Chapter 18 “A Different Path”
Outside the castle dungeon Du Wei saw his first subordinate female knight Rolynn, since coming to the castle she had spontaneously taken custody of the captive magician.
The magician had after all been one of Rolynn’s companions, and even if she had sworn loyalty to Du Wei, she still held some nostalgic compassion despite the fact that the magician had originally only been attracted by her charm, and had only been with them for a few days. Even if Rolynn didn’t dare go against Du Wei’s order and release him, but by looking after him personally, she could at least show this former companion some consideration to the limits of friendship.
At least after coming here last night, under Rolynn’s care, he had been able to fill his belly. Even if he still couldn’t be allowed to sleep or meditate. Rolynn’s two retainers, that bulky warrior and archer, took turns guarding the magician to prevent any opportunity of recovery.
When Du Wei reached the dungeon, this kind of damp and moist dungeon air didn’t agree with him.
Actually the sight of Rolynn in knight’s attire made Du Wei’s eyes brighten! This long legged girl seemed to have disguised her originally seductive face, cutting her hair a bit shorter, tying a silk headband over her forehead, even trimming her eyebrows to reduce her charm a bit, but tripling her heroic spirit.
Especially putting on knight’s clothing made her seem a lot more dignified —— even if by not wearing a short skirt like before, she no longer exposed those beautiful long legs. Anyway, fitted with a slender sword and a light cavalry breastplate, she rather had the attitude of a knight.
“My lord.” Rolynn immediately greeted Du Wei when she saw him: “You are……”
“I will see my captive.” Du Wei’s expression was cold, his mood a bit bad as he gave Rolynn a glance: “You’ve kept guard here all night?”
Rolynn looked a bit awkward: “Master, that guy is after all my former companion, I would……”
“Ask for leniency?” Du Wei shook his head: “No need, I won’t make things hard for you. As long as he obediently answers my questions I’ll let him go.”
Du Wei walked past Rolynn, leaving behind the words: “I’ll speak with him alone; all of you can wait in the outer room. Don’t let anyone in.”
The room where the magician was held was originally the largest cell in the castle dungeon. When Du Wei entered the magician’s complexion was pale, his eyelids fluttering rapidly.
Even if the magician had formidable spirit power, he had wasted a lot of it in that fight back at the inn. Also, he’s been deprived of sleep or any opportunity to meditate. No matter how strong his spirit was, there’s no way for him to endure two days of continuous torment.
Since coming to this dungeon, each time his eyes had closed he would be doused by a bucket of cold water. Even if Rolynn was a bit polite, her two subordinates were less so.
Originally the bulky warrior and archer had been less than pleased to have the magician in their party for the guy was only attracted by Rolynn’s beauty. The two had always held him in contempt, thus their relationship had never been amicable.
This moment, seeing this little noble enter the cell, the magician was already about to collapse. He wasn’t chained. A magician without magic was weaker than even an ordinary person anyways. But in the damp darkness of the dungeon he had been doused with cold water more times than he could remember, and his lips were ghastly pale from the cold. When Du Wei first entered the cell, he was sitting on a stone bench hugging his knees while the bulky warrior stood next to him still yelling: “Hey, don’t close your eyes! Otherwise it’s the cold water for you again! How many times do you think I’ve had to run for fresh water tonight?!”
Just as the warrior finished, he turned his head around and immediately shut his mouth after seeing Du Wei. Gesturing for the bloke to leave, Du Wei stepped over to the magician: “How is it? Respected magician, is everything to your satisfaction?”
Satisfaction? Do I look ‘satisfied’ to you? The mage swallowed his curses and made an imploring expression on his face: “Mister, as a member of the nobility, why do you treat me like this? As the eldest son of the Rowling clan’s earl, if it becomes known you treated a magician this viciously, then afterwards it might be difficult for your family to find friends among us magicians!”
Still want to threaten me?
Du Wei curled his lips: “Eh, what was that? If it becomes public knowledge that an insignificant first level magician actually mastered instant casting, then what would the consequences be?”
