Aethernea

Previously:

It’s Friday, the last day of Muni entrance exams. It is time for the last exam of the day – Special exam. Kiel and Elaru make their way towards Sapphire Quarters where there special exams will take place.

* * *

“And if I reach the top, the credentials of being a top quest seeker might be enough for me to be accepted into the Purge.”

Kiel’s face turned cold. “But my father and grandfather thought that as a Rroda I should be managing quest seekers, not being one. That would be quite unbefitting of my status. Father intended for my aunt to bring me into the business of managing the quest lodge.”



Episode 133 – Start of the Special Exam


Kiel felt a soft tug on his arm towards the direction of the elevator. “Look. That guy is going to the fourth floor too. Maybe those artifacts he is moving will be in your spell replicating exam?”

“Mmhmm…” Kiel murmured his husky confirmation but made no steps towards the elevator.

“Don’t tell me you are afraid of elevators?” Redhead’s long eyelashes fluttered in confusion, giving her soulmate an inquisitive look.

“Of course not.” Kiel snapped irritably. As if he would be afraid of such a thing. It’s not like it would burn him if he used it. He couldn’t even fall to his death due to his ability to fly. What was there to be afraid of?

Other people might feel intimidated by the novelty of such a modern device and be afraid of making a fool out of themselves, but that was them, not him.  He just felt that as a capable argel mage, using a device made for elibu would be a blatant squandering of mana crystals used to power the elevator.

And also, flying by his own magic gave him more sense of control and security.

Her large teal orbs inspected Kiel’s face curiously. “I see.”

Strangely enough, she showed no signs of teasing as she asked: “Then, have you ever used one before?”

Kiel swallowed down a reflexive retort of “Naturally.” And instead gave her a condescending, as-if-a-person-of-my-status-would-be-ignorant-of-such-a-thing look.

Instead of giving him a smug smirk and calling him out on his lie, she chose to play along.

Her face bloomed into a stunning smile that caused Kiel to reflexively shield his eyes from the eye-poking brilliance. Her ponytail swayed left and right excitedly, as if it was a wagging tail of a cute furry creature, tempting one to touch it. Her long ears perked up as if she was a little mischievous vulpy and her already large eyes widened even further, directing their warm gaze towards Kiel.

“Awesome! Then, let’s use it together!”

Her melodic, warm voice got stuck inside Kiel’s ear like a catchy tune. His heart almost jumped out of his chest and he barely avoided choking on his own gulp.

Why are you looking at me like I am a cute little puppy?!

Worst still, how come that look had a strange empowering effect on the target of the gaze? Making one feel important and capable.

You…you..!

Seeing those large eyes that practically sang “cute~ like~ happy~”, combined with her warm aura as the background music, Kiel’s curses got stuck inside his throat. Instead, a soft pink tinge spread over his cheeks.

Low blow!! You are too despicable!!

It was one thing if Elaru acted insufferable, teasing him and provoking him. But that warm loving brightness… how could he metaphorically hit a smiling soulmate??

That bright smile made him feel awfully helpless. And he hated feeling helpless the most.

But…even so…even so…

Why was it that he couldn’t muster up any hate for that look of hers?

In fact, having such comfortable feelings directed towards him felt very… nice?

Kiel shook his head wildly, trying to forget that he just thought such an embarrassing thing. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to forget about it, Elaru’s long fluttering eyelashes were distracting enough on their own.

Fine… Kiel sighed with bitter resignation. Acting like an ass for such a petty reason as taking an elevator would leave a bad taste in his mouth. He should be magnanimous just this once. He is in no way a good person, but he isn’t a whiny ass either.

Arguing over such a thing was pointless. Elevators were there to be used. It’s not like they were doing something scandalous. And even if they were doing something outrageous, there was no one here to catch them doing it anyway…

No one to catch them in the act? Kiel’s mouth curled upwards. That sounded like something Elaru would say! Since when did he start thinking like her?

He should be a law abiding, mild tempered, perfectly cultured… ah, forget it… that flawless person was never him to begin with. Kiel chuckled wryly as the two made their way towards the circular platform.

The large platform was separated into eight different areas whose shapes resembled pie slices. Kiel might have never used an elevator powered by gravity altering arcane magic, but the usage was so simple it didn’t require previous instruction. To use the elevator, one had to step into the pie slice marked with the floor number they wanted to reach.

As Kiel’s exam was taking place on the fourth floor, the duo stepped onto the pie slice with four glowing circles representing the fourth floor.

Before their feet could even touch the ground of their chosen pie slice, they were already pushed into the air, as if their bodies and the ground were mutually repelling magnets.

They flew up, their arms linked, yet instead of feeling like they were flying, the feeling was closer to falling. The particles of air were also pushed upwards so the wind blew from under their feet, lifting their hair and clothes up.

Kiel was glad that his shirt was skin tight, otherwise, he’d end up showing his stomach to potential passersby like Elaru was currently doing.

And boy was that view hard to look away from. Kiel’s eyebrow twitched and he reflexively looked left and right to check if anyone was watching.

Luckily, the Sapphire Quarters were empty today so there was no one to enjoy the view. Nevertheless, he nonchalantly grabbed the back hem of her shirt and pulled it back down, all the while pretending that he was looking somewhere else.

Good thing she wasn’t wearing a skirt…

Just as the thought whizzed by, their rapid ascension slowed down and gradually came to a stop. They were hovering in the air in front of the fourth floor and would remain hovering there until they stepped out of the elevator shaft onto the solid ground of the fourth floor.

