The Selection

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Chapter 10 - Academy Year 2 - Genius

The sounds of wood clashing echo around the room until we both disengage simultaneously. Hot sweat drips down my face as I hold my stance with both wooden blades in front of me. While still panting heavily, I swallow the little amount of saliva I have in my mouth and feel slight discomfort as it trickles down my parched throat.

My eyes don’t lose focus for a single moment as I stare at Sitos in front of me. He raises and drops his shoulders while open-mouthed. His left arm is in a lower position than his normal stance. Is his left arm tired…?

Since I know he’s also observing me, I refrain from looking at it too much to not give myself away. My arms are almost at their limit too, but if I show any weakness he’ll see that and take advantage of it… I don’t see any other choice here… Okay, I can do this. Today, I’ll finally win!

I tighten my grip on both practice swords in my hands immediately noticing that the profuse amount of sweat in my hand makes it difficult to hold a steady grip. I don’t let this bother me, and I charge forward while holding my left blade up and my right blade in a defensive position. He tightens his guard on his right side. I throw back my right arm in preparation to horizontally strike his left side.

“Sorry Sitos, it’s my win today!” I exclaim as I put power into both of my arms, when suddenly, a broad smile surfaces on his face.

“Not a chance, Kai!” he exclaims as he swings his left sword upward right before my blade hits him.

What?! I can only gape and watch helplessly as he knocks my right arm into the air. I lose my balance, and my other attack weakens, losing over half of its power. He blocks it with his dominant arm. His other weapon approaches my face. I close my eyes habitually and tighten my lips.

After a few seconds pass, I gradually relax as I inch my eyes open wondering why he hasn’t ended our duel yet. Huh…? Where’d he go?

I fully open my eyes, only to close them again when something hard strikes the top of my head. “Ow!”

I drop both of my swords to the ground to cover my head with both hands. He sighs. “Idiot, how many times do I have to tell you? Never close your eyes when you are in a fight.”

He looks at me with a disappointed look. “Mmm…”

I frown and tilt my head down while still keeping my hands on top of my head, even when he sighs again a few seconds later. “Well, you have definitely made some major improvements in the past few months…”

I raise my head. He turns his head slightly away from me.

“What I’m trying to say is…uh…goo-good job…” he says while turning his head farther away from me after every word. His volume decreases toward the end of the sentence.

Wow… Sitos complimented me! My frown transforms into a grin before exclaiming, “Thanks, Sitos!”

“Su-sure…” he mutters as he blushes lightly. I turn my head toward the sudden sound of a door flinging open.

“’Sup. Are ya two done?” Hiro asks as he walks into the room all while smiling. The others are following behind him.

“Hey!” I exclaim as I raise my hand.

“Kai, ya lost again…?” Hiro asks with a disappointed voice, shrugging his shoulders. He shakes his head. I narrow my eyebrows.

“Shut up!”

“What didja say earlier again…? I think it was, ‘I’m gonna beat Sitos today!’ right?”

“Uhh…” I rear my head back as I frown bitterly, but I melt into a grin again when I think back to Sitos. “That’s not important! You won’t believe what just happened! Sitos—”

“It was about time you slowpokes got here. Let us go—”

Sitos suddenly interrupts me with a loud voice, but the desire to tell the world overwhelms me, and I continue, “Complimented me!”

I don’t hear anything for several seconds while everyone wears blank expressions. The room bursts into laughter, even Marin, who generally doesn’t express her feelings at all.

“That’s a good joke, Kai!” Hiro exclaims as he holds his stomach with both hands. Sitos’ head is down, but his face is flushed red.

“What were ya sayin’ earlier, Sitos?” Hiro asks as he’s still laughing a little. Sitos is still unresponsive staring at the ground. “Sitos…don’t tell me…it’s actually…true?”

Sitos shakes his entire body slightly.

“Is that true, Sitos?” I turn my head towards Luna, who chimes into the conversation.

“Ye-yes…” Sitos quietly mutters.

“It’s great that you two are getting along so well now!” Luna exclaims.

Hiro cocks an eyebrow. “How the heck didja get Sitos to do that, Kai? That’s amazin’ ya know.”

I respond to Hiro by giving him a broad grin. Standing by the exit, Drugo says, “Friends, we should start to head back, it’s getting late.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I say. I knit my eyebrows as Sitos walks toward the exit like nothing happened. Sometimes I don’t understand him…

“Kai, are you going to stand there like an idiot or are you coming with us?” Sitos asks with his back faced toward me.

“Ah, yeah!” I hurry and catch up with everyone else in the hallway. We begin walking towards our home.

