The Count was true to his word, and the news about what happened in the Lightning Griffon academy spread like wildfire in Lustria County.
The villagers of Lutia and its outskirts were simply outraged. Life was already hard as it was, the idea that even if talented a commoner had to suffer from political plays was a slap in the face of all their hopes and dreams.
Despite her attitude, Nana was a saviour to most of them, to the point of considering her part of their own family. Countless people knew all too well that without her, too many babies would have never been safely delivered.
Seeing their benefactor treated as a plague, tainting everything she touched, was too much to bear. The same thing applied to those few noble families she associated with for her personal affairs.
Hundreds of letters were sent to Count Lark, who in turn forwarded them to the King's Court. Now that he had regained his cool, he realized how of little importance was his County and funding to such a large institution like an academy.
Even if coupled by so many letters, his official complaint about the Headmistress violating the rules to pursue her political agenda, was bound to rise little if no interest in the Court.
He sent it anyway, surrendering to fate without even attempting to fight was something that he would have regretted his whole life.
Lith's family was as furious as helpless, cursing the academy for its unfairness and themselves for their impotence. Lith was the less disappointed one from such turn of the events.
One way or another his plan worked, and that was good. On the other hand, though, that trip to the academy had been an eye opener about how ignorant he was about the new world and how fake magic had developed through the centuries.
Solus had confirmed to him that while the rude secretary had a deep cyan mana core, the Headmistress had a fully developed blue one. Lith had always felt so proud being one of the only two cyan core holders of the County, but not anymore.
He started regretting not having the possibility to at least check the other students and personnel of the academy, even if just to collect data about what was the average power level in the outside world.
Now that he was forced to follow his original plan, he had discovered so many unexpected flaws in it. The first and most annoying one was being forced to rot for another four years in Lustria County, where his talent was doomed to stagnate.
On their way back, the Count had confessed to him that rather not wanting to purchase tier five books, it was actually impossible for him. It wasn't only a matter of price, that would be enormous anyway, but he lacked the connections to obtain them.
He had already acquired all the books he could, which included only those that the Mage Association was willing to share with the general public. To get more he would need either a stroke of luck or the Association had to change its rules.
Both the events were highly unlikely. That meant that he was stuck with tier four spells that he had learned without understanding their purpose.
It was frustrating for him, like memorizing a mathematical equation just to pass a calculus exam, but knowing that you had been uncapable to comprehend the underlying meaning of it.
And during all those years of boredom, all the other magicians in the world would continue their education, shaving off four years of magical practice from the advantage he held.
Lith was still better than his peers because while they started their studies at six years of age or later, he had already started as a newborn. But soon all his hard work, the sacrifices, the hunger, would all turn out to be a fool's errand.
The second flaw was that he had completely underestimated the importance and distribution of magical items. He hadn't seen much, but it had been plenty enough to give him an itch in his head he could not scratch.
If it was possible to create such useful items with fake magic, then with true magic he would likely be able to wield and create superior version of those items, getting an even upper hand against other magicians.
Now, instead, he had no idea how they worked or how to acquire them. With enough knowledge, it could be even possible to help Solus regain her powers faster, maybe even reforge her or something.
"F*ck, I'm not just a frog in the well. I am a frog in a well in the middle of nowhere. Considering everything I saw in less than an hour, is not surprising at all that true magic is still a secret.
A fully magically equipped fake mage could probably fight with me on equal footing. I have no idea of the scope and availability of magical items.
Even if somehow, I manage to keep expanding my knowledge, my future travels are bound to be much more difficult than I had previously anticipated.
The only silver lining is that outside the biggest families, they should not be too much common, and that I managed to avoid five full years of being a bullied cripple.
But before calling myself lucky, I need more information. I am starting to suspect that I underestimated my circumstances a lot. Nana and Lark have a lot of explaining to do."
Lith took flight and moved towards Nana's house. The Count was just a magic enthusiast, after all, while she had actually attended to one of the six big academies, so she was bound to have much more inside knowledge.
