Chapter 763: Enrollment

Though the matter of Apollo’s body being destroyed by his hands had started to circulate through the godly community, there was no great backlash, especially when the matters Apollo had been involved in came to light. It was also noted that, before Apollo had been killed, the latter had already used his Divinity to try and kill Vahn. This news was the source of an even bigger stir but, once again, it was dealt with very quickly when Hephaestus explained that Vahn had an absolute fire immunity as a result of his own pseudo-Divinity. Though there were some people that wanted to hold Vahn accountable, they were just a small subset of the godly community within Orario and they didn’t have the power to enforce such a decision, especially considering Vahn’s status.

While that was going on, Vahn himself was sitting in a massive circular room with Riveria, Takemikazuchi, Terpsichore, Tenjin, Anubis, and Tsubaki. They were just about to start admissions to fill out the remaining spots for students. Thus far, the bulk of their first batch of students was comprised of orphans that had come from various orphanages around the City. Vahn had already gone to pick up the majority of the children from Maria’s Orphanage and Syr had helped them get situated in their dorms. Now, the majority of the Department Heads were gathered together to vet new students by evaluating their background, character, and, though it wasn’t as important, their potential.

Anyone that wanted to bring their children into the School had to provide documentation proving their identities, including trade and occupation. Once that was cleared, the children would be brought into the room for a preliminary interview. Sadly, especially for older children, they were very likely to be barred entry into the School, at least for the time being. They simply didn’t have the capacity to ‘babysit’ children and raise them in lieu of their parents, even if the latter weren’t necessarily the best parents. There were numerous children that needed assistance and they were exactly the target for the first batch of students, even if the justification could be considered a little shady.

Vahn wouldn’t deny that the ‘ideal’ students for learning what the School was going to teach were those that didn’t have other influences. For example, they wouldn’t accept the children of Nobles, as the latter group was easily able to provide education and other resources to their progeny. There was no real justification for the Alliance empowering children who already had power and, even if it was borrowed, authority. Instead, Vahn believed it was more conducive to the change he wanted to see in the world to target younger children, specifically those that didn’t have any outside ties. They would be the most receptive to teaching because they would ‘understand’ exactly what they were working towards, especially after receiving the benefits provided by the School itself…

As for the last qualifier, it didn’t actually matter that much and just served as a test to determine what the child may be suitable for in the future. This included having Vahn evaluate their elemental affinities, if there were any anomalies in their bodies, and if they were under external influences. Lastly, using a sphere that could measure a person’s control over their magic power, the prospective students would place their hands against it and try to cause it to glow.

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Those that passed this test had a higher chance of being accepted into the beginner Magic classes, though failing the test didn’t disqualify anyone. After all, the whole purpose of the School was to allow the students to grow at their own pace, in the direction they chose. If a student genuinely wanted to become a Mage, they would be given the basic resources to train their control and magic power until they were able to join the actual Magic classes.

Even then, not having enough magic power didn’t disqualify you as those that pursued the path of Scholars, who looked into Magic theory, could also take the classes after passing tests proving they are ready. Vahn’s ‘ideal’ School system gave the children almost limitless paths to take towards the success they themselves sought, even if it was partially guided by the Instructors who would be observing them on a daily basis. In fact, the easiest way to get into the next class was to receive a recommendation from the Instructor so you could take the test earlier.

To that end, Vahn had a vibrant smile on his face as the first child came in, a young girl around 6-7 years old with adorable little blue cat ears and an s-shaped tail who seemed very nervous as she gripped the hem of her dress with a death grip. She stopped right in the center of the room, looking as though she was about to burst into tears at any moment. Raising his hand, Vahn sent calming energy through his aura and tried easing her tensions as he softly asked, “Please, can you tell us your name, young lady…?”

Suddenly being spoken to, the young Cat Person actually began to cry this time and plopped down onto the ground with loud ‘Nyaaaaaaaaaa-like’ sobs. At this moment, Vahn realized that it probably wasn’t easy for young children to actually enroll in the School. Most of the ones that made it to the interview stage would have at least one parent and, though they might not be well off, it certainly wouldn’t be easy for them to be away from home so suddenly. He felt his heart twist in his chest until Riveria lightly elbowed him in the side and inclined her head towards the young girl.

