The Selection

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Chapter 12 - Academy Year 2 - Void Magic

“…and with that this concludes this lesson. Make sure to grab these red tickets when you are ready to leave. There are six of them; one for each of you,” Moria explains and points to the table at the front of the room. “Your next task is to run around the building three times. You will find Fulharm waiting for you at the entrance. Good luck tomorrow.”

He walks up the stairs and exits the room.

“Who was he even talking to…?” I ask while skeptically curling one side of my lips upward and narrowing my eyes.

“Beats me…” Sitos says as he shrugs his arms. The others make similar motions with confused expressions on their faces. Sitos looks at Hiro and hypothesizes, “I would assume this idiot right here…but…”

Hiro is sleeping peacefully on the desk. I say, “Yeah…so he probably was wishing us good luck…”

“You are probably right. We are going to need a lot of luck,” Sitos agrees and nods. Everyone else does the same, when suddenly, Hiro yawns.

“Ahh… Mmm… That was a good nap…” Hiro mumbles in a low energy tone of voice while rubbing his eyes with his fingers. His eyes dart around the room. He stands up while raising both arms in the air and exclaims, “Moria’s gone! We’re free! Why’re we still here? Let’s go home.”

I clench my fists and grit my teeth, feeling veins protruding from my forehead, but I relax shortly afterward. Instead, I lightly laugh to suppress my frustration and anger. Hiro cocks an eyebrow and asks, “What’s so funny, Kai?”

“Oh, nothing… We actually have to run around the building three times for the yellow ticket. Our red ones are on the table over there,” I answer, pointing to the table at the front of the room.

"Ehhhhh…but I’m tired… Why do I have to?” Hiro complains and then pouts. I laugh harder. “Kai, you’re creepin’ me out… Is somethin’ wrong?”

“Not particularly… I just remembered a funny joke; that’s all… We should get going because we have a long day ahead of us…” I say while grabbing a red ticket. I leave the room, and the rest follow me to the entrance of the Academy. We give Fulharm our red tickets before starting our laps. We start around the same time, but as time goes on, the distance between us changes. I finish my last lap. Panting, I ask, “Instructor Fulfarm! What’s my time?!”

“Oh, you’re done, Kai? You took about 35 minutes. You were about five minutes slower than Sitos and ten minutes slower than the other boy,” he responds as he points to Hiro and Sitos. I bitterly frown at Hiro’s smug smile.

I can never understand how Hiro beats me every time… It doesn’t make me feel good to be worse than him at something…

I wipe my face with my shirt when drops of sweat burn my eyes.

“Well, it looks like you still have to wait for the rest of your group. Take this.” Fulharm hands me the yellow ticket. I sit next to Sitos and Hiro while waiting for the rest of the group.

He finishes first, yet he barely works up a sweat… It perplexes me… Nearly an hour passes before Marin finally finishes her third lap. She pants heavily as she limps over to us with her yellow ticket in hand.

“Haa… Sorry… Did you wait long?” she asks, leaning forward with her arms on her knees while trying to catch her breath.

I reply, “It’s okay Marin… You tried your hardest, unlike someone I know…”

Marin’s face turns a little red. Hmm… It’d be best if she takes it easy for a while…

“Marin, you can rest here while we exchange the yellow tickets into food supplies. Meet us back at our room when you’re ready,” I suggest.

A smile emerges on Marin’s face as she looks up towards me. “Thanks…”

She hands me her ticket and then sits on the ground. I start walking towards the front of the Academy. Behind me, Luna says, “I think I’m gonna stay with Marin… I’m kinda tired too… You boys can take the supplies back to our home!”

“Don’t worry Lunaster, leave it to us.” Drugo takes Luna’s ticket before we make our way to the pantry in the cafeteria area. We reach our destination in about three minutes.

“Hey Kai, doesn’t this bring back memories?” Hiro asks from behind.

“What?”

“We were sittin’ over there just a few months ago…”

“But we walk past this cafeteria every day…”

“Yeh, but I just remembered!” Hiro laughs uncontrollably. “Remember that one time? I chased ya with a carrot in my hand, and ya ran around forever!”

