In the eyes of the citizens of the millennium capital, there were two places they were forbidden from entering.
The first was the central imperial hub, the Stokian palace where Emperor Jilroan's administration was located.
The glory and honor of the imperial family wasn't something the commoners could encroach upon. In most cases, peasants were forbidden from entering the large palace.
Apart from that, there was another heavily guarded place which unaffiliated people were forbidden from entering at all costs. It was an even more mysterious place than the palace. That was the cradle of magic of Stok and the largest human magic institution: the Stokian Imperial Magic Academy.
There were no longer any records of the formation of the academy. Rumors had it that the ancient institution had been there ever since the founding of the Stokian empire. Some even say that it used to be the conglomeration of the largest magic guilds on the continents that existed millennia ago.
It was commonly said that the institution provided the founding emperor of Stok, Bernard Stok I, a large amount of magical military force to allow the emperor's armies to sweep from the south of the continent towards the rest. That allowed him to form an empire that covered basically all of the continent. It was from then on when tribal societies and city-states were wiped away from Chinoan society. The continent as a whole began to live under imperial rule. From that day onwards, the purple flag of the empire spread to every corner of the empire.
Since the empire's founding, Bernard Stok I understood how huge a threat an ancient magical institution like that posed to his empire, so he used marriage, infiltration, bribery and placation to absorb the great magic guild. Through his and his descendants' efforts over the course of centuries, the memory of the guild gradually disappeared from the general populace's collective consciousness. Replacing it was the new imperial institution, the Stokian Magic Academy.
While the guild had disappeared, the fearsome reputation of magi on the battlefield during the founding war was passed down generation after another. Given that the empire owed its existence to the magi from that guild, the successive emperors paid them due respect. That was how the southerners developed a culture that feared and worshipped the magi.
The kind of respect had never waned or warped in the slightest. In stark contrast, the current emperor, Jilroan Stok, was also a high-order magus. That caused the reverence of the magi to grow even further in the past ten-odd years.
Nowadays, the magic academy had become a palace for the magi. Anyone that could enter and leave the place freely, regardless of age or gender, would be among the most respected individuals in society.
During one late night, two large carriages stopped at the rear entrance of the academy. Each was pulled by three large horses. The coaches of the carriages were two meters wide and some four meters in length and two meters in height. Usually, a cargo carriage of that size couldn't be driven on the people-packed streets during the day. Only during the darkest of nights when the streets were clear could these behemoths travel unabated.
Unlike Hocke's atmospheric campus, Stokian Magic Academy was operated like a military installation. Strictly speaking, students of the academy were subjected to far stricter discipline than army cadets. That was why the ones watching the gates weren't normal but useless security staff, but rather two fully armed soldiers radiating a killing aura.
They were both hot-blooded warriors from the frontlines that had survived one peril after another. They only came to get the honored post of standing guard at the academy's entrance after much trial in deathly battles. To ensure they would be able to stop fights between apprentice magi, they were all at mid-order warriors at least.
In other words, the soldiers who stood guard at the academy were all who had drawn blood. Even the arrogant apprentice magi wouldn't usually dare to cross them.
However, the two soldiers seemed utterly respectful, and even unnerved, towards the coachmen leading the carriages.
"This is the entry pass."
Perhaps because it was winter, the coachmen in front was wearing a thick linen hood. Most of his face was hidden in the shadow cast by moonlight. His voice sounded hoarse, just like the sound two rusting rods of iron rubbing against each other created.
The soldiers always shuddered upon hearing the voice. They felt like they were talking to undead.
However, they knew that the coachmen weren't undead, but rather, agents of the Stokian intelligence apparatus. According to their behavior, they seemed to be particularly high-ranking ones.
Though they were fearful, they still inspected the pass the coachmen handed them. It was strict protocol enforced by the academy. After ensuring there were no errors, the soldiers nodded and handed the pass back. "There's no issue. Please enter."
The coachmen didn't say another word and rushed the horses into the academy.
One soldier looked at the cargo in the carriages and wondered, these coachmen seem to come once every few days with lots of cargo… which they cover in three layers of thick oiled cloth. What could it be? Why were they being so secretive of it?
However, he didn't ask, knowing that it wasn't something small fry like him was qualified to know about, given that the intelligence agency was presiding over it.
The two coachmen drove through the winding roads in the academy with acute familiarity. The curfew in the academy was in effect and they wouldn't run into any students on the way, only a few guards.
They continued driving their carriages silently into a small wood deep inside the academy. While the path in the wood was uneven, they managed to drive the carriage stably the whole way. Near the end, they strayed from the path and began making their way deeper into the thick layers of trees.
Not long after, a small, inconspicuous house appeared in their vision.
A portal gradually appeared in the corner of the house. An old man stepped out of it.
"Mister Logg, how is progress?" asked the old man. He was dressed in magus attire bright enough to dazzle other magi blind. It was decorated with near a thousand shining gems, each containing unique magical properties.
It was called Thousand Jewels, a divine item made from near a thousand magical jewels. In terms of pure value, it would be tens of times more expensive than Annelotte's Bluestar of the Frozen Sea. Any one of those jewels was worth a mid-sized noble mansion by itself.
The precious robe could only belong to the most ancient and affluent of noble households. It went without saying that the wearer was none other than the longest-reigning emperor of Stok and the only one who came close to the myth realm in power, Jilroan Stok.
Currently, he no longer frolicked in his harem with his many wives and concubines. Instead, he was dressed in formal magus wear to visit another magus, one that could possibly be the only human myth-realm magus to currently exist. He was Crimsonflame Fiend Saron's master: Logg.Previous Chapter Next Chapter