The magician paled, showing a terrified expression.
The consequences would be very simple! If other magicians learned of this, then very quickly he would become the common prey of all magicians on the continent! Any magician would want to learn a first rate skill like instant casting! And if an insignificant first level mage actually managed to learn something like that…… Was there any need to ask about the consequences?
Just like if a defenseless three year old child carried around millions of gold coins!
“Speak.” Du Wei smiled: “Actually, I know that your so-called instant casting isn’t the real thing. You definitely used some obscure method to accomplish it, right? I’m not a magician, so even if you told me it wouldn’t be any skin off your back. I just want to satisfy my curiosity.”
The magician lowered his head with a struggling expression.
“What good will hesitating do?” Du Wei sighed: “You’re just a first level magician, even if magicians are rare and respected in this world, that only applies to mid level sorcerers or higher. For the lowest level magician like you, I’m afraid nobody would care even if I killed you right now, or maybe locked you up for life. Even the magic union wouldn’t offend a great noble for the sake of a magician of the lowest level, right?”
“You……” The magician’s expression finally relaxed as his mental barriers began to crumble, biting his lip: “You…… If I tell you, you have to promise never to reveal it. Because…… This involves my status as a magician!”
“I can do that, certainly.” Du Wei immediately raised his hand and recited an oath: “I, Du Wei Rowling, hereby swear that everything you tell me today will only be recorded in my heart and never again be repeated to others. Otherwise, let the radiant goddess strike me down!”
“……” The magician’s expression was mixed, showing a guilty consciousness. Finally his lips squirmed: “I…… Actually, I’m only a magic apprentice.”
“…… What?” Du Wei was shocked: “What do you mean?”
“I……” The magician spoke as if it cost him a great deal of strength: “I said, I’m actually just a magic apprentice, my true magic ability is only on the level of a magic apprentice. And my first level magician qualifications were only obtained by cheating.”
“Cheating?” Du Wei’s heart began to stir!
Obtaining magician qualifications by cheating?
According to what Du Wei knew, the examinations of the magic association couldn’t be so easily deceived! If a magicians qualification could be easily swindled, then wouldn’t they be a joke?
“I started studying magic from childhood, my master was a low level magician who believed I had the talent for magic and accepted me as an apprentice, and when I was thirteen I acquired the qualifications as a magic apprentice…… that wasn’t difficult.” The magician’s tone was somewhat bitter: “There are only a few hundred true magicians on the continent, but people with qualifications as magic apprentices’ numbered in the thousands. Unfortunately, the road to becoming a true magician is too arduous, and the majority of the magic apprentices, even with a lifetime of effort, is unable to pass the first level examination and can only spend their life without making through that barricade. And I…… Am also one of these pitiful worms.”
“Every magician will accept several apprentices, but the magician himself clearly understands that none of these apprentices will ever become magicians and will probably spend their lives as a magician’s follower. But every magician will still accept several apprentices. Because…… The position of magician is so sublime and revered, and for someone like that, how can they only have a few attendants? Therefore, each magician will bring along some amount of magic apprentices. These apprentices for the most part dream about magic, but in truth, only a small minority is able to realize that dream. Most repulsive is the fact that most magicians know full well that these magic apprentices don’t stand a chance of becoming magicians, but they don’t tell them…… Because the magicians need obedient disciples, people to assist them with magic research, people to support them, as assistants that seemed more like servants…… And servants like these won’t even cost them a single coin!
My story is just like this. I met my master when I was thirteen, he told me I had talent and brought me away from home, promising to teach me to become an outstanding magician. I followed him with boundless longing and hope, but unfortunately…… Later I discovered that it was basically impossible for me to achieve my dream. My master had a dozen disciples, each having passed the magic apprentice examination. Our master just exploited us like free servants, free assistants.
He would deceive us with lies, but he clearly knew that of these disciples the majority would never be able to become magicians. He knew! But he didn’t say anything!
