Edit: I caught a glimpse of the Red update and decided that I liked those revamped explorer characters. Since not many chapters are done anyway (heh), I've heavily edited some portions thus far to incorporate them. Only the 'Mapler' bits were changed, mostly just the beginning of the chapter 1, and the prologue. Nothing too major; you don't have to read it if you don't want to.
My original plan was to have the Mapler as the embodiment of all explorers because I didn't like the then-canon explorer designs. With this update, I can actually have canon characters to play with (I love their design so much!).
P.S. Anyone want to give names to those explorers? (Maybe those revamped Cygnus Knights too. Maybe. They didn't revamp the Blaze Wizards and Night Walkers :( ) I can't really think of anything classy. (or were they given names already? Please let me know; SEA's slow)
The Ice/Lightning Arch Mage shuddered as she trekked through the dense Minar Forests, shoes padding softly on the mossy ground. She held her wand up in front of her protectively, pushing mana into the blue gem until it casted a comforting glow that allowed her to see ahead.
A sudden movement caught her eye and she let out a yelp when she turned to see a set of glinting, razor-sharp teeth that reflected her light. In her haste to cast a spell, her foot got caught on one of the branches littering the forest floor, and she tripped, tumbling to the dirt.
She twisted around, bringing her wand up, incantation on the tip of her tongue when her light shone on the monster, illuminating a skeleton of a Manon. The white bones were very much dead, still with chunks of meat and skin hanging limply from them. A lone Blood Harp was perched on what was the paw of the dragon. It looked up and cocked its head towards the Arch Mage, as if questioning her intrusion.
Her heart still pounding, she gulped before slowly getting to her feet. Keeping her eyes locked on the Harp's piercing black ones, she backed away from the carcass. There was no point in engaging battle without a clear purpose.
When the Arch Mage deemed she was outside the Blood Harp's attack range, she collapsed and leaned against a tree for support, the adrenaline rush taking its toll. Fear pooled in her stomach and threatened to make her sick as she realized again how dangerous this mission was, despite her great power. Danger was all around her in the Forest, just waiting for her to let her guard down.
Downing a potion, the Arch Mage picked herself back up and continued forward. There was no time to lose. She gripped her wand tightly in one hand, the other hand seeking solace in the locket hanging around her neck.
She casted a quick glance around her, then she closed her eyes in concentration. A circle of light blossomed on the ground she stood on, growing outwards and scanning the terrain. Satisfied with her examination, she raised her wand up high above her head, channelling mana through the core of the wand and guiding it towards her target.
A bubble of light flashed and flickered before the Arch Mage, the light blindingly bright. It slowly solidified, the section of the forest fading away to reveal a humongous dome of mana energy. Hidden inside the dome was what appeared to be a ruined castle.
The Arch Mage gingerly placed a hand on the dome, which cleanly passed through the ward as if there was nothing there. Content that the ward wouldn't harm her, the Arch Mage stepped into the dome herself.
The Arch Mage cautiously marched onward, casting furtive glances at her surroundings. Her muscles were tense and ready to spring an attack any moment. The castle, or what had once used to be one, that lay before her was in ruins and was overgrown with plants, yet it provided excellent cover for enemies to ambush her.
She noticed that her locket was glowing brighter with every step she took; a bright, blue light the colour of the clear sky. She was so close to her goal...
A muffled squeak caused a bolt of pure electricity to shoot out from her wand in its direction. Her Chain Lightning attack caught the Rash off guard and the furry creature exploded into nothingness.
The Arch Mage stared, embarrassed, at the stone wall that was still smouldering from her spell. She winced, even more ashamed, as the weakened wall crumbled. She was getting too jumpy, and that made her careless. She needed to focus on the task at hand more than ever. The fate of the Maple World relied on her.
The locket glowed warmly in the palm of her hand, comforting her. Not much further now...
Her feet led her into the vestiges of the building, stopping in front of a door that had managed to escape the ravages of time. The wood was whole, still glossy with a finish, which was in stark contrast with the decaying building around her.
The Arch Mage swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. She hesitantly brought her wand up, touching the door with a light tap.
A bright blue radiance consumed the door, invisible hands pulling it open leading into a room which hadn't seen the light of day in hundreds of years, yet looked just the same as the last time someone had stepped into it.
The Arch Mage shuddered, feeling the raw power that kept the room in this condition all around her, the air heavy with mana. The room looked exactly like what one would expect from a prestigious castle centuries ago: draperies elegantly falling from the walls, embroidered with the same symbol as the one on her locket, a graceful crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling, lighting up the room with a calming warmth.
In the centre of the room, atop an ornate and intricate stand, lied a rectangular wooden box, seemingly plain in the elaborate room. The Arch Mage exhaled a sigh of relief as she picked the box up, hands running over the surface and pausing when she found a circular indentation on the lid. The Arch Mage took a scroll from her pocket, blue eyes flashing as she unrolled it, vanishing in a flash of light.
The Arch Mage smiled as she appeared at the rendezvous point, where the Paladin was waiting, seemingly in a trance as she waved her hands over his eyes without a response. Unfazed, the Arch Mage took a seat next to him hands playing with the box she retrieved.
The Arch Mage then pressed the locket into the indentation of the box, where if fit perfectly. She yelped in shock when a blast of light engulfed her, pictures appearing before her eyes.
A young boy –probably about five or six years old - sat crossed-legged on the ground, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. One of these books now sat open on his lap, his fingers tracing the words as he read it.
"Mana Elements," the boy read aloud. "In order to summon one of the five basic elements, reach into your mana spirit and use your trigger in order to shape your mana into the desired element."
He held out his hand in front of him, his palm facing upwards. Then he forced his mind to delve into his mana spirit. He felt for his spirit; it was soft and squishy, reminding him of his pet slime Kishu. He directed his spirit outwards, aiming somewhere along his palm. Then he uttered a single word in the Runic language. His trigger.
"Filu," he said calmly, voice laced with magic. His sky blue eyes glowed as his mana spirit surged through his fingertips. Then a small fire appeared on his palm.
The boy smiled triumphantly. This was just the first step.
Erlanger's School for Gifted Magicians. The most prestigious magic academy in all of Maple World. In fact, it was so prestigious that only a handful of people knew its location. Hidden somewhere in the vast Ellin Forests, it was shielded by hundreds of magical wards casted by Erlanger himself, in order to deter wandering travellers or monsters from accidentally stumbling onto campus. The only way in was with a direct invitation.
