It was during class time, so there weren't many people in the library. Anfey glanced around and found only a dozen people around the long tables. The northern and southern side of the walls were lined with tall shelves filled with books of all kinds, separated by their magical disciplines.
Anfey had sharp eyes and found several books labeled Dimensional. He walked over, selected a few, and started flipping through one. However, as he leafed through the pages, he quickly discovered that the book was filled with myths about the gods and the origins of the world. He put the book back with a bitter smile.
No wonder Steger said that many of the books in the library were useless. After all, he was here to study magic, not read stories.
After flipping through five books, Anfey realized that none of the books here were what he wanted. After a moment of deliberation, he turned to the stairs to go to the second floor.
Just as he set foot onto the stairs, he felt the familiar feeling of magic around him. He stopped quickly, but it was already too late—his body was already in the perimeter of the spell, and there was no going back now. He felt as if he hit a wall and skipped back a few steps in order to balance himself.
A wave of stifled laughter arose around him. Anfey rubbed his nose and retreated.
"You can go to the second floor after you become a high level mage," said a young woman with long, brown hair and black mage's robes.
"Thanks," Anfey said.
"You must be a new student."
"Not exactly. I am Headmaster Steger's servant, not a student," Anfey said, smiling.
"Yes. I wanted to study here, but I was rejected as I am only an apprentice now. He cannot break the rules, so I was given the rights to use the library."
"Ah," the young woman said. "It's okay. Even the best archmage was once an apprentice. Don't give up. I hope to see you in the new recruits next year."
"Thank you." Anfey said, stealing another glance at the young woman before going back to reading books.
Around him, some were still talking about him, laughing at his stupidity. They couldn't remember the last time such a fool had appeared. Who didn't know the basic rules of the library? What an idiot.
Anfey, however, did not bother paying attention to the other students' words, as if he couldn't hear them at all. He wasn't feigning his calmness. He had always been able to easily ignore what other people said about him. He was an actor, and they were just laughing at another one of his masks. He wasn't someone who lived for other people's opinions about him.
After a few books, Anfey still could not find what he was looking for. Some books had nothing to do with magic and were merely storybooks, some talked about magic Anfey had already mastered, and some talked about things Anfey couldn't even begin to understand.
A normal person would have been annoyed at this point, but Anfey was calm, quietly reading one book after another. He was an assassin; if he didn't have patience he would've died a thousand times over. He was confident that normal people couldn't match him in terms of patience.
The young woman from earlier was watching Anfey. She was obviously a common visitor to the library. Seeing Anfey putting back easier books after a few pages but frowning and dwelling on others, before putting them back as well, she somewhat understood his level of knowledge. She quietly picked out a few books and walked to his side. "Try these ones," she said softly.
"Ah, thank you," Anfey blinked and said. He picked up the book on the top of the pile and flipped through it. He smiled and turned to the young woman. "Thank you," he said sincerely.
The young woman had brought exactly what Anfey wanted. It was everything a beginner like him would want: from the different elements' traits and differences, to their combined effects, to simple spell anatomy. Anfey sat down on the bench nearby and began devouring the books. He wanted, and needed, to remember everything in these books.
Although Anfey placed more value on the fighting techniques that were unique to him, he needed to create a proper identity for himself. It was not enough just being Saul's student, he had to at least become a mage.
Time always flies when one is focusing on a certain thing. Anfey concentrated all of his effort on the books, completely ignoring any movement around him, totally unaware of the passage time. It was not until a hand reached over and closed the book that Anfey snapped out of his trance. He turned around and found himself staring at Steger, smiling kindly behind him.
"Uncle Steger," he said in surprise, pushing himself off of the bench.
"Child," Steger said, smiling. "You are still young and have plenty of time. Don't push yourself too hard; your body may not take it well. It is already dark now, and Niya is waiting for you by the door. Go home, come back tomorrow." Steger felt that he knew why Saul had taken Anfey as his student. Anfey was only an apprentice, but his determination was valuable. Steger had stopped by a few times and seen Anfey reading each time, scarcely moving. Steger was satisfied with the young man.
