The work of art that was the Deepblue’s central tower wasn’t constructed in the normal way. It was more than thrice the height and twice the width of an ordinary magic tower, adding up to a twelvefold increase in surface area. And this was excluding its large subsidiary building complex! The total of the resources used in constructing it was unimaginable, allowing it to house more than ten thousand people in its premises. With its large population, the Deepblue on its own was on the level of a small city, but to be more specific it was a large monster. The amount of resources sent in and out of it every day was worth tenfold its size.
Sat atop a hill near the sea, the Deepblue had its own harbour to move supplies, docks pulled up from the solid bedrock of the sea using magic. At least three large roads connected to the different entrances to the Deepblue from this port, and fifty to sixty small towns prospered from the trade these roads established.
The Deepblue was situated at the apex of Floe Bay in the northwestern part of the continent, an estuary of two large rivers. The bay itself was as large as an ocean, spanning more than 1500 kilometres from the Starlight Peninsula to the northern Everwinter Mountains. The bay froze over in the winter, leaving only the southernmost parts of the coastline open for business. The Deepblue’s own harbour was located near some warm currents, though, so it was ice-free.
The Deepblue was located in a prime location. Transportation was convenient, and it guarded one of the three main roads at the south of this icy continent. The only other option for the grey dwarves and mystical beasts in their attacks was to pass through Sunset Canyon, which was a thousand kilometre detour that forced them through the Thunderlord Stronghold of the Sacred Alliance.
Still, they would rather do that than try and force their way through Sharon again. War after war with the Deepblue had put them in their place, and the woman was already on par with the most terrifying demons of their legend. When she officially entered level 20 and became a legendary mage, the Deepblue had grown completely peaceful. Even the fierce, brutal, and valiant grey dwarves of the underground didn’t dare destroy its serenity, allowing the surrounding lands to prosper.
That was how an old mage that was well into his nineties told the story to Richard. His abilities weren’t considered spectacular at level 8, and he was in fact amongst the weakest Richard had ever seen in the Deepblue, but he was extremely good-looking with an alluring voice and an understanding of this land that was second only to Sharon herself. His job was simple; he was to explain the history of the Deepblue to visitors and new acolytes like Richard, something deemed more important than the mana and talent examinations.
One’s talent at magic determined how far a mage could travel the various paths of magic in this complicated world, while mana determined whether they could even attempt to become a mage at all. As a hand-picked student of Sharon’s, Richard was different from the rest. What normally only took a single day had been extended to three, a challenge not only for him but also for the old mage who had to spread the tower’s history over the span of three days.
Many details were missing from the old man’s story, and some parts had been intentionally left out. However, one could only choose to accept and learn from the rich vaults of history, or forget about it as a whole. It was all for the sake of knowledge, and Richard had managed to piece together a quite complete image with his blessings.
The three days of brainwashing seemed to be effective nevertheless, as Richard no longer looked as Sharon as an innocent, delicate girl. His desires for her diminished, replaced by a lack of vocabulary to describe this woman whom even the grey dwarves feared.
Of course those weren’t the mage’s original intentions, but he wouldn’t know how his teachings affected the student either. Everyone knew Richard to be a quiet kid who hardly expressed his feelings, never laughing nor crying despite reprimands and bullying. He did as he was told to the best of his abilities, and there was almost nothing to nitpick about in this ten-year old who did not act like his age.
Richard hadn’t seen the sun in three days as his history lessons sped by at lightspeed. The next thing he knew, he was being brought to a special hall that was filled to the brim with alchemic tools and equipment. At least twenty mages were present here, with one main conductor who was the most superior. When Richard tried to use Truth to see through him, all he saw was an appallingly huge flaming ball of magic instead of the mage himself. He was at least level 17, a great mage, strong enough to be appointed as the imperial magician of any kingdom, yet here he was conducting an examination.
Richard removed his clothes, and was tied into a freezing metallic chair with all sorts of ropes and bandages. The conductor placed crystal needles in his body, an excruciating process that the boy endured silently. Just the scale of this part told Richard this examination would be no small matter, but he didn’t know the full extent of it yet. The examination for a common acolyte was just the casting of a grade 0 spell on a crystal ball, but these mages treated it like an important experiment, exuding a solemn tidiness and the agility unique to powerful mages.
Richard didn’t know Sharon was sitting behind the enchanted one-way wall, supervising the entire process from the comfort of a sofa. One hand held the notes of a legendary mage, while the other sent fruits into her mouth every now and then. Still, nobody could predict someone of her power; she could still control the entire situation at ease without sound or sight, so it only made sense for the mages in the lounge to put their utmost effort into examining Richard. There was only one master of the Deepblue, and everyone apart from her was a servant or a slave. Most mages here strived to make her happy in order to receive better treatment.
One of the mages walked over to Richard, placing a beaker under his nose and instructing him to inhale all of the mist within. Richard did as told, and felt himself slipping out of consciousness only moments later. A part of him was still awake, however, and aware of what was going on.
Odd sensations started to crawl all over his body, and he heard a voice, “High elemental affinity. Strong with fire, shadows, and divinity. Innate elements… none.”
Almost immediately, agonizing pain shot through Richard’s body, aimed to test his tolerance for elemental destruction which would measure his magic resistance. The same voice announced favourable results a few moments later.
Richard then felt like his consciousness was pierced by a needle, experiencing pain that cut through his very soul. Even unconscious he couldn’t help but writhe, yet with his body tightly bound there was no way to escape from the pain.
“Excellent spiritual force, almost at the level of a genius.” Richard relaxed upon hearing the comment, as he realised that he was still being examined. His results seemed good so far.
The subsequent tests examined the various functions of his body, even his genitalia, which were deemed to have extraordinary potential that could be put to use soon. Overall he fared better here than in magic.
The examination ran for around three hours, and resulted in a twenty page report. Sharon had finished two books of notes through the gruelling process, experimenting with a new magic concept and finishing five kilograms of fruit even as she constantly monitored their progress.
When Richard woke up, he was told that his overall result was excellent, with no special tendencies. He also possessed decent talent as a fighter, able to advance to level 11 or 12 in the profession in his lifetime. He was pleasantly surprised by his results as he was brought to rest after the long, debilitating torture. He’d been drained of all his energy and strength.
‘There should only be one rank above excellent, right?’ he deduced, thinking that one remaining rank would only be granted under certain rare conditions. Little did he know that there were a total of five ranks above excellent in that examination, namely genius, outstanding, legendary, unique, and Sharon.