1 The Wielder of Death Element

*Huff, puff,* My only chance to become a sorcerer is right in front of me, but I can't find the strength to move. This pain is too much, I knew from the start that I wasn't talented. If only I could defeat him, my way of earning decent money would be assured. This academy is my only shot, I need to do something about it.

  *Briiiing, Briiing.* A few hours had passed since the entrance exams began. The sheer number of applicants was mind-blowing. A young want-to-be mage stood in a queue as the sun shone brightly. His hand shook with anticipation, anxiety got the better of him.

  "Mister Staxius Haggard," a sharp voice called out, "-we've received your scores. If you may, please follow me," the assistant stepped out from the massive stadium and signaled the boy to come in.

  'My scores; the last hurdle before I achieve my dream of becoming a top-notch sorcerer. My heart is racing like crazy, is this nervousness humanly possible?' Staxius wondered and made his way down the long corridor - it seemed to stretch on forever. The walls were painted white and grey, the floor looked as clean as possible, this place truly was were future sorcerers trained.

  "Welcome Mr. Haggard, your test scores have arrived," the door opened, a lady spoke, "-please take a seat and we shall discuss what to do from here." She wore glasses with crimson-colored lipstick. Her presence was intimidating - holding the key to a bountiful future was bound to make one strict; though a slight bit of hesitation was felt.

  "Thank you for having me," Staxius replied politely and sat. The lady seemed to stare right through him; this made the mind on edge.

  "Mr. Staxius Haggard, aged twenty and hailing from Krigi, which is in the province of Dorchester if I'm correct?" She read off the paper resting on her table, at short intervals she would glare up and check his reaction.

  "Yes, I was born and raised in the village of Krigi which is due north from here," he replied nonchalantly. As intimidated as he might have been, the boy was talented in hiding emotions – it reflected in his blank face.

  "Let me get right to the point," the atmosphere felt tense, "-you've done miserably at the practical exams. The physical aptitudes barely made D-rank. There also no particular traits; nothing stands out except for your intellect. Scoring a perfect score in one of the hardest magical theoretical exams is a feat no one has ever accomplished. Even the greatest mages around the world have only scored an A at best. Sadly, brainpower alone can only take you so far. In comparison to talented battle-mages, your strength is lacking. So, let me ask you this, why did you try an enroll here, I guess you knew full well that you'd fail?" The results were laid bare for all to see; he had no chance.

  "I understand ma'am, I truly do," he spoke sincerely, "-I know that my physical prowess isn't the norm required to enroll here," the tone used made her heart rattle a little. "Despite that, I had to try," determination lit in the eyes. "Even if there was a 0.1% that I'd be admitted, I had to take the chance."

  "Why such a risk?" she asked, "-people have died trying to become students here. What is your purpose?" the lady continued to check his personality – it was more of an interview.

  "Well, there is nothing special about my convictions. All I ever wanted since I first saw the inter-magical tournament on TV was to become a sorcerer."

 "You're not here for the money and promising future, you truly want to become a mage," her voice seemed relieved, "-alright fine, normally people who've only scored D-rank aren't allowed to awaken their elements. In your case, I'll make an exception." For some reason, she felt compelled to help this young man; it even shocked Staxius. Part of her reasoning was that countless people tried out to become powerful – the only thing in their mind was gaining money and influence. She had enough of such people; him saying he only wanted to become a mage gave a breath of fresh air.

  "Thank you very much, ma'am, it truly means a lot," he said whilst smiling; happiness oozed from his eyes.

  "Follow me," she stood, "-we are headed to the arena to awaken your magical element. It's the only thing that can save you," the door opened.

While following the young lady, Staxius had a smug look. Everything said in that room was a lie. Wanting to become a true mage was but a façade. In reality, he hated everything related to sorcerers. Sadly, it was the only way of making a decent living. The part about seeing the inter-magical tournament was partly correct for his father took part in it.

