ENTERING THE ACADEMY
Lynne’s eyes shimmered as brightly as the sun above him, lips spread wide into a childish smile, drool lingering off the corners, legs shaking. He was at a loss for words as to how to express his happiness, but he needn’t say a thing since it was clear to everyone around him. He had actually managed to enroll in the prestigious Skyfire Academy for Magical Arts, one of the top four Academies reserved solely for people with high aptitude in magic. However, unlike ninety-nine others that had landed on the list of those that passed before him, he wasn’t happy because he’ll get to study Magic under best Magus in the world – to him it was just important that he enters, as his father promised him a hefty weekly allowance if he was to enroll. Even being dead last on the list mattered little to him, as it was only important he landed a spot above the red line. His legs suddenly gave out and he fell onto his knees, unable to suppress his tears anymore, bawling out like a small child despite already being seventeen years old.
Although his talent for Magic was far from low, due to his carefree personality, Lynne never really pursued its arts, as he was far more interested in exploring the world, wooing women and spending his father’s money. This had earned him more than one beating throughout the years, but he didn’t pay much attention to it, as it was a fair price to pay for what he was doing. Even if he wasn’t explicitly motivated to succeed in life, he was still a reasonable sort, and had long since understood the principle of even trade. For the entrance exam, he had actually studied a whole day prior to it – something he had never done before in his life – and had felt his head split apart over and over due to influx of information he had to stuff into his mind. But, it was all worth it, as he had managed to enter the Academy.
His father was one of the Seven Lords of the Highlind Kingdom, located at the southernmost corner of the Allay continent, making it a rather attractive destination for the tourists as it sported the warmest weather on the entire continent. Mostly supported by fertile lands and gem mines, the Kingdom was rather wealthy and well-respected among six others that had inhabited the same continent. And, since his father served directly under the King, Lynne was given unparalleled freedom since his birth, as an only child. He never met his mother, as she died shortly after giving him birth due to complications, and because of it his father had doted on him quite a lot, never allowing any harm to befall him – well, any outside a slap or two from him occasionally.
This, however, had turned Lynne in a rather lazy person, devoid of any personal goals outside of those that offered immediate gratification. He was isolated from most other children of High Nobility, and the rest in pursuit of Noble Magical Arts, but he was beyond famous among the circles of commoners’ children, giving him almost kingly status. He flaunted riches wherever he went and wasn’t shy of taking up the entire bill onto himself (his father) and even buying things for other children by his own (his father’s) money.
He harped on in tears for good few minutes, kneeling in front of the board, before finally regaining his senses. The board hung on the entrance wall of the Academy, built of marble stone, right next to the archway that had acted as a ‘gate of separation’ of sorts, as only those with insignia of the Academy could venture past it. The entrance wall rose up good ten meters into the air, stretching out roughly hundred in a flat line, two sentry towers built at edges, as it encompassed not only the buildings of the Academy themselves, but also training fields, gardens and general housing. Lynne had never set a foot into the Academy grounds before, but he had a general idea of the what it looked due to his father’s constant lectures and booklets he had handed him.
He nigh sped towards the Upper Ring of the Highlind’s capital, Edgemaw, where his father’s mansion was located. Edgemaw was separated into three main layers, cascading down the mountain slope, starting at the very top which was Kingly Ring, then Upper Ring and Lower Ring. Kingly Ring was inhabited mostly by High Nobility and King’s personal family, and even Lynne’s father has rights to live there, but he simply chose not to. Upper Ring is reserved for the rest of the Nobility and Aristocracy, who own most of the land in the Lower Ring which is populated by commoners.
