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Jered rested his back against an unassuming corner, nursing his cold drink.
“Ahh look who we have here…”
It was Carter’s blustering voice, no doubt. Jered didn’t need to turn around to know Lloyd and Victor were there to complete the c*********. They had chosen a deserted area of the schoolyard to ambush poor Kirby. “Have you done our homework, dork?” a swipe on the kid’s arm made his books fall down in a messy heap.
“Y-Yes!” Kirby pushed his glasses up and bustled to gather his stuff, but Carter had to assert his dominance in a more violent way. With a shove, Kirby’s untrained body was sent tumbling down—and a chorus of snickers rang out as the follow-up. It was a run-of-the-mill work for them. There was no hesitation, remorse, or any psychological reason behind their actions. No harmful familial environment, no drunk dad beating mom, no financial worries. It was just three bigger guys ganging up on a defenseless one. And why? To feel superior.
And Jered loved feeling superior. So he waited. He waited until bruises popped up on Kirby’s body, until untamed snarks were thrown onto him, until tears streamed down his face. And then the bell went off, signaling the end of their break. Carter and his cronies left with what they had attacked him for; a stack of papers, and a good laugh at his expense. Jered downed his drink with one last tilt of the can and tossed it in the trash bin as he walked out of his hiding.
Kirby examined his condition almost methodically. It was a run-of-the-mill work for him too.
“They really did a number on you,” Jered said slowly, deliberately. Kirby snapped his head up in fright, but relaxed as soon as he saw him.
“Oh, it’s you Jered… y-you… you saw?”
“Yes, you’re not the only one. Kenny has it rough too.”
Kirby huffed out a chuckle—not in some form of sadistic schadenfreude against his effeminate friend, more like one of resignation. Such was life for those at the very bottom of high school’s hierarchy. “Ah yeah, I heard about it…” he took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses with his sleeve. “He has it worse than me, I can’t really complain about my situation. Kenny has always been their main target,” he said, ashamed of his relieved undertone. Better Kenny than him, right?
Jered sat next to him on the ground, and threw an off-handed comment. “Well, not for long.”
“And why is that?”
He shrugged, “Kenny may or may have not paid someone to… fix the issue, permanently.”
“Yes way.” Jered patted him on the shoulder, his words laced with consolation. “I’m terribly sorry. Once Kenny is out of the picture… I’m afraid they’ll take it out on the others. Carl, Dean, Sandro, David… you,”
Kirby felt the world around him crashing down.
“Okay, enough of this pity party and let’s be happy for Kenny. Can you even imagine it? Carter, Lloyd, and Victor… they won’t ever dare to touch him again. And it’s not only him. No one in this school will ever mess with him. He’s gonna be a free man, a soaring bird, and he didn’t even have to pay that much for it.”
“W-Wait… who, what…”
Jered stood back up, dusting his back. “Anyway, see you around buddy.”
The bait was thrown—
“Please wait!” Kirby launched himself forward, grappling Jered’s legs. His voice teetered on the edge of a break-down. He didn’t even care about the sorry sight he was giving off as he groveled at his feet, “Please… man, my friend, please waaait…”
—And he hooked on it. What a simpleton.
“Hmm… but I have to go back, don’t want to make Miss Norris mad.”
“No, no, no… you don’t understand.” Kirby rasped out, his hold on him tightening. “Who… who did Kenny pay? Is it going to work? Like, is it a legit deal?”
Jered rolled his eyes up as he tapped his chin in thought, “I can’t tell you who it is, the information would not be beneficiary to neither of you. But yes, it’s going to work. And yes, it’s a legit deal.” he crouched down, arms resting on his knees, “The person behind this has the skills to make sure Carter and his jerk mates become little darlings for a looooong while. It’s no prank, you just need to dish out a fat stack and those dumbheads won’t bother you anymore.”
“W-What are they going to d-do to them?”
“Ah I don’t know, I just know that it’s not going to be… nice. Please, tone down the questions. Unless…”
Jered was patient, “Unless you’re interested, that is.”
“I…I am…” Kirby allowed himself a few seconds to rearrange his thoughts, “How much is it? Can I talk about it to the others as well?”
“I don’t see why not, and the price is… roughly one thousand dollars.”
“W-What… one thousand?” Kirby sputtered out in disbelief.
Jered smiled reassuringly, “Trust me, it’s worth it. Also, you can split the cost with the others. 200 dollars each.”
“Look, sleep over it, discuss it with Carl, Dean, and your other friends. Just give me an answer within a couple of days—and the money within a week, okay?”
