It appears that a considerable number of candidates are participating, as they are conducting entrance examinations in several classrooms at the same time.
Having recovered from momentary paralysis, I realized that the examination was about to begin and rushed into one of the classrooms listed on my exam slip.
Thankfully, the exam hasn’t started yet. It’s cutting it close, but I made it in time.
All the other candidates have taken their seats. A seating chart is posted at the front, but there’s hardly any need to check it; only one seat is empty.
The other examinees give me curious looks as I hurriedly take my seat.
It’s only natural. A guy with a different style of dress than the others rushing into the examination room at the last minute is bound to draw attention.
Then, I notice two familiar faces among the examinees looking my way.
One is that dashing boy, Kyrio.
His eyes no longer seem bloodshot, and the sharpness, as well as the murderous intent, are gone from them. Instead, there’s a coldness about him, like ice. Beautiful but cold, reminding me somewhat of a Japanese sword.
The other is that guy, Bob.
He’s looking at me with disdainful eyes. Eyes that mock.
I’ll just ignore him.
“All right, everyone’s here,” announces the examiner as he enters the room, carrying a stack of papers in both hands.
“First, let’s go over the flow of the examination. We’ll start with the written test. I believe that none of you aspiring to join the Military Academy would fail this test. Those who pass will be eligible to take the magic exam in the schoolyard this afternoon. That’s all.”
After giving a briefing that was exactly as we were informed beforehand, the examiner started to distribute the papers.
“Begin,” he announces, flipping over an hourglass on his desk.
Well, let’s get to it then.
Although, to be honest, I’m not particularly fired up about it. As the examiner said, failing the written test when you’re aspiring to join the Military Academy is nearly impossible unless you’re a total idiot.
And it’s not because the questions are absurdly easy.
Just take a look at them.
Question one: Name the noble family that fits the following description.
Question two: Explain the provisions regarding inheritance under Shaark’s national laws.
These questions test basic knowledge that’s absolutely necessary for noble circles and for handling inheritance issues—a matter of course for anyone born into nobility.
In this vein, the entire test is filled with questions to which anyone from a noble family would naturally know the answers.
In short, it’s a test that virtually any noble would pass without studying.
I can’t say I’m not frustrated by the unfairness of it all, but there’s a clear advantage for me since the written test is structured this way.
Simply put, I know exactly what I need to study.
As long as I thoroughly study the essentials that a noble needs to know in life, I’m guaranteed to pass.
Question eight: Name the daughter of the current King of Shaark Kingdom, also referred to as the reincarnation of Fatia.
Easy, the answer is Princess Victy.
And just like that, the written test is a breeze.
Everyone in my classroom qualifies for the magic exam in the afternoon.
After a lunch break, we are to gather at the schoolyard, and the examinees start leaving the classroom in groups. There seems to be a large dining hall in this school building, so that’s probably where most will have lunch.
However, I’m not particularly hungry, and since I need to not only pass the magic examination this afternoon but also qualify as a scholarship student, I can’t bring myself to eat.
I take out my worn-out book on the basics of magic and start reading through the content I’ve gone over hundreds, thousands of times.
But it’s all firmly in my head already. It’s more of a charm to maintain my composure than actual studying.
“The hell’s that? Books owned by commoners sure are gross.”
A mocking voice speaks up.
I look up to find Bob, a sneer on his face, as he approaches my desk.
“What’s the matter? Got something to say?”
I threw at him, intentionally adopting a scornful demeanor.
“Don’t get too comfortable, moron.”
His face instantly puffed up and turned red.
“Don’t think you’ll get home safely after failing this exam,” he threatened blatantly.
Quite the tension reliever, this one. His pettiness is oddly soothing to me.
“Don’t worry. I’ll pass,” I assured myself more than anyone else.
Yes, I will pass.
“Even if you do pass, do you think a poor person like you, with those clothes and books, can afford the tuition?”
“I’ll pass as a scholarship student, so I’m good. Thanks for your concern,” I shot back.
Bob, caught off guard for a moment, then burst into laughter.
“Hahaha! A scholarship student?! Let me enlighten you out of pity. Military Academy scholars naturally come from noble and prestigious families with the best education possible. Like me, for instance.”
I responded nonchalantly, already growing tired of the interaction.
This guy will never become a scholarship student. Characters like him are destined to be crushed—it’s practically a given in fictional works.
“There’s only one scholarship student each year,” a cold, icy voice interjected.
It was Kyrio.
He had approached without me noticing and inserted himself into our conversation.
The classroom was now occupied by just the three of us: me, Bob, and Kyrio.
“Bob, it’s impossible for you. Golden-Eyed Leo is running this year. You know that, right?” Kyrio spoke, his eyes sharp and filled with menace.
“You imbecile, that guy is just a—”
Bob began heatedly, reacting to the calm Kyrio and his words, but then…
“Did I hear my name just now?”
He was cut off by a calm yet overwhelmingly commanding voice.
The classroom fell silent for a moment.
Me, Bob, and even Kyrio—all of us stopped breathing, compelled by the sheer force of the voice.