The young boy held one such letter in his hands. The boy, now reaching adolescence, had neat short brown hair and wore a pair of spectacles, with lenses so thick they dominated his face. His skin was pale due to spending too much time indoors, inundated by books.
Despite having such a priceless opportunity in his grasp, one that many magicians would have killed for, his face was thoroughly indifferent. His sky blue eyes were cold and calculative as he scanned the words on the gilded card.
"Congratulations, Freud Siguard had been invited to study at Erlanger's School for Gifted Magicians…" he mumbled. It seemed like he still retained that habit of reading aloud. No sooner had he said that, his face contorted into that of frustration, and his fingers crushed the paper.
His eyes glowed briefly with anger and mana, and with a sigh, Freud smoothened that paper out. He released the mana harmlessly into the air, careful not to set the invitation on fire like he intended.
"I ought to show this to mother and father…" Freud thought aloud, his voice full of resignation. He doubted that they would care, though. His parents were probably too busy with the Ellinian Magic Council to notice his absence. They were the Human Representatives of Magic, after all.
Being a child of an Arch Mage and a Bishop, Freud had twice as much magic in his blood, and was expected to excel in the subject. He did, and now he was going to be sent away to the middle of nowhere in order to learn more about magic.
It wasn't that he hated magic, no. Actually, he was pretty much okay with it. Freud was good with magic; his mana was easy to summon and it was extremely feasible, even for a magician. It's just that his interests lied elsewhere…
Well, it would do him good to continue his studies. Freud tried to make light of the situation. Just being accepted into the school meant that he was recognized for his talent. Not to mention that the school's library contained almost all scrolls and texts ever written…
Freud felt a smile tug at his lips. Now that was something to look forward to.
Erlanger's School for Gifted Magicians. The most prestigious magic academy in all of Maple World. It certainly lived up to its name. Appearance wise, as well.
The school was practically what you expected from elves and magicians; buildings made out of hollow trees, enchanted to grow into an easily manoeuvrable design, considering the low dexterity of magicians. It wasn't really unexpected, since Freud knew that lifeless materials like stone or metal would interfere with a person's mana, so a place like this –were mana had to be used often- had to be made out of life itself, similar to those in the Elven societies.
Freud had visited the city of Florea before; one of the rare occasions where his parents had brought him along for their work. The Elven city was nothing compared to the sight that beheld him.
Arches seemed to be the main theme of the architecture; there were arches almost everywhere, arranged so beautifully, the vaulting almost gracefully with thick trunks for support and spiralling branches is the air. The branches were twisted in an unnatural manner, yet they fit in the scene perfectly. Upon closer inspection, the gnarled bark of the trees were actually protective runes; glowing bright green to the touch leaving a ticklish sensation in Freud's fingers.
The most dominating feature of the school was a ridiculously large oak tree, its massive trunk towering over the entire campus, the sheer size of the branches and leaves acting as a canopy over the school. This building was the library; filled with so many magical texts and runes that the entire building thrummed with the calming hum of mana.
Freud had taken full advantage of the library ever since he got there, spending almost all his time pouring over the books. The only time where his eyes weren't focused on words was when he was asleep; even then he would read until he dozed off.
The other students were somewhat afraid of the Book Zombie, considering that Freud made no verbal contact whatsoever. His pale complexion and permanently bored expression put them off more. It took about a month 'till someone decided to do something about it.
"…You're not paying attention, are you?"
"…Fred Siguard? You there? Yoo-hoo!"
Freud sighed. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he looked up from his book.
"You are extremely annoying," he said bluntly to a smiling blond girl, whom he recognized as a classmate.
"And you're boring. All you've done since you got here is read, read, read…" the girl replied, gesturing her arms around for emphasis.
"How on earth did you get into this school in the first place?" Freud mumbled, but unfortunately for him, the girl heard it.
"Oh! I can use the ancient runes," she answered. "What about you?"
Now that got his attention. The ancient runes were different to the runes used currently, the biggest difference being that the ancient runes had a different 'frequency'. As people evolved, their mana soul evolved as well, which meant that their 'frequency' present day is different from the 'frequency' several thousand years ago. The power of the ancient runes was said to be much more powerful compared to the current runes, though there were no many people who could use them.
In order to speak the ancient runes, one must have the same 'frequency' as the runes themselves. If they don't, the runic power will overwhelm the speaker, as people are weaker today as compared to before.
It was very, very, very, very rare to find a person with a mana soul set to the ancient 'frequency'. Apparently this girl had it. This girl held the power of the ancients. Freud shuddered at the thought.
"Ability to convert energy into force and vice versa without a core. Ability to summon energies without a trigger," he answered.
She let out an amused whistle. "A natural chaneller. My names Carlisse Jay, by the way," she said.
"I know. You said so in class," Freud said, deadpanned. "My name is Freud actually, not Fred," he corrected.
The bell at the courtyard rang, the deep sonorous chime signalling the end of lunch break.
"Uh oh…" Carlisse pouted. "Well, see you later Fred!" she winked at him, and then disappeared in a flash of light. Teleport.
Freud sighed again. "It's Freud…" he muttered.
"Say, Fred, what are you always reading, anyways? You'd think that the library would've run out of books already at the rate you read them," Carlisse giggled, nudging Freud as she tried to make conversation.
Freud looked up from his book and glared at the blonde. 'Why do I put up with this?' he grumbled to himself.
"It's none of your business," he retorted, shutting the thick text and locking it in a translucent blue sphere. A tiny sprite, summoned from Freud's mana soul, flittered its little dragonfly wings as it flew around sphere, sprinkling mana dust to strengthen the barrier. Magic Guard. He started to walk back in the direction of the dormitories.
"It's very unhealthy for you to spend all your time indoors, y'know. Why don't we go outside for once?" Carlisse practically shouted at his retreating back, trying to grab the floating book, which Freud had levitated out of her reach. The sprite zapped her impatiently with little bolts of mana, though it hardly did any damage.
"It's not like I plan to become a Protector or anything barbaric like them," Freud mumbled, toeing a pebble on the ground. "At most I'll become a scholar or disciple for Master Erlanger."
"But still, you need to be fit!" she shouted in reply, jumping up and down to reach the book. "When you first came here, everyone thought you were an undead, and now I'm actually inclined to think so," she blinked.
And teleported on top of the book. "YES!" she cried, hugging the sphere to her chest, before falling 5 feet to the ground since Freud could no longer support their combined weight. "Release!" she chanted, a rune forming on the sphere in gold light.
