I almost forgot about your prize.
The oak tree faced Yi-han as it spoke.
The soil before him wriggled and tree branches shot out from the ground, intertwining as they grew upward.
Eventually, the branches took the form of a staff.
Artifacts and magic tools were like arms and legs for mages, and out of all the artifacts, staves were the most important.
They could make spells more powerful, reduce casting time, and allow mages to cast spells that they normally couldn’t cast.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to call them a mage’s best companion.
The staves that had been given to the first-year students were like long canes, and though they weren’t special in any way, they were extremely hard and sturdy.
Their length easily exceeded a student’s height, which was why Yi-han often used his staff like a stick.
If it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t have been able to catch the boars that Uregor had released.
– Oh, have you perhaps gotten attached to your staff and have no intention of changing it?
Yi-han grabbed his new staff without even a moment of hesitation.
Tools were just tools.
It didn’t make sense to grow attached to them.
‘Would anyone hesitate to replace old lab equipment with new ones?’
Dolgyu stared silently at Yi-han, rendered speechless by his attitude.
He pulled the staff out from the ground.
As he did so, he felt a certain life force coming from it, which was ironic since he had just uprooted the staff.
– How do you feel?
“I feel… animated.”
The talking oak tree was shocked, to say the least.
Yi-han had gotten used to the staff way quicker than he had expected.
‘To think he’d sense it the moment he held the staff.’
Theoretically, it should’ve taken him much longer.
What he had just felt was the aura of a tree spirit dwelling inside the staff.
To learn how to summon spirits, fledgling mages had to go through countless trials and errors.
Similarly, establishing a connection with the tree spirit should’ve required a lot of time and effort.
Even with an affinity to spirits, one would normally require months of swinging the staff.
‘His ability to detect mana is out of this world.
He’s a genius even if you take into account his family background.’
I didn’t think you’d feel anything.
“Is that so?”
Yi-han was confused by the oak tree’s praise.
He failed to understand what was so impressive about what he said.
After all, he had no clue about the tree spirit.
– You’ll soon learn of the staff’s hidden power.
“Can’t you just explain it to me now?”
With your talent, it shouldn’t take that long for you to uncover it.
Yi-han was a rather unique student, and the oak tree was starting to understand that.
Occasionally, it would come across some students that were wrong in the head, talented loonies that lacked any semblance of fear.
Around a century ago, it had met a member of the Wardanaz Family who fit that description perfectly, and seeing Yi-han reminded the oak tree of him, though the latter was much more polite and collected…
– Now, it’s time for me to go back to sleep.
Don’t use any more spells near the forest.
You’re going to wake up all the trees in the area with that powerful magic of yours.
‘Is it chasing us away because it’s sleepy?’
Yi-han had a sneaking suspicion that that was the case.
It was strange how the oak tree refused to elaborate on what was so impressive.
It also glossed over the details of the staff’s hidden power.
‘Is it making things up because it wants to sleep?’
I don’t want you guys coming back into the forest, so here’s a staff.
Now go away – was the kind of vibe he was getting.
The open space they were in slowly began to close.
The trees moved and their surroundings blurred as they gradually got further and further away from where they previously stood.
As they were leaving, the oak tree whispered in Yi-han’s ears:
– Remember my riddle.
You’ll be able to escape the academy once you solve it.
Fortunately, the undead had disappeared by the time they were out, and the group carefully descended the mountain as the light of dawn chased away the darkness.
Once they returned, they jumped into their beds and slept, too tired to do anything else.
Yi-han entered his room located inside the Tower of the Blue Dragons and threw his body on the bed.
He would think about the riddle and the method of escape after a good sleep.
He managed to sleep for a couple of hours before being woken up by someone knocking on his door.
“Who is it?” He asked while yawning.
When he opened the door, he was greeted by Asan Dargard, who was wearing his glasses.
“That sonuva- I mean, the principal’s holding an event outside.”
‘That’s one hell of a wake-up call.’
Yi-han became wide awake when he heard the news.
An event by the principal.
‘…Is he trying to expose the students that tried to flee the academy?’
He had a guilty conscience.
He and his friends hadn’t been caught, but considering the principal’s eccentric personality, he wouldn’t be surprised by anything the lich cooked up.
‘But that’s all the more reason to participate in the event.’
The bigger the trouble, the more naturally he had to behave.
He knew that by heart.
He’d only be outing himself by behaving differently than usual.
I’ll wake up Gainando and Yonaire before heading out with them.”
“Aren’t you guys sleeping in too much?”
By the time he woke the two up and exited the tower, the sun was way up above their head.
The trio yawned as they followed behind the other students.
From afar, they could see a giant skull floating in front of the academy’s main building.
Come, come! This is a rare chance for you all! Hurry up, young Iron…err…talents! I welcome you all!
From the look of things, it didn’t seem like he was trying to sniff out the ringleader of the escapees.
It was more like a friendly gathering or a special event.