A young man—or perhaps boy is the more accurate term given his apparent age, though he looked anything but—glided into the room with smooth and graceful movements.
His noble lineage was clear from his lavish gold and crimson attire, though he wore it with a presence that did not let the clothes overshadow him.
Tall, with a well-built physique akin to a grown man’s and a hint of the ogre lineage in his slightly tanned skin and fanged smile, he was a sight to behold.
His golden hair flowed like a lion’s mane, and his brows and nose spoke of a strong will.
Yet, it was his eyes that truly captivated—one look and you knew you were in the presence of someone extraordinary. Large and golden, they held not an ounce of arrogance, only pure self-confidence.
He was like a hero straight out of mythology.
He reminded me of a Greek statue I’d once seen in an art textbook from my world.
In short, he was an overwhelming presence.
One that dominated the room.
While I stood there, transfixed, Kyrio bit his lip in silence, and Bob’s face shifted between red and pale.
“Who do we have here if it isn’t Kyrio of the Laaflas and the idiot son of the Mehsins?”
His voice was low, resonant, and carried across the room.
“Wh-Who are you calling an idiot son?!”
Bob bravely, or foolishly, retorted.
“Wanna hear what your dad said when he stopped by my house?”
The young man’s words were enough to silence Bob.
After puffing his face for a while, he exhaled, as if dumping his hatred, and stormed out of the room.
Watching Bob’s retreating back with what seemed like amusement, Leo then turned to Kyrio.
“Kyrio, you’re still the same as ever, I see. A coward. But I’ll give you credit for trying to help him out. Finally growing a backbone, are you?”
His golden eyes were now fixed on Kyrio.
“Shut up,” Kyrio replied, his eyes aflame with a deadly glare.
The tension in the room spiked as Kyrio’s bloodshot, sharp gaze met the calm, confident golden eyes.
The air was stifling.
Just as it seemed like they might come to blows…
“This is stupid.”
Kyrio extinguished his killing intent, looked away, and walked back to his desk, away from us.
Turning his back to us, he began to eat his lunch.
“Packed lunch, huh? How modest of you. That’s commendable,” the young man remarked.
“Shut up. Don’t mock me,” Kyrio replied without turning around.
“I’m not mocking you. I’m serious. It’s impressive. That’s homemade, isn’t it? Good for you.”
After saying this, he slowly turned his attention to me.
Damn it, what’s with this situation?
Just being the object of his gaze made my body tense up.
There’s no way I’m letting myself be dominated like this.
I gathered my strength and met his gaze head-on.
Those were his first words to me.
“Uh, oh, h-hello.”
Flustered, I somehow managed to return the greeting.
The man’s broad smile remained, yet it didn’t show a hint of vulnerability.
It became suffocating.
“I’m Leo Baal from the Baal family. Nice to meet you.”
“Oh, hi. I’m Van. Just a commoner, Van.”
I replied, trying to keep my composure and not seem subservient.
In my heart, I just wanted to run away from this place as quickly as possible.
Leo nodded in acknowledgment.
I was shocked by his response.
This grand nobleman knows a commoner like me? It was hard to believe.
Yes, Leo Baal was a grand nobleman, known even to me.
His name was part of the essential knowledge every nobleman should have.
The head of the leading noble family, the Baal family, which owned forty percent of the territory in Shaark.
He lost his parents early on, and being their only child, he became the family head. Of course, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of relatives stepped forward, ostensibly to act as guardians. Their real goal, undoubtedly, was to manipulate Leo like a puppet and seize control of the Baal family for themselves.
At the time Leo became the head, he was only ten years old. They probably thought he would be easy to manipulate.
However, the young boy with striking golden eyes was no ordinary child.
He controlled and manipulated the factions among his relatives, pitted them against each other, and continued to hold the reins of power within his family. He overcame traps and crises with his wit and strength. Outside his family, he built and expanded connections with the royal family and other influential nobles.
Eventually, Leo secured his position as an indispensable figure for the Baals and the whole nation of Shaark.
He was a living legend.
He might not have appeared in this year’s written exam, but seeing a question about him in next year’s test wouldn’t be surprising.
“I knew beforehand that a commoner without money or connections would take the exam. No one cared but me, though.”
There he was, Leo Baal, speaking right in front of me.
Just standing there and talking casually, yet the pressure from his presence was overwhelming.
“To me, it’s just incompetence. A person with no backing is knowingly earning the displeasure of the noble circles by applying for the Military Academy. You must have a trump card.”
“You said you’d pass as a scholarship student. I’m looking forward to it.”
Without a hint of sarcasm, he said that and then leaned in to whisper in my ear,
“Besides, you have a good eye. You’ve become friends with Kyrio in such a short time. We’ve met a few times in social gatherings. Quite an interesting person, really. I hope you two can get along.”
Without waiting for my reply, he turned on his heel and left the classroom with light steps that didn’t match his large frame.
I was left standing there, frozen.
These nobles are all devils and monsters.
This is the second time today that I have been frozen in place.
Now, only Kyrio and I are left in the classroom.
Damn it, calm down. I need to calm down.
But can I really beat that monster and become a scholarship student?
I tried to calm myself down by reading my book again.