3 Lonely youth

Being blind and an orphan was Jason´s only disadvantage which many classmates used to make fun of. Though what he lacked in physical attributes, he more than made up for in willpower. He was intelligent, diligent, and ambitious, which placed him above everyone else at every theoretical exam.

His other senses were essentially refined and thus Jason could survive in Artes, the city he lived in.

But in the age of martial arts and soulbonds, Jason was seen as a parasite, because he couldn't even defend himself against the weakest ranked beast.

He had to rely on others in order to survive if a beast breakout were to occur.

The only thing Jason had were credits.

However, credits were almost useless to him as he couldn't do much with them.

Jason's living expenses were marginal as he had a cheap and smelly apartment. Ever since his mother's death, he suffered from a loss of appetite. It was as if his appetite had left him like his mother had, years ago.

He could probably live his whole life without lifting a finger, but that wasn't what he wanted.

Jason's dearest wish was to be able to see something and to work hard to prevent anyone from making fun of him ever again.

Another important thing he wanted to do was to find out who had killed his mother.

Jason wasn't sure what he would do with this information. He only wanted to know if this mysterious heir showed remorse or even the slightest trace of guilt; if the murderer knew what it meant to lose a loved one; or if he didn't care at all about poor families' losses. After getting an answer to these questions, he would think about what to do, even if it was something extremely dumb.

Thinking about his mother's death made Jason extremely angry and frustration spread through every single cell in his body. He suddenly recalled that his mother had told him something important before she was murdered.

Due to her special eyes, she could somehow understand Jason´s situation as she had gone through the same.

After testing a few things she told Jason that he might be able to see her sometime in the future.

His optic nerves weren't malfunctioning; rather there was a blockage preventing the transfer of information and energy from the brain to the eye and vice versa.

There were empty marble-like orbs within his eyeballs. Normally these orbs were filled with mana like it was in his mother's case.

However, Jason's were completely empty and thus he couldn't see anything at all.

When Jason had been 4 years old he had asked his mother why he couldn't see. She had replied that there was an empty and lonely marble within each of his eyes.

These lonely marbles were in need of some friends and Jason had to fill them with the shining particles that were present everywhere.

She demonstrated the flow of mana by inserting some of it into Jason. She then continued with her explanation that the mana had to gather inside the marbles so they wouldn't be unhappy anymore.

When the marbles would be filled with mana Jason would be able to see.

The young Jason was determined to gather this mana in the 'marbles' within his eyes to make them happy again.

Jason had started to feel the mana around him pretty early since he was a child. He used to lead it inside the marbles every day for hours over the course of years.

In the beginning, he controlled it crudely as he was still learning and his eyes would hurt a little. But, his mother supported him diligently and motivated him to continue trying.

After the first few tries, Jason´s precision improved by a large margin and he no longer needed his mother´s support.

He was diligent and had complete faith in his mother. Thus, he had continued to lead the mana and fill the marbles inside his eyeballs for almost ten years now.

Normally youths at the average age of 10 would slowly start feeling the flow of mana and start gathering it to strengthen themselves. They would strive to improve the rank of their mana core to gather more of it and make themselves stronger.

Every living being had a mana core or something similar somewhere in their body while almost all humans had their mana core in the abdomen.

While humans were born with a mana core, wild beasts had to form them over a long period of time until they reached the rank of a magical beast.

The first few commonly known beast ranks were Wild-Awakened-Evolved-Unblemished-Magical.

Wild beasts were extremely weak and comparable to the weakest rank of the human ranks also called 'Novice'.

Jason's blindness, which was his disadvantage, had a disguised usage, as his other senses were exceptionally distinct.

He began to feel mana at the tender age of four due to his mother´s story and the exceptional senses he had.

Jason had a 6 years head start over the average children to strengthen himself and improve his mana core. But he used the mana he sensed to gather it somewhere else in order to be able to see.

