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Before the War

Chapter Text

         High up in the castle, there was a window overlooking all of Louran and Parchland, and a man wearing a marvelous straw hat with a black band on top of his long, black, wavy hair that flowed down to his shoulders placed his right hand, whose muscled arm had a red piece of cloth wrapped around its bicep, on the glass window. The man opened it, allowing the wind from outside to rush in, momentarily lifting his rejuvenated brown cloak. His moustache was no more, and his beard never was; his face was no longer that of an undernourished man, long with sunken cheeks and bags under the eyes, but that of a warrior; his eyes were resolute, his jawline far more chiseled; his legs, arms, and neck had ceased to be the same in diameter as a candelabrum -- they could even rival those of the bartender who had exploited the weakened state of the man to bully him into unconsciousness all those long, painful turns ago.

         Allodiael, for the first time in many, many turns, had been conducting business with a goal in mind. The palace was no mere congregation of opulent Mages wandering the halls aimlessly anymore. For the past three turns, the best of the best Mages had been hard at work training a Human both in combat and Texeli culture. The Mages had soon realized NXT lacked magic running through his veins, which seemed to discourage them slightly but fleetingly. There was a vision, the Vision, which one of the palace Mages had witnessed in their sleep.  Apparently, a Human was to enter Texel, and this creature was to be the key to salvation for the Mages of Louran –- a blessing from the iris. Texeli, even the Mages, were not known for being oracles or somehow being able to see into the future, so the news was taken lightly by everyone… until NXT entered the King’s quarters being escorted by a necromancer. At first, everyone ridiculed poor Machtild for being naïve, but she insisted on placing her trust in the run-down twig. Her stubbornness granted her the honor of being the Human’s first master of many. She was the one who first concluded NXT could not learn magic. She was also the one who recommended NXT to instead focus on increasing his physical strength. As a disciple of a Mage, however, he was not allowed to sacrifice intelligence for brawn and as such began to develop both abilities simultaneously.

         Over three turns, NXT was subjected to intense workouts, anti-Gallant and anti-Hemi combat training, and lectures on Mage doctrine. During his free time, NXT was advised to read Texeli literature, explore the market, and socialize. The palace had an endless library flooded with books ranging from bedtime stories and lullabies to philosophical papers written by the most brilliant minds in all of Texel, which of course were all Mages. Two books NXT had been recommended after becoming used to Texeli literature were Anatomie Texeli and Mazit-Uii. Anatomie Texeli had a certain flare to its descriptions of not only the anatomy of different species found throughout Texel, as its name suggests, but a history and background of how the species came to be. Filled with diagrams, illustrations, and maps, Anatomie Texeli provided NXT with an immense quantity of knowledge over creatures he would otherwise have never imagined. Mazit-Uii, on the other hand, was peculiar in its own right. Although popular throughout all of Texel and overflowing with wisdom about anything imaginable, fellow Mages had warned him not to be fooled by its “brazen, uncorroborated, and casuistic Hemi propaganda” no matter how rare and sporadic, but NXT knew well not to trust such falsities. Hemi were nothing but scum, and shall forever remain scum -- the quintessence of incorrigible. In fact, NXT no longer viewed his brown cloak and red cloth as mementos of heroic Hemi who saved his life -- what a childish fool he had been -- but as reminiscence of Hemi brainlessness for being savages who could not think of anything but fighting whatever budged or imbecilic enough to give up their lives for a complete stranger, and his own incompetence -– a sign of how much he had grown over the turns, from being dependent on those pests to being called a peer by Mages.

         “May I come in?” asked the Mage King, knocking on the door. Ironic, given that the two of them were currently in the King’s chamber.

         “Good afternoon, Your Majesty,” NXT answered bowing.

         “A splendid day, is it not?”

         “Lovely indeed,” NXT answered, continuing to gaze out the window.

