Mirror Lake District, Block 13, Unit 1804.
The wooden floor, which had been meticulously cleaned and shiny, was now covered in oil stains and dirty footprints.
The plants in the balcony planted during midsummer were dusty and lacked water.
The family of four sat quietly in the living room like statues.
Half an hour later, multiple platforms would simultaneously release the list of new first-year mage apprentices entering the Central Magic Academy.
At the break of dawn on 7 June, it had already become the tradition of many families to watch the live broadcast of the list announcement. To motivate their children, some families would stare fixedly at the screen the entire time, hoping to find a name that they were familiar with.
For the families of the candidates, this was an extremely sacred moment that could not be missed.
Now that the "Basic Knowledge" score had been announced, those top candidates who had scored more than 490 points were already feeling much less pressure.
Many television stations had come to the families of the most highly-anticipated candidates. For these candidates, they only had to achieve a normal 160 points for the "Intelligence test" to rise to the top and advance one's career. This would enable the entire family to make a comeback.
As a result, on the screen, countless small family apartments were packed to the brim with relatives and friends.
However, in unit 1804 where there was also a family with a candidate, it was all quiet and gloomy inside.
The ashtray was filled with cigarette butts. As the man of the house, the father smoked with big puffs, cigarette smoke swirling.
The mother, on the other hand, was staring at the screen with a pale face. Her hands were soaked with sweat. She was both looking forward to it and panicking at the same time, afraid that the slim hope that supported her will to live would be destroyed.
The two sisters sat on the sofa, hugging their knees and feeling equally stressed.
After a long while, the elder sister stood up and said, "I'm going to bed now. There's no point continuing to wait. He won't get 400 points."
The younger sister was immediately indignant. "You're just jealous that elder brother passed the test then and entered the special secondary school, but you didn't! Elder brother will definitely pass."
One should never hit below the belt.
Elder sister's face darkened, her anger rising. "Jealous? Jealous that he made you and I drop out of school and stay home? Jealous that he made father's company go bankrupt in three days? Jealous that he had mother fired from her job?"
The father, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly shouted, "It's because I wasn't capable enough. I couldn't save him."
As he spoke, his face became even more dispirited and gloomy, as if he had aged by a few years. After he no longer had the mood to even dye his hair and his white hair was revealed.
Over the past few days, he had made countless calls. He had asked for help from his relatives and business partners, even from people he had only met briefly before.
He begged everyone from all round, just for the chance to meet the parents of the deceased and apologize.
However, all he got in return were hang-ups and the beeping tone of an ended call.
Lin Li clenched her fists and sat down again.
"It's all fine for him. After tomorrow, he no longer needs to care about anything. But what about the rest of the family? For the past two days, all our neighbors have been avoiding us like the plague. Meanwhile, he is still inside, not knowing how much trouble he has created?"
The mother's eyes were instantly filled with tears. "I am the one who is useless. Qi'er only made glancing contact with the other party and he died just like that."
"Stop it," Papa Lin said warily. "If you continue to spread this information to others, our entire family will die."
Younger sister stood up and insisted, "Elder brother will definitely pass the exam."
"How did you come up with that conclusion?" Lin Li sneered. "Just because our whole family is being shut off?"
Younger sister, Lin Duo, put her hands on her hips and turned her head. "Because he's my elder brother."
Only 15 years old, she stuck out her tongue at her elder sister when she saw that no one was paying any attention. "Previously, when those foundations were backing elder brother and sent all those skincare products and cosmetics to mother, didn't you also use them happily?"
Lin Li sneered. She could not be bothered to argue with her younger sister. She turned around and stared at the television screen.
Looking at the joyous atmosphere of the top candidates' families on the screen, she felt even more hateful and switched channels.
But dawn was about to arrive and all the television stations' cameras were focused on the candidates' families. Countless relatives and friends were gathered in anticipation.
When one was poor, one would be alone even in a bustling city. When one was rich, one would have friends and relatives even in the deep mountains. The kind where one wouldn't be able to chase away even with a knife.
Lin Li looked at the smiling candidates who were looking forward to getting onto the list. They were about the same age as her younger brother. She suddenly felt a lump in her throat.
Since the second year of high school, the whole family knew that Lin Qi would probably not be accepted and not become a "mage apprentice".
The foundations who supported future mage slowly faded away after the evaluation results were out. But at least they didn't demand them to give back the gifts, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Everyone thought that no matter how lousy Lin Qi was, he could still rely on the cutoff score and work in the related industries that served mages like his mother. That was also the best way out.
