces and deeds into his mind.
Murders, assassinations, trafficking, kidnapping, slavery, blackmail, senseless destruction, irrational killings, etc…
He seared everything into himself.
He stopped in front of a woman.
The women had a scar on her face, sharp eyes, and dark black hair.
“Elora Brile, 32. Agent of Tal’hrus.
Caught hiding in Ferrent’s 7th ward: Soqu 28, Zanaeos 1250… killed herself before being captured.” He stopped.
“Headmaster… This… is this correct?” He pointed to the date.
“This just happened days ago!?” He shouted in shock.
“Yes.” The old man replied solemnly.
He quickly looked through the remaining pages and saw that the reports that came after the woman were all from Ferrent. Altogether, five agents were found in the common wards. Three killed themselves after being surrounded, while two were successfully captured and have been interrogated.
Kaidus stacked the papers then pushed them back to the headmaster.
“Do you recognize any of them?” The headmaster asked.
“I do not.”
“I see. That’s unfortunate.” The old man began silently looking through the reports once again. “You see, after our last discussion, I sent letters to all three Mystiks guild… We did an undisclosed sweep throughout all of Ferrent, and those five agents were all we found.”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
“Yes. The problem is, Tal’hrus never operates in such low number. Each agent is capable, but they always operate with more than enough people to secure the greatest chance of accomplishing their missions. On the off chance that there is strong resistance, it is convenient to be able to attack from various directions.”
Headmaster Nylen pulled out a picture from the stack. It was one of the agents who had been captured. “Two days ago, this man here revealed that half their unit vanished along with their team leader while moving in to secure their target. He said six people stayed in Ferrent on stand by while another three returned to headquarters.” The headmaster spoke while watching him. “Do you have any idea who or what their target was?”
“I’m guessing it was me?”
“I believe it was. The man did not know who you are, all he knew was that the group was after a young boy with healing magic.”
… The room became silent.
“Kaidus…” The old man paused as if to recollect his thoughts. “I am going to ask you something, and I would like you to be honest with me.” Headmaster Nylen spoke, looking him straight in the eyes. The usual atmosphere had vanished. The old man was very serious.
“Do you know what happened to those men?”
“No headmaster, I do not.” A natural reply, unperturbed by the question that was too close to the truth.
“I see… sorry about that. You can go now.”
“Then I will take my leave.”
“Kaidus.” The old man spoke as he got up. “Don’t underestimate Tal’hrus. Just because they haven’t done anything, does not mean they will stay that way. Be wary of your surroundings and those around you.” The old man gave him one last warning.
In his study, Malizur Nylen Gvius Das Jozion was putting the pieces together after the boy had left.
He knew too well, the methods of Tal’hrus.
There was no way that they would have left the boy alone after he refused to join them. The boy was too much of a threat. They must’ve considered that he could join the Mystiks guild and work against Tal’hrus.
There were only two ways of escaping Tal’hrus’ grasp after such a thing: death, or the overwhelming abilities that would serve to repel the organization from taking any actions—he himself was one such individual.
The boy was not dead, so it was definitely the latter. But if that was the case, then the interrogated agents would have known, and they would have moved onto the next best thing: the boy’s family. Yet, that did not happen either.
‘He showed no reactions for the agents we caught… even surprised that some were apprehended only days ago within Ferrent…’ Headmaster Nylen paused his thoughts. “But he knows something about the disappearance of the agents…” He voiced the thought out loud.
Although the child denied it, his senses told him otherwise.
“Could he have done it? Could the child have killed half a unit of trained Tal’hrus agents by himself, then hid the bodies somewhere?” Headmaster Nylen wondered, then suddenly recalled his first encounter with the boy. The dreaded eyes filled with hatred and anger, ready to tear him limb from limb as he sat there coughing and bleeding.
He stroked his earthen arm, remembering the cost of what he did.
‘Something did not add up… The boy’s leave of absence came after the disappearance of the Tal’hrus agents…There is something else missing… Something I have yet to understand…’ Headmaster Nylen thought to himself.
“Welcome back. Where’ve you been?” Mirat asked as Kaidus joined them for lunch.
“Did something happen?”
