A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Yoooooo! Welcome baaaaaack!

200 chapters holyyyy crap! This is amazing to me. Like...okay, hold on, too excited, I'm not going to make any sense.

Essentially, Fool is now the longest story I have ever written and the fastest I have ever written one. Can't believe all this has grown from a little writathon challenge I gave myself. Holy crap. Now a bunch of you are probably like lol 200 chapters? Git gud, Juggernaut. Come to me when it's Randidly. 

But it's a nice accomplishment to me. Fool has an ending in mind, so it'll never be as mighty in word count as the titans like Wandering Inn or Randidly, but I am well pleased with how far we've come together. 

Now, let's get into the 200th chapter!

“Earn some what now?” Alex blinked. “Let me get this straight, you want to pay us to join your team?”

“Is that so strange?” Roderich asked. “There’s a long tradition of hiring mercenaries to participate in The Games. In your case, the benefit is doubled: your team would join ours, and you would also cease to be a threat to our chances. It’s only rational. You would gain more numbers—join a team used to fighting the Brotherhood—and we might even be able to field a second team if all of you join.”

“I…” Alex blinked, his mind trying to catch up with what was being offered. He actually would’ve expected the Brotherhood to be the ones trying to recruit them.

He could picture them swaggering up and saying something like, ‘you all don’t have a chance against us, so we’re going to take pity on you and let you join our team’.

Then they’d probably smirk, and Derek would say something nasty to Isolde before being told to go to every hell that ever existed through all the planes.

But this was different.

This was more ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, and that made the offer harder to dismiss outright.

“I see you’re considering it,” Roderich mused. “We would be willing to pay a hundred gold pieces to each of you—our coffers are flush now thanks to generous donations from our alumni—and we’re also offering an equal share of any prizes we win. But, you don’t have to accept right away: some of my companions will be talking to your friends, like I said. So, you can confer with each other then let us know.”

He nodded. “Hopefully, we’ll be hearing from you soon.” He gave that slightly off smile of his. “Until then,” he said cheerfully.

With that, Roderich turned and walked away before Alex could say anything. As the Hydra Companion pitchman left, Alex began thinking about the offer he’d just received while he continued heading to his practice. In some ways, the offer was interesting. Not only would getting a nice sum of coin be guaranteed—even if they lost—but they might have an even better chance of placing higher in the rankings for the Grand Battle.

It might also put them in a better position to beat the Brotherhood. Still, the truth of what Khalik had said hadn’t changed, they would lose coordination if they joined a bunch of people who none of them had ever worked with. In class, Baelin had complimented them time after time on their battle coordination: altering that would mean they’d be thrown off balance.

But, would making a drastic change like that be offset by having an additional six experienced battlemages on their team? He’d seen them face off against the Brotherhood and they’d done well against them.

It was something for him to think about.

He cut his way through a quiet copse of trees and finally reached The Cells. Alex still came there regularly for alchemy work with Professor Jules, and he’d also been booking one of the summoning rooms to practice Summon Elemental Beetle in.

He was coming closer to actually casting the spell and he’d made a ton of notes covering a lot of the spell array. Summoning rooms were a good place to work in since they were warded to keep otherworldly entities from breaking out and creating mayhem all over Generasi. Each room had glyphs of dismissal carved into perfect summoning circles etched into both the floor, and ceiling at the centre of each room. ‘Safety first,’ as the university rules stressed.

Technically, he didn’t have to use a summoning room yet: an Elemental Beetle breaking free of a circle wouldn’t be dangerous to anything but small mice, and large bugs that’d be an easy meal for it. But, Professor Mangal had strongly encouraged them to use the special rooms as soon as they got closer to successfully casting their first summoning spell.

‘It is a poor habit for a summoner to adopt, practicing without proper safety,’ she’d said. ‘You can summon what you wish anywhere you choose when you have mastered a particular summoning spell. But if you get used to summoning creatures you have not mastered without a protective circle now, then you might forget certain steps later. And that could cost you your life.’

Alex thought hard on that as he went down to the basement to fetch the key for the room.

“You won’t have to stop here to sign in for room keys much longer,” the clerk said as he slid Alex the key. He indicated a sign with a diagram of the students’ circular cards in front of a door surrounded by glyphs. Beside the sign, a Watcher of Roal stood with the stillness of a statue.

“Glyphs will be installed around each Cell so that your student card can be used to unlock the door to the room you’ve booked,” he informed Alex. “They would’ve been installed by now if it weren’t for…” He paused, looking at two other Watchers posted on either side of the office window. “…recent security concerns.”

“Yeah,” Alex said. “I get that.”

Summoning. Dangers. Security concerns.

He wondered about The Games of Roal as he headed up to the room. So far, he hadn’t heard of any talk about them being cancelled…but knowing The Watchers, he doubted they’d ever be intimidated into shutting things down because of some demon summoner.

Unlocking the door, he entered the summoning room.

“Stay over there by that wall, Claygon,” he pointed to the south wall then began circling the chamber.

A circle check was always wise in any dedicated summoning room. One should always make sure that the circles and glyphs weren’t damaged or altered, and that nothing lay across the permanent circle to break it. Once he finished confirming that everything was intact, Alex plopped down cross-legged in front of the circle, and set his open book down.

