144 Chapter 144: Underground Spring

The next day, when I arrived at school, I was mobbed by Alicia.

"Richard! You're finally back! Are you all right?!"

"Yeah." I managed to hold her off as she barreled into me. Everyone was staring at us, which made me feel awkward. I wasn't used to public displays of affection. "What's up?"

"You've been gone for a week! You had me worried!" she clung to me with a cute sulk. "You should have told me!"

"…I would have, if I could…"

I was telling the truth. After all, I had spent the entire week in bed, totally unconscious. Unless I gained the skill to call or email people while I was unconscious, there was no way I could communicate in such a state.

"Sorry for making you worried, though."

I placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder and bowed apologetically. Alicia shook her head.

"No, it's okay. I heard from Kureha. You did a great job."

"You know Kureha?"

I was astonished. At this point, I didn't know that Kureha and Alicia were friends. She didn't mention it. Well, I was aware that Alicia had all sort of connections with all the high-ranking or upper class daughters – she was friends with Cecilia, after all – but Kureha didn't really behave like an upper class noble, so it never occurred to me that she had connections here.

"Yeah, we've been friends for a few years." Alicia nodded. "She told me that you and Troy helped her out…"

Trailing off, she closed her eyes briefly. I stared at her, perplexed, only to understand why she was so emotional when she forced out the next sentence.

"…with the case regarding her sister."


Scratching my head awkwardly, I nodded. We weren't able to save her, but we at least avenged her. Partially, anyway. The main perpetuator who masterminded Kurenai's death was still at large, or at least that was what I last heard before my week-long coma.

I should contact Kureha and get up to speed…except that I didn't have Kureha's number or email. Oh…this was bad.

Well…honestly, I wasn't some hero who went around saving everyone. I couldn't afford to run to the rescue of every single human in the Federation, not when I had my own affairs to worry about. If Kureha didn't contact me or ask me for help, I wasn't going to desperately track her down and offer my assistance. I had better things to do with my time.

Even so, I was curious as to whether Kureha would eventually track down her uncle and kill that bastard. But there was no way Alicia would know about that, right?

"Oh, and there's one more thing…"

Alicia stared at me somewhat sternly.

"Were you at the Northern Fortress yesterday?"

"How do you know about that?" I asked, taken aback. Since I was out of commission and unable to contact her, she had no way of knowing where I had been this entire week. Not unless Kureha told her, which was a distinct possibility, given that they evidently met after I was out cold. You know how it is with girls and gossip.

"That's not important." Alicia took my question as affirmation, and she nodded thoughtfully. "So it really was you…"

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing." Alicia giggled as she spun away. I followed her as we headed toward the main campus building. "Just that you like…blowing things up on a large scale, as usual!"

Somehow I had a feeling she was referring to my nuke spell that annihilated three thousand monsters in one shot.

Eventually, we went our separate ways and attended our individual classes. I headed to Teacher Fielding's combat magic class, where Harvey was waiting for me.

"Senior Richard! It's been a while! Were you on a mission?"

"Yeah, you can say that." As my unconsciousness was caused by my mana depletion upon accomplishing my mission and slaying a dragon, it was the truth. Speaking of which, I had only just realized that I had scored a lot of prestige points and earned a bit of fortune from nuking the two dragons. That was in the mission log, along with my obliteration of the three thousand monsters. No wonder Alicia knew about that.

Apparently, the whole school would know about it soon enough, but for now I was happy to be able to maintain a low profile. Or at least that was what I believed until Teacher Fielding waved me over after the class ended.

"Richard. A minute, if you will."

I nodded and approached him without any hesitation. Harvey followed me, only for Teacher Fielding to raise any eyebrow.

"I asked for Richard only, not you, Harvey."


Honestly, I didn't feel sorry for Harvey, but it was always useful to have a fan hanging onto my every word, so I decided to play nice.

"I'll tell you about it later, so you can go ahead. I'll see you in the club room."

As I expected, Harvey brightened up. He nodded and began skipping happily in the direction of the Black Rose club room.

He was just too easy.

"What is it, Teacher Fielding?" I asked, turning back to my homeroom teacher. He studied me intently, making me feel as if I was some specimen under a microscope. Dude, this wasn't the biology class. Quit looking at me like that.

Just when I thought I was wasting my time and Teacher Fielding wasn't going to answer, he finally spoke up.

"You raised quite the furor when you nuked the horde of three thousand monsters yesterday."

"Hmm? Yeah, I suppose I did." not that I cared what other people said about me. Especially since I could easily nuke them into oblivion with a single spell. Of course, I wasn't that nasty. My goal was to be a hero like my dad, and I wasn't going to save anyone by nuking them just because they pissed me off. No matter how tempting it might be.

