1 Chapter One
(Correlated with the manhua's chapter 1)
Mo Fan, a regular middle school student, quickly awoke to the incessant ringing of the alarm clock beside him on his nightstand.
"Uwah… Another morning."
He let out a light yawn as he turned it off and massaged his face to help combat the drowsiness and anxiety, not at all happy after remembering how his worst nightmare came to life just the day before.
"What high school am I going to? What do I want to do in the future?"
Mo Fan finished dressing up for school and moved into the kitchen to eat breakfast when he recalled the words his teacher and father independently asked him. They weren't unusual questions, on the contrary, he was expected to have the answers to them. Yet, like a lot of kids his age, Mo Fan felt lost. He neither had obvious talents and interests he could pursue in a career, nor did he have a good sense for planning the future.
That wasn't to say he didn't work hard. No, Mo Fan put plenty of effort into his studies. So much, in fact, that it boggled him as to why his grades were so low! He didn't understand how he could put in so much work, but get out so little reward!
"With my current grades…I don't think I'll get into any high school."
Usually, Mo Fan's father tried to cheer him up when he felt down, even if it was his own question regarding Mo Fan's plans for the future that troubled him. However, Mo Fan's father had been terribly busy working days and nights just to put food on the table. It wasn't anything surprising when Mo Fan found a sheet of paper hanging on the fridge door reading, "Son, dad has some work to do. I won't be making it home tonight. Take care of yourself. Love, Mo Jia Xing"
Even after reaching his class was he plagued with the same worries and insecurities.
*"I think my life was fated to be like this."*
At the front of the class, answering questions on the chalkboard, was Mu Bai, whose family was a branch of the Mu family. He was born into a wealthy family and very intelligent, achieving high grades.
*"What a lucky guy. Only people like him are worth talking about the future with."*
Mo Fan's daydreams were interrupted when his teacher announced to the class, "Ten days till finals. There will be no class this afternoon. Be sure to go home and study." before dismissing them.
Relieved at the dismissal, Mo Fan began packing his school supplies into his bag when a student approached his desk.
"Brother Fan, let's go play League of Legends!"
Mo Fan smiled at the offer, happy to know his friend thought of him, but politely declined.
"Sorry, but I already promised Old Man Ying that I was gonna go visit him."
Then, from a few seats ahead, Mo Fan heard, "That's right, spend your time playing videogames! With those test scores? HA! You'd be wasting your time studying. There isn't a high school in existence who's going to accept you! You're probably going to end up working for Mu Bai."
"Zhao Kun San, you…!"
Zhao Kun San, one of Mu Bai's sycophants, happily mocked Mo Fan from his seat. Mo Fan's friend couldn't contain his anger as he began marching towards the chubby kid, ready to start something if it meant teaching him a lesson and defending his friend's honor.
"Xiao Hou, it's alright."
However, Mo Fan's hand firmly gripped Xiao Hou's shoulder, preventing him from moving.
Xiao Hou's fists unclenched as Mo Fan stepped forward, ignoring Zhao Kun San and Mu Bai as he walked past them, heading towards the door.
"Let's not bother with these guys. C'mon, let's go."
Mo Fan and Xiao Hou left the classroom with Zhao Kun San and Mu Bai eyeing them the entire way, wondering how he could keep his cool while being insulted.
Later that day, Mo Fan found himself walking up a mountain on worn cobblestone steps, surrounded by beautiful, lush foliage as a fresh breeze gently caressed his face and sunlight shone through the numerous leaves of the towering trees around him. It evoked quite the surreal feeling.
*"I'm so jealous of this old man… It'd be awesome if I could live in such a carefree environment."*
At the top of the stairs was a quaint and simple wooden home that carried with it an ancient impression. When he arrived at the door, Mo Fan casually opened it and called out, "Old man, I'm here!"
Yet, instead of the usual greeting full of elderly kindness, Mo Fan heard a raspy and pained voice so soft it sounded like a whisper.
"Young…youngster, come…I'm…I'm in the back..."
Immediately, Mo Fan dropped all nonchalance as he charged through the house until he reached a door which led to the backyard. There, Mo Fan's heart ached at the sight of Old Man Ying struggling to hold himself up with his cane.
"OLD MAN! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?! DON'T MOVE! I'LL HELP YOU!"
Mo Fan assisted the trembling old man to his bedroom, where he laid him down and brought him a drink.
"Here, drink some water."
The old man shakily accepted the glass and took a sip, taking a few minutes to recover enough to speak.
"Thank you, Mo Fan. If you didn't arrive when you did…"
He lowered the water and let out a weak sigh.
"Mo Fan, I have no one else. You're the only one who cares about this sack of bones and keeps me company. Thank you."