         “Your transformation is yet to stop impressing me, NXT. I remember how when I first laid my eyes upon you your legs were barely strong enough to withstand the weight of your own body, which must not have been much anyway. Look at yourself now! Every dot on your body is infused with vigor and the wisdom of Mages!”

         “You flatter me, Your Majesty, but your praise is unwarranted. For three turns have I trained, becoming stronger both mentally and physically, and the iris knows I would sacrifice myself for the sake of Louran in a heartbeat, yet… as much wisdom as your competent subjects may have furnished, I am unable to protect you. I am imperfect, incompetent. As hard as I may train, the fact still stands firmly and unbudgingly: I am unable to cast even the simplest of spells.” With a feeble motion of his wrist, NXT mimicked the act of casting magic.

         The King walked over to NXT and, placing a gentle hand on his broad shoulder, consoled him. “Listen, you have grown powerful. You do not need to cast a spell in order to wipe out a legion of Gallants! By combining your wit and your strength, you have proven yourself time and time again to surpass my expectations. Your growth is outstanding for a creature who is not even a Texeli, unable to partake of our Big Sisters or Little Brothers. Your astonishing growth rate is enough for me to feel secure. If the Vision is true, and there is going to be some sort of invasion on our land, I am confident in both you and the iris’ abilities. I can only imagine that out there somewhere the iris is trembling with joy. What if another three turns go by? How much stronger would you be then? Keep training, warrior. You have the entirety of Louran cheering you on.”

         “Thank you, My King,” NXT uttered, wiping his tears. Just then, the doors blasted open and Arnza rushed in, his red cloak flittering behind him. An interesting man, he was. At the early stages of NXT’s training, Apatrui had served as his sparring companion, and as NXT grew stronger so did Apatrui, becoming Aranthur and finally Arnza. His preferred weapon was a sword because he claimed to feel more invigorated after his enemies were sliced in half than “full of magical mud.” NXT, although far stronger than Arnza by then, could not rid himself of envy. Arnza, despite focusing on physical attacks, had always been able to conjure up earthly spells. One may even argue the rivalry between the two provided NXT with more momentum he could ever have gained by working with a Guru –- those who specialized solely on magic. Warlocks, they were called -- those who had found a balance between the magical and the physical. NXT viewed himself as a weaker form of a Warlock, a bastard Warlock, a Warlock that could not use magic.

         “I bear terrible news, Your Excellence!” Arnza squeaked.

         “Regain your composure, child. I shall listen,” the King declared. NXT could tell the King was more annoyed than worried about whatever Arnza had to say.

         “Forget the Vision -- it was naught but crock! There is nothing we can do about the invasion!” All of a sudden, his eyes widened, his skin grew even more pale than it normally was, and even his lips became blue. “Destruction is here. Destruction has been here for a long time,” Arnza continued as if talking to himself, “but we Mages are too self-centered to have noticed.”

         “What do you mean?” the King asked.

         “The Theri have been gathering in Parchland for a long time, as if plotting something. They never bothered us, and we never bothered them. All we did was create the barrier around the city after we found out that someone as weak as a starving Human -- no offense -- could enter easily, but the Theri just kept congregating without much fuss. Perhaps we did not notice because they have been gathering gradually for a long time, but their numbers have grown incredibly. If they ever decide to invade, the barrier we have will not be enough to hold off the horde for long. We must do something.”

         “Enough!” the King shouted, “how dare you pretend you are in any position to advise me!” Arnza had crossed a very delicate line by attempting to persuade the Mage King into taking action rather than just presenting him with facts. “I shall investigate this myself.”

         NXT sighed. He strolled about the castle making his way toward the library. He knew naught of the Theri congregating in Parchland; he had been too entertained reading all day and all night, and that was exactly what he was planning on doing next. After all that talk of gladly sacrificing his life for the King and Louran, he was not about to seek trouble. He would wait for the King to order an attack or go on the defensive and only then join. He cared not for all that planning and hassle. He would rather read and read some more.