Jered thinned his lips into a line as he skirted around him, “Well, seems like a no… good luck,” however, a hand stirred up and grabbed his ankle.
“Wait!” Kirby scrambled back to his feet, his face a filthy mess of dirt and sweat. He clenched his jaw and squeezed out his next words, “I… I promise!”
[Mana Orb has become Lv.33][Experience: 15%][Mana Beam has become Lv.20][It takes relatively less mana to conjure a Mana Beam.][Experience: 2%]
Jered didn’t want to make that the highlight of his day, therefore he quickly dived for the last tome. ‘A Spell to Rule The World’. It was 1000 pages long; a lengthy read for sure, but nothing he couldn’t handle within a couple of days. Contrary to ‘A Pharaoh’s Biography’ with its Egyptian Sovereign’s flagitious rule, this one had a milder, scholar atmosphere to it. The tome spotlighted the struggles of an unyielding magus’ search for Heavenscraper—a supposedly fictitious divine mountain whose hearsay evinced the presence of a Deity’s lost legacy. The intrepid magus believed in its existence, and hence decided to adventure through barren wastelands, icy tundras, and forests teeming with vicious creatures to prove it.
He never rested, though his gradually aging body begged him otherwise. His quest for that forgotten legacy spanned decades, and nothing but the grim reaper himself could have stopped him from climbing Heavenscraper and learn its secrets.
Eventually, his grueling exploration led him to the Forbidden Grounds. A long-sought clue had finally confirmed the right direction to Heavenscraper, successfully opening up a path towards the conclusion of his weary journey. However…
‘And with the majesty of ten thousand kings, it descended afore me.‘
… one of the Four Guardians, Ajivak—Protector of The North; Overlord of The Skies—dropped in front of him, barring him from continuing any further.
‘Sorry, sorcerer. But you shan’t open the cage,“
The magus was under the mercy of its rolling power. But even in light of that, he didn’t back down, and courageously challenged Ajivak. The sky wept and thundered as a lone man, armed nothing but his dream, went ballistic on an immortal creature and—
—Jered blinked away the reading-trance he was in. Jane’s stride halted in front of his door. With a swift wave of his hand, he cast a ‘Low Conceal’ on the tome and ejected it away with a burst of ‘Low Telekinesis’. He snapped his fingers, and a random book came sailing straight into his awaiting hand. Right at that time, his mother knocked a few times, “Come in,” he prompted.
Jane waltzed in, and ever so slowly, bumped the door shut. Her eyes swept over him as she tucked a chock of blond hair behind an ear, “Sorry, did I disturb you?”
Yes, she did. “No,” but it didn’t matter. He looked up at her, his lips curling into a soft smile, “What’s up?”
“Umh…” she chewed on her bottom lip, “… it’s just that you’ve been cooped up here for a long time. Even yesterday, I hardly saw you… and… I just wanted to make sure you were okay,”
“Oh…” Jered had been prioritizing his non-stop studying over his family. He knew what she was worried about, he could read it on her face. It was a mistake he wouldn’t have glossed over if not for the ambition-driven urgency of reading the tomes. “Sorry… you’re clearly struggling to make time for me and Jasmine, and knit the family back together, like we once were… and I’ve not been helping. It’s just that there are a few tests coming up this week… and I wanted to ace them all, to make you proud.”
“Oh no no no,” Jane waved her hands with a sheepish smile, “Don’t worry sweetie, you don’t have to make me proud, because I already am.” she sidled up to him, and eased herself down on his bed. She cradled one hand upon his, a motherly smile beaming down at him. “And I’m sure your father would have been as well,”
He chuckled. That was not untrue. John always had a soft spot for him—he knew how deep their similarities ran. “Probably,”
Jane tilted her head and leaned closer, planting a kiss on his forehead. “Dinner is almost ready, you better come downstairs before Jasmine steals your snickers again.”
“That wench!” he sighed theatrically. She hid a giggle behind a hand. “I’ll be coming right away, just let me tidy up here…” his mother nuzzled his hand one last time before parting. She stopped at the threshold of the door—smothering him with that loving stare that made him feel like a child all over again—before she traipsed down. Not a minute later, and he could hear Jane and Jasmine arguing about the latter’s unhealthy obsession with eating sweets before dinner, not that Jane was any better.
He so wanted to finish reading ‘A Spell to Rule The World’. His knowledge about the Other Side was growing exponentially, and so was his power, albeit at a less exaggerated rate. His phone’s screen lit up with a chirping sound. He rolled around, grabbed his phone, and unlocked it.
It was Kenny, and it read:
—”I have the money…”
Synopsis: The online game <