Chapter 33 – 7 Pillars
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In the capital of the Kingdom of Artanza, the army was gathering as it prepared for war against the Lockhart Kingdom.
 
They had received a lot of equipment from the Neverwinter Kingdom as they supported them in this war which had raised their overall strength.
 
"Commander, are we really doing this?" asked a woman in the late expert stage who was also the Vice Commander of the Artanza Army. The army was nervous going against the Lockhart Kingdom helmed by the Hero.
 
They knew the consequences of going against the Hero and were worried about this war. They did not want to go against the Hero but they were too weak and could do nothing but obey their orders.
 
"I am not sure if its the right thing to do, but this is our best chance." said the man who was in the Mid Master Stage and had black hair, he was Rick Sullivan, the Commander of the Army who was going to attack the Lockhart Kingdom.
 
"Do you have the map ready?" asked Rick.
 
"Yes, there are four major cities in the Lockhart Kingdom," said she as she laid out the map.
 
"The biggest and most powerful is the capital, New Heart, followed by Arafina, the city at the southern tip of the Human Realm, connected to the Ocean being the Port City."
 
"Next is Rizvaria, the city connected by the rivers, it is the most connected city in the Kingdom and is the hub for all transportation, military, and civilian, this is the city we need to take if we want to stall their movement."
 
"Last is Terana , this will be the hardest as it situated on several mountains with varying degree of terrain and is surrounded by high walls, capturing this will be a nightmare but it's also the least influential city in the Lockhart Kingdom," said she as she recounted her analysis.
 
"We need to take Rizvaria first and weaken the Lockhart Kingdom, it is also the closest to our borders," said Rick as he looked at the map.
 
"Alright, prepare the Army, we will set out as soon as everyone is armed," he said as the Vice Commander saluted to him and walked out of the tent.
 
He rubbed his temples as he looked at the map, if he could avoid this war he would, but he knew the Hero would come for them eventually, especially considering the past rivalry they had, even if the Hero did not care about that he would at some point unite the human realm.
 
While he was not the ruler so he might not be affected, he still didn't want to be under someone else's rule. He did care about the current Royal Family as they had treated him well since he was a kid and he had received their support which had made him so strong and get to this level.
 
/---
 
Back in New Heart, the recruitment test had commenced.
 
The recruits were divided into four groups for the roles they applied for. The four roles were the Vanguard, Healers, Scouts and the last group being Infiltrators who carried out special missions which were extremely dangerous but also more rewarding than any other role.
 
Julie, who had the leadership skills and firepower applied for the Vanguard position , the group was currently being tested for their powerful attacks which were a necessity for being the Vanguard.
 
In the examination area for the vanguard, there were 7 pillars in a straight line formed from Holy Aqua Magic by the Supreme Commander, Natalia Phoenix. 
 
Every recruit took turns attacking the pillars, the more pillars they could destroy, the higher their score.
 
Most of the people applied for the position of vanguard as it had the highest chance of getting leadership positions in the army and this meant it also had a higher rate of rejection.
 
They were asked to pour all their mana into a single attack and try to break as many pillars as possible with a single strike.
 
The people who were not able to break even a single pillar were disqualified from the Vanguard test and were asked to either leave or reapply for another role.
 
Most of the people were able to only break a single pillar using all of their mana, some people were able to break two, most of them being from the noble families who had access to more powerful magic, even fewer people were able to break 3 pillars.
 
There were 2 people who had managed to break 5 pillars, one was from a noble family and the other was a commoner who was a famous adventurer. Both being the only Level 20 Expert Stage people who applied for the Vanguard.
 
It was now Gray Ward's turn for the test, Julie watched by the side, she was the last person who was to be tested and was extremely nervous, she didn't come from a noble family or even a wealthy family, the magic she knew wasn't very powerful but this was all she had since she was a kid and thus focused just on this one magic.
 
She saw her new friend walk towards the platform as the pillars of water remade themselves for the next person. 
 
He definitely caught a lot of attention because of his striking hair color and his status of nobility, but also because he was from the Ward family that were not good fighters and the test did not allow the use of any magical equipment at all.
 
He took the glaive that the army had given him for the test which had no engravings on it as he activated his skill.
 
As he channeled his mana through his arms it increased his physical strength, he held the glaive in his hand and slashed down towards the 7 pillars, as he sliced it down there was a shrill piercing sound as the attack went through the first pillar slicing it in half as it went for the second one.
 
It did not stop and kept crushing pillar after pillar as it broke the 6th pillar made of water and finally stopped.
 
Everyone was shocked as they saw this, this guy went beyond the two expert stage recruits and broke the 6th pillar despite being Level 17.
 
The examiner wrote down his name as he called for the last recruit.
 
