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The sun rose slowly over the village of Benig, illuminating it for the world to see. It was nothing special: houses made of wood, wide swathes of farmlands, shoddy barns, and a badly maintained road running through the village proper—Benig looked exactly like hundreds of other villages that dotted the country.

The residents of Benig diligently woke up to the light of the morning sun, and, after breakfast, got to work as they did every day.

Then, a deviation occurred.

Adelyn Mackenzie entered the village, either not realizing or not caring about how out of place she looked. She was draped in robes of fine black silk, her hair was well-groomed and neatly tied into a tight bun, and her skin was incredibly fair. In contrast, the villagers wore rough cotton essentials, their hair looked oily and coarse, and they were all heavily tanned from working underneath the harsh sun day in day out.

Adelyn walked with purpose towards her destination, ignoring all the stares and mutters directed her way. When she got to her destination, the office of the village chief, she opened the door with zero hesitation and headed inside.

There he sat behind a decent desk, the village chief. He was old, balding, and had an overgrown grey mustache. He seemed as though he had been working on some ledgers before Adelyn had entered.

He gave Adelyn a pleasant smile, “Hello, ma’am, what brings you to our humble village?”

Adelyn simply pointed at the crest emblazoned on her robe’s breast pocket, a book with a magic circle consisting of only a triangle hovering above it.

The village chief grew visibly excited, “The Laurucian Academy of Magic! We’re honored! Well, Rex and Lucy have both shown signs of being able to use magic! Perhaps you’re here for them?”

“How old are they?” Adelyn asked.

“Lucy is about to reach her fourteenth birthday, and Rex just turned twelve.” Then, he seemed to realize that Rex’s age meant he had just discovered his magical abilities, “But don’t worry! He already draws strange shapes in the air every day, he’ll be a natural with magic!

“I see, that is good. However, they are too young to join our academy. Only fifteen-year-olds or above are allowed in our school,” Adelyn said, “I would suggest sending Rex and Lucy to magical tutors in the capital. They are subsidized by the government, so you won’t have to pay a single copper.”

The village chief fiddled with his mustache, seeming to take her words into consideration.

“Anyway,” Adelyn said, “I heard that there’s another boy, fifteen years of age, in this village. Rumour has it he’s incredibly talented and devoted to studying magic.”

The village chief’s face fell, “Ah… I had hoped you weren’t here for him.”

The village chief gestured for her to follow him as he exited the office, and led her through the village.

“Why?” Adelyn asked.

The village chief seemed to consider his words before he spoke, “The boy, Cadmus, he was brought here by his sister—lovely woman—five years ago, and they settled down here. They lost their parents when Cadmus was very young, so Cadmus was raised by his sister for the majority of his life.”

Adelyn wondered where this was going, but did not interrupt and patiently continued listening.

“Alas, it is cruel world we live in,” the village chief said sadly, “A year after moving to this village, Cadmus’ sister died. It was a peaceful death, and happened in her sleep, but young Cadmus was deeply shaken.”

Understanding dawned on Adelyn quickly.

“Magic does not have many limits, but one of those limits is undoubtedly that ‘magic cannot create life,’ no matter what,” she said firmly.

“As expected of a professor of the Laurucian Academy of Magic,” the village chief said, looking impressed, “I didn’t even need to explain everything for you to understand!”

“There have been many who have tried to bring back the dead using magic,” Adelyn explained, “And all of them have failed. Unfortunately, impossible is impossible.”

“Yes…” the village chief said, frowning, “Young Cadmus walks a dark path now. He has never hurt anyone, but I have heard stories of people who have tried to achieve the same thing. They say those who try to revive the dead usually end up trying to sacrifice other people’s souls to achieve their goals.”

“Is the village scared of him?” Adelyn asked.

The village chief smiled wryly, “I would be lying if I said no. There are many people in Benig worried that young Cadmus will go mad with want—that he might also try to sacrifice our souls.

Adelyn raised an eyebrow, “Then why were you hoping I wasn’t here for him?”

“We may be scared of him, but we also want the best for him,” the village chief said, “I don’t want Cadmus to continue down this path. It will only end in tragedy, for him or for those around him. Being invited to your academy will only fuel his obsession.”

“Don’t worry,” Adelyn said, “If I deem him unsuitable for our school, then he will remain here. And, considering the fact that he’s trying to achieve the impossible, he’ll probably be rejected.”

