Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis,
Author’s notes: The second chapter of four to be released. Finally found my email related to my property manager and noticed an email for a property inspection coming up very soon. Going to be a busy body tomorrow by the looks at it, cleaning any cobwebs in the corners and whatnot, I’m sure you know how it goes.
Also, those two editors have left me a bucket load of edits in the next chapter… even though it isn’t all that long… >.<
Chapter 12 – Practical ‘Cartography’
The next day, Regal arrives at school and enters his classroom with high spirits. It isn’t long before Mr. River also enters the classroom, quickly gathering the students and bringing them outside.
“Class 4 students, group together with everybody else and don’t cause me any problems,” Mr. River points toward a group of students already prepared to depart in front of the school.
Regal is mixed into the middle of the students of class 4 next to Veronica as the class hurriedly joins the rest of the school. The classes gather together as the students form into their usual friend circles. Very few are left standing by, as even Kilde and Astore quickly group together with Regal and Veronica.
The teachers form their own small group in front of everyone and quickly lead the students away from the school. They form a procession through the main streets as they head toward one of the eastern city access gates. Many Immortalis take note of the people, and several hunters who are planning on leaving the city join in with the teachers at the head of the group.
“Ah, so the children are going for their first ‘Cartography’ practical lesson outside the city,” one of the hunters, a handsome man with a long rifle slung over his shoulder, laughs aloud. “I remember doing this back in the day. I wonder if anyone will venture too far out and get eaten. There is always one.”
Ms. Yatta seems to be attracted to this hunter, drifting closer to him to share a few words. Regal gets a few glimpses of the two, but is shorter than most of the students so his vision is mostly blocked by their heads.
Regal glances to his side, where Veronica is walking alongside him. Memories of the times Veronica has been unnaturally close to him flow through his mind. Feelings of infatuation invade his thought process, and he realizes that she just may be interested in him.
Lost in the mood, Regal turns to Veronica and awkwardly asks, “Big sis, I have, umm, been wondering. Do you perhaps… like… you know, me?”
“Yes, I do,” she answers as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
“Why- I mean, why do you like me?”
“Because you’re my little brother.”
Regal, whose head was currently spinning while blushing, instantly sobers up while thinking to himself, ‘Of course, it’s like that. Why am I even thinking such things?’
He realizes that before the change within himself, which he has taken to referring to as soul forming due to gaining what the Soulless are accused of lacking, he never considered things like love or even considered the feeling a possibility. His misunderstanding arose from the times Veronica has been overly close to him, which, because of his rebirth, Regal now looks at as possibly being infatuation.
Kilde and Astore witnessed the exchange between the two, and look at Regal curiously. They also have no interest in, or comprehension, of love, but they can accurately judge what Regal’s intentions were. They notice something seems different about him, glancing at each other in the process, but don’t mention anything.
There is a chance Veronica noticed the change within him as well, but she doesn’t show it on the surface at all.
The school eventually reaches Theore Access Gate 25, one of forty entrances leading in and out of the city. The gate itself is 150 feet wide and 300 tall, a massive opening in the city wall with seven hardened iron gates, as thick as a person is tall, that can be dropped at any time in case of a mutant beast swarm or sandstorm.
Around the gate is golden arch made of hexagonal plates. One either side are lifts, built into the city wall, large enough that everyone from the school could fit on them. A clattering can be heard as steam turns the crank to raise them to higher levels, and whistling air from an array of air pistons that slow their descent.
Regal stares at the enormous scale of everything before him in awe. He doesn’t notice as the teachers speak with the guards stationed at the gate before leading the class toward the outside world. Veronica notices that he isn’t paying attention, grabbing his hand and pulling him forward.
She continues to hold onto his hand and lead him, as she has an impression of him being someone who forgets where they are supposed to be going. Regal, however, blushes as this beautiful girl holding his hand erodes the grandeur of the gate as they walk out into the vast world.
It takes several minutes to cross to the other side of the gate and step into the world outside Theore. Regal, thinking he had prepares himself, is now completely slack-jawed.
The world is far bigger than he has ever dared imagine. The landscape is full of rocks, as small as a fist or as large as a small hill, and dead trees with only a sparse few brown leaves still attached. The hard-packed dirt road leaves the city and extends to a horizon edged with desolate mountains.
