Chapter 1

Arcane Magic

Tuesday, August 23rd 2063

In a dark room lit by a few artificial lamps, someone was standing patiently in front of a holographic screen.

 

            Underground Palace. Wait for the door to open.

 

The man was wearing a long white coat and his face was hidden under a mask. His posture, clothing, and attitude made for a very mysterious appearance. Only three parts of his body were not covered: his long and dark hair, brown eyes, as well as his right hand. For the fifth time in a span of five minutes, he hit the ground with his scepter, which betrayed his impatience.

 

It was obvious he did not like this experience at all. This individual did not seem like someone fond of wasting such a precious resource as time. Still, he stood there silently waiting for the door to slide into the wall. Without anything else to do, he took another peek at the room he was in.

 

Supported by six quartz pillars, this hall had a very gloomy atmosphere. Its circular shape and dark materials made for a confusing combination that could potentially cause claustrophobia. As a matter of fact, staying in there for an extended period of time would probably drive anyone to insanity.

 

After a short period of contemplation, the man with the scepter had a particular thought about this situation. 

(It’s been years since the last time I’ve been here… but it’s still a real pain. It always was a really excruciating way of testing my patience.)

Surprisingly, as soon as the opaque door opened itself, the man was already on his way. It was as if he already knew when the path would be opening. He did not waste a single second and directly went down the staircase in front of him. The man in the long coat then arrived in the central place of the Underground Palace, which was used to greet guests. 

 

In this hall rested a big, long square table made out of marble, with two comfortable chairs underneath it on both sides. Multiple kinds of food and beverages were already served on the table. The owner of the place probably knew that someone else would be dining that day.

 

After getting closer to the table, another man, who was resting on his knees, entered his line of sight. The owner of the place did not yet realize that his guest already arrived and was in a deep meditative state. He was way older than the man holding the scepter. Even though he was wearing ceremonial clothes, the older man still had a dominating presence and aura.

 

His face was so relaxed during his meditation that anyone wouldn’t be able to distinguish what he was doing from sleeping. The old man was focusing on his inner self so deeply that it was really hard to make him come back to reality. Only something strong would make him release his meditation… like the voice of an old disciple.

         Elder Sage, it’s been a while…

      Without moving a muscle, the Elder Sage answered his greetings

         It’s been years indeed… I hope you are doing well.

         I am. I guess I don’t need to return the question. You haven’t changed at all.

         I’ve stayed there, surrounded by peace and silence. How is your quest for knowledge going along?

         Even though it’s never enough… I can say that the hunt is going well.  

    They both smiled while exchanging a bit of banter. Finally, the Elder Sage got up to his feet, turned to his disciple, and asked a question with deep meaning while handshaking him.

         I heard they all call you “The Master of All Magic” now?

The Master of All Magic frowned and answered mechanically, like he already had a prepared answer. 

     I didn’t ask for this nickname… but it could have been worse, so I rolled with it. Should we proceed… with our usual test?

Despite the mask hiding his facial expressions, faint traces of a smile could be heard in the tone he used to taunt his master. However, unfazed by his sarcasm, the Elder Sage agreed to his statement and took out a single golden coin from his robe. He harbored an evil smile while playing with the gold circle in his hands. His actions didn’t seem to please his former student.

        That’s how you use the Coin of Knowledge I gave you?

     I have no use whatsoever in that little network of yours. I am flattered to have earned such a totem but that’s the best I can do with it at the moment. Prepare yourself.

Both the Elder Sage and the Master of All Magic adopted stances fit for combat. They shot aggressive glances at each other, making their intentions to win clear. The coin stayed in the air for no more than two seconds before striking the ground.

 

The sound of the coin ringing was their signal.

 

They both released their Ether Aura with the intention of overpowering the other.

Separator

Thirty-seven years ago, an event that changed the face of the earth happened. A team of rogue scientists launched an astronomically large space station, with the intention of scouting the limits of the Milky Way. However, this experiment did not end well as a disastrous chain of events led to its implosion and the creation of a wormhole, connecting this galaxy to somewhere else. 