The village chief had a complicated expression on his face, as if he was unsure whether to feel happy or sad after hearing that.

‘We’re here,” he said.

The house he had led her to was a shabby one. It was made of wood like all the other houses in the village, but this one looked as though it had been neglected for years. Adelyn gave the village chief a questioning look.

The village chief sighed, “Young Cadmus has no interest in caring for his home, so one of us tends to come by every few weeks to help clean up inside. However, none of us have the time to care for his entire house.”

“I see.” Adelyn gave the village chief a nod, “Thank you for guiding me here.”

She knocked on the main door, fearing that even the slightest amount of force might break it down.

“Young Cadmus will not hear you,” the village chief said, handing her a key, “Enter as you please, he will not mind.”

With that, the village chief took his leave.

Adelyn stared at the key in her hand for a second, wondering just what kind of person she was about to meet.

Opening the door, she headed inside—and instantly coughed when an explosion of dust greeted her. Covering her nose and mouth, she glared at the interior of this house. It was dusty beyond measure, and if Adelyn didn’t know any better, she would assume this house had been vacated by its resident a long time ago.

Adelyn carefully stepped through the house, every step of hers producing a noisy ‘creak’. The furniture in the dining room, the kitchen, and the hallways were all looking like they were on the verge of falling apart. Did the boy truly live here?

Then, she opened the door to the library and found her target. He was surrounded by books, parchments covered in magic circles, and quill pens. Behind him was a bookshelf that looked well-worn and was filled with even more books. And to the side was a cabinet, above which was a… doll? It looked very lifelike.

Surprisingly, only this place was free of almost any dust. It seemed as if this boy lived only here.

Adelyn stood silently for a second, observing the boy and waiting to see if he would notice her.

He did not.

The boy simply continued reading his book and making notes on a piece of parchment. Finally, when it seemed like this would go on for an eternity, Adelyn cleared her throat.

The boy blinked, then he shot her a glance, “Please give me a second, I’m almost done with this passage.”

Adelyn noticed that his voice was incredibly soft.

He made a few notes on his parchment, and then set the book down on the floor before turning to her.

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“You’re Cadmus, right?” Adelyn asked, just to confirm.

The boy nodded, “Cadmus Guiles. You are?”

“Guiles?” Adelyn asked, the old name bringing back a few pleasant memories, “Any relation to Ember Guiles?”

Cadmus’ face visibly brightened, “Yes, she was my sister! You knew her?”

Ah…

So, Ember Guiles had already died four years ago. The girl had always been one of her most favourite students, and when she had disappeared from the capital five years ago, Adelyn had always kept her ears open for any news of her.

Her heart clenched painfully. To think she was already dead…

“I… see.” She shook her grief off for now and focused on the person in front of her. Come to think of it, the resemblance between the two siblings was obvious now.

The same narrow green eyes, the same curly hair, and the same lithe frame. The only major difference between the two was that Ember’s hair was red and long, while Cadmus’ hair was black and short.

“And I hear you’ve been trying to revive her,” Adelyn said.

“Yes, you’ve heard right,” Cadmus said, not looking embarrassed at all for chasing such an obviously unattainable goal, “But you still haven’t answered my question? Who are you?”

“Professor Adelyn Mackenzie,” Adelyn said, “I’m here to evaluate you to see if you’re eligible to receive a scholarship for our school, the Laurucian Academy of Magic.”

“I’m flattered, Professor,” Cadmus said, “But I’ll have to decline. I have a lot of important research that I want to work on, so I don’t have time for school.”

“Well, I’m not sure you would have made the cut anyway,” Adelyn said with a sigh.

“Oh?” He didn’t sound angry, simply curious.

“Trying to bring back the dead? That’s impossible, give it up, kid,” she said.

A small frown appeared on his face, “‘Magic is miracle given form.’ That’s what my sister always said. Which means anything is possible with magic, even bringing back the dead.”

Adelyn felt annoyance bubble inside her. Just her luck… to travel all this way just to meet a delusional kid. Although, it was nice to finally get closure on Ember.

She could leave now, of course, and simply tell the headmaster that the boy had not been a good fit for the academy. But…

The boy was only setting himself up for crushing disappointment. If he continued clinging to the hope of reviving his sister, he would only find despair at the end when reality proved him wrong.

She couldn’t just leave him like this. She had to help him before she left.

