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The Beginning After The End Chapter 343 - Professor Princess

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Chapter 343 - Professor Princess


After a quick scan of my quarters, I sank into one of the plush chairs facing a small table and let out a sigh. Holding a civil conversation with strangers had become increasingly more exhausting—more so because of how much I had to watch my tongue.


Pulling myself out of my daze, two items caught my half-lidded eye, both resting at the center of the small game board with a note.


“This must be the token that activates the ascension portal,” I muttered, fiddling with the jade runestone while reading the note.


The second item was an open ring crafted of ebony, taking the shape of an intricate snake that adjusted its size around my finger to fit better.


My gaze settled on the pale ring wrapped around my middle finger, letting the fact that I had officially become a professor of the very continent I was at war against sink in. New episodes will be published on light‍nove lpu b.c­om.


Turning my attention back to the table in front of me, I read the small bra.s.s plaque that read:


Sovereigns Quarrel


Pieces in the red and gray of Named Blood Hercross


“It is often the sharper mind that wins the war, not the sharper blade.”


A gift to Central Academy by Lord Leander


Unlike the crudely made “pieces” Caera and I had played with, positioned on the marbled hexagonal board were exquisitely carved representations of Strikers, Casters, and s.h.i.+elds in deep red stone on one side and thundercloud gray on the other.


“Fancy,” Regis said, sniffing around the board and knocking several of the pieces over.


Pus.h.i.+ng his head away, I reset the pieces and stood up from the table.


Next, I turned my attention to the projection device. The oval crystal, which was slightly rough, as if it had been hand carved from a larger piece, was mounted to the wall with metal brackets.


“On,” I commanded, unable to find any controls near the device.


No response.


“Activate,” I said hesitantly while waving my hand in front of the oval crystal to see if it reacted to physical gestures.


Regis let out a snicker, causing me to turn toward him, one eyebrow raised. “You just give it a little pulse of mana to turn on. It turns off again when the mana crystal embedded inside is either out of mana, or you draw all the mana back out.”


“Oh,” I said, realizing my mistake. It was such a stupid little thing, but if someone else watched me stumble around like this, it would be immediately obvious I wasn’t an Alacryan.


“You know,” Regis said with the air of someone about to state something very obvious, “the whole ‘no mana’ thing seems like a bigger deal now that we’re in civilization. You’re going to need to be more careful.”


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“If only I had someone—a companion of some sort—who had more detailed knowledge of Alacryan technology and customs,” I said sarcastically. “Someone who could help me by pointing out potential missteps before I made them.”


Regis stopped sniffing around and gave me an affronted look. “What do I look like, a mind reader?”


“We can literally read each other’s minds, Regis,” I said, pus.h.i.+ng past the huge shadow wolf before throwing myself onto the couch. Visit light‍nove lpu b.c­om for the best novel reading experience.


“Then you must know that I’m bored,” Regis said, taking a seat in front of the couch and staring at me with his dark eyes, his fiery tail thumping softly on the floor.


I let my eyes close. “We’ve only been here ten minutes.”


“Ten very long, very boring minutes,” the wolf countered, moving to rest his chin on the edge of the couch next to my head. “Let’s at least go look around, where there are cute girls I can gawk at.”


I groaned. “The girls here are all teenagers, Regis. Don’t be disgusting.”


“And I’m barely a few months old, and not even the same species. So what? Besides, there are probably some good-looking professors for you, old man.”


“Fine,” I sighed, giving into his relentless badgering and rolling to my feet. Fresh air could be good for me. “I should figure out where my office is anyway. My teaching supplies are supposed to be there.” I stopped at the door. “But you’ll have to sightsee from inside me.”


“But I—” my companion spluttered.


“Regis. You stand out even worse than I do. In.”


The shadow wolf huffed in annoyance, but did what I asked.


I shook my head as I felt his ethereal form meld into me, drifting around near my aether core. Let me know if you sense I’m about to do something that will draw attention, I told him.


