City of Sin

Book 1, Chapter 10

Start From the Top

The lesson was held in an enormous classroom that could accommodate 300 people at a time. There was an elevated stage in the centre, with a handful of spacious and comfy-looking seats, with the rest being crammed into the sides shamefully. Richard was pointed to the centre stage as he entered the classroom, warranting attention from his classmates and discomfort on his part. The students were of various ages, from seven-year-old kids to octogenarians. This was a semi-public lecture, attendance being open to any mages who’d given their services to Deepblue for a year. The central seats were reserved for Sharon’s personal apprentices, which was why Richard became the centre of attraction and jealousy the moment he sat down.

There were two others here, a girl and boy at levels 6 and 5 respectively in spite of looking just two or three years older than Richard himself. Richard was the thirteenth of Sharon’s apprentices, and only three remained in the Deepblue to date. The rest had begun their journeys across the continents and planes, the best one already dominating an entire plane himself.

The classroom’s door swung open again just as Richard sat down, and a bald, short, and stout mage walked in. This was their professor, Popovich. At level 16, he wasn’t anything in the continent or the Deepblue, but Popovich wasn’t someone known for his magic abilities anyway. He was instead renowned for his contribution to world theory.

The professor looked less than average, with a humorously large button nose and rounded jaw. However, it wasn’t easy to attend a lecture in the Deepblue, and everyone in the classroom was here to propel themselves further in the magic world. The entire class quieted down in a few moments.

“The world of magic exists with reality as its base. When you observe the world, you do not hear and see true reality, instead only experiencing sensations sent to your mind through your perception. This process is unavoidable, but the perceived world and the real world have so many differences…

“How, then, do we limit the chance of error? It’s through the way you think! In other words, the way a mage thinks decides the kind of world they perceive!” He paused, waiting for the confused or fascinated students and mages to take down notes before continuing, “This lesson is not going to teach you formidable spells at level 8 or 9, that’s something even I can’t do.”

The classroom was dead silent, no one appreciating Popovich’s humour. He could only scratch his head awkwardly at the reaction of these serious and pragmatic students, muttering “what a boring bunch” in defeat under his breath before returning to the lesson. “Alright, let’s get straight to the topic. I am here to teach you how to think.

“Don’t belittle this subject. As insignificant as it seems, your school of thought is the foundation for everything that comes further on in your life. It can ultimately decide your accomplishments in the world of magic. The right train of thought will bring you closer to the truth of the world, allowing you to make wise and calculated decisions at crucial moments. It will shield you from ignorance, and decisions that you will regret your entire life. It will also decide crucial factors in your experiments or your choice of spells in a battle.

“Simply put, you have to start from the top. Always remember this: the world before yourself. You need to know the world to know yourself. If you only act like a certain person in this tower who puts themselves before everything, you will only have a myopic view of things. How can a sparrow compare to an eagle? Such thinking is utter foolishness, and will only limit your future accomplishments!” Popovich only began the official lesson after verbally attacking ‘a certain fellow’.

“The basis of everything is origin force. It’s the foundation of the world, and something that grows alongside it. It’s a majestic power that we haven’t been able to harness till date. We can, however, treat it as a foundation; the foundation of our world and possibly many others.

“The power of laws acts as the skeletal structure of the world, its various planes the flesh filled in between. These laws are far greater than planes, but still use these planes as a foundation. Every plane is an embodiment of one or more laws, and the more laws a plane can bear the greater it is, the higher its status in the world. Planes that bear complex laws, like Norland’s, are considered superior planes, also known as prime planes.

“So I suppose you lot understand by now that laws and planes integrate into one whole. You need to follow the laws of the world to grow in strength, and even if you’re someone strong you WILL face punishment if you disregard them. If you wish to change or eliminate the basic laws of a plane, you need to be ready to battle the entirety of that plane!

“The only possibility, thus, is to work with laws that branch out of the basic laws of the plane, the so-called derived laws. You have some hope in this field, but that too will only remain just that, hope. Miracles occur, but don’t expect them to happen to you. The stronger ones may think about using or challenging the derived laws of the world, but only fools would think of touching the basic laws.

“The laws of a plane determine its fundamental characteristics and the plane’s power system. Some impossible day in the future, one of you might cross planes in attempted conquest. If and when that happens, your primary objective should be to analyse the derived laws of the plane and its power system. That will let you adjust your battle methods to the plane, allocating resources and exploiting the environment instead of being restricted by it.

“Speaking of, there’s one essential thing throughout the process of conquest. Do you know what it is?” Popovich paused for water. He’d spoken quickly and at length, so he poured an entire jar of magically purified water into his mouth before growling out, “The Dragon of Eternity and Time!”

The Dragon of Eternity and Time, the Eternal Dragon, had unprecedented status in the world. It was above the many gods, its powers incredible and unfathomable. The Eternal Shrine was pretty much the most important location in the entire continent, because it was the only place where one could communicate with the Dragon. Its position was fixed, unaffected by changes in time and space.

The Eternal Shrine had existed from way before the first records of civilisation. The magic of all the races and in all regions of Norland was heavily influenced by the Eternal Dragon, and it was the Dragon’s guidance that a weak race like the humans whose only strength was their fertility could advance to become a magic civilisation that stood up to the elves and dragonblood gnomes. It wasn’t just the three big human empires. The other races, too, were influenced by the Dragon, the capitals of the six empires on the continent being established on ruins or relics from the Eternal Dragon itself.

“The Eternal Dragon is an archaic creature that surpasses laws themselves. It has left its mark on thousands of planes, and when you enter a new plane your ultimate goal is to find the trace it has left behind in that plane. It may be a female dragon, an egg, or even faeces, but as long as you find its traces you will be able to understand the laws of the plane clearly. It will allow you to leap forward in strength! Compared to the Eternal Dragon, the so-called gods are just parasites leeching off the laws of the planes. Those who control lesser laws are considered weaker, and the opposite is true as well.”

“The world is that simple. Start from the top, and work your way down!” Popovich’s face was flushed from exasperation, enough to worry someone that he just might be blown to pieces by chaotic elements the very next second. But his voice continued to reverberate, “The origin, the world, the laws of the planes, and mana. Simply put, they are all parts of a whole. Once you find the correct train of thought, you will find yourself standing on the horns of the Eternal Dragon, looking at the myriad of planes from above. The sword saints and even those with legendary power are but dust in your eyes in that moment. Other than Master Sharon, of course, she is the boss, the special one!”

Finally, Popovich rubbed his chubby hands together and spat out every single word with all the determination he could muster, “Your thinking dictates everything!”

Every word rammed into Richard’s mind like a hammer, making him fuzzy. It wasn’t because of his booming voice; the professor had used a technique akin to a mana shock that suppressed the minds of the students with his power as a great mage.

The bell rang at the moment everyone started to recover from dizziness. The lesson for the day had ended. “That’s all I have to say for today. Let’s curse a certain person in this tower together! Dismissed!”

Richard was unable to calm down for a long time after the lesson. He read through all the books Popovich had prescribed like he was possessed, only snapping out of it at dawn. It was like Popovich had opened an unknown door for him, revealing some of the world’s secrets. It was like the first time he’d opened the Codex back in the cottage.

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