The Emperor of Arcadia, the Grandmasters of the Seven Orders, the King of Orloth, the Duke of Kars—all were graduates of the Imperial Academy. Of course, their performances and gains vastly differed. Niklas von Skoll, the emperor, was the mightiest graduate of the Imperial Academy in the last 500 years.
His magical powers were such that with a spell, he could obliterate entire countries. Before him, the likes of King Erik could only grovel like baseborn serfs. And in this generation, only the Duke of Kars appeared as sufficiently gifted to catch up to the emperor's might. But whether he would live to reach that altitude still was a matter of debate.
In fact, within the imperial city, many noblemen and women wondered why Klaus still breathed.
"Although the Imperial Academy's strength loses to the top three Grand Orders, it can rival the lower four. The department chairs all are at least low-level Archons while the headmaster stands at the top-level. As for the remaining instructors, they at least are High Emissaries. How do you plan to subvert them?" Jezebel directly asked. While her strength surpassed that of the Imperial Academy, in the mortal plane, she couldn't run amok.
The higher they ranked, the more restricted fehls were in the mortal plane. Those at Ashera's level couldn't even step foot into it, at least not without triggering cataclysmic events. Although Jezebel's shackles were nowhere near that threshold, Kilian couldn't rely on her to overturn the seas and heavens.
"Let's not even discuss subverting; even the entrance is a problem," Kilian began, straightening his back to face his fehl partner. "500 qraftas for one year of tuition fees. On average, 50 qraftas per book. I'm too poor to set foot into the door." The Imperial Academy was part of the many topics discussed by Klaus; therefore, Kilian had an in-depth understanding of the institution.
Money served as a barrier of entry to prevent the lesser nobility from accessing the academy's elitist community. Typically - in terms of status - the descendants of marquises were the lowest-ranked students within the academy. Of course, some counts would break their treasury to send one offspring to the academy in hopes of building lifelong connections. As for magically gifted commoners, unless they obtained the sponsorship of high-ranking nobles, the Imperial Academy would never open its door to them.
In his previous life, if he'd not received the fehl taint, as the heir of Kars, Kilian would now be a student of the Imperial Academy with a status similar to royal princes. But now, he couldn't even afford to glance at the door—the plight of the common man.
"That's not difficult. Just rob the coin. Don't we have a viscount nearby awaiting plunder?" Jezebel offered, speaking with such candor that her words almost sounded righteous—almost.
Still, Kilian shook his head in disapproval. "Short-sighted, we might as well tame the cow with nano-spiders, and use him as a source of investments to turn the slums into a new source of income. Through the fleshcrafting of dead or living women, I can create an unrivaled brothel that will not only serve as a vast source of income but feed me with a large array of information."
"Would you rather use dead women because they'd entirely be at your service and wouldn't require further tempering? But at your current level, you can't possibly produce a functional brain."
"Actually, that doesn't really matter. I can produce and link their bodies to A.I. chips to replace the brain. That or create nano spiders to control the living. I just think that having noblemen scream in delight from the touch of corpse-made puppets would make my life more entertaining."
"Spoken like a true fehl. When do we start?"
"After we destroy the house and bury the dead lady."
Following the exchange, Jezebel snapped her fingers, making the two get dressed in record's time. They then stood up and walked out of the house. Throughout the slums, no proper burial place existed. Bodies were either tossed into ditches or cremated on open-air pyres. Kilian chose the latter. Understanding his thoughts, Jezebel snapped her fingers, causing orange flames to surge from the ramshackle house and turn it into a raging inferno.
Strangely, though of startling intensity, the flames didn't spread to the nearby houses, wrapping only the dwelling of the fallen Stenzel household.
Unlike the majority of other races, fehls didn't need incantations to cast spells. Instead, all spells stemmed from their will. They willed magic rather than weaving it. This was one of the many reasons why all scholars and researchers saw the fehl race as the apex of the arcane world.
Standing on the roof of the opposite dwelling, Kilian and Jezebel silently observed the cremation. An abrupt surge of fire and smoke quickly alerted the nearby denizens. Afraid of stray bullets, dozens rushed out to identify the source of the raging flames, attempting to extinguish it with water buckets to prevent further spread. All to no avail, of course.
Once they realized the fire not only wouldn't go away but also seemed unable to spread further, the majority returned to their houses, with those closest to the Stenzel household opting to sleep on the streets to wait the fire out. Only twelve figures remained.
On the one hand, a 1.9 meters tall herculean youth around the age of 17 that desperately dragged and hurled water at the inextinguishable fire. On the other hand, a green-eyed brunette of the same age directing ten men to support his efforts. Their sweat served no purpose, and after burning all it was meant to, the fire naturally died down.
Kilian's eyes went from the herculean youth to the brunette, seeking through Lukas' memories their names and bond to the Stenzel. Two names emerged from the memory pile: Bjorn and Lena.
Although it was now broad daylight, cloaked by Jezebel's magic, none could see the two sitting on the opposite house's roof. Bjorn and Lena were no exception, and thus had no idea of the pair of eyes scrutinizing them.
Faced with the ashes of Lukas' house, Bjorn dropped on his knees, eyes dazed by a mixture of shock and sorrow. At his right, Lena clenched her fists, refusing to believe that Lukas perished in the fire. Those were the strongest flames she'd ever witnessed in her life, leaving behind not the tiniest bit of debris. Undoubtedly, they were of a magical nature.
Three days ago, Lukas mysteriously vanished. Because he often left without explanation, no one thought more of it. But typically, he would return within 24 hours. Now the man wasn't back, but his house stood in ashes. Anyone would link the two.
Perhaps Lukas offended one he should not have and suffered violent retaliation. Lukas, Bjorn, and Lena all were childhood friends. But over the years, Lena stepped away from them, embracing the darker sides of the slums to form and lead her own band of renegades. Now an emerging power, her gang dominated the area—threatening the hegemony of the four principal gangs.
For several months, she'd tried to rope Lukas in. On the one hand, due to his apparent skills -- on the other hand, because of selfish motives. Of course, he denied her. And thinking of how spiteful words and a heated argument would stand their final moment, Lena felt bitterness swell within her heart.
As for Bjorn, for a decade, Lukas had been his only friend and a source of tremendous support. A slum orphan, he would not have survived the streets if not for the resourceful Lukas' assistance.
Later, although he managed to stand on his own feet, he never forgot the debt of kindness. The two of them had been through thick and thin, crossing the innumerable dangers of this wretched place back to back. Never did he expect that before they could carve their way out of it, Lukas would suffer such a ghastly fate!
But as the two lamented the fallen, Kilian emerged from the shadows, leaping toward the ground, and taking leisurely steps toward the kneeling Bjorn. Taken by surprise, both Bjorn and Lena spun toward the new entrant and were startled to see the face of the one they mourned a second before now standing in front of them.
In that instant, Bjorn couldn't care for the sudden appearance, rose to his feet, and with dripping tears, lept toward Kilian!
Alarmed, Kilian sidestepped, Bjorn met thin air - and in a resounding thud - the 1.9 meters tall, herculean youth tumbled onto the ground.