A horrifying memory resurfaces in my mind that sends a chill down my spine, but I refrain from showing a reaction. “Did something like that happen? I can’t remember that far back…”

Hiro runs up to my right side, stares at me, and then asks, “What, really…? Are ya sure?”

I close my eyes and pretend to think. I open them after a few seconds and respond, “Yeah… I have no idea.”

Sitos suddenly appears on my left side and asks, “More importantly, do you remember when Hiro face planted the floor? That moron was not watching where he was going and slipped on a banana peel. It was hilarious! I cannot remember when it happened, though.”

I smile and break into a cackle without thinking too much of it. “I remember! It was the third month of the year, week three, and on Monday!”

Sitos stares at me blankly for several seconds. Suddenly, he smirks and then says, “So you do remember… That was the same day Hiro chased you with a carrot…”

The smile on my face freezes in place. Crap, I messed up!

“What, Kai, ya liar!”

“Ah, look we’re there already! Let’s hurry and exchange our tickets and not keep Marin and Luna waiting too long!”

I run toward the pantry to avoid prosecution from Hiro and Sitos. There’s a guard standing outside of it as usual. I walk up to him. “Mister, we wanna go inside to get our supplies!”

I hand the two yellow tickets that I’m holding to the guard.

“You need four more if you want to get inside.”

“Yeah, my friends over there are on their way here now,” I explain as I point in the direction I came from. I turn my head and see no one. Huh…? Where’d they go?

I turn back towards the guard and nervously smile. “Umm…they must’ve gotten lost… I’ll be back!”

I run back where I came from while looking everywhere for Sitos and company. What, how did they get lost…? We practically go here every day.

I run in circles around the cafeteria area and hallways for fifteen minutes straight. I can’t find them. When I start sweating again, I walk instead, eventually passing the guard by the pantry again. He calls out to me, “Hey, you. I thought you already went back to rest?”

I turn towards the guard and cock an eyebrow. “What?”

“Your friends came by about fifteen minutes ago and gave me the rest of the tickets needed to get supplies. They told me you were tired and went to go rest in your room.”

I blankly stare into the guard’s face for several seconds, before I frown and clench my fists and teeth. Those bastards…!

I break into a full-on sprint towards the living quarters despite being somewhat tired from the pointless goose chase I was sent on. I arrive at the entrance of my dormitory room in just under ten minutes. While still panting, I grab the handle of the door and open it.

“Sito—”

“Kai, you should know better!” Luna exclaims while narrowing her eyebrows. I frown and knit my eyebrows together. “Just because you got a high score on your test doesn’t mean you can abandon group responsibilities and do whatever you want!”

“Pardon?”

“Don’t play dumb with me. You wanted to go train while everyone else transported our food supplies back home, right guys?”

She turns her head towards the guys who betrayed me, where I find Sitos’ and Hiro’s smiling faces. Sitos points at me and says, “Yes, look how sweaty he is. It is all the proof you need.”

“What?! No, they’re lying! I’m sweaty because I ran around looking for them!”

“He’s guilty! Just give ’im the punishment already!”

I narrow my eyes on Hiro, who seems to be in high spirits despite what happened earlier. Damn traitor… Every single one of them… Wait…where’s Drugo…?

I look around the room while pursing my lips. Drugo and Marin are nowhere to be found. Focusing my ears, the sound of running water is barely noticeable. So that’s how it is…

When I smirk back at Hiro and Sitos, their merry expressions fade into worrisome ones. “Hey Luna, why don’t you just ask Drugo? You won’t believe me, but Drugo always tells the truth, right?”

My suggestion stops her frown, and she cocks an eyebrow. Drugo’s door opens, and then he walks into the common room. Luna turns her head toward Drugo and inquires, “Oh, good timing Drugo. Can you explain why Kai didn’t come back with you three?”

