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A note from Dragorule

Big thanks to racc for beta reading again! Much appreciated.

As always, here's the chapter!

"For new students," it was pretty sure that was just it, "we were learning about the political climate of our world in regards to the rest of the Abyss. That is, what our world is, in the grand scheme of things. As we've already covered what the Abyss is, and the residents of it, we have not talked about how we can possibly survive in the hostile environment that is the Abyss. This does, of course, lead to our alliance."

The small one started making things on the wall behind it.

There were circles and circles and then one of the circles the professor hit.

"As I'm sure most of you know, being from our allied worlds, we are surrounded by both unilaterally agreed upon threats, and few coherent allies. Now, most of them are sealed off. For example, the dead world, Portuk, that neighbours us. There are as of yet, no undead intelligent enough to find ways into other worlds...yet. The Hive and Overmind. The Butcher. These are merely some of the threats that have been exiled down here, into the Abyss. Our manpower is valuable, for we need it to stand any chance against major threats. That is, conflict between us is largely ill advised. Yet, we will inevitably have conflicts of interest. And that is why we have alliances."

It wasn't really liking this whole...many threats thing. Why wasn't anybody going and killing them all?

"The main purpose of one, is to collaborate in the normal ways, but also to pool our resources and find measures to crush the enemies around us, before their timers hit zero. Our lives, or existence as individuals in the case of the Overmind, is at risk. Again, we must not pointlessly engage in petty squabbles with one another when we have not the men to spare."

That certainly made sense.

"It is important, then, in politics, to learn to recognize your own biases and barriers to proper cooperation and work around them for the sake of the greater good. Never is one to act like a brute. Foolish violence is not always the answer, and if you think it is, then take that to a combat class. What we are learning now is politics, in a general education class. If you don't like that, you may leave. Now. Can anyone tell me the major powers in the Abyss?"

A demon that was near the back put up its hand.

"Yes?"

"The demons, the Fae, and the humans. Most other races ally with, or fall under the three main subdivisions."

The professor nodded once and the demon put its hand down, looking happy.

But then the professor continued.

"Those preconceptions are something that you must throw out the window. The powers are not truly split according to that. That is only on the surface. Underneath the surface, one must realize that there are factions even within a small group of, say, five people. That's if they're from the same place, the same species, the same upbringing, and they can still end up with differing opinions - even a smaller group of two, say - then what about on the scale of, say, a town? A country? An empire? A continent? A world? And then not the Abyss, but just a group of worlds. A larger group. So on, so forth. To attempt and group such exchanges between groups as based on their species is the height of foolishness."

Hahahaha. That demon didn't look too happy now.

"The fae have their own courts, and not just one or two as scattered knowledge might have you believe. Naturally, they have 'general' alignments, such as the Seelie and Unseelie, but neither are an acurate indicator of character. Or motive. Demons, are split against each other. Our community groups are inherently localized and only united by show of force. Our old king created this kingdom by beating the local leaders across the land into submission or simply usurping their lands. Then, there's the humans, who while the most populous, also have the most internal conflict. Like us, they also unite under a banner, usually by show of force, but unlike us, they don't have the same reproductive options available. Still, we demons and humans are likely closer to each other than either to the Fae. That's without even including the many other species that exist, such as vampires."

Ah, there was vampires. Actually, did spirits count in that whole...thing?

"Our own systems, are so...behind in this world, because we must develop our own to keep our sovereignty from the other demon worlds that would offer to share theirs. We cannot even use our system to advance past rank B for information concerns. That, then puts us at a disadvantage to the rest of the demons that have better systems avaliable to them. That's not to count in the simple advantages and disadvanatages that come simply from being a certain species. Do you think the humans like being so weak compared to demons? Or that demons like being so helpless without mana? That we, as a whole, are disdained by spirits who far outstrip any species' growth rate?"

Heh. It was a spirit. No loss there.

"Yet, The Butcher could slaughter most anyone. Regardless of your species. Unfairness in individual power can be combated with numbers. Getting people to be those numbers for you, is the most difficult part of being a leader. I, as a mage, could slaughter many imps. Yet in the hundreds, I would eventually be brought down by numbers. I have not infinite mana. The Leper was killed through numbers. Catastrophic casualties of course, but he was slain. Regardless of how powerful you may grow, maintaining relationships with other people is a necessity. In all but a few fringe cases."

Sounded like a pain. But one that made sense. It and St-un were obviously able to kill more wolves together than just one of them. But it could fight forever so it wasn't sure it agreed with professor...mana running out would only happen if the enemies were not weak enough. Ok nevermind. The professor was right for now.

