175. Mavos Academy
It was one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Its name was respected by even the highest-leveled individuals. It was said that Helena Warshade, the leader of the Rising Veterans Company herself, went to Mavos Academy when she was a mere teenager.
She credited her experiences in Shedos as to why she became such a competent leader. She stood out as a [Mage] because she didn’t just throw bigger and bigger explosions at her enemy. Rather, she used her magic to work with her allies, boosting them in battle. Even boosting herself in battle.
That was the beauty of magic. It ranged from destruction to enhancement to transmutation to creation; it was such a wonderful thing. And Mavos Academy was the best place to learn it.
The previous emperor of the Vaun Qieur Empire, Iven Maran, even encouraged the young, burgeoning [Mages] of his Empire to attend Mavos Academy. Of course, with the worsening of relations between Shedos and Vaun Qieur after his son, Nor Maran, took the throne such rhetoric was no longer a thing in the empire.
Even still, that didn’t mean Mavos Academy was any worse than it was a hundred years ago. In fact, its standing had only risen. Research and the accumulation of knowledge for a nearly millennium old institution meant that information only compounded. Humankind’s understanding of magical theory only continued to expand. Properly-trained [Mages] of the present day were superior to properly-trained [Mages] of the past. Of course, that stipulated that their levels and equipment were equal.
Which would only logically lead to the outcome of modern [Mages] winning, since the training of modern [Mages] were far more comprehensive than [Mages] of the past. Because, a thousand years ago, [Mages] only cared about the practical. Five hundred years ago, [Mages] only cared about the theory.
Now, it was both the practical and the theoretical. This was the rigid and harsh curriculum Saffron Merryster had undergone for the past year. She’d wake up, head to training first thing in the morning. Her own magic was rather unique, if she had to say so herself. The manipulation of particles. Be it dust or sand or even water.
She could turn liquid into solid, solid into gas. Others less keen-eyed would think she was a kind of [Elementalist]. But they’d be thrown off by her lack of control of fire. Saffron saw it as an advantage, especially in training. The other [Mages] in her class didn’t know what to make of her.
Only a few knew of her secret. One of them was Valda. A child prodigy who reached Level 40 at only fourteen years old. While she and Saffron weren’t really friends, they were acquainted enough to have a quick chat on the way to their lessons after training.
“I see you’re as elusive as ever in battle, Saffy.”
The little girl grinned as she skipped alongside Saffron. The pink-haired woman didn’t bother responding to the degrading nickname she had been given.
“Elusive is not the term I’d use, Valda. The role of a [Mage] is to avoid combat when necessary. And if it does devolve to battle, it is only best to avoid taking unnecessary damage.”
“Isn’t that just what elusive means?”
“The term I’d use is intelligent.”
Unlike Saffron, Valda was a kind of [Battle Mage]. That meant she preferred getting up close against her enemies. It seemed foolish at first, considering her young age. But when she landed a powerful [Stone Fist], those who laughed at her would end up crying on the ground.
“While I admire your combat abilities, Valda. I fear that you are too reckless. Especially with the coming storm, it would be wiser for you to learn some control.”
“Why would I have to do that?”
She was as carefree as ever. Her blonde hair was tied into a single braid which bounced up and down with her.
“I’m still in school. There’s not much for us to worry about, is there? Maybe when we’re seniors you can lecture me about all the problems of life and whatever you want to say before we graduate. Then I might listen.”
Saffron shook her head. Valda was too immature— too foolish— to understand. The news had already reached Mavos Academy. Everyone was whispering about it. They dreaded it. It was far away. Across many great countries. The Honorable Companies were aware of it. The Eastern Kingdom Alliance was preparing for it. But for now, it was left unattended.
A Primeval Demon had come to the Mortal Realm. And with it, it brought an army of monsters.
It had already brought low dozens of large cities, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocents dead. It replenished its numbers with each city it destroyed. The world quaked as they heard of his rampage.