The sun, seen for the first time by the students, is hanging above the mountains in the distance. Sunlight is distributed throughout the city, and they are all used to the soft reflected light within the city, but the ball of white flame is so bright it hurts their eyes to look at it directly.
The sky is an enigma to Regal. He stretches his free hand up toward it. It feels as if it is right in front of him, and he can nearly grab onto it, yet at the same time it feels infinitely far away. Unlike the ceiling of Theore’s first floor where he can perceive how far above him it is, the sky gives him an inexplicable sensation that the value of distance does not exist.
“Oi, what are you doing, Soulless?” Frederick, standing nearby, sneers at Regal.
Regal flushes with embarrassment of how foolish he must have looked and hurriedly lowers his arm. A few students look over in response to Frederick’s words, but they all remain silent.
Regal gives one more look at Grand City Theore before lowering his head. The city from the outside truly appears to pierce the heavens, especially when looking from the base. Some of the airships that the students have only heard rumors about are docked against the city’s port, over six thousand feet high.
The students stop at a location half a mile away from the city. A merchant wagon being pulled by two balrots, four legged mutant beasts often used to pull carriages due to their high strength and ease of taming, pass by them and capture the attention of many of the young children.
“Students,” Mr. Razor steps forward from the other teachers to give instructions, “You have all learned about the ‘Cartography’ skill yesterday. Today is the first practical lesson.”
“Using your ink and map parchments, your task is to start mapping the surrounding area as much as you can. Do not travel further than five miles away from away from the city, that’s where the mutant beasts start appearing. Well, some occasionally wander closer, but that would just be your bad luck. You have ten hours to practice, after that, meet back here.”
“But Mr. Razor, I didn’t bring any food or water,” a random student in the crowd helplessly calls out. “How can we stay out here for so long?”
Mr. Razor seems to want to assist the student, but a glare from the other teachers stops him, only allowing him to say, “Outside the city walls, food and water can be difficult to come by. This is an experience that is better to be learned now, rather than later. Regardless, twelve hours without food or water won’t cause you to starve.”
“Now, go start making your maps.”
While the students weren’t told to form official squads, many still travelled in groups with their friends. Each and every one has a depressed look as they leave the teachers. Regal, Veronica, Astore, and Kilde form their own group, walking northward.
Ten minutes later, the four Soulless stop walking and sit down on the barren ground. All the groups have split up in separate directions, so only a few groups of students can be seen from where the four are sitting.
“How big of a scale should we use?” Regal asks the others, hesitating to dip his quill in the ink.
Astore, Veronica, and Kilde respond in order without hesitation. They understand Regal is questioning how far from the city should the map extend. Regal thinks five miles would be a good measurement as they shouldn’t go further out than that themselves, but twenty miles will broaden the scope and make the mapping of a smaller area quicker.
Accepting the majority vote, but still feeling undecided himself, he asks, “Big sis, why do you think twenty miles is better?”
“It will be quicker to draw.” Her reasoning is the same as Regal’s.
With the plan to map twenty miles of ground away from the city, Regal dips his quill in the ink and draws a large octagon in the center of the parchment. This octagon is a third as wide and high as the parchment, and is the general symbol used to represent the grand cities.
At the top right of the map is a small arrow pointing North for orientation. Going from his memories, Regal quickly draws a cross section where the city gate is, the point the teachers took them to, the road, and the surrounding area that they travelled through.
Only a minute section of the parchment is filled out, but Regal is extremely satisfied with the detail of the map. Some of the lines are a little crooked, and the area of dead trees doesn’t quite look as it should, but the significant landmarks are drawn thicker than everything else and it is good enough to be used as a map in the future.
Finished twice as fast as the others, Regal looks across at Veronica’s map and is aghast. The city symbol is the shape of a broken egg, and everything else is out of place and out of proportion – the only straight line is the road leading toward where the teachers are.
Veronica is the last to finish, almost three times as slow as Regal. She look over at his map and widens her eyes in surprise. They quickly return to their usual calm, and she speaks to Regal with a hint of pleading in her voice.
“Little brother is really gifted in drawing maps. Won’t you teach big sis how to draw better?”
Regal looks at her map one more time and feels like she is beyond help. Despite this, he politely responds, “How about we practice a bit tomorrow after school? We haven’t trained together yet this week so it will be good.”
“Yes!” she responds with a gentle smile, making his heart flutter involuntarily.