“Guiles, countless people have attempted what you’re attempting right now,” Adelyn said gently, “But they all failed, because there is an inviolable rule in magic: magic cannot create life. No matter how much people wish otherwise.”

“Then I will be the first to succeed,” Cadmus said, sounding unconcerned, “As I said, I adhere to my sister’s words. Magic is miracle given form—and I’ll be sure to create my own miracle.”

Adelyn felt her irritation rise drastically.

This brat…

“And what proof do you have that you’ll succeed?” Adelyn huffed, “I have hundreds of years of history to prove that you’ll fail.”

Cadmus seemed to consider something, before he levelled her with an evaluating gaze, “You said I wouldn’t make the cut for your school anyway, right? And I already told you that I have no intention of joining it either. So why are you trying so hard to dissuade me from pursuing this goal?”

“I’m a teacher, brat,” Adelyn said, “Even though you’re not my student, I’ve developed an instinct for helping out wayward kids.”

Cadmus tilted his head at her answer, and then he smiled, “You’re a kind person, Professor. Very well, I will show you proof that I can indeed succeed in my goal.”

Well, Adelyn hadn’t been expecting that response. Usually, people obsessed with unattainable dreams worked off of belief alone. Still, she had no doubt that the ‘proof’ Cadmus was about to show would be far less than solid.

“Alice,” Cadmus called, looking at his cabinet.

“Alice?” Adelyn repeated, following his gaze. As expected, there was nothing that could be construed as proof on his cabinet.

“Hello, my name is Alice,” a small, sweet-sounding voice said.

Adelyn flinched. The voice had come from the cabinet, but there was no one there! What in the world had that been?

“Um—down here,” the voice said again.

Adelyn followed the voice to the source and felt her mind blank out for a few seconds. It was the life-like doll she had seen when she first entered the room. The doll was actually alive—it was speaking and moving just like a human!

“Wh—wha…?” Adelyn stuttered.

This was impossible! There was no such thing as a miniaturization spell, and Cadmus had created no magic circles to control any golems!

Which meant—

“Alice is a homunculus I created a year ago,” Cadmus said, looking unnaturally fond, “‘Magic cannot create life,’ that is what you said, correct? Alice’s existence serves as clear evidence to the contrary.”

A… homunculus? A genuine homunculus? Impossible—such a thing was impossible! Countless people had tried and failed to create one!

Magic cannot create life. Magic cannot create life!

That was an inviolable law of magic. And yet…

There was one right in front of her.

Adelyn forced herself through her surprise and asked,

“C-can I take a closer look at her?”

“Go ahead.”

Adelyn knelt close to Alice, and brought up a trembling hand to inspect her.

“May I…?” She asked, stopping a centimeter away from Alice’s face.

Alice seemed surprised for a second that Adelyn had asked her for permission, and then she nodded to indicate her consent.

Carefully, Adelyn thumbed Alice. Soft, long blonde hair; innocent, wide blue eyes; smooth, pale skin… Alice looked exactly like a human, only miniature. She was approximately twenty centimeters tall and she wore a simple white sundress and black flats. More importantly though, there was a black leather choker around her neck, with the telltale blue glint of laurite dust sown in the front in the form of a magic circle.

Adelyn took a closer look to decipher it. It was a basic spell designed to amplify one's voice. This explained why Alice’s voice had such a normal volume, even though her vocal cords were so small.

“You… can use magic?” She asked, her excitement leaking into her voice, “And you don’t need the brat to replenish your mana reserves?”

Alice nodded, “Yes.”

“Amazing… absolutely amazing…” Adelyn couldn’t help but lament.

And it was amazing! While not everyone could use magic, those who could had to be alive in every sense of the word to replenish their mana reserves. The fact that Alice’s body also replenished its mana reserves like normal humans…

It was the ultimate proof that she was indeed alive.

As a final test, Adelyn gently pressed a finger to Alice’s chest. She closed her eyes and focused. In such a small being, what she was searching for would be hard to feel.

However, after a few seconds, she found it.

Thump thump, thump thump…

There it was… the heartbeat.

Adelyn stepped away, and didn’t even bother trying to hide the astonishment on her face. Everything—absolutely everything—indicated that Alice was as alive as she herself was.

A true homunculus… it should have been impossible. But there she was, created by a child no less!

“Brat…” She turned to Cadmus, “You’re probably the first person in the world to create true, living homunculus! How did you do it?”