I spent ten years as a magic apprentice before I discovered the truth, I didn’t have the gift. It was true that I had a bit more spirit power than the average person, and also a tiny bit of affinity for sensitivity…… But that was the limit. My talent was limited.
Later, I had no choice but to…… to…… study magic pharmacy.”
Du Wei’s eyes brightened!
This fellow’s story was a lot like his!
Only he didn’t even have the ability to pass the magic apprentice examination…… Du Wei laughed bitterly in his heart.
Actually, even Du Wei didn’t know that his circumstances weren’t what he thought.
Magicians were an odd bunch. For the most part magicians were reclusive and conceited, regarding themselves as above everyone else. They could call the wind, summon the rain, and they could draw upon divine power. To the majority of magicians, the masses of common folks were little more than ants they could casually exploit.
A lot of the magic apprentices accepted by magicians had even less talent than Du Wei! But even if magicians were wealthy, they couldn’t hire servants like common nobles when they needed attendants —— what would that look like!
As sacred sorcerers, as mysterious magicians, their servants naturally had to have the status of magic apprentices! If they used common servants, wouldn’t their status drop?
But only a small minority of people possessed talent in magic. Therefore, with the majority of magicians looking to have magic apprentices at their side, they didn’t even hesitate to lower the official recruitment standards for magic apprentices! People, whose talent clearly was insufficient, as long as it was a tiny bit more than the ordinary, would still be lured in by the magicians saying ‘I will teach you to become a magician’.
Afterwards…… These people, who lacked the talent to become magicians, would spend their lives as cheap labor for their masters!
These practices caused a great deal of disorder with the magic apprentice assessments! The standard was also unevenly matched.
However, when Du Wei was tested last time in the imperial capital, it was done according to the true and strict standard! Because…… That mage Clarke didn’t dare cheat the eldest son of the second most powerful person in the imperial military!
Just because of Du Wei’s background, Clarke didn’t dare cheat him into becoming cheap labor.
Otherwise, if Du Wei had been a commoner…… That day when Clark saw his outstanding spirit power he would have already accepted Du Wei as an apprentice!
Even when he knew that Du Wei didn’t possess the gift for magic, Clark would still have taken him on! Because having a magic apprentice with such outstanding spirit power at his side would have been greatly convenient in future magic experiments.
In fact, a lot of magicians did this. If Du Wei hadn’t been the earl’s son, perhaps he would have been tricked into leaving with the beautiful dream of becoming a magician, serving as a magician’s cheap labor, even squandering his life and delaying his future prospects.
“It was only by happenstance that I learned the facts: My master had long known that I couldn’t become a magician.” The captive’s voice was bitter: “He even knew it when he brought me away from home! Just that he saw I had a bit of magic talent and wanted me as a servant by his side, and later somewhat convenient when performing magic experiments. Master had a lot of apprentices like me, some with strong magic power, some with decent magic sensitivity, but all with some major flaw. But they had been tricked into believing a beautiful dream, leaving at master’s side, wasting their lives!
“……And then?” Du Wei exhaled.
“Like I said just now…… At first after learning the truth I was angry. And later…… I decided to change my destiny. Since I couldn’t learn real magic, then…… I decided to study magic pharmacy.” The captive magician sighed: “Because magic pharmacists are recognized as a kind of magician by the magic union. Even if…… This is considered ridiculous by most people, even if most people don’t consider magic pharmacists worthy of being called magicians.”
“…… And then?” Du Wei felt his heartbeat speed up!
Could it be that…… This guy……
Just like him, neither of them had the talent for magic! But now he had become a magician! And moreover, in that tavern he had used real magic!
Since he, without talent, had at last used some unknown method to learn magic…… Then as long as he could figure out what method he used…… It might be possible for him too!
If he could find a way to learn magic, then……
Couldn’t he learn the astrological skills Seimei had left behind in that secret room, Seimei’s life’s research into star magic?
“You can become a magician with proficiency in magic pharmacy?” Du Wei looked at his captive: “From what I know, the examination for magic pharmacists is completely separate from the examination for magicians.”