The sphere dissipated, exposing the book. Freud's face morphed to that of surprise, then fear. "H-hey!" he yelped lunging for the book.
"I got it! I got it! I got it!" Carlisse sang, teleporting out of Freud's reach. "Now, let's see…"
"No!" he shrieked in a very unnatural high pitched tone. Carlisse flipped the book open.
"Hmm…" she was quite for once as she scanned through several pages.
"Dragons?" she said in surprise, just in time for Freud to snatch the book out of her hands. Freud blushed furiously. "You would've thought that somebody like you wouldn't waste your time reading stuff about monsters," she chuckled. "Didn't you just say that the Protectors were barbaric?" she taunted further.
"Dragons are not barbaric," he hissed, trying to contain his anger. "They're the most graceful, beautiful, powerful creatures in all of the Maple World; they're everything that you hope to be and more!" His eyes burned as his mana surged through his body, exploding in a ball of light that flew straight towards Carlisse. Energy Bolt.
"Invincible!" she cried on instinct. Carlisse barely had time to cast the spell and was shielded by the rune just as the light crashed into her chest. She still took the brunt of the attack, though, and was flung backwards, landing on her back on the rough gravel ground.
Freud swore once he realized what he'd done. The fire in his eyes died down, returning to its original soft, baby blue colour. He rushed over to Carlisse, who, despite the situation, was giggling to herself. Maybe the attack did more damage to her head.
"Sweet Rhinne, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Carlisse chuckled, muttering a "Heal." A rune flickered in the air and her wounds closed up. "See? I'm fine~" she smiled.
Freud sighed in relief. "Thank Alice you're a cleric…" he muttered under his breath. Carlisse laughed again. "What's so funny?" Freud grumbled.
"I'm just glad that you're not a zombie," she snorted in between giggles. "You finally showed some emotion other than annoyance." Freud's cheeks turned a deeper hue of red.
"But seriously though, dragons? That's what you've been reading about the entire time?"
He shrugged. "Dragons are more interesting than you think," he said, smiling for the first time since he got there.
"I'm… a pure-blooded magician," Freud explained. It was night-time; both students were lying down on their backs on one of the school's roofs, eyes gazing upwards at the endless abyss of glittering lights.
"I sorta guessed," Carlisse scoffed.
Freud glared at her as he readjusted his glasses. "Are you going to let me continue? You were the one who asked me to tell you my history."
"Yea, sure, sure."
"Both my parents had achieved their fourth job advancement, so I, as their child, was always expected to follow their footsteps," the boy continued.
"They rarely spent time with me, being so busy with their jobs," he mused. "It's like they didn't care about me." For once, Carlisse was quite.
"I did the only thing I could do – read. What are you laughing about? The house was filled with books. Anyway, I became quite proficient in magic since a young age, which I think was what attracted Master Erlanger's attention in the first place.
"But what I really enjoyed was reading stories."
"You read fiction? There's a shock," Carlisse said in mock horror, but Freud remained oblivious.
"I loved reading about adventures and fantasy, tales about people journeying around the Maple World –"
"But didn't you say –"Carlisse tried to interrupt.
"Yes, I know what I said about the Protectors. But this is different," he said as he sat upright. "All the Protectors do is just kill monsters, cutting down their numbers," he explained, voice filled with disgust.
"And yet, we still need them to keep our towns safe," Carlisse contradicted.
"But still, I mean they're just ruining the eco-system! Just a few years back, there was a mice outbreak in Mu Lung because the Protectors killed too many mice-eating flower serpents," he said in exasperation. "The Protectors just kill and kill, without caring about the consequences, all to gain a level.
"But the Explorers are different," he finally said after his outburst.
"There aren't many of them, though," Carlisse said as she yawned loudly. "Not many people want to be Explorers since they take forever to level up. And harvesting is quite a disgusting occupation."
Freud sighed. "I know, but that's because they spend most of their time travelling. Questing is much more productive and rewarding that randomly slaughtering unsuspecting monsters, though.
"I want to be an Explorer," Freud fantasized, sliding back down onto his back. "Then I can meet the dragons…"
Carlisse giggled. "And yet you're still so weak!"
Freud frowned. "My magic is strong; I've got high mana potential, but I'm working on getting fitter…"
"So what's it with you and dragons, anyway?" the girl asked after her fit of giggling died down.
"Remember that I said I enjoyed reading stories?" Carlisse nodded. "Well, there's this story I read about the dragons.
"It was about a man who made friends with the dragons."
"That's possible?" Carlisse asked, amused.
"It was actually a fiction storybook, but it seemed so real… I'm not sure why, but that story struck me so hard, that I had to find out more," Freud said. He shrugged, "Who knows? There hasn't been much recorded about them apart from physical appearance. All monsters could have the same thinking capabilities as humans for all we know.
"So I tried to learn more about them," Freud recounted. "It was difficult, seeing that my parents only had books about magic. Tons of them, I might add. There were a few fiction storybooks for leisure reading, even then, they were classic literature, but it was difficult to find anyone with a Dragon Encyclopaedia.
"That's why I jumped at the opportunity to come here. I was right; the library was filled with knowledge about the dragons," Freud continued. "They're absolutely beautiful creatures; I just love to gaze at pictures of them
The way they fly is totally mesmerizing," Freud continued on some more. "And their scales are so stunningly lustrous that they sell as much as precious jewels."
"You sound like you're talking about your girlfriend," Carlisse interrupted with a chuckle.
Freud was unfazed. "Honestly, that would be amazing. I'd do anything to meet the dragons…"
"That's a nice dream to have," Carlisse said quietly.
Freud looked into her golden eyes. "I don't want it to be just a dream; I'm going to make it reality."
Carlisse smiled at his determination. Two of them were silent after that, just gazing up at the stars.
Finally, some peace and quiet.
Freud let out a sigh as he sank deeper into the comfortable plush couch, mug of tea beside him and notebook in hand. Freud liked Carlisse a lot, but quiet times without her were necessary sometimes. Especially with her outgoing attitude; the two of them were always going on all sorts of 'adventures' ('Screw the rules' she says) and getting into all sorts of trouble with the teachers.
Honestly, her attitude still annoyed him a lot. Even though she got Freud to socialize more with the other students, it couldn't really change his quiet, reserved attitude. That didn't mean he didn't appreciate her concern.
