First Step (2/?)
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Ah, the legendary step classroom.

Mana's gaze lingered on the pvc matted floors that pushed up to multiple steps covered with long desks. Unlike the classrooms in outer and inner layers of a sect, core layers are coveted for such design of the classrooms. At least, the students from the lower level of studies felt a burst of motivation to work hard and focus just to sit behind one of these tables. The classroom marked two entrances, one closer to the stairway, since Mana's class is supposed to be held on the first floor, and the other entrance closer to the restroom further down the hall. His gaze lingered on the white smart board that almost covered the entire front wall and hurriedly made way to the topmost stair.

Keke, this seat is mine! 

With a childish glee, Mana took the centermost seat on the highest stair and finally waved towards his classmate as he placed his bag on the table. There were some scribbles on the surface of the table too. 

"Hey, um," this is fucking torture, "my name is—" 

"Newbie," the dark-haired youth with a slight scar running down his chin, creating a gap in between his beard, looked over his shoulder. Damn, I need to grow some shit on my face, too. "this isn't my first time attending the class. My second first-year, if you know what I mean."  

"Name's Rodger. Call me Rogue." 

Rogue? 

With slight frustration, Rodger shook his head.

"Don't say it. I know. I'll take the title— Rogue— for myself. One day."

"Mana, nice to meet you. Rod-" He stares scary, "Rogue."  

Rogue smiled in satisfaction as he stood and pulled his bag alongside him, dragging the loose ended strap over his shoulder and sitting next to Mana. Well, I can kiss my chances of sitting with a girl… or girls, goodbye. 

"By now-" Rogue placed his bag over the table. The flame-red bag was marked by a rather bold scribble of Fuck Serene XXX alongside a creative skull drawn beneath. "-you should be asking what to do in this sect to… you know… not die a virgin." 

"Excuse me, how do you know I am a virgin." 

"Your walk."

Scoffing, Mana eyed the red-eyed Rogue with a sneer.  

"Yeah, like you walked Chad."

"Chad's my middle name?" 

"Rodger Chad Walker?" 

"Rodger Chad Slaughterer." 

Speechless for a moment, Mana inquired politely. 

"I am sorry, were your parents high?" 

"I changed it, from Rodger Growsky to Rodger Chad Slaughterer." 

"Yeah, a virgin isn't going to teach me how to break my spell, even if we assume that I am a virgin." 

"Fair enough," Rogue gruffed. Maybe I said too much? Rogue thought silently. His desire to proclaim his entire name had broken a lot of his dates midway. Some extremely close to striking it all the way to a homerun. 

"So… what's with the…" Mana pointed at the scribble on Rogue's bag, unwilling to cuss his sect on the first day. 

"Oh, this? It's my band's name. Me and my pumpkin play it hard." 

"And this pumpkin…"

"My guitar."

A loner. Fucking great.

Mana almost rolled his eyes. He needed to do something. At least, he needed to distance himself from this mad lad out on— remain virgin— mission, considering his antics. There is no way Mana could get laid, again, if he remained within the vicinity of this man. 

"Ahhh~ Is that scar real?" 

Forgetful of their surroundings, Rogue and Mana failed to notice when a blonde youth with disgustingly symmetrical features and pale blue eyes walked closer to the duo. As a matter of fact, a few students, girls, were already occupying the front seats. Great! Mana groaned internally while Rogue crossed his arms and nodded with a hint of smile. 

"This scar is a momento from my first encounter with the Rogue."

The newcomer and Mana raised their eyebrows in surprise. This story is definitely worth a date, right? 

"For real?"  

The blonde youth asked, his hands running past his golden locks unconsciously. 

"By the way, name's Dharma."

The blonde youth sat beside Rogue as the flame-eyed loner grunted, "Rogue." 

"Mana, and he is Rodger. Still a long way before he takes the name Rogue." 

Mana smiled and offered his hand as Dharma shook it with an equally amused smile. 

"Oh, bro! You were amazing back there! Your rhymes, part of them, rocked!" 

One of the bespectacled youths with a generous belly laughed from the entrance and waved towards Mana. His words instantly made the students nudge their neighbours and inquire the details.  

Feeling his face turning hotter, now that he knew that others learned their rhymes differently, Mana nodded without offering much. With Mana, Dharma, and Rogue pioneering the last bench, the entire row had turned into a no-girl zone. There were, of course, a few cool girls who were willing to approach Mana and the group by taking the second highest row for themselves.  

"Ehm," soon, a middle-aged bearded man with platinum rimmed glasses walked up the podium and switched on the smart board. Adjusting the microphone, he took off his glasses and eyed the students with his slightly cloudy gaze. 

"My name is Vincent. I will be teaching you the basics of runes. However, not today." Smiling, Vincent pointed at the student sitting on the corner most seat from the left. 

"Let's get to know each other. You know, the basic introduction class. I want to know your previous affiliations too." 

The student nodded and introduced himself. Just like his figure suggested, the youth originated from M-City and scored decently in the entrance examinations. When it was Dharma's term, the blonde symmetry stood while brushing his hair back once again. An act of nervousness, Mana noted. 

"I am Dharma… Walker." His name pulled a slight reaction from Mana and Vincent as he continued, "I am from Z-City. I am in this sect by the grace of master Red Heart. He decided to accept me as a disciple." 

"A disciple?" Vincent frowned. There are only seven heart masters in the sect and each one of them trained outstanding disciples. 

"Good, next." 

Vincent didn't pursue Dharma's origin and sighed as he looked at the smug Rodger. 

