Chapter 99
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A blonde girl in the row in front of Damien raised her hand. Damien realized that it was Reena. Greg gestured for her to speak.

“I’ve heard that this class is very difficult,” Reena said slowly. “But we were chosen to take this class without asking our opinions. We need to pass if we want to score well, but it’s harder for us to pass this class than it is for our peers to do well in some of their classes. How is that fair?”

“Ah. A good question,” Greg said. He started pacing back and forth across the floor. “First: life isn’t fair. So, kill that notion right now. Nothing in Blackmist will be fair. We don’t exist to give everyone an equal chance. We look for the most talented students and train them to the best of our abilities. That doesn’t mean everyone else loses, but there’s no point spending a huge amount of resources on someone who isn’t going to be able to repay that money to the kingdom.”

“All the more reason for us to be worried about the class,” Reena said.

“Indeed,” Greg said. “However, you’re overlooking something. You’re right. My class is difficult. However, if you prove capable enough to succeed within it, you will have an unfair advantage over your fellow students. I assure you, understanding how your magic functions at a deep level will be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Does that answer your question?”

Reena nodded and lowered her hand. Greg scanned the classroom, but nobody else raised their hands. He gave them a satisfied smile and turned to the board, where the chalk was still writing on its own.

“Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can get started. Today, and the next few classes, will be focused on something that I’m sure you all believe you have mastered. Does anyone have a guess to what that is?”

There were a few moments of silence.

“The destructive energy sphere?” Damien guessed. Greg glanced at him.

“Correct,” Greg said, inclining his head slightly. “Please raise your hand before talking in the future.”

Damien flushed slightly, but Greg didn’t wait around to see his response. The teacher raised his hand and a small orb of gray energy churned to live within his palm.

“As we all know, this is one of the most basic applications of magic. Thus, it would be logical to assume that you have all mastered it. Am I correct?”

Silence fell over the room. Nobody wanted to take the obvious bait that the professor had laid down. He grinned.

“At least none of you are foolish enough to say yes to that,” he said. “As you might have guessed by my line of questioning, this seemingly basic spell is far more complex than you realize.”

The orb in his hand extended and grew thinner, forming into a shimmering blade. It changed forms several more times before going back into the shape of a sphere.

“Ether is the source, but our mental energy is what directs it. When given no form, it will return to the environment as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, you can modify its shape by adjusting how you exert your mental energy over it. Can anyone tell me why that might be important?”

Reena raised her hand. Greg nodded at her.

“Precision?” She guessed. “You might need certain tools for certain jobs.”

“Correct,” Greg said. “Partially, anyways. In truth, there is little use for molding the shape of your Ether in this particular spell unless you are using it to carve something. However, the ability to control the shape of your Ether output will significantly improve the amount of control you have over your more powerful spells. Please take a few moments and attempt to form a blade out of Ether. Do not cast any other spells.”

Damien glanced down at his hand and channeled a mote of Ether into his palm. As it emerged, he tried to wrap his strands of mental energy around it and coax the magic into a blade. He managed to elongate it into a blobby rectangle but didn’t have much success beyond that.

The other students weren’t having much more luck than he was. In fact, the only one who’d managed to even get the Ether to change its form was a pale haired girl sitting to Damien’s right.

“That’s enough for now,” Greg said, pausing as the students allowed their spells to fade. “As you can tell, controlling the Ether is harder than it looks.”

Greg continued lecturing over the subject for the next several hours. He was passionate about the topic, but the man had a talent for droning. By the time he finally started to wrap things up, Damien was only a few inches away from sleep.

“Alright then,” Greg said, snapping his fingers. The chalk launched back into its bin and a towel floated into the air and started to wipe the chalk away from the board. “We’ll stop things here for today. Our next class will be in two days. I’ll pick you all up as I did today. You are all also required to be able to manifest a blade of Ether by my next class. Dismissed.”

Greg waved at them with his fingers. Then his body crumbled, blowing away and leaving a gray portal behind where he’d been standing.

“Dramatic, much?” Henry asked, chuckling. “This man is interesting. Keep an eye on him.”

I’ll do that if I can manage to stay awake in his classes. I love magic, but he's got the unique talent of somehow making even magic sound like a slog.

Damien and the other students rose from their seats, half expecting the professor to pop out as they made their way towards the gray portal. Reena was the first to reach it. The moment she touched the gray energy, her body vanished. The others followed after her.

When Damien got to the portal, he carefully extended his hand and touched the gray energy with the back of his hand. The world vanished with a pop.