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Chapter 14


“Students often ask just why exactly the Archives are set so far away from the Academy proper, especially during the winter when the grounds are covered in all manners of ice, sleet, and snow, making it a true agony to cross. And every time they ask, I give them the same answer: because students, even Dormant students, can’t be trusted. From dog earring books, to sneaking food inside, to taking and or miss-shelving precious tomes, they are a right terror in every sense of the world. Now imagine these very same students also learning how to wield the power of an Ascendant. The power to call upon ice, fire, and scorn knows what else at will. It is a nightmare is it not?”

—Overheard from a Senior Archivist inside the Luminar Archives, The Golden Age, 4992

Vincent made it. 

Against all the odds and trials that the city had seen fit to stack against him. He’d finally made it to where he wanted to be, and it was even more wonderful than anything he could have ever imagined.

This…this is it, he thought breathlessly as he looked upwards at the building before him, any words that he might have had to offer taken away by its awe-inspiring presence. 

One that in a single glance dwarfed all that he had seen and endured so far this morning on his journey through Everness, which given its own splendor was quite an achievement. 

Towering and imposing in both height and size, the grandiose structure carried a stunning elegance in design that radiated a tangible aura of wisdom, knowledge, and most importantly to Vincent, safety, within its walls. But nor was that all Vincent discovered as he reached out with his senses, immediately marking the presence of powerful magic intermixed with countless virtues imbued in the shimmering white stone that it had been built out of. Magic that as Vincent’s eyes and Will continued to play across the building’s surface, was very much alive, gently flowing across the thousands of glowing runic channels that had been carved all throughout its surface. Following their soft lines, it didn’t take long for Vincent’s attention to land on the entrance way its grand wooden doors, flanked by towering columns, thrown wide open in a universal sign of invitation.

“And here…we are,” Theo announced in a clearly exhausted tone, one that Vincent, much like him, felt truly in the depths of his bones. “The Luminar Archives.

“Finally,” Vincent stated, the young mender’s words breaking the spell that the place had put over him. “I was starting to think that we would never get there.”

“You and me both,” he replied with a shake of his head before going on to motion for Vincent to follow him. “Come on, let’s see if we can get you registered and into the library proper once you’re there. Then you can get um…reading, and hope that nothing else befalls you while you’re in here.”

“From your mouth to fate’s ears,” Vincent agreed, sharing Theo’s sentiment wholeheartedly for despite his best efforts to not look at anyone, to stay out of everyone’s way, to be unobtrusive as possible, it still hadn’t managed to completely keep him out of trouble.

Granted though, it hadn’t all been his fault, or at least not all of them.

After all, how was he supposed to have known that the apothecary’s elixirs and potions where brewed to such a poor standard as to be poison from his perspective? And that the strange, oversized earrings that the proprietor had been wearing had in fact been an aid for his poor hearing. Earrings which perfectly managed to pick up Vincent’s innocently whispered question to Theo as to what kind of vermin he would be looking to kill with the draughts. 

Then, after being thrown out of there, and needing to find another store that sold whatever it was that Theo was looking for, Vincent had the misfortune of walking too close to a merchant stall that happened to be selling bird like creatures known as Glimfeathers. Slightly smaller than a chicken and not at all as plump, the prismatically feathered creatures were incredibly sensitive when it came to mana and generally wanted to avoid coming in contact to errant sources of it. This was usually accomplished by giving the birds special stands made of a metal that blocked nearly all ambient mana flow, giving them a perfect perch to rest upon, and forgoing the need of a cage. However, as Vincent discovered when he walked just a hair too close to the menagerie, the birds were apt to quickly change perches if a better, more mana isolated one became available to them.

And as it turned out, that happened to be him, an absolutely perfect perch for the entire flock, given that he had absolutely no mana saturating his body, nor thanks to his incredible Will, leaked so much as a trace from his soul well.

The result in turn was absolute pandemonium as over a dozen birds leapt from their master’s stall and descended upon Vincent, who out of sheer shock did absolutely nothing in response other than freezing in place. Unfortunately the same couldn’t have been said for the rest of the crowd around him, which immediately panicked at the flocks’ sudden flight. A move that in turn spooked said flock and caused them to unleash an absolutely blinding spray of multicolored light and illusions to defend themselves, which as anyone can imagine only made matters an order of magnitude worse. Instantly the market square was transformed into a blinding kaleidoscope of colors and dozens of upon dozens of mirror copies of the Glimfeathers which fled in every direction at once. An event that of course only served to spread the excitement that Vincent had accidentally caused even wider.

Though it did actually let us get away from the entire mess without needing to deal with the aftermath, or have a chance to meet those dogs, Vincent thought dryly as Theo led him up the stairs, only vaguely recalling their desperate escapade afterwards. It was one that had seen them rush through the Wraithgold Mana Exchange, the bank that was connected to it, and the unfortunate bakery cart that had chosen to set up shop at its far exit. Though, if only for Vincent’s sanity, he hadn’t actually been the one to crash into it, rather Theo had been, the teenager still sporting a varied assortment of jam, custard, and powdered sugar all over his clothes.

Deciding that it would be very much not in his best interest to comment at all upon that, Vincent simply contented himself with following Theo up the stairs leading to the entrance. Along the way he couldn’t help but notice that the library was already quite busy, or at least the constant flow of people in and out of the building gave it the appearance of so. It was an impression that lasted right up until they made it past the grand doors and into a sprawling atrium, the crowd with which they entered the place alongside all splitting up at once as they continued off to their own respective destinations within the place.

