༺ Grading Test (3) ༻
It might sound like I’m bragging when I say this, but I’ve been using a spear for quite some time in the previous iteration. Stabbing at the weak points of a monster was nothing difficult.
What was important was that it was a lot easier to move my body compared to the previous iteration. My power, stamina and vision were all incomparably higher than what I had at the start of the previous iteration.
It was thanks to the second aspect of the Precept – 〚I do not perceive spirits.〛which amplified my strength against physical opponents.
‘Next up are demonic spirits, huh.’
It was the same as the Restriction that man had in the previous iteration. I had to check if it was working properly.
『Grade 5 demonic spirit test will now begin.』
Something must have been summoned immediately after the impassive voice of Professor Ronan, but I could neither see nor hear anything.
‘It’s going as expected so far.’
I was miserable at seeing astral bodies in the first place. No matter how much I raised my stats while following Park Sihu around, my ability to see astral bodies just did not get any better.
I could only faintly sense their presence. In that popular game1 Referring to Starcraft everyone plays in Korea, the terrain gets blurry whenever there are invisible units walking by, right? That was exactly what it felt like to me.
However, I couldn’t even see that afterimage anymore. Anyone would generally feel a chill or feel spooked when nearby an astral body, but I couldn’t feel anything.
Next up was the battle. Sitting still, I defenselessly waited for the demonic spirit to approach me.
Although I wasn’t sure how fast the demonic spirit was, a minute would have been enough for it to approach me.
And it probably would have done something to me. It might have used Life Drain that demonic spirits loved the most or something like Soul Crusher… Well, a low grade demonic spirit might not have such skills, but the point was that something should have long happened by now.
Because of the rule of mutual cognition, the demonic spirit could not interfere with me because I couldn’t perceive it in the first place.
That made me certain. Demonic spirits would not be able to touch me no matter how strong they were… even a Unique Grade spirit would be powerless.
The ‘Restriction’ of the Precept was working like a charm.
I checked everything that needed to be checked so it was time to hurry up and leave this test.
There was no reason to let Professor Ronan know that I could not perceive demonic spirits, let alone how they could not even touch me.
Of course, Professor Ronan would not even dare imagine that it could be impossible to perceive demonic spirits but others might be different.
“I give up.”
After a while, I was able to see a crumpled look on Professor Ronan’s face.
Old Man Haman had been watching the crystals with Professor Ronan ever since he had a question.
‘This guy’s a gem!’
That was his impression of Korin.
His expert skills at hunting the short hounds; his posture and the precise accuracy of his javelins were all remarkable, with zero room for negative feedback. That wasn’t the end – his ability to insta-kill the mat boar and the owlbear was astonishing.
Even from the higher graded knights, it was hard to find knights that were able to show such skill in an actual fight.
‘Strange that he forfeited against the demonic spirits but… Was there something he had in mind?’
Even Haman could not imagine a guardian who could not perceive spirits, but his guess was somewhat correct.
In the end, Korin was given the title of a Grade 5 knight, but that wasn’t anything to be stressed about. A powerhouse at his level was bound to accomplish many things, and with those he would inevitably go towards the top.
‘Hoho… looks like my last few years are going to be exciting.’
How high up would he go? Old Man Haman let out a hearty laughter at unexpectedly coming across a hidden rising star.
Alicia felt as if she was suffocating to death as she waited for her peers to complete their tests.
Aura Rank: Upper Medium (6,800)
Mana Rank: Lower Medium (1,300)
Specialties: Eyes of the Boundary
Overall Grade: Grade 2
Final Grade: Grade 2 Knight
Her stats were definitely in the upper spectrum among knights, and she was a blessed and gifted child ever since her birth.
However, the peers standing next to her were at a similar level if not higher than her. None of them were ordinary.
‘Ughh… Why is no-one saying anything? I can’t even hear them breathe.’
Everyone else was doing their test so they were the only people except for the professors and yet not a single one of them was interested in other people.
