Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 61

As Claude had predicted, the diary of Magus Landes was more like a memoir. When Landes wrote in that diary of his, he had just become a third-rank rune magus, distinguishing himself from the other hundred plus apprentice magi and finally getting his own personal room in the magic tower that eventually got bombarded by cannons. He had only spent a few shaliuns to get the rune-paper diary after he had his own personal space.

That was why Landes diligently recounted his experiences ever since his childhood, ranging from how hard his parents worked and how loving his siblings were. The first ten pages of the diary were mostly recollections of the home he had left behind. However, Claude could tell that Landes was really proud of himself for becoming a third-rank rune magus. He had spent only four short years to grow from an illiterate, 14-year-old youth to a third-grade rune magus. Landes believed that he didn't let his parents down and used his talent in magic adequately.

As the diary was written entirely in ancient Hez, Claude spent a lot of time to read through it. From time to time, there would be some words he was unfamiliar with and he had to refer to the dictionary for a definition. But after he read the ten or so pages of the magus's recollection, Claude realized that magi weren't as evil as the Freian legends often depicted them as.

Landes wrote that his home was the village of Whitestag, a settlement that was built near the scenic Lake Balinga. Claude was aware that the village was what his town used to be. However, Landes noted that the entire southwestern area where the three prefectures were currently located within belonged completely to the owner of the magic tower, Seven-ring Archmagus Loenk. But as the great archmagus was busy probing the arcane secrets of magic, he couldn't be bothered to deal with managing his land and left it to the three magi households.

Landes's family consisted of eight people. Apart from him and his parents, he had two elder brothers and two sisters, and a grandmother--neither Landes nor his grandmother particularly liked each other--who lived together with them.

Landes's father owned a small fishing boat and would bring his two brothers to fish in Lake Balinga early in the morning before the sun even rose. They had around one acre of farmland and a small vegetable garden, which were tended to by his mother and elder sister. His family also owned a cow and horse. That was what Landes was mainly tasked with when he was young. He had to cut lots of grass to feed the two animals.

Landes's grandmother and younger sister managed the chores in the house and fed the ten plus chickens they owned. Even though the whole family worked day and night without rest, they had to give out half of everything they produced as tax to the magi nobles. What they were left with could barely sustain the whole family.

In time, Landes's two elder brothers and elder sister grew up and the matter of their marriage became ever more pressing. It caused his parents much distress and they didn't know where they would find that huge a sum of money for their children to start their own families. It was during that year that the test for apprentice magi that was held once every decade took place.

The apprentice magi test was conducted on all the children in Armagus Loenk's domain. The children to be tested ranged from five to fifteen. Children above twelve years of age who were discovered to have talent in magic would be sent to the magic tower and be developed into apprentice magi while those younger than twelve would be marked and tested once more when they reached twelve years of age. If their talent for magic was retained, they would be brought into the tower to become apprentices.

Huh, magic talent can change over time too? thought Claude. However, the contents of the diary soon started to pique his interest. Landes said that ever since childhood, his sense of hearing had been really sensitive. No matter how quiet his grandmother complained to his parents about him slacking off instead of taking care of the two large animals at home, he could hear it all clearly. That was the reason he didn't quite like his grandmother even though she made a conscious effort to treat all the siblings fairly on the surface.

Landes wrote that sometimes, he would bring the cow and horse to graze. While they did so, he would lie down on the grassy ground. But even though he closed his eyes, the surroundings and the movements of the two animals were still clearly visible in his mind, as if he was actually seeing the scene with his own two eyes. Isn't this the same as me? Claude thought, Landes's mental power seems quite strong as well.

The magus who came to Whitestag to test the children was a man with a long beard. He was dressed in a black robe and wore a stern expression. Many of the children found him to be the most terrifying person they met.

That scary magus was the same one who came every year with guards to collect taxes. When the villagers found out about his arrival, they promptly brought out any children around that age range and lined them up for the magic talent evaluation.

Landes's parents brought him and his sister to the end of the line. There were 40 other families whose children would be evaluated as well. There were more than 50 children lining up in total.

Whitestag should be the last place in the southwestern area where the evaluation would be carried out. Beside the scary magus were ten or so children who dressed in similar-looking gray robes. There were both boys and girls among them and each and every one of them stood there proudly and watched the children who would be evaluated without a sound.

The evaluation was carried out really quickly as not a single child lined up in front of Landes showed any sign of talent. It didn't take long for it to be his family's turn. His parents had his younger sister tested first. The device used for the testing was a transparent crystal ball. The grim-looking magus had Landes's sister stare into the ball and Landes seemed to see the ball flash green. The grim-looking magus said that Landes's sister's affinity with the wood element was only three and that she didn't qualify.