Teacher Fielding bought my fake modesty, most likely because my acting skills were so good. Then again, nuking a horde of monsters wasn't something to be proud of. Anyone could do that, as long as they were the protagonist of a badly written web novel. Hell, the last one I read had the protagonist possessing the ability to conquer a nation by himself. I was nothing compared to these godlike protagonists. Just look at the comments. Readers were still calling me "trash MC" or "spineless" or "pathetic" or weak. At least one guy accused me of being a pushover.

Maybe I should nuke the comments section. Admittedly that was a lot easier than nuking a horde of monsters.

Teacher Fielding paid no attention to my internal rambling…well, mostly because he couldn't read my mind. Instead, he smiled.

"After some discussion, Director Violet and the staff have decided to select you for this year's Holy Spring training."

"…Holy Spring training?"

I stared at Teacher Fielding with a raised eyebrow. What in holy hell was a Holy Spring?! Don't just spring this random nonsense on me all of a sudden!

"That's right. We've decided that you're the student with the most potential. Even Troy can't nuke an entire army on his own." He consulted his smartphone, which projected a holographic screen. "Your achievements with the two dragons and three thousand monsters has elevated your rank to fourth in school. And given how fast you've climbed the ranks, and your consistent extermination of these monsters, the decision to send you was unequivocal among the board."

"No, no, no…in the first place, what the hell is this Holy Spring?!"

Utterly confused, I was raising my hands and trying to bring Teacher Fielding to the main point. I couldn't care less about the politics among the school board. Never mind the readers, who would definitely scream "FILLER!!!!!" if I ever showed a scene about them, I would probably doze off after listening to their opening sentences.

"Oh, right. You've never heard of the Holy Spring under Jing Tian City?"

"If I did, would I be asking you?" I pointed out reasonably, doing my best to suppress my irritation and failing spectacularly. Teacher Fielding nodded, conceding the point. He began surfing through his holographic screen before magnifying a picture of an underground pool of water.

"As you can see, it's an underground Holy Spring. This is one of Jing Tian City's famous spots of attraction, and also its most highly guarded resource. It's a pool of water that has gathered under our city over millennia, absorbing mana. Every year, we send a student to train inside the Holy Spring, for him or her to absorb the mana from the saturated waters. It has tremendous benefits for young mages such as yourself. Not only will it improve your cultivation, it will also boost your own mana reserves considerably."

"…cultivation? You're in the wrong genre, sir." I shook my head. "And this sounds suspiciously familiar. Are you training me to be a Versatile Mage or something?"

"Uh, what?" Teacher Fielding gave me a strange look. "You're already pretty versatile."

"No, that's not what I mean…never mind." I sighed and shook my head. "Can I pass?"

"I would rather you don't." Teacher Fielding stared at me sternly. "To be selected to train in the Holy Spring is a huge honor. Plus, why wouldn't you want to train there? There are lots of benefits, and isn't it your goal to become stronger?"

Certainly, that was my goal, but this whole thing sounded like a pain, and frankly, I wasn't convinced that the Holy Spring was as miraculous as Teacher Fielding made it out to be. Bloody hell, since when do such convenient devices exist in reality? A Holy Spring that boosted one's cultivation in the magic way (why does that sound so…Taoist?)? Such a good thing couldn't possibly exist, or everyone would be running to it.

Well, it explained why it was one of Jing Tian Academy's most highly guarded resource. Probably that was also the reason why it was kept as a secret. If everyone knew about it, they would do anything within their power to grab that resource. Hell, it made no sense that they were giving it to a mere student from Jing Tian Academy every year. Why weren't the adults using it, if it was as good as Teacher Fielding claimed it was?

Something didn't add up.

Nonetheless, it didn't hurt to try, so I sighed and nodded.

"All right. So…what do I do?"

"Now that's the spirit." Teacher Fielding beamed. "I'll send you the details through email, but for now, get ready to go underground in a few days' time." He glanced at his phone. "I would say about Friday. Pack some clothing and necessities. You'll probably be spending quite a few days cultivating underground."

"Can you stop using that word?" I snapped, crossed. Not only was it the wrong genre, that word brought about dreadful memories associated with awful writing, flat characters, insufferable harems, Mary Sue protagonists who indulged in rape and murder while hypocritically condemning antagonists for doing the same, and ridiculous villains that traumatized me ever since I first treaded the path of xianxia novels.

I honestly didn't want to spend forty millennia cultivating, that was for sure.

"What word?" Teacher Fielding had no idea what I was talking about. And good thing too. I shuddered to think how traumatized he would be once he got exposed to these trashy xianxia novels about cultivation and whatnot. Sighing, I shook my head.

"I understand. I'll get ready on Friday."

"Good. I'll send you the details through email." Teacher Fielding grinned encouragingly, but I only felt more discouraged. Something was just not right about this.

Pushing those ominous feelings away, I departed the classroom and headed toward the Black Rose club rooms.

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