Chapter 40

“Zenith! How wonderful to see you again, and so soon I might add. Need any supplies? Food? Clothes? A letter of good behavior for Markus?” Kate waved as Markus and Zenith stepped into her shop, beaming happily at Markus. “I heard what you did, brave little man. Thank you for stepping up to protect Joanna, too. She’s a little shy.” Their first stop had been to Kate’s shop, right around the time Zenith thought most stores would open.

Walking in, Markus puffed up his chest and eyed the room. “Hah! That’s what Cidala’s Heroes are here for! To protect those in need, and to beat the bad guys up!” Markus declared proudly as he snuck some candy out of a bowl. Zenith knuckled his head lightly.

“Ugh, don’t get me started with that, Kate. How was I supposed to know Markus was going to get into a fight? I’m glad that none of those kids are in Lily’s party, and I would put gold down saying that Emilia was not too thrilled of the idea either.”

Kate snickered. “Nope. Emilia was pissed after you left. Not only because you left in a hurry, but also because of those parents. Jerald and Eugene Lewis have been hoping to secure Lily’s engagement with their son, Randolf, for years now. They’ve been trying to pull their weight around here too, even before I met them at the tea party and learned why it’s been so hard to get contracts in Nespe. They’ve literally blacklisted me! Me! The Vice-chair of Cidala’s Merchant Association! You can have that candy, Markus, as the reward for punching their son’s face in. Serves them right too.” 

“Kate, don’t reward bad behavior! Markus, banish that thought from your head.” Zenith chided, but lightly, as she agreed with Kate’s reasoning.

“Yes, Auntie. Can I go play with Joanna and Xavier? John went with his parents hunting for the next week or so.” Markus asked as he chewed his treat.

Casting a quick look at Kate, she answered after seeing her nod. “Sure, go ahead. You stay with Miss Kate’s family.”

Zenith whispered to Kate after Markus left the room. “Hey, what is the punishment for Class manipulation? I mean, all I got was a fine since Tyler agreed it was what he wanted. But, worst-case scenario, what would happen?”

“Hm? Your asking that now? I don’t know about other countries, but here it’s a pretty serious crime. Intentionally leading someone to a wrong class is banishment and being marked as a criminal. Otherwise, it’s the death penalty if it can be proven. Honestly, you should be a little more wary, Zenith.”

Zenith paled. “Oh. Well good thing Tyler said I didn’t. Umm, I’ll be at the library if you need me. It shouldn’t take too long to find what I need, but we might be staying the night here in Cidala if that is alright, Kate.”

“No problem, Zenith. Say hi to Emilia for me too.” 

Cidala’s library was a quaint stone building set in the middle of the town, directly opposite of the square to Kate’s store. Luckily she asked for directions before she left since the town still relied on the antiquated system of using symbols on signboards to denote what the building’s use was. Zenith stared hard at the store with a frown. “I can’t believe that I had to ask for directions. If I believed Paige’s description of the library, I would have been looking for a much grander building than this.” It was a rather unassuming building, barely larger than Kate’s own store. it’s stone walls blending in with the town around it. Even the door itself looks like it was made out of stone and reinforced with metal bars around it.

She walked around the building curiously, noting that the library was separated by a firebreak and was seemingly separated away from the rest of the town, even though it was clearly in the middle of the town. “The library so important that I have to be guarded this heavily? Whatever. I’ve spent many a night reading by torchlight. Maybe I should learn [[Mana Light]] again. I’m coming in!” She yelled as she tapped on the doorway.

The door opened to reveal a rather impressive view. From where she was standing outside, the building looked fairly boring, but the inside was very different from her thoughts. The library’s inside had been excavated into multiple levels, each one slightly smaller than the level above it. The bookshelves were built directly into the walls, leaving a majority of the building empty. Directly in the middle of the ceiling above was a rather large skylight with a glass orb hung right below it, casting a nice glow of light across the entirety of the building. 

“Okay, that is a little more impressive. I can see why Lily enjoyed reading here. With no windows, I daresay there’d hardly be any distractions when reading.”

“It is easier to fall asleep though, so you need to have a really good book to keep you awake,” a voice Zenith recognized immediately. “If I knew you were coming back so soon, I would have met you at Kate’s shop before I started my shift here. I presume that is where you left Marcus at, if you’ve brought him with you.”

“Emilia! So good to see you again! I actually forgot that you are the part-time librarian for the town. I thought you would have quit once Lily went to school?” Zenith cast of confused gaze over at her friend. She sat her bag and staff down to give Amelia a big hug. 

Her friend really rolled her eyes but accepted the hug. “It’s always nice to see you my daughter’s favorite teacher. Or should I call you her mentor instead? Honestly Zenith, you could have told me that you accepted Lily as a true apprentice years ago. I wouldn’t have invited so many of the teacher’s here. Some of the more prominent magic teachers were impressed by her level.”

“Well, a teacher and a mentor are almost the same thing. if I knew how big of a deal it was I would have asked you first. Sorry.” Zenith winced and apologized profusely. She really hadn’t known the difference between a mentor and a teacher, and this had been her first time teaching outside of a school.

Her friend accepted her apology with a wave of her hand. “It’s okay, Zenith. Although I am her parent, she has to decide by herself who her mentor will be. And judging by your affinities, I think Lily chose well. You really suprised everyone there with your affinities. You wouldn’t be able to tell your affinity to wind based on your hair color. But I guess that is one of the good things about having dual affinities.”