"Julie Stone, step forward," said he as the pillars of water recovered and reformed.
 
Julie stepped forward nervously as she walked towards the platform, the performance of Gray shocked her too, she just hoped she could get through this too.
 
No one paid much attention to this plain-looking girl, she stood out the least out of everyone, especially after gray's astonishing performance. They were focused on this noble guy who broke 6 pillars, these recruits would probably work under him and the other two people who broke the 5th pillar.
 
These were the most likely to be considered for the leadership positions, even if they may not be good leaders they still might get chosen because people respected and followed strong people.
 
They were planning to get into the good shoes of these three to make their lives easier in the future. The Nobles looked down on the commoners but dared not to show it openly.
 
The other commoner who was in the expert stage was someone they would try to ingratiate themselves with because she might have their lives under her control in the future, but they did not care about this plain village girl.
 
Julie got on the platform and saw the towering pillars of water that gave off a terrifying pressure to her.
 
She channeled her mana and formed the wind magic that had been passed down in her village, this was the magic she had used her entire life and tried to improve. It wasn't anything impressive but it was the only thing she had.
 
As the wind gathered around her hands, she poured all her mana into the attack.
 
"So its just wind magic, I guess this is it with the recruitment. We need to look out for those three" said a girl from a noble family as she saw Julie using simple wind magic and looked away uninterested.
 
Julie saw the 7 pillars in front of her and was reminded of her family and her village, her parents had died when she was young and the entire village took care of her and trained her and helped her get stronger.
 
She was considered a talent in the village but there was only so much a small village could do to develop this young girl, many of the people in the village thought it was wasted for such a talented girl to born in a small village. 
 
She used what she had to get stronger as she clawed her way to becoming stronger and get here, this magic might be simple but this was the only thing that gave her strength.
 
As she remembers the faces of her dead parents and her two young siblings who were depended on her, all her nervousness vanished, her gaze became determined as the magic became stronger and stronger.
 
"I did not have the wealth or powerful magic, I did not have magic crystals to help me break bottlenecks, I had no one to train me. But I won't let that stop me, I will become stronger. For my family who sacrificed for me, for the people in the village who prioritized my development over theirs, who did everything to make me strong, I will crush anything that stands in my path, no matter the circumstances, I will keep getting stronger" thought she as she gritted her teeth and the wind magic became stronger and stronger.
 
The magic she was using was in the novice stage but at this instant, it started to change, this test on which depended her entire future and the weight of her family and village that was on her shoulders along with her talent that did not get the chance or resources to be realized burst forth at this instant.
 
The simple winds surrounding her fists became strong howling winds that concentrated on her hands and shook the entire area, as her magic concentrated on her hands it turned into a ball made of howling winds, it was like a small world that was filled with tornados, as she pushed out her hand the ball of wind burst forward.
 
It crushed the first pillar with a loud boom as it went forward at a terrifying speed that created a sonic boom and didn't stop.
 
It smashed through all 7 pillars and then kept going until it smashed the outer walls of the training grounds cracking it.
 
Everyone who was present was shell shocked with their mouths hung open.
 
"W-W-What the fuck is that? Is she really level 15? What is that magic? Where did a commoner find such powerful magic?" said the noble girl who was uninterested before as she was now completely shocked not to mention blown away physically because she was close to the platform.
 
Everyone looked at her with shock and were scared,"Plain-looking village girl my ass" thought everyone as they thought she was probably just trying to lower everyone's guard with that appearance.
 
"Hm, is she a noble from some hidden family? That's quite scary, she was able to deceive even someone like me" said a guy who was wearing glasses and was one of the two Expert Stage recruits who broke the 5th pillar.
 
Everyone suddenly changed their attitude towards this girl, from their perspective it didn't feel she was a normal girl who broke through but someone who was cunning and deceived everyone by hiding her strength. Someone like this was the most likely to be accepted into leadership positions.
 
Everyone gulped as they realized they have to ingratiate themselves with this girl no matter what, out of everyone she had the highest chance of becoming their leader.
 
The Examiner received a message on his voice projecting crystal, "Yes, Commander, I will do so." said he and placed the crystal back and wrote down her name and starred it.
 
The Supreme Commander of the Lockhart Royal Army was sitting on a rooftop nearby undetected as she observed the proceedings. She was also shocked to see all her magic pillars destroyed by someone at Level 15.
 
She smiled as she realized, "This girl managed to breakthrough and increase the level of her magic from Novice Stage to the Expert Stage despite being the Novice Stage with just her own comprehension without any external support. I will have to keep an eye on her." said she as she jumped off the roof.
 
Meanwhile, Julie just stood on the platform dumbstruck at what she had done.
 

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