In the next instant, Vahn had appeared next to the young child and, using his secret technique, began patting the top of her head in a gentle and soothing manner. At first, when she suddenly felt someone touching her head, the girl seemed very scared but, in less than three seconds, she had started to squint her eyes and sniffle. Her tears were quickly receding and she seemed to be calming down very quickly, even going as far as to close her eyes and begin purring after around twenty seconds. Vahn fought against the giddy feeling in his stomach and pulled his hand away, lightly asking, “Can you tell us your name now…?”

As he pulled his hand away, the girl followed it with her eyes before turning her head up and saying, “My…nyame is Nyelly…nyaa…” Vahn blinked, asking in a soft tone, “Nelly, or Elly…?” since it was hard to know when young Cat People were trying to speak. He wondered if his own children would have that same verbal tick as he smiled and heard the girl stutter, “N-n-nyelly…” without actually clearing up anything. To make things easier, Vahn wrote it down on a piece of paper and had her point to it with her small fingers, clarifying that her name was indeed ‘Elly’.

After putting out a chair for the girl to sit in, Vahn returned to his own seat and the interview officially began. If he were being honest, he had already decided to accept the adorable girl into the School based solely on how cute she was. The fact she also had a dual-affinity of Water and Earth just increased the desire, even though it was her story that won all of them over. She was in a similar situation to Tina, being that she lost her Adventurer father in the Dungeon. Her mother had only been a normal civilian, however, so, after her Husband had passed away, she made ends meet by working at a laundry house. She had nobody to look after her daughter while she was at work and hoped that her child’s future would be secure if she was able to attend the School.

Since she had passed the interview segment, Vahn then had the young Elly test her basic magic proficiency by having her place her palms against the large crystal sphere. Unfortunately, other than a very small light, the crystal remained dormant. Once again, Elly looked like she was going to tear up but, as Vahn had been next to her to observe the process, he just gave her some head pats to pacify her. When she started rubbing her head affectionately against his palm, Sis suddenly reminded him, (*Vahn…did you forget Milan and Tina telling you that on close family and spouses were supposed to touch the ears of a Cat Person…?*)

Hearing this, Vahn’s hand twitched for a brief moment but, seeing how happy Elly was, he continued petting her as he said, (“There are a lot of things that will change in the future. Besides, I’ll have to get used to small girls having a crush on me, regardless of what action I take. Don’t worry, I won’t let things get out of hand…”) With that thought in mind, Vahn pulled his hand away and had the ‘distraught’ Elly sit in her seat as he conferred with the other Department Heads. Then, by unanimous consensus, Elly had been accepted as a student within the School. They let her return to her mother with the good news and then she would be escorted to her room before they separated.

Realizing it would probably be very difficult for the younger children, Vahn considered if he should pay a visit to the dorms during the evening and allow his aura to help them go to sleep. Eventually, they would adapt to the separation and it may even become a ‘reason’ for them to work harder, as those who performed well would have greater freedoms, especially if they were older students. For the time being, however, the only times they would return home would be during the two-week period between each semester. There were no major holidays in this world so the only event worth celebrating was the bi-annual Monster Feria’s, which would likely be called the Alliance Faire in the future…

As the morning progressed, Vahn began to notice a very distinct trend in the students that were applying, or at least those that had been cleared to attend an interview. He already knew there were more females within Orario than males, as a result of the latter generally taking on more dangerous jobs and thus prone to death, but he hadn’t expected that nearly 80% of the students applying were young girls. However, when he thought about it in greater detail, it made a lot of sense, especially when considering the ‘standards’ in this world.

Most young boys would either begin training at an early age to become Adventurers, Tradesmen, or Laborers. Since this training usually began around the same time as the requirement for the School, it meant the boys would usually already be doing other tasks and were far less likely to attend the School. As for the girls, most of them didn’t aspire to be Adventurers, at least not at first, and instead focused on getting jobs with family businesses, stores, and shops. Females in this world were more likely to get into the service industry, making sure things were running smoothly, while the men would typically focus on the more physically intensive tasks. Though this wasn’t always the case, it was the ‘trend’ that had defined the population disparity between men and women.