Claireville Academy, each year, thousands of students from all over the world come to test their might. They range from young teenagers to middle-aged men. The academy emphasized on being the best, age didn't really matter. Luckily, specific age groups had different exams to partake in, and everything was neatly separated throughout the country. For example, the East Claireville Academy was reserved for people above the age of thirty. West Claireville Academy was for prodigies or kids below the age of thirteen. North Claireville Academy was for people from the nobility, and the Central Claireville Academy, the main building was for people who managed to pass the entrance exam.

Now back to the reason why people were so envious to enroll in the Central Claireville Academy. From out of the thousands of students, only a few were hand-picked. Students with the lightning element, one said to be the rarest weren't even allowed to join. One needed to at least awaken two to three elements, or score an S-rank in the combat exams. Scoring S-rank wasn't even a guaranty that you'd be admitted. Only instructors were allowed to choose whoever deserved the right to stand amidst the elite.

  'This is insanity, I'm standing in the middle of such greatness,' he sighed, '-I can't fathom to compare myself to them. Even though I hate mages, mainly due to their obnoxious personalities, I like the prospect of how magic works in our world. Time to see if I have an element that can be awakened.' It took a few twists and turns, but they reached the arena. He stood in the middle beside the lady who gave out instructions.

  "Alright, place your hand onto the crystal ball," she pointed at the pedestal, "-it will detect and bring out any elements to which you have an affinity for." Without much else to say, she headed for the viewing booth.

Five minutes went by since he came into contact with the orb, nothing happened. The ball remained completely neutral, no reaction, it seemed that there was no magical affinity after all.

"Enough, time to get off, you're being a nuisance now." She knew nothing was going to happen. The instant anyone touched the orb, any magical affinity was shown in forms of different colors.

Despite her warning, Staxius didn't listen. He was deep inside the subconscious searching for answers. The further he sank, the heavier the body got. All his memories scrolled past as if it were a slideshow: a tough upbringing, betrayal, pain, and suffering. Everything bombarded his mind and thoughts. The sheer amount of emotions was overwhelming. The desperate attempts to look for anything magic-related ended in naught. Staxius's spirit was at the breaking point, no longer could he go deeper. Time had come to give up, the anger of failing began to overthrow his conscience.

  "Do you wish to break the seal?" A familiar deep voice spoke. Out of nowhere, on the way out, a big pentagram, darker than the deepest abyss made its presence known. It burnt with a white and black flame, ancient text all around, and in the middle a scythe. Perplexed, Staxius asked, "What seal, who are you?" That voice had been heard many times before; when things got tough, the same voice would intervene and help.

Ignoring his question, the voice asked once again, "Do you wish to break the seal?"

*Brrrrr.* The sound of gears shifting and moving could be heard all around the arena. It was the automatic system kicking in. The arena shifted its configuration to battle-testing. The last exam was about to begin; the one dreaded by everyone. So far it had death counts that exceeded the hundreds. Oblivious to what happened around him, he stood in the middle as if a statue.

From the viewing booth, situated above the battleground in such a way that it could overlook the whole field; the young instructor went crazy. She screamed through the intercoms trying to get his attention.

  'WHAT IS THAT FOOL DOING?' Out of frustration, she slammed her fist onto the control table.

*Click.* The door opened, it was the director. Each year, he had a habit that turned into a tradition about overlooking the last battle.

  "Thank god you're here director, please stop this, that kid does not have any magical affinity," she pleaded for the boy's life; the arena finished its last preparations.

  "Sophie, I'm so sorry, but interrupting the AI once it began testing is beyond my ability. Let's hope that the detection system kicks in and stops the whole process. In case that the boy dies, there isn't a need to worry," the voice felt cold and unforgiving, "-every student has been required to sign a consent form. It states we are not responsible for any deaths that may occur during the examination process," the face remained composed.

