Chapter 57:

Ch 57 - The Royal Academies

St Chaos Healer

"Get off the platform, now," commanded Head Mage Sigurd, his voice booming through the chamber. We were initially taken aback by his sudden order, but it became clear from his expression that he was dead serious. As we made our way down from the platform, it felt as though we were being herded like a group of grazing sheep.

As exemplary candidates, we had expected to be treated with a certain degree of respect and admiration. However, all of that quickly dissipated as we were forced to obey Sigurd's every command.

We started getting down from the platform and watched the grandmasters who were still arguing with each other.

It was disheartening to see how quickly the grandmasters had descended into bickering amongst themselves. What should have been a solemn and revered occasion was quickly turning into a farce. The grandmasters were supposed to be impartial judges of our abilities, yet they were acting like children on a playground.

As I watched the grandmasters argue and fight amongst themselves, I couldn't help but feel that the entire ascension ceremony was a hoax. I had been so excited when I heard that they were coming to judge us, but now all of my excitement had evaporated into thin air. It was clear that they were not going to take this ceremony seriously.

Once all the candidates had stepped down from the platform, Sigurd approached it and knelt down, placing his hands on the edge. The floating doll fortress began to glow once again, and Sigurd's hands started to sink into the platform tiles as if they had turned into quicksand. We watched in awe as his arms sank deeper and deeper until only his biceps were visible.

In an instant, a strange buzzing sound filled the air and the large platform tiles began to glow. The grandmasters, who had been bickering moments ago, fell silent and turned to look at Sigurd with intense interest.

The tiles of the platform began to move in a strange zigzagging pattern, with the large circular tiles shifting inwards, gradually decreasing the size of the platform. They piled on top of one another to create a complex structure that none of us could have imagined.

It was like watching a deck of cards being shuffled before our eyes but in a big way. The tiles broke into even smaller pieces and then re-stacked themselves, forming new shapes and structures in the blink of an eye.

All of us candidates watched with awe and amazement as the platform transformed into an entirely new structure.

As the final arrangement took shape, we saw that the platform had been transformed into an arena-like structure with bleachers and uncovered stands made of stone planks providing seating for spectators. There were nine such bleacher stands arranged in a circular pattern, surrounding a large open space in the middle that resembled an arena.

In each of the nine stands, there was a big marble throne with the insignia of the respective royal academies, adding an air of grandeur to the entire setting.

Sigurd, the head mage, had managed to transform the platform into a new arena within a few minutes. The grandmasters were amazed by the new structure and were eager to see it up close. Grandmaster Pierre was the first to approach the new arena.

“Your architectural skills never cease to amaze me, Head Mage Sigurd,” praised Grandmaster Pierre as he examined the arena with a look of awe.

Sigurd smiled in response to the compliment. "Grandmaster, Pierre praised me too highly."

“Well if you ever want to look for a new job, I am certainly looking for an architect of your caliber,” said Pierre with a wide smile.

“You certainly jest Grandmaster Pierre. This old bone that he needs will be a good rest once I retire from duties in the few years to come. But if I ever wanted to look for a new job, I would certainly contact you.”

“Please do,” responded Pierre with a satisfactory smile.

The arena was a magnificent sight to behold. The intricate details on the seats and stands were so elaborate that they gave the arena a more luxurious look, suitable for nobility. The grandmasters were impressed by the attention to detail and craftsmanship that had gone into creating the new arena.

The Grandmasters made their way to their respective stands, taking their places on the specially crafted stone thrones. Each of them sat with a regal air, embodying the title of Grandmaster.

However, despite the impressive new arena, it lacked the lively atmosphere one would expect. The empty bleacher stands were a sight for sore eyes, and it was clear that more people were needed to fill the gaps.

Sigurd stood in the middle of the arena and spoke, "It's time to begin the ascension ceremony. Now would be the best time to recall your retainers."

Grandmaster Ajax chuckled heartily, "It's about time! Let the ascension ceremony begin!" He sat on his oversized throne, a testament to his size and stature. His boisterous laughter and rough mannerisms seemed out of place amongst the other refined Grandmasters.

The other Grandmasters nodded in agreement with Sigurd and reached for their wrist, where each wore a bracelet similar to the purple ones we were wearing. With a flick of their fingers, the bracelets lit up.