 

A connection had been made between the Milky Way and an unknown place somewhere in the universe. Despite every attempt at locating where that wormhole led, no one knew what could come through this wormhole. After years of imagining the worst, the scientific community found out that a few quantities of humans had developed new abilities. While some decided that it was just human evolution at play, scientists overall agreed that this was correlated to the wormhole event, now called the “Ethereum Rift.”

 

Almost four decades after the “Ethereum Rift,” the world had changed profoundly.

 

Even though humanity evolved at an exponential pace, it still had barely touched on the potential of Ether, the energy that poured out of the wormhole. Individuals that could harness and use this power were able to bend the laws of physics to their will depending on their mastery over it. It was also an incredible way of better understanding this universe’s rules, as things that were not deemed possible could be done through this new mean. Scientists confirmed that their view and understanding of the laws of physics were limited, which was the first step toward the study of quantum physics.

 

Still, this new power followed a rule already well known to scientists: The use of this new ability could not create from nothing, but only transformed what already existed in the first place.

 

Because of this fundamental principle, the scientific community tried to call this new power “Alchemy.” Although it worked quite well, the masses have been influenced by centuries of fantasy literature. After a few years, it was now normal to use a broader term.

 

These people were magicians.

Separator

When magicians had a decent enough mastery over their magic abilities, they were able to release the Ether inside their body to put pressure on their opponents. Right now, in the Underground Palace, two insanely powerful magicians were engaged in an Ether Aura contest that deeply affected their environment.

 

For the Elder Sage and the Master of All Magic, this was their way of testing their progress and limits.

 

The ground was shaking under the clash of their powers. For two whole minutes, they were evenly matched and stood their ground.

But soon enough, the Master of All Magic’s pressure decreased, which took the Elder Sage by surprise. His tactic worked for a single second, which is precisely what the Master of All Magic needed.

 

The Elder Sage decided to keep some reserve and matched his former student’s decreasing output. He thought that it was fine as he had the upper hand, but he realized his mistake a couple of seconds thereafter.

 

Suddenly, the Master of All Magic released a huge part of the Ether inside his body at once. He had been hiding a decent part of the Ether inside his body to take his master off-balance. Caught by surprise with that sheer amount of pressure, the Elder Sage was forced to bend the knee and accept his defeat. 

       Congratulations.

     Apologies about the underhanded tactic… you’re quite a tough nut to crack. I’ve been thinking about this tactic… and practiced it for months. It requires an insane amount of control to prevent it from destroying the place. And it will only work once

The student offered his right hand to his former master, which was taken immediately. The Elder Sage offered him a seat and a few minor things to eat and drink before ending the small talk.

     Please, take a seat. I would love to hear about what you have been up to these last couple of years. I’m always intrigued by your adventures. 

Following his master’s instructions, the Master of All Magic sat down, rested his scepter on the chair and asked a question of his own. 

         Do you want the short… or the longer version?

         Do I look like I’m in a hurry?

         The longer version then…

Even though the Elder Sage had no direct line of sight on his former student’s face, he knew him well enough to know that he was enjoying the exchange.

 

The Master of All Magic was currently gathering his memories to make for a better story. It took him a couple of minutes of thinking and recollecting. In the meantime, his former master started to enjoy the food on the table.

      As you already know, I am still on the path you showed me. In exchange for new and unique magic spells, I help people in need. On my adventures, I’ve encountered many different cultures and people. From cold-blooded killers to saints, I have seen both the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. Over the course of these last three years after our last meeting, nine people asked for my help as the Master of All Magic.

The Elder remained silent and practiced active listening, despite being ready to answer at any point of his story. 

    The first one to ask for my help was an assassin. Because he was on the edge of retiring, he wanted to leave everything behind after a huge “coup.” So, he decided to take up a killing contract that was well over his abilities. Therefore, he went through the usual steps to contact me and we carried out his mission together. On my last night with him, he kept up his part of the bargain and taught me how to use his Silent Step Magic, which allows its user to move silently, before I killed him in his sleep.