He had been gone for all seven days of school for the last learning period. Of course they were curious about his absence. Currently at the table were: Larant, Jorva, Kaidus who just joined them, and Mirat. Prim and Lisin weren’t there.
“No. Just spending extra time with my family.” Kaidus answered, sitting down to eat his lunch.
“Oh…” Mirat stopped and resumed his own lunch.
“You go home every ryes. Why do you need to spend extra time with your family?” Jorva who was sitting beside him asked.
“I had something to do. Staying home while I took care of it was easier.” Kaidus replied, giving a vague answer.
“And that something is???”
“Nothing.” Kaidus gave a friendly smile to Jorva before putting a spoonful of food into his mouth.
The other boys could see that Kaidus did not want to talk about it.
“Fine.” Jorva dropped the topic, moving onto a different one. “Have you guys notice something odd ever since the last learning period?”
“““No. No. Nope.””” They all replied.
“Doesn’t it seem that there are more Mystiks guild members out and about than before? I saw at least thirteen members of the guild over the ryes. Something’s probably going on in Ferrent.” Jorva explained.
“Now that you mention it, I did see a couple guild members coming around, asking my father something.” Larant added.
“Yours too?” Jorva had a look of surprise on his face.
“Is it rare for the guild to do such a thing?” Kaidus investigated, joining in on the talk.
He knew what it was about, but there was no point in telling. It would just raise questions.
“Not really I guess, but Lord Varath has no affiliation with the Mystiks guild. It was just surprising.” Jorva answered.
Jorva’s statement was understandable. Nobles who were without magic had little to do with the Mystiks guild. Lacking the abilities and the understandings that would be beneficial to the guild where magic was concerned, the two parties rarely intermingle when it came to official matters.
“Maybe it’s something else?” Mirat threw in. “Like you said, maybe something is happening in Ferrent?”
“Could be… but what?” Jorva agreed.
“No point worrying about it.” Larant chimed in. “Why not ask your father next time the ryes comes around?” Without waiting for a reply from Jorva, “Mirat. You’re taking Intermediate Supplementation of mana, right?” He questioned.
“When does Beginner’s Supplementation start learning how to utilize the mana from Lagus?”
“You don’t really learn how to utilize it in Beginners.” Mirat answered. “The first half of beginners is all theoretical lessons and understanding the process along with the risks and benefits. Absorption is taught in the second half. Using will be at the end of the year, and only as a test.” Mirat explained.
“I see… You’re in intermediate now. I assume it wasn’t hard?”
“Depends on how well you do. I failed the first time…” Mirat answered sullenly.
“Sorry. I just thought you didn’t take it your first year.”
“It’s fine. I thought I understood the concept and the process, but doing it was quite difficult. I was able to purify the raw mana that I siphoned from Lagus using my own mana, but I was unable to cast a spell with the purified mana during the test.” Mirat gave a recollection of his failure.
“At least you passed last year right?” Larant attempted to cheer him up.
“Mirat, how much of the raw mana are you able to purify?” Kaidus joined in.
“Right now, the masters say it’s less than .4%…”
“You’re kidding…” Jorva muttered from his spot at the table.
“Hey, .4% is a lot for me!” Mirat retorted. “Even with spirits that are pretty much mana incarnate, they can only purify a third of the mana at best. Using my own mana to make usable a measly .4%, I’d say it’s pretty good considering my lack of skills. It’s either go with that, or use the raw mana and become mad with power.”
“I thought the requirement for passing was at least 1% purification?” Jorva asked.
“No. The test consists of tapping into Lagus, absorbing its power, purifying it, then using it. As long as you can do all four, then you pass no matter the amount you can purify on your own.”
“How do the masters know you’ve succeeded? Isn’t all that within your own control?” Larant questioned.
“The purified mana is different. Just the feel of it as it courses through your body for a second is incredible. Even with just a measly .4%, I felt like I was a new person. Like a real mage. I can understand why mages would risk using the raw unprocessed mana even if it cost them their mind.”
Mirat knew he was weaker than the other students in his year.
His abilities were far from adequate in his mind, and he was also one of the few third years who was still taking a beginners class. Usually by their third year, most students were in all intermediate classes, working toward advanced.
