St Chaos Healer
Sigurd finally stood upright and the first thing he did was start walking toward the dark side of the chamber. The enormous doll fortress hovering above his head followed him.
Seeing the head mage heading somewhere, we candidates followed suit. We were a bit uneasy but nevertheless, the head mage did say they were going to hold the ascension ceremony here.
Sigurd abruptly came to a stop in his tracks and turned around.
In a commanding voice, he said, “Stay right there.”
Every candidate stopped moving and stood still all at once. We didn’t want to give him yet another reason to be unhappy. We all obeyed and stopped right then and there.
The silence was deafening.
Sigurd then turned around and recommenced his march into the dark chamber.
He got off the platform and continued walking with a specific location in mind. He also took away the lone source of light that lit this chamber which was his floating doll fortress.
Now the candidates and I were standing cluelessly in a pitch dark chamber.
But after waiting for a short while, our vision adjusted to the darkness.
We finally got to see the chamber or I should say feel how big the chamber is.
Actually, the chamber was incredibly large- about three times bigger than the size of the amphitheater above us. I could say so because the chamber’s wall was embedded with mana crystals. Calculating the average size of the mana crystal and how small it looked from this distance, I could get a rough idea of how big the size of this chamber was.
Right now the mana crystals on the wall looked tiny, almost like little dots and we were surrounded from all sides. The view almost resembled the view of the starry night sky on a moonless night.
Sadly those little mana crystals on the wall were not bright enough to illuminate the entire chamber.
We, candidates, waited in the dark as we had nothing to do but stand and watch Sigurd wander aimlessly about the chamber as if looking for something. It's been like 10 minutes and nothing noticeable has happened. The head mage walks one side, then he stands there pondering for a while before changing direction and moving on.
Almost anyone could deduce that the old fart had lost his way. The old fart is pretending he knows what he is doing but I think it's otherwise.
Despite his new god-like appearance, mentally he was still an old feeble man whose memory has long been dimmed out. I guess even the best of the best mage can’t prevail over the ticking of time. Some of the candidates started finding it amusing.
However, many other candidates standing here didn’t find Sigurd’s antics amusing like us, they instead looked at him with serious attention.
As we were watching this gag for another minute or so-
Suddenly, a tiny orb of light appeared out of the corner of my eye and went straight toward where the head mage was. The light orb was about the size of an apple and was quite bright. It flew straight toward the head mage and stopped right in front of him in the distance. The light orb seemed to be alive as it hovered in front of the head mage.
Sigurd noticed the light orb and let out a small sigh.
He gave a slight nod, and the light orb then moved away from Sigurd. This time it moved slowly as if trying to guide him somewhere.
After walking for about a minute, the head mage finally reached its destination.
The light orb led the head mage before a small cylindrical rock that almost looked like a fence post. It was placed in a relatively empty space and stood out like a sore thumb. It was as tall as my height and at the top of the fence was a spherical rock placed there.
Sigurd walked towards the pillar and stood before it.
“I appreciate your assistance,” said Sigurd as he stared at the small cylindrical rock.
The next instant the floating light orb disappeared.
Are we not alone?
Is someone here in this dark chamber even before us?
I tried looking around but couldn’t see anything.
I then focused my attention on the head mage once again.
Sigurd reached out and grabbed the spherical ball with his one hand.
Suddenly the glow coming out of the fortress brightened and a shimmering burst of mana came streaming down toward Sigurd. The flow of mana was similar to a flowing stream of water but in mid-air. Meanwhile, Sigurd's body was like a giant pothole that was absorbing the flowing mana like anything.
The candidates were finally getting to see the head mage in action once again. Although the actions of the head mage were rather normal, rather it was flashy. The head mage just stood calmly as he placed his hand on the spherical ball of that cylindrical rock.
The next instant a strong surge of wind started blowing our way. This wave of air came from where the head mage was currently standing.
The surge of wind was quite strong as it almost felt like there was a mini storm just appeared where the head mage stood. The wind was so strong that we might blow away had we not braced ourselves. Dust and dirt flew in our direction but we still managed to hang there as every candidate looked at Sigurd attentively.
Sigurd was still just placing his hand on the spherical object placed on the cylinder.
It seemed like Sigurd was trying to channel the mana in that ball, perhaps?
There was intense pressure as Sigurd was intensely held on to the spherical ball on the little cylindrical rock. This lasted for another minute before a snapping sound echoed in the chamber.
The spherical rock orb split from the cylindrical rock.
