Chapter 104 – Lucian’s Lesson
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Lucian was standing still, his eyes tightly shut, his fluffy, white ears standing on their ends, twitching from time to time, when he heard the slightest noise. The cold air blew past his stoic figure as he stood on the rocky ridge of the mountain, concentrating. Then, without warning, his white tail swept to the left just when Lia appeared in a puff of smoke, brandishing a wooden sword, already in the middle of a swing. When the wood and fluffy tail met, it resulted in sound like a sonic boom, pushing Lia away with enough force to create slight cracking pops around them, traveling through the air for hundreds of meters. With a flip in the air, Lia landed on her bare feet and was already making her next move.

The training sword was surrounded by blue flames this time, burning in bright light as she slashed at Lucian. The flame extended forward from her weapon, acting as a whip, wrapping around Lucian's tail with lightning-fast speed. Its freezing effects didn't bother the Headmaster, who had his eyes opened into thin slits, watching Lia with his crimson-colored eyes flashing with approval. Lia was trying to yank him forward while forming another spell with her free hand, summoning multiple rotating magic circles and letting blue flames rush forward like water from a hose.

"Good form! You are better at stringing them together now." He said as his body vibrated, and he disappeared from the place before Lia's attack could land, escaping her 'grasp.'

"...!" Her face was focused and serious, not even thinking about an answer, instead leaning forward, going into a roll, dodging the Headmaster's claw strike, whizzing past by her back, only centimeters away. Coming out of the roll, she slashed twice in a fraction of a second, sending an X-shaped arc of blue fire back at Lucian. Without watching if her attack had landed, she initiated another teleportation the moment her hands finished their movements.

Her body burst forth with blue flames as if surrounding her with an armor of flaming ice as she slipped into No-Space, disappearing. If anyone would see her, it was like being consumed by her flames, disappearing into them instantly. The wild winds of No-Space didn't even make her hair move this time, as she took only another step backward, reappearing, in reality, the next moment. When she did, she was behind Lucian, who had only now materialized. Without delay, Lia stabbed forward, her attack parried by the Headmaster's tail, slapping the wooden sword out of her hand. The moment it left her grip, it immediately shattered into frozen pieces, disintegrating mid-air.

"Very good!" He smiled, looking over his shoulder at the exhausted but grinning Lia. The fact that she predicted what he would do and teleported half a meter backward to have a stab at him was something that came to Lia instinctively but also proved she inherited Reyra's famed knack for fighting.

"It is only that my 'sword' couldn't handle it!" She moaned, shaking her wrists as they were strongly stinging by the rebounding force of the last attack of Lucian. "It was frozen the moment I summoned my flames! I am starting to worry that Opparu's alloy won't work…."

"It will." Lucian turned towards her, patting and rubbing her head, "This is going to be his magnum opus! He won't let you down! Bringing back an alloy that a future head of a House will use? His name is bound to get into the history books."

"Isn't he already in there?" She chuckled, remembering his and his country's unlucky fate.

"Well, yeah, but I don't think he is proud of that part! This would be different!"

"Hehehe~ Now I am excited again!"

"Use that excitement to better yourself! We have been emptying your mana reserves daily for the past month! If we can keep this up throughout the Year, by the end of this semester, you will be close to getting into the 5th Tier!"

"Really?" She asked, unsure of it. She didn't feel anything different while meditating and refilling her mana reserves.

"Didn't you learn about the second bundle of tiers before stepping into the Realm of Three Ri?" He asked, frowning.

"I did. But Mother only said that after the first tribulation, we just… well… train and get stronger. That is the gist of it!"

"The 4th, 5th, and 6th Tier is all about your mana," Lucian explained calmly, walking behind Lia, starting to massage her shoulders, then making her stretch, going through the same routines as before and every training session they had throughout the month they had been away.

"So I should be meditating and… that is all?" She asked, feeling that was nonsensical. Then everyone should be a 6th Tier mage by just sitting around.

"No. The first bundle, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Tier, is for preparing the body. Going through the tribulation signals the end of that process. Your body became capable of handling real magic. In the 4th Tier, being an Adepti, your focus should be on gathering and spending your mana, doing it constantly, and doing it WELL, not just haphazardly! It makes your energy channels thrive if you pay attention to it! They get reinforced, letting you push your mana through faster! Stronger! Better!"

"Oooh… that is why I feel tingling things all over me when using my full strength?" She asked while doing splits, looking over her shoulder, being as flexible as a rubber doll.

"Yes. You were stuck way too long at a lower Tier. Your mana is robust and unique, so it does the reinforcing much quicker than usual; that is why I say you will reach the 5th Tier this year. But after that, you ought to slow down. Even if you don't want to!"

"Why is that?"

"The 4th and 5th Tier is distinguishable by the mana reserves one can access. That shows in every aspect of a spell; strength, sustainability, the number of them, or how quickly a mage can cast them. This is why it is called Magi Speciali! You will feel it when you break through! But you will also feel that replenishing your mana takes twice or even thrice to refill because your energy storage capability expanded beyond its normal size."

