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Arcane Awakening

3

Chapter 3: The Journey Begins

16

Harwin was left scratching his head as Eldor’s shadow disappeared beyond the flaps of the tent. 


The transformation in the young beggar’s demeanor was startling, to say the least. From a meek, downtrodden figure to someone brimming with a strange, almost noble determination—it was baffling.


Just as Harwin was trying to make sense of it all, Eldor burst back into the tent.


“I’m going to find Lumina Academy,” Eldor declared.


“This sounds absurd. You’re talking about searching for a place that’s been forgotten for a century.”


“I know it sounds insane, but I had to come back and tell you because... you’ve given me valuable information. I owe you that.”


Harwin blinked, taken aback by the sudden shift in Eldor’s demeanor. There was something almost noble about the way he spoke, despite his ragged appearance and the bruises that marred his skin. 


“Why are you telling me this?”


“Because I repay kindness twofold and resentment tenfold,” Eldor replied. “Remember the name Eldor of the Lumina Academy. One day, I’ll return and repay the favor I owe you.”


Harwin shook his head in disbelief. The words were grand and inspiring, but it was hard to take them seriously when spoken by someone who looked like they’d been through a war. “You’re really something, you know that?”


“I know it sounds strange,” Eldor said. “But believe me, these words will change your destiny.”


“Be careful out there,” Harwin cautioned. “If you don’t come back by nightfall, Gareth will really beat you to death.”


“I’m going,” Eldor replied. “And remember: Eldor of Lumina Academy. Remember that name.”


With that, Eldor turned and strode out of the tent. Harwin watched him go, shaking his head in bewilderment. 


As Eldor stepped out into the open, he ignored the curious stares and muttered comments from the other beggars.. 


Just as he reached the edge of the camp, Eldor stopped, a sudden thought crossing his mind. He turned back and retraced his steps to the tent, pushing the flap open once more.


Harwin looked up, startled. “What now? I thought you were leaving?”


Eldor’s expression was serious. “I almost forgot. What was the name of the man who hit me?”


“Gareth, like I said. But his real name is Jorren.”


Eldor nodded slowly. “Jorren. Sounds like a beggar’s name. Tell him that the next time we meet, I’ll repay him for what he did.”


Harwin watched him go once more, shaking his head. “Eldor, you’re going to get yourself killed.”


Eldor didn’t respond. He stepped out into the sunlight, squaring his shoulders and setting his jaw. 


Harwin sighed deeply. “What am I supposed to tell Gareth?” he muttered to himself.


But a small part of him couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, Eldor’s bold words would one day come true.


Outside, Eldor stepped into the bustling market. 


Eldor stopped once more. He had left the tent in such haste that he hadn’t even thought to ask for directions. How was he supposed to find his way without any guidance? He turned on his heel and marched back to Harwin’s tent.


Harwin looked up, bemused, as Eldor burst back in. “What now?”


Eldor took a deep breath. “Which way to the Lumina Academy region?”


Harwin stared at him as if he’d grown another head. “You don’t even know where you’re going?”


Eldor shook his head. “I need directions. How do I get there?”


“You really are crazy, you know that? Lumina Academy is far to the north according to the stories, in the rugged hills. No one knows if that place exists.”


Eldor’s heart sank. The enormity of the distance struck him. The path to his destination stretched beyond the horizon, and his weakened body was barely up to the task. But giving up was not an option. “I’ll find a way,” he said.


Without another word, he left the tent. 


Eldor started down the dusty road leading out of the camp, his legs weak but his spirit unyielding. He was used to traveling vast distances with the speed and endurance of a seasoned warrior. 


Now, however, every step was a struggle. His once powerful legs felt like they were made of lead.


This new form was a far cry from the warrior he once was.


Eldor could see the open fields stretching out before him, the road winding towards the distant mountains. “I can do this. I have to.”


But after only a few minutes, his strength gave out. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath. 


“Hack! Hack! Ugh! This body... it’s useless!” he spat, fury and frustration mingling in his voice. He had barely started, and already he was at his limit.


