Chapter 83 – Bull-Wind Forest (Part 3)
The Bull-Wind Forest was vast and seemingly endless. It was once a relatively small forest. While it would take around three months to cross it, it was do-able. Now the forest was seemingly endless. Multiple patrols had gone in, and the farther they went the further it seemed.
One patrol had been tasked to walk endlessly while reporting back with a magical scroll that could be used a certain number of times to relay a message. They had walked for over two years before their last transmission. After that they were never heard from again. None the less, they were an experienced group of warriors and after 2 years they had seemingly made little progress.
The guardsmen were talking early in the morning as most of the participants had only begun to wake up. They were discussing the dangerous areas of the forest and their formations as they saw Crimson walk by. Whenever he did the guardsmen in the area would look at him in awe.
Crimson was a 3 clawed guardsmen. This was a large accomplishment as it meant that he had the authority of a third ranked official in the entire city. Only the Queen herself or a guardsmen with more claws could order him about. Of which there were few.
The position of guardsmen was equivalent of becoming a warrior for the city. It was a path that most of the students who graduated from Lumea Academy took if they didn’t excel during their years there.
Although these men and women had to obey the rules of the city, and perform the tasks assigned to them. They were also given money, housing, and power. Moreover they were given the opportunity to rise in the ranks and get more of everything they could possibly want. The greatest benefit was that although they had to risk life and limb for the city, they were well taken care of if they received injuries. Injuries that could be healed would be healed and injuries that couldn’t be healed and left them crippled allowed them to take a safer position with various benefits.
There were near 1000 students taking the exam, as such there were about 80 first time guardsmen who had been brought along for their first mission. Therefore a lot of these guardsmen who were now considered rookies after being at the elder students at Lumea Academy were looking at Crimson with veneration.
Meanwhile Crimson had heard of their previous discussion and it reminded him of his theory. He had ventured into the forest numerous times now in order to kill beasts that had attacked the city or to gather beasts for food. Crimson’s theory was that the landscape changed at will. That only when you knew exactly where you were going would the scenery stay the same.
Of course he told no one, it would be hard to believe theory and he had no proof. Still, to him it was the only thing that made sense after so many suspicious things had happened. He’d been on patrol one time a day’s walk from meadow land near the city but on his return, he’d taken nearly a month to get back to where he was. It was a truly mystifying experience.
This forest contained savage beasts and violent races who were either capable of strong physical damage or magical aptitude. It was safe for no one, even experienced warriors had to constantly be on guard. The number of races people had described were in the forest were numerous.
More over, the real inner portion of the forest had rarely been seen but it had indeed been reported that the deeper in to the forest you went, the lower the forest seemed to be. At the most inner and lowest portion of the forest. There was an area filled with a terrifying cold mist that seemed to pulse with life. It was one of the most dangerous parts of the forest that no one dared to venture into.
Any warrior who’d managed to see it instinctively knew not to get anywhere near that mist.
Most of the guardsmen were discussing these topics seeing as how even though this was an examination for the future would-be students of Lumea Academy. It was also the first mission for a lot of guardsmen.
Just as Leo was waking up and stretching his arms and legs Damien and his crew were walking within distance and Damien’s gaze on him made him cold for a second as he reached for his hilt out of reflex.
Damien merely snickered as he walked past him with a cold look “I’ll get you back during the exam don’t you worry.” he thought as he exercised patience. He’d been too rash the night before and he knew it. Now that he’d had the time to cool himself off he knew that he wanted to get back at Leo he would have to show restraint and wait for an opportunity to hurt him.
The entire procession of students continued forward for half the day as they were finally within reach of a forest. Everyone started to get both excited and anxious as they walked within 100 meters of the forest line and stopped.
Professor Lydia walked out to the front with Crimson as he got every one’s attention, and then Professor Lydia spoke up “This is how this exam is going to proceed. We will be breaking down everyone into groups of 50. Each group of participants will have 10 supervisors. Once we get into our groups, we will all teleport into the forest with special rift scrolls personally created by the Vice Headmaster. Although this is not public, the Vice Headmaster has reached the Wizard level of the spatial attribute.”
After saying these words the students were in absolute awe as the heard these words. Reaching the “Wizard” level of any attribute was something only a handful of people in a given generation could do, and with the void element was shocking to hear.
Marcos who wasn’t too well versed with the levels of understanding for those who walked the path of understanding the elements and basically wielded magic whispered to Leo “*cough* I know this is a big deal and all… And I have a pretty good idea but… the details… of ya know…” he said to Leo.
Leo only smirked at Marcos, it was rare for him to actually ask about something he didn’t know. He would normally prefer to stay in the dark than say something and look silly “It means he’s basically reached the third level of understanding for his path. The Wizard level means he not only can see the the void particles in the air but can actively infuse void mana into objects. If he were really insightful, he might even have the ability to create skills and manipulate void mana into scrolls to pass that void skill on. Not that almost anyone would. That’s like giving away all of your hard earned work but still.”
Marcos’s eyes were open wide as he paid attention. He didn’t know they had someone so accomplished in the academy. Although he wasn’t terribly surprised like so many of the other participants. Although it was mostly due to ignorance. Mostly he just assumed that everyone who worked at the academy was some lofty and incredible person, it was only natural to him that the vice headmaster had that level of ability.
Just as Marcos was about to ask another question Professor Lydia began listing the groups and everyone turned quiet. After the first hundred or so names, as people grouped together and met up with their guardsmen it became evident to some of the brighter participants what was happening.
Those who had been judged to have less talent were being grouped together and given “worse” protection by being paired up with new guardsmen. After 4 groups were called, most people had started to notice that their protection didn’t even include an actual professor at the academy. Only guardsmen. It was well known to everyone that while all of the guards were former Lumea students, their word and recommendation would mean far less than an actual professor’s.
Leo was paying attention, not wanting to miss his name as instead of hearing his name he head Marcos’s name being called during the twelfth group’s last name. They glanced at each other and both realized they would be so lucky as to be grouped together. Instead of goodbyes or good lucks they just fist bumped and nodded at one another. Neither of them wanted to do any worse than anyone else but they also didn’t want to lose to each other. After all they were close friends and very competitive.
Leo was getting a little anxious waiting so long but he’d recognized that the later groups were the better groups. At least Marcos’s group had a professor in it. After nine groups had been called, “Everyone left, you’re in my group. Hurry up and get over here.” At this moment a lot of the participants still remaining glanced at one another and they realized this was definitely the best group. The three clawed guardsman that would be going with them not withstanding… The top participants that everyone had been whispering about were mostly all in this group.
Some of the participants thought that the whole exam seemed unfair as a few of them voiced their thoughts in whispers “How come all of the guys who seem stronger go in to one group? Doesn’t that just mean they have a much better chance at making it through the exam unscathed compared to us? How is that even fair??”
Except no one answered that question for them. They would find out soon enough why the groupings were done this way. Leo noticed as he was walking forward that Damien was in his group “Super… This is going to make my life easier hah…” inadvertently shrugging his shoulders at his luck. Inwardly though he was a little happy, to him it meant that the superiors had graded his skill as good as Damien’s. He thought he was as good, but he couldn’t count on the professors thinking the same thing.
With everyone together in their new groups, instead of walking directly into the forest. Each of the heads of their groups (the proctors) opened their rift scrolls by ripping them and then imbuing them with mana. Small portals the size of a door appeared in 20 different locations across the meadow. In single file each participant followed a few guardsmen as the guardsmen would walk in the front and back of the groups and entered the portals.
Leo was one of the last ones in his group as he prepared himself, a few feet from the portal… His hand was already on the hilt of his sword as he walked though.