The Warmth of the Hearth

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A new day was upon the Academy, with thousands of students waiting for its gates to open. The tall silver bars towered over the city, with humungous walls spreading from both sides to prevent any form of trespassing. Similar to the Mur, the school walls are imbued with magic, allowing those from the inside to spectate those on the outside. The enchantment also makes the walls immune to any form of magic, acting as the structure’s first line of defense. Its blueprints, however, remain a secret to the Nobles as the Royals keep the design with utmost secrecy.

Breathtaking. For four years of his life, Luke has witnessed the magnificent structure of the Academy for almost every day, but it was impossible for him to get used to what he sees. It is not only the physical aspects of the Academy that Luke finds magnificent, rather, he is enticed by the magical aspects that bring the school to life. Unlike most mages, Luke is sensitive to manna, which allows him to see its movement and segregate each individual’s element based on its characteristics. Color, flow, density, vibrance, and many other traits allow Luke to understand how a person’s manna will behave. These types of mages are referred to as Seers, a rare society of mages that are said to be chosen by manna, allowing them to be more sensitive to magic compared to other people. The first person to discover Luke’s high sensitivity to manna was Olin, and he served as Luke’s guide in using this ability to his advantage. However, as Seers are uncommon, a lot of black mages hunt them to sell as slaves at astoundingly high prices, which forces Luke to keep his secret from anyone under the advice of his uncle.

In the eyes of Luke, the air was filled with various colors that came from the crowded entrance. Zephyrs, Agnis, a couple of Terras. He reviewed each individual aura, guessing and pointing out their elements and what they may be capable of. In the corner of his eye, a familiar crimson glow of manna catches his attention.

“Mr. Lanky isn’t late, is the world going to end?” Carson walks towards him, with his arms up in the air in exaggerated motions.

“Let’s hope that it actually is, starting with a ball of fire falling on your head.” Luke retorts, giving the bulky Blaise a mocking grin.

“Oof, my heart just shattered into a million pieces!”

“Good! You deserve it!”

Carson puts an arm around Luke and proceeds to wrestle the young Laisren, getting him an elbow to the stomach which left him winded for a good moment. He then proceeds to stand upright, fixing his uniform. His smile disappears, transforming into a more worried look. “How are you feeling?”

“Oh dear, not again. I told you I’m fine. I could kick your ass a hundred times if I wanted to.” Luke answered. He proceeds to throw fake jabs at the unflinching Carson, who only looks at him seriously. Luke finally gives in. “I’m nervous. Any other mage is already a difficult opponent. I can’t imagine fighting you and Eli.”

As if on cue, Elizabeth appears among the crowd, with the students paving a passage for her to pass through. It’s Elizabeth Fjord, the students whisper, an occurrence that was common for Luke to see. Carson and Eli were famous in the Academy, leaving Luke to wonder why they were even friends to begin with.

“Always the entrance with you, isn’t it?” Carson jests as Elizabeth arrives to join the both of them.

“Speak for yourself Blaise. I hear that you’re pretty popular among the ladies.” Elizabeth answers, rolling her eyes and proceeding to eat the protein bar she calls her breakfast.

“Well, I’d bet th---” Carson was interrupted by a loud bang. They look towards the gate, which now seems to have come to life. The whirring of unseen mechanical contraptions fills the air, which signal the opening of the gates. The silver structure then proceeds to lift itself up, allowing entry for the students. A brown-haired woman who seems to be in her thirties stands in the middle of the passageway, dressed in gold and silver silk. Her eyes glowed a gentle white, a Zephyr user.

“Students of the Academy,” Her voice bellowed, as if her words were carried by the wind. “I am glad to see the practice of punctuality in all of you. Though I know that this is due to the upcoming examinations, I hope that this behavior will find permanence in the rest of our days together. You may now proceed to your assigned quarters, prepare all that you need and do whatever you deem necessary. The examinations will begin at nine sharp. The first ringing of the bells will be your signal to start assembling in the training center, by the time the second ring occurs, I expect all of you to be there. I wish all of you the best of luck.” After finishing her speech, the glow in her eyes completely disappear. She then proceeds to turn around and disappear into the school grounds, a trail of visible wind following her with each step.

Carson is the first to speak up. “Our beloved principal Loft really has a way of making a speech, does she?” He laughs, looking at the other two.

Elizabeth imitates Ms. Loft’s prim posture. “Mr. Carson, I will not tolerate such a behavior. You are a Blaise and I must insist that you act like one.” She finishes, laughing along with Carson. “Shall we head in?” She turns to Luke, who’s been silent so far.

Luke nods, which sets the three of them on their way. Everything he has worked for, it all rests upon today. Breathe. He looks ahead of him, towards the backs of the people who care for him the most. He chuckles, knowing that he’s going to be okay.

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