Suddenly, the dimension gate started buzzing and groups of people emerged from these 9 gates. These men and women were dressed in various styles, each with their own unique charm and appeal. They were the retainers of their respective Grandmasters and made their way to the bleachers, greeting their leaders before taking their seats.

The arena was now filled with people, and the atmosphere had changed completely. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation for the upcoming ascension ceremony.

The sudden shift in atmosphere in the chamber had stunned us, candidates. We were dumbfounded, but our disappointment quickly turned into excitement. Finally, the ascension ceremony was happening for real, and we were going to witness it firsthand.

However, Marcia's sobbing interrupted the excitement. "Wait, we have to perform in front of this whole crowd? I really want to go home," she said.

Jason empathized with her, "To be honest, this is overwhelming. I liked it a lot better when the grandmasters were bickering like kids."

Suddenly, Hendrickson smacked himself loudly.
We turned around to see what had happened. Hendrickson had a wide grin on his face.

"Alright, it’s going to be showtime," he announced. "I hope you all are ready to give your best. I don’t want any of you chickening out because of nervousness and affecting your performance. It would be underwhelming and would disappoint the head mage for choosing you guys. Let that be clear."

Trisha scoffed, "You're saying not to be nervous, but your legs are shaking."

Hendrickson looked at his legs, "This~ This is because I'm excited, alright!" he replied defensively.

We candidates shared nervous laughter. We knew that the stakes were high, and the pressure was on. We had to put our best foot forward and give our all in this performance.

The ascension ceremony serves as an evaluation of a candidate's proficiency in handling mana. It is an opportunity for candidates to showcase their aptitude towards mana and determine the category of their mage as well as the attribute nature of their mana. It also reveals the capacity of the candidate's mana core and the purity of their mana which gives the adult mages an insight into the potential of us young mages.

Typically, such ceremonies are conducted in the inner regions where mana users are prevalent. Unlike us, who have to wait for a year to participate, they can simply send their child to a mage doctor to be evaluated quickly.

It was evident that in the outskirts of the kingdom, where individuals lacked a mana core, the ascension ceremony was not as common. As a result, the only way for us to participate in this momentous event was through the ceremony train trials.

If we aced the trials as well as got good gains from the blessing rituals only then, we would be eligible to receive an invitation to join their royal prestigious academy and enhance our magical abilities. Even the citizens residing in the inner districts could only dream of going to the royal academy, that’s how rare it was.

As I glanced around the grand arena, I couldn't help but observe the grandmasters and their retainers. It was noticeable that the retainers shared similarities in personality with their respective grandmasters. This observation gave me a glimpse into the functioning and values of the royal academy.

The first academy that caught my attention was the Ivory Tower. Its members were dressed in battle gear, which was torn and stained with blood. It appeared that they had come directly from a battle to attend the ceremony. They brought snacks and drinks, and their hearty laughter made it seem like they were here to watch a show rather than participate in the ceremony.

The members of the Ivory Tower were loud, just like their grandmaster, Ajax. They had the same wavelength as their grandmaster, who joined them, making the chamber echo with their boisterous noise.

As I observed the Ivory Tower academy, it was clear that they were a group of battle-hardened mages who placed a high value on their battle prowess over proper mannerisms. Their torn and bloodstained battle gear was a testament to their battle readiness, and it seemed that they had come to the ceremony directly from a battle. Despite their rough exterior, they had brought snacks and drinks with them, making hearty laughs as if they were here to watch a casual event.

The atmosphere around the Ivory Tower was lively and energetic, with a sense of camaraderie among the members. It was evident that they welcomed anyone who had the strength and the thirst for battle, regardless of their background or status. Over the years, the Ivory Tower had produced numerous famous transmutation and elemental mages who were known for their rugged and wild personalities, much like the current retainers of the Ivory Tower.

Their grandmaster, Ajax, was a reflection of the academy's values and personality. He joined his people in their noisy celebration, without any care about the other people. It was clear that the Ivory Tower was a force to be reckoned with, and their presence in the ascension ceremony was a testament to their strength and reputation as the Guard Beasts of the Kingdom.

I had heard that even commoners who join the Ivory Tower academy quickly adapt to their culture. Unlike other royal academies, they do not place as much emphasis on etiquette and manners, which is a relief for many students. Additionally, there is no discrimination in the Ivory Tower, and they welcome anyone with a thirst for battle and the strength to match.