“You planning on breaking your mind?” Jorva joked.
“No.” Mirat smiled then stood up and put one foot where he was sitting. “I am Mirat Raesu Klivus, the first in three generations to be born with mana! I carry the dreams of my forefathers, how can I face my great grandfather if I was consumed by the greed for power?” He struck a gallant pose then grinned. “No. I will stand tall and work my way to the top, using the strength bestowed upon me by my parents. Step by step, spell by spell. I will prove myself, and tower over my peers.” Finished with his speech, Mirat sat back down. The grin still plastered all over his face.
“Hahahaha!” Larant burst out. “You and me both, Mirat. People who are gifted like Jorva and Kaidus wouldn’t understand.”
Larant knew exactly how Mirat felt. He himself was also the first in two generations. Although his father Lord Alzin Varath does indeed have mana, his father lacked the abilities and capacity for true magic, stagnating as a Mahj—the lowest ranks of a mages. He himself was a true mage, and was here at the academy to bring honor to the Varath house.
“I don’t know whether to take that as a jest, an insult, or a compliment.” Jorva interjected.
“You can take it however you want.” Larant replied with a wily grin.
“Good, you are all still here!” A familiar voice called to them.
Looking to his side, Kaidus saw two girls were approaching their table. The emerald princess: the beautiful Prim Lithius, and a beauty with short brown hair that came down to her shoulders: Lisin Rhonorus.
“Council business running overtime?” Jorva asked.
“Ugh… I can’t believe we’re having this much problems barely two turns into the term.” Prim answered with a tinge of glum in her voice.
Although only a 3rd year student, her outstanding progress and skills had caught the attention of the masters. Not taking into account her humiliating defeat at the hands of Kaidus last term, she was definitely one of the brightest student in the academy.
“And just last year you were so jealous of Kaidus’ position in the Council.” Lisin spoke, giggling with a smile on her face.
Kaidus laughed at what Lisin had revealed.
Lisin was not a council member but being Prim’s closest friend, they were inseparable. Surprisingly, she was betrothed to Larant six years ago, but with the sudden awakening of her magic four years ago, her parents had called off the engagement. The group had learned about it after relentlessly questioning about how the two knew each other.
“Lisin, I told you that in confidence!” Prim admonished her friend.
“It was quite obvious.”
“Yep…” Both Jorva and Mirat added.
“You should have seen your face when you learned that you had been recruited into the council. It was probably one of the happiest faces I’ve seen.” Lisin grinned at her friend.
“You… traitorous… AH! Whatever! Fine! I’ll admit, I was jealous then. But now, I don’t know anymore. 1st chair Alexus has us new members doing everything he thinks is too troublesome, and 2nd Chair Val is missing half the time. I don’t even think they want to do their jobs anymore…” Prim conceded, voicing out her misery.
“Sounds just like Val and Alexus.” Inside, he was laughing his heart out. “Good thing someone capable like you joined them.” Kaidus added with a chuckle.
Alexus and Val were the 5th and 6th chair the previous year when he was in the council. He was 7th chair, and three other 4th years were 8 to 10th chair.
After a year of laboring and solving other people’s problems, no one wanted to become 1st and 2nd chair and take charge for this year. Abiding by the rules, previous council members are to elect a 1st and 2nd chair from their members for the position, and he had nominated both Alexus and Val.
Those two had gotten lazy over the year, and were delegating most of their work to him because of his abilities. It was his own little friendly payback. Chairs 1-4 were all 6th years at the time and were all leaving the academy anyways, so they didn’t vote. Many of the members also agreed with his opinions about how lazy the two had become, so as punishment, they were voted for another year. Of course the council had its perks, but nothing beats the freedom to do as he wished.
“You two aren’t eating?” Larant asked the girls.
“Lisin brought me lunch and we ate in the council room while I finished up.” Prim replied.
“A little late to be joining us isn’t it? 3rd class is about to start.” Jorva spoke up.
“Right. Kaidus.” Prim turned to him.
“Can you meet me later in the eastern grounds? I’ve been wanting to test something and am curious to see how you would deal with it.”
“Sure. I’ll be heading to the library, but I can meet you there after your 3rd class is over.”