22 Helios, the Magical Court Academy
Surprisingly, the journey to Helios, the Magical Court Academy, was short and besides a small pack of wolves, there were no troubles at all. The closer Drake was to Helios, the more excited he was. After all, ever since he had 'awakened' his spirit, meaning that he could feel the mana in the air, his dreams of casting spells and become even stronger than he currently was could become true.
Drake didn't take many soldiers with him. Actually, he only took two of his best immaculate soldiers and Lewis, his loyal squire. As for his other subordinates, he gave them specific orders to follow over the next few years. With the biochip, thinking a few years ahead was not that big of a deal, and with his father supporting the twin elves, his territory was bound to flourish, even if he were absent.
Helios was magnificent. It was truly a magical sight.
It was an academy, yet from an outside point of view, it looked like a city. There were over a dozen towers with strange floating orbs orbiting around them. Walls of magical rocks surrounded Helios, and their sturdiness was something that even Drake with no magical achievements could feel.
"This is Helios, my lord", the usually silent Lady Evangeline said, "These twelve towers you see, belong to the twelve different masters of Helios. All twelve of them have reached the terrifying Magus realm, something that all acolytes yearn to become."
"Yeah, you said to me that magi possess enormous power and only a handful of acolytes manage to reach the magus realm. However, you said that out of the thousands of acolytes who live and study in Helios, only twelve managed to become magi in the past hundreds of years?"
"Actually, there were exactly 38 magi in History. However, although magi are strong, there are not invincible. They have a longer lifespan, about three hundred years, and their combat power is completely ridiculous. However, they can be killed. But in Helios, there are indeed only 12 magi. According to the rumours, there are eight other magi belonging to the Magical Court, but they were sent on special missions to defend the kingdom."
It was obvious that the Porfield Kingdom was much more powerful than expected with the backing of the Magical Court. However, it was also much larger than ther other thirteen kingdoms in the continent.
Some were saying that it could conquer the world if the magi wanted to. And indeed, over the past hundreds of years, the Porfield Kingdom increased in size and power by a dozen folds.
The system in Helios was complicated. Only a handful of acolytes had established a master and disciple relationship with a magus. For the thousands of acolytes with no master, they could only rely on missions to earn magical crystals, the currency of magi, and knowledge points, the internal currency of Helios, required to read books and magical tomes.
"In Helios, your treatment depends on a few things. If you are strong, you will earn the respect of others. You might think that you're strong with your achievements in the Battle of Alm and your knight physique. But you aren't. Among the 2 830 acolytes in Helios, there are hundreds of knights and the vast majority of them have forsaken knight training."
"Why would they?"
"Magic is a field which the most intelligent scholars failed to grasp in a lifetime. For everyone in Helios, the goal is to become a magus. You can continue training as a knight, for sure. But…even if you are successful, what are you going to be? Grand Knights are powerful, I've met a few of them. They can also live up to 150 years according to some rumours. But compared to magi, they lack in strength, fire power and lifespan."
"What you are saying is that most people cannot reach the magus realm, but still decide to pour all of their effort in one path, the magus path?"
"Indeed. Furthermore, once you witness the powers of acolytes, you will be obsessed by the idea of becoming a magus. Believe me."
Drake smirked. He had witnessed the powers of acolytes. To be honest, even though there were many bards talking about his heroic performance in the Battle of Alm, he didn't feel bravery or courage upon seeing the 300-men army of Knight Barret ambush him. He felt true fear, with his primal instincts yearning for him to run. How come someone managed to see right through his plans? He wondered for several minutes. Turns out they didn't. They only relied on some prophecy made by the girl next to him.
If anyone asked him, he felt true respect for anything related to magic. However, would he truly forsake the knight path after training for a lifetime? There was simply no way! Even if knights were a bit inferior in History, he had seen Verdon's attributes. He had heard about him going toe to toe with a magus. If he could ally the physiques of knights and the magical powers of acolytes…
When Drake's group reached the gate, a huge humanoid sculpture began to talk. It was a gargoyle, and scanning its attributes made Drake truly scared.
[Beep! Scan complete!]
[Name: Gargoyle. Age – 210 years. Rank: Mineral Life form (Rank 3 Acolyte Realm)
Strength – 9.8 | Dexterity – 5.0 | Constitution – 10.2
Perks: Attacks below 15 degrees of damage are nullified by the forcefield of its mineral body.]
The Gargoyle was a true monster. Even if his father, Viscount Allan, used his most terrifying attack, he would only be able to scratch the beast. No wonder the Magical Court always controlled the Porfield Kingdom behind the curtain. They were actually this powerful!
