Translator:EndlessFantasy TranslationEditor:EndlessFantasy Translation
“Ivan! Amelia! Stop playing with the dragonsomething huge is going on!”
Starfall Year 834, the 3rd of October. Winter Fort Academy, Mount Nissia.
Sleet butterflies were dancing amidst the chilling northern winds. The days were growing dryer and colder, but the pair of platinum blond siblings were crouched around the nearby pine forest, smiling as they fed a young dragon.
A big bucket filled with marine fishes stood beside the elder brother, while the younger sister held several pale-blue crystals containing the dual mana elements of ice and water. And before them was the young dragontwo meters in length including its tailgulping down the catch Ivan was unloading, chewing occasionally while staring at Amelia hopefully, waiting for the moment she throws the crystal.
There were many things to be wary of when feeding a young dragon. First and foremost was nutritionapart from flesh that was the most basic food source, minerals containing mana were required in order to cultivate the infant’s spellcasting abilities. While mana crystals were certainly expensive they were undoubtedly the best choice, and for the Makarov siblings who were rather affluent after earning considerable gold for completing many missions, the payment was trivial.
Hearing their friend’s voice that came nearby, Ivan and Amelia rose at once and turned to look. They could see the red-haired Karin leading Nick the dwarf as they jogged towards them, her hand brandishing a brand-new notice. It appears to be what she meant by ‘something huge’.
“What’s so huge, Karin” Amelia, stroking the young dragon gently brushing up to her calves reluctantly, threw all the crystals in hand to the little fellow that squawked happily in return. “I was deepening my bond with White Frost,” she said disgruntledly. “Say what you need to say, stop wasting time.”
White Frost was the name of the young dragon. An academy instructor had discovered through tests that this particular youngling had a greater affinity for creating condensation and cold as compared to water elements. Furthermore, with its white plump body that gave its appearance to a seal with wings, the girls took a huge liking to it.
“I think it only likes the mana crystals in your handnot you.” Having undermined the ‘bond’ with no hesitation, Karin did not waste any more words and quickly handed the notice to Ivan, before smiling mysteriously at the two. “You siblings who are virtually cut off from the rest of the world would never guess what news is spreading in the academy!”
Neither Amelia nor Ivan reacted in return. Indeed, they did not care about the world around them, since walking dragons bonding with dragons was time-consuming. Occasionally it takes hours for the younglings just to adapt to the siblings’ scent and physical contact, and it was often repetitive.
“Mid-November, in the Ural Plains, Dean Radcliffe himself would lead a team of students ranked top ten in the academy to participate in a trial.”
Without waiting for the red-haired girl to explain, Ivan quickly scanned through the contents of the notice, frowning as he thought about what the information meant.
“The liege himself is leading” He muttered, curious. “What training mission would need a Legendary champion to bring up the rear? And didn’t we just clear Mount Ural half a year ago? What is there to train within that place”
As he spoke, the youth’s mind flashed with a scene from the pastsilver stars, drawing arches over the horizon and silently plummeting upon the earth, forming a dense shroud that engulfed an area as large as thousands of meters.
Perhaps that was the trial?
“I don’t know. But one way or another, as the party with the highest cumulative points we are definitely joining the trial. That’s why I’m here to plan and prepare with you guyswe must never let those ‘outsiders’ steal our limelight!”
Karin had always spoken so capably and straightforwardly. The gaze of the knight’s daughter was burning with the flames of fighting spirit even as she seethed. “Now, a rumor is spreading in the academy that we wouldn’t have been the first party with the most points if not for our temporal advantagethat in terms of ability alone, we would never size up to those outsiders!”
The other three frowned at those words.
The outsiders whom the red-haired girl was referring to were the thirty or more youths brought back by the liege half a year ago. Their origin a mystery, all of them entered the ‘combat-class faculty’ of Winter Fort Academy, joining different disciplines such as knights, warriors, and rangers.
At first, it did not matter since they were at most another batch of students enrolling into the academy under Joshua’s endorsement. However, surprisingly, these foreign, non-Moldavian people were extraordinarily powerful. Save for the rare few geniuses, the outsiders stole the limelight completely from most of the locals.
At present, the party ranked at second were exactly a group of those outsiders. Their cumulative points were just behind Ivan’s party and could catch up to them at any moment. Perhaps, if not for Ivan’s party starting their missions three months earlier, the outsiders’ points would have surpassed them.
Though Ivan and Amelia were usually calm, they remained adolescents. The moment they heard the rumors doubting their ability they naturally brimmed with rage.
“If we don’t have to take care of the dragons recently, would they even catch up?!” Ivan quickly made the decision as the team leader. “You’re right, we definitely have to plan and prepare this timewe must knock the limelight away from those outsiders!”
