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Hadjar was sitting at the table and playing with wooden knights, or so everyone thought. In fact, he was carefully studying the open scroll left there by the King. Frankly speaking, he’d allowed the neuronet to copy everything into its database. He couldn’t read the strange squiggles yet, but he’d realized that the drawings were associated with martial arts, or, to be more exact, with palm strikes. In the Prince’s opinion, it was quite corny. Thankfully, nobody was interested in his opinion.
In fact, he was seated at the Royal table with only one purpose in mind – to prevent the Palace needing costly repairs again.
“Record,” Hadjar said for the umpteenth time.
[Processing the request… the request has been processed. The data has been included in the special database ” Information about techniques”]
The King and the Queen didn’t quarrel in the presence of their son. They probably only interacted pleasantly on rare occasions. When they were trying to make a brother or sister for Hadjar, when he was sitting next to them, or when they were in different parts of the country.
Oftentimes, their very similar temperaments gave rise to some legendary scenes. And what else could you expect from two adepts at the Level of Transformation? Moreover, Elizabeth loved to bring this topic up, using her characteristic, scathing sarcasm. She often reminded Haver that she was three times younger than him, but had already reached the same stage of cultivation.
The most sensitive topic for a man wasn’t the organ in his pants, but his personal strength and age. Which was surprising, considering the lifespan of these adepts.
“I don’t understand why you’re so upset – there weren’t that many people in the office”
Nanny (despite her low status, she secretly remained one of the most powerful people of the kingdom) was there, along with Primus, the King and Queen, as well as the court Scholar and the Master. This short, gray-haired (though it was difficult to call him that) old man taught the nobles the arts. He trained them hard and without mercy. For his services, he received so much money from their parents that a large merchant guild would envy him.
“Don’t you care that our son was crawling around the palace alone?”
Haver looked at his son. He was playing with his toys and not paying any attention to the adults.
“It’s hard to find a safer place in the country than the palace,” the King shrugged.
“He’s tiny!” Elizabeth raised her voice.
The nurse covered the nearby dishes, and Primus clenched his fists. The air around him swirled slightly. It was hard to notice, but it hadn’t been hidden from the neuronet and, therefore, from Hadjar.
[Message to Host! Force has been activated in the vicinity!]
This was a message that Hadjar had seen before. He’d decided to call the local magic by a name he’d taken from a franchise back home, simply naming it – ‘Force’.
“He’s a little boy,” Haver corrected her. “I remember that I used to crawl around everywhere in my childhood, too.”
“I have to say, your Majesty,” the nurse coughed, ”You only went out if you were accompanied by the late queen till you were seven years old.”
Haver snorted at the bitchy old woman, but didn’t answer her.
“And what if he’d fallen and hurt himself?!”
Primus rolled his eyes. In his opinion, Queen Elizabeth cared for the prince with a bit too much intensity.
“In my opinion, Elizabeth, you’re trying to make a hare out of a wolf. It’ll lead to trouble”
“No one is interested in your opinion!” The Queen barked. “And what are you doing here anyway? Some military council, hunt, feast, brothel or whatever else you do is surely waiting for you. You know, the stuff you call national administration!”
Primus looked at his brother, raised his palms and, murmuring something, left the office.
“Honey, let’s calm down—nothing bad happened.”
“But it could have!”
The situation was clearly heated. The neuronet was pouring out messages about potential threats to its carrier.
“Please, let me tell you something, your Majesty,” the scolar bowed.
Elizabeth glanced menacingly at the old man, but soon enough, the fire in her eyes went out.
“Please, honorable professor South Wind, go ahead.”
The old man bowed again.
“I may be wrong, but it seems like the fate of the young prince has already been written down in the hall of Mysteries. It seemed to me, during our classes today, that he wasn’t just crying, but had in fact wanted to ask a question.”
“A question?” Nanny snorted. “Have you completely lost your mind because of your scrolls, South Wind? You should take more walks. The baby can’t even talk yet.”
Even the King and the Queen didn’t allow themselves such liberties when dealing with the scholars. There was only one person in the entire Kingdom who didn’t watch her tone and words in front of Master South Wind.
“It’s easy enough to check,” the scientist suddenly came over to the table. He took out some parchment, a quill and an inkwell. He put them in front of Hadjar and said, “Draw me the map of our kingdom, disciple.”
