I've just released a new Behind the Scenes post on Patreon with a map of the Forest of Black and White, as well as a first-draft map of the Bull Kingdom! They both come with some detailed notes about many of the notable features in these regions. You can gain access to these maps if you sign up at the $3 tier or higher!
The first Basic Combat class was over several hours after it had started. All the third-tier nobles had fought at least once. Asiya won her duel, as did Tiberias, though their opponents weren’t particularly strong fighters. Combat training wasn’t necessary to advance through the tiers of magic and perhaps half of the third-tier nobles were not nearly as proficient in combat as the other half.
Marcus and Alcander weren’t in that group. They had been training to fight since a very young age and could match an older and more experienced third-tier knight blow for blow. Alcander was very eager to duel the others and fought more than half a dozen times, only stopping when Marcus beat him again.
Marcus didn’t continue to fight. He only wanted to watch the others and learn their fighting styles, but Alcander had been getting in the way.
Leon also watched several of the duels. He didn’t watch with the same fascination as Marcus, but he still felt the need to know how well the others could fight. He paid special attention to Marcus and Tiberias. He recognized the former as being an extremely intelligent mage, while the latter seemed to hold some grudge against him for some reason. Observing the fighting styles of both would be very beneficial in his opinion.
He didn’t learn much from their duels, though, as they each only fought once. He was a little disappointed that he couldn’t see more, especially since Tiberias wasn’t even trying to hide his hatred for Leon.
The Senior Instructors had them return to the banner platform when the class was over. The first and second-tier trainees were called back, and all ten units returned to their groups.
Leon glanced back at the rest of the Snow Lions as they lined up. Charles and Henry looked exhausted, while Alain only looked marginally better. The rest of the first-tier trainees appeared to be in roughly the same shape, but the second-tier trainees barely looked winded.
After the units retrieved their banners, the Senior Instructors led them on a mass run back to the dining hall for lunch. This meal wasn’t as tense as dinner had been the day before. Alcander had fought enough duels that he wasn’t paying much attention to Leon. Tiberias, too, was more preoccupied with his conversation with the other two third-tier nobles in his unit to glare at Leon.
Gaius was still sending the occasional dirty look Leon’s way, but Leon was too busy gleefully wolfing down his food to listen to the conversation at his own table, let alone pay any attention to what the nobles were doing. If he had been paying attention, though, he might’ve noticed Valeria occasionally looking his way.
After lunch, the units were taken on another run through the forest. A few miles later, they found themselves on the edge of the forest again, but this time they were on the southern edge of the training field. Half a dozen buildings that shared the clean and unadorned aesthetic of the administration building and dining hall were found there.
The units were led into the largest of the buildings. Much like the dining hall, this building was just one enormous room, though this one was round and domed. Apart from the dozen columns supporting the dome, the only notable features to the room were about one hundred large tables. Each unit was made to sit at ten of these tables.
A number of servants appeared with a number of documents which were passed out to each trainee.
Leon scanned the documents he received and discovered that these were the lists that described the electives available to the trainees. He quickly scanned through the lists to see what the Academy offered. There were only two slots available every training cycle for electives, so he needed to choose wisely as he would be stuck with these courses for the duration of his time at the Academy.
At the very top of the first page was ‘Magical Theory’. From what he could tell, most of the time in that course would be spent meditating and practicing proper breathing techniques. He had no use for that course, so he quickly moved on.
A few other offerings stood out to him as he skimmed through the lists. First was ‘A Brief History of the First Bull King’s Campaigns’. He had nearly bombed the written test, so he felt like he could spare some time to brush up on his knowledge of the military history of the Bull Kingdom.
The next course his eyes were drawn to was ‘The Classics of the Bull Kingdom’. This was a course devoted to the great works of literature written in the Bull Kingdom and the states that preceded it. Again, given the results of his written test, Leon was sorely tempted to take this course and cover some of the areas he was lacking in.
Leon’s eyes widened in excitement when he saw the next course: ‘Basics of Enchantment’. Ever since he was young, he had been fascinated with runes and their myriad applications. However, Artorias never had the skills or means to properly instruct Leon, so all he could do was let the young mage read a few of the books he had taken from the Archives in Teira. Leon still had many of those books, but he lacked the foundation he needed to understand the information contained within them.
Leon decided immediately that his first elective was going to be this course on enchantments.
The last piece of paper was a map of the surrounding buildings. The room each course took place in was clearly labeled on this map. The building they were all in was actually the classroom for Magical Theory, which made sense given that it was required for all the first-tier trainees.
He hadn’t decided what else to take when he finished scanning the documents, though. The Academy offered courses on just about every conceivable art, from painting to sculpting to writing; there was something there for just about everyone. There were so many courses, in fact, that Leon felt that most of them wouldn’t be very heavily attended, which suited him just fine.
After about twenty minutes, the trainees were dismissed to their first course. They only had to attend the first class of their chosen elective to sign up for it. The Academy didn’t have any formal tests, so the trainees were encouraged to take whatever interested them the most.