“Good,” Theo announced with relief shortly after they entered, letting out a deep breath as if he’d been waiting for something else to go wrong. “I think it’s safe enough to say that we’ve finally made it. Now let’s see if we can get you signed in and settled before I head back to the clinic for the day.”

A process which also to Vincent’s immense relief, given what the day had thrown at him up until this point, went perfectly smoothly, the absolutely bored stiff clerk at the reception area they were forced to check in at barely giving either of them so much as a glance.

“Keep your visitor card on you at all times while you’re in the archives, and please don’t lose it either as just makes more work for all of us,” they said in such a disinterested voice that Vincent was certain that it was a hair shy of manifesting itself as a Virtue. “At the end of the day, or whenever you’re leaving, please drop it in one of the card boxes. Oh, and no food or drink in the archives. At all. The librarians and archivists will skin you alive if they catch you eating in there. If you want to eat, do it in the atrium café here or somewhere outside.”

And then they were through, a freshly anxious Theo leading Vincent just shy of the threshold onto the archives before coming to a stop.

“This is as far as I’m going to risk things,” he said, shifting his body and thus clothes purposefully as to hide the random smears of jam from anyone passing by to see. “What they said about food was certainly not a joke, and the last thing I want to do after the way this morning went is falter right on the finish line. You’ll have to find your way through the rest of your day here yourself.”

“That’s not a problem,” Vincent replied, fully understanding Theo’s caution as well as his heighted nerves. “I appreciate all of your help in getting me here…this certainly wasn’t how I expected the morning to play out.”

“Nor did I,” Theo stated with a polite, if dry, chuckle. “I suppose it’ll be a good story for father and Norin if nothing else. Anyway, I’ll be back tonight to find you once the day is done. Until then, I hope that you can find everything that you might be looking for here.”

“Me too,” Vincent answered back, the two of them then parting ways with a wave, Theo turning to head back into the atrium and Vincent turning to walk into the archive proper.

Holding his breath as he entered into the grand chamber, Vincent instantly felt that all of his day’s suffering and challenges so far had been worth it, the sight that unfolded before him, momentarily stealing his breath. Everywhere he looked before him, he saw towering shelves and stacks that stretched upwards, each of their levels lined with catwalks and ladders as to provide access to their contents. Which even from the entrance he could tell were bountiful, the multicolored spines of countless tomes, tablets, and who knew what else, practically calling out to him, begging to be read.

I could spend a whole lifetime in here, just reading, and consider it well used, Vincent thought as he strode forward with all the confidence that he could muster, breathing in the rich scent of paper and leather that filled the place and feeling it bring him a near overwhelming sense of peace. Yet despite the near overwhelming desire to simply lose himself in the stacks until Theo came back or he was kicked out, Vincent knew that he had to be not only strategic about his time here, but also first take care of one incredibly important shortcoming he discovered he had.

And that was learning how to read.

It was a blind spot that Vincent had completely failed to account for when he’d made the day’s plan this morning, discovering it only when he and Theo had started browsing storefronts and merchant stalls, abruptly realizing that he had no idea what their signs said. Apparently however he had managed to learn or be taught Aventine before coming to, it had only extended out to the spoken part of the language, but not the written part. Yet as inconvenient as that discovery was, it was fortunately a minor one as things went for Vincent, and that was solely thanks to his single surviving soulmeld, his Insight.

Where people without its ability would need to struggle by and painstakingly immerse themselves in a language and its grammar, Vincent was able to use it to instantly start building a reference within his mind from every sign that Theo read to him on their journey. Even more, as Vincent discovered before their morning took a turn, there was more than one set of languages on display in the market square, allowing him to pick up fragments of Tulian and Oresian, two languages which according to his memories he’d known in his past life. Or rather, that he’d known their ancient dialects in, giving him just enough to work with as a starting point. 

So that was why instead of just plunging into the tomes that he so craved to devour, he made a beeline towards one of the archivist desks scattered throughout the library, and promptly asked for directions on where cross language dictionaries could be found. A question that as luck happened to have it was a reasonably common one, for barely a few minutes after the clearly overworked page directed Vincent to a long set of shelves designed for that purpose, was he carrying two heavy tomes pinned to his chest over to an open table.

“That…that looks like quite the heavy load,” commented what was a clearly a student who happened to share the same table that Vincent had chosen to sit at, mostly by virtue of it being close to said shelves he’d taken the books from.

“Just a little,” Vincent answered wistfully, all while giving the two heavy dictionaries he’d taken a meaningful look and deciding that it was best to play the role of a student. “My tutor has prepared a grammar exam for me tomorrow, and I feel in no way feel ready for it yet.”

It was a sentiment that apparently transcended the thousand years since Vincent’s death, for the other man simply winced and nodded back at him with an understanding look upon his face.

“Been there,” he said before going onto wave at his own stack of tomes he was reading from. “And currently am there right now as well. Good luck with your study and exam.”

“And the same for yours,” Vincent replied as he settled himself into a seat and pulled the first of the two dictionaries close.

Anicent Imyarian to Modern Oresian, Volume One, he read as he carefully maneuvered the tome with his good arm to rest upon the second volume he’d taken, setting it at an appropriate angle before cracking its cover open and soon finding himself staring at familiar letters. Ones that the more he read of prompted the former of the two languages to all but fall into his mind, piece by piece, a discovery that brought him no end of joy, the exuberance culminating in a single overwhelming thought before he truly dove into study.

I wonder just how many languages I can learn or remember before the day is out?

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