"Mr. Fang, it seems like you want to be the first to enter the Examination Chamber. Don't you think that you are a little bit too excited?" A familiar voice reached the young man.
He looked up just to see that he was in the classroom. More than thirty students were staring at him, some confused why he had turned himself into a target, while others were suppressing their scornful smiles. However, the young man didn't pay them any attention.
'What the hell was that just now?'
He looked down at his chest again, but there was nothing. There was no gaping hole in his chest, not even an injury or a scar.
The only thing resting in his hands was an old, tattered book.
The events vividly narrated in the book sounded like they came straight out of an unrealistic but decently written fantasy novel. Nobody would believe that the events had truly occurred.
That was exactly what Michael had been told when he was younger.
Everyone in his family told him that the tattered book was the unblemished truth behind their first ancestor's actions. He was wary of his parents a bit but knew that his brother would never knowingly lie to him, not anymore. Nonetheless, it was hard to believe such nonsense.
'Did I just dream about a snippet of the past?' Michael wondered. He recalled the dream and compared it to the content of the book he recalled. It was the same.
"Michael Fang, I am talking to you!" The familiar voice rang through the classroom once again, angry and commanding this time.
But Michael was deep in thought, wondering about the man on the battlefield. The voice resounding in the classroom distracted him too much, so he subconsciously spoke his thoughts aloud, "Oh…fuck this shit…"
"Mr. Fang. Examination Chamber, NOW!" The man bellowed, finally dragging Michael out of his train of thought.
He looked up in confusion and he only regained his senses when he looked into the wrathful eyes of Mr. Kelen Dame, their homeroom teacher.
'Oh…right. The graduation exam.'
Michael was still a little confused, but it looked like he didn't have enough time to organize his thoughts.
His homeroom teacher was staring daggers at him, which only changed once Michael reached out for his backpack. He put the tattered book inside and walked up to his teacher. At the same time, he took a quick glance at the projection that formed above the crystal watch on his wrist.
'9:01 am. If I start my exam now, I'll be done by lunchtime. That leaves me enough time to gather my thoughts before tomorrow. It may come in handy!' He thought. The projection disappeared a moment later.
The crystal watch was a standard model given to all students at the age of 17. Other than telling time and creating a projection, it had access to Starnet, a stellar network providing information and means to communicate with other humans across the stellar systems. This was the most important function of the crystal watch, for most students, at least.
When Michael arrived next to his homeroom teacher at the front of the class, he heard Mr. Dame's familiar 'teachings'.
"Looking at you, I cannot help but feel my heart throb in pain. Don't even dare of acting arrogantly if you pass the graduation exam with flying colors. You're as good as dead if you think that your life inside the Origin Expanse will be the same."
The hidden meaning behind his homeroom teacher's words was obvious but most students were already accustomed to that, including Michael.
"Mr. Dame, don't worry so much. You've warned us often enough, we understand. Not everyone will awaken their War Rune, in the first place!" A student with an athletic physique said while lifting his right hand high into the air. His mocking smile was aimed at Michael.
A tattoo that shone in a faint white light was etched on the back of the student's right hand. It was the War Rune he mentioned just now. However, nobody exclaimed upon seeing Niklas Liekhoven's War Rune. Most students threw a loathing glare at their classmates before ignoring him. Michael was the same.
They knew that their homeroom teacher and Niklas Liekhoven loved to team up to ridicule others. Michael was not sure how they found each other, but according to him, they were certainly soulmates.
"Mr. Liekhoven, even if your War Rune formed two days ago, you don't need to show it to everyone," Mr. Dame reprimanded but he stressed some words to pull the attention of the class to Niklas.
Michael observed the duo's tomfoolery for the next few minutes with various thoughts about the dream tormenting him. Once their teacher was done gloating over his favorite student, Mr. Dame led Michael outside. He took Michael to a small room near the classroom and told him to go inside.
After Michael stepped inside, the chamber door sealed shut, cutting off all the background, and the entire world became deadly silent for Michael.
At the same time, his homeroom teacher entered a different room.
More than a dozen people were already inside the room, most of them teachers. However, none of them paid attention to Michael's homeroom teacher. They were busy staring at the dozen holographic screens showing one student each.
'Jasmine Blade, Oliver Kaelte, and Peter Seakal?... I should have started off with Niklas as well,' Mr. Dame thought, shaking his head lightly.
It was already too late now because a screen showing Michael popped up, but it was truly a shame.
Michael was not fit to be in his class. He was simply not on the same level as his classmates.
Having worked as a teacher for more than a decade, he had encountered too many students like Michael Fang. They came from ordinary families and thought highly of themselves just because they made it into one of the most prestigious high schools in the province.
Unfortunately, entering a good school was just the starting line and not the end goal!
lightsΝοvεl ƈοm'Just wait for reality to crash down on you. You don't have any power or wealth, forget about connections. Someone like you is not fit to become a Lord.'
As wicked as it may seem, life was never meant to be fair. Those who sought power would either overcome the obstacles thrown in their way, or they would be buried in the annals of history.
As for the number of ordinary students who made it to the top after entering prestigious schools with more luck than wits and strength, they could be listed on a single page.
"Is that your student, Kelen? I've never seen him before. Did you train a black horse trump while nobody looked your way?" One of the teachers sitting near Kelen Dame struck a conversation with him.
When he realized that the other teachers had brought their aces to the Examination chamber to show off their great teachings to the esteemed guests, he gave up trying to contest with them. Friendly competition was nice, but these teachers were known for going overboard.
"A hidden trump? Don't joke with me, Hagen! Michael Fang is just a commoner without any noteworthy background. That kid is just lucky," Kelen Dame answered with a humorless chuckle, "His brother was fortunate enough to manifest a War Rune and retain his status as Lord for a few years, but that's already it."
Michael paid attention in class but that was already it. There was nothing special about that youngster.
"He is a loner and only knows how to read and sleep. He barely made it to the final year." Kelen added.
Hagen looked at his colleague and frowned.
'Why did I even strike up a conversation with him? He's just trying to humiliate his student by sending him off first!' He thought.
For a moment, he asked himself what he was even doing in a prestigious school that specialized in teaching students about the Origin Expanse and the livelihood of Lords and Adventurers.
'Great payment without risking my life every day turns jerks into lovely puppies, that's for sure!' Hagen thought, shaking his head lightly.
He was about to say something to Kelen when he heard someone approaching them from behind.
"Are you sure you're talking about the student you sent to the Examination chamber? Your description seems off," A sudden voice interrupted the teachers' chat.
Kelen Dame was about to call out the owner of the voice for her rude behavior, but he froze when he saw the beautiful yet fierce-looking woman who was wearing casual clothes. She stood imposingly behind the teachers as if the entire place belonged to her – which was not exactly wrong.
"M-m-m-miss Z—...." Kelen Dame stammered, just to be intercepted by the newcomer.
"I asked something," The woman said impatiently, her tone demanding obedience.
"Yes yes, of course. Please, wait a moment!" Mr. Dame responded hurriedly, turning back to the monitors to look at the holographic screen featuring Michael.
He sensed that something was off, but he didn't expect something so nonsensical to happen right in front of his eyes.
"Who the hell is that, and what did he do to the Sloth I know?"
'Is that really Michael?'