He thoroughly enjoyed his best friend's presence, having the fun he lacked when he was younger. She was there for him, fully supporting his decisions and encouraging his creative output. In turn, Freud reined Carlisse in and ensured things didn't get out of hand. That had been the arrangement for the past four years, and he thought that it had worked out quite well, if he'd say so himself.
Right now, Carlisse was making a stop to the nearby village to get supplies not provided by the school, though she didn't tell Freud what. On the other hand, Freud was taking advantage of the momentary silence to get some research done in the extravagant library. The last time he tried to do it with Carlisse's 'help', they got kicked out of the facility, much to Freud's absolute displeasure of his separation from his books.
Freud flipped open his notebook and inked his quill. The book itself was a gift from his parents, in hopes that he'd use it for his studies, but instead, it was filled with his plans for a journey. A journey he planned to make with Carlisse as soon as he received his Mastery. For some reason, Freud knew that his parents would never allow him to carry out such a lowly thing as exploring, so this was their little secret. Though, he hoped that they wouldn't take it the wrong way - teenaged guy and girl running away together...
Freud shook his head at the thought, chuckling in silent mirth.
He read through their Plan A again, checking for any holes that would disrupt it. He pondered if this was the right choice, running away like this, but recalled Carlisse's argument:
"Our stronger-than-average powers already make us prime candidates for apprenticeships among the higher-ups of the Magical society," her voice was low and laced with calm fury, reprimanding Freud after his show of doubt. "You do realize that if we're caught up in the system, we won't be able to escape it. Unlike the other classes, Magicians are obnoxious and prize titles. With my powers of Ancient Runage and yours of Channeling, they would never allow us to put one toe out of line, unless we leave now, before they bind us into apprenticeship.
"Besides, it wouldn't be permanent. If things go according to plan, we'd return in a few years to turn things right."
'Magicians are obnoxious'. How true that statement was. The Magicians, just because they could control mana in its purest form, thought that they were better than the other classes, despite the Warriors being physically stronger, the Bowmen being so much faster, and the Thieves being very, very stealthy.
The Magicians thought that they were better than the other creatures. Magicians thought they were stronger since they could slaughter countless monsters with a flick of their wand.
The Magicians were wrong.
Painstakingly scouring stories and rumours about freak monster encounters, Freud pieced together much about the behaviours of monsters. They were actually much smarter than the Protectors would attest to. It was difficult work, seeing that most witnesses would run at the first sign of danger, and not many scientists were brave and strong enough to go actually go into a field full of monsters to study them, but Freud researched on diligently.
In fact, Freud would go as far as to say that the intelligence of monsters would rival that of humans. Tiny little clues here and there from reports and sightings – a colony of slimes with a monarchy under Kerning Village; a strategically planned attack from Hectors and White Fangs against the hunters of El Nath; monsters capable of adapting quickly to human urbanisation in the Mu Lung areas.
Being arrogant and boastful about their intelligence, it really was a surprise that no Magician was curious enough to find out more about the other inhabitants of the Maple World. Even the information Freud put together were from obscure sources; none of the traditional Magician guilds seemed to care much about the monsters, even going so far as to give them such a degrading classification.
It was almost as if they were afraid by what could be found out.
Freud definitely wasn't afraid. He was determined to find out more about the monsters. It was, as clichéd as it sounded, his destiny. His duty to his people and the inhabitants of the Maple World. Everyone deserves a chance, and he was going to give them one.
He was so absorbed in his fantasy that he didn't notice someone crouching behind the chair, smirking as she watched him.
"Boo," Carlisse said after a while.
Freud was so surprised that he let out a girlish yelp as he jumped from his chair. This resulted in several people snickering and several people shushing him.
Carlisse chuckled softly. "You're still at it?" she asked rhetorically. Freud shrugged, trying to calm his rapid-beating heart.
"C'mon let's go somewhere else," she whispered.
She led him up to their usual meeting place, the roof on top of the administrative block. At first, Freud wasn't sure if they were actually allowed up here, but after spending their afternoons there for a few weeks without interruption, he doubted the teachers would mind their presence. It wasn't like they were bothering anyone; the only ones to go up there were himself and Carly.
"Here!" she said ecstatically, holding out a long, thin wooden box.
Freud wordlessly accepted it. He was excited – he felt like a little kid getting a present on Christmas – but he didn't show it. He flipped open the metal latch and pulled the cover open.
His bright blue eyes widened at the sight. Lying in the soft velvet padding was a brand new Chromi wand. He gasped as he picked it up, feeling the wand's energy flow into him and mingle with his mana soul. Sparks of light danced around the wand as Freud and the weapon synced. The glowing orb mounted at the tip of the wand became the same colour as Freud's eyes.
Carlisse laughed seeing his expression. "Scrolled it myself," she said proudly. "It's for you hitting level-50."
"T-this must've cost a bomb…" Freud said, still in awe. "Thank you so much," he said, blue eyes sparkling.
Carlisse beamed. "It's noth-" She couldn't finish the sentence because she was cut off by a humongous blast of red energy that had exploded under them. Red light consumed his vision; a searing heat burned his skin. The roof buckled and collapsed, causing the two young magicians to tumble downwards.
Freud's eyes flared with magic as he casted a Slow spell. He was suddenly surrounded by a blue aura, and gravity seemed to lessen its hold on him. He floated down slowly like a feather, shocked but unhurt.
"CARLY!" he cried out, searching for response as he brushed the dust from his eyes. Both of them were blown back in opposite directions by that mysterious energy. She'd just achieved Priesthood, so she had an array of skills to get her out. Her reaction time was almost nonexistent, so she should be okay. Should.
"CARR, WHERE ARE YOU?!" he called out again. Still no response. He looked around furiously as the dust settled.
Freud heard a chuckle in his mind. It resonated like an echo, but at the same time, the sound was sharp and clear. Someone was communicating with him telepathically. "Relax! I'm fine; used Mystic Door to get out. Sheesh, did you forget that we were in a party?" Carlisse questioned.
Freud breathed a sigh of relief. "Sorry," he thought sheepishly. "Where are you anyway?"
"Weeell, I somehow ended up back at my room. Mystic Door knows best, though I really wish that it had better judgment. I doubt that the dorms are a 'safe town'."
"At least you are safe. Meet at the courtyard?"
What the hell was that anyways? The entire school was protected with a series of wards that prevented any sort of damage to the buildings. Wards casted by Master Erlanger…
Freud shuddered to think of someone more powerful than his Master. But then again, he'd never seen mana that vibrant…. It was so red.