As this was the case, Vahn realized that the ‘change’ he was going to bring into the world would be a little more drastic than he had expected. Though Orario was the exception, many cultures around the world were Patriarchal in structure, with only countries like Telskyura being the exception. By empowering so many young women with the tools to ‘change’ the world, Vahn wondered if this power system would simply collapse in the future. Though he was certain it wouldn’t be the case of women trying to ‘seize’ power for themselves, essentially reversing the status quo, it would still be interesting to see greater equality in the world…

There were other benefits to this, at least from Vahn’s perspective, as he got to see a variety of adorable young girls from numerous different races. His Fatherly instincts were severely triggered by the end of the day, especially when a young Raccoon girl game in, standing only 83cm tall. She had reddish-brown hair, freckles, and the most adorable tuft of a tail he had ever seen. Though she wasn’t the first Raccoon he had ever seen, they were still very rare in Orario and it was the first time he had seen a child.

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During the interview, it was revealed that she was a street orphan that had just arrived at the city a few months ago and, having nowhere else to go, heard about the School from other orphans and decided to see if the rumors were true. As a result, she was immediately accepted into the School and, much to Vahn’s surprise, she had one of the better scores on the magic evaluation. Though her Wind affinity wasn’t the most impressive, the fact that she had been clear-headed enough to travel through the city and reach the School, while only being eight years old, showed that she was an intelligent young girl with a lot of potential.

When asked her name, she had very clearly enunciated it as ‘Carmen Belfast’, seemingly hailing from a small tribe located on the north-western regions of the Western Forests. Her family had fled to the City after Rakia Kingdom’s force had started probing into the region, though it ultimately ended up with both of her parents dying along the way. The only relative she had left was her Uncle but, after trying his luck as an Adventurer, he too ended up losing his life. Thus, as a result of the machinations of fate, Carmen had ended up a street orphan that had been getting by on the charity of others…

Though he resisted the urge to outright adopt the unfortunate girl, Vahn arranged it so that she would have a little extra allowance given to her and, as she obviously had potential with magic, he gifted her a relatively plain bangle he had formed for such situations. It looked like normal polished iron but, at the very center of the bangle, there was a core of Orichalcum surrounding a thread of his crystallized blood. It would allow her magical power to develop a little quicker since its only effect was to increase the natural replenishment of mana. Vahn had developed nearly a hundred of these bangles and intended to give them to promising young children he met on the street, or by happenstance. Yes, it was a means of playing favorites, but most of the people he gave the bangles to really did deserve a break…

Once their student quota had been filled, Vahn spent a bit of time perusing over the still waiting families and looked for any students he could add on the waiting list for the next batch of recruitment. It was a little unfortunate that they would have to wait, but this system was still very new and they needed to get all the kinks sorted out before they could increase both the number of staff, and the students that would be attending. It would also help that, once there were already students that had familiarized themselves with the School, they would then be able to help future students adjust. Thus, for the time being, the total number of students was an even one-thousand, all ages between seven and twelve years of age.

The announcement that their quota had been filled had upset a lot of the waiting parents, especially since there were still several hundred that had been ‘patiently’ awaiting their turn. However, when the remembered who it was they were dealing with, few people made their complaints known and just retreated. Vahn secretly put letters in the bags of some of them, explaining that their children would potentially be accepted in the batch, before heading off to the dorms where the children were already being rallied together. Most of the rules would have already been explained to them, but he still needed to give his first speech as the ‘current’ Headmaster. He would be seeing these children grow and develop over the next few years and it was very important that he begin laying the groundwork for the future, now.

It was starting to get late in the day so it wasn’t too surprising to see numerous children that were on the verge of dozing off as they assembled in the massive auditorium that was meant to be used for concerts, plays, and performing arts, in general. Though they were a bit noisy at first, Vahn smiled when the room became almost absolutely silent the moment he stepped out onto the stage. He was already letting his domain spread through the room so, after appearing, Vahn let a mix of calming and revitalizing energy flow over the gathered children. This helped those that were sleepy wake up and also gave students a better impression of him, especially since many already looked up to him.