“Oh, that. Sitoster and Hiroster wanted to play a prank on Kai and pretended to get lost. While Kai was running around, we went into the pantry and came back here. Why do you ask?”

“I understand now. Thank you, Drugo,” Luna says, turns her head back, and then walks toward me.

“Sorry, Kai…for not believing you… Can you forgive me…?” she asks as she clasps one of my hands with both of hers near her chest. She stares at me with puppy-dog eyes. I blush, looking back and forth between her teary eyes and my hand. My heart pounds.

She’s…she’s so cute… My lips are shaking before I respond, “Yeah…it’s okay; I forgive you…”

I smile, and then her face melts into a grin. “Really?! That’s great!”

Either Sitos or Hiro clicks his tongue. After looking in their direction, I find Sitos looking away with a frown. Luna turns toward them too and then says, “I don’t have anything to say to you two.”

I gulp as I stare down at my hand. She’s still holding onto my hand…

The sound of another door opening resounds. Marin walks into the common room. Luna finally lets go of my hand, turns toward Marin, and exclaims, “Ah, Marin! Let’s make lunch now!”

“Sure.” Luna makes her way into the kitchen. Marin follows her and smiles as she passes me along the way.

“Well, aren’t you guys lucky? You don’t get a punishment,” I say as I take a seat at the table.

“I thought she would be furious when she found out…” Sitos says as he takes a seat opposite side of me. Hiro sits himself between us at the end of the table. Drugo takes his seat next to Sitos. “More importantly, I think it is time you told us about Emdos. Who is he, really?”

“Yeah, tell us!”

“Mmm… There’s not really much to tell… Let me think…” I close my eyes as I try to recollect my thoughts. I open them and say, “Well… According to Emdos, he was good friends with my parents, and they were adventurers together. Emdos later told me that they died in an accident a year after I was born. So, he quit being an adventurer and raised me.”

My eyes follow Luna walking past the table and into her room before I continue, “And later, Emdos started teaching me Mana control when I was six.”

“Hmm, I see… But you still have not explained how Emdos knew you were special and would not be in danger of manipulating Mana at a young age.”

“Uh…actually… I don’t really know either… Maybe my parents were really talented, and he just knew I would be too… Either way, I trust Emdos… He raised and took care of me, after all.”

“Hey, is he strong?! What does he look like?” I don’t answer Hiro’s question immediately while my eyes follow Luna going back to the kitchen area.

“Uhh…yeah, he’s really strong! I haven’t seen him fight a lot, but I’ve watched him effortlessly take care of thieves and stuff! Umm… He has short brown hair, a mustache, and a beard. Now, tell me about your parents, Hiro!”

“Oh, actually… I don’t have parents and neither does Drugo,” Hiro explains as he points to Drugo with his right thumb. “We’re both from the same orphanage in the poor part of the Residential District here in Drosera.”

“Oh… So you know some of the other kids from the orphanage that go here?”

“Not exactly. We were the only two same-aged kids at our orphanage. There might be some first years that we recognize, but we haven’t seen them,” Drugo explains.

“Luna, what are you doing…?” Marin asks in a barely audible voice. Luna whispers something to Marin, but I can’t make anything of it.

“Sitos, tell us ’bout your family now!” Hiro exclaims.

“As you guys already know, I am from the Royal District. My parents are pretty wealthy, and we lived in this huge mansion. I have an older brother, an older sister, and a younger brother. There were also a lot of servants that did work around my home. I think my dad is one of the king’s close aides, but I am not sure. Two years ago, my dad hired some weapon specialist in the army to train me.”

“He’s close to the king? That’s kinda cool…” Hiro says and then directs his voice toward the girls. “What ’bout ya girls? Everyone else has shared their stories already.”

Marin glances at Luna before turning to us. “Umm… My parents are A-class adventurers…so they didn’t raise me by themselves… They usually visited me once a week.”

She smiles widely and continues, “But I became really good friends with the maid they hired to take care of me. She’s almost like a second mom!”

“Wow!” Hiro exclaims as he jumps up from his seat. “Ain’t that the second highest adventurer class? Your parents sound amazin’, Marin! How strong are they?”