Red as blood.
Suddenly, a geyser of the same red energy spewed up from the remains of the building. Freud felt the blistering heat scorch his skin as he struggled to contain the sudden burst of mana that was being dragged out of him. Whoever that was doing this was leeching energy from sources nearby.
Freud knew he had to get out before being overwhelmed by that force. Just to make matters worse, the red energy dispersed in the sky, raining down on the school in fiery meteors, setting the buildings ablaze with uncanny speed. The trees caught fire like dry bush, despite the efforts of the runes, glowing bright green and causing the fire to falter ever so slightly before the flames consumed the glyphs.
Freud heard the screams of people around him; the fire was burning them and there was no escape from its wrath. The people were burning, people he knew. He could practically pick out whose cries were who's as their mana scattered around, unable to be focused on protecting themselves: his teachers, his classmates, and suddenly, Carlisse's.
"Oh god, Freud help!" Carlisse's voice had lost its usual cheeky tone and was replaced by one Freud had never heard before: fear.
Freud didn't reply. He stood among the rubble, somewhat dazed. His eyes were glassy, the bright blue dulled.
Then they burned red.
His face was emotionless as he walked, red lights flickering around his body. They swirled around him leaving streaks of crimson, but the sight was far from beautiful, considering the malicious aura surrounding him.
He stopped still when he reached the middle of the courtyard. His eyes flickered blue and widened in shock and realization before quickly becoming overcast with the previous crimson red.
Freud slowly raised his Chromi; its ball of mana was tinted pink instead of blue. Then, he spoke.
"Filu, servatiym ei unakomni!"
He spoke in a voice that was not his, with such power that was impossible for a mere wizard. The force of the spell drove the fire directly around him back, clearing out a perfect circle where he stood. Runes appeared on the ground, each growing brighter and brighter, until the entire area exploded in a ball of light, before abruptly blinking out.
The circle acted as a vacuum; the fire all around the school was suddenly attracted to the sudden lack of energy. The flames formed a cyclone around Freud, the boy completely hidden inside.
Then the fire dispersed completely, converted into superheated mana energy, which was immediately absorbed into closest living thing: Freud. He let out a strangled cry as he felt the sharp, searing pain lash onto his body; his insides felt like they were burning, his mana soul overheated with the white hot energy, as he fell to the ground, unconscious.
A bishop in white robes chanted softly as her palms glowed with turquoise mana. She placed her hands on the forehead of a sleeping Freud. "Dispel," she muttered, but the mana just swivelled into the air. She sighed in frustration, tears brimming in her eyes, but she didn't let them fall.
The door opened and a man in ceremonial grab walked in.
"How is he?" he asked in a flat tone.
"No matter what I try, the curse still stands," she replied, wiping the tears from her eyes.
The man sighed, and embraced the woman. She clutched him tightly before tears started falling uncontrollably. "Have faith," he assured her, bringing up her chin. "He's strong. Besides, you can't rush the healing process any more than it is. All he needs now is rest."
"It's just so frustrating because I have the power to cure him but it's not working!" she shrieked hysterically. "Was it the right decision to send him to that school?" she asked to no one in particular.
He was quiet for a while before replying, "I can't say that it was; we were shirking out responsibilities, weren't we?" he sighed. "I should have been a better father…"
"And I a better mother…" the bishop added.
No one said anything for several minutes. The silence was so loud that it was almost painful.
"…Did they find the arsonist?" Freud's mother asked suddenly, breaking the quietness and breaking apart their embrace.
"Nothing," the man replied casually. "My guess is that he died in the fire too. Honestly, I'm amazed that Freud managed to put it out. It wasn't natural; black magic was used." Then he sighed. "Too bad he couldn't put it out sooner. We couldn't find any other survivors. Everything else was burnt beyond recognition."
"He is our son," she remarked, part proudly and part sadly.
"What happens when he wakes up?" the Arch Mage asked.
"We'll have to see what he wants to do," the bishop replied. She knelt down next to the bed and gripped Freud's palm in hers, intertwining their fingers together.
Freud Siguard was a prodigious young magician, his talent recognized by even the more powerful magicians of the Ellin Council. At the age of 45, he made a choice that would alter the history of the Maple World.
Freud stared at the paper filled with numbers, willing the equation to correct itself where it had gone wrong. The answer was totally different from the others, and really did not fit the current pattern. It would be very bad if he had spent the past two months doing countless experiments trying to prove this theorem, only for it to be blown apart by a set of numbers that did not fit.
He scanned through the numbers again, hoping it was just an error on his part – ugh, here it is: missed out a negative symbol. How careless of him. Freud picked up his quill and scribbled down a few more workings. Now he had a proper answer, at least.
Freud sighed as he stretched his tired arms back. Finally.
Finally done with this proposition. He'll submit it tomorrow…
Someone knocked on his door. Three soft raps on the wood just to be polite, but Freud twisted his face into a scowl. Oh come on, didn't they realize how late it was? Couldn't it wait 'till morning…
The person knocked again, albeit a little louder. Reluctantly, Freud got up from his chair and shuffled towards the door. His body ached from the movement after sitting still in one place for so long.
Just as he swung the door open, Freud became aware of a faint sizzling sound. His survival instincts kicked in and he ducked; a ball of fire flew over him, where his head was just a few moments ago, singeing the tips of his hair.
"Ciira!" he choked out, stretching out his palm and sending a ball of frost to put out the fire before the entire building burned down. He involuntarily shuddered. He still had a bit of pyrophobia since the incident.
Flustered, he whirled around to face a fuming mad blonde, her plump face as red as the fireball she had just sent out. Her name was Hannah, not Carlisse, though Freud would prefer to deal with the latter any day.
"What was that for?!" Freud shrieked in a particularly girly voice.
"WHERE on EARTH were you?!" Hannah shrieked in an equally girly voice, though she was a girl. "You didn't turn up for THE CONFERENCE! Did you REALIZE how much TROUBLE you caused?!" she growled. Freud swore that her hair was on fire, though it wasn't burning up. Looks like she really was a fire mage at heart, especially with that dangerously-red face.
Freud readjusted his round glasses. "Wasn't Collins supposed to take over for me? I told you I was busy."
"I received NO such notice!" Hannah bellowed. "The elders were told to expect YOU! That klutz, COLLINS, totally ruined EVERYTHING!" she made frantic gestures with her hands, still glowing slightly orange, for emphasis.