‘Aye aye, Professor Princess.’


***


It was a short walk across campus to the building where I would be teaching, a grand structure that reminded me of the universities of my previous life. The building was largely empty, since cla.s.ses hadn’t started yet, and I wandered the s.p.a.cious halls in peace until I found the right room.


The single door opened into a half-circle shaped s.p.a.ce, like a small arena with a dueling ring on the floor level. It was smaller than I’d expected, with seating for no more than thirty or so students.


As I took the first shallow step down the stairs, lighting artifacts along the outside wall and ceiling lit up automatically, filling the s.p.a.ce with cool light. Something caught my eye, and I stopped to bend down over one of the seats, which had a rune engraved into it.


“Am I reading that right?” I muttered.


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‘Yup, pretty sure you are,’ Regis confirmed for me.


The rune, when activated, would send a jolt of pain up the spine of whoever happened to be sitting on it. “Barbaric.”


‘Welcome to the Alacryan school system,’ my companion shot back.


Following the stairs down to the dueling ring, I walked around it to the far side where there was a metal panel with a series of k.n.o.bs and levers on it. Curious, I flicked one, and a s.h.i.+mmering, transparent s.h.i.+eld vibrated into place around the platform.


This was no different from the training rings at Xyrus, but the rest of the controls were more interesting. I discovered that, with the flip of a switch, I could activate a force-dampener that would dull all impacts within the bounds of the combat platform, and there was a dial that let me control even the force of gravity, making it heavier or lighter to challenge the students.


Although I was no more eager to be teaching potential enemy combatants than when Alaric first explained his hairbrained scheme, I had to admit the Alacryans had some fancy toys.


Another door opened into the wall just behind the dueling ring. Using the jade runestone, I unlocked it and entered a small office with a desk, three chairs, a couple of shelves, and a large trunk with runes etched into the metal.


A stack of scrolls, parchment, and books was already waiting for me on the desk. Withdrawing the two scrolls I’d received from Alaric’s contact, I set them on the desk, deciding to dig into the more detailed aspects of the cla.s.s later.


The runestone also unlocked the trunk, which provided storage for more sensitive items. Currently, it was full of training gear for the cla.s.s. I recognized vests that would allow detailed a.n.a.lysis of mana flow, physical force, acceleration, and probably a dozen other metrics. It was similar to the training gear Emily had invented to test my abilities back in the castle, but obviously much more advanced. You can find the rest of this content on the light‍nove lpu b.c­om platform.


If Gideon and Emily could get their hands on some of this Alacryan technology…


I closed the lid, which locked again automatically, and gazed around the small office, unable to keep the frown off my face.


‘Boring room, check. Boring office, check. Can we puh-lease do something more interesting?’ Regis begged, giving the mental equivalent of puppy-dog eyes.


I brushed my fingers past the cover of a book on my desk. Sure.


‘This isn’t exactly what I had in mind,’ Regis said when we stepped into the Central Academy Library. A plaque next to the entryway offered thanks to Highblood Aphelion for donating this library building, which had been built several decades ago.


Did you think we’d be creating havoc with a scantily-clad girl on each arm or something? I retorted.


The short entry hall was decorated with paintings of previous academy directors and ended with a large portrait of a stern man with short grey hair and thunderous brows creased into a furrow. According to the bra.s.s plaque on the wall beneath it, this man—Augustine of Highblood Ramseyer—was the current director of the academy.


‘That guy looks like he’d be a blast to have at a party,’ Regis noted sarcastically as we moved past it.


Regardless of his personality, Director Ramseyer would be someone I would have to watch out for.


As we pa.s.sed from the entry hall into the foyer, an older woman looked up from a stack of books and frowned. She tidied the stack momentarily before beelining toward us.


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“I’m sorry, young man, the library isn’t yet open to students,” she announced in a voice that sounded much younger than her appearance.


“What about professors?” I asked levelly, holding up my hand to display the ebony ring.