“I don’t know… I haven’t seen them fight or anything like that… What about you, Luna?” Luna is stirring something in a pot on top of the stove. She doesn’t show any reaction to Marin’s question. Several seconds pass. “Luna?”

“Huh? Oh… A friend of my mom raised me in a village called Lycorias in Drosera, near the border to Elbar.”

“Oh? What happened to your parents?” Hiro inquires.

“I didn’t have a dad, and my mom died when I was six,” Luna explains in a cheery voice with a strange smile. I quirk an eyebrow. Afterward, she snickers.

What’s wrong with Luna…? The others sitting at the table return similarly confused looks before looking back at Luna.

Marin asks, “Luna, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” she responds and then stops laughing but continues to smile. She grabs a ladle and an empty bowl and announces, “Lunch is ready! It’s Kai’s favorite; soup! I’ll serve everyone, come here!”

Everyone receives their own serving of soup, and we sit down at the table.

“Hey, Luna… Why is my soup the only one that looks…different…?” Sitos asks. I stop slurping my meal for a moment and stare at his.

He’s right…there’re carrots and other stuff in there…

Luna smiles and asks, “That’s because you like carrots right? There’re all kinds of stuff in there that you like! By the way, I expect you to finish it all.”

“That is nice of you. Well, then I will start enjoying this!” Sitos scoops up the contents of the soup and puts it into his mouth. I think he chews it no more than three times before he suddenly gags. He opens his mouth widely and then empties the contents of his mouth onto the table. He stands up from his chair and yells, “Bleh! The fuck is this?!”

“It’s soup made especially for you!” Luna exclaims with a smile that sends shivers down my spine. A terrifying memory resurfaces from my mind. I understand his pain.

“Haha Sitos! I get normal soup!” Hiro gloats.

Sitos narrows his eyebrows, points at Hiro, and exclaims, “Why does he not receive this inedible soup too?!”

“He comes tomorrow.”

“Eh?” Hiro’s care-free expression disappears.

“I don’t want him feeling bad when he has to study for his test tomorrow… We need to get started on that so hurry up, won’t you?”

“Fine… I just have to eat it, right?” Everyone enjoys their soup while Sitos bitterly consumes his. He covers his mouth, holds onto his stomach, and says, “I cannot believe I just ate this… I do not feel too good…”

“Isn’t that great, Sitos? I think I can forgive you now.”

“Can you at least tell me what that crunchy thing was…?”

“Crunchy thing…?” Luna asks as she points her eyes upward. “Oh… That was probably Mister Fluffy.”

“Mister…Fluffy…?”

“Yeah… There was this spider that made himself cozy in the corner of my room. I named him Mister Fluffy,” she responds and then giggles. Sitos stands up suddenly, subsequently knocking down his chair on the ground. He runs into his room. A gag and water splashing resound.

I chuckle. I’m glad nothing’s wrong with Luna… She was probably just excited about this little prank.

After our meal, we all get our notes for theory class and help Hiro understand the material. The studying continues for the majority of the day with a break during dinnertime. Sitos, unfortunately, doesn’t have any appetite despite having a normal meal this time. We continue late into the night and finally call it around midnight when everyone retires.

The fated hour arrives tomorrow in the lecture room. Everyone silently watches Hiro as he takes his retake exam. Miraculously, Hiro finishes in just 30 minutes; half the time allotted to take the test. Moria takes his test and immediately looks it over. He stands up and says, “Okay, I have finished grading Hiro’s test.”

Did he pass…?

“I passed right? I’m pretty confident this time,” Hiro says with his chest puffed out in front of him and arms crossed. I gulp as I focus my eyes on Moria.

“He failed,” Moria states while displaying a dire look on his face. I only open my mouth and silently gape.

Are you…serious…?

“Well… I will let it slide this time… He was only a point shy from passing. I can tell he worked hard to get this score,” Moria says as he changes his grim expression into a more light-hearted one. A deep sigh leaves me as I put my hand on my chest.

