~~Grand Market in the Northern District, Five O’clock in the Afternoon~~
From the simple explanations we had received in the reception office, I had noted down three major points.
First, the entrance ceremony will be on the First Day of the Fourth Month.
Second, we must be dressed appropriately as Mages for the ceremony.
Third, the enrollment fee will be paid on the day of the ceremony, at the reception before we attended the ceremony itself.
Those were the important parts.
However, Lina and I were exempt from the enrollment fee.
While we were in the reception office, Irene had let herself in and informed Trace of our graded performance.
We both had been given perfect scores, which seemed to be why we were exempt from the fee.
Even Trace was surprised, but what surprised me most was…
“You’re the top of this class of candidates, Asley.”
It was what Irene had told me.
The honor was supposed to be awarded to the candidate who achieved a perfect score, but since there were multiple perfect scores this semester, it was awarded to me for being the only one who solved the optional question.
Lina was so happy for me that she couldn’t hold back tears.
Pochi, on the other hand, pointed at me and laughed.
Makes me wonder where that stark contrast came from…
Keeping calm among the commotion, Irene only told me that she would be “looking forward to what’s to come,” and left it at that.
I was not particularly excited, back then nor now, but in the reception office, I was shaking for some unknown reason.
Lina supported me by holding down my hands.
And once again, Pochi pointed at me and laughed.
Makes me wonder if she actually is my Familiar…
Although we were exempt from the enrollment fee, that did not mean the monthly tuition was going anywhere. We still had to pay 1,500 Gold a person each month.
It was nice and all to have a surplus of funds to spend, but it was clear that we wouldn’t be living most comfortably in the coming months.
Having heard that the Magic University had student dormitories, I had asked Trace for details and learned that a month’s rent, meals not included, would cost 500 Gold a person, a piece of information I was greatly thankful for.
Lina and I processed the rent contract, and would start our boarding school life in the Third Month, a little before the school commenced.
With that said, we still needed a place to stay for a few days before then… So we planned to make some money at the Guild, as usual.
Perhaps because she started to feel ashamed of the attention my clothes attracted while in town, Lina made the bold proposal that she would get me new clothes with the 10,000 Gold she had at her disposal.
I had told her to get something for herself instead, but she had strongly objected to it, an act most unusual for her, which brought us to the Grand Market in the northern district.
“Wow… So many people…”
“I think I might get sick just looking at them…”
“Your clothes do stand out too much, Master. Surely you’ve noticed that the people were avoiding you?”
“Of course I do. I can be thick headed at times, sure, but not oblivious.”
“All right then, leave your wardrobe woes to Lina and me!”
I’m skeptical about Pochi, but I’d probably have no worries with Lina’s choices.
We went in and out of various shops in search of the right clothes. A few times, I had been rejected entrance due to my appearance, but eventually, we decided one thing to get after another.
It was also worth mentioning that Familiars were permitted entrance into various establishments on the basis that they were not monsters
The two declared right as I emerged from the dressing room of the last store.
“Hey… isn’t this a bit too flashy?”
I looked down at the clothes I now had on.
“The clothes make the man, sir!”
“It’s great, Sir Asley♪”
“But… this is…”
Black boots, tawny dress pants, black polo-necked sweater, and a decorative silver key necklace. And then…
“Does it really have to be this wine-red mantle?”
“It suits you! Now you look the part for a Great Mage!”
“The clothes make the man, sir!”
I got a sense of mocking from Pochi words, but it was she who had chosen this mantle for me.
Maybe that was Pochi’s way to praise something indirectly.
Lina did go a little over her budget, but she couldn’t help it since she wanted me to have all the good stuff.
Afterwards, I told the two that I had business to attend to, and sent the two back to the inn.
Wanting to congratulate Lina on being accepted into the Magic University, I set out to buy her a gift.
I had long decided what I wanted to get. A mage’s indispensable tool… a staff.
Staves weren’t necessarily needed for mages, but through my research, I had concluded that they assisted with Spell Circles’ air-tracing and were a great medium for concentrating arcane energy output. There was a great difference in speed between air-tracing Spell Circles by hand and with a staff. The latter was far faster.
In the same vein, staves played a large part in arcane energy accumulation and release. Compared to using one’s own body, it was more efficient to perform magic with tools such as staves.
