"Be careful!" Christian called urgently.
Before he could finish, though, Anfey was already falling more than twenty feet to the ground. Christian hurried over, conjuring a levitation spell to try and save his falling colleague. However, he was only a novice mage, and could not conjure such a complicated spell in such a short time. Before he could finish casting the spell, Anfey had already hit the ground. Christian was scared speechless, but he soon saw Anfey's body fold into a ball. After a few rolls on the ground, Anfey stood up, smiling.
"You… Are you alright?" Christian asked, unable to believe what he had just seen. For a normal mage apprentice, levitation spells were the hardest to master. For other spells, one only had to worry about losing control of their magic. However, a badly done levitation spell could result in lifelong disability or worse.
"I'm alright," Anfey said as he stood up, dusting himself off.
"You're too stubborn," Christian complained. "You're just an apprentice, you shouldn't be doing any intermediate magic. I'm so tired of trying to lecture you, but you still won't listen."
Lately, the relationship between Anfey and Saul's other students had been improving significantly. They had been hostile towards him because of Maris and Melinda, but people tended to pity the weak. Maris and Melinda's actions were repulsive, and their fellow students had preferred Anfey from the beginning. Most importantly, every time Anfey met someone, his first move was to smile and greet them, and he spoke ever so politely. His attitude had helped him make several friends; very few still held their initial grudges against him.
Out of everyone, Christian was the closest to Anfey. This was very closely tied to how Anfey treated everyone around him. Every time he saw that Christian wasn't doing anything, he would always appear and sincerely ask Christian about magic. When Christian was busy, Anfey would never bother him.
"Actually… I was close to succeeding. It was my first time, and I was nervous. I can probably get it after a few more tries."
"Never mind," Christian said. He was terrified. Should anything happen to Anfey, he, as the person who had taught him the levitating spell, would be severely punished by Saul. "Anfey, it's magic, you have to take it one step at a time. You can't push it. This time you simply lost control, but who knows what will happen next time?"
"I understand." Anfey nodded, smiling.
"You!" Christian sighed. He couldn't find any problems with Anfey's attitude, but he had a feeling that Anfey would be practicing in secret anyway, no matter what he said.
"Anfey!" Niya said.
"Here," Anfey replied.
Niya walked over, smiling, and extending her right hand. "There you go," she said.
Anfey accepted his dimensional ring, now looking very differently than before. The extravagance had disappeared; it was now an ordinary looking silver ring.
"I used the power of a magic-concealing crystal to disguise the surge of the ring and covered it with platinum. No one can tell," Niya said, smiling. "Anfey, you're such a coward. Are you scared of people stealing it?"
"My lady, Anfey's right. He's just an apprentice, wearing such a ring would attract unnecessary attention."
"Thank you, my lady," Anfey said sincerely.
"No problem," Niya said. "Tell me if you need anything." Niya might have seemed rude and uncaring at first, but she was still kind in the end. She felt sorry for Anfey, so when Anfey had asked her for help, she agreed immediately. Whether it was finding a magic-concealing crystal or looking for an alchemist, neither was something a normal mage would be able to accomplish. But in the end, Niya was the daughter of the greatest archmage. She went to the palace and talked to the emperor himself. She then found the best alchemist in the empire, Monfela, and completely transformed the ring.
Anfey smiled but didn't say any more.
"Christian, say, what do you think about Anfey's potential?" Niya asked. "How long do you think it will take him to become a mage?"
"Anfey is very hard-working," Christian said truthfully. "If he can be patient, half a year at most." His words were not just a reply to Niya, but also a hint to Anfey that he should be more patient and move forward one solid step at a time.
"Anfey, hang in there," Niya said, waving her fist.
"All right," she said. "I won't bother you two anymore." She turned and left. She was going to ask Ernest for instructions in sword arts. If Ernest heard about her helping Anfey, maybe he would change his mind about her and teach her what she needed.
"Christian, do you have any advice for levitation?"
"God, let's not talk about the goddamn levitation spell anymore, alright? Your strongest affinity is fire, so I'll teach you that first. In comparison, mages tend to be weaker in their physical bodies. So before you start attacking, you have to have a defensive line. Don't underestimate a Fire Shield. It may be easy to do, but its shield power will increase with your strength. A proper mage's shield can block a novice swordsman's combat power."
"Alright, alright," Anfey said, shaking his head.
Christian let out a sigh of relief, and explained to Anfey everything he needed to know to conjure a Fire Shield. Then, he said solemnly, "Anfey, I will be in the lab, so practice here by yourself. And promise me you won't try levitation again, alright?"
"I promise," Anfey said with determination.
Christian shook his head with a bitter smile. Anfey's attitude was applaudable, but he had the feeling Anfey wouldn't listen to him.
Christian was still worried, so he doubled back quietly, checking on Anfey. It was only after seeing that Anfey really was practicing Fire Shield that he left, satisfied.
For a youth like Christian, his experience was very limited, so his idea of good and evil was very basic as well. When they dislike someone, they would rarely interact with the object of their disapproval. When they accept someone, they would try their best to take care of them and provide help. Maris and Malinda teamed up to frame Anfey, but their plan was flawed at best and could not withstand the truth. After they were exposed, they had fought each other and tried childishly to lay blame for the crime on each other. If someone more experienced had helped with their plans, it would have been much less flawed.
Unlike Christian, Maris, and Malinda, Anfey had been an assassin for a long time. He was cunning and patient, and his hands were not clean. Even Saul and Ernest had not uncovered the truth about him, much less youths like Christian.
"Alright, you can stop pretending," Ernest said, walking out from behind the trees. "I know you're not interested in Fire Shields."
"I don't know why, I'm just particularly interested in levitation," Anfey said, smiling.
"Maybe it's because we all like freedom," Ernest said, smiling. "But Christian's right. You have to be careful. If you lose control as you are now, you will not be able to handle it."
Ernest, however, was not nervous. He was the one that understood Anfey the best in this world. Anfey wasn't a hotheaded youth. Every move he made was done after careful consideration. If Anfey wanted to practice levitation, Ernest knew he had a certain degree of control over the spell already.
"Uncle Ernest, can't you use your combat power to levitate?"
"I cannot," Ernest said. "The master swordsmen from a thousand years ago could shoot themselves right into the sky, but such a usage of combat power was very depleting, and nowhere as free as that of mages."
"Then how are you going to fight against mages? They can all use levitation."
"Mages have magic, and we have our swords and combat power, so we are not terribly disadvantaged," Ernest said. "Mages tend to be weaker in hand-to-hand combat. If a warrior approaches, no shield can protect the mage forever."
Anfey nodded. "I see. And if you fight Master Saul?"
"Among all the archmages of the Pan Continent, Saul's power is medium at best. But for master swordsmen and golden knights, he is deadly, because we can never catch him. If I had to choose, I would choose anyone but Saul."
"Then I must master levitation!"
"Of course, but don't overestimate it either. When you try to fool a master swordsman or a golden knight, you'll realize how childish your idea is," Ernest told him. "Levitation may be quick, but you still cannot be much quicker than a master swordsman's sword. You'll be chopped down like a bird. Even a mid-level swordsman can pose a serious threat to you. Unless you become the Dimensional Archmage, you have no reason to be arrogant."
"I will do my best," Anfey said, smiling bitterly.