"Old man, what are you talking about? I enjoy hearing your stories. All that stuff about a parallel world of magic? It's very interesting…" Mo Fan's voice came out a bit shaky toward the end, fear taking root in his mind.
The old man's body shook as he was taken over by a fit of violent coughs, causing his glass of water to spill everywhere.
"Old man! Speak to me! What's wrong?! How can I help?!"
Terror overwhelmed Mo Fan as he didn't know what to do. The man in front of him, who often treated him like his own grandson, was in terrible pain, the sight of which gnawed at Mo Fan's heart. What could he do?
"I wo…I won't make it." The old man's sad voice was firm, leaving no room for discussion as if he were speaking a fact.
"Don't say that…" Mo Fan no longer had control over himself as his voice cracked and tears threatened to spill. "I, I still want to hear your stories!"
Finally, a scrap of reason surfaced in Mo Fan's mind as he turned to find a phone.
"We don't have time for this! I'm calling an ambulance!"
Yet, before Mo Fan could take a single step away, the old man's hand grabbed his arm, summoning strength from who-knows-where to pull Mo Fan back.
"Take this… Always keep it with you…"
The old man had even coughed up blood, but he managed to remove the pendant from around his neck and firmly place it in Mo Fan's hand…before losing all his strength and collapsing back into his bed.
Tears fell from Mo Fan's face as he still held onto the old man's hand, unwilling to accept the reality before him.
"I've already…prepared the grave. Remember…to…bury me on…"
"No! Please, don't leave me!"
It was Mo Fan's turn to collapse as he fell to his knees and laid his head on the old man's bed, having trouble breathing through the tears he wept for the beloved grandfather figure that left him.
It was nightfall, and Mo Fan sullenly laid on his bed, hoping to sleep away his sorrows.
A few hours before, after Old Man Ying asked Mo Yan to bury him on the mountain, Mo Fan took a long time to collect himself. Needless to say, he was shocked, even to the point of checking the body's pulse and breath countless times before giving up.
Wanting to honor the old man's wishes, Mo Fan placed the body in the casket he found below a particularly beautiful tree around the house, and buried it. The entire incident weighed heavily on Mo Fan's mind and he didn't want to think about it anymore for the day, lest crumble beneath his heartache. He'd already fulfilled the old man's wish of burying him on the mountain, but that didn't mean everything would be alright. Mo Fan knew he had to let the authorities or something know about the death, so he'd decided to talk to his father about the situation the next day.
In Mo Fan's hand was wrapped a strip of silk with a pendant in the shape of a curled up wingless dragon attached. The necklace Old Man Ying left him.
"He always said this pendant is a divine artifact a few thousand years old. No matter how I look at it, there's no way it's that old."
The pendant caused the memories of the dying old man to resurface, threatening to resume his sobs from before, so he put it around his neck and turned off his bed lamp.
"I'll speak to dad about what to do. Till then…"
Until then, he really needed to sleep…
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That morning, Mo Fan awoke to find his face a mess. He'd washed up after his crying, but it looked as though he'd cried again in his sleep. He didn't find it too unlikely.
Mo Fan searched his tiny apartment for his father, but was met with an empty home. It took him a few seconds to remember the note his father left saying he wouldn't return that night.
Suddenly, Mo Fan's stomach rumbled, startling him for a second.
"That's right, I didn't eat yesterday… I couldn't eat."
He sighed, keeping his composure, knowing that crying over the past would do him no good…would do Old Man Ying no good.
"I'll get something at the food stall again."
Mo Fan hadn't even taken three steps out his door before he heard people yelling, saw a flash of green light barrel down the street, and felt a soft gust of wind slap him.
"Race you to work!"
"No fair! Of course you're faster! You're a wind mage!"
Mo Fan stood at his door front, paralyzed, watching as a man in business attire sped down the street faster than a bicycle to catch up with the green light.
*"What the hell is going on?! I must be hallucinating due to hunger…"*
Choosing to ignore what he just saw, Mo Fan broke into a nervous jog as he also traveled down the street.
*"That was all in my head. It must be because of grief, how I haven't gotten over Old Man Ying…yeah."*
Eventually, Mo Fan crossed a street corner to arrive at the food stall he was often a patron of.
*"Yes! The breakfast stand is still there."*
Happy to see that the line wasn't too long, Mo Fan didn't notice the commotion surrounding the stall until he was closer.
"Hey, can you still make it or not? If you can't, I'll find another stand."
Seeing that the man at the head of the line was arguing with the stand owner, who he was decently acquainted with, Mo Fan approached them to inquire about the situation.
"What happened, Uncle?"
"Morning, Mo Fan. I just need a magician. Even if they're a beginner, I just need someone."
Taken aback, Mo Fan replied, "What? What did you say? I think your brain isn't working right…"
Annoyed at the response, the stand owner asked, "What did you just say, kid? I've always treated you right! What's with that attitude?" Then he motioned to his cooking utensils. "See, my stove and grill aren't working right. How am I supposed to do business?"