His father’s mansion was located at the very edge of the Upper Ring, bordering Lower, and was one of the more modest ones in the region, sporting only three buildings – main, warehouse and servant’s quarters. The buildings were all built in plain style, black-stoned, with very few decorations save for some vertical separations between floors and arched windows. All three were squared, with the main building being the largest – four stories tall – and warehouse being the smallest, having only two stories. Yard upfront was built to be makeshift garden, with well shaven bushes and hedges creating maze-like path from the gateway to main building’s entrance, but to Lynne it was all to familiar and he quickly sped past the courtyard and entered the mansion. Hallway was wide and tall, walls decorated with paintings, floor tiled black and white, and he was immediately welcomed by a wide staircase, leading to the second floor. Ignoring it, he took a left turn, towards his father’s study, and had found himself at the doors in less than ten seconds. Knocking lightly, he heard no response, but still opened the doors. They creaked lightly, revealing behind a great-mass of books, strung along the floor and tables, and his father buried in them, with a single candle lighting up the entire squared room. His father, Median Von Hyorn, was a man in his late forties, already ridden with white strands of hair, with short but bushy beard. Like Lynne, he had crystalline blue eyes and piercing gaze, which he utilized the moment Lynne entered the room.
“So?” his father asked in a low but audible voice.
“I passed.” Lynne spoke after a gulp.
“Oh well,” the old man sighed, putting the quill he held onto the table, stretching out. “At least you passed. Come, I’ll ask Elain to make something worthy of celebration.”
The two left the study in a hurry, taking turns through narrow hallways of the gigantic mansion, until they reached the eating hall – squared room filled with tables and chairs to a brim, each sporting silken blanket lain carefully across well-shaven wood. Lynne could remember Elain as far back as he could his father; she was a rather gentle lady, pushing her thirties, and was very fond of him – and he can’t say he wasn’t fond of her. In these past few years, though, his fondness may have caused a few uncomfortable and awkward situations that had his father whipping him more than once. She was a rather tall woman, taller than even his father, and managed to look gorgeous even in her late thirties, which was one of the reasons Lynne was fond of her as of late. She and her father merely exchanged glances as she entered, and the two immediately understood it each other, and she left the two of them alone again.
“So,” Lynne broke the silence, acting slightly bashful. “About my allowance...”
“Aye, I made a promise,” Median sighed, shaking his head lightly. “Two hundred gold coins a week.”
“Oh!!” Lynne’s eyes lit up like stars. “Th-thank you father, thank you!”
“You’re incorrigible… oh, do you know who your teacher will be?” he added.
“Uh, no, I don’t think it was written anywhere.” one of the talents – wasted ones, at least – that Lynne possessed was the ability to make up a lie on the spot – now, however plausible his lies were, he could say them with the most serious of expressions and stick to them till all hell freezes over.
“Or you just bolted back the moment you saw your name?”
“It wasn’t written anywhere, I solemnly swea--”
“Yea, yea,” his father interrupted him, waving his arm lightly. “Listen Lynne… I know you haven’t much interest in the Arts of Magic, but, if you are to inherit my name, titles and wealth, you’ll have to achieve something in life. You’ll have to learn how to defend what’s yours at all cost.”
“But I can just hire someone for that.” Lynne protested.
“Ah, I have sheltered you far too much child...” Median sighed.
“What’s wrong, father?” Lynne asked, sensing something is awry.
“The call came,” his father replied after short silence. “I am being summoned.”
“… to war?”
“… doesn’t King have someone else to call? Someone stronger?” Lynne lowered his head and voice as he spoke.
“It is war, Lynne. Every man counts out there.”
“When do you have to go?”
“Soon,” Median cuddled Lynne’s shoulder-long hazelnut hair gently, smiling. “But, it’s still me. Knowing my luck, I’ll be the only one to come back.”
“Is this why you urged me to enroll in the Academy?” Lynne asked.
“Partially,” Median said. “But, then there’s the other reason: I want you to make something out of yourself, Lynne. I had only managed to come this far because of my friends. To this day, I was never able to break a bottleneck of Master Magus, no matter how much I trained. The only reason King Haniel had even let me keep this position so far is because we are lifelong friends. There are many people far more qualified than me. This… this is as high as I’ll ever go. I never even left Allay, despite all my childhood dreams. Hell, I’ve never even visited Endgar Kingdom, to speak of nothing else. I… I just don’t want you to wake up one day in the future, licking off the same regrets as I did.”