Regal never paid attention to her expressions before the soul forming. He is aware of the diminished or entirely lacking of emotions that the Soulless have, yet is amazed once again at her showing so much joy. The look in her eyes tells him it’s not a fake smile.
‘Could there be differences between each Soulless? Astore and Kilde are usually quiet, but there are definitely differences between them.’ Regal secretly wonders to himself, this time ensuring he didn’t say his inner thoughts aloud.
An hour passes and Regal’s map now covers five times the area that it previously did. He is still unsatisfied with it, as what has been mapped is like a snake path. None of the other areas have been mapped as he has not been able to see them past trees and rocks. The furthest he can see at any point is between 1200 to 1400 feet away, beyond that is always blocked by a trees, rocks, or a random gust of wind kicking up a cloud of reddish brown dirt.
Suddenly coming up with inspiration, Regal turn to the others and says, “Quick, this way, I have an idea.”
He leads the group to a moderate sized stone about a hundred feet in height. It is much larger than it appears, but the majority of the rock is buried beneath the ground.
“What are we doing?” Kilde asks while tilting his neck to see the top of the rock.
“We’re going to climb up it. From there, we will be able to see much farther and draw more of the map.”
“We can’t climb up it though.”
Kilde points out that the entire surface of the stone is smooth, weathered from every sandstorm that has passed through. Regal takes his time studying the rock, slowly walking around it. His answer is found on the other side of the rock facing Theore, as sand has not eroded the rough surfaces.
“Let’s climb up from this side… But, we need more places to grip with our hands.”
Veronica, Kilde and Astore follow Regal as he takes ten steps back, curious as to what he plans to do.
Checking his inventory, Regal sees that he currently has two full .38 bullet cases and a new ‘M3 Simple Revolver’, replaced by the school once again due to him using all the bullets practicing and wearing down the durability of his weapons. Regal could use his money to have the gun serviced, or buy cheap bullets in bulk quantities, but he decides to save the money instead as the school will replace them regardless.
Drawing his gun and equipping a bullet case onto his belt, Regal quickly loads the gun and fires at a single point on the stone. He constantly repeats this process and creates several spots for hands and feet to grip onto. Each bullet chips a small section off the stone, but Regal’s aim is unfortunately not good enough to concentrate the fire enough at higher locations.
Brainstorming with the others on how to get up, Regal eventually gives up asking for help from the others who each end up deciding quickly that the task is impossible.
Suddenly, a new, unorthodox idea spawns from a combination of stray thoughts and Regal asks, “Astore, is it possible to create an ‘Earth Shield’ beneath another ‘Earth Shield’?”
“I’m not sure,” Astore places a hand on his chin while thinking – trying to answer the question but not able to find a definitive answer.
“Can you try it?”
“I will try.”
In front of the group, Astore raises his hand and a circular earthen yellow alchemical symbol of simplistic design materializes in front of it. A few feet in front of him, a wall of earth erupts from the ground. It is eighteen feet wide, thirteen feet tall, and half a foot thick.
“Astore!” Regal calls out in shock, “That’s much bigger than a basic ‘Earth Shield’! What level is your ‘Vigorous Earth Alchemy’?”
He asks this because a basic ‘Earth Shield’ after just learning ‘Vigorous Earth Alchemy’ is only fourteen feet wide, ten feet tall, and a quarter of a foot thick. He is still level 1 as well so there shouldn’t be any increases to his intelligence stat either. Even if there was through some skill’s Passive Divine Arts, it can’t be much.
“It’s level 27,” Astore replies as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
Veronica and Kilde are equally surprised while Regal’s mind roars, ‘What the hell! I am still at level 7. Even those who everyone thinks have the best talents can’t compare to that progress. He could be the most talented person in Earth Alchemy in the school, but because he is a Soulless, nobody paid attention and he completely flew under the radar!’
All three of them understood that he had both the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Divine Arts. If he followed the same skill path, the first would be ‘Stun Stone’, a low mana Divine Art that summons a small stone that can be thrown at an enemy and cause a short stun if it hits. The latter Divine Art is a passive one, increasing his maximum health by twenty points.
While the other three are distracted, Astore successfully casts the second ‘Earth Shield’ beneath the first. The first ‘Earth Shield’ is successfully lifted up on top of the first. Fortunately they are connected so Astore does not need to worry about balancing the two walls on top of each other.