They were taken aback at the word ‘disciple.’ The nobles who attended his lectures weren’t his ‘disciples’. They were only the children of those who’d paid the tuition, and the scientist considered them merely a source of income. Regardless, the King hadn’t heard about South Wind taking somebody as a students in ages.
“Thank you for the honor, venerable scholar,” Elizabeth suddenly bowed. The Queen had bowed to the commoner! “But my son…”
Silence descended on the study.
Hadjar hadn’t needed to think about it for long. What was his purpose in this new world and his new body? The dream he hadn’t been able to realize before. When he’d watched TV, or videos on the internet where people traveled the world, he could only envy them. They were climbers, divers, simple tourists. They could feel and embrace that seemingly large, expansive world.
He lived in this new world now, which was huge, full of danger and puzzling opportunities. And he had to be strong, in order to be able to discover them all, to be free from the shackles of his fate. He had to be much stronger than his father and mother, and much more powerful than his uncle.
His first goal was ‘the Black Gates’ sect, and in order to get there, he needed to reach the eighth stage of the Bodily Rivers by the age of sixteen. How could he do that, with the meager resources of the Kingdom? He would succeed only if all of those limited resources were devoted to his personal development.
And so, Hadjar gave the order to his neural network and it projected the map onto the parchment. Of course, the projection was only visible to Hadjar himself, but it was enough for him to start tracing the contours with the quill.
“That’s incredible,” Nanny exhaled.
“This child can’t speak, but he can understand us,” South Wind seemed to be surprised, too. “Tell me, disciple, what change will you get if you pay two hundred gold coins for a sword worth one hundred and eighty.”
“Scholar, don’t joke,” the Master spoke for the first time. “He can’t possibly know about…”
Hadjar slapped his face mentally. He had never gone to school, but if the same ‘smart’ questions were asked there, it wasn’t surprising at all that very few people liked to go to school.
He raised ten fingers. The people sighed disappointedly, and then sank back into their chairs, stunned.
Hadjar had squeezed his fingers and spread them again.
“… this,” the Master finished his sentence, incredulous.
“Where can you find the Grass of Seventeen Rays?”
That time, no one tried to argue with the scientist. And they were very surprised when the Prince pointed his finger at the correct hill on the map he’d drawn earlier.
“How many grams of this herb and how many grams of the Old Soul Powder would it take to make a cure for the Blue Scorpion poison?”
That question was so complex that the King, Queen or the Nanny wouldn’t have known the answer. Only the Master and the Scientist knew what the correct answer was.
Hadjar knew the answer to that question, too, or, rather, the neural network did. He was very pleased with the fact that the neural network recorded not only books, but also the lectures he’d overheard. Fortunately, South Wind had given a lecture on this topic just a month ago.
“Amazing,” the Master gasped, when he saw two fingers of one hand and four of the other raised.
“It seems, your Highness, that the heavens have blessed you with a genius.”
Everyone was silent, and Hadjar was looking at the Master. They used to say, back on Earth, that if a young man wanted to get a beautiful girl in bed, he needed to get closer to her friends first.
No, the Prince wasn’t going to sleep with the Master, but the path to his discipleship was through the South Wind’s lectures.
“What do you say, dear?” Elizabeth asked the King.
“Esteemed South Wind,” the King addressed the old man meaningfully, “are you really going to take Hadjar as your student?”
The old man nodded. “He’ll be my first student in the last two thousand years that I’ve been alive.”
Well, the old man’s two thousand years old. Nothing surprising there. Hadjar thought sarcastically; he no longer doubted that this was a different world entirely.
“Analyze,” he ordered, looking at South Wind.
[The request is being processed…the request has been processed. The table is being generated]
Level of cultivation:
[The request cannot be processed … there is insufficient data for an analytical comparison]
“It’s settled, then,” Haver nodded. “From this day onward, you can visit Hadjar’s apartments at any time convenient to you.”
“But, pardon the intrusion,” Elizabeth added suddenly. “Nanny will be present during your classes.
At first, South Wind wanted to argue that his knowledge couldn’t be shared with the clumsy old lady as well, but then he looked into those clear, blue eyes. Those weren’t the eyes of an ordinary child.
Was the scholar that eager to become one of the teachers of a future luminary of the Sacraments? Well, he could make the sacrifice and let Nanny attend his classes as well.
That was the beginning of Hadjar’s studies. That was how his devious plan was set in motion.