        You remembered my teaching, Magicians are…

        Bestowed with the hardest choices, I know.

        You did well. No one retires from this kind of business, except underneath the ground.

The Master of All Magic drank what had already been served on the table prior to his appearance. After this little interruption, he started to speak again. 

     The second one that sought my attention was exerting the job of magic researcher. She had been recruited by a noble to create a new Country-Class Magic spell based on harnessing the sheer power of a lightning phenomenon. However, she was afraid for her life after succeeding in designing said spell. You do know what happens to magic researchers after they carry out their research, don’t you?

       Buried under the ground.

      Yes, so I saved her by allowing her escape to Brazil in exchange for the knowledge regarding that Country-Class spell.

Because the Elder Sage stayed silent, the Master of All Magic was able to continue his report.

 

He was then contacted by a police inspector. The Master of All Magic did not know how or where he had learned such a spell, but he was able to produce an unnatural and intimidating aura. The inspector told him that it was called Dominator’s Glance Magic and that he developed it. Of course, the Master of All Magic did not believe him but was also incapable of learning more about it either.

 

This inspector was looking for his involvement in a specific investigation that was really problematic. It was a serious affair about a cult officer that took pleasure in torturing young women that just joined his organization. The inspector did not let the Master of All Magic kill the guilty one, but the latter assured him that, should the culprit break free, he would dirty his own hands without looking at it twice.

 

Even though his words were harsh, he was completely in control of his emotions. The Master of All Magic was emanating a calm aura while simply stating facts. The Elder Sage wasn’t smiling because of such a situation, but still wanted to compliment his student

         From what I can see, you’re dealing with things in an acceptable manner.

         I didn’t come here for your approval, Elder. 

         Yes, finish your report and we’ll get down to whatever business you have with me. 

The tension was slowly rising as the Master of All Magic started to continue his report. However, for the first time, a glimpse of hesitation could be heard in his voice. This made the Elder Sage look forward to hearing what was coming. He knew that his student was stubborn, talented, and even cunning, but he almost never saw him embarrassed. 

         Do you know who Eleanor Shinsei is?

         I heard the name a few times… but I can’t say I know more than just her name.

     Well, she… is a magician who specializes in Illusion Magic. When you released me into the world, she once followed me to check if I granted the favor of her acquaintance. It seems that during our little adventure, she took… a liking to me. Over the last three years, I was contacted twice by her. Eleanor wanted to teach me new magic spells in exchange for…

       Your affection?

      Well… yes. It was very useful as I learned a really interesting Master-Class Illusion spell called Free-Flow Illusion Magic that allows me to give form to whatever illusion I want, without the need for a proper imagination pattern. However, it takes too much time and resources to use it in a fight.

The Master of All Magic was in the middle of an explanation, so he wasn’t prepared for the reaction of his master.

 

The Elder Sage laughed so hard he almost forgot to breathe. The Master of All Magic stayed there, silently, waiting for his former master to get it together. After twenty seconds, the Elder Sage was able to speak again.

       Oh my… that was unexpected. I wanted you to experience new things on your own. I see you took my advice quite literally. Good for you!

       I only granted a favor. I wouldn’t have done it if there was nothing in it for me. Should I keep going or do you need more time to make fun of me?

      Be my guest.

The Elder Sage’s former student was not one to let himself get taunted without repercussions. While keeping a serious tone, he started to narrate the following events.

A few months ago, the Master of All Magic learned that an enchanter was looking forward to meeting him. After checking his work, he was surprised to only see average weapons in his workshop. Still, he didn’t achieve his dream. The enchanter wanted to enchant a weapon with both a Country-Class spell and the Magic he had developed. So, he asked the Master of All Magic to create such a weapon in exchange for his bit of rare Magic.

 

After learning that his rare power was Item Summoning Magic, the Master of All Magic made sure that no one else knew about it before making him swear to never talk about it to anyone. The implication should this spell be released onto the world without preparation, could have been disastrous.

