Battle over. Emotions returned.
After an hour or so, Alicia and Owen stood over the scattered remains of the defeated skeleton goblins decorating the red wasteland with even more broken bones. They lost count on how many skeleton goblins they defeated in which Owen did most of the work.
“Haa…” With the suppression lifted, Alicia gave a sigh of melancholy. Why? Well, the only word that could describe how she felt was… conflicted. Even so, there must be a better word to describe her predicament.
“Why are they called Vengeful Remnants and their lord is called the Lord of Vengeance?” Alicia asked. “It is as if their existence is to take revenge?”
Both Owen and Aqua went silent to which Alicia noted. And for some reason, Voice kept silent.
“To answer your question,” Aqua spoke. “You need to know what AGP stands for.”
“AGP?” If Alicia recalled, Aqua had mentioned that the Lord of Vengeance will return in the year 300 ‘AGP’.
“It is short for After the Great Persecution.”
“In Kaomagi, there are three races named based on the deities they served who created them. But informally, they are called humans; demi-humans, like half-animals, elves, and dwarves; and ‘demons,’ like ogres, trolls, … and goblins.”
“I see you have a general idea of it. Yes, at some point in time, aptly referred to as year zero AGP, with the help and command from their deity, the human race had committed genocide against the ‘demons’ and the human deity even killed the ‘demon’ deity.
“However, by reasons even we do not know, the deity of the ‘demons’ refused to die and became the Lord of Vengeance, his children became the Vengeful Remnants.
“In the name of revenge against those who wronged them, they ravaged the entire world, even killing the human deity. However, they also dragged the demi-humans with them too.
“And at that time, the Otherworldly Court that had just been formed half a century prior stepped foot into Kaomagi, where the humans and demi-humans led by the last remaining deity, Eria, were in a desperate struggle to repel the Lord of Vengeance and his Vengeful Remnants.”
“And they helped to defeat the Lord of Vengeance?”
“Yes, it took over half of the Court Wizards and all eleven Guardians, the First Guardians, to push back the Vengeful Remnants and seal the Lord of Vengeance inside the red wasteland.”
“Only sealing him? So can he not be defeated permanently?”
“…He can be killed for good but… the First Guardians decided not to.”
“By letting the Lord of Vengeance rise once every century, he became a reminder of the Great Persecution and a warning for those who seek to harm others based on their birth. That was the First Guardians’ plan.
“The Last Deity Eria even accepted to the proposal and took the humans as if her own children. She likely agreed for her experience before the Great Persecution, and it was her also called the Great Persecution its name and has her church to preach about anti-discriminatory practices.
“The result? Kaomagi has become a world with multiple sapient species with ALMOST no discrimination between races. Since then, WE have yet to find another world with racial tolerance of Kaomagi’s level. For example, even though it is the humans who caused it, they were still treated equally with the demi-humans. The pope of Eria’s church, our Life Guardian, Gabriel, is human.”
“But that is extreme, why would the First Guardians do that?”
“We… do not know why they did it. But, if I have to say something, it may be because of this: We, the Otherworldly Court also practiced taking revenge. We are not machines nor saints, we can still have selfish decisions.”
“Alicia,” Owen called from a distance. “Over here.”
As Alicia went to where Owen was at, part of the wasteland further from the recent battle site where the maneg concentration is more stable, she decided to put it behind the back of her mind.
And the rainbow light enveloped them to transfer them back to Manegia.
“Welcome back, you two,” John, one of the Transporter Room operators greeted.
“Right,” Owen shrugged and turned to Alicia. “Come on, Alicia, we’re going back to the fire chamber to report.”
“I see you have returned with no injuries, good work you two,” the Fire Guardian, Aqua, congratulated.
“Thank you,” Alicia replied.
“As if a bunch of skellies can beat Alicia!”
“You know I defeated most of the goblin Vengefuls, Voice,” Owen retorted.
“Anyway,” Aqua continued. “Do submit to your report.”
Then, Aqua booted up the computer on the desk and typed the streamlined version of the report that Owen gives verbally. It was then Alicia realized how Aqua can handle technology quite easily. She decided not to ask.
Once it’s done, Aqua picked up two envelopes and gave it to both Owen and Alicia. “Here you go,” she said.
“Ah, is this our payment?” Alicia deduced.
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Well, my father told me. Anyway, do we get paid for every mission, or do we have a fixed salary?”
“Straight to the point I see, you are definitely Ronald’s child. As to your answer, to save the Otherworldly Court’s coffers, Court Wizards are paid for each mission. However, you can get a monthly income if you take up a post here. That includes our position as Guardians.”
“Anyway,” Aqua continued. “Can you hand over your identification sheet? I need to update it.”
“Huh? Alright then.”
Name: Alicia Bell Age: 15 Sex: Female Species: Human World: Kaomagi Earth Element: Fire Element Color: Red Cherished Armaments: - Rank: Wizard
Reading the sheet, Alicia only saw the changes made only at the last entry. Recalling what Aqua taught her when she first received this sheet of metal, she asked, “I got promoted?”
“Yes,” Aqua replied. “Well, I suppose I should explain how it works now.
“Ahem. As you know, we have five ranks: New Wizard, Wizard, Grand Wizard, Duke/Duchess. And Guardians also have to climb up the ranks, but they will still be higher than the fourth rank regardless of their current one.