His mana core rank was still at the lowest possible rank, also called the 1st Novice rank while his peers were already around the 8th Novice rank. Most of them were extremely close to the Adept rank which would enhance their mana core and strength multiple times.

Almost 10 years had passed since he had first learned to control mana though Jason never stopped using mana for anything other than his eyes. This consequently resulted in his body and mana core size being weaker than everyone else around him.

One´s control over mana and sensing ability was an indicator of how fast one would be able to increase the mana core ranking by absorbing and refining mana into it.

After the Novice rank came the Adept rank and after that, the Expert rank followed suit.

While the Novice rank was roughly comparable to wild beast ranks, the Adept and Expert ranks were slightly weaker compared to the awakened and evolved ranks because the strength of beasts increased slightly more than a human's constitution.

After 10 years of hard work, Jason noticed that the marbles inside his eyes were almost completely filled and it would only take a few days until he achieved his long-desired dream.

His middle school days were also almost over as only a few weeks were left.

At the end of middle school, everyone would get to form their first soulbond contract after they awoke their soul.

The age of 13 to 14 years was the perfect time to awaken one's soul. After the soul-awakening finished, the hierarchy system began its work, dividing talented people and human trash in order to provide the prodigies with perfect nurturing.

Soul bounds were extremely important because one could acquire elemental abilities from them. Even a part of their physical strength would be shared with the master according to the master's soul.

With a good soulbond, one could be stronger than an awakened beast while being at the Adept rank which was normally weaker than awakened ranked beasts.

One would get tested for their soul energy, the size of one's soul indicating the number of contracts one could form, and which type of soul one had or rather which type of affinity the soul was drawn to.

As previously mentioned not every human was compatible with each beast.

There were a few different types of souls such as elemental souls with fire, water, earth, wind, and so on.

Most elemental souls had only one element while some rarer ones had two elements.

Prodigies had 3 or more while souls with up to 5 or more elements were called God's Children.

Having 5 elements also indicated that one could form a contract with at least five beasts as each element would accept at least one Beast.

That however didn't mean that a single element could only hold one contract.

But it was more likely that a single elemental soul was weaker than a soul with many elements.

There were also physical souls that allowed humans to hold non-elemental beasts like goblins, orcs, trolls, minotaurs, and many more.

Physical souls would increase the shared percentage of strength even more compared to elemental souls as non-elemental soulbonds wouldn´t provide any elemental ability.

It could be double the amount or even more.

The first contract one would form, was also said to be the most important one, as one would share one's whole life with the soulbond.

If it died, your soul would be partially destroyed and it would take a long time to regenerate.

Getting a soulbond in middle school was important as the first contracted beasts were either caught cubs, eggs, or younglings from beast breeders.

The first soulbond contract would most likely either be an egg or a very young cub. Gaining the trust of younglings was the easiest. It provided the contractor with ample time to improve his/her physique slowly as he/she would get stronger with the beast's maturity.

If Jason ranked first place in the C-grade city Artes' school ranking, he would have the chance to pick a beast as the first one which was what he wanted in the beginning.

Furthermore, he would have the chance to enter a decent High-school, which was even more important.

But this wasn't easy as Artes city had a population of more than 10 million citizens. They had almost 250,000 middle school graduates this year. The number of births in the city had significantly increased due to the benefits provided to pregnant mothers by the government.

After the cataclysm, humanity had lost 99% of its population. But, after the baby boom had started around 50 years ago fueled by government aid, the population had officially crossed the figure of 30 billion some time ago.

The number was probably higher but the high death toll, birth rate, and unknown numbers made the calculation more difficult.

Jason lived on one of the smaller islands called Astrix. It was already overpopulated by not only beasts but also humans as it was one of the smallest and cheapest islands to live on.

Over 300 million humans lived on Astrix and the number was still growing.

The island had 3 permanent rifts connecting it with other planets and planes.

While one permanent rift was situated in the ocean close to the island the other two permanent rifts were connected to low-grade worlds with magical beasts as the strongest ranked beast.