“Let’s review a little bit as we’re heading back.”

“Ehh…but I’m tired…” Hiro complains.

“Good idea Drugo. Start us off with something since it was your idea.”

“Sure thing, Sitoster. Someone tell me what the categories of magic are.”

Marin, who has been quiet this entire time, quickly answers, “Evocation, Enhancement, Conjuration, Healing, Alteration, Abjuration, and Runic, right? Umm... A question… What… What’s the purpose of commanding Mana?”

“As expected of Marin, you answered so fast!” Luna exclaims as she smiles before continuing, “To answer your question, that’s because without issuing commands to our Mana, it would rapidly diffuse into the air. So we need to give our Mana instructions before we release them from our body or else it serves no purpose. Basically, we have to do it if we wanna use magic! Hmm… What are keywords?”

Everyone puts on an amazed facial expression as Luna answers Marin’s question. “Brilliant answer, Luna. Keywords instantly recall a list of programmed instructions that you have defined for it. However, even if it is a shortcut to commanding Mana, you still have to prepare the Mana within your body so that when you shout it, it can take however much Mana it needs to follow the instructions. Now, tell me what trigger words are, Kai.”

“Ugh, why me, Sitos…?” I ask lethargically with a frown. “Uhh… Trigger words are the same thing as keywords, except that they activate inactive Mana you released outside of your body… I think you can also define them to a word without shouting it out beforehand…”

Since I can’t think of a question, I leave it at that. I hear nothing but the chatter of other students and our footsteps for several seconds. “What the heck Kai, don’t break the chain!”

“Kai, ask us something.”

While ignoring Hiro, I turn my head towards Luna, who is smiling. Hmm… If she says so…

I narrow my eyes as I think of a question, and then I turn towards Hiro. “Hiro the Great, how do Magic Affinities affect our magic?”

“Hah, that’s too easy of a question for the great me to answer, why don’tcha answer instead, Drugo?”

Drugo laughs lightly before responding, “Just answer the question Hiroster, and ask me anything you want afterward.”

Hiro crosses his arms, smiles, and says, “Tch… Magic Affinity determines how strong a spell is right? So if someone has a high Affinity for Fire magic and uses the same magic as someone with a low Affinity for Fire magic, then the one with high Affinity has more attack power. I hafta think of a question so gimme a sec, wouldja?”

I knit my eyebrows as he begins to answer the question. I frown the entire time. Everyone is silent, seemingly giving Hiro time to think of a question, but I just remember that I’m the one who asked him in the first place. “Bzzzzz… That’s wrong, Hiro the Great.”

“What?!”

“Magic Affinity generally determines how much of that element you can utilize at once. So people with higher Affinities can use larger scale spells, and they can manipulate free elements available from the environment,” Drugo responds correctly.

“Damn, I must’ve skipped over that detail when I studied… I could’ve answered all the previous questions right, though!” Hiro exclaims while still appearing confident. “I thought of my question! Why—”

“That is enough reviewing. It seems all of us are prepared for the theory portion. More importantly, let us discuss what we are going to add to our new room once we win the contest.”

“Sitos, what ’bout my ques—”

“I want some couches for the common room!”

“Kai, sto—”

“I think a bigger refrigerator and freezer space would be great!”

“Even you, Lu—”

“And more…cooking mediums…”

“Ma—”

“We can also use—”

"Hey!" Hiro exclaims into my ear after interrupting Drugo. I immediately twist the left side of my face as I shut my left eye. I turn toward Hiro as I point my eyebrows downward.

“You bastard, don’t yell right into my ear!”

“Don’t leave me outta this conversation! What’re y’all talkin’ ’bout?”

I sigh before answering, “Weren’t you paying attention in class? Moria said that the theory and practical exam scores will be averaged for everyone in a group, and the group with the highest score wins the first large room in the last hallway, room 1A. The additional prize is that we get to request some extra amenities.”

“I am kind of worried about you, Kai. I know you train hard on your sword, but I never see you train Mana control. You are not going to screw us all over by failing, right?

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry Sitos. You should be more worried about him…” I say as I gesture my head once towards Hiro. A moment later, everyone frowns with worrisome expressions on their faces.

“You are right. He is really du… He is not very bright…” Sitos says.

“I’m worried too…” Luna says.

“Maybe the test will be easy…so he can pass,” Marin says.

“Friends, have more faith in him!”

“Then why’re you sweating, Drugo?” I ask, but he doesn’t respond.

No one says a word until Hiro says, “Hello… I’m right here ya know… I can hear ya…”

“Don’t you know that we know that you can hear us? This is why we’re worried…” I say as I look at him, only to look away and sigh while shaking my head.

