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Author's note: To continue the side story right now or leave it for later hmmm... not sure which one you guys prefer.

Enjoy!

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A year later...

Bead upon bead of sweat rolled of Zaran's body, dripped onto the ground and he heavily panted. Recovering from the sheer exhaustion that fusing cells with mana seeds brought with it, a content expression slowly emerged on his face. Done! It had taken him eight months of day and night research without cultivation... followed by four months of blood, sweat and tears!

He had barely been sleeping for the past few months but to achieve what he had achieved today, he would do it all over again. Every single cell in his body had become a vessel for mana. Just imagining the power he would now be able to wield cause shivers to run through his spine. A year ago he was what was considered a junior apprentice, the lowest rank of mages. Now... what level would he be considered as now... he was curious to find out.

Activating every single mana seed within his body, vast amounts of mana swirled towards Zaran, the amount nearly vast enough to make the progress visible to the naked eye. A feeling of absolute might washed over him as every cell within his body became filled to the brim with mana. After his body could not contain a single drop more mana, a feeling of ecstasy invaded his body and he couldn't help but moan from the pleasure he was feeling.

He performed a few simple double handed-incantations and the water essence near him congealed itself to form a protective armour of ice around him. Much to his surprise, the time it took to cast the spell was vastly shorter than before. Moreover he felt that for a spell like this, he did not need to perform hand incantations at all anymore as he could freely circle mana around his body, which was why the hand incantations were used in the first place.

Using the spell once more, this time without hand incantations, an protective armour of ice formed around him a mere second after he started the spell. Before, the hand incantations were used to carefully guide his mana along the mana vessels in his body. In his current state however, he just needed to sent a pulse of mana throughout his body without carefully guiding it.

Thinking about it, this was likely to be the reason why the cast time had reduced by such a vast amount. He no longer needed to guide the mana around his body as his whole body had basically become one giant source of mana and the outer layer of his skin would already contain enough mana to cast this spell, so all he had to do was emit the mana in those cells and the armour would almost instantaneously congeal itself.

I wonder how long it takes to cast the most advanced spell I know... Let's try it!

A long stream of hand incantations flashed forth from his hands as he guided the mana through his body to cast the most advanced spell he knew. While he could forego the hand incantations and try the spell without them from the get go, he believed it would be better to be safe than sorry.

The temperature in the room drastically dropped with every incantation that Zaran made, the furniture quickly becoming covered by a faint layer of frost. When he made the final incantation the air grew even colder and ice spread forth from Zaran's body, instantly freezing whatever it touched solid.

A frightened expression appeared on the face of the maiden who was present in the room. She quickly ran out of the room and slammed the door shut.

"OH FUCK!" Zaran screamed as he retracted the ice and opened the door, finding a scared to death maiden sitting on the floor, whose knees had given in due to the sheer fear for her life.

Zaran knelt beside her and lifted her chin so he could see her face. "I am so sorry! I totally forgot you were present. Are you okay?"

"uh...  uh... I think ... so?" the maiden said, fear still lingering in her voice.

"Here, I'll help you up." Extending his hand towards the young maiden, Zaran waited for her to take it.

The maiden took Zaran's hand and allowed herself to be pulled up by him. "T-thanks master." She straightened her outfit and shyly looked around. "Have you finished? Can I get you anything?"

"You could say that... and no, I don't need anything at the moment. Just keep following me."  With a big smile on his face, Zaran strolled off toward the study where he would undoubtedly find his parents.

A minute later Zaran entered the study and yelled. "Good evening, father, mother."

Both his father and mother looked up from their tomes and looked at Zaran with a questioning expression. To so rudely disturb them, Zaran should have something important to announce.

Zaran was not going to make it long and just said one single word, which shocked the soul out of his parents. "Done."

His mother quickly performed a few hand incantations. A white ring appeared on the iris's of her eyes. She carefully examined Zaran from top to bottom, grabbed her husband and cried out in disbelief. "He... he.... he... he's a disciple!"