Before Mo Fan could even process his unintelligible words, people in line began speaking up.
"Is there only one breakfast stand around here? I'm gonna be late to work."
"Normal people like us can't live without the help of magicians."
"Yeah, even if a mage comes through, what's to say they'll know what wrong with your equipment?"
"Too bad. I know a magician, but she's not around here at the moment."
Mo Fan was only further baffled by the responses of the crowd, wondering if he was witnessing an elaborate prank being conducted.
"Excuse me, excuse me, coming through. Let me take a look."
Eventually, a familiar middle-aged man whose hair was quickly receding maneuvered his way through the crowd of bystanders which had gathered.
*"Isn't that my physics teacher, Hu Duan Chang? Finally! A normal person!"*
"Mr. Hu!" Mo Fan waved towards his teacher, drawing his attention. "The owner of this breakfast stand said that his stove broke. Can you take a look at it?" Then, he snarkily thought, *"And maybe fix his brain while you're at it."
"Mo Fan, you're here too? I was just coming over to see if I could fix it." Seeming to remember something, Mr. Hu then asked, "Oh right, did you finish the magic theory homework I assigned yesterday? I'm going to use questions from the reading for today's test."
Hit with yet another shock, Mo Fan thought, *"Ma…magic theory?! Faraday and Maxwell are going to jump out of their graves!"*
While Mo Fan stood to the side dumbfounded, the breakfast stand owner gave his thanks to Mr. Hu.
"Thank you so much! You saved me!"
"Hey, I may be a fire type magician, but it's been a while since I've tinkered with anything. I might not be able to figure out what's wrong, but I'll give it my all." Then, Mr. Hu turned towards Mo Fan. "Watch carefully, in case you ever become a magician."
Mr. Hu bent down to place his right hand on the grill before he took a second to concentrate. Suddenly, a red light shone softly from his fingers, wrapping the grill and entering its crevices. A few moments later, he smiled, then retracted the light and stood up.
"Try turning it on now."
The breakfast stand owner excitedly smiled as he moved to flip a switch. Immediately after, a red glow sprouted from the grill, transforming into a small flame and causing the crowd to erupt in cheers. Watching the work of mages was always interesting to normal folk, even if it was only fixing some equipment.
Mr. Hu explained to the stand owner, "You must have dropped it or something, because the only problem was that a magical power circuit wasn't completely aligned. I only used my own energy to push it into place. Nothing but a small issue."
A look of understanding passed over the breakfast stand owner as he remembered the incident that likely resulted in the issue.
*"W-what'd he do? Did he do anything at all? What was that light?!"*
But Mo Fan didn't understand what happened at all, and his face gave it away.
Noticing the unusual expression, Mr. Hu put a hand on Mo Fan's shoulder and asked, "Mo Fan, did you stay up all night studying? You don't look too good."
"Ahh, yes! Of course! I know I'm not that smart, so I study extra hard to make up for it."
"Ohoho, that's the spirit! Instead of wallowing in self-pity, just put more effort into it! However, you can't let yourself get sick from lack of rest, Mo Fan. It's almost time for finals, and you should be careful with your health."
Mr. Hu patted Mo Fan's shoulder a few times before turning to leave.
"I still have to prepare my Introduction to Magic PowerPoint. Good luck with your studies, Mo Fan."
"See you later, Mr. Hu…"
Mr. Hu having left, Mo Fan was left alone with his thoughts as he dazedly went on his way to school.
*"Could it be that I'm in the magic world Old Man Ying spoke of? Is this real?!"*
Mo Fan had difficulty doubting what he'd seen with his own two eyes that day. First, two people sped past him on foot at impossible speeds, then, he witnessed Mr. Hu exuding a red glow to fix a magical tool?
*"What next? Will I happen upon a magician's duel in which wizards cast spells at each other?!"
Just as Mo Fan thought that, he passed a street corner which was being newly paved…by magicians. Mo Fan's eyes did not deceive him as he watched a group of people controlling asphalt through the air as they laid it in place on the ground.
*"Looks like I'm really in the magical world."*
Giving up his doubts after watching workers use magic to pave a street, Mo Fan patted the sides of his face to regain focus.
*"Well, it doesn't seem that bad. Heh, now that I think about it, the result of the math test is coming out today. Thanks to this magic world, I dodged a bullet! Haha."*
"This is really worrisome. Finals are just around the corner, and Mo Fan scored a 6% on his Magic Star Path Alignment Test. Come up to take your test."
Mo Fan was filled with yet another round of shock and distress as he shakily rose from his desk to take back his test.
*"WHAT THE FUCK?! I'M TRASH IN THIS WORLD, TOO?!"*