“What’s wrong with living the life you did, huh?” Lynne asked, slightly angered. “Living a simple, boring life? It’s been almost six months since I’ve seen anyone from the Noble Children outside their castles or training fields. All they do, day in and out, is practice and practice and practice. Now, that’s a boring life.”
“Ah, I guess I can’t change who you are at your heart,” he cuddled Lynne’s hair one last time before retrieving it, smiling warmly. “Just… do your best.”
The two dined in silence, as Lynne refused to even look at his father. Not because he hated him for agreeing to go to war, or because of the lecture, but because, deep in his heart, he knew his father was right. Without him, Lynne realized, he was nothing. Just another brat loitering the streets of Edgemaw, without cause or purpose. Yet, despite that knowledge, he still couldn’t light fire under himself to gain devotion towards anything. Whether it be Arts of Magic, gem-crafting, sculpting, inscription… there were hundreds of paths he could choose, but he never truly felt a connection with even one of them.
After finishing up the dinner, he went upstairs to his room. Contrary to what one might think, his room was rather small, barely large enough to fit in a bed, table and closet. He liked it that way, as he preferred plain way of life over the one he was born into. He lay calmly on his bed, staring at the drab, gray ceiling, lost in thoughts. He always knew his father never had any true aptitude for Magic, but only today – as he looked him in the eye – did Lynne realize just how much hurt it caused his father. He wondered whether having talent in Magic really mattered that much, whether fancy titles people are given depending on the rank really changed something. He, himself, never bothered learning anything beyond Basic Spells, and even that was only during his early days of childhood, when fancy colors he created still fascinated him. He had lost interest when he realized that pursuing the path of Magic meant discarding everything else. It meant devoting every single moment of his life to learning spells, practicing them to the full mastery, and then moving on to more advanced ones. That kind of life wasn’t to his liking, so he chose to leave it behind, much to disdain of his peers.
He slept a dreamless night, and woke just shy of sunrise. Fixing his hair and putting on simple, white robes with golden edges, he left his room and went to the eating hall, where the breakfast already waited for him on the table. The room was empty, and he figured his father had gone to report to the King. He thought for a moment about skipping the first day in Academy, but decided against it, as he could at least honor his father by attending somewhat regularly. Finishing up the breakfast, he left the mansion in hurry, scurrying through the cobblestone streets of the Upper Ring, until he found himself at the entrance of the Academy. In front of the entrance a man and a woman, both in their twenties, waited with stack of papers and coiled steel they used to imprint insignia onto new students. Both had recognized Lynne, giving him scornful gaze before handing him a sheet of paper, forcefully taking his arm and embedding the insignia onto the palm of his right hand. He groaned lightly in pain but said nothing as he walked past them and entered the Academy grounds.
The space was gigantic, as were the buildings, stacked over one another in the distance, all built with grandeur in mind, with towering stones reaching up at each edge. They shimmered bright white, decorated as far as it can go before reaching the point of insanity, with statues hanging off practically everywhere, arched, stain-glass windows, eclipsed by thick barriers of invisible force. Even Lynne had to sigh in awe, but not for long. Taking a step forward, he ignored most of the gardens that he passed on his way to the buildings, as well as the avalanche of students racing towards same goal. Unlike them, though, Lynne didn’t carry excited expression, but rather boorish one as he kept his head low.
As he reached the entrance to the largest building, a signpost stopped him in his track, pointing left, towards a much smaller one. The sign simply read ‘100-81, Report’. He realized it referred to the placement numbers and followed directions, quickly reaching a small, squared building, whose doors were already opened. It only had a single room, four cascading rows of five chairs, with slightly elevated platform at the front; Lynne figured it was where the teachers would lecture. Some of the chairs were already filled up, but Lynne ignored them as he went up to the furthest row, sitting in a corner.
The room had quickly began filling up with students; most wore rather adorned clothes, as to present themselves the best they could the very first day, while some went even beyond that, decorating themselves in jewelry, gems and even fancy weapons and Tomes as to showcase their wealth, Lynne figured. He was one of the two that had simple robes; the other was a boy sitting in a row in front of his, two chairs left. He appeared rather boorish and plain, slightly younger than Lynne, with round glasses covering half his face, and disheveled hair covering the other half. Just as he was about to fall asleep – despite the ongoing chatter – the bell rang from the outside, startling him awake. It rang three times in total, and just by the end of the last bang, a lavish looking woman entered their room.
