Chapter 21 – Arism Stalford

 

I was born in a wealthy family that is famous in the human capital Naxus for having given birth to some of the most powerful human Mages in history. At early age, I too was forced to learn Magic and start training just like my father and my grandfather did before me.

 

While it is true that I managed to cast elementary Magic at the age of 10, I didn’t think of myself too highly. This is because I would always be told things such as “As expected of a Stalford” and “just like his Father”.

 

A genius ? I never considered myself one. I am but a child who was taught Magic over and over again until I outperformed other kids my age.There is no talent about that.

 

To be perfectly honest, Magic never was my cup of tea. I was forced to learn it but all in all, Magic is nothing but a weapon and I always hated fighting.

 

First, I was scared of blood. In addition, I hated the feeling of pain more than a regular person, I just couldn’t stand doing anything that would risk me even the slightest injury. I prefered reading books about adventures and heroes much more than fighting.

I never told anyone about that though because… well I had no friend or anyone I could share secrets with.

 

I was an only child and I never went to school like the other children. Instead, I would just be tutored at home and have additional Magic lessons and training.This was all for the sake of guaranteeing my future as a powerful and influential Mage.

 

My grandfather, Gan Stalford, was a legendary Mage who had defeated a dragon by himself. Ever since that, a gold dragon had been the Stalford family emblem.

My father on the other hand, proved his worth as a Warmage during the civilian revolution that happened a few years before my birth. It was a short revolution that opposed the current Emperor to a faction of insurgents labelled as mere anarchists.

 

It is not surprising that few people have heard of it. It’s simply due to the fact that my dad, Vlad Stalford and his colleagues, nuked the rebels and annihilated them.

He was the leader of the Anti-Insurgency Warlock Squad before being promoted by the Emperor himself to the rank of Emperor’s Mage. He now serves the Emperor and works at his palace as the Emperor’s personal Mage.

 

My mother died of illness when I was 2 years old so I don’t really remember her at all. That’s around the time Father was promoted.

 

Ever since, I’ve been tutored by a myriad of teachers and as I approached my 14th birthday, I finally mastered the most advanced Expert level Magic spells.

 

Even on the day of my 14th birthday, Father didn’t come back home. However, he sent me a package along with a letter that I opened I soon as I received them from one of our maids.

 

Inside the package was a pair of glasses. This was useful to me because my eyesight wasn’t very good although I already owned a pair of glasses, which is why receiving another one raised my curiosity.

 

I took the letter out of the envelope it came with and read it out loud.

 

“Arism,

 

I’m afraid my duties towards the Emperor force me to miss your birthday. You are now 14 and need to start worrying about your future. In one year, you will be an adult and to prepare for that, I decided to offer you a very valuable item. These glasses may look mundane but they are enchanted with a strong spell : they allow their user to see the changing flow of Mana around people. With some training, you will be able to use them to predict how their Mana is used to cast spells and therefore gain a clear advantage over them by being able to foresee their next attack.

This package also comes with a registration ticket for the Magic Tournament hosted by the Emperor. I already registered you as one of the candidates and of course expect you to win it. This will allow you to get noticed not only by the Emperor but also some other potential aristocrat and increase your chances of obtaining an influential position as a Mage very quickly.

As the heir of the Stalford family, a lot is expected from you.

 

Your father, Vlad Stalford”

 

I sighed.
 

“As expected, not a single ‘Happy birthday, son’… Oh well, thanks to my Magical prowesses, this tournament will be a walk in the park.”

 

The day of the tournament came quickly and the first qualification matches went perfectly, as expected. A single Expert level spell was all I needed to destroy my opponents.

 

The rules of the tournament prohibited the use of magical items but the guards didn’t seem to notice that my glasses were enchanted when I presented myself in front of the gates so I just kept them on.

 

At first, I didn’t consider myself a genius. However, comparing my strength to the other competitors’ made me become cocky and I started seeing myself as a gifted genius after all.

 

I thought of myself so highly after these repetitive victories that even my personality was affected by it and I greeted my opponent for the semi-finals in a way I would never have thought of before.

 

Although he was a tall man, his face showed signs of him being around my age. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes. He wasn’t really handsome nor was he ugly. His face was average.

 

This annoyed me a bit, considering I was on the small side. I forced a smile and approached him.

 

“I am Arism and I’ll be your opponent today. Nice to meet you.”

“Ah, nice to meet you too, I’m-”

“I already know who you are. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered introducing myself.”

“I… I see…”

 

I really knew who that man was. It was an unexpectedly strong Magic user from the countryside called “Zwölf Kreizig”. He had apparently defeated most of his opponents with the same ease as me. However, I had not heard about him using any Magic above the Intermediate level.

Since it was the case, I thought my victory was assured, hence my arrogance.

 

“By the way, I didn’t talk to you out of courtesy. I came to give you a warning.”

“A… warning ?”

“Yeah. Give up before the match begins. The chances that you die if you face me are very high.”

“What the – Of course I won’t back down !”

“Mhm. I expected as much. But you see, I am a genius Magician. I have never been defeated, even by adults. So don’t come crying if you lose one or two arms, ok ?”

 

If I was to beat him anyway, I might as well have saved some time by having him forfeit, right ?

 

What I was about to learn however, is that my knowledge of Magic came with hard work and repetitive efforts. There was nothing like “talent” involved. On the other hand, what I understood during my fight with Zwölf is that this man was the real definition of a genius.