Lady Evangeline spoke in a foreign Language, and then the Gargoyle stepped down, returning to a deep slumber. It seemed that the older it was, the most powerful the Gargoyle became. On route, Drake's group met with a few other Gargoyles, but their strength and age were way below the first one they met.
"You must be wondering what these creatures are. They are living creatures, mineral life forms. They were crafted by one of the twelve Magi, Grand Master Lenz. These gargoyles have the strange property of absorbing mana from the environment and strengthen their minerals with them. The Magical Conduits in their body allow them to summon immense strength, comparable to that of true Grand Knights. They can also cast a few spells, though they have never been in action in the past hundred years, and the Magical Court does its best to restrict this kind of information, so I don't really know about that. However, anyone can guess that it must be pretty powerful, since the walls of Helios have never been breached since its creation", Lady Evangeline began to explain.
Lady Evangeline had no master, but she belonged to a faction of Helios: the Arcane Order, the biggest faction, representing the authority of the twelve magi. It had the biggest number of acolytes and also three of the strongest ones: Arthur Bane, the Fire Sorcerer, Albert Coalition, the master of Golems, and Lizzie Abbe, the plant demoness. The three of them had reached the 3rd rank acolyte realm, being only a step away from becoming true magi. However, this step was also the most difficult one. It required dozens of years of studies, as well as luck and the appropriate resources.
There were only slightly more than 10 rank 3 acolytes in the tower. As for the rest of acolytes, the majority was stuck in the first rank like Evangeline, while about a hundred reached rank 2.
"Your subordinates are allowed to stay in Helios, but you will have to tell them to show extra carefulness around here. Although most of acolytes are calm by nature, and seek nothing but knowledge, there are a few ones full of frustration. These ones sometimes pick up on mortals with no magical power to vent their frustration. Furthermore, the laws in Helios are ambiguous. Most of these pushy acolytes usually get out unscathed after paying a fine", she explained.
Drake nodded. Helios was indeed a city. As his group were travelling through the city on the back of the best horses he possessed, he was contemplating the hundreds of shops in the alley, with acolytes and commoners arguing about prices. The hustle and bustle of this city was much different from what you usually heard though.
"Three blood replenishing pills for one magic crystal! This is a huge discount for a must-have item for long expeditions and small expeditions alike!", a woman in a blue-clothed robe was shouting.
Besides the shops, there were also a lot of sculptures and spiritual temples. Acolytes worshipped no god, but they meditated on a daily basis. What they worshipped was not a divine entity, they worshipped knowledge.
"Knowledge is power" was a common saying, a motto for acolytes.
Helios was not popular however for commoners and knights, because acolytes were…quite xenophobic and didn't see non-awakened people as their equals. Well, even the majority of knights felt that way since they were much stronger than the usual folk, so it wasn't very surprising for acolytes to be the way they were. And yet, ever since his entrance in the city, Drake managed to scan over a dozen knights, mostly city guards hired by the Magi. They were wearing very fashionable and sturdy armours. They were the 'Sentinels', an infamous legion belonging to Helios, rivalling or perhaps even surpassing the royal guard.
After all, these knights had access to acolyte-related markets. They could thus strengthen themselves with cheap toxins and strengthening potions. Furthermore, by selling their services to the sentinels, they received a low-grade Grand-knight level breathing technique and a knight-level swordsmanship. According to Evangeline, the Sentinels were over 400, with half of them being knights and the head of the sentinels being a Grand Knight.
The dress code was pretty strict in Helios. Azur and blue robes were reserved for rank 1 acolytes. Commoners were restricted to dark clothes while rank 2 acolytes were usually wearing red robes. As for rank 3 acolytes, they were very few in numbers and wore golden robes.
"Acolytes usually come from noble Houses, but it isn't necessarily true", Evangeline suddenly said, "Some awakened their spirits and became acolytes upon going through successful experiments made by an acolyte or a magus. Well, those who went through failed experiments often ended up dead so don't be surprised and don't accept whatever is thrown at your face", she suggested.
Drake gulped. He had heard about beastmen in the past. Turns out this species was actually a failed experiment of Magi. They had created them to mess with a hostile kingdom. However, not only did the beastmen conquer the said kingdom, they created another one in its place. The Magi thought them to be sterile, but it turns out there were a few weeks during the year in which they could mate and reproduce themselves. After merely a decade of fighting, the beastmen had created an empire.
This is how the Beastman Kingdom came to be founded.