Real magicians were split into ten levels, and the difficulty of the exam would increase a lot with each level! Therefore, the higher level the magician, the more powerful.
But ‘also a kind of magician’ magic pharmacists exam were a lot simpler.
Even to the extent that it felt halfhearted!
Magic pharmacists didn’t have multiple levels of examinations!
As long as you passed the exam, you were a magic pharmacist! Afterwards the magic association would issue you a badge, officially recognizing you as a magician.
Even if most people wouldn’t acknowledge this recognition.
Moreover, even the magic association itself discriminated against them with those badges.
The magic pharmacist emblem was crafted simply in copper, and…… It didn’t have any magical counterfeiting protection.
Perhaps it was because the magic union itself knew nobody would be interested in faking the identity of a magic pharmacist.
A magic pharmacist, often referred to as a poison master, were even lower in status than a common doctor.
And even first level real magicians had badges of silver! A first level magician had a silver leaf badge.
Du Wei naturally hadn’t forgotten how he had seized a silver leaf badge from the chest of his captive back at the tavern!
In other words, he hadn’t passed a magic pharmacist’s examination, but a real magician’s examination!
How had he done it?
Learning magic had been a broken dream, but this moment hope once again rose in Du Wei’s heart!
“My gift in magic power was outstanding, and my talent in spirit power was a bit stronger than most people. For an ordinary person this might just manifest as increased vigor, not growing fatigued as easily and so on…… But I lacked sensitivity. No matter how I meditated, no matter how hard I tried, at first I was unable to even sense the fluctuations of the natural forces.” The captive spoke slowly: “Later, after studying magic pharmacy for ten years, I began to wonder…… What are the so-called natural forces really? My teacher told me they were everything! Everything in this world! They were wind, fire, water, even the tiniest most minute things. But this explanation was still too vague. Deep in my heart I had a thought…… Just what if, I could understand, just what these ‘natural forces’ are, then, there might still be hope for me.”
Du Wei calmly listened, carefully engraving these words into his mind.
“For instance, fire magic. A magician can use spells to draw support on the natural fire element in this world and use magic to change it into flames! But in magic pharmacy there’s a dozen different ways to create flame with preparations! Like the simplest kind……” Here the captive magician looked at Du Wei: “What I’m saying, are you following?”
“Please continue, I understand.” Du Wei smiled faintly: “I’ve also read some books on magic pharmacy.”
“Good.” The magician continued: “In magic pharmacy there’s a dozen different ways to produce the same basic principle as fire magic…… Flame! For instance, the most basic kind uses a sort of phosphoric grass grounded into powder that can ignite on its own! So I thought…… phosphoric grass can create fire, and magicians can also create fire with magic. Then could it be…… That phosphoric grass contains what is called the magic elements of natural forces? In other words, does phosphoric grass contain something that is the same as fire magic elements?”
Du Wei’s heart twitched as if he had thought of something, but for the moment he couldn’t catch it.
The captive magician continued: “I discovered something ingenious. All magic spells! I mean all of them! Even if there are small and large spells. Let’s take another fire spell for example, the simplest fireball, compared to ‘city conflagration’ forbidden spell that can extinguish heaven! Even if the difference in power is manifold, in fact, the principle is the same! Both use flame for ignition! But…… What’s ingenious…… Everything that can be accomplished with fire magic can also be accomplished with magic pharmacy! For instance, fire magic, even if alchemy can’t produce something on the destructive scale of the ‘city conflagration’ forbidden spell, the theory of lighting a fire is the same! Other examples with wind magic, water magic, and so on…… All magic systems can be replicated with pharmacy! Even if only the very simplest fundamental principles, they can still be replicated! Why is this? Perhaps…… I think, maybe, those precious pharmaceutical materials actually contain what is called the ‘magic elements’ of each magic system! What do you think?”
The prisoner’s face was filled with pride: “Since I’m unable to use meditation to extract the magical elements in nature…… then I’ll use alternative means, extracting magical elements from preparations! !”
If you like this translation, consider donating for extra chapters.