“Do not waste too much energy, Kai. You will only tire yourself out. I am going to sleep,” Sitos says as he opens the door to our home. We say our goodnights and head into our rooms.

I take the book Emdos gave me from the shelf, and I look down on it. I flip to the middle of the book where I never figured out how to bypass. A strange piece of paper is wrapped around the second half of the book. I examine all of the sides again, but I still can’t figure it out. I sigh as I put the book back on the shelf.

I haven’t learned anything new for over six months now… I learned everything Moria has been teaching this year last year… When will I learn something new…? I’m still worried about that too… I undress and tuck myself in bed, but don’t fall asleep. Instead, I stare at the ceiling and think back to my second day here.

After waking up, I exited my room and found everyone eating breakfast.

“Kaister, you’re up late. By the way, I’ve been wanting to ask you… What happened yesterday?” Drugo asked as he was chewing something.

“Uhh…it was nothing, really… This is kinda a weird question, but was I wearing a backpack yesterday or did you see one in this room?”

I only heard various slurping and crunching noises before Drugo responded, “I don’t think so… By the way, breakfast is served outside the hall—”

“I’ll be back!” I rushed out the room and saw many of the students walking around. In the hallway leading to the exit, I noticed many tables set up with food served on them. My stomach grumbled, but I ignored my hunger for now and ran out of the building.

I don’t understand… Since I didn’t have the backpack to begin with that means the guards had it! I’ll ask them what they did with it. I ran straight into the Academy and headed for the entrance. I got there and saw two guards standing by the entrance. “Hey, excuse me…”

They turned around after I called out to them, and I cocked an eyebrow. What…? They’re different…

“What, a student? What is it?”

“Umm… What happened to the two guards stationed here yesterday?”

The two guards glanced at each other before looking back at me. “We do not know… Sometime yesterday evening someone reported that they were missing, and we searched for them, but we did not find them. It is strange because they worked here for several years without a problem to leave without a trace…”

“I see, never mind…” I said as I turned back around and slowly walked back towards the dormitory building. What does this mean…?

In the end, I never found out how my backpack appeared in my room, and I stopped thinking about it until now. Is there someone watching me…?

I shiver slightly, despite feeling warm in my blanket. The only person who knows about this book is Emdos…so was it him…? Maybe that was him when I felt that chill in the lecture room… He told me never to show anyone my Mana…

I grab the blanket and lay on my side as I wrap the blanket tightly around me. Maybe I should try tossing this book somewhere random and see if it comes back…

I shake my head. Forget it. I’m gonna rest for tomorrow’s test…

I fall asleep without a problem and then wake up in the morning. I brush my teeth and then shower, before dressing and heading into the common room. Luna and Marin are preparing our breakfast as usual in the kitchen. Sitos says, “Holy shit you are awake… I do not know why that still surprises me considering you always sleep in.”

I smile as I walk over to the table. All the guys are sitting here already.

“And I never understand how you guys sleep so little,” I say as I pull back an empty chair and sit down next to Hiro. He rests his head on the table. “Hiro, I hope you’re ready for the test today…”

“Huh…? Oh, it’s you, Kai… Yeh don’t worry, I got this.” I cock an eyebrow when Hiro responds quietly.

“Kai, you’re just in time for breakfast! Marin and I baked some banana-nut bread!”

“I poured some milk…for everyone.” The girls hand out our plates and cups of milk. Luna brings the fresh loaf of bread and lays it down on the center of the table. Sitos takes a knife and evenly cuts the bread into 12 slices. We each take two pieces and enjoy our breakfast while chatting about random things.

We leave, lock our door, and head to our usual lecture room. It seems Teacher Moria is not here yet, so we talk in the meantime. Luna asks with a smile, “Kai, which magic bonding lesson are you gonna attend after the exam?”

Ergh… I don’t want Luna to know about more of my poor test results…but I can’t lie to that face… I stare at the floor next to Luna before answering, “Umm… I only have low Affinity for Fire magic…so I have to go to that one.”

I sigh. Luna suddenly claps her hands once right next to me face. My heart skips a beat as I quickly turn my head toward her. “That’s great! Actually, I have a high Affinity for Fire magic, so I’m planning on going to that one!”

So, I’ll be with Luna… I blush lightly and smile.

“Lucky you, Kai. You have the most talented person here to mentor you…” I stick my head out looking past Luna, and I realize that Sitos was listening to our conversation. His arms are crossed, and he’s turned away from us.

“Sitos, I’m not…” Suddenly the sound of a door resounds behind us. Moria walks down the steps.