“Oh! My apologies,” she said, looking me briefly up and down before waving me in. “You all get younger and younger every year, I swear.” Spinning around, she quickly made her way to a large round island in the center of the foyer. “Smart, young man, though, coming to the library first thing.


“What cla.s.s will you be teaching?” she asked as she began fiddling with a strange device next to her desk.


“Melee Enhancement Tactics,” I answered, following the librarian to the circular desk that wrapped around her.


She winced and gave me a sympathetic look. This melted away into a teasing smile as she said, “Maybe I’ll have to take back what I said about your intelligence? I’d a.s.sumed you were here to brush up on course material before cla.s.ses started but…”


I leaned forward, resting my elbows on the desk, and watched her manipulate the device. “Is the cla.s.s really that bad?”


“Oh, well…” she started hesitantly, “it’s just that teaching highblood mages how to punch and kick things has never been exactly…a highly respected position among the students.”


“I see. How long did the last professor last?” I asked, my employment at the academy suddenly making more sense.


“Two sessions,” the librarian admitted, frowning back at me. “Then the cla.s.s was cancelled for the rest of the season.”


I couldn’t help but laugh at that, earning a raised brow from the librarian. “To be honest, I was feeling a little nervous about this whole teaching thing, but you’ve put my mind at ease.”


This caused her raised brow to crawl all the way up to hide behind her bangs. “The students scaring off the last teacher after two days made you feel better?” She blinked several times before adding under her breath, “I take it all back. You’re obviously mad.”


Grinning, I drummed my fingers across the desktop. “It just helps ease my mind, is all.” To Regis, I added, Because it sounds like I won’t actually have to teach these kids anything.


Shaking her head, the librarian turned back to her strange device, which was made up of a smaller version of the display crystal in my room set on top of an iron pedestal, and touched the screen. By the way it lit up, I a.s.sumed she had imbued mana into it.


“Melee Enhancement Tactics,” she said, apparently to the device. The projection crystal displayed a handful of books, including what appeared to be a location within the library.


“Impressive,” I muttered, scanning through the t.i.tles. “And that works for any topic?”


“Topic, author, or t.i.tle,” she said proudly, patting the machine like it were an obedient pet. “Want to give it a go?”


Feeling my lips form a thoughtful frown as I looked at the screen, I said, “The ancient mages,” thinking that asking about relics might cause some suspicion.


The display s.h.i.+fted, the list changing to show a large number of books about the ancient mages, the Relictombs, and a number of other related topics. I memorized the locations of a couple at random.


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“Is it okay if I look around?” I said.


“Of course, Professor…?”


“Grey,” I answered politely.


“Dehlia,” the librarian responded. “There are more of these consoles around. If the screen is off, just give it a poke with a little mana.”


“Thanks again, Dehlia,” I said with a nod before walking deeper into the library.


All around the foyer, shelf after shelf of books spread out to fill the huge building, which extended two additional levels above. Dozens of reading nooks were arrayed around the outer edge of the library, giving students a place to hide away to study.


‘Or other, less academic things,’ Regis pointed out.


The Central Academy Library wasn’t as large or grandiose as the city library, but it must have contained tens of thousands of books and scrolls. I read t.i.tles at random as I strolled between the high shelves, curious about what the Alacryans would consider important. Follow new episodes on the light‍nove lpu b.c­om platform.


One row contained at least two hundred separate books about Alacryan runes, from marks to regalias. Another held Highblood biographies, each of which appeared to be competing against its neighbors to be the thickest or have the most ornate cover. I found an entire section for poetry extolling the virtues of Agrona and the Sovereigns.


Eventually, I found the row I was looking for, and plucked a heavy, leather-bound volume that sounded interesting off the shelf. It claimed to be a thorough examination of Alacryan adaptation of the ancient mages’ technology throughout the ages.


‘Please tell me we’re not going to skulk around this library reading all day? At least take me back to the boring rooms so I can get out of you,’ Regis moaned.