At the very front of the Auditorium, Vahn saw Roux, Fina, and Rye all sitting together, excitement on their faces as they waved towards him. Vahn returned a small wave of his own before, against the expectations of the student, he began to levitate off the ground and ‘sat’ on the air. Before they began to get too riled up, he lifted his hand, gesturing for silence as he said, “First of all, allow me to welcome you to the Sage Aldrnari School of Orario. I know many of you are very nervous about what it is you’ll be doing here but, I assure you, these next few years will become fond memories you’ll carry with you for the rest of your lives. Not only will you be cared for during your stay here, but you’ll be able to increase your knowledge, develop individuals skills, and even work towards increasing your personal power. At the same time, however, it is my hope that you’ll all happily work alongside each other, becoming life-long friends that will help create a better future for everyone…”

Vahn didn’t expect all the children to understand things so early, but he still smiled and explained, “It is my dream that, one day, the world will be a happier place where everyone can smile together. Though it won’t be easy, I believe each and every one of you is the key to making that happiness a reality. Know that, even if things don’t always seem to be going your way, I believe that each person here has the ability to become wonderful people in the future. Some of you will one day be great leaders in their fields, becoming prolific blacksmiths, alchemists, craftsman, and merchants. Others, you will walk the path of power, focusing on mastering yourself and overcoming the various trials that will bar your passage towards the peak. Though your path may be that of a Knight, or a Mage, know that there are no limits to your growth, so long as you never give up on seeking even greater heights…”

While Vahn had been speaking, he was making gestures with his hands that showed small phantom images of Knights and Mages doing battle against titanic monsters. Sometimes, a little flair was necessary to keep the children focused and, based on how he currently had their rapt attention, it seemed his little trick had been successful. Continuing his words, Vahn stated, “However, no matter what path you walk, you’ll discover that it is most important that you achieve a proper balance in life. Not only should you work hard, but you should properly relax, focus on expanding your mind, and build bonds with other people. To achieve this balance, expect that you will be required to study one of the arts that are taught here, be it painting, sculpting, music, theatre, and dance. It will be explained in greater detail later, but you’ll quickly understand the importance of these things as you continue your studies here…please, I ask that you simply have patience and never shy away from doing things that will help you develop as a person…”

Coming to stand on his feet again, Vahn lightly clapped his hand, allowing the lights in the room to dim slightly as the members of the Terpsichore Familia came out on the stage and began a light-hearted and entertaining performance. Vahn sat in the back, adding special effects to the act using unnamed magic spells to create small illusions and beautiful displays of fire, water, and electricity. The children seemed to enjoy it greatly and had mesmerized expressions, especially when he had made a wispy blue dragon fly around, passing through their bodies like a phantom before it began doing battle against a phantom red dragon. By the end of it, Vahn had exhausted a great deal of his energy reserves, causing him to laugh since it had actually been more difficult than his fights the previous day.

After waiting for the children to calm down, Vahn smiled radiantly and explained, “If there weren’t people in the world that focused on the arts, you wouldn’t be able to see displays like this. In the future, many of those sitting around you may become incredible artists that can inspire millions of people with their performances. To that end, remember to always encourage each other…never berate one of your peers for their differences, regardless of if it’s their appearance, character, or interests. I’m certain none of you here would like to be bullied and made fun of, just because you liked something different than other people…thus, one of the most important rules I have for you to follow is to ‘never’ bully your companions…everyone here is a fellow student, working towards a better future. You should support each other, not drag each other down…never, ever, forget that…”

To wrap up his statement, Vahn allowed himself to show a solemn expression as a small amount of pressure spread through his domain. Though this could also be seen as ‘bullying’ the children, Vahn knew he had to be stern at times if there was any hope of them actually getting along. In this type of environment, the children would undoubtedly form their own social circles and, try as they might, it would be impossible to prevent a few altercations from occurring. However, by taking a zero-tolerance policy against bullying from the start, Vahn believed that things would get better with time. Since none of the children here had ‘backings’ that would allow them to put on pretenses, it would hopefully never become a major issue that required them to expel any students…

Though he said a few more words, Vahn noticed that many of the children were starting to get sleepy again and, as it was already slightly past the time for dinner, he allowed them to make their way to the dining hall to enjoy a feast. For many of the children, they rarely got to eat their fill so, having a buffet of food items to choose from helped ease the mental strain and separation anxiety they were feeling. Vahn also stayed with them until it was time for everyone to be within their dorm rooms, allowing his aura to help those that were struggling to fall asleep.

As it was the first night, the number of crying children, especially those that had been brought here by their families, had exceeded more than half the student body. It had started with just a few but, as if the feelings they had been bottled up had been contagious, the sniffles and sobs quickly spread throughout the entire dorm, all while Vahn watched over them and tried to give them the comfort they deserved…

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