Within the Huadeli Hotel.
Linley, George, Yale, and Reynolds were all casually seated at a long table, which was covered with over ten exquisitely prepared dishes. Next to the dishes were fruit wine, liquor, and more. Right now, the four bros were drinking wine while casually chatting about recent events.
“Linley, last year, you should’ve attended the end of the year testing ceremony before going to the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. Last year, during the examination, Dixie showed that he had also reached the sixth rank. But you didn’t attend at all. Some people are saying that you are inferior to Dixie. Damn. Only the four of us know that you reached the sixth rank long ago.” Reynolds grumbled.
Linley drank a cup of wine, chuckling.
Magus of the sixth rank?
Ever since he entered that rare state of oneness and carved out the sculpture, ‘Awakening From the Dream’, over the course of ten days and ten nights, his spiritual energy had increased tenfold, helping Linley to vault almost directly from the sixth rank to the seventh rank.
In fact, just looking at spiritual energy, Linley would be an above-average magus of the seventh rank.
“Fourth Bro, you should know by now that Third Bro doesn’t care about this sort of stuff at all. If he cared, then he wouldn’t have skipped the annual competition every year.” Yale chortled. “Right, Third Bro, when this school semester just started, your Uncle Hillman came looking for you.”
Linley started. Looking at Yale, he immediately asked, “What did Uncle Hillman want?”
In the past, Linley had always gone home for the New Year. This previous year was the first and only year in which Linley spent the end of the winter and early spring in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts.
“Nothing really. Most likely, he was wondering why you didn’t go back for the New Year and was worried something had happened to you.” Yale said casually, then added, “Right. Something else we have to tell you. That same day your Uncle Hillman came to visit, the managing director of the Proulx Gallery came as well. The purpose of his visit was to see sculpture of yours, ‘Awakening From the Dream’.”
Linley coughed in shock. “The managing director? How did he know about ‘Awakening From the Dream’?”
Somewhat embarrassed, Reynolds said, “It’s all my fault. When Yale instructed people to carry your sculpture out of the mountain, I figured nobody knew how valuable it was, so I just had them leave it in our dormitory. That way, we bros could admire it from time to time. But I didn’t expect that Austoni would come looking for you, and came directly to our dorm. He managed to catch a glimpse of ‘Awakening From the Dream’, and then he informed the managing director of the existence of this sculpture.”
Linley nodded slightly.
“Linley, the managing director wants to know if you’d be willing to auction off your sculpture within the Proulx Gallery? If you aren’t willing to auction it off, he still hopes that you would be willing to put it on display in the Proulx Gallery. Will you agree?” Yale looked at Linley.
Without hesitating in the slightest, Linley shook his head.
“For now, I don’t wish to publicize the existence of ‘Awakening From the Dream’. And I don’t need money either.”
To Linley, ‘Awakening From the Dream’ represented a period of love and loss. But of course, after completing this sculpture, Linley had mentally transformed as well.
Especially during this period of time within the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. He had experienced the siege of over a hundred giant dragons, then watched two extremely powerful magical beasts battle to the death, and then nearly died himself before successfully drinking dragon’s blood and transforming into a Dragonblood Warrior.
After having experienced so much, the affairs of him and Alice seemed to be nothing more than a distant memory.
Linley had also learned to cherish the present.
“If Father knew that I could now assume Dragonform, how excited must he be?” Linley thought of his father.
Hogg’s greatest lifelong desire was to see one of his son’s become a Dragonblood Warrior. Little Wharton’s density of Dragonblood in his veins was sufficiently high, true, but Linley was capable of Dragonform, and even of reaching the eighth rank of power in Dragonform.
If this news reached Hogg, that his son had become a Dragonblood Warrior, he would be bursting with pride, no doubt.
Linley could guess as to how much this sculpture, ‘Awakening From the Dream’, would be worth. He also knew very well that storing such an enormous sculpture in Wushan township would not be safe. This was why he asked Yale to help him safeguard this sculpture.
