After Lith paid the bill, they took a stroll along the promenade. Despite the late hour, the city was still bustling with carriages and small taxi boats.
Everything moved slowly. Unlike Earth's metropolis, nor the coachmen or the ferrymen seemed to be in a hurry and so were their passengers. To Lith, it almost appeared as the city of Vinea was lazily falling asleep.
Suddenly the silence between the two was broken by a sigh, shortly followed by another.
"What's wrong? Having second thoughts about the plan?" Lith asked.
"No." Phloria shook her head. "It's so odd. I feel so happy yet so scared at the same time." She sat on a wooden bench, inviting him to do the same.
"I'm happy because despite last year has been a nightmare, it made me realize how lucky I am. I have a loving family, wealth, status, and talent. All things that I took for granted before meeting you guys." She leaned against Lith, putting her head on his shoulder.
"I even managed to get this old without being forced to kill another human being." Lith had still a hard time hearing a sixteen year girl calling herself 'old', but after Rena's marriage, he was starting to wrap his head around it.
Especially after his sister got pregnant.
"The reason I'm afraid, it's because I know the fairy tale that has been my life is going to end soon." She sighed again.
"I finally understand why my mom is so pushy and my dad is so lenient. They are both trying to protect me their own way from life as they know it. Since I'm almost an adult, I must start acting like one. I can't keep relying on others for protection.
"Once I graduate, the army will send me away from home for the gods know how long. It will not be like with the academy, I will not be able to come back for months. For the first time in my life, I will be really alone.
"No matter my family name, my path is my own. Every decision I make will have consequences and I must be strong enough to live with them."
She paused for a moment, looking at the stars shining over their heads, while the crescent moon was partially covered by a passing cloud.
"It's so quiet tonight, while my future is so scary. I would like for this moment to last forever, but I know it's impossible."
Lith said nothing, his mind was blank. Even though he wanted nothing more than for the fifth year to end, to get over the accursed vision, the idea they had less than nine months together before breaking up made him feel empty.
The next morning, Lith served as a clerk for the Mage Association. It was the hardest thing he had ever done in all his three lives. He would receive new documents every few seconds, give his magical stamp as proof of receipt, and then catalog them according to protocol.
After that, he had to read them and forward the paperwork based on their priority. Despite the senior clerks provided him with an amulet that allowed him to easily find the correct rules and regulations for each document, the job was mind numbing.
Seconds seemed to last hours, while the two hours of duty could as well been years. He returned to the academy, feeling as his soul had been sucked dry.
'I'd rather fight another wyvern than do this sh*t again.' Lith thought. 'At least once you slay the beast it stays dead, those papers kept coming like a flood. It's much better a swift death by claw rather than slowly drowning in an ocean of boredom.'
'Cheer up! You had me and Soluspedia to help you remember what goes where. Imagine how does it feel for the others.' Solus chuckled.
During the healer specialization, they kept treating their slimes. The more Lith became accustomed to the procedure, the more often he was able to switch from Scanner to Invigoration.
He and Solus had discussed at length about Body Sculpting during their morning torture. They both thought the subject held one of the missing pieces of the puzzle that true magic was.
'The way Protector changed his form and the wyvern did are completely different. Protector shapeshifted at once, like water going from one vessel to another. The wyvern changed in small bursts instead, like a werewolf in a horror B movie.
'I think both manipulated their life forces, but employed different techniques. Protector is an Awakened one and Scarlett taught him how to change form, while the wyvern wasn't Awakened and had no access to his mana core.
'Probably the reason why Protector wasn't able to teach me how to shapeshift wasn't related to the refining stage of my core, but rather to my inability to control my life force. I must learn how to perceive it as a whole, not just a single limb at a time.
'Also, I need to find a way to create a backup of my human body's life force pattern or I risk losing myself forever.'
Lith used the Chisel spell as a sewing kit, joining the red bricks composing the tendrils of the slime with those of its main body by creating threads of cyan mana between them. As soon as the connection was properly established, the life force flowed like blood in the new vessels, turning them red.
By the end of the lesson, Lith's proficiency with the slime had greatly improved, yet he hadn't got halfway through the task. Oddly, the class' ranking was reversed. Those less skilled had almost finished, while Lith, Quylla, and the others had still much to do.
Even more oddly, Vastor didn't seem surprised nor worried by the turn of the events.
"Excellent, excellent!" He patted Quylla's back enthusiastically.
"I don't get it, Professor. I'm behind most of the class, why are you complimenting me?"
"Because you and the good ones are focusing on the how and why, rather than on the what." He explained placing his hand over her fish tank.
"As I expected. Your slime suffered minimal shock. You are not slow, Quylla, you are meticulous. There's a big difference between the two. Don't doubt yourself and stand tall." Vastor pushed up her chin, stopping Quylla from staring at the ground.
The Professor then checked all the slimes, complimenting most of the slow students and scolding all the fast ones.
"Your slimes aren't healed, more like patched up. If this was a more delicate procedure or a less durable creature, it would be long dead." Vastor shook his head, proceeding to ease the pain of the slimes by fixing the major mistakes.
Lith's group left the Healing lab in high spirits. The others because of Vastor's words, Lith because despite making no progress with Invigoration, he felt he was on the right path toward the discovery of how to shapeshift.
The next subject was the first practical lesson about how to create their own personal spells. Lith was eager to discover if he could learn something about true magic from it. Up to that point, all the academy courses had helped him to broaden his horizons.
They went to the Lecture Hall, where Professor Nalear was waiting for them. Once all the students arrived, Nalear opened a Warp Steps moving them to the most absurd training hall any of them had ever seen.