Freud sighed. This would take a while. And he still had a lot of work to do. Wonderful. First things first: get Hannah to stop shouting. "Could you calm down for a bit? You're waking up the neighbours," he said, making a placating action with his palms. Freud actually doubted that this would work-
"NO! I will NOT calm down!" Ta-da. "This is all YOUR fault! Now our alliance with the elves may very well be RUINED!"
"It can't be that bad…" Freud said quietly. He settled himself back down into his chair and rested his head on his hand.
"You THINK?!" Hannah roared, practically breathing fire. "Collins TRIPPED and his wand sent out a THUNDER BOLT that knocked out one of the elders and the entire conference had to be CANCELLED!" she threw her hands up in exasperation.
Freud raised an eyebrow at that. "And what took you so long to come and get me?"
"You wanna try dealing with all the paperwork to get the Protectorate to drop the assault/attempted assassination charges?" she shot back.
Freud sighed again. "I'll talk to them in the morning…"
"You'd better," Hannah retorted, then stormed out of the room like a spoiled child.
Once alone, Freud slumped in his chair and ran a hair through his greying hair. He wondered how badly the Elves took the unfortunate turn of events. Probably worse than Hannah. Hopefully they won't blast him with attacks as soon as he stepped into Elluel. The treaty the two parties worked out still had plenty of kinks in it and was just begging for disaster.
Freud fought off the fatigue of the night. He still had work to do. He glumly stared at the pile of paper lying at the corner of his desk. They weren't going to do themselves. He picked up his quill and began to write. There were so many things he had to finish by tomorrow…
The church bell chimed. Or rather, today.
The curtain fluttered slightly as the wind blew through the open window.
"Y'know, Fred, if you'd asked me thirty years ago where we would be today; I wouldn't be able to picture you doing paperwork behind a desk. What happened to being an Explorer and all?"
"Now's not a good time to interrupt, Carr…" Freud muttered.
"You said you were going to make it a reality."
"I'm working now…"
"Maybe it really is just a dream; something imagined and impossible."
Freud looked up. "Like you are?" he said thickly, choked up on the memories that resurfaced. Carlisse frowned.
"You're becoming more like your old self," she bent down and touched his face with her palm. It felt like a cool breeze. "Did you forget all the time we spent together?"
Freud brushed her hand off. Carlisse's image rippled where he touched her, like water, before reforming. "We've discussed this already. You're not Carlisse. You're just a hallucination created by my mind in an attempt to pacify the trauma and stress dealt to me with your death."
Carlisse giggled her trademark laugh. It was just as he remembered it. "Is that so? Maybe I'm a ghost who's trying to set you back on the right path?"
"Ghosts are colourless and can be seen by other people. You're the opposite of a ghost."
"So you don't deny that becoming an office-caddy was the wrong decision?"
"I'm hardly an 'office-caddy'; I'm the Head of Magical Operations. The Magicians of Maple would be unable to function without me."
"You were never one for politics, Fred," Not-Carlisse grumbled.
"Times change," Freud responded calmly, dismissal of the topic clear in his tone. The image didn't reply.
Work. Focus on work. He groaned inwardly at the thought, but it wasn't like he had the choice anyway. Hannah would use any reason to find fault with him. Hopefully with his thoughts occupied with paperwork, it wouldn't dwell on his friend.
He systematically sorted through the notes piled on his desk with no observable order that it was a miracle that could he find what he's looking for. Referring to the documents, he jotted down several sentences and pulls out yet another leaf of crisp white paper, though it is soon crowded with black runes.
He is vaguely aware of Not-Carlisse hovering next to him - like an annoying bug, a pest buzzing in his ear. He'd grown used to it, with the illusion of his loved one appearing to him soon after the original's death, copying her antics right down to the dot. Freud already knew that he was on the brink of insanity; blank portions blotted his memories, and there were times were he could remember nothing at all. He bit down on his lip as his mind wandered towards Carlisse.
She's dead. She's not coming back.
His quill paused over the paper, beads of obsidian ink dripping onto the pure white paper. Focus, his conscience chided, and he continued to write. He gripped the quill so tightly that his knuckled were white.
"Freud?" Carlisse/Not questioned, her tone concerned.
The aforementioned mage ignored her remark, casting his attention on the inquiry about the guilds under his supervision. A few scribbles and he moved on to the next form.
He heard Not-Carlisse sigh as she dropped into the chair opposite him. Don't say anything. He wished to stay as sane as he possibly could. Talking to an imaginary friend was hardly normal. Ignore her and she'll go away. But did he want her to go away?
Freud's fingers trembled so hard that the quill snapped in half, the sound cutting through the previous silence like a sharp knife. His left hand clutched his right, willing it to stop shaking. His shoulders shook with suppressed emotion – guilt, pain, loneliness... fear.
Fear that he was losing his mind, yet fear that the silence would overwhelm him if she left. Fear that the icy spike of pain he felt when he received news of her death would pierce his heart again, yet fear that he would forget her should he move on. Fear that he would lose what little control over his magic he had left.
"They say that wounds would heal over time, but still, they leave scars."
She sounded so damned real; if only he could believe that, that she was with him again. But that was impossible; no one could revive the dead. The science of magic forbids it.
One life. One death. No second chances.
Tears threatened to fall from his sky blue eyes, and Freud took a deep breath to calm himself. Then another. And another.
"Have you ever thought that the fact that denying yourself the wish of leaving behind the hierarchal society and staying in a job you hate would actually provoke more incidents like that instead of reduce them like you hoped? Jeesh, I know you're trying to avoid situations that you associate with me since your whiny ass gets super emotional, but for Alice's sake, that was thirty years ago."
"I..." Freud tried to say, clenching and unclenching his fingers, attempting to reign in his emotions. "I-I can't..."
"Why not?" Carlisse locked her golden eyes with Freud's. "Why not?" she demanded again, not receiving a reply the first time.
"We were supposed to be together! We were a team! I can't stand it; the solitude, the silence. You were supposed to be here with me!" he exploded, bottled-up emotion finally spilling over in a cascade of word and tears. "If only I had - ... I could've –"
"I would slap you if I was corporeal. Only and idiot would grieve for so long," Carlisse replied quietly, her translucent face twisted into a frown. "If you were considered a genius, the MapleWorld really is hopeless."
Freud chuckled at her brazen sarcasm, though it came out as more of a choke. So similar, so alike. Time hadn't changed his perception of her at all. "I miss you. So, so much."
She sighed. "I know... I do too. But you can't continue like this."
