“I said it’s hopeless, brat! What? You want to learn magic? That’s easier said than done. Did you think any simpleton could just learn it if they wanted to?”
“You could still give me a chance…”
“All the students here can feel and use the mana within them. Have you ever felt your mana?”
“If you teach me how, I could give it a….”
“Our schedules are packed from start to finish. We do not have time to give a lecture just for you.”
It was the most insulting response imaginable. Isaac’s face went red with embarrassment as all the students in the class snickered away. But that didn’t stop Isaac. He steeled himself from the mocking laughter of the students and tried to ask for permission to listen to the lecture. Before he could however, the lecturer had already answered his question with his stare. A stare of irritation and disdain. All Isaac could do was leave without a word. Mazelan’s wholehearted laugh was starting to test his temper.
“Fucker. Do you think I’m that desperate for magic? I’ll just become a Sword Master instead.”
“You want to learn swordsmanship?”
The next day, Isaac visited the School of Military for their permission. The lecturer seemed reluctant at best.
“It annoys me that you came to us after being rejected by the School of Magic, but we won’t kick you out yet. We aren’t as stingy as those bookworms, you see.”
“Let me introduce myself. I am Casey. I am the lecturer of the 3rd military school in Campus. You know that both wizards and swordsmen must know how to use mana right? I’m going easy on you, because I heard that you were rejected before you were given a chance for this test. If you can’t feel and use mana, we can’t help you. Let’s see if you can at least feel it. I suggest you give up if you fail.”
“That will never happen!”
Isaac’s shout was full of confidence, but it didn’t seem to impress Casey. He simply shook his head.
“Sword and magic. Their properties may be polar opposites, but their foundation is the same. How much you’ve trained and strengthened your mana is what’s important. Therefore, the only way to strengthen yourself is through constant training coupled with talent. Mana always gathers just below the chest of the user, and we call that the ‘Core’. At first, it’s no larger than a single grain, but through training it will become larger.”
“I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Don’t swordsmen and wizards store their mana in different locations?”
“Hmm. I don’t know where you’ve heard that nonsense. Why would the position of the Core be different when they both use the same mana?”
“I guess you’re right. Then does that mean anyone who trains their mana can use both magic and sword ki?”
“That’s right. Let me guess. You just thought that you’d become invincible if you used both sword ki and magic at the same time right?”
“Well, you’re not the only person to think that. But they all failed.”
“Do you think you’d have time to idly cast your magic when a sword is flashing before your eyes? It’s much more efficient to stab the bastard one more time than try to cast some magic.”
“B, but maybe you could mislead them or break their stance or…”
“For such basic spells, it’d be much simpler to use a weapon enchanted with such magic. That doesn’t mean it’s effective either. Your core can naturally resist such simple spells, and even if it doesn’t, you would usually wear magically enchanted armour to defend you against such things. As they say, if you run after two hares, you will catch neither.”
Breath in… breath out… Fill your lungs, and then slowly let it go. In… out… Forget everything and reach ascension.
Ah, am I finally catching a glimpse of it? It feels so so sweet.
Smack! A sudden blow to Isaac’s head had brought him back from his sleep. His eyes went wide and a scream echoed into the air.
“Ow! Oww! My leg!”
Casey watched Isaac writhe on the floor in pain. He had been sitting still for quite some time, and a sudden flinch of his leg from the pain had caused a muscle cramp.
“What a fiasco this is.”
It took some time before Isaac finally calmed down from the cramp, but the cramp wasn’t the problem now. As he slowly turned to meet Casey’s eyes, Casey stated his harsh opinion.
“Rejected. There is no hope for you. Just give up. How can someone who sleeps whenever he meditates train his mana?”
Mazelan’s irritating laugh echoed in Isaac’s mind.
In… out… Gather the mana through your breathing, and store it within. In… ou….
A bump protruded in the middle of Isaac’s forehead.
“Weren’t you so sure you wouldn’t fall asleep this time?”
“We decided to train with a candle in front of you because of your constant nagging, and now look at yourself. Don’t you think now is the perfect time to give up?”
“But there’s still regret in giving up so soon…”
“How can someone who can’t even gather mana from his surrounding learn swordsmanship or magic?”
At this point, Mazelan exhausted was from all the laughter. Isaac felt his anger rise as Mazelan lay on the floor struggling to take a breath in between his laughing.
Sword master! Staple of the Isekai fantasy! What heart pounding emotions that word brings!
Wizards! Fire balls in one hand, priceless magical artifacts in another. Well, he never intended on becoming so powerful that nothing could oppose him. It would have suited him fine if he was strong enough to take care of himself.
Sadly, he had to give it all up. After all, he had no knowledge of even the most basic breathing techniques, let alone some secret breathing technique that had been passed down for generations. All he had were small pockets of wisdom he had gathered from the many novels he’d read.
No matter how much he tried to sense his mana through meditation, all he felt instead was drowsiness and a cramp on his leg. He was in every aspect, normal.
Isaac’s dream and talent had met a dead end before it even began. But he told himself that it’s ok. There was no point in training mana, because working in an office with a pen in hand is much less taxing on the body. Isaac convinced himself with that rationale, but he couldn’t help but remember the story of the fox and the grapes in the corner of his mind.
PR Note: The Fox and the Grapes is one of Aesop’s fables in which a fox attempts to reach a delicious bunch of grapes hanging from a vine to no avail. In the end, the fox gives up and dismisses the efforts, saying that the grapes were never worth it. To read the full tale, click on this link to the Library of Congress.
Isaac was surprised to hear that there was no grades on magic such as ‘circle’ or ‘class’ when he did his research on this world’s magic. Only one thing was necessary, which was the amount of mana the caster held in his body. That meant even a child could cast catastrophic spells like Hellfire or Meteor if they had the mana.