“It is already happening, Valda. I fear that we might be called to act sooner rather than later.”
Saffron’s father and oldest brother had already left for Nightsveil, the Capital of Nixa. They weren’t going to engage the Primeval Demon— an army of 50,000 from the Sunmere Republic had already been vanquished before it left for Nixa. They knew of its might. A coalition of many great countries was needed to fell it.
It was a ridiculous thought. To think that even Diamond Ranks like her father would be helpless against such a monster. But she knew it was true. She just hoped the Primeval Demon had no plans to march on Nixa’s Capital anytime soon.
Valda snorted and raised a hand. She snapped a finger, creating an invisible bubble around them. It was a spell to prevent anyone from eavesdropping on them. Even with magic.
“Look, Saffy. I know you have a whole [Hero] complex and everything. But we’re students. We can’t do anything about any Demon. Not even a Greater Demon.”
“It is our heritage. It is because of this complacency this has occurred. As [Demon Slayers]—”
The little girl spoke simply. She waved a finger, keeping her voice casual.
“We’re Vampires. There’s no such Class as a [Demon Slayer] or a [Demon Hunter]. Those are silly Classes they made up to convince everyone that us Vampires are good after oppressing our kind for thousands of years.”
Saffron hissed. It was supposed to be a secret. If someone powerful enough tried, they could eavesdrop on them!
“We served the Immortal King faithfully and were rewarded—”
“Our predecessors did. Not us. We have no obligation to deal with any Demon that shows up just because some dusty old man in my family helped another, even more ancient man ten thousand years ago.”
“If a Demon shows up here in Mavos Academy tomorrow— even if it’s a Greater or Lesser Demon— as long as it’s harmless, I see no reason to do anything about it.”
The pinked-haired woman opened her mouth. There were a thousand things she wanted to say. But she caught herself. She realized— remembered— that Valda came not from a noble family. Whatever heritage she had was stripped away.
Of course she wouldn’t view the duty of being a Vampire as fondly as Saffron did. Sighing, Saffron snapped her finger and dispelled Valda’s spell.
“It’s just something for you to consider, Valda. I have an alchemy class to get to, and I’m sure you’re just as in a rush as me to get to your enchanting class.”
Valda scurried off down the gilded hallway, pulling open a thick set of double doors and entering a lecture hall. The bell rang just as Saffron stepped into her alchemy lab. She took a seat as the [Alchemist] professor began giving his lecture when something vibrated in her bag.
There was… a sound. A soft tune. Like that from a music box.
The [Alchemist] narrowed his eyes, snapping his gaze at Saffron as she hurriedly picked up her bag.
“Saffron Merryster. Is that an enchanted toy you brought to this class?”
“No, professor Ivem. This is… this is…”
Heads turned to face her as she pulled out the round object she kept in her Bag of Holding at all times. It was a crest. But silver, almost an exact counterpart of another one she had.
“This is… my receiver?”
“It’s actually working!”
I brightened as I saw the crest glow. The inscriptions limned with a wispy light. I watched as the threads of mana seemed to form itself in the air through a great distance, before I heard the voice on the other end.
There was a pause. A young woman’s voice came out from the other end.
“It’s me! Yes, it’s Salvos!”
I beamed, smiling from ear-to-ear as if she could see me. I heard a sound coming from the crest. As if someone was talking to Saffron from a distance.
“Right, I’ll excuse myself. I thought—”
There were more voices. They sounded like whispers. I couldn’t hear what they were saying. But a door slammed shut and they faded away. Saffron spoke up again after a sigh.
“I was in class— why are you calling me? Is there an emergency?”
I nodded as I lifted the man I was carrying slightly.
“Matthew was just teaching me how to use this artifact you gave me. Apparently, I’m supposed to focus the magic on the whole object, not just the inscriptions and runes. Which is weird. Most scrolls I’ve used required more precision when activating their effects.”