“Tsk, that’s clearly not the issue. Karin, all you know is spew nonsense.”
The dwarf Nick was suddenly speaking. He had been silent until just now, but the moment he saw that the others’ fighting spirit had lifted, he folded his arms across his chest and grinned.
“Listen to me,” he said loudly with his subwoofer-like voice, causing even the leaves of nearby pine trees to quiver. “It’s hearsayjust hearsaythat the liege’s trial is to recruit several students. Unlike the collective education of the academy, the liege really intends to accept some apprentices this time!”
The news had definitely given the siblings pause. Looking at the two’s stunned expression, Karin turned and glared viciously at the dwarf. She had intended to leave it as the climaxing piece of information, only to end up having it simply divulged by Nick.
Still, although Amelia was astonished by the tidings, she did not lose her ability to think. Feeling her legs going rather numb, the lithe girl simply sat on the young white dragon that just had its fill, frowning as she thought furiously.
“The liege is assuredly powerfulno, he’s now amongst the strongest in this world. It would be a great opportunity to become his apprentice, but”
“But the dean is a warrior. We are magesit doesn’t mean a thing even if we became his apprentices.” Ivan finished his sister’s sentence, his expression surprisingly serious as he held a tree with one hand. “Still, this is not your usual rumorif nobody comes out to refute it, there’s a great chance it’s true!”
“Ah, what do you people know.” Karin waved her hand impatiently. “Whatever the case may be, we have to compete against that bunch of outsiders. They’re all combat class and are really likely to become the liege’s apprentices. Even if we have to use our full power, we must never let them win!”
“Besides” the red-haired girl added, suddenly dragging her tone to keep the others in suspense. “There is a powerful mage beside the liege. Though the lot of you might not notice, Miss 03 who keeps following the liege around could well be a Supreme-tier rune mage! I heard that the protective circles around the Moldavia main city are all her design. If we get first place, it wouldn’t be difficult to get Miss 03 to instruct us even if the liege didn’t take us under his tutelage, right?”
“Right, and truth be told, we’re just Steel-tier mages.” Nick nodded in agreement. The stout dwarf who looked nothing like a spellcaster then said with a lowered voice, “If we train under a Legendary warrior, it’s fine if we don’t become mages. My goal is to change my fate and become strongerand only that.”
And the rest were silent.
To change fate and become strong What other way was better than becoming the apprentice of a Legendary warrior?
The scent of fighting spirit spread amidst the quiet quartet.
Meanwhile, Joshua was speaking to Nostradamus through a communications circle in the liege’s residence.
Due to the larger margins of mana concentration, the circle would occasionally develop unstable static. However, it was also the same reason why the circle only needs a little adjustment to broadcast even images at real-time without losing a shred of vividness.
The Great Mana Tide’s arrival had allowed sorcery technology to develop by leaps and bounds. Under an environment of greater mana concentration most technological stalemate that stumped most were solved easily, with some saying that magical images of news anchors reading the latest updates had appeared in the Eastern Plains.
“You’re actually stealing my students! Joshua, what kind ofwarrior recruits apprentices from a mage academy?!”
The warrior stared at the white-haired mage who was brimming with anger, and smiled. Calm and composed, he took a sip of tea brewed by Ying before answering in a leisurely manner.
“Master Nostradamus. Winter Fort Academy is no longer just a mage academy, but a professional academy. Furthermore, it’s nothing seriousI’ve never said that I would stop them from going to the academy after they become my apprentice, it’s fine if you want to keep instructing them.”
Unlike the nonchalant Joshua, the old mage on the other end of the communications circle was clearly anxious. “Your publicizing the fact would cause unrest throughout the academy, who would be able to calmly learn and discover the Truth then? Radcliffe, are you too bored because there’s no one to spar with after you ascended into Legendary, and it itches so much that you’re taking in students?”
Then, Nostradamus chortled in anger at his own words. He would never believe that the warrior’s thoughts were so shallowthere must be some unknown plan behind this.
However, the warrior’s thoughts were precisely so simple. Remembering when he was still the master of a martial arts dojo in the pre-existence, Joshua nodded. He definitely was bored, which was why he plans to take in a few apprenticesto kill time. It would not be a surprise that a smart man like Nostradamus could see through it.
Even so, this was not the time to chatter, and so Joshua cut short the old mage’s complaints.
“The Empire seems to be in a tough situation,” he said directly with a tone that did not allow protest. Nostradamus frowned and kept quiet for some time before speaking slowly and solemnly.
“Why would you say that?”
“It’s obvious,” Joshua said simplyhe did not have the habit of keeping others in suspense. “The change the Great Mana Tide brought isn’t limited to magical technology development. My domain is near the Dark Forests, which is why I know its catalyst effect on magical beasts. Although the Empire isn’t filled with forests like the Far South, most of the hills and uninhabited jungles are a large part of the territories. Under the influence of the concentrated mana levels, even ordinary forests would slowly shift into a form similar to the Dark Forests.”
