* * *
Mamil, for all his eccentricities, was a pretty good teacher.
‘You used magic without knowing how to make a spell? What kind of life have you been living? I’m surprised you’re not dead by now. Here, look! All magic must be woven, line by line, into a seamless formula, and only then can it take its perfect form. Otherwise, it’s just a suicidal attempt by a barbarian ignorant, using the magician’s body as an expendable source of power, which unwittingly draws up and erupts the mana.’
His word choice was a little harsh, but his explanation of the theory was brilliant. For a genius, he was really good at explaining things at the level of others.
Thanks to this, Cadel was able to learn in-depth about the existence of ‘magic’, ‘mana’, and ‘spells’ in this world.
「Magic achievements have increased significantly!」
「Achievements remaining for the title [7-Star Magician]: 55/100」
He had achieved fruitful results by offering the Demon’s Bone Powder.
「[Intermediate Magic Book (Wind)] has been deciphered!」
「Attribute Points (Wind) increased by 10.」
He was able to take a hefty reward as well. It really couldn’t have been more gratifying. Not only that, but Mamil voluntarily came forward to give Cadel additional lessons.
‘Come here every noon.’
‘You lack the basics, and without them, even the strongest of us will crumble. Since I’ve earned two pieces of bone powder, I’m going to give you an extra lesson.’
He didn’t know if it was the bone powder Lumen gave him or the presence of the Jenga Lytos, but it was a good thing. He didn’t have to deliberately chase Mamil down and struggle to suck out a little more blood.
Cadel decided to think positively, because if he didn’t, he was going to run up to Lumen in front of him and kick his ass for goodness sake.
“What’s for lunch tomorrow, Leader? Anything you want?”
Back to the inn. Lumen had been following Cadel from outside the cafe, trying to talk to him incessantly as if he had nothing better to do.
“Why would I eat with you?”
“The magician asked you to meet him at noon, and since we’re in class together, wouldn’t it be nice to eat and move together?”
“I mean, why are you in class with me! You can’t do magic. How are you supposed to know how to form a spell? Draw a magic circle with a sword? Dream about being a magical boy? I’m sorry, but you don’t fit the bill. I wish you’d give up early.”
Lumen had sacrificed the ‘Demon’s Bone Powder’ to Mamil, and had somehow managed to get a hearing. Cadel didn’t even know where he got that precious item, but what he didn’t know was why he gave it to Mamil to use as a crutch in a useless magic class. If only he’d given it to Cadel, it would have made up for all the crap he’d been getting!
Cadel scowled at Lumen, and Lumen, who had been rolling his eyes with a sad face, smirked softly. It was the kind of smirk that was all the more annoying because it was nice to look at.
“Why do you hate it so much? You just said that I wanted to spend more time with Leader.”
“Isn’t this better than pissing each other off? You said you needed my strength, Leader.”
Lumen, who had been standing still and looking this way, started approaching Cadel in a hurry. The distance narrowed in an instant. Lumen put his hands in his pockets and slightly leaned in. Only then were their eyes at the same level, and the distance between their faces grew closer.
“Then you’ll have to look at me properly.”
The cool minty scent, whether it was perfume or body scent, lingered on the tip of Cadel’s nose. His warm breath tickled his tilted head, and his high nose narrowly grazed his cheekbones. The moment when the blue eyes that reveal a clear presence under the lowered eyelids shine quietly.
Cadel’s thinking stopped.
Lumen’s behavior was too sudden for him to react, and he found himself frozen in place by Lumen’s large shadow as if it were a trap. But there was a bigger reason than that.
Lumen’s face. Up close and personal, Lumen’s face was shockingly handsome!
It was a situation where even a man could admire his goddamn archaic face as if he were going to devour him. So Cadel hesitated uncharacteristically, and only when Lumen’s face slowly moved away did he manage to swallow a dry mouthful of saliva.
Lumen stared at Cadel for a moment, then turned away without a second thought.
“If there’s nothing you want to eat, I’ll choose.”
Lumen’s back grew noticeably smaller as he casually walked away as if his earlier behavior hadn’t mattered. Cadel finally let out the breath he’d been holding. The blood rushed to his head belatedly.
How handsome is he that the afterimage still lingers in front of my eyes? This is why you can’t be handsome.
Cadel muttered in a weak voice, rubbing his face briskly as if to erase this unpleasant sensation.
“This is what female-oriented games are all about……?”
It was an unscrupulous world, shoving whatever it was in his face like that.
After a fortnight.
For exactly a fortnight, Cadel had been learning proper magic under Mamil. Basic spellcasting, combinations of the two attributes, and applications.
He also tried to change Mamil’s favorite fire-based spell into his own style. It was an original, perfect skill that didn’t even exist in the game, so when he first learned it, he was so excited that he couldn’t even sleep.
During the fortnight that he diligently learned magic, Cadel’s surroundings changed slightly.
First of all, his relationship with Lumen had softened considerably, perhaps as a result of having lunch together for over 10 days. To be precise, Lumen fiddled around less, and Cadel came to appreciate Lumen for helping him in so many ways, especially financially.
The second was training time with Van. Cadel needed a place to test his newfound magic, and Van offered to be his training partner. Since it included his own practice, Cadel readily accepted. Naturally, the two exchanged swords and magic every night in a deserted alley behind the inn.
In the process, Van’s favorability rating exceeded 80 ― Cadel really didn’t know why ― but nothing to worry about happened. Instead, he found Van staring at him more often than not. This didn’t bother Cadel at all.