"Rodger. Go with your real name." Vincent warned separately as the bearded Rogue pursed his lips in indignation. 

"Rodger Growsky," Rogue practically snarled, "and before anyone thinks of shitting with me, go check up with my super master, Black Heart."

Dharma looked even more impressed while Mana's lips twitched. 

"All right, all right. Sit down." Vincent rubbed his brows as he felt agonized just by the thought of dealing with the mighty Rogue another year. "Next." 

"Uh," The fuck is wrong with you! Confidence! Pump! Porn! Yeeaaaah! Coughing softly, Mana started over with a wide smile. 

"I am Mana Krien." 

Once again, Vincent frowned. I don't get paid enough to deal with all this… and the three of them are sitting together too. 

"My family sent me to this prestigious sect from O-city and master Green Heart was kind enough to accept me as his disciple." 

Ah, of course. I had to jinx it. Now Green Heart's in this lovely equation too. Vincent cried internally as Dharma and Rogue looked towards Mana with an impressed expression. Of course, the emerald-eyed youth focused on the curious stares from the female classmates. The short-haired girl right in front of Mana instantly turned back to actively chat with the trio once she introduced herself.

Mana might have made an effort to remember her name but the moment Rogue sauntered into the conversation with his true origins, Dharma and Mana sighed collectively. 

Yeah, she would be sitting far ahead from now on. 

"All right," Vincent clapped his hands to gather the disciples' attention. "I should be summarising all the experiences you disciples have gone through. From the outer course studies, you all were taught mathematics, chemistry, physics, runic alphabets, classic literature, geography and some extracurricular courses based on your individual choices. The outer courses span up to 12 years. Then, the inner course studies are much more specialised. You guys must have taken the route to stude runes in-depth or origin cultivation. Now, in the core course studies, you will experience the practice of all you have learned." 

Vincent's gaze lingered over Mana and Dharma for a moment. 

"All of your spiritual roots have been tested and if it wasn't for your compatibilities and innate talent, none of you would be accepted. So I will skip to the next part.  

Awakening." 

His words made the disciples murmur in excitement. Why did they all go through such strict studies despite having high physical talents? They could always pursue the common cultivation path. Qi Condensation, Foundation Establishment, Core Formation, Nascent Divinity and such. 

No. 

Origin Cultivation. Only this reward could make the disciples give their all to the studies.  

"Congratulations are in order. Tomorrow, we will conduct your awakening." Vincent smiled. The excitement of the disciples rubbed against him as it brought a wave of nostalgia. 

Awakening, huh. Hmm… man, everyone sure is excited. Breaking away the restriction of fate… Mana, unlike others, only felt a sense of crisis as the thought of his normal life turning extreme, once again, troubled him. Tilting his head sideways, he nudged Rogue's shoulder.

"Rogue, what's your origin?"

Giving a toothy grin, surprisingly white considering his fashion sense, Mana added; Rogue replied with a tinge of pride. 

"Pure darkness element without a single speckle of fate. So, I awoke an A-level origin with 92 rpm." 

"That's amazing!" Dharma added with an uncanny twinkle in his eyes. "I wonder what my light root can connect to." 

Blonde hair, light element. Metal band loner, dark element. Such a cliche template…

Mana then recalled his own origin.  

Yeah, definitely a good thing to coax granny into hiding that. But that old hag… she probably complained to mother already. Should I contact them? Nah, mum's bat crap crazy. 

Recalling his training, Mana did not feel guilty for giving his mother the title he just bestowed. She is clinically insane, after all. Why it isn't reported to the family yet? Well, the doctor doesn't exist anymore. 

How Mana knows all this? His training. 

"For the next semester, we will follow Daoist Ren's guide to runes and Basic advantages of Origin Cultivation by Daoist Whisker. Remember to purchase the unabridged jade slips from the Library. These slips are one-time use only. Meanwhile, the practice of carving runes shall take place after the recess." 

Turning on his heels and picking up the smart pen, Vincent started writing on the smart board. 

"Can anyone pronounce this?" 

Vincent asked as he looked over his shoulder, finding a few girls raising their hands. 

"Hmm, Mira." 

The ordinary looking girl stood up. Elsewhere, she might have been a beauty but almost every student in this sect had already encountered the beauty enhancing drugs in their lifetime. So, it wasn't uncommon to encounter rare beauties. 

"It's pronounced as Krighstba." 

Mira fluently expressed the rune through her voice, resonating with the existence as a trail of fragrance lingered around Mira. 

"Correct. The fact that your speech resonated with the surroundings testifies your proficiency in the language. However, proficiency is deeply connected to each individual's personalization of the rune without losing its charm. For instance, Krighstba." 

Vincent expressed the same rune but the fragrance exploded within the classroom. Instead of the expected nausea, the fragrance turned out to be gentle and mellow, giving the experienced ones great insight into their professor's nature. 

"Krighstba!" 

Rogue grinned as the intense fragrance instantly pulled annoyed frowns from the disciples around him. 

Fucking great. Maybe granny was right about her sect life. You can never choose a group… it's the other way around. A group fucking chooses you, for better or worse. 

"Ugh." 

The moment Mana heard the groan from the sweet lady in front of him, his heart turned cold. 

"Briana." 

And instantly, in command to his whisper, the fragrance crumbled apart. 

"Nilhja." 

On Dharma's whisper, the surroundings turned warm and sweet, making the girls feel comfortable. 

The blonde and dark-haired teen gave each other a look before nodding in understanding. Since we are in the same boat, we might as well take matters in our own hands.

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