Chapter 42

“Hmmm, and these are the only books they have? I thought a library would have more than just this?” Paige exclaimed as she skimmed the titles of the books Zenith had brought her. She had arrived around midday with the supplies from Nespe to help heal Nick. Nick rocked in the chair beside the couch as Zenith helped give Nick the medicine. Markus was already asleep, as though he didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Probably didn’t, judging by the way Zenith was yawning as well.

“Well, I may not have looked as closely for Warrior biographies as I should have. I got a little sidetracked on a few other books while I was there, but Emilia said those are the ones she recommended for you.”

“No books on Peter?”

“None that were available, no. I could ask, but th-“

“Meh, it’ll be fine. Who know’s what the Imperial Family wrote about him; it’s probably all propaganda anyways. Maybe one of these days I’ll read up on what my brother did. Hm?” Interrupting Zenith, Paige looked over at the books Zenith had handed her, she read the label aloud. ” ‘Wind Tome of KnowledgeApprentice Mage Index of Spells’,Zenith, what are these books? These look…ancient. Who even writes like that anymore?” Flipping the pages, she scanned a few pages and scoffed. “These are very outdated. I hope that’s not what Lily was learning.”

“That’s what every library has supposedly. It’s really, really, outdated materials. Even I’ve never read heard of these books before.”

Skimming through the magic books, Paige started to laugh as she glanced at the other books. “Haha, these books are old, Zenith. And outdated, but do you know why?”

“Huh?” Zenith cocked her head while Nick stared at Paige in incomprehension.

“Well, you know I said I escaped from the Imperial Family right? Well, I didn’t just take a Wardstone and leave in the night. No, I took far more than just that. I took everything. If it wasn’t bolted down, I took it when I left. Books, weapons, equipment. It’s no wonder current magic theory is so far behind, it’s literally centuries behind what the Imperial family is teaching.”

Zenith’s eyes widened. “You mean..”

“Yup, the current magic theory we had was based upon Imperial Family research. They kept a pretty tight stranglehold on knowledge. Which is why I initially traveled across the Empire to different countries. The first thing I did was ‘gift’ the information to the most prestigious, and least connected to the Imperial family, schools and sects in certain countries. Of course, I had to hurry from one place to the next before the Imperial Scions could catch me, but it worked. With so many countries increasing their powers and the instability caused by only certain countries growing, the Imperial Family decided it was not going to risk civil war amongst the empire and released their full research to all.”

“Wasn’t that dangerous though? What if it didn’t work as you planned?”

“Meh, I was already wanted the moment I escaped. What’re a few more reasons? Besides, even if it didn’t work like that, the chaos would have covered my tracks, so it was a win-win situation for me. Anyway, after that I laid low and took my time traveling in disguise.” Paige sat back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. “I still don’t have any idea why the gods are unknown here, I’ll admit that. But what you learned in school Zenith is straight from the Imperial Family. If current mages don’t have that…”

“…then only by joining the imperial family would you be able to match up against their prodigies.” Zenith’s eyes widened as she thought of the implications.

“Yup. Add in the fact that magic circles are now rare and the mortality rate is extremely high, means the Imperial Family has a great recruitment tool. Obviously, I don’t know the real reason why Peter only released the knowledge for status checkers, but if I had to guess, his Imperial backing probably needed a reason to “gift” it to the the rest of the Empire. Someone probably intended to stop demihumans from infiltrating past the borderlands. Much easier for them to let the border countries watch the flow of people than themselves.”

“Paige, you are going off-topic. Are you sure that mages really learned to condense mana their first skill back then?” Zenith pressed her question.

“Mhmm. Back then, there was a large portion of mages who had that skill. A mage with [Mana Condensing] alone could power a magic circle quickly and could double as heavy artillery, but the downside is the low recovery rate. But [Mana Sense] allows for greater mobility and uses than a single spell, which is why most battle mages always prefer having mana sense instead.”

Paige got out of her chair and moved over to the chalkboard Zenith had made for her lessons. “It comes down to situational confrontations. In armies, a mage with [Mana Condensing] is preferred, but in parties, [Mana Sense] is preferred. Why do you think the defensive lines were able to last so long? The formations protecting the castles all had multiple mages powering it. Even I would hesitate a bit before assaulting a magic fortified castle with ten or more mages. Not impossible to do, but definitely time-consuming, noticeable, and hard if you can’t tire out the mages faster than they rotate out. Having both skills would be great, but most mages tend to have one or the other.”

“…will there be any problems for Lily?”

“…there…there shouldn’t be any problems for Lily. Or for Tyler either. Even back then, Mages outside of the Imperial Family had known of [Mana Sense], but the specific training regime was not known.” Paige said while biting her lip, thinking hard about the ramifications. “No, she should be fine. There were a few Mages who could rival Imperial Mages even back then. Just claim you learned it from an ancient tome or something and no one will know any better. It’s not like anyone can refute it. In fact, I think I have some old books you can look through to familiarize yourself with current standards. Be careful with them though; they are all originals.” Grasping her ring, she quickly muttered the release code and flipped through the transparent boxes, tapping on a few. At once, a pile of books landed heavily on the floor.

