Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The storms brewing amidst peace in the world were like the fearsome oceanic turbulence beneath the calm seas. However, whether it was the gods who were waiting for that looming moment, or the many important people busying for the future of the entire world. Through it all, the lives of the ordinary people would still continue even as they enjoyed true peace in a thousand years within Mycroft, and exclaiming in awe of the new changes brought forth by every passing day.
Starfall Year 837, the first of February. Six in the morning in Moldavia.
Priest opened his eyes and used less than a second to rise from his mattress. He quickly changed clothes, made his bed and headed to the second floor to wash himself.
He was living in a small, detached two-floored cottage. Though it was not expansive it had everything one needed from its balcony to courtyard. When he was done cleaning himself, Priest began his daily morning training routine, and it was around seven after he had finished five sets of full-body exercise. He then returned to the house, and after another simple grooming, the youth with a scarred face solemnly put on an apron and his chef hat to prepare breakfast for his sister and himself.
“Britney, time for breakfast. Don’t dawdle.”
“Oh, alright.” The soft voice wafted from the second-floor bedroom, and soon Priest could hear the discreet sounds from above before a gray-haired girl left her room, dazzled, and entered the washroom.
While the ‘Public School’ established in the New City of Moldavia was an independent body affiliated to the Liege’s Residence in name, it actually possessed twofold funding from both the Moldavian and the Imperial government. Still, its sole purpose was to provide basic general education for children before fourteen years of age in the domain, a policy that was successfully executed following strong pressure from the Empire. If it continues, eighty percent of illiteracy in the Empire could be removed, grooming a large batch of adult labor with basic knowledge.
Britney, Priest’s younger sister naturally fit the requirements to enter public school, which was why the youth would escort his sister to school before school started at eight. Today was no exception—he sent her to school after breakfast, handing her to a gentle elven teacher.
“Thanks for your hard work.”
“It’s my duty.”
It was a coincidence that the runic factory where Priest work was quite near to the academy, which was why he could get there before nine—the factory’s morning shift.
However, Priest no longer had to head for the Runic Spirits Factory from this day forth—he was now a student of Victor Academy.
“Omni, Priest. The induction ceremony of Victor Academy will be held on twenty past ten on the first of February, Starfall Year 837. It’s now thirty-seven past eight, please make your own arrangements accordingly.”
With a faint spiritual ripple, Priest abruptly shuddered no sooner after he left the public school as a machine-like synthetic voice appeared in his mind, although the youth nodded in response and looked to his right wrist. “Come to think of it, it’s still early… but it’s better if I head there early.
On her right wrist was a strap that held an unusual green-blue gem, the center of which flickered with obscure radiance and attracted the gazes of others. It was precisely the information terminal that was delivered to him that proves that he was a student at Winter Fort Academy.
To keep himself inconspicuous, Priest used a rather thick cow leather to cover the gem firmly—it would not affect the function of the information terminal, and the voice just now was the reminding function Priest himself set so that he would not forget important events.
“Come to think of it, this message terminal really has many functions.” Priest could not help being in awe as he stepped on the path to Victor Academy. “Punctual reminders, voice record, magical video, notebooks, even detecting the heat when I fry an egg, detailing the concentration and changing curves of fire elements….”
As one who never touched magical items before, the wonders of the information terminal was unimaginable for Priest. The gem that linked directly to his spirit was diverse in practical uses, and the former-merchant escort believed that if he had such an item during his old expeditions, he would have a much easier time in all those difficult situations before—being able to determine time alone was already considerable, while wind vectors and weather forecasts were essentially cheating.
Priest naturally would not know that it was the prototype a certain Legendary champion who mastered runes designed for the framework of an information terminal. Due to factors related to materials, processing, and publicization, various functions had been reduced and simplified, although what was left was definitely unachievable even for ordinary magical items.
Yellowed leaves slowly fell from roadside trees. The new spring would arrive in another one or two months, and the leaves that had held on over an entire winter would soon fall as new buds grew. As Priest walked by the side of such paths and shifted past the rushing pedestrians, Priest finally arrived by the main gates of Victor Academy located to the south of New Moldavia.
The Victor Academy was a colossal cluster of buildings, the front door of which was located beneath a large and sturdy castle. A party of knights wearing gray enchanted armor patrolled around the academy, chasing off any loiterers, while Priest was allowed to move forward into the castle after he showed them his information terminal.