Ignoring my companion, I opened the tome and began to flip through pages when a soft, nervous voice said, “You’d be better off with the response by Crenalman.”


Turning, I saw a mousy young man staring at me from under his thick gla.s.ses. The boy’s gaze fell to my hand as he scratched at his muddy-brown hair, his eyes widening after spotting my ring. “S-sorry, sir, I just…nevermind.”


He spun on his heels and quickly marched away.


“Hold on,” I called out, causing the boy to nearly stumble before he turned back to me.


“Are you supposed to be here?” I asked, more out of surprise than any authoritarian desire to make sure he wasn’t trespa.s.sing in the library without permission.


“S-sorry, sir, I’ve been here f-for a couple of weeks, and have special—”


I waved him to silence. “It doesn’t matter. What were you saying about this?”


He glanced fearfully between me and the book before replying quietly, “It’s just that…well…there isn’t much information in that one. It’s all theoretical, and spends too much time thanking the Sovereigns for—”


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The boy’s mouth snapped shut as his eyes went wide. “There isn’t anything wrong with…I just meant that…um…”


I tried to keep from smiling as I watched the boy flounder. When he finally trailed off into silence, I raised a hand. “It’s okay. I know what you mean. So you suggest something better?”


Tentatively, like someone walking out onto thin ice, he said, “Yeah. There is a response piece by Crenalman that directly addresses the problems with that one. It should be”—he took a few steps into the row, scanning the shelves quickly—“here.”


The boy slid a slightly thinner book from the shelf and handed it to me with a shy smile.


“You seem to know your way around this place. I’m new here, and honestly not very well read. Might I ask for some recommendations?” I paused, thinking for a moment. Did I dare reveal my primary interest to this young student? It seemed safer to enlist help from a nervous student than the librarian, so I decided to risk it. “My primary interest is in relics.”


The boy’s eyes lit up and his demeanor quickly transformed. He hastily shoved the book by Crenalman back, then did the same with the one in my hands. “I’ve read all about relics. Histories, catalogues, theoretical treatises—but this library has hundreds of books on them, most of which I’d never even heard of until I got to the academy!”


He waved for me to follow, then practically ran through the labyrinth of shelves, leading me up a stair tucked away near the back of the library, then winding through several more rows. Near the center of the second level, overlooking the foyer, there was a small section dedicated to relic related books.


He grabbed three and held them out to me. “Start with these,” he said proudly, then quickly added, “if you haven’t read them already.”


Accepting the proffered collection, I looked at each in turn: a history of relic retrieval and the evolution of the laws surrounding it; an exploration of relic powers and how they were; and a catalogue of dead relics discovered over the last hundred years, including an entire section of the reliquary of Central Academy.


The boy watched my face carefully, and what he found in my expression must have prompted him to explain his choices. “I know relic law doesn’t sound interesting, but the author does a great job making the material accessible. It’s the best of its kind, I promise, and really helpful to understand the little ins and outs. There are all kinds of ways ascenders can get in trouble if they don’t understand the law.” The source of this content is light‍nove lpu b.c­om.


Holding the books under my arm, I gave the boy a thoughtful look. “Is learning more about the Relictombs why you want to be an ascender?”


Perhaps I said something too invasive, because his face, already pale, seemed to drain of color. “I…um…no…” He stopped and took a deep breath. “I don’t really want to be an ascender, sir. Or a soldier,” he added guiltily. “But I always wanted to be a mage, and my sister—”


He cut himself off, giving a little shake of his head. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t mean to bore you with this. Just…thanks for asking for my help.”


“No problem. Thanks for the recommendations…” I paused, waiting for the boy to provide his name.


“S-Seth, sir,” he provided after a moment’s hesitation.


“Thanks for the recommendations, Seth.”


With an awkward smile and a wave, he turned and disappeared back into the sprawling library.


‘Seems like an all right sort of kid,’ Regis said.


I only shrugged as I rearranged the books in my arm and headed back to the front desk to check out.


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