The gust of finds finally calmed down and Sigurd was now holding the spherical orb ball in his hand.
“That’s it?” muttered some candidate.
The next instant, there was a bright flash of light and our eyes got blinded. This light suddenly came from all directions as if the room just had a big explosion minus the sound of an explosion.
“What is going on…”
Sound except for the screaming candidates in panic.
I raised my guard as this event suddenly caught me off guard.
I couldn’t see a thing but I knew for a fact that my limbs and face were still intact. This confirms that at least I was alive without any injury. I covered my eyes and still kept my guard up.
The candidates were screaming at the top of their lungs. Were they injured?
“Settle down children, you don’t need to panic.” the voice of the head mage echoed.
Finally, the candidates started to tone down a bit.
After a bit of waiting finally our vision started to return once again.
“What the fu-” I muttered as I stopped breathing for a second.
Lo behold, the darkness in the chamber was no more. The chamber was bright as a place being lit under a mid-noon sun. As a matter of fact, my guess was right that this chamber was enormous, almost thrice the size of that of the amphitheater above.
There were weird runes drawn all over the walls of the cavern chamber. It was like some madman made those scribbles when they were imprisoned here. Some of the runes were also inscribed over the big mana crystal as well.
Although the most baffling thing in this chamber was the 9 giant enormous pillars that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. These 9 pillars were made of pure condensed mana crystal which supported the roof of the cavern from caving in. Also, these 9 pillars were made of glowing mana crystal which actually manage to light up the entirety of the chamber.
I could tell each of those pillars was about as wide as the size of a small house. And its height reached all the way to the top, I think it even goes beyond for all we know. This pillar of condensed mana was a work of art.
Condensed mana crystals are usually used as a source of energy. So usually mages don’t tend to reshape these mana crystals. Also, it's a tedious task to create sculptures from mana crystals so mana crystals are better used in potions or creating disposable spells attacks. Sometimes they are even used to power magic devices that run on mana similar to that of fuel.
This mana crystal was quite big, even the word big was an understatement, not to mention there were 9 such pillars placed here. Only some old skillful mages must have crafted these pillars and placed them here before the foundation of this city even began.
Do the other major cities conducting the ascension trials also have such things?
What is the use of these 9 mana crystals?
Many more such questions came to my mind.
“Wait”, one of the candidates muttered, “Who are those guys there?”
I turned my head in that direction.
One thing was clear: we were not alone here.
Right now we were looking at some strange-looking people who were scattered around the chamber all across. They were wearing capes similar to those red mages except their cloak color was deep blue with a strange pattern on it. On their back, they carried weird metallic staffs which seemed to be crooked at the ends.
Although the more creepy part was that these folks were wearing strange triangular masks that covered their eyes. There was even a spiral pattern on the mask, no idea which cult they belonged to.
Right now, these strange masked guys were all facing Sigurd.
One by one they all got on their knees and crossed their left arm across their chest
“Salutations to mighty head mage Sigurd, the phantoms of the Starweaver clan send their regards,” said one of the mages.
Phantoms? Starweaver clan?
Somehow I feel like I have heard that name or at least read it somewhere. But I truly can’t remember where exactly.
“I'm sorry for the delay. I hope the wait in the dark wasn't too uncomfortable for you.”
The phantom remained kneeling and spoke,
“The dark is our constant companion, so there was no discomfort for us. However, I must admit that we are running a bit behind schedule. The grandmasters are already waiting for the dimension gates.”
“Alright, open the dimension gates at once. We have kept the grandmasters waiting long enough.” said the head mage in a commanding voice.
As soon as this word came the kneeling triangular masked mages known as the phantom got up on their feet, “Yes, sir.”
"Alright, let's open the dimension gates immediately," the head mage ordered in a commanding tone. "We've kept the grandmasters waiting far too long."
At the sound of his command, the phantom mages, who were kneeling, stood up. "Yes, sir," they replied in unison.
Soon the phantom mages scattered across the chamber in pairs. Each of the pair stood in front of the 9 mana crystal pillars forming almost a circular pattern. Then each of the mages took out their staff from their back and jabbed it on the ground, next to each other almost 1 arm apart. The staff they used was made of light gold metal with the end of the staff being bent similar to your tablespoon.
As soon as the command was given, the phantom mages quickly dispersed throughout the chamber, each pairing off and positioning themselves in front of the nine mana crystal pillars arranged in a circular formation. They withdrew their staff from their backs, and the gleaming light-gold metal shone brightly under the light of the pillar. The staffs were unique in their design, with a gentle curve at the end reminiscent of a tablespoon.