“I never knew the Divine Art can be used like this. You’re really smart, Regal.” Astore says while curiously inspecting the extra tall ‘Earth Shield’ in front of him.
“I only thought it might work, you are the one that actually did it… Well, it looks like my next plan will work. Once your mana recovers, we will ride them as high as we can, then throw this rope over that part that juts out” Regal says excitably, pulling out a rope out of his inventory and tying one end to a fist-sized stone from the ground.
“I can only cast four with my maximum mana.”
“That’s fine, it will still get us halfway.”
Trusting in Regal’s plan, the four get ready to enact it once Astore’s mana recovers to full. Not long after, Regal, Veronica and Kilde are standing in a line while Astore casts the first ‘Earth Shield’. He can’t ride the shields up as they will only rise up from the ground in front of him, but fortunately Regal has the rope that has been in his inventory for over a year, along with a few other survival items, that the others can use to help him up.
The first ‘Earth Shield’ lifts the three successfully. As it will only last for a short time, Astore quickly casts the second, third and fourth shields. His mind grows numb from the lack of mana, but his task is accomplished.
Regal grabs the fist-sized stone and hurtles it at where the small peak on the rock is. Thanks to all the practice with shooting the gun, the stone flies true, despite Regal only having the base dexterity. The shift in momentum does, however, cause him to lose his balance on top of the wall of earth. Veronica saves him in time from a fall that would most likely have killed him.
The stone threads the rope over the ridge and back down towards where the three are standing. After allowing the rock to fall back down to the ground, the rope now connects the ground with the top of the rock.
Regal and the others quickly grab onto the rope in front of them and slide down to the ground before the ‘Earth Shield’ turns into sand and dirt, scattering in the wind.
With a group effort, the four successfully roll a boulder half their size onto end of the rope to hold it in place while they climb up from the other length hanging down. They quickly decide on the order of climbers, Veronica last due to her wearing a skirt.
As Regal pulls himself up the rope first, a petite girl with flaming red hair tied in a ponytail walks out from a loose crop of leafless trees and says in shock, “What are you doing!?”
Regal twists his head around while the other three turn around and see Piora Flameheart standing fifty feet away.
“We’re climbing to the top to get a better view,” Veronica says casually.
Piora stands by herself, clearly not in a group with other students. She is opening and closing her mouth, but can’t seem to find any words to retort with.
Misunderstanding the situation, Astore asks, “Did you want to come up as well?”
“W-why would I want to do that!?”
“I thought that is why you came here.”
“No! I heard gunfire not too long ago and thought someone was in trouble!”
Regal decides to ignore the situation, and returnes to focusing on climbing up the rope. Kilde, Astore and Veronica also turn around and climb up the rope one after another.
“H-hey! Don’t just ignore me!” Piora starts getting flustered as the four Soulless turn their attention away from her and toward ascending the rock. She glares at them as they continue to climb and arrive at the top.
Regal is the first to lie down lifelessly on top of the rock, his stamina nearly completely drained. The climb was much harder than he expected. It would be easier if he had the ‘Mountaineering’ skill, but that skill requires him to be level 20 and also have a high endurance stat to learn.
The other three are equally tired when they arrive. While they rest and recover their stamina, another hand appears on the edge of the rock. It is Piora, who decided to follow them up after being ignored. She seems like she wants to say something right away, but lies down as exhausted as the rest of them instead.
“You came up after all. You could have just said so,” Astore tactlessly points out, receiving a glare in response.
Despite their differences, she remains at the top of the rock with them after recovering her stamina. The top of the rock is mostly flat, with an areas large enough that the entire class could probably be on top and still comfortably move around. The breeze up high is cool and refreshing, cooling the students down in the heat.
Regal takes out his map first, scanning what he has drawn with what he can see. He frowns slightly as he realizes his map isn’t quite accurate, and the distance proportions are irregular.
His view from the top of the rock extends several miles in each direction. He accurately judges they are about three miles away from the city, and Regal is completely surprised when, even from so far away, Theore dominates the view to the west, stretching across from the north to the southern horizon.
Regal decides to start with the area between him and the city, sitting down with his map. Kilde, Astore and Veronica sit nearby, also starting with a section of their maps. Piora looks at the four, especially Regal and his map, sitting near him.
“You’re not going to work on your map?” Regal ask Piora curiously after noticing her glances at his.
“Hmph, I’ve already done this area.”