Silence reigned in the room as Freud struggled to organise his thoughts. He casted his gaze to Carlisse, eyeing every detail hungrily as if she was to be snatched away any moment. His emotions were in turmoil, his mana soul restless, his blue eyes sparking as his mana surged and she's just the same as thirty years ago all along there with him and he doesn't want to let her down and disappoint her like he is now but he doesn't know if he can do it but I don't know if I'm strong enough and I don't know what to do anymore but—
"Calm down, idiot."
Freud blinked, holding his head in an attempt to prevent the oncoming migraine. Don't lose control, he repeated to himself, the mantra coming back to him from the therapy sessions he had years ago. Don't lose control.
"What do I do?" he thought out loud, immediately regretting it by how pathetic it sounded.
Carlisse grinned. The same grin she wore so long ago and it's just the same. "Weeell," she started. Just the same. "There was this plan we had, remember?"
Out of all the things she could have said, Freud did not expect her bringing that up. "What?"
"The Plan," she repeated slowly, as if explaining to a five-year-old child.
"I heard you the first time; I was just shocked." Freud grumbled. "Of course I remember it, how could I forget?" he said with a bitter chuckle. "Thinking back, I can't believe that I was naive enough to think that it would've worked. The system isn't going to change by the whims of a single person."
"Who said anything about 'single'?"
Freud just stared at Carlisse warily. What was she implying? Carlisse just smiled cheekily at his cluelessness.
For the second time that evening, Freud found himself choking out a "What?"
Carlisse couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. "For one of the most influential men in the Magician market, you seem to find yourself saying that a lot!"
Freud grimaced. "Please explain, Car."
"I just did, didn't I? As the Head, you could nudge the Magicians onto the right path."
"It doesn't work that way. You know that, Car," Freud sighed. "My hands are tied with the council."
"You still have the backing of thousands of magicians."
"If I were to carry out that plan, I'd have to step down from the office. I'd lose most of the influence I have over the government. Frankly, my current method of drawing the lines they can't cross seem to be more efficient. It's prevented many problems already."
"That's why I said 'Guilds'. Change it from the outside. You certainly have enough influence to start your own."
"You want me to revolt?!" Freud shot up, appalled. "Are you crazy? Because that path is certainly insane! You remember history - how the Revolt of the Archers ended? What makes you think the magicians are any better than them, not to mention how bloody it was—"
"Hush! I never said anything about revolting!" Carlisse looked just as disgusted at the idea. "I would never ask you to resort to that kind of thing! That's just repulsive!" A frown played on her expression. "Do you think that lowly of me?"
"No! Of course not! It's just that you mentioned – you know what, never mind. You were saying?"
Carlisse pouted, but her eyes were soft. "Idiot," she muttered, too soft for him to hear. "Guilds can hold a majority of the sway in the government." She continued, louder. "If you create a guild large enough with the same ideals as us –"
"—the council will have no choice but to accommodate them..." Realisation dawned on him. "And from there, everyone would be free to adopt Exploration as the main occupation rather than Protection – but how on Maple are we supposed to convince that many people to change hundreds or years of tradition?"
"You already know the answer, don't you?" Carlisse replied, a smirk tilting her lips.
"Yes," Freud said, smiling for the first time in a long time. "Yes, I do."
"HEAD OF MAGICAL OPERATIONS TO RETIRE AFTER SERVING FOR 20 YEARS"
"DR. FREUD SIGUARD: THE PRODIGY, THE PATRIOT, THE POLITICIAN"
"ELLIN COUNCIL STRUGGLES TO FIND REPLACEMENT"
"FREUD SIGUARD TO LEAD SCIENTIFIC BRANCH OF MAGICAL STUDY"
"FREUD SIGUARD LAUNCHES FIRST EXPLORER-BASED GUILD"
Years of research led up to this point.
Finally, a location. An exact, specific location to a nest of dragons.
A small laboratory in the outskirts of Orbis was in chaos as the broadcasting transmitter, one of their many patents, blared to life. The team of Explorers brought together by a common goal were near hysterical as they heard what their Field-Researcher had to say. Of the seven people in the building, only one man managed to keep calm at the revolutionary news.
"Tobias, please repeat yourself," Freud's voice rang out amidst the excited chatter of his staff, instantly quieting them with his authoritative tone.
/Sir, we found it!/ Tobias, the Mage, gushed, the transmitter crackling with static. /We found a nest! Onyx dragons – they're even larger than those documented before and – sweet Rhinne! There's a king! Rhinne almighty, just look at him! He's beautiful!/
"Toby, please be careful. Dragons are quite territorial. Where's Rose?" one of the lab technicians, a Priest by the name of Natalie, asked.
/She's up in the trees – damned Rangers; wish I had their dexterity. Well, she's trying to get a closer view. Gosh, look at them! It's amazing!/
"I'd prefer it that you remain out of sight. You're not equipped to deal with them if the dragons turn hostile." Freud commanded. He wore a frown despite the euphoric news; his magic was reacting negatively. Something was wrong.
/Yessir, I'm quite hidden by the leaves,/ a female voice replied. There was an amused whistle. /Your theory was right, sir. The King's not judged by strength. The system they have going on is much more sophisticated./ By then, everyone in the lab was listening intently to what the field-workers had to say.
/They use magic!/ Tobias exclaimed suddenly, and the general population groaned. "We already know that, Tobias," Michael, a Crusader, said patiently.
/No! Not that way – I mean, that's general knowledge - but what I'm trying to say is that they use actual mana rather than just force! Not just attacks! They're smart enough to use it beneficially – wait, what's it doing?/
The crackling over the transmitter grew louder, and there was a sudden explosion that elicited several curses from those out in the field. "What happened?" Freud questioned urgently.
/T-the king just attacked – what the heck Rose get back!/
/I'm fine. Just checking something./
/Be careful! Well, the king just attacked one of his dragons! I don't know what's going on but they're fighting right now!/ Just to back up his statement, another explosion rocked the transmitter.
"Prepare to pull out the moment you're in danger. Keep yourselves hidden," Freud ordered. "Gabriel, ready the teleporter. Natalie, be ready if someone gets hurt."
There was a gasp. /The eyes of the dragon the king is fighting are red -/
/Rose, look out!/ A third explosion, louder than ones before, left the ears of those listening ringing. /What on Maple-/
Freud cursed. "Gabriel, pull them out now!"