The dress covered her shoulders halfway, flowing down into an elegant V cut neckline. It looked like a comfortable fit, removing focus from her breasts, but without making it sloppy. Her arms had been covered up to her elbows, with rest being clothed up by translucent, silken gloves. The dress’ waist was narrow, seemingly suffocating her, while the bottom part snug around her in a draped style. Lynne almost scoffed and barfed, as she appeared more like ballroom princess rather than a Magus teacher. She walked up to the platform and sat on a chair, carefully gathering her dress as to not pick up any dust underneath. She had veil flowing down her face, covering her relatively pale skin, while her golden hair shimmered freely down her back. However beautiful she was, Lynne figured, she was twice as vain.
“Good morning,” she spoke up in a mellow voice; half the male students already had drool at the corners of their mouths. “My name is Liliana Earl, and I am Four Stars Archmage of the Order. I’ll be your teacher for this first semester, as well as your friend. Before we start anything, I want you all to remember: just because you wound up at the bottom of the placement list doesn’t mean you can’t graduate at the very top of your class. Pursuit of Arts of Magic is all about dedication and willpower. Although talent is important, without sweat and tears it won’t get you anywhere.” Lynne barely held back a storm of laughter, as her entire speech was practically a child-comforting spiel. Meaning it was qualified bullshit.
“Now, as for the requirements to pass the first grade,” she continued on after a short silence. “At the very least you’ll need to have full mastery of four Basic Schools – Fire, Wind, Earth and Water. I expect that some of you, perhaps, are already working towards your second or third full mastery, but don’t let that make you complacent. Should you achieve full mastery before the final day of evaluation, I encourage you dip your fingers into Advanced Schools, as it will help you in a long run.” Lynne arched his brow as he listened; by her words, he was already qualified to pass the first grade, as he had achieved full mastery of all four Basic Schools long, long ago. Realizing it, he felt a sense of elation – not because he considered himself above others in the class – but because it meant he didn’t have to attend the classes as regularly as he thought, giving him more time to squander his allowance money. “Now, that’s of course only on the practical side of things. You’ll still have to pass all the regular written exams – history, arithmetic, runic languages and inscription.” Oh… I guess not. “I wish you all the best of luck. Now, starting with the first low, from left to right, please start introducing yourself – name, age, current rank, favorite hobby.”
One by one, everyone got up and began flaunting about who they are and how much they’ve achieved in the short years they’ve lived. Disinterested, he ignored most of the introductions, catching only a few interesting ones here and there. The introductions lasted almost an hour before they reached him – the last person. As he was in a state of half-sleep, the girl sitting next to him had to pinch his cheek to wake him up. Startled, he leaned backwards and fell from his chair, prompting the entire classroom to burst into laughter. Getting up, he cuddled his head gently, groaning silently in pain, ignoring the upheaval.
“As you found others’ introductions so boring,” the teacher spoke in a slightly frustrated voice. “I am sure yours will be twice as fascinating as others’ combined, no?”
“No, not really,” Lynne said calmly. “Name: Lynne Hyorn. Age: Seventeen. Rank: Unranked. Favorite hobby: sleeping. Hm… yeah, that’s about it.” chatter, unsurprisingly, emerged around his half-hearted introduction, but Lynne paid them no heed as he sat down. He was beyond used to others putting him down in silent whispers, as he dealt with it since he was six years old.
“Very well, Mr. Hyorn,” Ms. Liliana suddenly got up from her chair, walking up in front of the elevated platform. “Report to the Principle’s Office after the class. We’ll inspire some manners in you just yet.”
Lynne remained silent for the rest of the class, which was devoted to summary of the semester’s materials. He had no plans whatsoever to report anywhere but his own home after the class, and the moment bell rang, indicating the end, he left the classroom and silently went back home. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to the rest of the year.