With a synchronized movement, the mages thrust their staffs into the ground, spacing themselves roughly an arm's length apart. The staff were planted firmly into the ground, and the phantom mages stood at the ready, their attention focused on the task at hand.
Sigurd stood still, staring at the cylindrical rock that was positioned in the center of nine massive pillars. Upon closer inspection, the strange rock seemed out of place amidst the grand structures.
One of the inexperienced candidates remarked to the group,
"Hey, those guys don't look like grandmasters, do they?"
To that Hendrickson replied,
"Of course not, but according to what the head mage just said, the grandmasters are due to arrive any moment now. So, it's best to be on our best behavior."
Trisha raised an eyebrow in surprise, her tone laced with sarcasm as she asked,
"Since when do you care about others?"
Hendrickson, growing agitated, shot back, "Just shut up! Leave me alone."
The floating fortress above Sigurd began to emit a brilliant glow. The flow of shimmering mana erupted from the fortress and was absorbed into Sigurd's body. With one hand on the cylindrical rock and the other holding a spherical ball that had previously been resting on the pillar, Sigurd activated the magic.
As the mana from his body flowed into the pillar and down to the ground, blue glowing lines appeared like veins, stretching across the chamber and connecting to the staffs held by the phantom mages. The veins formed a star-like formation with nine points, with Sigurd at the center.
The phantom mages, standing beside their staff, called out to Sigurd, "The line is secured. Please give the order to open the dimension gates."
Sigurd nodded in response, "Open the gates."
All nine pairs of phantom mages simultaneously began to chant mysterious incantations while gripping their staffs. Sigurd calmly observed the scene, arms crossed.
One of the bewildered candidates asked, "What's happening?" while another queried, "Is this part of the ascension trial?"
Hendrickson, who was growing increasingly agitated, retorted, "Didn't you listen to a word they said? They're trying to summon the grandmasters to oversee the ascension ceremony."
Jason interjected, "I don't think 'summoning' is the right word here."
Hendrickson glared at Jason and his nerves were palpable. With a forced smile, he asked, "Oh really? Why don't you enlighten us, smarty pants?"
Jason adjusted his fixed-rimmed oval spectacles and stood up straight, like a typical nerd. "Well, they mentioned they were from the Starweaver clan, so you should know what kind of mages they are, right?"
Hendrickson appeared confused and asked, "Starwire clan? Who are they?"
Jason feigned surprise. "It's the Starweaver clan. Haven't you heard of them? You must have been living under a rock."
Hendrickson was becoming increasingly frustrated and replied, "Cut the trash talk and just tell me why I should care."
Trisha suddenly nodded, "I see. That makes sense."
Jason snorted, "At least there's someone among the 2nd tier candidates with decent general knowledge."
Hendrickson was getting more irate and demanded, "What makes sense? Stop talking in circles and just explain."
Trisha shushed him, "Shut up and watch." She then focused her attention back on the phantom mages.
Everyone's attention was fixed on the phantom mages as they began to channel their mana into their staff. The pair of staff were placed opposite of each other, and as the phantom mages used incantation and channeled their mana, something incredible started to happen.
In the place between the staff, cracks started appearing mid-air.
These cracks were formed similar to the cracks in glass except these were formed in mid-air. Also, these cracks were pitch black in color almost as if we were getting a peek into the abyss itself.
"What are those?" asked a bewildered Henrickson.
"Spatial dimension cracks," Trisha replied knowledgeably.
Jason was impressed, "That's right. You know your stuff, girl. Impressive."
Trisha corrected him, "My name is Trisha, not 'girl.'"
Jason simply nodded, "I see."
The spatial cracks appeared between the space of all the 9 pairs of staff.
After a moment, the phantom mages let go of the staff and inserted their hands into the cracks. One phantom mage grabbed the top and bottom corners, while the other grabbed the left and right, and they began to widen the spatial cracks with their bare hands. The cracks started to widen and each crack started assimilating which started to look like a black hole in the air.
As it turned out, the phantom mages were actually spatial mages, a rare and elusive type of elemental mage who had the ability to bend space. And at this moment, they were stretching the dimension cracks to create doorways between the golden staff.
After a few minutes, the nine pairs of phantom mages had successfully created nine stable spatial doorways, standing guard at each one like traditional gatekeepers.
In the next instant, nine figures emerged from the gates, and it was obvious that the grandmasters had arrived. Finally, the ascension ceremony shall begin.
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