For those very reasons, I had Lina use a stick for her training the past two years. Still, those were just handmade canes from the retirement home, not something specifically made for mages.
Which brought me to the idea of this surprise gift.
For Lina, an excellent mage, one of my first pupils, and a newly independent girl, I had to choose most carefully. With that in mind, I have come to Gaston’s Magic Tool Specialist Store, said to be the definitive supplier of a mage’s needs.
The Magic Tool Specialist Store was run by one of the Six Archmages, Gaston the Great Mage of Flame, and dealt in the myriad of magical tools he personally created.
The store was to the west of the Magic University, and it would appear to one as just some old wooden house… However, once nearby, I could feel faint traces of magic mixed in the air.
As soon as I opened the door, a raspy voice greeted me, in sync with the ringing of the doorbell.
In the innermost part of the store was an old man with scruffy black hair, full beard, and thick eyebrows, sitting in a chair and reading a book.
My vision was filled with shelves of magic and alchemy tools, including and not limited to books, scrolls, crafting materials, flasks, daggers, and jewels.
Even for me, who had drowned in research for many long years, found the sight to be impressive.
“Excuse me, sir, I’d like to purchase a staff… where would I find them?”
The old man slid down his glasses from his forehead and looked at me. At the same time, he pointed to his right, and I nodded to him in acknowledgement before heading there.
In that corner, a great variety of staves had been leaned against the wall. Wooden, iron, other special metals, so many choices that I had difficulty choosing.
“Getting one for yourself, young man?”
…My heart might have skipped a beat there. That or my blood flow just stopped for a split-second.
The old man who had called me from behind now appeared in front of me without raising so much as the sound of a single footstep.
“Ah — you spooked me there.”
“Uh, I’m all right, sir. And, well… I’m not buying a staff for myself, but a girl about this tall…”
I gestured Lina’s approximate stature with my hand so that he knew the size of the staff I wanted.
“Should be about 150, give or take, then… And a girl, I see… Will she be entering the Magic University?”
“Yes, sir — She’d just been accepted earlier today, so I’d like to congratulate her with a gift.”
“I see, I see… Then how does this one look?”
The old man passed me a staff, the colors of which made it seem to glow with a silvery light.
Its design was simple, but it had a handy grip, and the pentagram emblem on its head was quite the nice touch.
“It’s got good Swift Magic functionality, and it’s made from robust Platinum wood, so it can be used as a weapon as well.”
An unfamiliar technical term has entered my ears.
“What, aren’t you a mage? You don’t know about it?”
“I-I’d like an explanation, please.”
“Swift Magic, sometimes called Quick Attack Spells, functions through Spell Circles inscribed onto staves beforehand. This Star Rod supports two Circles at once. With higher quality materials, you could add more into it, of course.”
I never would’ve figured come up with this… I had done extensive research on magic and alchemy, sure, but weapons were outside my range of expertise.
This was one aspect in which civilization has advanced, I suppose.
“How can I use it, sir?”
“You draw Spell Circles on the emblem with your fingers. If you go over the limit, the first one will be overwritten. When you want to invoke it, just pour in sufficient arcane energy into the staff, and it’ll come right out.”
“Wow… that sounds convenient. Now I want one for myself, too… But it’s going to be expensive, isn’t it?”
The old man chuckled at my question.
“Ho ho ho, I can see that you’re strapped for coins. What’s your budget?”
“Well… 13,000 at most, sir.”
“That much, eh… Here, I’ll throw in a boy-modeled Star Rod to make a pair… How does 12,000 Gold sound for that?”
“A-are you sure I can have them for that cheap? I mean, it’s 9,800 Gold for just one of those!”
I pointed at the corresponding price tags on the shelf.
“Now, ’tis just a friendly discount for a potential regular. Will you take it?”
In what could be called a prompt decision, I finalized my deal for the staves.
The old man even tied a pink ribbon on the one intended for Lina. I swore at that moment to be a regular of this store, even in the most unlikely case of this deal turning out to be a ripoff down the line.
“Come again, young man.”
The same as when I entered, his raspy voice sent me off in unison with the ring of the doorbell. It was already dark out, and the sporadic watch-fires led my way.
I wonder if Lina will like it… Holding my expectations and a slight worry in my heart, I headed back to the inn.