“Hiro the Great, you finally did it…” I say as I walk up to Hiro and then punch him in the shoulder.

“Good for you, Hiroster,” Drugo says.

“Now that this idiot finally passed, we can move to magic bonding classes…”

“Technically, he didn’t pass, though…”

“Don’t muck over the details, Kai!” Hiro exclaims while having his usual care-free laugh. I force a smile in response.

“Well, this is all great, but I really wanna attend classes I was supposed to go to yesterday! See ya all later!” I declare in a hurry as I run up the steps towards the exit of the room.

“Kai, wait!” I look behind me and find Luna running after me. With a smile, she says, “I’ll come with you. We’re both going to Fire magic bonding class, right?”

Oh yeah… Luna’s going there too! I wait a few seconds for Luna to catch up before leaving the classroom, and we head for the second floor of the building. Hmm… What room number was it again…?

I aimlessly pick a random direction to walk in while looking around on both sides of the hallway.

“Kai, where’re you going?”

I stop and turn around. She’s pointing in the direction of another corridor I passed a few seconds ago. My face burns up. I put my hand on the back side of my head and say, “Oh, um… I wa-was just testing to see if you knew where we were going!”

I follow Luna, eventually going into a room on the left side of the corridor. Inside, there are other students emitting fire from their hands. An old man walks toward with robes similar to Moria, and he’s bald. “Ah, you must be part of the group that failed the exams yesterday, right?”

I smile bitterly and laugh. “Yeah, I guess…”

He laughs and responds, “I’m just messing with you, boy! I know who you are. Moria informed me about the results of your test yesterday. You were the cause of that rumble two days ago right? Well, you two are a day late, but for now, just take this.”

He hands Luna and me some kind of scroll with a strange, complicated-looking design on it. I knit my eyebrows as I examine both sides of the piece of parchment realizing that one side is blank. I intently stare at the side with the symbol on it. This symbol looks kinda familiar…

“What’s this for?” I ask.

“That’s a Magic Scroll. Specifically, it contains the keyword for a Basic Fire spell meant for training purposes. Basically, you can instantaneously learn the keyword to this magic, and then you can get a feel for how to bond the fire element to your Mana. Truthfully, you can learn how to manipulate fire given that you have the innate talent without using a Magic Scroll, but it greatly decreases the steep learning curve,” the old man explains.

I raise my eyebrows. Wait a minute…! This looks really similar to that page I couldn’t get past in the book Emdos gave me!

A smile emerges on my face, and my heart rate speeds up.

“Well, give it a try. To use the scroll, pour your Mana into the scroll. This is a Basic spell programmed using Scrap Mana, so you only need Scrap Mana to activate it.” I hold the scroll with symbol-side up with my left hand while I put my right palm on top of it. I pour out Scrap Mana as the man instructed into the symbol. The symbol disappears, and then the scroll disintegrates into thin air while something appears in my head like I knew it all along.

“Everyone, get back! He’s going to blow up the room!” a random boy exclaims. Other students back away from me after his warning. I cock an eyebrow and frown.

Why’s everyone so scared of me…?

The old man turns toward them and says, “Don’t worry everyone, as I mentioned before, the spell is programmed using Scrap Mana, so it is impossible to have such an effect.”

Hmm… So the keyword’s scorch… I guess I’ll try it out… I recall from theory class that I have to gather a sufficient amount of Mana at the designated exit before shouting the keyword… I see. The exit is the right palm… I raise my right arm in front of me with the palm facing forward. ”Scorch!"

A small amount of fire exits my right palm, and it goes forward about a foot before disappearing into thin air. Strangely, I don’t feel any of the heat anywhere near my right palm, but I can feel some of the heat on every other part of my body. I attempt to change the direction of where my palm is facing and the fire comes out from the same angle in the direction I point my palm in.

“Magnificent! You got it on your first try! I suppose you are as good as Moria said you are.” The fire stops coming out of my hand after about five seconds.