To the enormous Dawson Conglomerate, this was nothing but a trifle.
After leaving the hotel, Linley and his bros were walking on the Shady Grove Street.
“Boss Yale, Second Bro, Fourth Bro. There’s something that I must inform you about.” Linley spoke after a period of silence.
Seeing how serious Linley looked, Yale, George, and Reynolds all focused their attention on him.
“Within these next few days, I intend to apply for graduation.” With difficulty, Linley forced out these words.
Graduating meant leaving the Ernst Institute and leaving his three bros behind. Linley had entered the Ernst Institute when he was nine years old. He was now seventeen. He had spent eight years here. Friends made during these innocent years, without any consideration of gain or ulterior motives, would always be true, genuine friends.
Linley couldn’t bear to part from his bros.
But in life, one must have some accomplishments. Upon graduating, he would have the chance to begin to gain titles, writs of nobility, a fiefdom, and perhaps an army. By then, he would be able to advance himself in leaps and bounds.
Yale, George, and Reynolds were all stunned. Yale was the first to recover. “Third Bro, why are you in such a hurry to graduate? What’s the big deal about graduating from the Ernst Institute early anyhow? Isn’t it great, we four bros being together here? And the Ernst Institute is far more peaceful than the outside world.”
George and Reynolds also hurriedly tried to dissuade Linley.
Linley shook his head. “Nah. We can’t always be hiding within the walls of the Ernst Institute and not interact with the outside world.”
“Third Bro, right now, you are only a magus of the sixth rank. Although a magus of the sixth rank is considered an expert in the outside world, there’s many people who are stronger than you. How about…you wait until you reach the seventh rank, and then you graduate.” George suggested.
Based on what George knew, there were two major hurdles for a magus to overcome in his training. The biggest hurdle, of course, was crossing from the ninth rank to the Saint-level. But the second biggest hurdle was from the sixth rank to the seventh rank.
From the ninth rank to the Saint-level, even if one had sufficient spiritual energy and had a powerful reserve of mageforce, one could still spend countless years without being able to break through that last hurdle. It was something which required luck and opportunity, a stroke of luck which allowed someone to suddenly comprehend the way.
And from the sixth to the seventh ranks, even geniuses would normally need ten or so years.
“I am already a magus of the seventh rank.” Linley told them directly.
“A magus of the seventh rank?”
The three bros of Linley stared at him, seemingly thunderstruck. Even a genius such as Dixie only became a magus of the sixth rank upon turning sixteen. If he worked extremely hard, perhaps when he was around thirty years of age, he would reach the seventh rank.
Linley was only seventeen years old!
“Third Bro, did you just say that you’ve reached the seventh rank?” Yale couldn’t believe it at all.
“Third Bro, you better not be tricking us.” George was also in disbelief.
Reynolds was silent. He only stared at Linley, not saying a word.
“Squeak squeak!” Bebe, on Linley’s shoulders, began to squeak excitedly towards Linley’s three bros while baring his fangs. Linley could hear Bebe’s voice in his head. “Boss, these three punks think you’re lying! Boss, use a spell of the seventh rank on’m, show’m!”
Linley glanced at Bebe. “Bebe, enough.”
A ‘wronged’ look on his face, Bebe glanced at Linley then fell silent.
“Bebe’s performing skills are pretty good, actually.” Linley secretly laughed, and then he looked at his three close friends. “Boss Yale. You three don’t believe me. When I go tomorrow to apply for graduation, you’ll see.”
Yale, George, and Reynolds all knew what sort of person Linley was. Linley wasn’t the type of guy to lie.
“Third Bro, you really accomplished it?”
Linley nodded slightly. “How about, I show you the Soaring Technique.” Linley began to mumble the words to a magical incantation, while Yale and the others quietly watched. After a while, wind-type elemental essence began swirling around his body, lifting Linley into the air.
Linley rose very slowly, hovering perhaps only twenty centimeters above the air. Someone looking from far away wouldn’t be able to tell that he was in mid-air at all.