“I assume that everyone is here, yes?” Silence follows his words. “I have the written portion of your test with me. Your time limit is one hour. Come hand it in to me when you’re done and wait in your seat for the practical portion afterward. The instructions for the Mana test will come after the theory exam. Remember to wait for the results of the test before heading off towards a Mana bonding class of your choice. Good luck, everyone.”

And with that, Moria hands out the tests and sits in a chair in front of the room. I stare down to the exam in front of me on a desk attached to my chair. Hmm…this test is easier than I thought…

I instantly write down the answers to everything as soon as I read them. The types of Evocation magic? That’s easy…Fire…Water…Lightning…Earth…Wind…Light…Dark…

When I’m done with the test, I stand up, walk to Moria and hand him my paper. As I’m walking back, Luna walks toward me. I smile, and she reciprocates as we make eye contact. I glance around the room. Everyone seems to be working on the test. Was I the first one done…? That can’t be right… It’s been nearly…half an hour?

I sit back down on my seat and restlessly move my heel up and down. Is it over yet?! I wanna take the Mana test!

Luna walks back to her seat. I rest my head on the desk and stare at Luna sitting beside me. Initially, she doesn’t notice, but then she quirks an eyebrow at me. I smile broadly, and she reciprocates it. Maybe waiting here a bit longer won’t be so bad…

I think Sitos sneaks a few glances toward me, but I ignore it.

Soon enough, Moria announces, “Alright, time is up! Anyone still have their test?”

My eyes wander around the room. Silence follows his words and no one moves. Moria continues, “Now it is time for the practical. Over here there are two magic items prepared about two feet spaced apart from each other. Your task is to stand on this line over here…”

There’s a faint line drawn on the floor. “…and supply some Mana to both of these devices from a distance. You will have to command your Mana so that it reaches the magic item. When a sufficient amount of Mana is absorbed by the device, it will release a ball of water into the air. Make sure to activate both of the magic items at the same time for no deductions in that category. You’re allowed to use both arms for this test, and that’s all the rules.”

What…? That’s it…? I sigh and rest my head on the desk, but then I raise my eyebrows in light of an idea. I raise my head to listen to Moria again. “… I have the names of all the leaders in this jar, and I will pull out a random name to decide which group will go first…”

Come on… Let it be our group! I clench my fists as I bounce both of my legs up and down. Moria sticks his hand into the jar creating crumpling noise that echoes around the room.

After shuffling for several seconds, he takes out a small scrap of paper and reads, “Luna… Your group will go first.”

A grin surfaces on my face as he reads the name. Yes! I need to ask Moria a question…

Before I get a chance to ask, Luna stands up and walks forward. “I’ll go first!”

“Very well.” Moria sits back in his chair as Luna walks over to the line. Luna places both of her arms straight in front of her, with each palm facing the magic devices. She stays in that same position for a second. Scrap Mana comes out of her palms in a straight line toward the devices. A steady wave of faint light blue supplies the magic items for several seconds. Both magic items release a ball of water in the air. It travels fairly fast reaching the ceiling in just a few seconds and hits the stone ceiling, splashing water down below that gets Luna, Moria, and those sitting in front of the class a little wet.

“Well done, Luna! You get a perfect 100!” Moria exclaims as he claps his hands. The crowd around the room claps and whistles.

“Amazing!”

“So that’s the genius, Luna, everyone talks about right?”

“Yeah, don’t you remember the first day last year? She scored the highest on the Mana capacity test!” Various students comment as she sits back in her seat.

“Good job, Luna!”

“Thank you, Kai. Good luck on yours!”

“Okay, but don’t be upset when I beat your score!” Suddenly a feeling of déjà vu hits me. I cock an eyebrow, thinking back on my first day here.

Luna laughs lightly. With a smile, she responds genuinely, “I won’t be surprised… You’re actually hiding your real strength, right?”

I blush and gulp. Next, I’ll go!

But again, someone beats me to it. Sitos stands up and takes his test. Subsequently, he scores a 95. Drugo receives a 90 and Marin gets a 92. This is where Hiro will interrupt me forcing me to go last… I might as well wait here until it’s finally my turn…

Several seconds pass. No one makes a noise or goes to the front of the room. On my left, Hiro is staring at his desk next to Sitos. I stare at him as I knit my eyebrows together.

“Excuse me…who is next?”

“Hiro? Are you gonna take the test now?”

“Huh? Oh, yeh… I guess the great me will hafta show ya how it’s done!”

