Chapter 2: Rowan Military Academy (1)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
From a young age, from time to time he would see something that resembled a vortex of light.
It would approach him slowly, emitting soft, warm rays of light. The light was curious; he had always felt a sense of familiarity from it, like it was someone very important and dear to him. That was because a voice would talk to him.
“Mahoro, open the gate.”
He would always, without fail, hear those words from the light.
“Opening the gate is your duty.”
The light would slowly fade out, repeating itself over and over again. He tried to touch it, tried to talk to it, but there was no reaction from the light.
He tried asking other people if they ever saw anything like it, but no one ever did. What was that light exactly?
Would he one day ever find out—?
The island was surrounded by sharp, steep cliffs into the ocean. There was a pier at one lone location that granted access to the island, but soldiers armed with guns kept a careful watch over it and strictly monitored all people who entered and exited the island.
It’s like an enormous fortress…
Mahoro disembarked onto the pier under the sharp eyes of soldiers, and feeling nervous, he started walking as he dragged his suitcase along. Other young men, the same age as Mahoro, alighted from the ship after him, but unlike Mahoro, they walked confidently in front of the rows of evenly spaced soldiers. All the young men possessed outstanding physiques, and Mahoro, a mere 150 centimetres1 in height, stood out like a sore thumb.
At the end of the pier, soldiers in military dress accepted each person’s documents, carefully checking them over.
When it came to Mahoro’s turn, he presented his documents to a soldier: the letter of his acceptance into Rowan Military Academy. A month earlier he had gone up for examination, and the Academy had granted his admission.
It’s incredible that I’m here at such an extraordinary place.
The realisation had still not sunk into Mahoro, and he peered around restlessly waiting for the soldier to check his documents.
Durand Kingdom mandated that all citizens attend military school from the age of eighteen. They would enter one of the schools located in several major cities, and for four years, they would learn about the national defence of the kingdom. Rowan Military Academy, located here at Crimson Island, was distinctively different from all other military schools. As to why they would build the school offshore on an island away from the mainland, the reason involved a special power that was passed down to the Durand Kingdom—magic.
There existed a number of prominent families, called the Five Noble Houses, in Durand Kingdom: House of St Johns, House of Ainsworth, House of Rutherford, House of German Reed, and House of Baldwin.
Those five families possessed special blood. Children born to the families, they could wield magic passed down by their respective Houses if they possessed a special magic conduit. And those special individuals, without exception, would attend Rowan Military Academy. It was a school that taught magic—a special school where members of the Five Noble Houses, who shouldered the kingdom itself, converged.
In order to determine whether one possessed a magic conduit, the kingdom mandated that all children be tested within one week of birth. If the child possessed a magic conduit, the kingdom would issue the child a certificate. But there were many who did not possess magic conduits despite their noble blood, and those who did would gain additional status within the family.
Although magic conduits originally only belonged to the Five Noble Houses, no family could only ever marry within the bloodline. It was only natural that some would succumb to the throes of passion, or some would pursue love free of politics and arrangements, and over the course of time, the blood grew thinner, but on a rare occasion, a child with a magic conduit would be born outside of the Five Noble Houses. Those children would not be overlooked; they were subject to the same tests after birth to detect them, and all children with magic conduits would be sent to Rowan Military Academy when they turned the age of eighteen.
Rowan Military Academy did not only provide instruction of magic, but it also taught military arts. It was a prestigious school for which their graduates were essentially guaranteed a successful future.
It was said that in the entire world, only the people of Durand Kingdom could use magic. There were many great nations that bordered the kingdom, but some attributed magic to be the reason that it escaped invasion.
Hmm. For someone like me averse to conflict, I wonder if I can survive at a military school…
Mahoro watched ants march single file, and absorbed in his thoughts, he grew a little uneasy.
“You’re in the way.”
Behind him, something struck his suitcase, and Mahoro pitched forward and stumbled. He was able to avoid trampling the ants, but it was quite close. Phew.
Mahoro attempted to apologise, but the cadet turned around and glared at him. He was a blond-haired young man who had the bearing of a noble. After presenting his documents to another soldier, he stared at Mahoro like he wanted to excoriate him for something.
Mahoro ducked his head down. For some reason he was an easy target for haughty sorts like him. He ought to be more careful.
He decided that he would greet him with a bright voice first. “Hello! Are you a new cadet here?”