Cadmus smiled, “My sister left me a lot of very informative research journals, and she left behind a substantial amount of laurite as well.”

Adelyn ran a more analytical eye through Cadmus’ bookshelf, and mentally berated herself for missing a very important detail: while it was filled with many common books as well, most of them were in fact incredibly rare! From ancient lost texts like ‘The Codex Of Nicholas Flamel—Volume Seventeen’ or ‘Life and Health—The Ruminations of Rasputin’ to more recent works such as, ‘Magecraft by Merlin’.

Adelyn had seen many of these books only on the highest floors of the Laurucian Academy of Magic’s library. And none could dispute that the Academy possessed the greatest wealth of knowledge on the continent of Terra. Only the Carmenian Institute of Sorcery over on the continent of Gaia could perhaps match them.

Actually, looking even closer, a handful of these books probably couldn’t even be found at the Academy! Ember had always been one of the brightest children Adelyn had ever seen, but some of these texts were probably incredibly arduous to find. Why had Ember gone so far to do so?

And Cadmus had said she had left him a “substantial amount” of laurite as well, right?

“How much laurite?” Adelyn asked.

“About ten-thousand units.” Cadmus answered.

Adelyn’s heart skipped a few beats.

TEN-THOUSAND? That was one-tenth of the national reserves of the Kingdom of Laurucium! And this kingdom was the premiere kingdom of magic on Terra!

What the hell, was Ember secretly a dragon or something? Hoarding all that laurite…

Where had she even acquired so much? More importantly, why?

“Do you… do you still have them?” Adelyn asked warily.

Cadmus shook his head, “Creating Alice took most of the laurite I had. The rest of the units were used up in my experiments.”

Adelyn turned to look at Alice. So, creating her had taken approximately ten-thousand units of laurite… that was an incredibly large price to pay to create someone so small.

“Would you like to know the formula to creating a homunculus?” Cadmus asked.

What the hell kind of question was that? Of course she did! Even if she would never be able to amass the required amount of laurite, that formula was still rarer than almost any other formula in the world!

However—

“You shouldn’t be so eager to give out that information,” Adelyn advised, “You’ll need it as leverage in our academy.”

Cadmus tilted his head questioningly, “Like I said, I have no intention of enrolling though?”

Thankfully, he didn’t say something stupid like “I didn’t make the cut though?” Because they both knew that him proving one of magic’s oldest laws wrong was definitely worth a scholarship for the academy.

“Of course, the final choice is yours, I’m just offering you a scholarship,” Adelyn said, “However, you’ve already run out of all your laurite, and I bet you’ve already read every book on that bookshelf.”

Cadmus frowned, which showed Adelyn that she had struck right on the money.

“So, you can stay here and continue re-reading your books, or you can come to our academy, where we can offer you the resources to continue your research.”

And, for the first time since she had started speaking to Cadmus, he seemed to find some interest in her words,

“Resources?”

“Laurite and tons of new books, research papers, journals, and more—some even rarer than the ones you have here,” Adelyn said with a grin, watching as her words wormed into Cadmus’ brain, “As the greatest academy of magic on this continent, you will find everything you need there.”

Cadmus looked tempted, but also suspicious. “And you’ll just give all that to me?”

Adelyn scoffed, “Ha! Of course not! Everything in our academy is earned! You’ll have to aim high and work hard to get what you want.”

Surprisingly, that seemed to placate Cadmus somewhat. He closed his eyes as his face scrunched up in deep thought.

“I… think we should go,” Alice said softly. Cadmus turned to look at her questioningly, “It’s a good opportunity, and you really need to get out of the house more.”

Cadmus laughed lightly, “Well, looks like that settles it then. I accept your offer, professor.”

Adelyn grinned. These next four school years were going to be something special, she just knew it!

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Comments(13)
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base932 ago

Loved the Harry Potter reference

Zt-407 ago

Interesting so far, also the world appears to be very peaceful, hopefully I found a merry l new good story to read.

EmpireofTrust ago

How annoyed will he be when he wishes to use a reference book he already owns at home but is restricted at the school?

MisoAu ago

The multiple uses of brat is incredibly jarring in this chapter, like a bad wuxia novel.

BleakAbyss ago

why is she calling him a brat all of a sudden it's pissing me off the kid is a genius brat is a word used for a spoilt kid and he clearly proved his worth as not spoilt

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