 

The fight started well for me. I used one of my strongest spells,『Compression』, and started strangling him with an invisible pressure. It was evident from his movements that he didn’t know this technique and had not reached this level.

And yet…

 

He seemed to understand the very way the spell worked while being crushed and he used it backwards to negate the effects of my 『Compression』. He then used this technique on me, who knew no way to escape it myself. I was able to see all that thanks to my special glasses.

 

The difference between him and I is that he understood the way a spell works and how to use it just from seeing it, whereas I needed to read the theory and practice during month just to achieve the same result.

 

Anyway, the fight ended with my spectacular defeat. I did say that I hated pain but even though my bones were crushed, what hurt the most was the feeling of being put back in place after becoming too arrogant.

 

The biggest of my problems though was facing Father after such a defeat. Luckily for me, he wasn’t at home because of his work but I would have to confront him at one point or another.

 

Agonising with these thoughts, I wandered aimlessly through the town after the match and somehow ended up meeting Zwölf on the way. When I saw him, something popped up in my mind and I ran towards him.

 

“Hey ! Hey ! Wait !”

“Mm ?”

“I… I want to ask you a question.”

“What is it ?”

“You… you’re only 1 year older than me right ? For how long have you been learning Magic ?”

“Hum… just about a few months.”

 

Just a few months !? I took a good look at his face and guessed that he wasn’t lying. Truly… a genius. There was no way I could even hope to beat him in the first place.

Dejected, I was about to leave when he called out to me. He told me to train with my friends and be ready for a rematch next year. But when he heard from me that I don’t have any friends…

 

“If you don’t have any, then you can consider me your first friend.”

“Wha- you… are you jok… wait, really ?”

 

Didn’t I treat him awfully badly earlier ? Yet this guy wanted to be friends with me ? Could it be… out of pity ? I seriously couldn’t believe it.

 

“Yeah ! That’s unfortunate though because I’ll have to go back to my village after the tournament but it’s fine ! We’ll just have to train ourselves a lot and next year, we’ll get to fight each other again right ? Besides, even if I don’t meet you in next year’s tournament, I’m planning to find a job at the capital so I’ll be back soon enough !”

 

This guy… he looked honest. He really wanted to be my friend. My first one… having no more reason to refuse his kindness, I accepted his offer. After that, he headed for his final match in the tournament and I decided to go watch it.

 

 

***

 

Much to my surprise, the final match did not go well at all for Zwölf. It didn’t start well against me either but  at least he opposed some kind of resistance.

However, this looked more like a one-sided beating than anything else.

 

I had to admit that his opponent, the Emperor’s son, was obscenely strong. However, I could see that something was wrong in Zwölf’s behaviour thanks to my glasses.

 

As resistant as Orth Porcephone’s magic armor was, Zwölf’s attack should have been able to inflict some significant damage to it. However, something was missing.

From what I could see with my glasses, it was as if… his mana had been corrupted. Some way or another, his Mana flow was suffering as if one had poisoned him. That’s why none of his attacks worked.

 

To put it simply, Mana has a colour. From what I gathered after looking at different people with my new glasses, the colour mainly depends on the person’s affinities with the different elements.

 

Zwölf’s Mana was gold which meant that he had an equally strong affinity with all elements although it was harder for him to exceed in any of them. This was quite a rare colour but it was still properly balanced. Maybe it was due to his genes but Orth’s Mana was blazing red, proving his high affinity with the Fire Mana. However it had shades of brown, meaning that Earth was also one of his forte.

 

The problem lied in the fact that Zwölf’s Mana was that of a pure gold before the final. But the Mana I was witnessing in front of me right now contained dark spots that tainted his Mana. Did that mean that someone had cursed him somehow and that was interfering with his ability to cast Magic ?

 

Anyway, despite the situation, something incredible happened before Zwölf’s apparent loss. His Mana condensed, I could clearly see it, and took the shape of a fireball in his right hand.

Before releasing it, his Mana looked like it exploded, which blinded the entire audience as well as his opponent. And right after that…

 

I could not believe what I saw : Zwölf casted a blue fireball without the help of any Fire Cindrill ! That alone was enough to completely ignore Orth’s armor and knock him into a wall. The Emperor’s son fainted before being able to realise what just happened.

 

That was clearly amazing. Clearly something that would revolutionise Magic. Zwölf’s victory was spectacular and yet… the Emperor stood up and shouted something like :

 

“This contestant cheated ! He brought illegal items with him and tried to assassinate my son, Orth Porcephone ! Guards ! Take him to the jail !”

 

I wanted to protest – I had clearly witnessed Zwölf winning by his own means – but my voice was lost as a much louder one covered it. It was one of the soldiers near the Emperor.

 

“IMPOSSIBLE ! HE’S MY SON ! HE HASN’T CHEATED ! HE’S INNOCENT ! ZWOLF !”

 

It looked like Zwölf’s father didn’t believe in the obvious Emperor’s lie either but he should have kept his mouth shut. His opposition only led to him being arrested a few moments later as well.

 

Witnessing such injustice, I went back home, not knowing what to do. My precious first friend had been framed and his father had been arrested… what to do ? What could I possibly accomplish ?

 

I wasn’t the head of the house yet so I had very little influence, even as the heir of the Stalford family. Besides, it was possible that the Emperor had orchestrated everything just so that his son wouldn’t look like he lost against a country bumpkin.

 

Clueless about the situation, I just went to bed as usual and waited to see what would happen. Hopefully, the truth would be exposed some way or another. I truly hoped for that.

Advertisements