/Wait, wait wait – hold up -/
/Give us a moment, sir – something's happening./
"Tobias, Rose, do not put yourself at unnecessary risk. Gabriel, bring them back," Freud practically growled. His staff quickly complied, unwilling to face their boss' wrath. Only to find the teleporter system exploding in a flurry of mana and electricity, apparently short-circuited. There was panicking. "The dragon's ambient mana must have overloaded the mechanics –"
"I'm going to teleport them back myself," Freud announced, quickly readying his wand. He would never forgive himself if he let his people get hurt. Never.
/H-hey! Now wait a minute - !/
Freud ignored him, delving deep into his mana soul to extract the large amount of mana needed for travelling such a long distance.
/We're researchers, we mean no harm./
/Yea, what she said!/
Their words, as confusing as they were to the residents of the lab, were lost on Freud as blue mana pooled around him, eyes sparking –
/What is it we fight for?/
/Oh, that's easy!/
-incantation spoken, his trigger causing the mana to jerk open a wormhole and –
/Peace among the creatures of the MapleWorld!/
Freud blinked, and he was there, out in the distant forest, standing behind his two workers who were looking up to a massive black beast with golden eyes and with speed belying his age he grabbed his two researchers by the arm and repeated the process in reverse disappearing in a bright flash of mana and they were back at the lab, safe and sound from whatever danger was out there and they were safe.
"Sir? Sir, can you hear me?"
Freud shook his head, trying to focus through the headache and looked up into the green eyes of a worried Natalie. He blinked, sitting up from his position on the ground. His eyes searched the faces around him, the Explorers circling around Freud with worried expressions, releasing a breath he didn't know he was holding when he saw Tobias and Rose. "I'm fine," Freud grunted, pushing himself to his feet. "A little mana exhaustion, but otherwise fine. What about you two?"
He didn't expect Tobias to break into a grin. "Oh, we're just a-okay. But the thing is..."
Freud's breath hitched. Did something happen? Was someone hurt?
"We talked to the dragons."
Seventeen years. He's waited seventeen years for this expedition.
Freud decided that it was worth every minute.
Freud was grateful, as if he were any older, he might not be able to travel first hand. Even at 63, he was overworking himself. It had been a busy seventeen years, after all.
"I did tell you that you were immersing yourself in the wrong job, Fred. You didn't even flourish this well in politics."
Freud's team of scientists had come up with some life-changing patents that had thrown the MapleWorld years ahead in development. Broadcasting transmitters through mana frequency channels; emergency teleporters in every major town, saving the lives of many of those who decided to brave the wilds; even kick-starting the subject of the effect of mana on aerodynamics.
And that's what they've been doing in their free time.
"What's funny is that most of them would only benefit the Explorers."
Freud's guild, though small, was already on its way to being a major player among the Magician society. His group of dedicated Explorers were destined to spark a revolution.
It would all begin with this expedition.
Years of researching, years of exploring, years of effort would finally bear fruit.
They will have proof.
The finally will have proof.
The MapleWorld was in for a shocking turn of events, when the cold, hard truth was laid out in front of them and there were no other lies to turn to. They would have to accept the facts, or face the consequences.
Freud went to sleep that night with the image of gold eyes in his mind.
"The king saved Rose," Tobias recounted. After everything had settled down, Freud had his two Field-ops give him a full report. "That rogue dragon shot a stray fireball that was about to hit Rose's tree, but the king dived into it and redirected the fire elsewhere."
"That rogue dragon... Something about it didn't feel... natural. Its eyes were red, incredibly vibrant, whereas the other dragons' were either green or gold, from the leaves or the sun." Rose added.
Freud was silent as he digested the new information. Something about that had hit a sore spot in his memories, but what?
"Well, then the king got rid of the rogue pretty easily. Despite its small size, its magic sure packs a punch," Toby continued. "I'm still not sure how it found out about us in the first place, but after that the king landed in front of us and we, well... talked."
"It was more of a telepathic conversation. The dragons do not possess the vocal chords necessary to pronounce our language," Rose chimed in.
"Yea, that. It was so amazing! Who knew that the dragons could actually keep with us? Does this mean that the other Naturals are just as advanced?" Tobias babbled. 'Naturals' were the less demeaning designation the guild had given the monsters. He chuckled nervously as he noticed the stare his companions were giving him. Freud gestured for him to continue.
"So, the king asks us what we were doing there and wow it was terrifying because it seems like his eyes stare into your soul, y'know?" The mage laughed. "Kinda like yours actually, now that I think about it, Boss."
"The king seemed to easily accept that our intents were not hostile," Rose proclaimed. "Then he asked us 'what we fought for'."
"Then you jumped in and whisked us away! We did tell you that we were doing okay, Boss. We didn't even say goodbye!"
The journey took two weeks. It went considerably smoothly, since four out of the nine Explorers had made it to their fourth job advancement. They lacked the speed they could have had, weighed down by the large group and the equipment they brought with them. None of them were taking any chances.
The forest was so far from civilisation that they had to use their own boat to get to their destination, the commercial ships not even stopping close to the continent.
No one was in the least discouraged. Everyone on the team was driven by their desire for peace.
For what is right.
Freud stepped forward into the great expanse, sun beating down in a comforting warmth, grass and flowers and leaves rustling as a wind rushed through, colossal trees encircling them and souring high into the sky as a lake glittered in the distance. He looked back at his team, noticing the stubborn determination that etched their features, the spark of resolve lighting up their eyes, their posture bold and steadfast.
A thundering roar shook the ground as a grim smile appeared on his face.
Finally, the land of the dragons.
(Damn you Cheshire. You better not steal this too.)
Hello! New chapter... about 9 months later. Sorry for the erratic timing. I hope to get Mercedes up before the one year anniversary of this story. No promises, though.
Argh, the flow is still so icky. Keeping with the mood is so difficult... Please, please let me know if there's anything I can improve on. Was the pace too fast? Too slow? Is there anything that was too confusing and needs to be expanded upon?
A little nod to Kal Ancalas' story: Revolt of the Archers. 'Amazing' doesn't cut it in describing it.
Alright, I stuffed in some foreshadowing for next chappy here (though it's one sentence long).
I'm sad no one called out on my punny name last chapter. Freud and Carlisse have punny names here (let me know if you see them. I, for one, am quite proud of them). I have punny names for Mercedes and Luminous too, but I'm still considering them. And Phantom... well, Phantom gets his own thing (His given name is definitely not 'Phantom'... choosing something appropriate was so difficult!).
Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know any aspect I can improve on.