The Selection

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Chapter 11 - Academy Year 2 - Opportunity

I wake up and stare at the ceiling with my limbs fully stretched out on my bed. As I think back to the moment I completed my practical test, I smile, slowly melting into a grin.

“Kai, that was awesome! What didja do?!” Hiro exclaimed and jumped out of his seat. Water drops resounded as they fell from Hiro and splashed on the ground. Luna and Sitos mouths’ were widened as water slid down their hair. Everyone had similar expressions across the room. Shivers of excitement coursed throughout my body.

Everyone’s amazed…at me! I turned to Hiro and responded, “Well you know, I sent out my Mana and set it all to activate automatically after a few seconds.”

Hiro twisted one side of his lips upward while cocking an eyebrow. “Umm…what?”

“Ahem,” Moria interjects. “I can explain what just happened… You see, Kai gave the Mana instructions before he released it out of his body… First, he probably gathered the rich Mana from his body and moved it to his arm. Then, he assigned instructions to the Mana beginning with the calculations of the path required to reach the magical items. Since we could not see the Mana leaving Kai’s body, it must mean that he released the inactive form of Mana and put separate instructions that activated the Mana. As he just said, it activated after a few seconds after reaching the programmed destination.

“What I did not mention before is that after this magical item takes in Mana, an item inside it called a Glim gives the Mana additional instructions before the Mana reaches the magic-producing Water Crystal. They are usually made so that the produced magic is more powerful with higher quality Mana or quantity. I am slightly confused as to why the water balls were so huge when Kai activated the device…”

Moria walked to the wall he created and put his hand on the wall. Moments later, the wall shrunk down to nothing. The two magical devices were slightly distorted in appearance. Moria put his hands on the devices. “Ah, I see… They must have malfunctioned and produced an abnormal outcome…”

“Hmm… Yes, you see when I tested this device yesterday with Rich Mana, it was not nearly as powerful as what Kai demonstrated… I am really not sure what exactly happened, but I am going to have to replace these before the next group takes the test,” Moria announced as he started to walk up the steps while carrying the two broken devices.

The silence was broken by Hiro when he said, “Kai, ya bastard… I always thought it was strange we never witnessed ya trainin’ your Mana… What kinda secret trainin’ have ya been doin’?!”

“I am interested in that too,” Sitos said with unwavering eyes.

Hmm… He’s not surprised at all. What do I tell them… I can’t reveal either the book or my Mana…

I take a few seconds to think of something before replying, “Well… Emdos trained me since I was six up until last year when I came to the Academy…”

“What?! So you have five years of experience ahead of us?! That’s not fair! I wish I had someone to teach me when I was six…” Hiro exclaimed and pouted as he crossed his arms.

“I would not say that, Hiro. There is a reason why the Academy starts when you are 11. It is mainly because prior to age 11, manipulating Mana can be deadly to the user,” Sitos explains. “I heard many talented kids have thrown away their potential by trying to test their capabilities too soon.”

“Oh…” Hiro spoke quietly after relaxing his facial expressions and arms. “But whatabout Kai, Sitos?”

“I am wondering about that too. Who is this Emdos person? Was he trying to kill you?”

I pursed my lips getting ready to talk. I probably shouldn’t tell them that I didn’t know any of this at the time…

“He wasn’t trying to kill me! He said that I’m special so that I wouldn’t die. I trained under his supervision, and he had a secret medicine just in case!” I exclaimed confidently.

“You did say something like that on the first day…but how did he know you were special? You did not seem to know what the Mana measuring device was on the first day, so I doubt that he ever used one on you. It sounds like suicide to me that you trained your Mana when your Mana capacity grades are so low.”

“Also, why didja keep that ya can use Rich Mana a secret?!” Hiro immediately asked.

“Uh…well…that’s…”

“Tell us, Kai!” I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t think of something to say.

A moment later, Drugo put his hand on Hiro’s shoulder and said, “Hiroster, calm down. I’m sure Kaister has his reasons for all of this… We don’t need to interrogate him on all the details right now. We should give him a break.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right… The excitement really got to me. Sorry ’bout that, Kai.”

“Yes, me too.” I laugh lightly.

“Don’t worry about it guys. I’ll tell you all about it later,” I replied. Footsteps resounded at the entrance of the room. Moria was walking down the steps with two new magical devices in hand. Moria randomly picked another group to take the test, and it continued for two hours. The rest of the day passed normally.

I grin, moving all my limbs up and down. Today, Moria will announce the results! We all get to move into the large room in the last hallway! That couch sounds nice…

The smell of freshly baked bread reaches my nostrils. When I draw air through my nose, a rush of hunger overcomes me. I get up and do my usual morning routine. Afterward, I head into the main room and exchange greetings with everyone. I take a seat and ask, “What kinda bread’s it this time?”

