Inside the Mage Academy, classes were in session. Mages were learning about history, delving into spells and the basics of magic. Years of research on all things related to mages were concentrated in one place—the academy.

The mage academies served as stepping stones for any mage wishing to achieve something significant in the world. There were numerous magical jobs in Alterian, but those who managed to reach star 5 level were considered extremely special.

And there was one thing that 90 percent of mages who reached the 5-star level and above had in common: they had attended an academy. Because all the knowledge of the mages was in one place, it was where one could advance the quickest.

In one class, a student named Kelly was diligently taking notes in her book as her teacher drew diagrams on the board. The lesson for today was teaching about counter magic.

It formed the basis of battles between mages who were at the same level and had a wide variety of spells. Although certain attributes were known to be stronger and better than others, spells themselves also acted in specific ways.

Through trial and error, the academy had determined certain spells that were best used in specific situations. The teacher would write an example of a spell on the board, such as the Fire Magic spell "Ember."

Students then had to come up with a counter spell. The obvious answer was to use water magic, but what type of spell would work best to stop the attack? They had to devise the reason why and identify the best spell; that was the point of the lesson.

This lesson was interesting, but for Kelly, it didn't prove too useful because she had a secret that she kept from everyone: she specialized in Dark Magic.

Since Dark Magic was considered taboo, it was challenging for people to know what was the best counter against it. At the same time, there were no lessons on what the best Dark Magic spell to counter other types of magic would be.

For example, since Dark Magic was her most powerful attribute, if the opponent used Ember and she had no water magic spells, then what would be the most effective Dark Magic spell to stop the attack?

In her head, because of this, she was a little behind the others when it came to these lessons and tests. In fact, "a little" was an understatement; she was at the bottom of the class. Having next to no real-life experience with other magics made it difficult to come up with an answer.

"I believe the best answer would be the 'Water Spout' spell," one of the girls at the front of the class answered.

Her name was Aurora, a talented redhead who was considered a fiery beauty. In many ways, she was the polar opposite when it came to classes since Aurora was at the top of her class and popular with both male and female students.

Although Kelly was popular with the boys, it wasn't on friendly terms; it was more one-way affection. This had caused dissatisfaction among the girls, and with no friends of her own to support her, she had become somewhat of a target for the others to relieve their stress.

It didn't help that she was at the bottom of her class as well. Because of all these things, she felt at times she didn't blame them, as she would have targeted herself for being so useless, but it didn't matter because she had one goal and one purpose: to increase and pursue her Dark Magic, a gift given to her by the Dark Magus who had managed to save her.

"And what is your reasoning for picking this spell?" the teacher asked.

"'Water Spout' has a far range, and it fits since an ember flame has the tendency to spread and not just attack one area. There are many spells that can block ember, but I think this is the best bet to stay safe while also using a small amount of mana," Aurora answered.

The teacher nodded as he rubbed his bearded chin before giving an answer.

"It's a great answer; I will give you 8 out of 10," the teacher replied.

Aurora seemed shocked by this and clenched her fists slightly.

"But sir, that is the answer that the textbook gives, stating that it is the best option. How can you give me 8 out of 10?"

"That's because you gave a textbook answer," the teacher replied. "In the world of mages and spells, it is about using your head and combinations of things to think outside of the box. You need to think further as if you are in a real battle yourself.

"Are you really sure that the answer in the textbook itself is the best answer? If you are to battle against other mages using everything in the textbooks, then won't your opponent always know what you're going to do?"

Aurora appeared dissatisfied with the teacher's explanation. The textbooks were based on years and generations of research by other mages, and other teachers would have complimented her fully. She wanted to argue back, but before she could, the bell rang, signaling the end of class.

"That was a good lesson, everybody!" the teacher clapped his hands. "I do have to remind you all before you go that tomorrow is the school's anniversary event. Students and teachers will be gathering in the main hall in the evening.

"You are free to bring your family members tomorrow before the evening event. Here, they will observe your live lessons in class to see what you are learning, and we might ask a few of you to demonstrate a few things, so you need to be at the top of your class.

"After that, we will all enjoy the evening party in the main hall!"

The students were excited as they heard this news. They turned to their classmates by their side and started to chat away. It was a chance for them to show off to their parents and family members all the hard work they had put in.

For some, though, it would be stressful as well. With their parents watching, they would become a nervous wreck, as they had to prove that they had been doing well.

For Kelly, though, she didn't care about any of it and instead looked at the time.

'Today is the meeting day; I have to hurry and catch the train,' she thought.

Rushing down the steps, carrying her bag and other items, she was ready to head out the exit. But before she did, someone called out to her.

"And who will be coming to see you tomorrow, Kelly?" Aurora asked.

She was at the front with a couple of her friends standing by her side, openly giggling as they heard this comment.

"Oh right, sorry, I forgot you can't bring anyone, can you? Aren't your entire family dead? Well, it's okay, don't worry, you can still shine. If they ask me to do a demonstration against a student, I'll choose you, and you can show off your skills. Who knows, maybe someone will offer to adopt you if you do well."

Kelly's past was known to nearly all of the students. Kelly didn't know how but Aurora was able to get this information, and soon it had spread, giving them more ammunition to use in their targeted teasing.

Ignoring Aurora's words, Kelly just walked past. She had experienced this quite frequently, and she knew why. A lot of kids resented Kelly for a number of things, and it seemed to be a good way to get their frustrations out.

Aurora was one of the main offenders, bullies, whatever you wanted to call them. It was all because a boy that she had liked had asked Kelly out. Kelly had no interest in boys; she didn't want to be close to people in the first place since she could never reveal her dark secret to them. It was better that way.

Yet ever since then, Aurora's targeting and teasing had become much worse compared to others.

"Maybe you could pay someone to be your family members for the day. It would be quite embarrassing if every single student had someone here for them and you didn't."

Continuing to ignore the words, Kelly left the room.

'I need to hurry; the Dark Guild is waiting for me.'