Kiel wasted no time in jumping back on solid ground. If he didn’t get out of the elevator shaft quickly, there might be other people coming up or down which would cause a collision.

The area of each “pie slice” was enough for at least 10 people to fit without standing too close to each other, so it was unlikely that a collision would happen. More so because both the descent and the ascent would be slowed down considerably, giving users ample time to shift aside and avoid the collision.

And even if a collision did happen, with the slow speed, there was no way anyone would get hurt by it. However, getting hurt wasn’t what Kiel was worried about. As he saw it, in the future his fangirls might camp near this infernal device waiting for him to use it so that they have an excuse for “accidentally” jumping into his arms.

He should avoid the device in a wide arc in the future. Luckily, he could fly, unlike the unlucky elibu noblemen who have no choice but to either take the stairs or risk getting taken advantage of. Tsk, tsk, what a miserable fate. Kiel shook his head.

When the two stepped out of the elevator shaft, the man who had used the elevator before them had just disappeared behind door S403.

Elaru might have been right with her conjecture, for that was exactly the room number where Kiel’s special exam was supposed to take place.

The duo stopped in front of the classroom and turned towards the railing to look into the main hall. High up on the wall opposite of the entrance to the building, hung a large clock.

“It’s starting soon.” Kiel decided to state the obvious instead of saying words of goodbye.

Elaru didn’t respond vocally. She just extended her hand towards him in a pose that had already become familiar to Kiel.

He accepted her intentions and performed her cool little combination of fist bumps and high fives with practiced ease.

Elaru grinned and stared into Kiel’s icy blue eyes with almost enough fervor to burn holes into them. Before Kiel could send her an inquisitive look, she sent him a look of her own.

Or rather, she sent him the memory of the look she just took, a look into the room in front of them as she saw it with her Aethernea of Sight.

She was showing him how the enchantments inside the room looked like, in case any of them came up in his exam.

And then, before Kiel could recover from the shock, she scurried towards the elevator. An encouraging smile that could melt the Lands of Eternal Snow, and poof, she disappeared inside the elevator shaft.

Kiel stood there dazed for several minutes, trying to recall all the details of what he had just seen before he realized that he would be late if he didn’t enter the room right about now.

* * *

In the first classroom of the empty sixth floor, Elaru stared incredulously at the three old men that were sitting behind the teacher’s desk.

Each one of them looked dignified and neat, with an air of an esteemed expert. They wore sophisticated white and purple professor uniforms that, unlike their skin, didn’t have a single wrinkle on them. Their thinning, white, silky (facial) hair was as straight as a waterfall, no doubt carefully combed several times each day.

The old man on the left stroked his thin mustache that fell down the sides of his mouth. The white silky mustache was so long that it reached his waist.

The old man on the right stroked his white neat eyebrows, which extended from the outer corners to droop down the sides of his face, and then, also reached his waist.

The man in the middle, didn’t stroke his mustache or eyebrows. Instead, he was..

Stroking his long white beard… that fell down his chest like a curtain of silk until (surprise, surprise) it reached his waist as well.

Elaru’s lips pressed tightly together, trying hard to keep her thoughts from vocalizing:

Are you guys competing on who can grow longer facial hair???

If it weren’t for their obviously very different facial features, judging by their similar demeanors, Elaru would have thought that the three grandpas were brothers.

Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t just that the Mustache, Eyebrows, and Beard were competing in grooming their facial hair. They also seemed to be competing on who could put up a more convincing air of an old and wise expert.

The realization made Elaru shudder with repressed laughter.

Fortunately, the three seemed to think she was shuddering due to fear and awe caused by their magnificent presence, so they nodded their heads in satisfaction.

“Child, come closer.” They beckoned her in their deep, wise voices.

The redhead stepped closer whose tightly pressed lips were still fighting hard not to let a chuckle escape them.

“Young one, you think you have what it takes to become a spell breaker?” Moustache gave Elaru a penetrating look as if he was trying to see right through her.

Naturally, Elaru could come up with plenty of witty responses, however, she had no choice but to stay silent, lest she burst out into uncontrollable laughter.

“Many dream of becoming esteemed spell breakers. Alas…” Eyebrows let out a heavy sigh as if lamenting the cruelty of fate.

Finally, after successfully stifling her laughter, all that Elaru could do was just to stare at the trio speechlessly. Must you guys be so dramatic…?


Author Note

Anaku Senko brought to my attention that when he sees familiar names of the months he feels they are out of place in a fantasy world. He thinks it would be more natural if I came up with original names for months. If I did do so, I would put extra effort to name them in an intuitive way so that you know what they are immediately. For example, naming the seventh month of the year something close to Septimus.

What do you guys think? Let me know through this poll.


Coming up in the next episode:

Elaru’s mouth twitched. How many times did you guys reverse this performance to get it so synchronized? Be honest, did you wait decades for someone to apply for this exam so you can finally put your practice into good use?

“Are you aware of the difference between the practical exam and the special exam?”

The longer the hunchbacked grandma spoke, the stiffer Kiel’s muscles became. Her unfocused milky gray eyes made Kiel’s blood run cold.

As if to crush the last shreds of hope remaining inside Kiel, the grandma clarified her words further: “What we are testing in this special exam isn’t your ability to perform spell replication.”

“How embarrassing! To sign up for a special exam only to not get a single point on it! Aren’t you worried you’d be a laughing stock to everyone?”

He wanted to prove to all that he was better than them. That their mocking and derision can never conceal his brilliance. Yet, in the end, he had shot himself in the foot. In the end, he had been defeated. Not by them… but by his own greed.


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