"Oh! Okay! I will keep a lookout for that!" She nodded rapidly, looking at him curiously, waiting for Lucian to continue.

"The 5th Tier is about dealing with the fact that you have an expanded pool of mana but still refilling it at your old speed! This is why your mother mopped the floor with many 5th Tier mages when she first appeared! She was way faster refilling her own mana, even at a lower Tier! The moment her enemies ran out of it, she trounced them like nothing!"

"Teehee~!"

"To reach the 6th Tier and be a Magi Extremi, you must bring equilibrium into your mana! You must have greatly expanded mana and the ability to refill it just as quickly! When everything gets into synchrony, into harmony, you will be an extremely powerful mage!"

"But still not that extreme that those in the next three tiers, no?"

"Obviously. For that, you need to master your elements. The things that brought you to the 6th Tier! This is why we make our students choose their elements early. At the start of your 4th Year or when you reach the 5h Tier, you can choose no more extra elements. We wouldn't let you! It would be too late to do so! You would make yourself to be stuck in the 6th Tier, trying to balance out your elements to be at the same strength! This is why it is the end for so many mages!"

"Why aren't we told about this?" Lia frowned, but Lucian just smiled.

"Mages have to listen to what their powers tell them." He tapped at the middle of her chest. "You know this better than others, no?"

"Oh…" She blushed because she always had the feeling that she had to learn ice magic next to fire spells.

"Mages have to listen to it. If they can't hear it or can't understand it? It is a natural showcasing of their innate talent. We can't waste time and resources on people who are simply not good enough."

"Ouch… Don't tell that to others; they will be angry!"

"Don't care!" He laughed, "Anyway, when you get to the 6th Tier and go through your tribulation and master your elements, you will be a changed individual! I can't really tell you, but you will feel the world as a different place."

"Really?"

"Yes. Like as if a veil has been lifted off of your senses! Anyway, do you know what is the big kicker behind getting into the 7th Tier? Being a Supri?"

"That you are super strong?"

"Ahaha, no! The fact you can start picking up more elements again!"

"Wait! Why?" She asked, her eyes sparkling.

"I told you; you become a changed man! Or woman. Of course, mastering another one will not be any easier, and when pushing it to the limit, you will experience its tribulation again!"

"Awesome… hey, hey, Headmaster! Will you advance to the 8th Tier? Like my mom? Are you going to be a Legendri?"

"No," Lucian answered calmly, maintaining a smile and looking into her sparkling eyes. "My talents are spent already. Reaching the next Tier requires you to continue to improve yourself! Your mana, your body, your mind! I tried... But I stayed in the same state for centuries. No matter what I attempted, I couldn't improve anymore. This is the end for me, Lia. I accepted and made peace with the fact that I won't advance any further! I am content with my strength and with the fact I am overseeing the subsequent generations of talented mages. Looking for those who have the potential of stepping into the ranks of Three Ri."

“Oh… But… you are strong… I thought…”

"Aha! Mistake it not! I am extremely proud of my achievement! I reached a level that few independent mages can! The ranks of Three Ri are usually something you hear from only the Six Houses!"

"Ah… Um, how long can one live? After reaching as high as you?"

"Are you worried about your mom?" He asked gently.

"No!" She answered, surprised. She never even considered Reyra getting old… "I am just… curious. Where have all the strong mages gone? I know many of ours died in battles. But no, everyone's name is in the Hall of Heroes…" She mumbled, crossing her arms and scratching her chin.

"The respected Master Rangi, a 7th Tier mage, leader of House Honu, is more than 3000 years old."

"Yeah, that is it!" She exclaimed, "Where are the rest of the old people?"

"..." Lucian smiled again, thinking his previous clue was not enough. "What do you think?" He asked, and seeing her puzzled look, he couldn't help but chuckle. "Have you ever looked through the Institute Artifact collection?"

"..." Lia didn't answer, just brought up her wrist, opening the menu of her bracelet and browsing through an extensive list of artifacts stored here. Many had names and their Tier when gifting it to the Institution. "There are a lot of names here… hundreds of thousands! And... I can see a lot who gifted it at the 7th Tier!"

"Yes. Some are sadly no longer amongst us, that is true. But just as their artifacts, gifted to us, they are… waiting. Waiting to be called upon."

"They are… still alive?" She asked, mouth agape, but Lucian just smiled.

"No comment. Also… what do you think? If we could produce so many good mages through the eras, throughout 4000 years of peace... People who are keeping vigilant, oath-bounded to protect our Realm until their last breath… Would the Six Houses fare any worse than my Institute?"

"...!"

Lucian said nothing more and simply winked at her before clapping.

"Now, meditate! I think it will be a few days more of training before we are going to head back! If my calculations are correct, Opparu should return soon enough, aha!"

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