“This is the Floating Technique.” Reynolds said.
The Floating Technique only allowed one to rise up and down.
“Watch closely.” Linley suddenly shot up into the air at an incline. Upon reaching the height of several tens of meters, he suddenly dropped down at high speed again. But once he reached the height of 20 centimeters, he once more came to a halt, maintaining a hovering height.
After maintaining this state for a few moments, Linley landed.
“The Soaring Technique?” Yale and the others were truly astonished.
Although this demonstration of Linley’s was seemingly simple, it also showed one thing very clearly. Being able to rise at an incline was definitely something only the Soaring Technique would allow.
“Hey, Linley! Long time no see! Didn’t imagine that I’d find you here, showing off your jumping skills.” From far away, a young man laughed as he walked over. From far away, Linley’s movement did indeed seem like he was jumping in the air.
To a very powerful warrior, jumping several dozen meters was not too difficult.
And a large majority of the people at the Ernst Institute knew that this genius, Linley, was not only a magus, he was also a mighty warrior. There had been people who had seen him easily carry a thousand-pound boulder inside his dormitory.
Linley, Yale, and others exchanged pleasantries with the fellow, as he was a neighbor living next door to them.
“Third Bro, you’ve really become a magus of the seventh rank. This can’t…can’t be possible? But just now, I…” George was the first one to say excitedly after the neighbor left.
“A seventeen year old magus of the seventh rank. My heavens. Has there ever been such a genius in the entire history of the Yulan continent?” Reynolds was getting excited as well.
Looking at Linley, Yale’s eyes were shining. “Even I am starting to look forward to Third Bro’s graduation ceremony. I want to see the looks on the faces of those test givers…”
The next morning. On the empty magical ability examination fields of the Ernst Institute, thirty instructors were standing in a line. In truth, four magus instructors were enough for a graduation test, but most instructors at the Ernst Institute had a lot of free time. Upon hearing that Linley was going to apply for graduation, they all came over to watch the fun.
After all, generally speaking, most students would only apply for graduation after being confirmed as a magus of the sixth rank. After spending some time at the sixth rank, only then would they apply for graduation. In a situation like that, there was no need for an actual graduation examination. Thus, a graduation examination was quite a rare event.
Thirty instructors, plus three students – Yale, George, and Reynolds.
Amidst the thirty or so instructors, there was even Vice Chancellor Deland [De’lan’te], who came here out of interest. As Deland had put it, “If one of the two greatest geniuses of our Institute is applying for graduation, of course I must be here to witness it.”
“Linley, utilize the earth-style spell, ‘Earth Spear Array’. Based on the size and speed of the earthen spears, we will be able to assess your level.” One of the test-givers spoke.
If his spell power had reached the sixth rank, then naturally he would be able to graduate.
Linley slightly shook his head.
All of the onlookers couldn’t help but feel suspicious. Vice Chancellor Deland spoke out. “Linley, aren’t you applying to graduate? What is going on?”
“I want to use wind-style magic.” Linley said with a smile.
Vice Chancellor Deland and the onlookers all laughed. They knew that Linley was a dual-element magus of wind and earth. But the test of magical strength was primarily a test of spiritual energy. It made no difference which element was tested; the underlying spiritual energy wouldn’t change.
“Go ahead.” Vice Chancellor Deland and the thirty odd instructors all grinned at Linley.
Linley immediately began to mutter the words to the seventh-ranked wind-style spell, ‘Soaring Technique’. After a while, a gust of wind began to swirl around Linley’s body. Linley’s body soared into the air, and then he began to agilely glide about in the air, sometimes turning, sometimes diving, sometimes flying straight at high speeds.
The thirty odd magus instructors were all shocked. They all knew what was implied by the usage of the Soaring Technique.
“A seventeen year old, dual-element magus of the seventh rank. This…” Vice Chancellor Deland immediately understood that the quiet Ernst Institute would perhaps no longer be quiet for a long, long time.