Hmm… There are a lot of stuff that happened in that short time period… I think some Fire element bonded with the Mana I gathered to the inside of my palm…and at the same time, they were instructed to leave in a straight direction at a given speed uniformly… And other stuff too…This is so complicated… My smile gradually transforms into a grin. I can’t wait to practice this later! More importantly, that page in the book!

"Scorch!" Luna shouts. I turn to her, finding the same phenomenon in front of me.

“Nice, Luna!”

“Thank you, Kai,” she answers with a smile.

We spend the remaining class time trying to bond our Mana with the Fire without the keyword. It is hard as I previously imagined, as I have no idea how to do it. When class ends, we obtain our red tickets and go off to do the usual endurance training for our yellow tickets. After lunch, I hurry into my room while locking the door. I think the book’s still in my backpack…

I walk towards the closet and open it. In the corner, I find the backpack where I left it, grab it, and then open it. I toss the backpack aside and then walk toward the bed while flipping to the page with the strange symbol. I sit down on the bed as I stare down onto the page in question. I grin while putting my right palm on the page. This is it…! I’ll do the same thing as earlier and put Scrap Mana into it…

I do just that, but nothing happens, so I quirk an eyebrow. That’s weird… Oh, wait…this means that this spell uses Mana of higher quality than Scrap Mana, right…? I guess I’ll try Unrefined Mana next.

Nothing happens again as I pour Unrefined Mana into the scroll. My forehead gets slightly damp from sweat. Could this be…? I need to use my Mana to do it? I might as well try Rich Mana first…

I attempt it with Rich Mana and the same result occurs. I gulp before releasing my Mana into the book. The symbol finally disappears and then the paper disintegrates. The information enters my head and the page behind is revealed. I put down the book and put my hand out in front of me while also gathering my Mana inside my palm. ”Gate!"

A dark-purple gooey thing appears in front of me. I knit my eyebrows. What the hell?

I move around it, realizing that it is nearly flat in the vertical direction. I hesitantly move my hand toward it. I gulp, before finally mustering the courage to touch it. I skeptically curl one side of my lips upward as I don’t feel anything despite putting my entire arm through it. I’m so confused… What’s this do? I can’t see through it, and it doesn’t appear to do anything…

I sit down on the bed and pick up the book again. I immediately look at the eye-catching words on the current page. I gape at it for nearly ten seconds. Void…magic…? What’s that…?

I shiver despite it being warm in the room. I jerk back in a jerking motion when a sudden knock on my door resounds. Drugo asks, “Kaister? I heard you yell something, is everything good?”

“Yeah, I’m just practicing some magic!” My heart beats like a drum. Calm down, Kai… The door is locked… I definitely can’t let anyone know about this. I’m already so far ahead in the learning process compared to everyone else; if people knew I don’t know how they will react…

I look more closely on the page and the words written on it. This page looks a lot older than the pages before it…and the handwriting’s completely different… I guess I’ll keep reading it.

To my son, Kai, this book is dedicated to you, our last hope… This book contains all of the knowledge of Void magic, the manipulation of time and space that we have accumulated…

It takes several seconds for me to process what I just read.

To my son, Kai… This was written by my father...! I’m not sure what the rest means. I purse my lips as I narrow my eyes, thinking about past events. Is this what Emdos meant when he said I was special…? Maybe he knew that my parents had a magic no one’s heard of… I have so many questions I wanna ask him now. I’m gonna keep reading!

I continue to smile as I prepare to flip the page, but then I remember; the frightened reactions of my classmates yesterday and today. What should I do…? I don’t wanna be ostracized by everyone… I was even given the option to skip a year…

I close my eyes to think long and hard. I have some kinda unique Mana no one else has… That’s enough, right…?

I open my eyes and close the book. I put it back into the backpack, store it in the closet, and then lay down back on my bed. The strange purple thing has already disappeared.

“Hey Kai, I am going to go train. Come with me.” Sitos says from outside the door.

“Yeah, sure!” I respond, run to the door, unlock it, and then continue my day like any other day.

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