"A proper war with Akelik would devestate not just both our populations, but further result in a weakness that our 'allies' would be happy to exploit. That is the next point in politics. Allies to even numbers, but allies can turn on you, and being aware of that, and accounting for it, is the most important part of any relationship. One where all participants benefit in some way is the best kind of relationship. Our situation as an example, were we to respond to Akelik's provocations, we stand to lose at least 30% of our standing army. That puts us within acceptable range for Lopik, where our fellow demons would be more than happy to devour us."

It slightly heard a demon in the back.

"Propaganda."

However he was quiet and the other demons were slowly talking to each other and adding words to some forms while the professor talked so no one except the ones near it seemed to have heard. That included it, but it wasn't sure what to do with that so it just looked at the professor. But it did seem like it cared a lot about this working together stuff. The expression on its face was different when talking about this stuff than anything else.

The professor hit the wall where it made circles and then put some words at the top.

"There are several major powers in the Abyss as organizations or alliances. All mixed. The smallest, is the Collection. One individual holds a great sway in the alliance and it is thus named because the alliance is merely the result of that individual collecting worlds that it liked. Officially, the biggest is the Abyss Empire. They are structured as an empire spanning many worlds, with the influential being titled nobles. The worlds participating in it are fewer, however their quality shows an impressive difference in the top brass. Grand Dukes of the Abyss are those that count among the fringe cases I mentioned earlier. There are no particular tensions between these two except on the world level, because the Collector does not care for expansion so much as finding ones it likes. Though it avoids those already owned by major powers and has a tentative partnership with the Empire."

So. The Collection and Abyss Empire are two...world groups? And the Collector and whoever was in the most best sway in the Empire were the two...strongest for...just those groups?

"Between those two are three more. The Fallen Paradise consists of those who actively seek to expand above and out of the Abyss, to return to the Outside. The A'kiloh Ghyt are the blatantly antagonistic alliance formed between the known and unknown Threats. Lastly, are the Exiles. The Exiles are complicated in that they are similar to the A'kiloh Ghyt but less...completely antagonistic, and the unofficial biggest. They are those who are outcasts in the Abyss, for various reasons. Most unaffiliated go there as a...poor person's ally so to speak. If you recall, I said the Empire is officially the biggest? Well, in reality, the unofffical biggest is the Exiles and second is the A'kiloh Ghyt. The Empire is only third in numbers, and ahead in power only because the Exiles are still young and the A'kiloh Ghyt are not a real group in the sense of working together."

Hmmmmmm. That was...sounding hard. It could remember what was said, word for word. Understanding it was another matter.

Especially because for one, it didn't know what morals were, and it still didn't get what a world really looked like, and how big one was, and then what the Abyss was, and what the Outside was.

The rest of that was mostly ok because all it really got from that was the names of groups. Ones that it didn't know if they were a part of.

"We are, naturally, part of the Abyss Empire. Unfortunately, they don't hold enough of an advantage for groups like the Exiles to hesitate at harassing smaller, less important worlds like ours, in the far corners of the Abyss."

That didn't sound good. Though...it felt like maybe becoming a fringe case would be nice. It didn't seem like a fringe case had much to worry about. Well, when it didn't have anything to worry about, then it wasn't sure what else to do. Other than learning. But it was learning only and not getting stronger so...

That was not to say this wasn't good to know though...


The professor went on and on about what each major power or whatever looked like when 'broken down further,' as it said, and also what the smaller alliance the world it was on was part of with the other worlds. It seemed to just be that they wouldn't attack each other and would trade with each other (what was trade?), and most importantly, eliminate the surrounding Threats and repel Exiles.

It got eliminate but not repel. What was a repel? Was it another word for kill?

The professor also added that times change and the Empire was only retaining its name, with all the new blood instead going to the Exiles. 

Still, soon enough, the class came to an end. Not too sad actually, because it found that most of what was talked about was not what it could understand properly, making the learning mostly useless for now, but it could look back at what it learned after learning some more so that it would make more sense to it. Hopefully.

The professor stopped talking and then went towards the door.

"Alright, we'll need to change classrooms for the next one."

As soon as the door was opened and it left, the other demons went after it.

It could feel the red and its friends watching, but they didn't try anything and followed everyone else. 

Soon, they stopped at a room that was only a bit away from the first one and went in.

As before, the people all got seats, but here the tables looked different. There weren't any. 

Just big...floor...things.

It sat down on one just like everyone else. 

Here too, there was a wall for the professor to write on, but other than that, it sat on the same thing as them.

"Basic life studies. Look around the room. How many different species can you see? Did you know they existed before this? Were there any you weren't aware of before today? Like her, in the back corner. Had any of you seen one of the merpeople before this? There are many, many forms that life takes in the vast universe we live in. To dare say you will study life is to say you will study not just the thousands upon tens of hundreds of thousands of species that may exist in a world, but the millions upon billions and trillions that exist in the wider universe. What we are looking at is merely an overview, and even still it will be a full course. Yesterday, we looked at the primary differences between monsters and people. Would anyone like to give a recap?"