At his arrival, he found out that Count Lark was there too, and had sent some villagers searching for Lith. Both of his patrons wanted to speak to him.
Since the waiting room was filled with patients, Lith helped Nana and Tista clear the queue so that Nana could leave Tista in charge and take a break for their talk.
Once inside Nana's living quarters, the three of them sat around her kitchen table.
"First of all, Lith, allow me to apologize. I never expected that old hag of Linnea to be willing to escalate our enmity to the next level. Making you pay for my mistakes, whether true or alleged, is beyond unfair.
But aside from that, from what I hear from Tista, you are taking this situation all too well. You still don't understand how wronged you have been, and that's also my fault. I stupidly respected the academy rules and kept its open secrets.
But since they are playing dirty and Lark is still willing to submit to apply in your stead for the remaining five big academies, I need to play dirty too and violate my oath.
If you want to have even a 1% chance of being admitted, you need to give your 100%, if not more. Enough with this crappy 'whatever' attitude of yours. There's a lot at stake, and we need you to take this seriously."
Lith knitted his eyebrows.
"What oath? What secrets? What are you talking about? I read that stupid academy pamphlet countless times. Sure, unless some miracle happens, I will not get to study tier five spells, but that's it. I can still become a member of the Mage Association.
To be honest, the idea of spending five years locked up with arrogant rich kids trying to stab me in the back is far from alluring. I can easily imagine what they would put me trough, day after day.
So, if it amounts to just some books, then thanks but no thanks."
Nana shook her head.
"It's so much more than just books. You see, you are right about the being look down upon and the daily bullying. The problem is that you are wrong about everything else. In your case, just like me, you wouldn't need five years, just two."
"How, exactly?" Two years were still a long period of time, but much more manageable than five, he had to concede her that much.
"The first three years cover the basics of magic. They teach things like the importance of accuracy in hand signs, accents, that kind of stuff.
Unlike you, many kids have to learn etiquette, history, geography, all kind of topics, not just how to read and write.
Otherwise they would be an embarrassment for their parents. In the Court life, they must also learn how to ride a horse, swordsmanship, playing an instrument, everything their parents need to brag about during social events."
"That off course takes time. Time that they cannot dedicate to the magical arts, hence needing to study the basics of the basics, even chore magic. You don't expect a young duke doing chores, do you?
Those like us, instead, need to go to the Academy only for the last two years, and the endless benefits it brings!"
At the words 'endless benefits' Lith's mouth was watering, his mind starting to second guess his decisions so far.
"What kind of benefits?"
"Have you ever thought why even the rich and the nobles send their kids there? If it was just about books, many students would rather avoid all the competition, just like you, and study in the safety of their homes.
What makes entering in one of the six big academies so alluring are the three benefits that only them can grant:
the access to all kind of spellbooks, the possibility to take one or more specialization courses and even more importantly the free access to magical items!"
Lith mouth was agape from the shock. Nana used his uncharacteristic silence to strike the iron while it was still hot.
"No matter what the tier, there are countless spells out there. Those you have studied here and at Lark's house are simply those that the Mage Association deems so common to be released to the public.
All the best spells, especially from tier four and five, are strictly controlled, and getting hold of even a sliver of knowledge is incredibly hard.
Only in a great academy you have free access to every topic, without restrictions, allowing you to build a great grimoire even before you set your foot out of the door.
If you get admitted to the fourth year, everything of tier four or below will be yours to take."
"What about the specializations?"
"Hmmm. That's complex to explain, let me make you a simple example. You are a healer, right?
Should you choose to become a master healer, not only you would be taught spells that even allow to regrow lost limbs, but most importantly, the secrets on how to more easily create your own light spells. The same applies to every specialization."
"What's your specialization?" Lith asked.
"I'm a war mage!" Nana puffed her chest with pride. "I was taught the secrets behind air magic, and back in the day I could have wiped out whole battalions all by myself.
Lightning hasn't many applications, but when it comes to destruction, is second to none.
But now let's get down to the juicy part, the one that I still regret the most.
The possibility to have access to a myriad of magical items."