He is about to accept her words, before a sudden suspicion enters his mind, ‘You’re not very good at making maps, are you?’
“W-w-what nonsense are you saying!?” Piora’s face turns bright red in embarrassment.
Cursing himself for speaking his thoughts aloud again, he apologetically says, “Sorry, I spoke unintentionally… You couldn’t possibly be that bad anyway.”
Regal shifts his gaze over to Veronica’s map, which is beyond redemption. Piora follows his line of sight and –“pfft”— stifles a laugh.
Looking back at Piora in a new light, Regal thinks to himself while ensuring his thoughts remain silent, ‘I had thought she was proud and aggressive, slightly arrogant even. Perhaps that was wrong… Well, she is aggressive at least.’
Veronica doesn’t seem to react to Regal’s words, but if he was to look closely, he would see a slightly depressed expression on her face. Her speed in drawing the map slows down as well.
Piora notices however, and moves to be closer to her. She brings out her own map, which while being better than Veronica’s, is still incomprehensible. Piora shares small talk with Veronica while working on her own map and becomes friends with her. Veronica’s replies are quite blunt, but Piora doesn’t seem to mind at all.
The group of now five spend all morning on the rock, slowly and carefully increasing the size of their maps. The problem is that the closer to lunch – the closer the sun reaches its apex in the sky, the hotter it becomes. Even the wind becomes a stifling heat that invades their uniforms and makes them sweat more.
“Big sis, please, use ‘Chilling Wind’ on us one more time,” Regal pleads Veronica desperately.
“I’m sorry. I’m still out of mana,” she responds lifelessly.
“I… nearly have… enough mana,” Piora seems to be affected the most in the heat, despite wanting to be a flame alchemist. She also learned ‘Chilling Wind’ and has been helping Veronica keep everyone cool with it.
Everyone wants to go back down from the rock, as the sun has increased the temperature of the top of the rock enough that it burns when it touches skin. Unfortunantly, a strong gust of wind earlier in the morning blew the rope off the small ledge and has become lost to the students.
Their throats become parched from the heat despite consistently using ice alchemy to offer temporary relief to the heat. Regal isn’t able to help at all with this, his ‘Ice Bullets’, despite being made of ice, are not actually all that cold.
The ice made from alchemy also does not melt into water and cannot be eaten, so they can’t even quench their thirst. If a single one of them had a water-based alchemy, it would have been better. Regal secretly vows to himself to purchase a water alchemy skill book as soon as he has the money so he never goes without water again.
Respite from the heat only comes a few hours after lunch, when the sun falls behind Theore and the shadow of the grand city becomes their savior.
Meanwhile, at the teachers’ camp, Mr. River brings out a table, chairs, and a large umbrella for shade while Ms. Yatta supplies a seemingly endless supply of alcohol. The teachers are completely drunk, laughing among themselves while trying to guess how many students have collapsed from carelessly exhausting too much energy.
They play a game of poker, where the losing two teachers have to take the job of retrieving the collapsed students after the time limit is up. Mr. River is extremely competent when it comes to avoiding work. Miss Yatta and Mr. Razor are effortlessly crushed by Mr. River and the mysterious Class 2 teacher, Mr. Hanya.
“So zis is where zou are,” late at night, a stumbling drunk Ms. Yatta appears on top of the rock where Regal and the others are with the rope wrapped up in her arm.
The group of students on the rock are currently all lying on their backs, exhausted and thirsty with cracked and parched lips. Ms. Yatta pours a liquid into each of their mouths to resuscitate them, which was incidentally alcohol instead of water. Completely oblivious to her actions, Ms. Yatta continues to administer a large amount of alcohol to each student, ensuring their drinking.
After emptying the bottle in her hand, she looks at it and giggles, realizing her mistake. She piles the students on her shoulders and vanishes like a gust of wind. Miss Yatta is actually an extremely strong Hunter at level 186, despite having a slight problem with alcohol.
Regal and the others wake up in front of the gates, the city guard appear to guide them in as Ms. Yatta returns to find any more lost students. Regal’s vision is blurred and his mind is spinning as he stumbles forward.
“Will you *hic* look at zat… *hic* my ‘Cartography’ has *hic* lethel 8,” Regal slurs his words while trying to read his personal stats.
His mind becomes even more blurry as he enters the city with the other students, and everything from that point on is lost from his memory.