There were not many people in the academy yet. Most students would be out in training or completing missions, while most of the new students would not arrive so early. However, Priest had no intention to start a conversation even when he saw the bare few new students present, and simply found a place to sit after a moment, closed his eyes and linked his spirit to the information terminal.
Since there was nothing to do as he dawdled, he might as well take a look at the information in the forum.
“Login to the Academy Forum.”
His spirit diving incessantly and finally connecting with some massive network, Priest promptly sensed a tidy page of text appearing before his eyes. The background appeared to be a white paper spread over an iron plating, with quite a few lines of words of differing fonts and colors unfurling from top to below.
The ‘Winter Fort Academy Forum’ was a general forum for the institution and all its branch academies. On the first day he received the information terminal, he entered the forum as instructed by the knight in enchanted armor to familiarize himself with the usage.
On his very first glance, Priest saw the large red title ‘Welcome new students: detailed rules and regulations of Winter Fort Academy, manual for forum usage’, and a red stickled post below titled ‘Fourth Winter Fort Academy General Assessment (Ended, congratulations to Miss Lisa Kronos for earning first place).’
The second post appeared to be the academy competition of the last semester. Priest read through the introduction, and learned that it was for users or parties who accepted internal missions from the academy and competed for cumulative points—the comprehensive assessment was not over the last time he checked, and a certain ‘First Party’ had appeared tipped to claim the title, but now it seems that the lady called Lisa had taken the trophy instead.
—Can’t underestimate anyone.
Unfettered, Joshua merely nodded slightly before continuing reading.
The academy forum rather resembled a guild announcement board with its multitudinous posts, although users could leave their comments below. Moreover, unlike the guild announcement boards of reality, the posts were much simpler and did not smell of men’s sweat or pungent sanguine odors, with the comments and replies came quickly, instead of having one over a few days. Every reply would also be labeled with the time it was made, satisfying Priest who often checked it greatly.
Still, there were not many posts in the forum at the moment, mainly because Priest’s clearance was not enough. As a candidate who was yet to be formally inducted, he had the basic clearance as a visitor at best, and could only browse a general zone known as “Victor Camp”– a page belonging exclusively to Victor Academy. Others, such as ‘Mission Page’, ‘Light of Elements’, ‘Magical Constructs’, ‘City of Knights’, ‘Pure Courtyard’ and ‘Trade Market’, are inaccessible for him.
Priest kept browsing through other posts in the general zone.
‘Featured: How to quickly dissect Shark Lizards to get the ingredients inside, gory images, proceed with caution!’– First Party
‘The Aurora in the Southern Pole is really beautiful—sharing I here with you guys! Image attached’– Pilipala
‘Everyone, stop hunting at the northern plains of the Lost Sea. There’s nothing here—all the Shark Lizards had been wiped out by some bastard’– Icy Plains Observer
‘Eighteenth day of unassisted venture into the Great Ajax Mountains. Today’s food is Fruit Slime. (Updated daily, multiple images)—Hunting Adventurer Bear
‘Shock! Inside story of a new student gaining first-place in the comprehensive assessment!’– Anonymous
‘I got a Legendary card! Hahahahaha! Image attached’– Sea Leopard Ball
The forum name of each user was attached behind the post, as well as a number of replies—the replies to the Featured Post had already reached 119. Most replies were ‘thanks for sharing’, ‘good job OP’ or ‘great help, thanks’, along with the occasional remark such as ‘why are you people killing so many Shark Lizards—the ecosystem is now damaged!’
Still, the Featured Post did not have the most amount of replies—Hunting Adventurer Bear’s adventures and Pilipala’s images of the aurora had more than they did.
The post about training in Great Ajax Mountains were mostly images and records of unique things Bear came across in the volcanic forests. Most of the comments beneath the post were in the fashion of ‘OP is too OP’, ‘Respect to OP for swallowing that stuff’, ‘Wait, we can eat Slimes?’ or ‘So the Blue Butterfly Caterpillar can be eaten if the head is removed…’.
