Map of Aria

Year 2849 | Month 5 | Day 6

I pat mom on the back as she hugs me with tears flowing from her eyes. Meanwhile, I see my dad over her shoulder faintly nodding his head.

It takes the bus parked in front of my house honking to get mom to let me go before she finally says, “Stay safe, and don’t let anyone know.”

I nod my head before looking at dad as he adds, “Especially anyone from one of the families.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” I reassure them while opening the front door and stepping out of my family’s two story house onto the grassy front yard. The yard doesn’t have any signs or anything of the like, and it only has a few trees to its name, but it’s still the yard that I grew up with, so it’s a bit melancholy to know that this might be my last time seeing it.

As I continue walking towards the black military bus parked in front of our driveway, I raise my head to look up at the sky through squinted eyes; at the two suns beating down on me with their seemingly endless heat. When I lower my head again to look at the bus, I hear the driver shout with a less than pleasant look on his face, “Hurry up, boy!” as he taps his fingers on the steering wheel in front of him.

I hide my displeasure at his treatment of me as I walk down the driveway towards the bus. While I’m walking, one of the bus’s windows rolls down before my best friend – Aidan Hawkins – sticks his head out, letting his shoulder-length black hair fall into his face as he says, “Hey, Nathan!”

His actions noticeably anger the driver even further as he shouts back at him, “Shut up and get back into your seat, cadet!”

Okay, so this driver is a bit of an asshole.

I keep my thoughts hidden from my face as I enter the bus and scan my new ID that had only come in the mail just yesterday on the scanner next to the door.

The ID itself has a picture of my face, showing my short, brown, wavy hair, and my blue eyes as I stare straight ahead, along with a black and red border around it, showcasing the national colors of The Republic of Arcania. It also has a few other details, such as my name and ID number to the side of my picture, and the name of the school on the top of the card – The Arcane Academy.

As soon as the scanner beeps, recognizing my ID, I quickly move past the driver in an attempt to avoid any more interaction with him before navigating my way towards Aidan and sitting down next to him.

The rest of the people within the bus all avoid looking at the driver, apparently also sick of the man, before he turns to face forwards again and the bus door closes itself. As he is starting the military bus again, he points his hand towards us, palm outwards, before a green circle with several hundred tiny lines of text running back and forth across it along with a star appears in front of his palm. Seconds later, the magic circle grows slightly before vanishing inwards into itself as a strange, green barrier appears in between us and the driver. He then starts to leave my neighborhood as the people within the bus begin to chatter away.

Huh, I guess the driver doesn’t want to bother with us unless he has to.

The driver’s use of magic aside, Aidan takes that as his cue to begin talking, “So how’ve ya been since graduation?”

I put my hands behind my head while resting it on the headrest with my eyes closed as I answer, “It’s been okay.”

A few seconds pass as the other people within the bus fill it with their chattering voices before Aidan asks, “Are you excited to finally learn how to use your magic?”

I slowly open my eyes before glancing at him.

Magic. The end all, be all of a person’s position in our society. A society built on war, bloodshed, and military might. Where the nation with the strongest mages – our nation – reigns supreme.

Am I excited to finally begin my formal training in magic?

“Not really,” I mutter while facing forwards again and closing my eyes.

I hear Aidan gasp in surprise before feeling him shaking me back and forth as he exclaims, “But why! Magic is amazing!”

Without opening my eyes, I answer him, “Because I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

Which is the honest truth.

We’re all being forcefully conscripted into the military just because we're magicians.

Even if I wasn’t trying to hide the fact that I’m immortal from them, I would still hate the idea of not having a say in this.

Aidan stops shaking me after hearing my answer before he moves his hands from my shoulder and quietly says, “I guess that’s true.”

Neither of us say anything for several minutes as the bus continues to pick up cadet after cadet.

“Hey… Nathan?” Aidan suddenly asks me.

I open my eyes and turn to him out of curiosity as I ask, “What is it?”

This sudden nervousness isn’t like him. He normally has a rather bubbly attitude, with the ability to ask almost anything without…


“If it’s about her, then I don’t want to hear it,” I answer him with a frown before he can even ask anything.

As I thought. His face clouds over with surprise as he exclaims, “But the three of us are-”

“Were,” I cut in before he continues talking without missing a beat.

“-best friends!” he finishes with a sad look in his eyes. “C’mon, man! You can’t cut out the six years that we were friends just because of one simple lie!”

I grimace at the thought. He’s technically right, but I still don’t consider Amelia as one of my best friends anymore. Not after finding out that she had been lying about who she was from the very moment we met.

“Not only did she lie to us, but she’s also from the Marshall family and therefore can’t be trusted,” I state with a note of finality in my tone as I face forwards again while closing my eyes.

I hear a familiar groan from Aidan, signaling his giving up on the subject once more.

Amelia Marshall. The youngest heir to the Marshall family, the family currently – and for the past several decades – occupying the dark-magic council seat. A family that also apparently has a tradition of sending their kids to a public school under a fake name.

Which also means that it would be dangerous to be around her, what with my body’s condition and all.

If her family were to find out about it, then it could only mean bad things for me.

After all, their matriarch – who also happens to be Amelia’s mother – is part of the ruling council governing The Republic of Arcania.

That said…

I open my eyes while turning to look at Aidan, finding him staring out the window with a sad look on his face.

It’s not like I can tell him that. He doesn’t know about my condition, nor does anyone else outside of my own family and the doctor.

I close my eyes before facing forwards again with a sigh.

Might as well take a nap as we wait.

I wake up to Aidan shaking me as he shouts, “Wake up! The Arcanian Gate is in sight!”