The merperson at the back (it already felt smarter) was the one that put up its hand.

The professor pointed at her and she got up as she talked, looking annoyed (then why put the hand up) to be picked.

"Monsters are formed at first when non-sapient animals or regular plants are exposed to mana and mutate. However, second and third generations onwards start stabilizing. The first generation usually suffers from short lifespan. From there, monster species can continue to multiply and develop over time, usually improving considerably from the first generation. Regular animals and plants are rare in most worlds because over time, all existing species are mutating into monsters, thus painting a bleak future as the environment continues to become more hostile to us. We're all gonna die."

She sat back down once she was done, not waiting for the professor.

"Thank you Cathy. A more pessimistic summary than most would give, but yes. That is indeed what it looks like. Naturally, the definition is somewhat vague in that, a person who experiences the same process is not called a monster but a mutant. It really is a vague definition that conveniently ignores the intelligence monsters are quite capable of. The more modern one would simply be that they are not yet recognized as a 'sapient species,' and the rights afforded by that."

So, monsters weren't normal? And people could become monsters. How did that work.

"Today, we'll be looking at the regular ecology of lupine monsters. Naturally, their behaviour is the same as a regualr wolf, hunting in packs usually. Only occasionally are there-"

Hmmmm.

 


The third class was also in the same room.

"Yesterday, we covered the basics of fire magic."

Ohhhhh....

"Today, we'll be looking at dark magic. Dark magic is hard to acquire for those who do not innately possess the talent in it. Dark magic uses not the light, but as is fairly obvious, the dark. However, then why is there shadow magic? You'll find that when learning shadow magic, it is unlisted on your skills. That is because, shadow magic is actually just exploring a branch of dark magic and does not need to be listed. Different groups may call it different things, but as with most magics, the limit is what you make it, and your talent."

Hmmm. It was pretty sure it had a darkness affinity. This could be very good. If affinity meant ability to use these things anyway.

"The first step to using dark magic is to feel out the darkness, and form your image of it. What is darkness to you? What does it feel like? Look like? Do? Does it drown your enemies, swallowing them into its depths, forevermore? Does it cloak you, hiding you from everyone who may do you harm? Or does it listen, letting you spy on those who dwell in the dark? The applications of most any magic are practically unlimited, so long as you can discover them, and have the mana to fuel them. Darkness can allow you limited teleportation, just as light magic can."

The professor went on and on as it, and everyone else it was somewhat sure, tried to feel the dark, to make it do something.

Well, all that happened for it was feeling something very wrong and losing its mana. It had darkness affinity and if affinity meant you could use it, how come it couldn't? This was very...not ok. It didn't like it all that much. 

Though some of the demons seemed to be able to use it...

"Know that having light affinity makes dark magic harder to learn and use, as does the void for everything."

It felt like the professor might have looked its way, but wasn't sure.

For the rest of the class, the professor just talked about dark magic, and its uses, and also the mana consumption. 

Nothing that mattered to it though...

 


This was the one where it was to wait outside right?

The other demons went past without looking at it, red having run out as soon as class was over. It was waiting and the demons in the outside were becoming less when Styx came, and he said nothing, pulling it along as soon as he came.

"Your next class is combat fundamentals, just regular fighting so relax. Uh, there, go into that room. Ok, bye!"

And Styx was off, running even faster in another way. 

Slowly it opened the door and walked in to the new class. It was the same as the last two, so it sat down. Here, most of the other classmates were just demons, and not different like it was used to so far.

The new professor was a big black and red demon. 

"Alright, let's get right to it. Anybody who had magic class before this can take a quick break to recover some mana before they join in."

The sitting things were moved out of the way very fast, and it did the same so as not to be the weird one. No demons went for the break. Obviously it didn't either. 

One of the demons walked over to the big one and started fighting it.

"As usual, pair up. We'll be doing throws again. Remember, if someone punches you like this, you pull them in, and push them along. It's not a true throw, but works well for breaking their form. If they try charge you, roll and toss them overhead."

The demon hit the ground with a thud, but got up and attacked again.

"Shoulder throws work in the same way, but you don't have to get on the ground."

Again, the demon was thrown.

"Kicking out their leg to drop them or both to pick them up and throw them."

Thud

Thud

"Over your hip."

Thud

"Those are the basics. Practice throwing and being thrown by your partner. Be mindful of your own strength, and don't strain any muscles. Alright, let's go!"

With that the demons started throwing each other. There was no one around for it to pair with.

The professor walked over and pushed forwards the demon it was throwing.

"Pair up with the newbie."

And left.

It looked at the demon. 

It looked back at it.

Then it runned at it...and got easily shoulder thrown.


The professor came by a few times after that, but other than random stuff like, don't run in wildly, and try to counter the throws like this and this, it didn't really do much other than get thrown around.