This was at least triple the awkwardness that existed at the start of the year in the normal academies she had gone to.
There was a druid girl maintaining a bizarre gymnastic posture in meditation;
A gloomy boy wearing a black robe caressing a muddy doll;
And a former mercenary hanging five gleaming blades in the air while breathing like a beast.
‘Scary! Why is everyone so bizarre? Are they really the same age as me?!’
Alicia used to go to a normal academy until middle school.
If her grandfather didn’t suddenly drop a senile comment like, ‘Let’s make Alicia a successor candidate as well,’ she definitely wouldn’t have come to such a sinister academy.
‘Cherry, Nobu, Tofre… I miss you guys.’
The scariest of all was the girl who was literally doing nothing in this suffocatingly heavy atmosphere.
Unlike her appearance that suggested she was from the East, she was wearing the clothes of a nun with chains restricting her on top of that. The chains weren’t sealing her joints and it seemed that they weren’t there to restrict her movements.
There was more.
Dozens of yellow talismans were coiled around those chains. She looked extremely ominous if anything. The hair color of the chained nun girl was also strange. The outside was jet black and yet the inside was tainted in deep red.
‘Did she dye her hair?’
It looked way too natural for it to be dyed hair and Alicia was curiously staring at it when the sharp red eyes suddenly turned towards her.
Meeting those deep eyes that seemed like they would lead to the endless abyss, Alicia felt a chill running down her spine.
This is dangerous! We have a carnivore in a cage of herbivores! There is a scary predator…!
‘Benefactor! Are you there?! Please save me one more time!!’
While touching the belt tied around her martial art uniform, Alicia prayed to someone who would be too far to hear her.
In the end, I was given the title of a Grade 5 Knight by Professor Ronan.
He gave a deep scowl when he saw me, who had forfeited at Grade 5 demonic spirit test after defeating a Grade 3 demonic beast, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Professor Ronan constantly glared at me as if he was discontent by me forfeiting at the Grade 5 demonic spirit test, but nonetheless, the highest grade I could get after not defeating a Grade 5 demonic spirit, was Grade 5.
I was leaving after getting my student ID cards updated to Grade 5 Knight and found students chatting to each other.
– Oi, what grade did you get?
– Grade 4. I fucked up. What about you?
– Huhu. Grade 3.
– Wow… So you killed both an owlbear and a banshee?
– Look at them. They’re Grade 5.
– Ehew, how do you even get Grade 5?
After Lady Josephine’s grading test, we received our grades from the professors in charge and lined back up according to our given grades.
There were only 30 students standing in front of the Grade 5 signboard where I was. In front of the Grade 3 board were around 20 people, which meant there were approximately 350 students who got Grade 4.
Most of the Grade 3 students couldn’t hide their arrogant gazes. The one who stood out the most was a delinquent-looking student with very short hair and an impressive tattoo on the back of his neck.
Ohh~ it was someone I knew.
He was a Grade 3, and his specialty was something like accumulated destruction, where you build energy inside by landing attacks and explode it in one go.
It was a specialty we didn’t even get to see in the game because of him quickly becoming irrelevant but now that this was the real world, it should be possible to have a look at his abilities since we will be training in the same class.
His role in ❰Heroic Legends of Arhan❱ was picking a fight with the player at the start of the story, only to be smashed in an instant.
He preferred a heavy armor and a mace, and had a tattoo on his neck. Also, his mother is a tattooist.
How did I know that, you may ask?
It was because 3 years ago, his parents and his younger sister had come to the Academy when he went missing in the 1st semester. They used their own money to try to find Jaeger and that scene had left quite a big impression on me back then.
‘He was one of the people Park Sihu killed for annoying him.’
That fucking cidery psychopath… Although Jaeger had a bit of an attitude, he was definitely not a big enough sinner who deserved to die. He was a typical delinquent and a demi-human racist, but he was not a massive bully and he was just in the rough and unstoppable moments of his youth.