"D-Disciple?!? impossible! he was just a junior apprentice one year ago!" His father looked at Zaran if he were some kind of monster. This son of his... had both succeeded in his research and passed multiple cultivation levels in a mere year?

Within one year Zaran had caught up to the multiple years of painstakingly cultivating that his most promising peers had done to reach that point. Going from junior apprentice to disciple in less than a year, only one word could be used to describe the speed. Monstrous! It was no wonder that both his parents were extremely shocked and looked at their son as if he was some monstrous being.

However what they didn't know was that this was only when including the mana from every cell in his body and his true cultivation was actually weaker than it had been one year ago. Nearly a quarter of his mana seed had been sacrificed to fuse mana seeds within his cells and only now that he was finished could he slowly start its recovery.

While his father was initially shocked, he quickly regained himself and was already considering Zaran's return to the academy. While Zaran had been given a leave of absence until his research was finished, now that it was, he needed to attend the academy once more and he needed to catch up on everything that he missed during the time he was gone. "Now that you are done with your research it is time for you to take up your studies again. You've missed a year of classes, so we'll find you a tutor to fill you in on what you missed."

"A tutor? Is that really necessary?" Zaran's mood sank. A tutor was not something he wanted. 

"It's not something that can be discussed." His father sternly said. 

"Fine." With a weary sigh, Zaran turned around and left the study.

_______________________

A few uneventful days passed, and Zaran just arrived home from the academy. Dropping his tome and notebook off at his bedroom, he instantly headed for the backyard. The past few days he had been searching for spells that was suited for his new state. Emission-type spells worked very well for him now that his whole body was a vessel for mana. For now spells that needed a great deal of control to be pulled off weren't convenient for him to use as he still needed to perform the hand incantations to help him. 

This caused Zaran to be in quite a pickle. Since he had chosen the path of an ice mage, with his magic level at the mere disciple stage, he didn't have access too all too many emission type ice magic spells. At the moment he only had access to two and he had been able to pick up another two after he had verified his status as a magic disciple. If he was at the adept stage or higher, he'd have access to quite a few more emission-type spells but alas, he was still quite far of that state.

The spell he was going to start working on today was frostbeam, a spell in which the caster emitted a high speed beam of frost, which would freeze solid whatever it touched. The hand incantations and mana requirements were quite tremendous for a disciple, but its potency was no joke. Its speed only almost always assured the target of a disciple level to be hit. 

An array of cheap mass produced vases, which Zaran had requested, were lined up in a circle in the backyard. Curling up the frostbeam scroll, Zaran closed his eyes and slowly performed the hand incantations that were written down in the scroll.

Half an hour passed with Zaran practicing the incantations before he finally did them in the right order. After the last incantation a white mist enveloped his whole right arm which was outstretched and aimed at one of the vases. As soon as it appeared a white beam flew towards the vase. Due to some mistakes in his incantations and him being slow in performing them, the line was shaky and his aim had been off by half a meter. Still, the beam hit the vase and the area on the vase that came in contact with the beam frosted over, the frost quickly spreading to the rest of the vase. Three seconds later, the whole vase was frozen solid. Zaran walked over and delivered a powerful punch to the vase, which instantly shattered. 

A sweet voice which praised his efforts rang out from behind him. "That was fairly well done! Your incantations were not perfect and your speed was slow, but it was just good enough to produce a fairly acceptable result."

Turning around to see who this unfamiliar voice belonged to, Zaran noticed that at the entrance of the yard stood a petite red-haired maiden, clad in the velvet blue academy robe. Next to her stood one of the servants, who seemed quite nervous. Having noticed the servants attitude, Zaran carefully asked a question in a gentle tone. "And who might you be?"

"My name is Florance Delayni, current champion of our year and from this day onward I will be your magic tutor. Pleased to meet you!" The red-headed maiden haughtily said. "Since you missed a year there will be a lot to catch up on so let's get started straight away! The maids have already prepared a room." 

Having said all that, Florance turned around and headed inside.

Zaran shook his head and ran after her, unaware of what his parents had brought upon him. 
 
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NianKaraz

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