"What is the meaning of this, Obsidian Rein?" The old man demanded as he stared at the lists of the first years enrolled in the academy. He was in a long white robe with gold stripes around his wrists and a pointy hat over his head.
He had a long face that had developed wrinkles over the past centuries. And like a lion's mane, his white beard and hair were connected. The man's name was Arch Mage Degerus Reginald, and he had been the headmaster of the Ace Academy ever since the second holy war two hundred years ago.
Currently, he was the strongest human in the magic realm and one of the Archmages that watched over the human kingdoms.
Obsidian was shuddering. Facing his superior made him nervous, but it wasn't because he was annoyed. He was overwhelmed by the magical energy coming from the archmage.
"I chose him because he's special."
The archmage narrowed his gray-colored eyes and groaned. "The other archmages say otherwise, Mr. Rein. I agree he passed the written tests and proved that he's exceptionally smart enough to join the academy. But if he heads into the selection without a skill or magic he'll surely—"
"I trust Arthur and I believe in his talents." Obsidian interrupted.
"He may not be as talented as his colleagues. But if he succeeds, we might actually see something interesting in the future."
"Are you saying he might have a second awakening?" asked the Arch Mage, sounding intrigued by his apprentice's words.
Obsidian cleared his throat.
"Yes. The chances are low, but I believe that Arthur Bellrock is capable of a second awakening like how I did twelve years ago in Machette."
"We don't talk about Machette," the archmage growled.
After a moment of silence, the old man leaned back into his seat and heaved out a loud sigh of frustration. He rubbed his dry eyelids and said.
"I trust you Rein, not because you're the strongest knight in the kingdom or that you've saved the realm multiple times—but because you see what I don't see in people. "
Obsidian smiled, feeling honored by such words coming from his master. "Thank you, Archmage."
"I will talk to the archmages from the other kingdoms and we see what we can do about it. I just hope they don't complain like the ones that complained about you until your second awakening."
"I am truly grateful."
The day of the selection exam was finally here…
All the new students had gathered within the main hall just as instructed and were currently waiting for the examiners to brief and begin the exam. They were also responsible for awarding every student as the selection took place.
For those wishing to join the dark knight sector, they needed to be strong both physically and mentally to earn points that approve for the selection, this was because being a dark knight heavily relied on both physical and magical abilities.
And for those who were joining the mage sector, points were rewarded according to how a student displayed their magical abilities.
Arthur couldn't help himself from feeling uneasy the whole time. He was still under the feeling that he might be holding back the others during the selection exam. He had spent the past days learning how to use a sword, practicing basic spells, and learning more about the dungeons in general and the monsters that inhabit them.
In the magic realm, dungeons were said to have been created by the gods to act as challenges for the races. They were homes to all types of many monsters, and most gifted beings saw their existence as an opportunity to make money.
Those beings were commonly known as adventurers, and they would do the job of exploring and gathering information and treasures from the dungeons that they later sold to the multiple guilds established across the royal capital.
That information collected would then be sold to organizations like the magic academies at a very high price, making a huge profit for guilds. Ace Academy was one of the schools that paid a handsome price for that information each year as they accepted new students; that information would then be used to see whether the dungeons were challenging enough to earn these students a place in the academy.
So far, the deepest dungeon on the continent was seventy floors—and although the information about its location was unclear, it was said to be swarming with devils and magical beasts from the first floor, and the party that collected the information almost lost all their lives before reaching the sixtieth floor.
Of course, the academy did not care about how dangerous it was; they only cared about making the strongest students...so about two years ago, they sent a party of the best students, led by Stella Rivian. The five students surprised the entire kingdom when they made it back to the surface after clearing fifty floors within a span of four days. Since then, they have then been titled the strongest students of Ace Academy.
He was still in disbelief that people his age could be that strong. Should they even be considered students?
Suddenly, a hand clamped on his shoulder as he was still trapped in thought. Looking over it, he was relieved to see Bairon for the first time since his breakdown on the first day.
"Good morning." He greeted Arthur with a smile on his face.
"Bairon, you're here."
"Of course, I can't risk failing the section exam—my family would kill me for ruing a legacy."
He was formally dressed in a uniform which surprised Arthur because he took him for a rebel.
'I guess he's also taking this seriously.'
All those going in for the dark knight selection had been given black cloaks, whereas those going for the mage selection wore red. Obviously, he was clueless about how they worked because they had a magical presence radiating from them.
As they were still having their conversation, the earth below them rumbled, and a stone podium started rising at the front of the hall.
Silence covered the hall when a tall old man appeared out of nowhere and slowly walked up to the stone podium. He had a staff clenched in his bony hands, and despite his weak appearance, he was followed by a powerful presence that silenced the students.
Everyone except Arthur was bothered by the old man. Was he supposed to know him?
"Future Dark Knights and Mages of the Magic Realm," he began."It is of great honor to welcome you once again to this institution. As you all know, today is when the selection exam begins, and I am nothing more than excited to see what you all have installed for us."
He paused as he scanned everyone with his gray-colored eyes. Immediately, Arthur could tell that the old man was looking for something. But what was it?
He cleared his throat and continued, "This is the number one academy in the entire realm, and that means that we need quality students that will lead this kingdom forward. That is why we are the only ones who conduct this exam. Most of you here are pureblooded nobles, and you think that status will save you most of the time. But sadly, it's not the case here—those who fail the exam with be expelled from the academy."
A majority of the crowd started to murmur after his announcement. The students were now worried about the exam after his unexpected words.
"Silence!" he pounded his staff on the ground, and a strong howl of wind silenced the students.
"This exam will help us determine who is capable and who is not. I expect you to protect yourselves using anything at your disposal. Students aiming for the Dark Knight selection will have to put their divine and learned abilities to use, points will be awarded equally amongst the parties, and the stronger the monsters, the more points you earn. Whereas those aiming for the mage selection—will need to demonstrate their magical energy and how well they can put it to use, please take note that you are not allowed to use your divine skill as a mage. You can only use your wand or staff."
"Why was everyone murmuring when he mentioned expulsion?" Arthur whispered to Bairon.
"Almost every student here is a pureblood noble who doesn't usually work hard to get stuff. I bet most of them are here because they were recommended by the magic bureau."
"The magic bureau ?"
"Yeah, they are the organization that literally runs every guild in the kingdom. Most of the academy's governors are from the bureau, so when they recommend a student, they are instantly given a place in the academy regardless of their abilities while the rest of us study for the tests."
"I see, so this exam is meant to filter them out."
"Yes. Whoever fails the selection will be deemed unworthy of the academy."
'In other words, this is how they pick out the rotten fruit.'