He gets up and makes his way to the line, but he trips on nothing and falls. I put my hand to my face and frown. Oh, god

By the time I look, he already has his chest puffed out, already pouring out his Mana. Soon after, he receives his score.

“98! Good job!” I smile as Moria announces his score.

Oh, I was worried for nothing… Finally, no one will interrupt me! My heart beats rapidly as I get up and walk toward the line.

“I don’t expect ya to beat my score, Kai. Just make sure not to fail,” Hiro says as he pats me on the back when he walks past me. I force a smile and then reset my facial expressions as I face forward.

“Your name is Kai, right? I do not know how hard this test will be for you since I have never seen someone with all E’s in the Academy before…”

Light laughing echoes around the room. “This guy is Kai! Remember from the first day of class?”

“Haha yeah, the talentless guy who’s scared of carrots right?”

“What kinda show will he give us this time? Maybe, he’ll show us his true power this time!”

I ignore the remarks I’m used to hearing by now. The light laughter explodes into more intense laughing. I turn around. Sitos and company are smiling with crossed arms. I raise my head as I point a finger toward the middle of the room. “Yeah! Today, you’ll witness my real power! I didn’t want you guys to feel bad on the first day, so I didn’t show you!”

I turn around and face Moria again, but not without people throwing offensive comments at me. I only smirk, not letting any of them faze me. “Moria, I have a question.”

“Hmm? What is it?”

“This test is too easy for me… Can you make the test harder so I can get bonus points?”

“My… I was thinking of making this test easier for you, but you want to make it harder?”

I furrow my eyebrows and stare into his eyes. “Yes, please give me the hardest test you can.”

“It looks like you are serious… Sure, on one condition… I will score more harshly, and if you score less than a perfect you automatically fail…but if you score a perfect, then I will add some more points for you depending on how much you impress me. Do you still want to proceed?”

“What the hell Kai! What’re ya doin’?!” Hiro exclaims.

I ignore him and respond, “Yeah.”

For some reason after hearing my answer, Moria walks towards the two magic devices.

“Shut up and watch, Hiro.”

“Ow, that hurts, Sitos!”

“I am going to add an obstacle for you as well.” Moria puts his hands on the ground and soon after, a stone wall appears all around the two magic items, leaving only the space above the magic items open. While walking toward his seat he says, “Now, take the test.”

I stand on the line and raise my right hand in front of me. I keep my palm facing the stone wall as I point all of my digits towards the space above the magic devices. Hmm… I’ll break down some of my Mana and release it.

A new idea sparks in my head. Oh wait… I should be fine as long as they don’t see my Mana, right…? That wall’s gonna work toward my advantage. I smirk while letting out a few giggles. While deeply focusing on the two magic items, I continue to program the instructions into my Mana before letting it out. Finally, I release it, turn around, and then walk back towards my seat all while smirking.

My group gives me strange looks as I sit back down on my seat. I cross my arms as I look at Moria, who has his mouth open wide. He doesn’t say anything when he suddenly stands up; knocking the chair down while blankly staring at the walls he created. I’m satisfied…with this…

“What? Why didn’t you do anything?”

“Hey! Why don’t you show us yer power, Kai?”

While still smirking, I ignore them as I stare at the two magic items in front of the room.

“He’s obviously just too shocked of being a fai—” The Mana I released finally activates, subsequently triggering the devices. A roaring burst of noise can be heard, and soon after, two enormously oversized water balls simultaneously appear and take off towards the ceiling at a speed at least three times as fast as before. They’re so colossal that the diameters of the spheres overlap each other. They rocket and finally collide with the ceiling, releasing another deafening explosion as the entire room begins to shake.

Screaming and chaos erupts as a large amount of water violently splash across the room, probably capable of drenching the furthest seated students wet. I gawk at the wave of water heading my way. Whoa! I didn’t think it would be this powerful!

I close my eyes and mouth as the wave of water hits me. When it completely passes, my face melts into a grin, and I laugh loudly. The screams have ended, and I only hear myself laughing. I stop laughing and look around me. Everyone simply gapes in silence. I feel uncomfortable with the silence, so I exclaim, “Hahaha! You see, this is my true strength! So, what score do I receive?”

Moria is still standing in the same place as he was, still gaping at the space above the magic items. Several seconds pass before I ask again, “Teacher Moria…?”

“Oh, yes…umm…that was…” He finally moves from his position and faces me, awkwardly shaking his head as he rubs his forehead with the tip of his fingers. “Ahem… I did not think you would be able to even activate the devices; you have well exceeded my expectations… You deserve 200 points.”

“Yeah!” I yell as I clutch my fist and raise it into the air all while grinning.

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