Canir was a huge continent compared to Astrix and the other islands, where most people were inhabited it.

It was large enough for humans to settle down but they were constantly threatened by wildlife. It was impossible to live in the wilderness without the support of strong individuals. However, the most worrisome fact was that many battles had been fought on Canir recently. Mankind had been in a life-long tussle with the races that had begun to cross the ocean and wanted to encroach on human territory.

Humanity was fortunately at least able to defend themselves on Canir while fighting on their home grounds and using weapons that were a result of 300 years of technological advancement.

Some cities were huge and crowded due to the high level of safety measures incorporated by the administrative authorities. While the lower graded cities were surrounded by low graded wild zones turning them into a safe victinity.

Cities were protected by advanced defense measures like mana domes and it was difficult for beasts to invade these spheres without getting noticed by anyone.

Nevertheless, nobody could ensure one's safety outside a city as even the weakest wild zones were said to be overpopulated by wild-beasts.

Not even an inch of space outside cities could be described as completely safe. Most areas were overpopulated with wildlife and were completely abandoned by humanity.

Before the mana outbreak, humanity had explored every possible nook and cranny of the land but post the outbreak, more than half of Canir stayed untouched and unexplored by humans. while the islands had only a few large areas that were way too dangerous for the humans living there.

Jason wanted to be the first rank holder amongst the bunch of middle school graduates but he would need to master the theoretical exam and the practical exam which was impossible for him to exceed.

The last test was also called the martial arts exam and it was Jason's weakest grade as he was beaten up every time in school owing to his poor health.

Receiving 0 points in the most important exam would be devastating. It would make him one of the last ones to pick a beast to form a contract with and only a minuscule chance to enter a decent high school.

But right now Jason didn't care about these tests at all as he channelized the mana around him to gather inside his eyeballs.

Obtaining a decent soulbond was important but his eyesight was even more important. 

He believed that it was the right decision to finish one step after another. Even if Jason would train his body and mana core right now, it would almost be useless to break into the second or third Novice rank as he was still way weaker than anyone else.

But being able to see would change almost everything, which was what Jason believed in and relied on.

After school was over, he held his cane in his left hand and walked the usual route home. He would need an hour every day to reach home if one could call it that.

His home was just a small room with a bed, a fridge, and it was connected to a small bathroom.

The worst, however, was that it smelled and it felt filthy. Jason felt the same on the inside since his mother died so it didn't really make a difference to him.

Maybe he would lease a different apartment once he would be able to see, but that was something to think of later.

Sitting down on the bed, Jason continued gathering mana inside his eyes like every day until late at night when his belly growled.

Opening the fridge he found out that it was almost empty after he rummaged through to find something worth eating.

Jason used the AI of his smartphone to place an order for some bread loaves, sausages, and so on.

As it was set to arrive the next morning, Jason washed up and took his clothes off, and crawled into the bed to sleep.

*A few days later*

It was the weekend and Jason sat on his bet gathering the mana around him.

He felt that today was the day he had waited for years and it was the first time for Jason to be excited again, as his heart thumped loudly.

The 'marbles' inside his eyeballs were filled to the brim and Jason's eye and optic nerves began to itch uncontrollably, making him feel extremely uncomfortable.

Suddenly it felt as if thousands of paper-thin and razor-sharp needles penetrated his eyes and the optic nerves. Soon, blood began to flow out of his eyes.

It almost looked like Jason was going insane, as he cried out in pain with blood dripping out of his eyes.

The pain was almost unbearable and Jason suffered through the excruciating torment all alone. But, there was no other choice, he had to endure it.

Seconds….. Minutes….. and hours passed before the pain subsided.

He didn't know how long he had been in agony but Jason felt extremely exhausted.

His eyes, which were previously closed due to the pain, slowly opened. Jason's previous lifeless eyes were replaced by two brightly shining and vigorous golden eyes flickering in the darkness.

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