Anfey glanced out the window, and to his shock he found that the sky had really darkened. He smiled shyly, "I'm sorry, Uncle Steger. I seemed to have lost track of the time."
"No need, no need. Your dedication should be encouraged. Go. You won't like Niya when she's angry."
"Ok, I'll be on my way, Uncle Steger."
"Good night," Steger said, nodding.
Anfey jogged out of the library and found the back door by memory, only to find it empty. He realized that Niya must be at the front door. Who was to blame for this? Did Anfey's brain took a break, did Steger make a mistake, or was Niya simply taking pleasure in circling the school? Anfey took a breath and marched towards the front door.
He crossed the school ground at a moderate speed, stopping to ask for directions a few times. When he reached the front gate, he found a lavish carriage. Niya was lifting the curtains on the window and looking out impatiently. Upon seeing Anfey, she snorted and dropped the curtain so hard she ripped half of it off. She was obviously displeased.
"Miss Niya, why are you here? I thought I was going back alone," Anfey said as he climbed into the carriage, placing a smile on his face.
"Father made me come, what could I do?" Niya replied coldly.
"I am sorry," Anfey said apologetically.
"Niya, are you not going to introduce us?" The young man next to Niya asked gleefully.
"Do it yourselves if you want to," Niya snapped. "Don't bother me."
The young man shrugged and smiled at Anfey, "Alright, guess we have to introduce ourselves. My name's Granden, Uppe—" the young man noticed Anfey's magical surge and changed his words, "I'm a mage as well."
"Greetings," Anfey said. "Anfey, Apprentice."
"Ah, Anfey," Granden said. "I hope you don't take this personally. As you'll find out, Niya is always like this. Plus there was something unpleasant today, so…"
"No, no, it is quite alright," Anfey said, shaking his head.
"What, are you tired of me now?" Niya snapped, glaring at Granden.
"No, of course not! I would never," Granden said, frowning.
"Niya," Granden said, "I don't want to fight with you right now, and there are things you shouldn't say in front of other people. Can't you be silent for a bit?"
"Say what you want!" Niya screamed at Granden. "Go ahead!"
Anfey sighed. It seemed like Niya and Granden were more than just friends. They were probably a couple. Obviously he was a third wheel. He looked at them awkwardly, not knowing what to do. He took a breath and said, "Guys, calm down, take it easy."
"Shut it," Niya turned and snapped, turning her rage sharply onto Anfey. "You know who he is? He is second in line for the throne of the Maho Empire. We are talking, who are you to interrupt?!"
Anfey blinked, unable to find words to retaliate. Of course, he had no right to interrupt.
"Niya!" Granden said, clearly enraged as well. "You can yell at me all you want, but you shouldn't yell at someone innocent. Apologize right now."
Anfey smiled bitterly. Great, now the attention was on him, and it didn't matter if Niya apologized or not. His relationship with her was not improving.
In that moment, a sudden gallop of horses interrupted them. Someone screamed, "Out of the way, out of the way! Military emergency! Out of the way!"
The driver swerved the carriage aside, and silence fell inside.
"War…" Granden muttered, his eyes filled with anxiety.
"War's starting…" Niya whispered. Her eyes, however, were sparkling with excitement.
"Niya," Granden said. "I cannot linger anymore. I must return."
"Wait, Granden!" Niya said hurriedly. "Did you consider what I said? Don't worry, if you say yes, my knights will gather on a moment's notice, and we can go together to the frontline."
"Niya! This is war, not child's play!"
"Come on, Granden," Niya said, pouting, and grabbed Granden's sleeve.
Anfey sat there watching quietly. They say a lover's quarrels rarely lasts, of course. Him intervening was an unnecessary move, and brought only trouble. He grunted to himself.