It was the formula to success that he had learned. Sure enough, the blond-haired young man turned his face away, shirking back a little.
“You’re one too,” he said curtly, accepting his documents back from the soldier. Mahoro had presented his papers before him, but the soldier finished checking the young man’s papers first, and he promptly left the pier.
I ought to have asked for his name. Oh well. I shall have to work harder!
Circumstances dictated the necessity that he mature at Rowan Military Academy, not only for his own sake, but for Samuel, the Head of the House of Baldwin who had sent him here. Moreover, Mahoro had an additional purpose for coming to this school—it was all for his dear, dear Siegfried whom he adored and respected, and there was something imperative that Mahoro must do for him here.
“I’ve checked your documents. Welcome to Rowan Military Academy.”
The soldier finally completed the review of the documents and gave Mahoro a salute. Mahoro dragged his suitcase past the soldiers in red uniforms and black hats.
What laid before his eyes was a cobblestone walkway that zigzagged its way up an incline, a large water fountain, and further in the distance, a sprawl of brickwork buildings. Tucked on top of a magnificent hill was the most famous school in the kingdom—Rowan Military Academy.
I’m finally here, Mahoro thought, becoming deeply moved at the sight.
Mahoro was six years old when Samuel Baldwin took him in as a ward at his estate. Mahoro was told that he descended from the Baldwin line and that Samuel, the Head of the House, had searched for him for a long time. Apparently, Mahoro had lost his parents in an accident, and with no one to take him in, he had been placed at an orphanage. Mahoro possessed no memory of the time before he came to the Baldwin estate—he could not remember his parents, nor anything about when they had died.
House of Baldwin possessed extensive swaths of territory in the kingdom. At the estate, there was Lord Samuel Baldwin, a man of medium build, his wife Lady Margaret, and their only son Siegfried, who was three years older than Mahoro. Led in hand by a butler, the day when he first met the three of them at the estate was Mahoro’s earliest memory.
Before the Lord and Lady of the house could even make a move, the nine-year-old Siegfried had offered his hand to Mahoro.
“How do you do, Mahoro? You may call me Sieg.”
Siegfried was a boy with black hair and blue eyes, and he possessed an air of intellectuality. His skin was pale with a gentle sloping nose, his limbs long and thin, and his eyes had a mysterious quality that seemed to see through everything. Mahoro could not make heads or tails of his situation as he stood there vacantly, and Siegfried took his hand and smiled.
“From today on, you shall live for me. You must listen to everything I say and obey me and only me,” Siegfried declared in a voice that was kind but tolerated no argument.
Samuel told him, “Sieg is the one who asked to take you in as our ward,” and from that day forward, Mahoro decided to live his life for Siegfried. He spent his days at Siegfried’s side, even attending lessons with Siegfried’s private tutor. To Mahoro, who had no family of his own, this environment was an excellent place for him, and Samuel and Margaret both treated him kindly.
Mahoro thought that he was blessed, and he felt the utmost gratitude to the three of them.
Siegfried was a talented and gifted boy, befitting of his status as one born to a noble family. He only needed to be told once, and he would remember everything. He could speak several different languages and also excelled in the arts.
Mahoro would do anything for the House of Baldwin, especially Siegfried, to whom he dedicated his whole-hearted devotion.
When Siegfried turned eighteen, he entered Rowan Military Academy.
The Academy was a four-year school for individuals with magic conduits. For generations, the royal family of Durand had ruled the kingdom, the borders for which were shaped like a bird with its wings spread. Presently, the seventy-year-old Queen Victoria controlled the throne. Although the royal family did not have magic conduits, it was said that they possessed a special power exclusive to their bloodline.
Durand Kingdom was a wealthy nation, and its neighbouring nations had long targeted it for its riches. It was the mysterious power of magic, wielded by the bloodlines from the Five Noble Houses, that defended the kingdom from invasion. Those with magic conduits would swear oaths of allegiance to the kingdom at Rowan Military Academy. That was why most graduates from the Academy would enter important posts in the military or take positions to protect the royal family. Very seldom would graduates choose an unrelated field, but in states of emergency they were mandated to report to duty and serve the kingdom.
Siegfried, as son of House of Baldwin, possessed a magic conduit, and so he went up for examination and entered Rowan Military Academy.
It was a boarding school, and the only times he could leave to visit home were the summer and winter holidays.