“Chocolate,” Luna responds. Everyone has nearly finished their breakfast, so I quickly munch down the slices of bread on my plate and chug my milk. We walk to class together while having random conversations up to the point of reaching the lecture room door. We remain silent all to way to our seats.

“Who do you think will win?” someone asks around me.

“Is that even a question…? No doubt it will be his group.”

“He’s right there… Do you think he remembers us…?”

“Just don’t make eye contact…”

I knit my eyebrows. Are they talking about me…?

I look to my left, finding several students jerking their heads in the opposite direction. I frown. Sitos says, “Do not mind those insignificants, Kai.”

“Yeah…thanks,” I say with a skeptical smile on my face. We take our seats and continue talking about what we want in our new room. Hiro fidgets and doesn’t contribute to our discussion. “Hmm? Hiro, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothin’ really… Just excited for the results I guess…”

“Yeah, I know what you mean! I have so much energy I can’t shake off!” I exclaim while bouncing my heels up and down. There’s a faint noise coming from the hallway. There he is!

The noise level in the room dies down gradually as he says, “Good morning. Once I have announced the results, you all may continue with your individual Mana bonding training sessions.”

He walks down the left side of the room while announcing, “I will start with third place. Remember as the two runner-ups you still get some additional furniture of your choosing. Third place goes to Dune’s group with an average score of 94! You lot get one new piece of furniture!”

“Woo!” someone cheers from the left side of the room. I smile broadly while staring at the slip of paper the teacher is holding in front of him. My heart races. I shorten the length between my breaths.

“Second place goes to Coco’s group with an average score of 97! You lot will receive two new pieces of furniture!”

“We did it, team!” a girl behind me exclaims. Other voices follow nearby.

Finally, it’s our turn!

“Lastly, first place, the group who will get these keys to the first large room 1A is…” I gulp and gradually stretch my lips to a full grin. My heart beats like a drum in the moments before he announces the winner. I jump on my feet and walk forward with my right hand out. “Hina’s group with an average score of 98!”

I freeze up and don’t move at all. “Each of you will get to choose a new piece of furniture for your new home! Come get your keys right now!”

The room is silent. I turn around with my face still stuck in a grin and my hand out. No one stands up from the crowd. Did I mishear it…? No one’s standing up…which means I misheard Luna for…Hina…?

I turn back to Moria and ask, “Umm…you said Luna, right?”

“I am afraid not… I double checked the results and the first place winner is indeed Hina’s group. Is anyone from Hina’s group here?”

My grin drops into a frown. Silence follows his words again.

“There must be a mistake… Right, Teacher Moria?” Luna asks.

“No matter how you look at it, we are the winners!” Sitos exclaims.

“No… I forgot to mention something else which may clear this matter for you. There is one group that failed and will have to stay for remedial lessons instead of going to magic bonding classes… That group is your group… You do recall that everyone in the group must pass to qualify for the competition, right?”

"What?!” I point my eyebrows down and exclaim. “Who failed?! Everyone received high marks on the practical!”

I find my group looking at each other with suspicious facial expressions. Everyone’s gaze lands on Hiro, who is avoiding direct eye contact with anyone. He quietly apologizes, “Uh…sorry guys…”

Hiro! He definitely passed the practical portion… I raise my eyebrows before asking, “Hiro, you failed the written portion?! It was so easy! Moria, what score do you need to pass?”

“70 points or higher.”

“Then what score did Hiro receive?!”

“Well, that is…classified…”

“It’s okay Teacher…tell everyone what I received… I kinda wanna know too,” Hiro says in a lethargic voice.

“Well, if you insist… Your score was 36 points.” I knit my eyebrows and frown. I pinch my glabella with my fingers while wondering how it’s possible to score so low.

“That’s strange… I coulda sworn I got at least 50 points…”

While still frowning, I let go of my face and turn towards Hiro. I stare at him until he cracks a smile that snaps one of my nerves. I grab the collar of his shirt and in his face yell, “You bastard, take this more seriously! My 200 points were worthless!”

“Now, now, Kaister. What’s done is done. It was partially our fault for not realizing how clueless he was,” Drugo says while pulling me back. My grip on Hiro’s shirt gradually loosens. I jerk away from Drugo’s grasp and then cross my arms.

“Damn, if only he weren’t on our team…” I mutter, thinking no one can hear me.

“Kai, that’s not very nice! Apologize!” Luna exclaims while frowning pointing her eyebrows downward. She stares me down with her arms on her hips.

Gah, I made her mad…but I really don’t wanna apologize… While still crossing my arms, I look away and pout.

“Sitos, say something to Kai too!”

“Well, I understand how he feels... To be honest, it is just Hiro’s fault for being dumb.”

“That doesn’t help dissolve this situation at all! Sitos, don’t have that attitude right now!”

“This situation was caused by Hiro for failing in the first place, are you not mad at all, Luna?”