“Currently, the Imperial domestic troops are shrinking, the number of merchants decreasing while all regions are now building airship freighters in order to turn airborne delivery into the mainstay. That move is obviously to temporarily abandon the dangerous city outskirts before performing the first culling with the city themselves as a focal point, before gradually building trade routes that permeate the land. However, that also meant a great reduction of control the Imperial Central has over the regional nobles.”
“Additionally, before this, the other countries had countless adventurers and professionals that had reached their limit but were unable to transcend the tiers. They could do so now with the power of the Great Mana Tideand those forces that appear out of nowhere is also the origin of discord.”
The old mage nodded silently; such was the definitive truth. The Great Mana Tide is a comprehensive refinementthe rapidly expanding Dark Forests and the unsettled yet multitudinous champions were part of the disturbance it wrought.
There was a saying in the Empire: ‘it’s better to oppose nobles than to feud with adventurers.’ Since the influence of nobles was there for all to see, they would obey the rules most of the timesave from certain death grudgesand as such could be handled with prudence.
On the other hand, adventurers had always been straying between life and death. Wanderers on the edge of the illicit, they never were good men from the start and would frequently deal a killing blow on a fit of rage before fleeing into the distance.
Even the nobles would never deliberately become enemies of adventurers. Who on earth knows if those people or their kin would suddenly ascend into Gold or even Supreme-tier champions just by exploring some ruins or thanks to some luck? Quite a number of noble families had fallen exactly because of their unscrupulous actions in which they aggrieved certain young adventurers who eventually became more powerful in several decades and returned to wipe them all out.
Now, the Great Mana Tide had allowed many who could not ascend to do so. While it was an opportunity for all life, the suddenly appearing Champions had changed the power balance in the Empire which also allowed many greatly empowered nobles to grow certain thoughts. With the Imperial Royal Family’s regional dominance waning, many local emperors of varying power would appear in a few years and things calmed.
When that happens, the many subjugations Israel had dished out would become meaningless.
Joshua then proceeded to point out another facet.
“And that’s just the external forces, but Israel must also be troubled by issues within the Royal Family too,” he said, not adding much since it concerned the Royal Family. “The return of the Second Prince Dimore would definitely make the Crown Prince and the others become nervous. I’m here in the North but I could still feel the inner upheavals. The reason you wanted to ascend during spring was probably to get those within the Empire who are developing stray thoughts to calm down.”
Having completed his analysis, the warrior was prepared to listen to the mage’s reply so that he could coordinate with him next year and have the restless nobles know their place. Though he himself was a regional noble, Legendary champion had special rightsand given that the Emperor and mage also often supported him, he certainly had to return the favor.
However, Nostradamus remained dumbfounded for a long time and made no remark.
Apart from him, Joshua also noticed that the divine armament siblings who stood beside him were utterly bewildered too. Ying’s mouth was gaping so widely there was space to squeeze a chicken egg into her little mouth, while Ling gulped, his gaze appearing as if he had seen a ghost.
Even 03, who had been levitating by the ceiling above the heads of the trio, dropped down because her mana control suddenly ceased. Her magical projection distorted for an instant when it touched the ground before recovering to its Avian girl form. In other words, the artificial intelligence had briefly lost control of her own projection, her expression a very humanly and curious one.
“By the Truth How are you able to come up with so much!” Nostradamus exclaimed in disbelief after a long time, before mumbling to himself. “I must be growing old”
The divine armaments started to whisper to each other too. “Master would actually think about so much, is it because he’s too bored these days”
“Indeed. Feels like he’s a brand-new person, simply inconceivable!” 03 said peacefully as she rose into the air again, glancing at Joshua from afar. “Joshua, you’ve changed.
All of you really believe that I only move my hands and not my brain? It’s not something that hard to comprehend.
After noting the reactions of his friends and weapons, the warrior took a deep breath and shook his head.
“Alright, have you guys laughed enough?” he said in a deep voice. “I never usually think about such problems because I don’t have to, not because I couldn’tback to business!”
“No, Joshua. I’ve grasped your meaning.” On the other end of the circle, the old mage who had slightly teased Joshua showed a wise smile while stroking his beard. “That’s about it, Joshua. Thanks for your kindness.”
Then, Nostradamus’s gaze became distant for a moment as if remembering a memory long past. He sighed softly, before speaking with much emotion and tremendous solemnity.
“You really didn’t change because of ascending into Legendary after all.”
Joshua laughed once in return and shook his head nonchalantly.
“Nostradamus. The world would change, just like the hearts of men.”
“But I won’t.”