The more he learnt about magic, the less he understood the people who trained for magic. There was no need for any revelation or epiphany to cast magic. Of course, in order to cast devastating spells, you needed knowledge of complex magical theories and invocations to match it, but there was nothing stopping an amateur wizard from using a famously destructive spell on their own. However there was a catch; if the magic they cast was beyond their capabilities, death was certain.
Difficult spells required considerable mana to cast and sustain it, and if the caster could not provide for it, the magic will begin to drain the energies of the caster themselves. Like a loan shark collecting due debt.
By the time the spell had absorbed the energies of the caster, not even a corpse would remain of them. Magic was a skill that killed you the moment you overestimated yourself.
This fact helped Isaac let go of the last of his regrets on magic. He also understood that it was impossible for him to become proficient with a sword. The day after he was rejected by the Military school, Isaac headed for the School of Administration.
“You want to learn administration?”
“Yes. My dream is to become an administrator in a small rural city.”
“… That’s a rather special dream.”
“I think it suits me, considering the position I’m in.”
“Hm. Well I guess there’s no need to reject you if you want to learn.”
“Thank you. I’ll do my best.”
“No need for your thanks. I have nothing to teach you anyway.”
“You know that you will be a Campus graduate if you survive for 5 years right?”
“Once you graduate the Campus, you are given the rank of a Rank 2 Knight. The Empire’s basic administrative jobs begin from Rank 2 Knight, so you can pick and choose any rural administrative work you want.”
“So you’re saying I can get any administrative job so long as I graduate?”
“B, but I’d still need to know something…”
“That’s basic knowledge on administration. It’s mandatory that you know the basics before you enter the Campus, so there are no lecturers who would teach such thing in here. Nor would we make a special lecture just for you.”
“I’d also like to add. Even if you are the administrator of a rural village, if the Inspection Bureau of the Empire deems you inadequate, you will be given 3 warnings before you are fired. Once you’re fired, you cannot reapply for the job for 3 years. And if we find a hint of corruption at any time, you are fired immediately, punished by the Empire, and it will be impossible to apply for any jobs related to the Empire itself. Understand?”
“If you still have the desire to learn, then go to the library. There should be some books on basic administration in there.”
“Thank you for your advice.”
The 7 days of Calamity.
On early summer, a disaster of a scale that had never been or ever will be recorded swept across the continent. Holy men and women went mad, the wise old sages went senile and the mana of the world was whipped into a turbulent storm. All sense of order had disappeared and in its place was greed and frenzy. Although this disaster lasted only 7 days, its aftereffects lasted for many more years.
The world changed. Deities from heaven, hell and the spirit realm had disappeared and the pathways which they travelled through were severed. Societies broke down and nations fell.
While all of the sentient races despaired at the sight of impending doom on this world, a hero rose from its ashes. It was the first emperor Erukaph. His sole aim was the preservation of this world, and he rallied citizens of all races under his banner of Phoenix. All the memories of ideology, history and grudges were swept aside for the survival of this world. And within the fence called the Empire, the world united.
In order to recover from the massive death toll the disaster created, all the races shared their secret knowledge to be taught in a single school, and that was the beginning of the Campus.
To make a school befit for the most talented individuals in the Empire to become its leaders, they had created the College.
While many in the Campus questioned the establishment of the College, the Empire deemed it necessary to create an institution capable of proving that certain individuals are indeed suitable to be the future leaders. And so the College became a prestigious school which all wish to enter yet many are denied their…
“You call this a history book?”
Isaac muttered to himself as he quietly closed the book. Isaac had followed the rude and unhelpful advice from the last School he asked for permission, The School of Administration.
There was no need for him to obsess over power like a sword master or a grand magus. It’s just that it’s much more convenient to have power. Those who have strength can be relaxed in the face of danger, but the weak can only hide from the dangers or suffer the consequences. He just wanted to act ouf a clichéd scene where the main character would send an arrogant man flying after the man boasted how strong he was.
So after a month of constant rejections from all of the schools, Isaac lost all interest and began to visit the library frequently. He believed knowing the history of this world would help him make future decisions, but it only added to his confusion.
All the history books started on the same day – 300 years ago when the 7 days of Calamity began. Not a single piece of history before that time remained. Well, let’s say that is possible since they believed the world would end back then. But achieving this kind of civilization in just 300 years? Impossible. Plus, there was not a single history book which even mentioned anything before 300 years ago.
All historians dream of finding an artifact of a lost civilization. If they truly couldn’t find any, then it would mean the world really was that close to ending or the Empire as a whole was hiding it from public.
Isaac was convinced it was the latter, but he could do nothing about it nor did he feel any reason to. His survival was his main goal after all.
“What do I do now?”
Isaac muttered again. He couldn’t find any books worth reading in the library. Just as the Campus was a place full of die-hard scholars, all the books in the library were textbooks or thesis. All fiction books were artistic literature, and to Isaac, it was just page after page of incomprehensible poems, similar to poems in medieval time in the old world.
When Isaac attempted to read a book about the theory of magic, the book was filled with equations more complex than what he remembered in a calculus textbook. Isaac was convinced that students who treated this as basics weren’t to be looked down upon.
Isaac’s attempt at learning administration was futile. It was a given since he was never a studious person in the old world. His lack of passion coupled with the knowledge that he will get what he want in time had led him to a life of indolence. He had no reason to do anything.
Isaac’s daily life was a routine of 3 course meals and chatting with Mazelan whenever he came to visit.
Just as Mazelan had promised, there weren’t many attempts or schemes to kick Isaac out of Campus. Isaac’s first year in Campus had been a peaceful one.