“Well, I’m disappointed, but like Drugo said, it’s partially our fault for not helping him study!”

“Friends, I think you should calm down… It’s really not that big of a deal you all are making it out to be…” Drugo says.

“Huh? When is it our responsibility to know every little thing he needs? He did not even ask us for help… Some teamwork…”

“Hello, friends? Do you hear me?”

“Your attitude has been getting on my nerves lately, why do you have to be so cold all the time?!”

“Well, I am tired of you always bossing us aro—”

“Enough!” Moria exclaims, subsequently ending their bickering. Moria sighs. “This is exactly why you failed as a group… Clearly, you lot need to communicate and work on your teamwork. You may have great individual abilities, but lack working together effectively… I do feel slightly bad for Kai, so I will give him a chance. Kai, if you would like you can skip a year or two. I think your abilities are well above a second year Academy student.”

I raise my eyebrows as I clutch my fists in front of me all while grinning.

“What, really?! Does that mean I can learn more advanced stuff?”

He laughs lightly. “Oh, yes, you will. And you will get new teammates too.”

My thoughts stop, and I only ask, “What?”

“You will move into a new room and obtain new teammates. That is what you wanted, right?” I drop my smile and relax my facial expressions as I turn around and look towards my group.

“You should take it, Kai. I would do it if I were in your shoes.”

“Sitos! What’s wrong with you?! You should be persuading him to stay!”

“But that is what you want. What do you think he wants to do?” Luna doesn’t say anything else. She only stares at me with a pout and teary eyes.

“Take it, Kai… Sorry for draggin’ ya down…” Hiro apologizes and turns his back to me.

Hiro… I look at the others. Marin and Drugo are silently watching. I look into Moria’s eyes and then gulp. I should take this chance…because I’ll be able to learn more things I don’t know…! But…

I grit my teeth before saying, “I’ve made my decision.”

I face my group and take a deep breath. “I wanna stay!”

Luna and the others’ facial expressions lighten up. Luna exclaims, “Kai!”

“Oh, are you sure?”

“Yeah,” I respond while walking toward Hiro. “Because I don’t wanna leave my friends… Even if Hiro irritates me a lot, he’s my friend too!”

I put my arm around Hiro’s neck while grinning.“Kai…ya really mean that?”

Some tears well up in his eyes. “Yeah…but you have to pass the retake!”

“Ehhhh…~”

I laugh lightly. “Just kidding, of course! You’ll still be my friend…but I really prefer that you pass.”

Sitos’ arms wrap around Hiro’s neck on top of my arms. “Yeah, Hiro… Do not plan on sleeping at all tonight. We are going to cram everything into that tiny brain of yours.”

“Ehehe… Thanks for the support guys…”

“You should be proud of your decision, Kai. You will come to learn that the most valuable treasures you can have are friends. I want to reward you with something… How about the same prize as third place? You will get one new piece of furniture of your choosing. I am sure no one else has any objections to that.”

I let go of Hiro and turn toward Moria.“Really?! Then I want a…”

I purse my lips. Oh, wait…

I glance over towards my group while skeptically smiling. I ask, “What do you guys want? Maybe we should decide by majority…”

“No need, Kai. All of us think that you deserve it, right?” Sitos says while looking toward the others. Everyone nods their heads.

Everyone… I face Moria and exclaim, “I want a couch!”

“Alright, I can get that delivered to your room early evening. Remember you have to stay here for remedial lessons. Everyone else, you are dismissed. Make sure to attend a magic bonding lesson for your red ticket. Winners for the competition should come see me later when you have decided on your pieces of furniture.”

And with that everyone except our group left. I can’t help but doze off from hearing things I already know for what seems like years. Before I know it, my head drops like a rock. I raise it back up whenever my consciousness returns to me.

I discover a waterfall of drool coming from my mouth. I wipe it off and look up, finding my neck stiff and sore. I massage the back of my neck while checking to see how everyone else is doing. I feel my veins protruding out of my forehead on what’s in front of me. Hiro is sleeping in the same position I was in just now. This bastard… Why didn’t anyone wake him up…?

I look beyond Hiro and cover my face with my right palm. I sigh. Everyone except Marin has fallen asleep too. Well…that’s understandable… I don’t think Marin’s capable of doing that… I guess I’ll have to do it… But really… Why’s Moria still lecturing as if we’re actually paying attention…?

I make a fist with my right hand and punch the back of Hiro’s head. My knuckles throb with pain in rhythm with my heart beats.

"Ow!” Hiro interjects loudly and jerks his head up while putting both of his hands on the back of his head. Subsequently, everyone else wakes up.

I stay awake for as long as I possibly can before my mind decides to shut off again. When I wake up, I find the same scenario as earlier. I look at the back of Hiro’s head and sigh deeply. I skeptically curl one side of my lips upward. Did I make the wrong choice after all…?

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