Finally, Mamil recognized Cadel as his disciple. Though he didn’t say so directly, he handed Cadel the [Scroll of Fate]. The [Scroll of Fate] was a palm-sized piece of parchment that showed the current location of the mana owner within it.
Mamil Kifa was extremely reluctant to associate with people, and for him to give an item that would voluntarily reveal his location was a declaration that he was letting Cadel into his enclosure.
‘Well, that and the fact that he’s leaving Drakium soon.’
As Cadel had predicted when he was presented with the scroll, Mamil planned to leave Drakium in the near future and embark on another journey. It was only for his sake that he had tied himself down in Drakium in the first place.
So after an otherwise uneventful class. He pulled Cadel aside, who would become his first and last disciple.
“Mr. Mamil? Is there anything else you can tell me?”
Mamil stared wordlessly at his one and only pupil, whose eyes shone with intensity. Although the first meeting was terrible, he had taught him himself, and he was brilliant beyond his wildest expectations. Show him one thing, and he realized two, and when he realized two, he mastered three. A talent.
He despised troublesome humans, but he didn’t dislike those who would stoop to the lowest common denominator to achieve their goals.
“What more do you want to know? You have no conscience.”
“Haha, isn’t learning never ending?”
“Words are always slick.”
After a moment of silence, his eyes grew serious. He spoke in a more subdued voice than usual.
“Cadel. Do you know of a place called the ‘Forest of Enchantment’?”
“Forest of Enchantment……?”
“The forest lies between the borders of the Mainue Kingdom and the White Kingdom, and is often referred to as the ‘Forbidden Forest’.”
The Forest of Enchantment. Cadel, who was still looking up at Mamil, was able to recall one memory without difficulty.
‘Isn’t that where the fairies live?’
It was not uncommon to see mixed races among the knights in 「Hero of Knights」. Among them, the field called the ‘Forest of Enchantment’ was inhabited by fairies, and they were especially popular among users because of their beautiful appearance. Cadel also remembered seeing phrases like ‘Increased chance of Knights from the Forest of Enchantment appearing!’ on special gacha pages.
However, apart from the decent appearance, Cadel did not have any interest in the fairies. The reason was simple.
‘Why is Mamil suddenly bringing up the Forest of Shitheads?’
This was because the fairies appearing there had poor specs regardless of grade, or even if they had excellent specs, they had a useless seal ― a really useless concept ― and had to run a gauntlet to break it.
Aside from them, there were plenty of good knights out there. He had no intention of fostering fairies at the risk of such an annoyance, so he only awakened them to analyze their performance, but never actually played them in the deck.
The same went for the ‘Forest of Enchantment’ field. It was not a main quest location, and the items it dropped were all inferior. He didn’t want to waste any action points, so he didn’t even bother after he got his first clearance reward, and of course, he had no intention of recruiting fairies in this world either.
As he shook his head at the thought, Mamil said something he hadn’t expected.
“What you need now is an herb that can only be found in the ‘Forest of Enchantment’. Didn’t you say you wanted to be stronger? Eating those herbs will help you push your limits.”
Wait a minute. An herb only found in the ‘Forest of Enchantment’? Helping me push my limits?
It sounded like an NPC describing a limited transcendent item that only appeared in certain fields. Cadel’s face was turning white in real time as he mulled over Mamil’s words.
‘Could this be a chance for the protagonist to awaken?’
「In Hero of Knights」, special NPCs would occasionally offer what was called a ‘Protagonist Awakening Chance’ with very low probability. The ‘Protagonist Awakening Chance’ was literally a chance to raise your protagonist’s grade in one fell swoop. For example, if he, who was currently a 6-star magician, got a ‘Protagonist Awakening Chance’ and cleared the quest, he could become a 7-star magician right away even if the gauge until the next awakening was insufficient.
‘It’s definitely a great opportunity.’
It was said that the odds of getting this chance were lower than the odds of selecting a born S-grade knight. So it was definitely a moment to celebrate.
But Cadel couldn’t just cheer.
“I will write down the appearance and characteristics of this herb. It is a herb with a mysterious power that promotes the flow of mana. Your current body lacks the knack to properly draw out the mana you have, so you’ll be able to benefit from the herbs.”
Of course, the quest location is the Forest of Shitheads! If I go to the Forest of Shitheads, I will inevitably meet shitheads, and those shitheads might snoop around, attracted by the meager reputation of the mercenary corps.
‘No way. No fairies, even if they were born S-grade.’
He couldn’t. With the current good flow, he couldn’t bring in a new knight that was as good as baggage that would block his path, but he also couldn’t do the ridiculous thing of throwing away his best chance.
As if he knew Cadel’s helplessness, Mamil warned him with the most serious expression he had ever seen.
“Fairies live there, Cadel. You must never be seen by them. If you are, make escape your top priority.”
“Is it a very dangerous place? If so, can you recommend a similarly potent herb that grows in a less dangerous place…….”
“Don’t worry too much. Herbs are at the entrance of the forest, and if you don’t stay in the forest for a long time, you won’t encounter any fairies.”
“You said you wanted to be strong. You said you wanted to bring back the brilliance of Lytos. If that’s what it takes, then take the risk.”
Mamil said firmly, pulling out a notebook and beginning to draw the herbs Cadel needed to obtain, while in front of him, Cadel had to rack his brains desperately to find a way to avoid this tragedy.