After that, it was finally his turn. He carefully looked into the crystal ball on the rack in front of him. He wanted to touch it to find out how it felt, but the magus didn't give him that opportunity. Landes was only told to stare into the ball and tell him what was inside it.

It was then when he did notice that there was something he found hard to see within the ball. It was colorless and transparent. It looked like liquid that flowed within the crystal ball to him. But the more it appeared like it to him, the harder Landes focused his stare. He wanted to see what it really was.

And he wasn't disappointed. He could finally discern the mysterious object in the crystal ball. It was a ball of burning fire. The longer it burned, the more the flame grew. It became redder and redder as the embers flashed within in all sorts of shapes and forms. Just like the clouds in the sky, sometimes the flames resembled sheeps, while other times they resembled houses.

By the time the embers within the crystal ball started to darken, the ball had returned to its former clear state. Landes snapped out of it and looked up, only to see the surprised look of the magus who was evaluating him. The magus seemed to be screaming. "Affinity with the fire element: nine! Mental power: eight! You're chosen!"

Landes noted in his diary that a year after he went to the magic tower to begin his life as an apprentice, he came to know the nature of the crystal ball after picking up some basic knowledge. It was called a talent-evaluation ball and it was a magical item personally crafted and refined by the owner of the magic tower for that precise purpose.

The magi considered all people to have varying degrees of magical talent. The commoners were no exception. They quantified the talent using elemental affinity. The degree of talent was categorized based on score. Scores of one to two were considered below average. Three to four was considered average, while five to six was considered qualified.

But if the person being evaluated was a commoner, they didn't stand a chance. Nurturing magi required lots of magical resources, especially with regards to rank advancement. Only descendants of magi noble families would stand a chance of being trained if they only had affinities in the five to six range.

There was a saying among the magi nobles that controlled the entirety of distribution of magical resources. What one lacked in talent, one made up with resources'. Just like the online games in Claude's previous life, players could opt for real-money items to give them a boost in game.

No matter how much time and effort a free player invested into his own character, he would never be able to best a cash player, who only had to spend money to fully arm their character to beat the shit out of the free players.

An elemental affinity of seven to eight was a sign of great talent. Even children of commoners with that kind of talent were worth nurturing. They didn't have to use too many magical resources and all they had to do was to learn the basics of magic and they would be able to make it to the fifth or sixth ring with time and effort. By then, they would have the opportunity to become an assistant to a high-ranked magus and stand a chance to be selected as a supervisor of other magi.

The highest category of magical talent included those who had an elemental affinity score of nine or ten. Those people could already be considered geniuses. If any of the descendants of magi noble families were discovered to have that high affinity, it was an occasion worth celebrating. The household wouldn't have to worry about their livelihood in the coming three centuries.

It was a shame that great talent such as that wouldn't affect the futures of children of commoners much. In the end, they would only end up as five-ring black iron magi. In that sense, they were even inferior to the magi noble descendants who scored only a five or a six. The resources that were given to those people was something that black iron magi could never amass over their whole lifetimes.

Apart from testing elemental affinity, the ball could also measure the size of mental power. Usually, people with high elemental affinity also had high mental power.

In the case of Landes, given his high affinity with the fire element, the formless liquid within the ball turned into fire when he stared closely. It burned with a brightness in accordance to the level of his affinity. While Landes himself couldn't quite tell how bright it was, the magus standing beside him could see everything clearly.

The degree of mental power was also reflected in the changes of the liquid within the crystal ball. Those with high mental power would cause the liquid in the ball to morph multiple times and last longer.

In the case of Landes, the flames burning within the ball morphed into multiple shapes like clouds. That was a sign of his high mental power, which the magus didn't fail to take note of.

Back then, Landes still didn't know what the magus meant when he said he was chosen. All he felt was fear. But soon, the tax collection official came over to his parents to congratulate them and also announced that they were exempt from taxes as Landes would soon become an apprentice magus.

That news was a great surprise for Landes's parents. They were finally convinced that Landes being chosen was a good thing. So, after they went home, they held a large celebration and invited their neighbors over. As they stuffed their bellies with ale and food, they began to imagine the rich lives they would lead now that they no longer had to pay taxes. They could build houses for their older children in two or three years.

However, Landes found it to be a huge shock. His family had forgotten the fact that he would have to leave his home with the grim-looking magus the next morning on a journey he knew next to nothing of. He felt fear, panic and loneliness. After all, he was but a 14-year-old youth who was going to leave town for the first time in his life with a bunch of strangers.

Support Ryogawa and his work Black Iron's Glory