  "That is so cruel," she gave up, "-but I guess you're right. I'm sorry Staxius Haggard, this may well be the last time we see you," both stared through the window.

*Cough, Cough.* "Did you say, Haggard," the face changed from composed to confused, "-as in Tempest Haggard?" he spoke out in complete astonishment, shivers went down his spine.

  "You don't think it's the exiled mage, do you?" she inquired.

"Let's not discuss this any further, his name only sullies our reputati.."Before the sentence could be complete, a loud noise took them by surprise. It was the combat robot being released; the current battle level was SSS.

"DIRECTOR!" she exclaimed, "-is the system faulty? SSS-rank for an entrance exam. It's never been done before," words sloppily came off her tongue, "-I mean even trained sorcerers can't hope to defeat such a foe." Both stood, confused, and scared, something like this was unprecedented.

*Bam.* A bone-breaking sound echoed throughout the emptied arena. It was the robot punching the unsuspecting boy. The sheer velocity at which the punch made contact with his jaw was enough to send the whole body flying across and onto the wall. The collision sent ripples inside the body; internal organs nearly broke. It would have been an instant death in normal circumstances.

The seemingly lifeless body made its way onto the ground. It left a trail of blood on the wall. This was hard to watch, even for the instructor. Staxius's eyes were barely open, *Huff, Puff.* He gasped for air, the sudden attack was too hard to bear, the body and mind stood on the verge of shutting down. 'My chance to clear my father's name is gone just like that,' breathing grew harder, he drowned in his blood. 'The fruitful future I promised him is going to end?' the little strength-focused into trying to speak, 'never, I will prove that my old man was a hero among heroes.'


  "Time to awaken, chosen one. My sole prodigy and heir, we shall finally meet."

The moment the seal broke, the calm and emotionless brown eyes turned into one of a dark red color. Inside, a bloodied red pentagram that symbolized death burnt vividly. A black and white flame began to write something across his chest; it was in an ancient language. On the right palm, a scythe appeared – he stood, blood flowed from all over.

The director and the instructor were stupefied by the change in aura. It was as if staring Death itself. Unconsciously, the director decided to check Staxius's magical level. The rank slowly went from E to SSS then broke - the computer could no longer keep track of his power.

In the arena, Staxius spoke in a devilishly deep voice,"-foolish humans, how dare you hurt my heir. This act of indiscretion will result in your deaths," he looked possessed.

*From the deepest part of hell to the highest peak in heaven, neither god nor demon can oppose me, for I am the sole ruler of death. Thou shall feel my wrath as nothing is immortal, I call upon the power bestowed upon me by creation itself, I order thy return to dust, Decay Touch.*

The instant the incantation finished, as the robot came in closer to deliver the final punch. Its fists, given that this was an SSS-rank combat robot, no normal human could see it coming much less stop it. The whole momentum came to a halt with a single finger. Slowly, the metal decayed immediately, starting from the fist upwards. In the end, it turned to dust and the most feared robot in Claireville Academy was defeated by a mere commoner.

Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Shadow, Light and Lightning. Those are the primary elements with which anyone can be born with. People usually tend to have more affinity to one element as opposed to another. Here in Claireville Academy, they search for people who have an affinity for more than two elements. These people are rare to come by, the truly unique ones are people who hold three or more elements. There have only been a few recorded throughout history.

With those primaries, sometimes rare and unique variations are born. For example, if a parent has a strong affinity to water and the other has an affinity towards wind, there is a chance that the child will awaken with an ice element. These types of sorcerers are called hybrids and are very sought-after. Since ancient times, there have been legends about heroes who've inherited powers from the gods themselves. Counting among them we had Midas, with the power to turn anything to gold. He was given the affinity to metal, which later proved to be a curse as he didn't know how to control that immense power.

Staxius Haggard was one of those chosen champions. The magical affinity he held was of the death element, otherwise known as the power of the death reaper. The most powerful entity since creation itself, a power that could only destroy and bring chaos.

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