“Ah, who leaked that news? The magic teacher or one of the children?”

“The teacher did. She was really impressed by your control of mana and knowledge of formations, too. She’s is going to be Lily’s first year magic teacher.”

“Eh? Knowledge of formations?”

“According to her, you knew how to activate the formation without any outside help. She had asked what school you previously taught at, but I didn’t say which school you originally went to since that is your own personal matter.”

Zenith blinked. “Thank you for that, Emilia.”

She smiled back. “You don’t get to my position without having a bit of discretion. You treat Lily and I well and with respect, and that is enough for me.”

Happily smiling, Lily looked around the library and browsed the titles of the many books available. “Is there any rule about checking books out? Paige wanted to read some in her free time, but…”

Emilia frowned at the question and pulled out a worn handbook from where her desk she was sitting, coincidentally next to the main door. She pulled a lever and the door slowly closed, and as it fully closed a magic formation appeared on the door, the symbols quickly circled the library walls and silently disappeared. “The library is warded? Why on earth would a library have a formation? Even the town gates didn’t have a magic circle reinforcing it. Aren’t magic circles supposed to be rare?”

Emilia merely shrugged her shoulders. “Every library is considered the closest evacuation point besides the defensive lines castles. We have full confidence that we can last at least a few weeks, which would give enough time for the army to come and rescue us. Or, that is the hope anyways. I heard that most of the libraries in the towns closest to Evidia were left standing, but everyone inside starved to death. I don’t know which way I’d prefer to die at that point.”

 Zenith walked up to the door and traced the outline of the magic circle. “It’s well made. Offensive and defensive spell matrixes, and message symbols are embedded into it as well to alert someone if it has been broken. I don’t know how much of a beating it can take, but judging by how it circled the walls it was meant to distribute the force across the perimeter.”

Emilia walked up and stood next to Zenith, frowning at the magic circle. “Peter had a soft spot for this country. The popular consensus is that he fell in love with the queen. He personally warded every library himself even. I don’t know about all that, but according to Peter Alduit, each library can withstand at least one blow from an Elder Dragon.”

“Peter Alduit? The Warrior? Why would he know magic circle theory?”

Emilia sighed. “Honestly Zenith, your social and historical knowledge is severely lacking. He’s the person who disseminated the creation of magic circles. The Imperial Family was not happy with him for doing that. I’ll recommend a few books for you to read. And according to the rulebook, I do have the authority to lend books out. What books does Paige want?”

“Warrior books of course. If you have a book on Peter, that would be great too. Can you point me in the right direction to the history books? I want to read up on some of the local folk tales.”

“We do have a few of the more popular Warrior bibliographies, but for history and folk tales… we might have to get more of those transferred here. I think our library only has three or four of those available. since most people don’t read history books for fun. I have ‘Imperial Rule’ and ‘Classic Folktales of the Western Countries’

“Then what do the rest of these books cover? By my estimates, there are hundreds of books here,” Zenith looked around at the library in confusion. 

“The usual genres, Zenith. Mainly there are children books, romance, fantasy, suspense stories. And then there is a small subset of training manuals for battle classes. It’s not the newest training manuals, but they do help guide learning”

“…huh?”

‘….and so, the mana must be released from your core at a rate of ten mana cost per second. Circulating the mana counterclockwise around your core, you can condense the mana to become denser prior to spellcasting. The tier zero spell [[Gust]] can thus be formed by simply releasing your mana so long as the velocity of the mana wave is directed in a small area in a small timeframe. Thus, the basis of wind spells are condensing mana and releasing in a short amount of time.’

“What is this crap? Mana cost per second?” Zenith mumbled to herself as she read the basic training manual, ‘Introduction to Wind Magic’, that Emilia had shown her. Lily had read all of the training manuals in the library prior to her being taught by Zenith, and she quickly realized why Lily had initially been disappointed in her magic lessons. Everything Zenith had taught was more based upon visualization and intent rather than a specific method to spellcasting. To quantify how much mana one should output per spell was a little…well, weird.

Blinking, Zenith followed the spellbook instructions and quickly realized that the book was partially correct after she figured out the technical terms, but the amount of mana that was needed was far greater than what she was used to. ‘I’m a full Wind Mage and even I needed time to figure this out. How long would it take someone self-studying?’

Zenith sat the book down and did some rough calculations in her head, her right hand tapping the desk rythmatically. She stopped tapping and waved her left hand suddenly, a faint gust appeared around her and flipped the cover of her book closed. “It’s roughly three times more than what should be required. Is it because you are skipping the visualization and intent portion and forcing the mana to retain its shape? A simple tier zero spell shouldn’t cost as much as a tier one spell. Hrmm… at that point, an Apprentice would get [Mana Condensing] as their first Skill. It’s not a bad skill to have, but it’s not really useful to a Mage as [Mana Sense] or [Magic Moulding]. Spells would be slightly stronger due to the condensed mana, but it would be much harder to cast spells continuously. At least with [Mana Sense], you could focus on which element to absorb. How fast would a Mage’s natural recovery speed be with [Mana Condensing]?” She frowned as she thought of the ramifications that would have for Mages everywhere.

And that was just one introductory spellbook. Looking at the array of books in front of her, Zenith realized she was going to have a long day ahead of her.

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