Siegfried pulled Mahoro into an embrace to bid him farewell. “We won’t see each other for a while, but take care of yourself, my dear Mahoro,” he said. Then after his third-year at the Academy, Siegfried disappeared from the school.
Mahoro did not know if they could call it a disappearance because Siegfried had personally filed his withdrawal from the Academy, and there were records showing that he had left the island. However, it was completely out of character for him to disappear without notifying his family or Mahoro of anything. Samuel had heard about a search for Siegfried’s whereabouts, but he received no information whatsoever regarding it.
“There must be something at the Academy. Mahoro, you must find it for us,” Samuel said one day, and Mahoro nodded.
Mahoro also had the blood of the Baldwins and possessed a magic conduit. He did not remember any of this information himself, but he also possessed the certificate that recognised his status.
Samuel commanded, “Learn to wield magic at Rowan Military Academy and search for any clues related to Siegfried’s whereabouts.”
Although Mahoro had no experience with magic, he believed it was time for him to show the family his worth.
The candidate examination for Rowan Military Academy consisted of two parts: confirmation of the candidate’s magic conduit and evaluation of basic foundational skills. Although Mahoro had a certificate that verified that he carried the bloodline from the Five Noble Houses and possessed a magic conduit, he would have to prove at the examination that he was still in possession of one; for there were cases where the magic conduit would close as the child grew older. Nonetheless, Mahoro had no experience using magic, and he was anxious about the examination.
The House of Baldwin had the power to control earth magic. With dedicated training, he ought to be able to create quakes through the ground and spawn golems under his control. Members of the Five Noble Houses were permitted to teach magic within estate grounds, but otherwise, magic was prohibited for personal use. There was a military organization in Durand Kingdom called the Magic Corps that constituted of only sorcerers, and they would enforce measures against any illegal users of magic. Magic always left behind traces of evidence after use, and there was no feigning innocence to the contrary. Magic purely served to protect the kingdom, and unless one was a member of the Magic Corps, people were prohibited from all use of magic. And due to this reason, all magic handbooks were placed under the direct control of the kingdom, upon which the public would never set eyes.
What do the examinations entail exactly? I’m worried. If I fail, shall I be punished…?
Normally Samuel was kind and gentle, but when angered, there were instances when he would punish servants with a whip. Mahoro trembled as he imagined the whip hitting him.
“The next candidate, please step forward.”
Mahoro was nervous the day of the examination, and he stepped forward in front of the row of examiners. The magic examination venue was held at a large hall, and apparently a number of famous sorcerers were in attendance. Mahoro did not know whom these famous sorcerers were, but he overheard other candidates whisper, “That’s the Commandant of Rowan Military Academy.” He was intrigued and looked over in the same direction, but he saw several men and a young woman there, and he didn’t know which was the Commandant.
“P-Pleased to meet you!”
Mahoro bowed deeply to the examiners. A fierce-looking man with his jaw set straight brought over an aluminium plate. On top of the plate was a black-coloured stone.
“I see you are from the House of Baldwin. Please pick up the stone.”
Prompted by the examiner, Mahoro took the stone into his hand, but he was unable to make sense of the instruction.
As soon as he touched the stone, the examiners widened their eyes and uttered “Ohhhh”s as they watched. Mahoro gave the examiners a puzzled look. Nothing particular had happened, and he didn’t see anything that resembled magic as he held the stone. He thought that perhaps he had failed, but the examiners’ eyes were all lit up.
“This is a tremendous amount of spirits.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Such incredible potential.”
The examiners unanimously voiced such similar opinions, but Mahoro did not see anything special, and he wondered suspiciously that perhaps they were attempting to trick him.
“Mahoro Baldwin, I will keep your name in mind. You may put down the stone.”
The young woman with black hair sitting in the centre of the row of examiners compared a document in her hand to Mahoro as she smiled. Mahoro could not make sense of her remark, but he placed the stone down.
“You may go now,” another examiner prompted him, and Mahoro left the examination venue not understanding anything that had happened.
Several days later, he received a notice that he was accepted into Rowan Military Academy.
Mahoro did not understand what the examiners had seen that day, but they granted him permission to attend the academy. Samuel cautioned him to conduct himself with the utmost discretion, and in reply Mahoro promised that he would investigate the cause of Siegfried’s disappearance.
This would be his first experience ever attending school. On one hand, he was eager to take on his mission, but Mahoro was most thrilled at the anticipation of starting a brand-new life there.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.