All of the second and third-tier trainees left the room for their first elective while the first-tier trainees stayed to take the first class of Magical Theory.
Leon quickly made his way to the enchanting room, but he had been one of the last to leave the room for Magical Theory, so he was one of the last to arrive. His eyes quickly scanned the room when he entered the classroom, and his eager smile faded when he saw who else was present: Valeria and Gaius. About two dozen trainees had elected to take the course on enchanting, but these two were the only other third-tier trainees who had made that decision.
Leon paused for a moment at the door as every eye in the room turned towards him. Most of the other trainees didn’t spare him a second glance, but he made very brief eye contact with Valeria. She gave him a slight respectful nod, which he hesitantly returned.
Gaius, on the other hand, glared at him with as much hate as he could fill his eyes with. Leon ignored him as best as he could and calmly walked to the back of the classroom. For a moment, the noble’s face began to go red with rage, but he simply glanced at Valeria and forced himself to calm down.
The room had a couple dozen tables with enough chairs to seat fifty trainees. In the very back of the room were a few more tables which held thousands of sheets of cheap spell paper. At the front of the classroom was a large limestone slab covered in several glyphs made of light runes.
Leon took a seat in the very back, as far away from the other trainees as he could be. There, he closed his eyes and silently meditated while he waited for the instructor to show up.
While everyone waited, the second-tier trainees chatted amongst themselves. They spoke about business in their home territories, fashion, the arena games, the usual noble fare. Gaius quickly grew bored with these topics and stood up, leaving his second-tier lackeys to continue their conversation while he strolled over to Valeria’s table.
Valeria had been quietly sitting alone at her table. The other trainees seemed too intimidated by her cold attitude and even colder aura, but Gaius didn’t seem to care about those things. He helped himself to seat at her table and began trying to talk to her. She politely responded, but she didn’t say much and her expression never once changed, leaving Gaius undeterred. When the instructor finally arrived several minutes later, he was still doggedly smiling and talking at Valeria.
All the talking in the room quickly faded when the instructor glared at the trainees. He loudly slammed the door shut behind him and strolled over to the limestone slab without a word. Even Gaius shut his mouth, though his eyes frequently darted back to Valeria to sweep over her body.
The instructor pressed his hand against a runic circle at the bottom of the limestone slab, activating the light enchantments. To Leon’s astonishment, a black screen materialized a few inches off the slab, though no one else seemed very surprised so he contained himself.
“All right! This is ‘Basics of Enchantment’! By the end of this class, you all should be relatively proficient in about fifty basic enchantments as well as have an understanding of the basic structure of most variants of enchantments.” The instructor pulled out a blank piece of paper and handed it to the closest trainee.
“You will write your name on this paper! After you do, you will be expected to attend every one of these classes for the duration of this training cycle!” The trainee hurriedly scrawled his name down and passed it to the next man who did the same.
“We start lectures next week! For now, I want you all to get acquainted with these runes!” He waved his hand over the black screen and a series of white lines appeared, which formed into seven shapes. Leon recognized them as the most basic runes, not that he actually had to as the instructor waved his hand again and what each rune represented was written below it. The first four were the four primordial elements: earth, water, fire, and air. The last three were the three heavenly elements: darkness, light, and lightning.
“There are many runes in the modern art of enchantment, but these are the most basic and the most versatile! Thus, these are the runes we will start with! In the back, you will find plenty of spell paper. Your task for the next week is to copy these runes onto those papers until you can draw them perfectly even in your sleep!” The instructor sat down behind a desk at the front of the class and stared at the trainees.
It took a moment for them to realize that was all he was going to say and get moving. They shuffled to the back to grab a small stack of spell papers each. As the trainee closest to the back, Leon had already grabbed his paper and gotten to work before anyone else. He concentrated solely on drawing runes so much that when someone elegantly sat down next to him he almost jumped in surprise.
His surprise was compounded when he saw Valeria in the seat next to him, but his shock was nothing compared to Gaius’. The noble had been talking up a storm with her as soon as they had risen to their feet and had completely missed the annoyance that momentarily appeared on her normally impassive face. The words he had been saying to her caught in his throat as he stared in complete bewilderment at Valeria.
“I would like to speak with Leon about our duel this morning. I trust you don’t object?” she asked, though her ice-cold tone brokered no room for objection. She didn’t even wait for Gaius’ response before she turned away from him.
It took a moment for him to process what had just happened, but when he did all he could say was, “O-Of course, my lady.” He staggered back to his table without another word.
“I’m terribly sorry for dragging you into this, but I couldn’t stand the thought of listening to him for the entire two and a half hours. I honestly didn’t think he’d pick this class too…” Valeria said to Leon with a slightly apologetic look.
This was the first time Leon heard her speak so much. Her voice was as smooth and calm as a gentle river, and he found he couldn’t work up any anger toward her at all. Only when he recalled her name did he raise his guard back up. However, when he glanced at the back of Gaius’ now-seething head, he found that he couldn’t blame Valeria for wanting to get away from him at all costs.
He silently nodded to her, and the two turned to their spell papers. They worked in pleasant silence for the rest of the class.
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