As for the post about the aurora, there were dozens of dazzling pictures of the phenomenon in the North that caused Priest’s terminal froze for a dozen seconds due to the massive data volume that could not be processed at once. Nonetheless, he soon found why there were so many comments for that post: as he read on, he found that the post creator had also uploaded quite a few selfies between the images of an aurora. It was a rather cute Drakonid girl with dragon horns over her head—many were moved that almost every race was present in the academy now. Elves, dwarves, half-elves and halflings, and now they had a Drakonid—a very cute one at that—how rare was that?
“Wait, isn’t that the depths of the Icy Plains, where the picture is taken? Many magical beasts live there, how did she do it?”
Priest had been doubtful at first, but quickly reacted: what else other than beating them up? This was a forum for a academy of adepts, and every post creator would be beings possessing extraordinary power—they must not be underestimated.
“And she’s just a little older than my sister… Such a young girl and yet so formidable, I really can’t relax!”
Quietly resolving himself, Priest left a comment behind the post.
‘OP could actually venture deep into the Icy Plains. That’s really formidable. I would strive to reach your level!’—Priest Omni
In fact, Priest only understood a few days after attaining the information terminal that there was no need to use real names for forum, and that users could simply name themselves as they like… Still, it was too late—the name Priest Omni was now his forum name as well, and he has to wait after three months if he wanted to change it.
Soon, Priest sensed a flickering light by the top of the forum.
‘You have a new notification.’
Opening the notification list, Priest noticed that someone replied to his recent comment.
‘Thanks! You would definitely do it as well if you work hard!’ – Pilipala
Could that person be constantly logged on to the forum, replying every comment?
Time passed quickly as he browsed through the forum. Noticing that it was almost ten, Priest turned it off and looked around.
At present, there were almost a hundred heads inside the grand hall of the castle, with many coming in as well. Be that as it may, the hall was exceedingly vast that it did not feel crowded with a hundred people around. Many acquainted students were greeting each other, laughing and chatting, while a considerable number were nervously looking around as well.
Amongst the crowd, Priest was among the older ones. Neither was he acquainted with anyone, which was why he simply stood at a corner. Even so, having learned about the entrance ceremony from the forum, he was not nervous.
Time flew again, and it was soon twenty past ten. The ceremony was about to begin.
An astonishingly reverberating bell sounded from the top of the castle. Every new student stood up subconsciously at the very sound, and gathered at the center of the hall on their own initiative. Each of them then made queue according to their forum serial number, and in less than ten seconds, the hundred and fifty new students made a tidy formation, with one male and female instructor then appearing before the others.
Victor Academy had four intakes each year, bringing in around two hundred students each session. The number would occasionally be exceeded, although there would at least be a hundred and twenty in each intake. Priest’s own semester saw a rather agreeable intake: a hundred and sixty-seven students passed the assessment, with Priest himself benefiting from his innate ability and genuine field experience to excel. That was why he stood at the front of the queue, and was the first to be shot with the surveying gazes of the instructors.
“The dean once said that warriors should spare less time for nonsense, which is why I will be frank—from today onwards, all of you are now a member of Winter Fort’s Victor Academy.
The male instructor who stood forefront appeared to be a barbarian from the Far Southern Marshes. However, he was now wearing the prim white uniform of academy instructors, and he spoke with a deep and distinct voice without a hint of a warrior’s ambience. “Remember,” he said seriously, “any knowledge and power you learn here is all to change this world for the better, protect your kin and homes, as well as resist evils that stands against evil. To formally enter the academy, you must take three oaths.”
“Never abuse power.”
“Never oppress the weak.”
“Never pity the enemy.”
“You will be a member of Victor Academy if you could do all three: The Academy will be your shield, your other home. Whether it’s me or the dean, we would all do our best so that you could become an excellent fighter.”
Everyone knew who the ‘dean’ the instructor had mentioned—it was one of the two deans of Winter Fort Academy, Liege of Moldavia and Legendary warrior Joshua van Radcliffe. Therefore, all of them became excited at once when they heard the mere mention of his title. Were all their labors to join Winter Fort Academy not to learn under the Legendary champion?
Thus, after waves of oaths were made, Priest did hesitate to repeat the three pledges, swearing that he would never betray the academy as he become a part of Winter Fort Academy.
After the swearing-in, the two instructors led the freshmen in a tour around the academy. It was then that Priest realized—the colossal castle that he had been in awe for so long was merely the faculty building. Apart from the castle, the campus also included a large arena that could hold thirty people as well as various training grounds, around of which were zones where magical beasts were reared. By accumulating semester points, students could purchase those domesticated creatures as companions or mounts.