Its throws didn't work at all. It tried, but the demon was too hard to move.

At the end, everyone went to stand and the professor walked out. Then everyone else did too.

As it waited outside, Styx came over, this time fairly fast as there were still classmates leaving its class.

He walked this time and only slowly started running.

"How was it? Well, I guess you can't talk, and may have had some issues with your strength, but it should have been fine. Your last class is geography. It means, you're going to learn about what the world looks like! Doesn't that sound fun?"

It was ok with it, but the fun was less now than before, because it couldn't understand all of what was said, dark magic was not working, and it failed very badly at throws. Basically, it was bad at everything.

"Here we are."

Gone.

Did Styx also learn all this stuff? Could he help with throws? The mana was one thing. Apparently, that was its own problem, but throws? It was pretty sure that was the pairs problem, it was too strong for it.

This class was more like the first. 

The professor was the same one again. Did this one do everything?

"Alright, class. Yesterday, we looked at mountain formation. Today, we'll talk in more detail about erosion, and how it shapes the land around us."

It listened...but didn't feel the same...problems with understanding. 

At least, the idea that wind and water could slowly break apart rock and all that was something that was new, but made sense since its own corrosion was something that needed time sometimes to break things. It was at least, more...understandable to it then what the push and pull factors in an alliance were.  


After the first day, nothing new happened. 

Styx told it that sun was similarly busy with his classes and catch up, so 'they wouldn't be able to meet up for a month or so.'

After the first day, Styx had let it read through like before with Retoz helping. 

Lexoy still just watched.

It also kept trying to talk. 

Not that it was sure how one trained for that, and time outside was used to slowly change out its body for void mana - something it was actually getting pretty used to. Though there wasn't any inside the rooms and all, but outside had it, and it had time for that in mornings.

The first week went by fast actually, and though Styx had said sun wouldn't meet up they did have the normal morning training together. Mostly it failing at hitting one or the other, but never for longer than 'a couple minutes' as they said.

With its new kind of sense for time, it was sure it was longer than a few minutes, but whatever. 

Many things happened in the first week, not least of being that it definitely knew a lot more words.

Remembering them was surprisingly easy, and though reading was still a problem, and understanding, but it knew a lot of words now.

The many classes did a lot.

The first class, was not actually politics and it did remember hearing the professor say general education. 

More things were learned. There was some politics - which as far as it could tell meant things between people - but there was more too. 

Social norms for the big races. Like why being 'casual' with one of the Fae was not a good idea (except for some, but there were lots of 'excepts'), or why demons didn't like being ruled by those weaker than them. Why humans had different family structures and also that they died really easily so one had to be conscious about lifespan limitations for inter-species friendship. Or other relationships. Oh right. How robbery and murder were viewed in different cultures. All weird but fun stuff.

What contracts and summoning really meant for true demons, Fae, and spirits. It wasn't particularly interesting except apparently that they could be very strict and binding, but also interesting, and also that they could not make one with those outside the Abyss.

Trade fundamentals (Apparently, to answer its question from day one, trade was...exchanging...goods. Goods being things that were...good). Free trade and not free trade.

Second class was also fun. Fun but not as...useful.

Though it was good to know that sometimes armored things had vulnerable areas such as their bellies or that flashes of light were great for surprise attack because something about adjusting.

Also very fun stuff. Like there was a species called Kitilops that were some crazy archmage's fault. They were furry cyclops that looked like two-legged tigers. One-eyed, big, and strong. Also 'meow.' They meowed very loudly instead of roaring. Strange but it wasn't about to start questioning what meow sounded like. 

Third class...the worst. It never did anything. It knew a lot more now, but not much. They still did dark magic.

It was still bad.

Fourth class was the best and worst at the same time. It couldn't throw anyone. It was too weak. But it knew a lot more about throwing now.

Fifth was...well. It now knew why plants were important for soil integrity and how they decayed. 

It was looking forward to the next month. As soon as it could read properly and understand better though, it wanted to read more books and learn faster and more. It was almost done with the first four after all.

Oh right. And red glared (it finally knew a word for that kind of hard look) at it sometimes but it had heard some demon from the first class telling it not to bother it. 

That was nice. It could make really quiet sounds now. Words were not far. Maybe.

Spoiler: Status 
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A note from Dragorule

After the first day, time skips! Lots of time skips!

Also, poor spirit. Crippled by its pseudo-void affinity. RIP. Now it feels like the resident dunce, like me in phys ed. 

I sucked at volleyball. 

I also added some titles. Too lazy to go all the way through yet though. Eh. It's progress. I procrastinated by working on drafts for a different novel. Which are no doubt never gonna see the light of day this year. Those will sit until I've stacked a hella lot. 


About the author

Dragorule

Bio: I like turtles. And donuts. And EXPLOSIONS! But, most of all. DRAGONS ARE SUPREME!

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