 

Seeing that the Elder Sage was interested in it, the Master of All Magic went a bit more into detail. 

     He is not even remotely aware of what he’s done. He thought that moving and summoning items with the help of magic was not that big of a deal. I was flabbergasted after learning that he solved such a complex puzzle. I kept him in a location where he is heavily monitored by my network. I just cannot afford to let him reveal this magic to the world now. It needs to be introduced slowly and surely to make sure that there will be no abuse.

       Will you teach me that magic? I’m indeed quite interested.

      Let me finish my report first.

He waited for his former master to nod before continuing his report. 

    The next client was a fan of mine, which made things easy. She was taught magic by a family member but ended up learning psychoanalysis and hypnosis. With the help of a magic researcher, she created a spell that uses both Memory Magic and Illusion Magic to create virtual scenes based on her patients’ memories. She was also a wonder to talk to and an excellent teacher. That was a quick job though, because all she wanted was a signature from me to teach me her magic.

       You’re a known magician, it was meant to happen. You also seem to be quite popular with ladies.

That point of cynicism annoyed his former student, who didn’t move a muscle, including his tongue. He waited several seconds to make sure his message was understood before getting on to his seventh job.

 

This one might have been the most dangerous request he had ever accepted. With his Magic, the Master of All Magic was pretty much untouchable by 99.9 percent of the population. Only a few powerful magicians would have a shot to bring him down… at least under normal circumstances. When he started to mention the spell that he’d learned from this client was Magic Negating, the Elder Sage jumped from his seat.

 

It was obvious that the Elder Sage was alarmed by the situation. Such a spell could level up countries by itself now that magic was officially part of the background. Still, the Master of All Magic remained calm and explained the situation. 

    I took care of it. This client learned Magic Negating during a trip to Nepal. So, after taking care of his request and learning that spell myself, I got rid of everyone that was able to cast it. This hunt took me quite a while with the National Army’s help. It’s the same case as Item Summoning Magic but multiplied by a billion. I just can’t allow that spell to be released to the public period.

      That spell could be your most powerful one should you use it well.

       I haven’t used it yet but you’re right. Although I don’t want to risk that anyone could figure it out.

      I understand. 

The Elder Sage crossed his legs and used the palm of his right hand to rest his head. This move was seen by his former student, who decided to fasten his stories. 

       Finally, I learned a spell that allows me to travel through shadows by saving a hostage and an Advanced-Class Flying Magic by finding a performer’s lost item with sentimental value.

      I see, and did you…

       Yes, I did. The pieces of magic that aren’t a secret anymore will be the topic of the next National Library Report. 

A wide smile could be seen on the Elder Sage’s face as he was about to taunt his guest once again. 

       I know I say this every time, but I can’t see how the combination of these new spells ends up in anything else than world domination.

     And I always answer you the same damn thing… If I wanted to have the world in my grasp… I would have already done it a long time ago. The only thing I am pursuing right now is magic knowledge which leads to the reason for my little visit.

Both the Sage and the Master of All Magic said nothing for a while, adding to the tension already rising in the air. The Elder Sage’s former student took out a cylindric device with the word “GLASS” on its side and pushed a button on it. A blueish holographic screen appeared from it and displayed a long text that resembled a journal. He waved his hand, and via its gesture recognition, the device turned its holographic display toward the Elder Sage.

 

His tone was now ice cold, contrasting with the attitude he showed earlier during their warm round of welcome.

 

He was now dealing with serious business, and nothing would be able to prevent him from getting the answers he’d thought he deserved.

         Care to tell me your side of the story?

The Elder Sage sighed heavily after quickly going through the journal of his deceased master. 

         I was just hoping to have more time… to keep you in the dark only a little longer…

         Why?

         Because you are who you are!

Even though he was just being shouted at, the Master of All Magic kept his composure.

         Start from the beginning.

His tone was sharp and carried deep meaning. Facing that much determination, it was now time for the Elder Sage to cave in and come clean. 