“The first rank, New Wizard, is achieved after you learn the basic Orders that Owen taught you at the Training Grounds and then meet me.
“The next rank, Wizard, can only be achieved once you develop an Order or anything involving maneg that sets you apart with the rest and then get the recognition by a Guardian which I did. Additionally, you need to complete your first mission which you did.
“If you are wondering, the basis for your promotion is your pure composition of loyal maneg in your Maneg Soul and the ability to give normal Orders using it. It is in the category of unique technique involving maneg.”
“Why does that make it unique?” Alicia asked before realizing, “wait, how do you know about it?”
“You see the balcony there?” Aqua pointed. “It is the best view of the Training Grounds. I happened to watch your training and saw you returning your loyal maneg. Naturally, during your mission, I went down and asked Russel your Maneg Soul report.”
“Oh, I also forgot about you, Voice. You are also the reason for her promotion.”
“Obviously!” Voice gave a smug look “There ain’t a me as cute as I am!”
“Now that we are discussing about it.” Alicia turned to Owen. “What was your justification for your promotion to Wizard, Owen?”
“My Order, [Deep Freeze],” Owen answered. “It freezes bodies solid which was what I did to most of the goblin-type Vengefuls. And apparently, I was the first one who came up with it.”
“Really?” Alicia commented. “It does seem something very common.”
“I can explain.” Aqua then operated the computer. “This is his general version of his Order.”
Attach to x body, lower temperature of x body to x temperature.
“And what is wrong with this?” Alicia asked.
“Well, the Order I used yesterday is [Ice Layer],” Owen said, not mentioning the kidnappers so as to not stray the topic. “It’s the closest thing Ice Court Wizards got to [Deep Freeze]. It works by forming layers of ice outside the body to essentially trap them, which is the second step. [Deep Freeze] with its second step straight up freeze them from within, much cheaper but lethal.”
“Yes,” Aqua nodded. “And it is the second general step of [Deep Freeze] that made it difficult to order. The thing is, Orders are based on science in which we need to understand for our Maneg Soul to understand too.
“Throughout generations, no Ice Court Wizard has ever understood how the temperature rises and drops. But as ‘Earths’ progresses to the modern world, we now know that it happens because heat energy gets expelled which became the basis for the second step.
“The Order [Deep Freeze] works by ordering ice maneg to absorb heat from the target, ultimately freezing their inner body. Additionally, as ice maneg absorbed hear, it converts to fire maneg as a by-product.
“And as Owen became the first to ‘invent’ this Order, he was promoted to Wizard.”
“Then what if you truly cannot develop a unique Order or skill?” Alicia asked. “Do you get stuck as a New Wizard until then?”
“No,” Aqua shook her head. “You can still be promoted by serving as a Court Wizard for five years. And it is also the case for the third rank, Grand Wizard, which in that case, requires ten years.
“Normally, the requirement for the third rank is for you to make an ‘achievement.’ It can be making a breakthrough in maneg research like Amelia Rickens,” Aqua picked up the ‘Maneg 101’ book and pointed at its author’s name. “But mostly, it involves performing a huge stunt during a mission, intentional or not.”
“Is that like Owen freezing a volcano?”
“I see you heard of Owen’s achievement. Yes, and that was why Owen was promoted to Grand Wizard.”
“So that is your current rank then, Owen?” Alicia asked.
“No,” Owen shook his head. “I’m a Duke.”
“That is the highest rank,” Alicia said. “Correct?”
“Yes,” Aqua nodded. “The fourth rank, Duke or Duchess, depending on your gender, is actually implemented about a century and a half after the Otherworldly Court was formed. The requirement to ascend to this rank is to receive the recognition by your Element’s Mother Soul that you are comparable to your Guardian, me, usually through a duel which you do not have to actually win.”
“So I have to fight you?” Alicia asked to which the Fire Guardian nodded. Then, she worriedly turned to Owen. “Did you fight Alice, Owen?”
“No,” Owen denied instantly. “The Mother Soul of Ice actually gave me the pass without ever fighting. And the same happens for the others once they got to Grand Wizard…” he mumbled the last part.
“Why?” Alicia asked and saw Owen’s lowering expression. “Is it something sensitive?”
“It is. But it is something you should know for Alice’s sake, but we have no time to explain it fully. So it will be a topic for another day,” Aqua said.
“I see, I will not ask further,” Alicia complied, understanding their notion.
“Moving on,” Aqua continued in a better tone. “You can get demoted from the fourth rank. Every five years, you will have to take a ‘re-test.’ If you fail or did not partake it within a month, you will be demoted. Additionally, if the Guardian passes away, all Dukes and Duchesses will be demoted automatically.
“And that is about it. Do you have any questions?”
“No,” Alicia shook her head. “I believe I understand.”
“Good, now that we got that out of the way,” Aqua pointed at the balcony. “There are some people who would like to talk to you, they have been waiting in the balcony as we speak.”
“Really?” Alicia said. “Who are they? I hope they did not wait too long.”
“They are your fellow Fire Court Wizards, and they are only relaxing there so they do not mind the wait. You will see once you enter the balcony.”
And thus Alicia’s day in the Otherworldly Court continued.