His body was little more than skin and bones, every muscle underdeveloped and every joint aching. He looked at his trembling hands, disbelief and anger clouding his thoughts. 


How could this be his fate? How could he have fallen so far?


As he lay there, panting and weak, he couldn’t help but laugh bitterly. 


The irony was too much to bear. He, who had once outrun horses and faced the fiercest foes without flinching, was now brought low by a few minutes of running. 


“What kind of joke is this?” 


He forced himself to sit up. 


“If I’m going to survive this, I need to fix this body first.” 


He couldn’t make the journey in his current state. He needed strength, stamina, and above all, he needed to rebuild the foundation of his abilities.


“Well, there’s only one way to do that,” he thought grimly. “I have to start training again.”


His thoughts drifted back to his days at the Lumina Academy, the endless magic drills, the grueling hours spent mastering the fundamentals. As a young mage, he had chafed under repetitive training. 


“Why waste time on the basics when there’s so much more to learn?” he had often complained to his master, Kael.


“Young fool,” Kael would reply. “A tree cannot grow tall without strong roots. You must build your foundation, or all else will crumble.”


Eldor had begrudgingly followed his master’s teachings, but he never truly understood their importance until now. 


“I see it now, Master,” he whispered. “I need to start over.”


He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and centering his thoughts. In his mind, he visualized the essence of his being, the core where his mana—his essence—was stored. 


This was the Astral Heart, a concept unique to the Lumina Academy, representing the balance of spirit, strength, and wisdom. 


Eldor had once mastered this technique, allowing him to harness his inner power with unparalleled precision. But now, he had to rebuild it from scratch.


“Alright,” he murmured. “Let’s do this.”


Eldor sat down cross-legged under the tree, the earthy smell of the forest grounding him. He focused inward, searching for the spark of energy deep within his Astral Heart. It was faint, barely a flicker, but it was there.


“Find the spark,” he reminded himself. “Nurture it. Let it grow.”


He began to breathe slowly, deeply, drawing in the air as if he could pull strength from the very earth beneath him. He visualized the energy flowing into his core, feeding the tiny spark. 


As he concentrated, the spark in his core began to glow brighter. He could feel the mana pulsing through his veins.


His concentration was interrupted by a rustling in the bushes. Eldor’s eyes snapped open, his senses immediately on alert. He scanned the forest, every shadow and movement scrutinized. 


“Who’s there?” he called out.


A figure emerged from the trees, a young girl with a wary expression. She couldn’t have been more than twelve.


She took a step closer, her eyes wide with curiosity and caution. “I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she said, her voice soft but clear.


Eldor relaxed slightly, but he remained wary. “What are you doing out here?” he asked, his voice gentle but firm.


“I was just exploring,” she replied, shrugging as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I saw you sitting here and... well, I was curious.”


Eldor nodded, understanding her curiosity. “It’s alright. I was just... meditating.” He hesitated, “What’s your name?”


“Lyra,” she answered, her gaze steady. “What’s yours?”


“Eldor,” he said. “I’m... well, I’m on a journey.”


“A journey?” Her eyes lit up with interest. “Where are you going?”


Eldor sighed, feeling the weight of his quest settle on his shoulders. “To find what’s left of my old home,” he said quietly. “The Lumina Academy.”


Lyra’s brow furrowed in thought. “Lumina Academy? I’ve heard stories about that place. My grandmother used to tell me about it. She said it was a place of powerful mages.”


Eldor’s heart skipped a beat. “Your grandmother? Does she know where it is?”


Lyra shook her head. “I don’t think so. She always said it was lost, a forgotten place.”


Eldor’s shoulders slumped. Another dead end. But Lyra’s next words gave him a glimmer of hope. “But... she did say there were clues left behind. She mentioned about the stories passed down. Maybe if you listen to those, you’ll find it.”


Eldor’s eyes brightened. “Thank you, Lyra. That helps more than you know.”


She smiled, a shy, hopeful expression. “I’m glad. Good luck on your journey, Eldor.”

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