Despite its welcoming nature, the Ivory Tower has the highest number of casualties during battle compared to other royal academies. The survival rate of the academy is quite low, which may explain why they accept all candidates during the ascension ceremony. They even started accepting young psychic mages, despite the lack of experienced instructors to teach them properly. This shows the extent to which they are desperate for new candidates.

It is admirable that the Ivory Tower values strength and courage above all else, and is willing to give anyone a chance to prove themselves. However, the high death toll also serves as a warning to those who are considering joining their royal academy.

As I looked at the students of Ivory Tower, I couldn't help but feel like this academy would be a perfect fit for me. I never really cared much for etiquette and the formalities that were so highly valued by other academies. The battle-hardened mages of Ivory Tower seemed more like my kind of people, with their rugged and wild personalities.

However, I had heard that despite their acceptance of all candidates, Ivory Tower students had to deal with a lack of resources from the Kingdom due to their high number of students. This could potentially make it difficult to fully develop my skills and reach my full potential.

Furthermore, there were concerns about the quality of the teaching instructors at Ivory Tower. While they were undoubtedly strong veteran mages, there were doubts about their ability to effectively teach and guide the students. It was possible that I might struggle to learn as much as I could with a more qualified instructor.

Overall, despite the potential challenges, I was drawn to the idea of joining Ivory Tower if no other academy would welcome me aboard. I shall keep it as a last resort.

On the other hand, the Starlight Nexus caught my attention with its well-dignified people seated beside Grandmaster Hamanthra. Known for producing powerful warriors in the fields of elemental and transmutation magic, the academy had a reputation for being one of the top academies. However, it was evident that etiquette would be essential here, and I wasn't sure if I would be able to adapt to their strict teachings.

Grandmaster Biswaq, Gunther, and Pierre had stationed some dignified people as well, giving off an intimidating aura that conveyed that their academy was not to be trifled with. Their academies, Biswaq’s Radiant Sanctum, Gunther’s Sapphire Citadel, and Pierre’s Iron Will academy were also well-balanced academies of Elemental, Transmutation, and Psychic mages which also contained some powerful famous mages like the rest of them. They were also good academies that I would join if I could.

As for Grandmaster Harnold's retainers, they were all muscular old men who seemed more interested in mumbling and chattering among themselves than paying attention to their grandmaster. They were clearly blacksmiths, and it was interesting to hear that they were associated with Arcane Forge, a clan that trained mages to create mana weapons and artifacts. It was well-known that Arcane Forge was capable of creating weapons of mass destruction and had armed the entirety of the kingdom with their weapons.

I learned that Arcane Forge was the only academy that required candidates to clear exams and written tests to join. If you were a craftsman and a magic nerd, Arcane Forge was the perfect academy to join. They did not discriminate based on status and welcomed only sharp minds. However, they tended to prefer students with a fire element as the fire was the basis of all forging, and they trained young fire element-based mages to create the perfect weapons and artifacts.

While I found the concept of Arcane Forge interesting, I had no interest in forging myself, so there was no point in joining their academy. Nevertheless, I learned that a student graduating from their academy would be highly sought after and could even become the blacksmith of their country.

The most enigmatic academy of them all was undoubtedly the Mind's Eye Academy, headed by the elusive Grandmaster Messindra, also known as the Black Raven of the North. Her face was always concealed by a hood, and no one had ever seen her visage. The retainers at her side were also shrouded in dark clothing, emanating an eerie and desolate aura.

Mind's Eye academy was renowned for its psychic mages, boasting the highest number of such mages in the kingdom. Some rumors even claimed that these psychic mages possessed enough power to bring destruction to entire nations if they were to unleash their full potential. However, such rumors were likely exaggerated. Nevertheless, the academy was known to possess some of the most potent psychic skills, which allowed its students to unlock the mysteries of the mind.

The Mind's Eye academy was highly selective, accepting only a limited number of mages whom they found interesting. While they did admit elemental and transmutation mages, the latter was much rarer than the former. The academy was shrouded in mystery, and very little was known about its inner workings. However, those who were fortunate enough to be admitted to the academy spoke highly of its teachings and the unique perspective it offered on the world of magic.

In the unlikely event that I was to become a psychic mage, I would only consider joining the Mind's Eye academy. Despite their reputation for being creepy, I have worked with demons in the past who were far more unsettling. I am certain that the Mind's Eye academy is not as eerie as those wild demons from the demon realm.