He was just a young and immature kid compared to the actually terrible delinquents whose lives were a series of sexual assaults and robberies.
He had some skill and was a Grade 3 Knight. Looking down on peers who had a lower Grade and feeling superior was quite common in his age.
Those are the days, you know.
– Look. They are Grade 5.
– Wow, how do you get that?
– So some people do lose to short hounds and ghosts, huh.
Jaeger wasn’t the only one with such an attitude and most of the students were the same.
There was always at the very bottom. Grade 4 students, which was the majority of students, sent condescending gazes at the Grade 5 students, whereas the Grade 5 students who were at the very bottom dropped their heads in embarrassment and frustration.
They would at least hit Grade 4 before graduation and that was already considered quite good outside. Even though they might be treated like trash here, they were still superhumans outside.
None of them would be starving to death no matter what they did anyway, but as expected of kids who had yet to suffer from the unemployment crisis, their perception of their future was very optimistic.
But well… that’s what kids should be like. It would be great if their embarrassment and frustration would act as a positive catalyst for their growth but…
‘Lark’s also here.’
Typical nerd glasses and freckles… up to there it was normal, but the skull spellbook in his hands was definitely a tell-tale sign that he was a severe chuunibyou patient.
The reason he died was because he framed me and Sihu after giving in to his inferiority complex.
I was wondering whether I should kindly let him participate in the enlightening method of ‘Soviet Russia’ when the mic started to go off at the stage.
There was a man testing the mic and the voice amplification magic.
“Good morning, freshmen. I am the chairman, Eriu Casarr. Let me make this brief.”
There was no sign of him showing off his authority in his composed voice and the expressionless look on his face. He was respectful and dignified. He looked young but there was an underlying layer of composure which made it difficult to discern his age.
Chairman of Merkarva Academy, Eriu Casarr. The strongest helper and bystander of the main quest.
It had truly been a very long time.
“In this academy, you will be learning the most intense and the most dangerous techniques of the world. Some of you might already be strong, and some of you might not be as strong. I cannot guarantee you that everyone will achieve their goals.”
The students created a fuss in response to the chairman’s words.
“However, I do wish that everyone here may discover the correct direction of their lives. Our job is to help you take that first step. Starting from the second step, it will be up to you. That’s it from me. Hope you have a wonderful day.”
With that, the chairman left the stage. There was a short break after the chairman’s speech, which the freshmen used to get to know each other.
“I am a Grade 3 Knight, Jaeger Hinzpeter! You see—”
Among the freshmen was a guy who showed off his Grade and bragged about himself…
As well as a gloomy nerd flipping the pages of a spell book in the corner.
In the previous iteration, I had close to zero friends because of that damned Park, because I was forced to stay next to him the whole day.
Gosh… Thinking of how there was a hidden desire concealed behind all that gave me goosebumps.
I was glancing around to check whether the kids that died to Park were doing okay or not, and saw Jaeger striking up a conversation with Lark.
“Oi, what Grade are you?”
Lark was flustered from the sudden chat and slowly closed the spell book. Thinking back, I remembered how Jaeger picked a fight with Grade 5 students on the first day.
“G, Grade 5.”
“Grade 5? So you’re a weakling.”
Jaeger condescendingly gave a remark while Lark was shivering in front of the tattooed delinquent.
Ohh… It felt like I was back to being a teenager. Such immaturity… was refreshing.
“Did you fail at killing the ghost? I suppose you could have been scared because some of them do look like a Grade 3. I wasn’t though.”
“Huh? Wait, did you die to the short hounds and not the ghost? For real? Uhahaha!”
I was watching with an intrigued expression but Lark tightened his fist and looked fairly upset.
He wasn’t the only one. The small group of students that received Grade 5 in the test were embarrassed about their ranks which were easier counted from the bottom.
“You know what, I killed those weak-ass short hounds in like 3 minutes…”
I suddenly wrapped my arms around them. Neither of them noticed me until I touched them.