Zenith poked through the pile and stared at the titles. ‘Overlord of Magic.’, ‘Harmonic Mana Skill’, ‘Mana Physiology’, ‘Classical Wind Magic’, ‘Fire Magic Basics’, ‘How to train an Apprentice’, and those were the top ones she could see. She recognized a few of the titles as she shifted on her knees to look through the pile of books, but the others had confused her”…why did I have to go to the library if you had all these books? And what are some of these books?

“…Frankly, I forgot that I had them.” Paige shrugged as she looked over the books she had deposited. “They are books I had leftover or got in exchange for the books I gave away. You can read them if you like. I don’t know about the quality or content of them, but they should cover a decent amount of topics. Since you are a Teacher, you may be able to learn spells and skills faster. If that is the case, I would suggest learning [Mana Condensing] if you are able to, and maybe some other spells as well.”

“I’ll try. I’ve never seen a Battle Mage with both skill sets, but it’s not like we are pressed for time.”

Nick grunted and sat up, his hand grasping his chest. “Paige. You said you taught the Rangers early on, or at least two of the founders. What would change if you hadn’t taught them. We never really talked about what ramifications your past would have, otherwise I’m sure we would have noticed this issue much earlier.” 

“Well, my past is my past. I’m not keen on looking back.” Paige muttered. She cocked her head in thought as she thought about her time training. Did she have a large roll in it? “Well…I don’t think I played too big a role? The Alcudian Royal Family had the plan already set. I was still laying low at the time, so I was just one of the trainers; and I mainly taught survival skills, not archery. So I don’t think that much should change in the long run. Maybe a few of the sayings in the Ranger Handbook; and maybe one or two fewer women in the organization as a whole?” 

Nick gave her a sidelong glance at her account, “Huh. From the way you were talking before, I almost believed that you trained the entire group yourself.”

“That would be ridiculous. Besides, if I needed to hit a target at range, I’d throw a throwing knife at it; not drop my sword, unhook my shield, take out a bow, string it, aim and shoot. I mean, I could probably do it, but it’s not my forte. So, all in all, barring the wilderness training and a few female Rangers, not much should have changed.” Giving Nick a sidelong glance, Paige settled back down into her chair and reviewed the books Zenith had brought once again. None of them were well known, and all of them were Human, which hardly made sense considering the top hundred national heroes were separated evenly between Humans, Demons, and Halfbloods. ‘Did Rebecca not implement her policy to allow Demons to hold rank? I mean, it was her idea and she had no real opposition against it that I remember. Hrmmm, I didn’t think that much would change if I wasn’t around… I’ll ask Tyler when he comes back. He’ll know better than Zenith what to look for.’ 

 “I sent a message to Tyler. The hawk should have just arrived by now. I’ll send a regular messenger bird in a few days once the reply comes.” Paige remarked off hand, while she flipped through a book. “

“How did you learn to train animals, Paige? I thought Nick would be a better trainer than he is, no offense Nick. You can barely ride the draft pony.” Zenith gave Nick a fake mocking look. He took it in jest and tched painfully.

“I’m not a Ranger Falconer, okay. I barely tolerate war dogs, much less mundane farm animals. You’ll see me in a much better light after I get a Ranger horse. I just have bad memories of other typical companion animals. Trust me,I’ve seen more than one Ranger retire after having to kill an injured companion. Horses you can take anywhere and not attract attention; dogs and falcons not so much.” Nick dryly said.

“You pick up some tricks here and there when you travel. You’d be amazed at how slow news travels across the Empire. For more important messages it’s still better to go in person than to rely on messenger birds, even elite ones. We’re just lucky we found a nest here; otherwise, it’d take a few years to get it trained to the point of listening when it is out of sight. Hey, listen to this..” Paige furrowed her brows and read aloud a passage she noticed. ” ‘…after a hard battle against the Demons Army, Vanguard Sanderson successfully advanced his Class to Sentinel. Of his surviving party, only two came out unscathed and advanced their Classes; Dolman and Heva, respectively to Sharpshooter and Soldier. Thus, the party…’ ” As she trailed off, she looked over at Nick and Zenith. “Did you notice the problem?” 

Nick looked grave, while Zenith pondered over what Paige had said. “…the Classes. Zenith, you said Tyler received the Apprentice Vanguard Class after he chose the shield handles. Right after?”

“…most likely. I only checked before I left with Markus, but he did indeed have the Class. Lily had her Apprentice Mage Class too, but I was pretty sure she had it to begin with. I’ve never heard of anyone actually being able to cast elemental spells without at least the Apprentice Mage Class. Being able to focus and sense mana is one thing, sure, but controlling the elements is very hard without the class. Once they hit puberty it’s a different story, since a person’s mana core finally condenses and solidifies to its final state.” Zenith tapped her chin lightly as she thought about her apprentice. “But Kate did say that Xavier confirmed he wanted to be a Shopkeeper of all things. I guess being able to decide your class does come with benefits, and potential problems too.”

Nick shared a look with Paige, “I think Classes just got a lot more complicated.”

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