“The gate?” I mutter, still slightly out of it from my nap before the words register in my mind as I sit up straight again.

The Arcanian Gate!

I may not be interested in this academy at all, but I am a little bit interested in the gate.

It’s a magic object that acts as both the entrance to the academy grounds, and the evaluator of a magician’s talent level, as well as what magic they're able to use.

While I already know that I'm a fire magic user, I never figured out what my talent level was.

The talent levels range from 1 through 5, with a talent level of 1 meaning that the magician has only the bare minimum affinity for magic, and a 5 basically meaning that they were practically born to use magic and should be fostered with the utmost of care.

That said, the thing that really matters in regard to the talent level – to me at least – is that the academy places you into different course levels depending on your talent. Talent levels 1 and 2 are placed in the low level courses and will be granted the rank of second lieutenant as soon as they graduate from the academy. Meanwhile, levels 3 and 4 – the average and slightly above average levels – are placed in the high level courses and will be granted the rank of first lieutenant upon graduation.

Lastly, the level 5 prodigies will be placed in the advanced courses and granted the rank of captain upon graduation, allowing them to skip six entire ranks within the military.

“What talent level are you hoping for?” Aidan asks without looking away from the window, “I hope I’m level 5!”

A faint smile emerges on my face at his wish before I mutter, “I just want something in the middle. Preferably either level 2 or 3.”

Level 2 would make me less noticeable, but I would also have less authority. And authority is something that I might need to keep my secret.

As for level 3, I would be a little bit more noticeable, but I would still only be average. And I would have a little bit more authority whenever I graduate, so things should still work out well.

Aidan sends me a strange look before shaking his head and muttering, “That sounds like something you’d say...”

He then looks out the window again with his previous fervor.

I shake my head with a smile at this before the bus finally comes to a stop.

A sudden ripping sound comes from the front of the bus as the driver rips down the sound barrier, followed by the driver’s voice, “Shut up and begin exiting the bus in an orderly manner!”

I hold myself back from raising an eyebrow at his emphasis on the word ‘orderly’ as I get up from my seat and begin following the rest of the cadets out of the bus.

It doesn’t take long for me to completely lose track of Aidan after exiting the bus into a crowd of dozens of students, including those from other buses.

After a brief moment of confusion, a loud voice calls out over the crowd, “Everyone, please form one line down the sidewalk starting at the scanner. The person at the front of the line will scan their ID on the scanner before moving on into the Gate. You will then wait on the other side with the instructors and advanced notice students for the rest of the students to finish making their way through.”

I follow the crowd into the line, somehow ending up near the front without even realizing it before the person several places in front of me at the front of the line touches their ID card to the scanner and begins to walk towards the enormous gate.

The Arcanian Gate itself spans several dozen meters in size so that it can fit people, vehicles, and anything else the academy might need to stick through it. It’s red and black, symbolizing the national colors of The Republic, with an arc shape, and a light blue field of energy within the arc.

After a brief moment of hesitation, the girl who was at the front of the line walks through the gate.

“Name, Rose Alexandra. Affinity, Nature magic. Talent, level 3.”

A strange, robotic voice suddenly echoes throughout the area, causing my eyes to widen in surprise.

The gate announces everything right as you walk through? To everyone?

Well, that’s just building the academy up to have a caste system, now isn’t it?

This just reaffirms my desired levels. At least others won’t try to make trouble for me – most likely – if I am average in talent.

The next person touches his ID to the scanner and walks through the gate without any hesitation.

“Name, Blake Frost. Affinity, Water magic. Talent, level 2.”

Soon after him, the next person walks through as well.

“Name, Arnold Smith. Affinity, Wind magic. Talent, level 1.”

I wince for the poor fella before watching another person step up.

“Name, Joshua Hicks. Affinity, Dark magic. Talent, level 2.”

At the rate it’s going now, we should be finished a lot faster than I had originally expected.

My eyebrows raise in surprise as the fifth person – a tall girl with bright red hair – steps through the gate.

“Name, Catherine Cline. Affinity, Fire magic. Talent, level 4.”

A level 4 already? That was fast.

The announcement of her level stuns the gathered instructors and cadets before one of the instructors says, “Continue moving along.”

This makes the next student hurry to scan their ID before moving through the gate.

“Name, Jack Roberts. Affinity, Wind magic. Talent, level 2.”

A slight feeling of anxiousness builds in my chest as the next person directly in front of me scans their ID and begins to pass through the gate.

I don’t pay any attention to the name announced by the gate as I grab my ID and scan it on the scanner before walking up to and through the gate.

All of the tension leaves my body the moment I hear my talent level.

“Name, Nathan Fox. Affinity, Fire magic. Talent, level 3.”

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About the author


Bio: There isn't much to know about me.

I'm a bit of an introvert, and I love writing, programming, wolves, and spiders.
And I'm pretty cynical, which you should be able to tell from reading my favorite quotes.
Simple enough, I would think.

Favorite quotes:

"In this game, there's no way to know the rules or how to win. Yet, there are seven billion players, all making whatever moves they want. If you win too much, or lose too much, there are penalties. You can't pass your turn, and if you complain, people look down on you. There's no parameters, or freaking genres, or anything. You know what you call that? You call that a crappy game."

"Genius is only one story above madness."

"It's more important to master the cards you're holding than to complain about the ones your opponent was dealt."

"No matter what you want in life, there's always someone else who already has it. And unfortunately, it usually means a lot less to that someone."

"The way I figure it, life is a great big game board and we're pieces in play, all of us, but somebody got to the board before we did, before there were rules, and this somebody made up the rules and then told us that's how the game is played. But in reality, there are no rules."

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