      A long time ago, like you, I had a master that taught me magic. He had such a strong ability with the Ether that his synchronization with the Ether was unchallenged. He was the first one to touch a realm that no one else ever discovered since. He was able to use the purest form of Ether I have ever seen to cast spells of incredible power, without breaking a sweat. He named this magic…

      Arcane Magic

      Yes. For all I know, we could be talking about mass mind control, over-the-top destructive magic, and much more. So, considering the potential danger it poses to humanity, my master decided to keep it a secret, considering that the world wasn’t ready to be given such powers. But my master grew sick and even with his god-like abilities, he was fated to die. So, he decided to impart his knowledge of the Arcane Magic to one of his two apprentices. I was chosen to be the keeper of such a dangerous piece of magic. I tried to practice it, but this magic is so difficult that I couldn’t even go through half of the requirement for its casting.

The Elder Sage looked at his former student with a pleading look. It wasn’t enough for the Master of All Magic, who decided to not give him any mercy. 

         Why did you lie to me?

The Master of All Magic wasn’t angry now, just disappointed. His relation to the Elder Sage was only one of student and master, no more, no less. Therefore, if he wasn’t planning on teaching, this old man was of no use to him whatsoever. Still, he kept an open mind, eager to learn his former master’s reasons. He knew him to be a rationalist, which meant that the Elder Sage was sure to have made the right decision. It took the Sage a few seconds to formulate an answer. 

      Because… even though you are my student… you are dangerous.

      How so?

    You crave magic knowledge as an addict looks for their next fix. I can’t give out godly powers to someone like that.

      Do you have that little faith in the morality you taught me?

Now, the Master of All Magic was angry. He had followed him for over a decade, breathed his every word, and followed his advice. Now, suddenly, his master expressed the fact that he wasn’t worthy enough.

The Elder Sage had a bit of trouble answering his question.  

   I have faith. But how long will your morality code last? How long before you are forced to break it? That matter aside, don’t you think you have more than enough power already? You basically have the destructive power of an elite squad and the precision of a tactical missile…

      You know it’s not about power. I’m not looking for fame or money, but I am eager to learn. I thought you knew. Do I really need to force your hand?

After hearing that question pop out of nowhere, the Elder Sage was really surprised. Still, he didn’t have the courage to look directly into his former student’s eyes. 

    I was planning, at some point, to make you my successor, you know. You are overwhelmingly talented, maybe even more than my esteemed master. But I changed my mind after learning who the Arcane Magic forces its user to be.

       What?

      I realized that being the keeper of the Arcane Magic is a full-time job for a hermit. If the keeper of this god-like power was outside granting favors, that person would be tempted to play god. Using it only once is already too much. Do you understand what would happen if the public happened to know about the Arcane Magic?

     Each country would fight a race to develop national magicians capable of using Arcane Magic. The first to do so would have a determining advantage in geopolitical situations.  

Seeing that the Master of All Magic understood the situation, the Elder Sage relaxed in his chair for a second. He thought he had managed to convince him.

He was wrong. The Master of All Magic got up from his seat, took his GLASS device back, and struck the ground with his scepter. 

         I call forth our traditions as master and student. I want to learn Arcane Magic

The Elder Sage was torn between surprise and anger, much so that he aggressively slammed the table with his two hands. 

      That’s how you want to play this out? As per our so-called traditions, I am authorized to check your worthiness as a student wishing to learn!

        Pick your challenge, old man.

Everything happened according to the Master of All Magic’s expectations. Knowing his former master, he thought that his master would not go down without a fight because he was defending what he thought was right.

(I understand your reasons, old man. Still, I wish to learn, experience, and let it run through my veins.)

He waited patiently for the Elder Sage to come up with a challenge. 

     For such an important matter, I need time to think about a proper challenge. I will come back to you in ten days. You are free to stay and use the Underground Palace as you see fit in the meantime. 

Without hearing the Master of All Magic’s answer, he stormed out of the room, leaving his guest astonished for a couple of seconds. Then, he turned to the direction of a room, walked toward its entrance, and pushed the button which closed the door. He had to think about the possible outcomes of what just transpired. 

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