Who would have thought that disaster would soon descend?
The countdown to 12 o'clock was soon approaching. Lin Li's palms started to sweat.
She told herself that she should hate the ignorant and nosy Lin Qi.
But even as she thought about it, her eyes began to blur. The unrelenting steps of time seemed to push her back to all the checkpoints in the past shared with Lin Qi.
When they held hands as they went to school. When they blew bubbles as they bathed. When they started sleeping in separate beds after growing older. The disappointment after learning they were going to different schools. The breeding hatred and anger at the failure to achieve something even after constant hard work…
At this moment, Lin Li once again hated herself for not passing the talent test during her primary six year.
If she was a mage apprentice now, might Lin Qi be saved?
Suddenly, all the television programs switched to a countdown timer—
10, 9, 8…
Lin Li closed her eyes.
Amidst the cheerful and admiring cries of congratulations from the television host, the screen kept playing the names of those who had passed the selection. Her heart slowly sank, as if it was going to hit rock bottom.
"Ah! Got it! Got it!"
Younger sister Lin Duo's childish voice broke the silence.
Elder sister Lin Li opened her eyes on the spot. Her parents were already flushed red and clutching their own chests. In an instant, her eyes locked onto those unforgettable words on the constantly refreshing list.
[Passed candidate: Lin Qi, 650 points (250+400), Yang City First High School, last four digits of personal identification number: 999X]
In the next moment, all four handphones in the house rang. The landline also rang.
Shouts of disbelief spread across the entire building!
Countless people who knew about this matter picked up their phones to make calls, either to congratulate them or try to make amends.
The hearts of many government officials stirred, as they seemed to recognize that something major change was going to happen.
Old veterans like them, who had been immersed in politics for many years, could often detect the signs indicating the imminent rise or fall of factions, just by looking at the seemingly unremarkable "Appointment" and "Hired" human resources news.
The cheering crowd in the room did not notice that their every move was being watched by two people standing in the cold wind in the opposite building.
"Are you sure you don't want to go in?" Mage Mo Feng crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I can wait for you to finish speaking with your family first, before letting our welcome officers enter."
"After you enter the academy, who knows when you will be able to return?"
As he spoke, he was rotating the Rubik's cube in his hand without looking at it. The more he verified Lin Qi's solution, the more shocked he became.
Lin Qi looked up at the stars overhead and shook his head.
There were thousands of books in his memory palace, but none of them contained anything regarding his family.
He would have to rely on the memory fragments left behind in this body. His younger sister, Lin Duo, would definitely happily congratulate him, while Lin Li would definitely censure him.
He chose not to go in mainly because he had not thought of how to perfectly play the roles of son, younger brother and older brother.
This joyous occasion would turn into a disaster if he were to be exposed in front of Mo Feng.
"Then let me tell you something now. It's both good and bad news." Mo Feng nodded.
"Five minutes ago, Luo Tianqing and his wife handed in their resignation and requested to be transferred back to the capital, where the Central Magic Academy is located. You know what this means. Your family should be safe, but for you—"
Lin Qi turned and smiled. "No, this is good news."
He was even able to sense the heartfelt joy radiating from the remnant intent left behind in this body.
As he spoke, Lin Qi continued to look up at the starry sky.
"Can you do me a favor?"
"The moon tonight is really beautiful."
"Let me make something clear. Mages cannot pluck down the moon."
"What the hell were you thinking of?" Lin Qi asked flippantly, staring at Mo Feng as if he was an idiot.
"Book me an air ticket to the capital tonight."
It was just nice that the cracks in the memory palace had been fully repaired.
From this, he had deduced that the palace had endured a direct hit from Luo Tianqing's fourth-level "Phantom Killer" spell on behalf of him. His nosebleed at that time was merely an after-effect.
The man knew he'd missed. Lin Qi knew that he knew it. The man also knew that Lin Qi knew it too.
The two of them were fluttering around each other like two butterflies in a dream. Only Mo Feng was left standing at the side dumbfounded.
He had three top priorities. Successfully enrol in the academy, uncover the truth of the death, and avoid being attacked.
But at the end of the day, it could also become a matter of finding a powerful-enough person to back him.
Private teachers were the special privilege of every S-grade mage apprentice.
He wondered if there were any pretty, cute and powerful young lady teachers in Central Magic Academy.