Several tents had been set up in the front yard, and people wearing religious clothes were handing out food and drinks to the students with kind smiles on their faces.
While he was bewildered, Yi-han received a cookie from one of the priests.
It was warm and smelled delicious, most likely fresh out of the oven.
He took a bite.
Not only was it crispy, but the cookie also contained jam inside, making it extremely sweet.
‘What’s all this about? Is the academy going under??’
The principal opened his mouth as if he had sensed Yi-han’s confusion.
On this fine weekend, we’ve invited priests from various temples all over the Empire.
Aren’t you all glad? Now, please welcome them!
Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap-
Although the students continued to murmur, they clapped along for the time being, and the priests bowed to express their gratitude.
“Thank you, Principal Gonadaltes, for allowing us to hold such an event when you must be busy teaching all these talented mages of the Empire.”
Haha, the honor is mine.
Please remember to put in a good word for me when you meet His Majesty.
A lot of funds are required to uncover and research new ancient magic…
“W-we can’t give any promises, but we’ll try our best.”
Principal Skelly didn’t bother mincing his words, troubling the priests greatly.
For some reason, Yi-han felt nostalgic when he witnessed this scene.
‘Regardless of which world I’m in, I guess professors are at the mercy of their research funds.’
Even the most arrogant professor would behave meekly before their sponsors, and Principal Skelly, who probably feared no one, was no different.
His research funds were determined by the Emperor, which was why he was showing such a weak attitude.
The priests then addressed the students.
“Students of the academy, it is our honor to meet such talented individuals.
In the future, everyone present here will undoubtedly become splendid mages.
We are servants of gods representing various religious groups, and we’ve gathered you all here today to introduce ourselves.”
‘What a tremendous amount of mana…’
Yi-han was surprised by how much mana the priests had.
They were quite literally emanating mana from their bodies.
Clearly, they were at another level compared to the freshmen.
Also, their mana felt special.
There was something sacred and divine about it.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
Yi-han had the shivers.
Before he knew it, Principal Skelly had secretly crept up beside him.
It’s natural you feel that way.
There’s something unique about a priest’s mana, which is why they call it holy power.
“So I hear.
But this is my first time seeing it in person.”
So you do sense their mana.
Yi-han realized his mistake.
The principal had been testing him!
Why hide it? You should be proud of your gift.
Out of all the Iron… I mean talents here, how many of them do you think are capable of detecting mana as accurately as you?
The principal couldn’t understand Yi-han’s reasoning.
In his mind, a mage shouldn’t shy away from flaunting their abilities.
This was so that they could be sponsored by rich nobles (and extract their wealth).
After all, studying powerful magic required a ton of resources…
Will he flip out if I say it’s because I don’t want anything to do with him?
Yi-han decided it was best to keep his thoughts to himself.
His goal was to build connections and graduate with good grades.
He had no intention whatsoever of delving deeper into the field of magic with the principal.
In the end, he had to come up with an excuse.
“There are others more talented than me in the academy.
It’s important to be humble.”
And I’m telling you that you’re wrong.
From now on, you should go around bragging about your talent.
‘What’s this madman saying?’
If he did as the principal said, his social circle would be left in shambles, and he’d only have Gainando left as his friend.
Fortunately, Principal Skelly wasn’t too invested in ruining his relationships, and he soon changed the topic.
I bet you aren’t all that familiar with priests.
After all, the Wardanaz Family doesn’t involve itself with religion.
“No, I’m not.”
A lot of religious groups existed inside the Empire, but magic and faith did not mix well together.
I’m not much of a believer myself.
I’m too smart to believe in gods.
‘…Thought you’d say that.’
In fact, most mages were atheists, though not many were as extreme as the principal in their stance.
The patriarch of the Wardanaz Family, Yi-han’s father, had once brought up the topic of religion during dinner time, and he had this to say about it:
– Holy power is simply another form of mana, mana that underwent a qualitative change as a result of the beliefs of a group of monkeys.
What they call holy magic isn’t some miracle; it’s just another branch of magic.
Why else would it have the word “magic” in it?
– In that case, what does the Patriarch think of studies involving holy magic?
– There’s nothing wrong with it, if you wish to waste your time, that is. Real magic is backed by theories and calculations.
Holy magic, on the other hand, was achieved through gibberish which those mindless idiots call the power of faith.
‘I should never reveal to the priests that I’m from the Wardanaz Family.’
That was the conclusion he reached after recalling his memories.
Even if the priests were saints, they would be pissed off if they heard what the patriarch said.
I’m sure Wardanaz would agree with me on this.
Those priests are fools I tell you.
What’s the point of having useless followers that converted after getting some treats? This entire event is a farce.
The principal droned on and on beside Yi-han, letting out all his complaints.
Yi-han, who had been listening, suddenly opened his mouth to speak.
“Are there any groups that you recommend?”
Principal Skelly stared at Yi-han in disbelief.
That one question had rendered their entire conversation meaningless.
As in ‘groups’ with an ‘s’?
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