'This exercise is just like a math problem. I can either learn by rote all the equations or I can understand the underlying principles of the main formula and derive from it everything I need. So far the first method failed me, time to give the second one a try.'
Lith closed his eyes, ignoring the combo bar in from of him and focusing on his mana core instead. The second spell of his choosing was Jorun Bat, a useless spell that would generate coin shaped icicles.
It was similar enough to the previous one to make it possible for him to at least reuse the first hand seal. Lith drew the symbol in the air slowly, feeling a small amount of mana departing from his core.
Then, he almost stopped his hands, making one small movement at a time and observing how the mana strand reacted. He discarded all the signs that caused it to bloat or collapse, following only those which made it move outwards.
Lith had no idea how much time had passed when he heard the sound announcing the completion of the second spell. He opened his eyes just for the time necessary to pick the next two words from the Codex and transmit them to the Booth.
He kept practicing ice spells only, observing each time with more clarity the shape the mana strand assumed with each different spell. The revelation struck him like a hammer.
Most of the movements composing a single hand sign were useless. They had likely been added to make it easier to remember, to mask the important parts from prying eyes, or both.
What mattered were the movements that altered the shape of the mana strand, adding to it twists and turns until its flow resembled that of a true magic spell. Lith decided to put his theory to test.
He picked another couple of words forming a simple ice spell. Lith mentally visualized how he needed to manipulate his mana flow to obtain with true magic the same effect the fake spell would have. Next, he pronounced the magic words while using both hands to shape the mana strand like the true spell he just created.
The Booth signaled his success coincided with the gong marking the end of the lesson. Lith found himself drenched in sweat. His mana reserve was low enough to give him a splitting headache.
Yet he was pleased with his results.
'The bad news is that I can't use the same technique for higher tier magic. It takes me a minute to whip up a tier one true spell, but the same can't be said for the upper tiers. It means I must really learn how to create fake spells.' Lith thought.
'This not only will come in handy to pass this subject, but also as a way to obtain credits by sharing spells if I ever need something from the Association. The good news is that now I found a much quicker way to turn fake magic into true magic and vice versa.
'It seems my original theory was right. Fake magic's foundations are the same as true magic and the whole tier system is a ladder that leads to the discovery of the mana core.'
Lith walked out of his Booth, waiting for the hologram to project his results.
Attempted spells: Fifteen. Completed spells: All. Final Grade: B. Imprint successfully reset, ready for a new student.
'Not bad for someone who spent half the lesson to get a single spell right.' Solus tried to cheer him up. B was the lowest score they ever got, yet she was proud of him. Lith had achieved that grade all by himself, without asking her help.
'It's better to wait after dinner before asking him if he did it on purpose or he was simply so focused to forget about me.' She thought in a hidden corner of her mind.
Lith turned to watch how the others performed. Quylla's hologram reported:
Attempted spells: Twenty two. Completed spells: All. Final Grade: A.
"Amazing as always, Quylla. I suck so bad at this subject. I need to work harder." He shook her hand with a tinge of envy in his voice.
'She's more talented than me, has more experience than me in creating fake spells, and she didn't waste time panicking. I wonder how powerful will she beco…'
Lith's train of thought was interrupted by Quylla, who gave him a weak kick on the shin. The way she compulsively tilted her head made him think Quylla was having a stroke or something.
'Turn around, idiot.' Lith followed Solus's order, finally noticing the other stations too. There were a lot of holographic Ds, Es, and even some Fs.
"What the heck?" Lith blurted out. It required at least four completed spells to get an E, eight to get a D. Everyone was staring at him with pure hatred.
"I told you people, talent." Nalear patted their backs.
"As I said earlier, two completed spells are enough for a passing grade during the first lesson. The machines are calibrated for the final exam, though." She chuckled at his bewildered expression.
Later, while the students were enjoying their dinner, the traitor inside the academy could finally sigh in relief. After the streak of failures during the past year, all their meticulous planning was giving its fruits.
Based on their most recent intel, Linjos was still unaware of their plans to build military grade weapons to employ during the final act. Ever since they had joined Lukart's wild goose chase everything had gone south.
Lukart, the Archmage idiot who dreamed to be King. The traitor had joined him because they too wanted the civil war to happen, but for an entirely different reason. The traitor firmly believed that the Griffon Kingdom was beyond saving.
It was like a horrible painting drawn by an incompetent artist. More brushstrokes could only make it even messier. What the Kingdom needed was to burn the old canvas and start again with a new one.
Blinded by his own arrogance, Lukart had never expected that his ally was slowly siphoning his funds and assets. Turning Lukart's accomplices into obedient slaves. The plan was brilliant in its simplicity.
When the civil war would start, the traitor would have all the necessary means to make his side prevail, wiping off the board both Lukart and the corrupted Royals.
After the incident in Kandria, they had been forced to change approach. With the parasites discovered and a cure already available, the original plan was ruined. When Balkor had revealed his new target, the traitor assumed the heaves were giving them a sign.
By moving their pawns, they had weakened all the academies, making them easy prey for the undead. The traitor assumed that once the six great academies were lost, the other great Countries would invade the Griffon Kingdom.
Nobles and commoners would have been united in grief, forced to ally against a common enemy. The outcome of the battle wasn't important, what mattered was to destroy the status quo. Yet the damned Linjos had ruined everything by allying himself with the Lord of the forest, leading the other Headmasters by example.
The traitor had spent the last months building the strength they needed to plunge the Kingdom into chaos. If revolution was impossible to achieve, the traitor was willing to settle with revenge.