He paid attention to his breathing, and cleared his thoughts after acknowledging them: he’d been looking forward to this day. That strange—perhaps Traveller-connected—phenomenon that helped him learn and cast Call Through Ice, and the Summon Stone spell, would likely manifest during the spell, and he was real anxious to see if and how it would.

Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his body and began speaking the incantation.

Without fail, The Mark’s interference came, but after almost a full year, dealing with it had almost become second nature. He wasn’t really tensing up when it came for him anymore, which meant he could better concentrate on whatever he was trying to do. It was like how fights had become easier now that he’d gained experience and was growing used to the fear and risk that came with each battle.

The failures The Fool was showing him were mostly from his practice with Call Through Ice, and his Summon Stone spells. It was focusing on the parts of the spell arrays that were responsible for construction of the magic circuit in general, while only bringing up a few failures from the parts of the spell arrays responsible for connecting to the elemental planes of ice and earth.

Those parts hadn’t given him much trouble—in some ways, the parts of the magic circuits responsible for connecting to other planes almost seemed to form themselves—which meant there’d been a lot less for The Mark to use against him.

Or at least that’s what he theorized.

He was still trying to understand what was going on with him and teleportation and summoning spells, and he’d been paying close attention to how The Mark reacted to them so that he could come up with some explanations.

For now, this was data gathering time.

Alex abruptly stopped the incantation. The distractions had sped up, creating a wild array of images that were so chaotic and overwhelming, that he had to abandon the spell. Keeping calm, he took a few breaths and tried again. These days, failing wasn’t as frustrating as it used to be. After all, no matter how many times The Mark messed him up, he usually found a way to make things work. Perseverance to keep trying the spell, or adjusting it to make it work, were key. And, even if the interference was too much for a spell to be practical for him to learn and cast—like force missile—he’d learned that he could always find another path.

Failure walked with him everyday now, but it hadn’t killed him. So what did he have to fear from it?

…unless the failure was so catastrophic that it did kill him, but he acknowledged that possibility and rapidly let it go.

It took nine tries before Alex finally got through the first fifty percent of the spell without making any mistakes. The magic circuit was slowly forming inside his mana pool. He was excited. Now, on to the next part which was what created the cylinder or barrier within the summoning circle. Professor Mangal had said that this part was optional: a wizard could leave it out if they were quickly summoning something that couldn’t harm them, or if they had complete control over it. But, Alex wanted to do everything by the book since this was all new to him, so there was no way he was leaving that step out.

Next, was the step that was responsible for the actual subjugation process. He needed to take extra care here, because the consequences of screwing it up were huge. If he messed this part up—which was responsible for building the magic circuit itself—a mana reversal could occur. If he messed up the optional part that created the barrier, then the summoned monster would be free…which wouldn’t be much of a problem if it was weak and Alex had control over it.

Even if he messed up the part of the array that was responsible for summoning a creature, then usually the worst that happened was that pulling it across planes failed. Of course, there were rare cases where wizards messed up that part in such a way that they unintentionally summoned something they didn’t mean to, but he’d do his best not to let that happen.

If he screwed up the part responsible for subjugation while summoning a dangerous creature, then it would be free of his control…and probably very angry that he’d tried to subjugate it. According to Professor Mangal, it was mistakes in the subjugation part of summoning spells that killed more summoners than any other error in spellcraft. Something he’d do his best to avoid.

So, with that in mind, he became overcautious which caused the spell to falter since he cast it so slowly that he screwed it up, making the whole magic circuit fall apart. On his second try, he let earlier practice guide him, giving him more confidence. It worked.

Now came the part of the spell array responsible for the actual summoning.

Something shifted in the magic.

In a way, it was as if a much steadier hand appeared beside his own to guide him through. He felt the magic circuit begin to build on itself, coming together and he focused his attention on where it was joining, pushing through The Mark’s interference.

It honestly felt like the plane he had chosen to summon the beetle from—the elemental plane of water—was reaching out to him through the barrier between the material world, and the elemental planes. He wasn’t sure if it was his vivid imagination, but he could almost hear the distant sound of water trickling then crashing like waves.

The magic circuit began to thrum with power, building like it was completing itself. Even as The Mark interfered, the spell array progressed fluidly, unhampered.

Until he made one mistake.

It was a small, but consequential one. A particular failure slammed into his mind with full force and he mispronounced the name of the creature he wanted to summon. Professor Mangal had hammered the importance of names into his class.

And he’d just made that very mistake.

But, instead of the spell array falling apart, the power that was helping to finish the magic circuit continued its task.

Alex gasped.

The spell grew, completing with the incorrect name.

He felt a rush as the magic circuit reached out. Far out into the elemental plane of water.

And snared something.

Something that struggled like a hooked fish.

The air inside the magic circle was shimmering. It was a large area.

Something was coming.

And whatever it was, it was a hell of a lot bigger than any elemental beetle.

A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

So, I was very strongly considering naming this chapter 'hiatus'. Like it's not ACTUALLY a hiatus it's just named that way, but I couldn't make it work!

Maybe for April Fool's...

Like, just a normal chapter but named Hiatus.

We'll see. 

Alright, let's goooo!

Big thanks to all my readers—I appreciate each and every one of you—and a very special thanks to my patrons on my Patreon. There's up to 20 advanced chapters ahead on patreon as thanks for support!

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