The lake was rather small- merely a few hundred meters across, perhaps a thousand at most. Likely the only reason it ended up on a map was because it was the only geographical feature in this region. It only took a handful of minutes to walk around, and during that time the other gevai looked at William several times. Since the only geographical feature was the lake with its reddish-brown dirt and a few trees and bushes around it, he obviously stood out. As he approached, he saw the gevai was a woman with red skin. She wore a magical robe and carried a staff… but she was not Lorelei. William didn’t know how disappointing that feeling would be until it happened. Honestly though, he’d never seen Lorelei with a robe or staff, or at least not anything special.
This was someone else, then, which shouldn’t have been surprising. “Greetings.” William didn’t know the proper way to address a wizardess here, so he just bowed politely.
“Oh, hi.” The wizardess looked out over the waters of the lake. “Not many people come here.”
It wasn’t exactly a question, but William took it as such. “This is the only landmark in the area, and I was hoping my friend might have come here, but I don’t see him.” William didn’t feel him either, which meant Chris probably wasn’t still nearby, or was concealing himself- though he’d have no reason to hide from William.
“Ah… is your friend… lost?”
William shook his head. “Maybe. I don’t know. He can take care of himself, so he should be alright. We’ll find each other eventually.”
“That’s good. I also came here because of a friend… but my friend won’t be coming back.” She gestured to the lake.
“Ah, did your friend… drown?”
She gave him a quizzical look. “Drown? Don’t be stupid. It was the last Demon King war, when this lake was formed.”
William was puzzled for a moment, and then it clicked. He didn’t see the hills that had been nearby, but he could tell this was the place. Now that he wasn’t distracted, he could feel how off it was. The area around the lake was basically barren wasteland, with only the lake being different. The lake itself was calm and beautiful, but with his ki senses it was highly unsettling. There was a lingering feeling of wrongness… after effects of the Demon King’s destruction. Though the other times he had seen it, remnants of souls had faded in a few moments, here they remained- if only as a vague feeling. Maybe it was William’s imagination, actually, but he knew this was the spot. “I… I’m sorry to hear that. Were you close?”
She shook her head. “It’s just nostalgia. I haven’t visited here for dozens of years, and honestly my friend and I hadn’t spoken for some time before they died. It would certainly be hard to say we were close.” She shrugged. “I suppose I should be going now. I have duties to attend to.”
“I see. Well, I must continue my journey as well. This is a bit out of the way, and I have to get to Ducson in time for the yearly examinations.”
“Oh?” the wizardess’ eyes brightened, “Are you going to try to join the wizard’s guild there?”
“I am. I’m hoping to learn many things there. I haven’t heard if it’s the best guild or not but-”
“It’s the best,” she nodded seriously, “definitely the best.”
“Oh, and why is that?”
“Because,” she smiled, “it’s mine.” She stuck out a hand, “I’m Sofia Lorenz, headmaster of Ducson Academy of Magical Instruction.”
William shook her hand. “Oh, I’m… Josef Rutten. It is a pleasure to meet you.” William started planning his route in his head. He already had some idea of where he would go, but he’d need to pull out a map to make sure everything made sense.
“Well? You coming or not? It’s a long walk.” William looked up, to see Sofia- Headmaster Lorenz next to a carriage. Had that been there the whole time? At first, he wanted to say no, but upon thinking about it, it probably had been. Firstly, because conjuring a carriage was an almost impossible feat of magic, and secondly because he had a vague idea of it. Upon thinking, there had been some mana activity in the area, but not too noticeable. This had likely been making the carriage invisible, for whatever reason. That made William think. While a gevai who could always see mana would notice an invisibility spell up close, it would still be better than nothing from afar. That was good to know. “Last chance.”
“Oh.” William shook his head. “Is it really alright? I don’t want to impose.”
“I said it is, so it is. There’s plenty of room, and I don’t have anyone to talk to. Friedrich there-” she nodded her head at the driver, who was waiting patiently, “doesn’t say much.”
“Of course I will join you.” Even if she changed her mind and kicked him out in the nearest city, he would save some time. If he got kicked out in the middle of the wilderness… he would find his way to a city, and then find another academy to attend, because he wouldn’t want to go to such an academy. William climbed into the carriage. It was nice, but not overly luxurious. There weren’t fancy carpets or anything, which was good because his boots were muddy and he didn’t want to have to worry about that.
“So, what do you know about magic?”
That was a pretty broad question, but it gave the conversation some place to start. William shrugged. “Well, I know some chants for basic spells, and I’ve dabbled in creating formations and alchemy.” He’d done more than that, but not much he could articulate in the gevai language. Besides, it wouldn’t be good to brag to a headmaster. Given gevai’s lifespans, she should be at least as experienced as he was when he became archmage, unless the requirements for being a headmaster were much lower than he thought. Even if she weren’t very talented and learned slowly, with determination she could have reached that level in the time since the previous Demon King war… and he had no actual reason to believe she was subpar.