The two of them rolled their eyes in surprise from my sudden approach. What was I supposed to do with these young teenage boys?
“Y, you, who are you?”
Lark took a step back after seeing my face. It wasn’t clear whether he was surprised by my jump-scare or my appearance.
“That tattoo looks pretty sick.”
“Looks neat. The one who did it must be very good at it.”
“Huh? Yeah? R, right?”
I praised the tattoo and gave a compliment to the one who did it, which was highly likely to be his mother. He wouldn’t have expected me to know about the tattooist, so it must have sounded like a genuine compliment to him.
Plus, his tattoo was not just there for show.
“That thing on the back of your neck is the symbol for your blood type right? To get a blood transfusion as quickly as possible when you get hurt, yeah? Damn, you’re prepared.”
The reason I knew this was because I had talked to Jaeger’s parents before. Because Park and I were the last ones to see Jaeger, we were summoned a few times.
Jaeger’s tattoo was proof of his parent’s concern for their son who was entering the guardian academy.
Park Sihu that fucking psychopath… Acting like nothing happened in front of Jaeger’s parents…
“Actually, this is what my mom did for me. She’s more of a line work specialist, but she did it old school for me.”
“That looks excellent. Do you have more?”
“Yeah. I did one on my arm. It’s the symbol of Merkarva Academy, and has a chariot flying through the sky.”
Pulling his sleeves, Jaeger bragged about his tattoo. As he said, there was a chariot and a sky behind it, which was the symbol of Merkarva Academy, imprinted on his right arm.
I just listened to Jaeger excitedly talk about himself. Although I didn’t really know the technical terms like ‘line work’ and ‘old school’, what I knew was that you only needed to give energetic nods to be a great listener.
“I’m Korin Lork.”
He found out what my Grade was during the conversation, but unlike what he did with Lark, he didn’t even mention it. People generally did not bother bad-mouthing someone who they had a good impression of.
Because of that, he didn’t continue picking a fight against Lark, who was in the same Grade as me.
That should have left a positive first impression.
This guy – Lark; if I remember correctly… His specialty was Memorize. He would be of great help.
He… was the way for me to access the grimoire, the free skill book.
Alicia had a low self-esteem and was bad at expressing her opinion.
That was why despite her strength, she became timid in front of her impressive peers and couldn’t speak up to them.
She had been worn out and harassed by the people of her household that supported her older sister.
— How can someone like you be at the same position as Lady Lunia?
Due to being the illegitimate child of the current head of the family, Gerard Arden, and the child of a concubine, she had been faint-hearted from a young age.
She was always compared to her smart sibling, harassed and mocked. She was the ‘young lady’ of the household, but there was no weight behind that title.
“Grade 5? So you’re a weakling.”
Ahh, he looks like a delinquent. He even has a tattoo…
Feeling like her PTSD was coming back up, Alicia forced herself to turn her head away from him. It was because there used to be a lot of people in the household who had tattoos.
She thought there would be no-one saving that poor boy, like what happened to her.
“That tattoo looks pretty sick.”
That was when another boy showed up. The peer called Korin Lork, who was assigned as a mere Grade 5 Knight, approached the delinquent-looking Jaeger without any hesitation. He complimented his tattoos, gave deep nods and skilfully led the conversation with Jaeger.
Everyone watching knew that Korin had stepped in to help his peer from being harassed.
He didn’t rely on strength nor did he try to talk down or criticize the opponent. The boy had gotten rid of the seed of harassment in a very adept manner.
Even though he was also a Grade 5 himself, and even though he should’ve known that he could have become the next target, he still stepped up for his peers.
Today must have been the first day they met.
He had never even talked to Lark before.
Although he would be getting nothing in return, he took a step forward nonetheless.
That boy called Korin even gave off a sense of dignity and experience.
‘What a nice person.’
Showing non-calculative kindness that gives a good impression… Was it just a coincidence that he reminded her of the benefactor she met in the forest?
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- 1Referring to Starcraft