I am confident that I would be an elemental fire mage, as my hair is red, and my mother was also a fire mage. However, I have already ruled out the Mind's Eye academy as well as the Arcane Forge from my list of potential academies to join.

There is another academy, Celestia's Mercy, which is ranked last among the nine royal academies. As I gazed upon Grandmaster Casia, the leader of the academy, I couldn't help but notice her beauty. Her retainers, all beautiful females with silky-smooth skin, were sitting in the stands like curious children. Though they appeared harmless and cute, they were actually part of the revered support mage class of the Healer class.

Celestia's Mercy is known for its healing techniques, and it has produced some of the best healers who have helped many adventurers and heroes in battle, leading them to victory. The academy is reputed to have some of the most powerful healing techniques in the world, capable of treating any disease or injury. There are even rumors that the academy possesses a secret skill that can revive the dead. While I suspect that these rumors are exaggerated to attract more students, they do speak to the academy's reputation for healing.

Celestia's Mercy primarily invites candidates who have an aptitude for life energy mana, also known as healing mana. Even if you are a psychic, transmutation, or elemental mage, if you possess a healing attribute, Celestia's Mercy is the ideal academy to learn everything there is to know about healing. However, the majority of the students are said to be female, as there are more female healers than male ones.

Personally, I find the idea of joining a healing academy unappealing. Learning how to bandage and treat injuries during a fight is not my idea of a fulfilling role. I wouldn't want to be a supporting character who stands behind during battles. I despise the concept of the healing class itself. In the demon realm, there was no such thing as healers. Only the brave and the fierce fight without a care in the world.

In conclusion, Celestia's Mercy is another academy that I have added to my list of academies to avoid.

As I arrived at the last and most prestigious academy, the Bloodfire Academy, I couldn't help but feel intimidated when I saw the infamous Grandmaster Travis himself come to represent his academy. Despite his ill-mannered behavior and antics, I had heard that he was a powerful transmutation mage who could control fire with great proficiency. However, his elder brother was the more well-mannered and shrewd-minded person and was next in line to become the academy's heir.

Bloodfire Academy had many noble and aristocratic students with powerful abilities in elemental, transmutation, and psychic magic. The academy had produced some of the most renowned and skilled mages who were now instructors in their academy. Additionally, I learned that the Bloodfire clan had close ties to the royal family and possessed powerful elemental techniques passed down from the legendary phoenix clan. The academy also arms its students with various potent artifacts and offers more benefits than any other royal academy. It was said that the quality of the students in Bloodfire Academy was so exceptional that they could outshine the students from all the other eight academies combined.

I couldn't help but wonder why they had chosen Grandmaster Travis to represent the academy. As I looked at him and the dignified and sensible retainers of Bloodfire academy standing beside him, I noticed a stark contrast between them. While the retainers exuded power and elegance and didn't ogle at women obscenely, Grandmaster Travis was still eyeing Celestia’s Mercy retainers who were beautiful women.

As I observed the Bloodfire retainers, something caught my attention. One of the retainers standing beside Travis was a man in his forties with long hair, a black fedora hat over his head, and a cane with a hawk-shaped handle with an intricate design in his hand. He wore small circular glasses placed on his nose, and he looked like a typical gentleman from a picture dictionary. At that moment, he was staring right at me.

It was none other than Bervice Grate, the wagon manager of our ceremony train wagon. He was the one who had given the golden passes to my parents and had sent Keith to escort me and my parents to his mansion. I was surprised to see him standing next to Grandmaster Travis as his retainer, which meant he was actually related to the Bloodfire clan all this time. I stared at Bervice in disbelief, and our eyes met.

Bervice then leaned towards a woman standing beside him and whispered something in her ear. I was surprised once again when I looked at her. The woman was strikingly beautiful with red hair and green eyes, and she wore a bright red dress that exuded a feminine charm that was hard to resist. For a second, I had mistaken her for my mother, but she looked relatively younger. She bore an uncanny resemblance to my mother, and at that moment, she was looking right at me with a charming smile.

It turned out that Bervice Grate was treating the woman with the utmost respect as he presented himself, and it looked like he actually worked for her. I was puzzled as to what was going on, but one thing was for sure: I definitely wanted to join the Bloodfire Academy. With Bervice as a retainer, my chances of getting accepted should increase even more.