“That’s… so you don’t need anything from me? Wait, why is Matthew there?”
“He’s just here, guiding me to Mavos Academy. And I do need something from you! But I think it’ll just be easier for me to explain when I’m down.”
“Guiding you to… what? And what do you mean when you’re down? Where are you, Salvos?”
“Oh, I’m right above Mavos Academy!”
I turned away from the crest, looking straight down at the palatial-like structure lying before me. It reminded me of a castle. Almost similar to the keep that the Lich lived in. But this was larger. Far larger.
And not just in size alone. Its spires— tall towers brimming with mana— rose up to meet even the clouds. They weren’t uniformly colored. Some of them were blue, others were green, and more were black. They came in different shapes too.
One looked like the kind of tower I’d see on a castle wall, while another was more similar to a minaret. Thin. Like a needle jutting from the ground.
The rest of Mavos Academy was just as uniquely shaped, as though a bunch of different buildings and structures were haphazardly put together inside of a castle. It was expansive in its structure alone, not including the vast garden it had at different parts of the academy.
I spotted what looked like a thicket of trees, no different than the one I’d see while out in a light forest. But across from it was a dense foliage dangling with vines and a thick canopy. It was murky like a swamp, with a river cutting through it. But the trees were far too tall, rising to a hundred feet in height. And at the base of this jungle were bioluminescent plants.
“Huh. This place is pretty nice. Where are you at?”
“I’m in the east wing of— wait, Salvos don’t—”
“East wing? Got it! I’m coming down now!”
I swooped down, scanning over all the students I saw milling about. They were walking, chatting, and screaming as they pointed at me.
I ignored them, instead focusing on the artifact in my hand. It tugged on specific threads of mana in the air, traveling through it, creating a rippling and vibrating effect that was so minute but still visible to my eyes.
Following it, I landed by a black brick building with stained glass windows as its front doors were thrown open. Saffron ran out, her eyes wide.
She paused when she saw me slowly descending. My wings receded, and I let the flames covering them dissipate. The pink-haired woman was dressed in a uniform with a knee-height skirt and a white blazer. There was an emblem— some sort of sigil— into her shirt, right over her left breast.
Her mouth failed to work. She just stared at me.
“It’s been a while!”
I raised a hand as my feet finally touched the ground. There were screams and shouts from all around me. Chaos at the courtyard I flew over. Students were scrambling into buildings as higher leveled [Mages] raced out with weapons raised.
Saffron shook her head, snapping herself out of her stupor. She glanced over at her butler.
“Matthew, why didn’t you sto—”
She paused. I dropped the man to the ground, and he hadn’t gotten back up. His eyes were glazed over as his jaw hung open. Hehad fainted at some point in time because I was flying too fast.
I took a step forward, grinning and spreading my arms wide, ready to embrace Saffron. But a voice thundered from above. A dark cloud descended from a tall tower, an elderly man held a sword out, pointing it at me.
“WHO DARES INVADE MY ACADEMY?!”
I felt a sensation— a powerful compulsion to flee and run from the voice. It was… [Intimidation]? Or something similar.
The elderly man leapt from his nimbus cloud and landed just before me. It was not a soft landing. The ground shook unnaturally as he approached me. He raised his blade. It was a longsword with a crooked guard that curved up like horns.
[??? - Lvl. ???]
Light gleamed from its blade as he aimed it at me. His white, flowing beard began to whip with an unseen wind as the hair on top of his head stood up. I sensed power from him. A Skill that dwarfed any of mine. It was the same powerful I sensed from only the Lich and Zix before.
A Grand Skill.
And he directed its intensity and fury at me. Even just by standing near me, Saffron dropped to her knees in fear. His voice boomed once more.
“NAME YOURSELF, INTRUDER!”
I replied casually, waving a hand at him. He paused, suddenly uncertain. I scratched the back of my head as he creased a brow.
“And I’m here to enroll into Mavos Academy…?”