Those were everything on the ground level apart from the hostel building. According to both instructors, the lodgings arrangements were not yet ready, but it would be done by six tonight. Still, it had nothing to do with Priest since the hostel was provided for only students from outside New Moldavia—locals were not given consideration.
Later, Priest’s first glance of the underground facility left him immeasurably astonished.
He mumbled, gaping—it was a large blanket of subterranean forests illuminated by magical lighting!
“This is the artificial forest cultivated by academy personnel for trials… The trees are said to be a foreign species native to the Abyss. What’s it called? Squirming Wood? Tut. Beyond that, it also has attributes of Dark Forest, with many monsters living within.”
The instructor in the lead explained, shaking his head, appearing dissatisfied. “These artificially grown monsters are still weak, and can’t be much use for training other than for you freshmen in live combat classes.”
—Wait a minute. Isn’t Abyssal tree species and Dark Forest already terrifying enough? And you’re actually growing such things beneath the city?!
While Priest was astonished by the boldness shown by Victor Academy at first, he soon nodded in understanding after some thought—in the end, no matter how malevolent abyssal demons or Dark Forest were, they were not even as malevolent as the local Liege himself. According to news published in the Magus Weekly, the Liege had gone on several outings to the Abyss, even almost slaying a Demon General… perhaps he could wipe out mere Abyssal trees and Dark Forest with a single breath.
At the moment, Magus Weekly had become a common publication distributed throughout the continent, purchased by peasant or mages alike to learn about monumental events of the world. Priest did not usually read it but his friend Dahl did, and he grew to read it as well to look for conversation topics.
The campus tour took around three hours, with everyone heading to the underground canteen to taste Victor Academy’s delicacies of magical beasts—many who tasted that form of flesh for the first time promptly felt wonder akin to discovering a new continent. The meat that contained mana could greatly improve the body constitution of a fighter, and accelerate aura training. And unlike the others who were rather unconcerned over such matters, Priest would often buy such meat and cook it himself at home, strengthening his and his sister’s base.
It is fine for me, but my sister’s future more important than myself. S uch was Priest’s genuine thought.
It was free activity period after the tour. Next week, lessons tailored for freshmen would begin, while this week was time for them to familiar themselves with the campus building. Priest had planned to hang around the campus, but he was surprised when the female instructor—one of the two instructors during the swear-in—sought him out.
The instructor who called herself Ellie, and whose face carried a burn scar studied him. “Ranked second in the written assessment, and first in live combat…” She said, a hint of envy in her level voice. “There is indeed the gait of having gone through life-and-death situations, unlike those normal students.”
Priest hurried forward. He was clearly aware that the instructor before his eyes was a champion of Gold-tier ability! Ellie Damia—the Eagle of Simmering Blood, had been one of the supreme elite mercenaries in the western mountains of the empire long before, and famous amongst circles of merchant escorts. Her greatest known feat was to use her special Simmering Blood Aura, single-handedly wiping out a hundred and twelve of the large-scale bandit group ‘the Cannibals’ who had wreaked havoc over the mountainous region for over twenty years.
Priest had heard about her when she was still a merchant escort, albeit not knowing that she had joined Winter Fort Academy and became an instructor at some unknown point in time.
“It’s nothing. You’re just a little fellow with exceedingly great luck that even I am a little envious.”
Without saying anything else, Instructor Damia drew out her information terminal and sent an encrypted message to Priest, and when that was done, she kept watching him with a little envy. “Listen, don’t tell anyone about this…” She said softly. “Hmmm. Actually, nobody would believe it even if your revealed it.”
“Either way, the Dean wants to see you in two hours.”
Before Priest could react to what she said, he had already unwittingly studied the encrypted message in his terminal, where the bolded words ‘application form for external exploration party’ lay beneath the column ‘new messages’.
It was until Ellie had already left far away—without looking back, that the scarred young man reacted.
“Wait—the dean you mentioned… Could it be?!”
Before he could finish, Priest quickly stopped himself, remembering what Elle told him. Soon, however, a voice that seemed to waft to him from the distance echoed beside the youth’s ears.
“Perhaps, who knows.”