There were only two days left before the examination of the new acolytes. Soon, they would return to their respective worlds. Today was the first time Emery unaccompanied so a mixture of excitement and nervousness filled his stomach.
After entering the portal, he arrived at a place filled with large, towering trees, some roots were springing out from the ground. There was also a swamp behind him.
The wind brushing against the leaves of the trees, birds flying around singing wonderful songs, tiny critters such as butterflies, rabbits, etc. moving around made Emery at ease. He let out a relaxed sigh and gazed at the colossal tree in the distance. It was so gigantic that Emery couldn't see it's top. He felt like he was a single small leaf of this massive tree. In large, bold words, a signage said, 'Welcome to the Elder's Respite.'
Emery headed toward the institute of plant along with hundreds of acolytes and to his surprise, even the leaves of this magnificent tree were at least ten times larger than the size of a human adult! He entered into the large hole at the feet of the tree and the inside was filled with dozens of twisted staircases leading to different places. Luckily though, in the middle was a person waiting behind a desk.
As he walked toward the reception area, he heard light, small steps walking toward him from behind and when he turned around, a girl with long, white, silky hair, wearing a light green dress, and pale skin filled his vision. She wasn't wearing a veil this time, so her green, snake-like eyes felt like it was burning him because of her intense stare.
Emery recognized her. She was the girl who had become his group's discussion during their first night in their private quarters. The girl who had the highest spirit and battle power. Silva was her name.
The girl walked toward him with graceful steps but seemed like she was on guard, ready to pounce at him if he made any sudden moves. Silva was now in front of him, but she was still silent.
Emery's heart began beating faster. He said, "H-Hi, you're S-Silva right? I'm Emery."
Silva looked indifferent and suddenly leaned in to him, sniffing. "You… You smell different from the rest."
Emery stepped back. He couldn't understand what she meant since he had taken a bath this morning. He nervously laughed. "W-What do you mean? C-Can I help you with anything?"
Emery tried keeping a straight face even though it wasn't successful. Deep inside him, he was beginning to become annoyed with himself on why he couldn't be relaxed and collected. Then the next words of the mysterious girl somehow broke his confidence.
"You smell… weak," Silva said, looking at him from top to bottom.
He was silent. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
After saying he was weak, she walked away and ascended on one of the twisted staircases.
Emery watched her and his feelings were becoming a turmoil of annoyance, dejection and slight determination. He knew he was weak compared to the rest of the new acolytes but did she, a stranger to him, really had to say that in front of his face? He brushed his hair before letting out another sigh. That helped a little though but the furrowed brows still lingered.
Emery focused his mind on his objective in this place and proceeded to talk to the person manning the desk. After explaining he was a first-timer in this place, the person pointed to a wide, straight, staircase where the origin stone of plant was located.
He was able to get inside and there were already dozens of acolytes training at that place today. They appeared more mature than him though and it seemed like was the only first year acolyte in that room. This wasn't surprising since today was the sixth day of their seven days studying in this magus academy, all the new acolytes had probably passed and were focusing on honing the elementals they had already established.
Emery sat cross-legged and focused his thoughts on the mysterious piece of stone floating in the middle of vines. In plain view, there were no differences between the origin stones of earth, water and plant, other than the color and aura they were emitting.
He started to feel the same suffocating pressure of the other origin stones and a sort of greenish liquid emerged from the ground in the darkness of his mind, creeping up to him. His whole body was now fully covered and even if he couldn't move, the liquid's warm, refreshing made him feel comfortable. A word entered his mind.
"The plant is life. It grows, emerges and breathes life to its surroundings."
Emery felt like he was one with the liquid. Then, the liquid started to squiggle and he was divided into two whole separate parts, a splitting image of himself on the other side. He had his eyes closed but he could tell the liquid getting bigger and bigger.
"It grows, emerges and breathes life to its surroundings," Emery repeated and the other image mirrored him.
Slowly, the two halved itself once more and now there were four, from four into eight, and so on. Emery was losing himself within his thousand images, he should have been alarmed but the wonderful sensation was overpowering him. Then he woke up. He was a single person again.
"Time's up," the guarding magus said.
Emery shot up to his feet with a big smile on his face. He felt wonderful! He then exited the plant's origin stone room but the surreal feeling stayed with him. The rest of the cultivation techniques he had tried with the other stones either made him panicked or distressed, but this time, the whole experience was different. He examined the symbol on his hand.
Emery smiled since he was two points shy from the issued target. The increase in power was as expected. He didn't waste time and sat cross-legged once more in front of the origin stone's room, trying to see if he could master the basic plant spirit cultivation technique.
Not long after he had sat, a group of acolytes came out from the room bustling. It was quite puzzling to realize that they had only passed half a day of training at the institute.
Emery asked the female acolyte, who was checking her palm, beside him. "Hi, sorry to bother you but can you tell me what's going on?"
She placed her attention on him and replied, "A mission has just been placed."