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It was only when the light reflected off of the dazzling yellow crystal that Kiel’s gaze once again focused on the exam. He had never seen a yellow mana crystal before. Mana crystals were usually either blue, red or purple. Their color depended on the structure of the crystal that the crystallizer produced.
Technically speaking, the crystal could be of any color, however, since the type of mana inside of the crystal was important for the future usage of the crystal and couldn’t be determined without using the crystal, the a.s.sociation of Magic imposed a rule on mana crystallization that stated that crystals had to be colored based on the mana type they held inside. Blue for trans.m.u.tation mana, red for augmentation and purple for pure mana.
The fact that the crystal in front of them was yellow, clearly stated that the crystallizer was neither issued nor certified by the a.s.sociation of Magic. It was custom-made.
“Are there any questions?” Kady’s warm voice snapped Kiel out of his thoughts.
The examinees exchanged glances with one another, but no one spoke up.
“If there are no questions, then we can start the exam. Who wants to go first?”
When the question was uttered, Kiel immediately took a step forward to volunteer. However, mid-step, he noticed that someone had already volunteered.
It was one of the males in the room who didn’t particularly like Kiel. After noticing everyone staring at him, the male looked around himself in a stupor, before looking back at smiling Kady. After a few seconds of fidgeting, as if he was fighting an internal battle with himself, he caved in to peer pressure and walked towards the crystallizer.
Kiel’s eyebrows furrowed. If the guy had done it just to spite him, Kiel wouldn’t have been surprised. But there was something strange about his behavior. It was as if he ended up volunteering accidentally.
But how do you volunteer accidentally? Did his legs give out making him stumble forward just at the right moment?
Internally, Kiel chuckled and shook his head. Well, whatever. The test would only last between 5 and 10 minutes.
Kady Ailert and Rau Eryey proceeded to usher people out of the room, allowing only the first person taking the exam to stay in the cla.s.sroom. They explained that the crystallizer doesn’t differentiate between mana of different people, so it was a measure to prevent any possible attempts of cheating.
When the doors to the cla.s.sroom closed, the previously silent examinees again crowded around Kiel.
“Pfft, that blockhead! Couldn’t he tell that you wanted to go first!” a random girl sneered and batted her eyelashes at Kiel. At her exclamation, a bunch of other girls agreed and started cursing the poor fellow.
A scent of perfume a.s.saulted Kiel from all sides, with difficulty he kept his facial expression unchanged and breathed through his mouth. Individually, the perfumes might have been pleasant but mixed together they only made his stomach turn.
Kiel’s nose had gotten extremely sensitive after the Aetherneal bond. While it did make the world feel more vivid and the food tastier, it had its drawbacks as well. When surrounded by people, it was easy to get a sensory overload.
Kiel smiled amiably. “It’s alright. There is nothing wrong with him wanting to go first.”
Inwardly, he was already cursing the guy. He minded it! He minded it a lot! If Kiel had gone first, he wouldn’t need to endure the torture called socializing.
“You’re a good guy.” Another examinee praised Kiel. “You don’t get agitated because of such small matters. I wish I could be more like you.”
Kiel turned to smile at the guy who spoke. He was among the denser looking ones.
He had a wide, fawning smile on his unremarkable looking face. His elibu ears were drooping down, making him look a bit comical. The man was wearing a subtle cologne that was the most inconspicuous scent in the horrid mix of scents.
Just as Kiel was deliberating how to respond as to keep his prince-charming image, the guy continued. “I don’t think I’ve introduced myself before. I am…” The guy offered his hand to Kiel.
Kiel scanned the offered hand, hesitating in shaking it for a split second. Truth be told, he preferred not to touch or be touched by people. But alas, he had to keep his perfect image which meant that being rude and not accepting the handshake wasn’t an option.
Therefore, Kiel accepted the handshake and nodded his head at the… uh… he already forgot what the guy said his name was.
The guy seemed to pick up that Kiel wasn’t particularly interested in him, and apparently thought that the problem lied in his gender. Therefore, he stepped back with a sly smile, allowing several girls to take his place.
Kiel suddenly got a headache. Don’t tell me that he thinks that I actually enjoy being swarmed by groupies?? Which part of my act gave him that impression??
Kiel resisted the urge to rub his temples. However, it became harder and harder to resist. The loud, high-pitched voices of the females did nothing to improve his state of mind. The headache only grew until suddenly, Kiel felt a bit queasy.
The voices were too piercing, too loud. The scents were too nauseating. Kiel’s vision started blurring. He blinked his long eyelashes repeatedly as if he was trying to fan away the sickness. But it didn’t work as intended.
The headache turned into a migraine. His own pulsing heartbeat seemed to be hitting his temples like a hammer.
Finally, he couldn’t resist closing his eyes and rubbing his temples. A sudden silence made Kiel open his eyes, only to meet many inquiring gazes. Someone must have asked him a question that he didn’t catch.
Kiel smiled wryly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that. I feel… a bit under the weather today.”
The crowd immediately agreed with his statement and started talking about how lousy the weather was today and how it makes the mood too depressing.
Kiel sighed a breath of relief internally and leaned back onto the railing. His legs felt weak. It was as if he had a fever.
Don’t tell me I caught a cold? You have to be kidding me! Isn’t this change of events too abrupt?
I can’t be indisposed right now! I need to be in top shape for the exam!
Blast it all!
The voices around him started blending together, and he had a very hard time piecing the conversation together. He thought he heard someone saying: “Mate, are you alright? You are looking a bit pale.”
Kiel’s thoughts started getting sluggish. His lids grew heavy. All he wanted to do was sleep.
For a moment, he forgot that he needed to partic.i.p.ate in the exams. The world was spinning.
He didn’t realize that he had lost his balance until he felt someone’s arms catching him and holding him up.
The broken pieces of the words that entered his ears seemed to mention infirmary.
No… I can’t miss this exam… if I miss it… I will fail the entrance exams!
The world started shaking. Kiel felt the person he was leaning on saying something in a comforting tone. That everything would be alright. That the healers in the infirmary would fix him up in a ‘jiffy’.
That person held him up and pulled him towards a certain direction. Infirmary, one would think.
Kiel felt a sense of dread and insecurity. He didn’t even know who was taking him to the infirmary. Could he even trust that person? Could people in the infirmary even help him?
Ironically, in this moment of need and helplessness, the only person he could think of was Elaru.
A person that he knew very little about. A person he didn’t quite understand. A person that he wasn’t even sure he could trust.
And yet, in his darkest hour, her face was the first one that came to mind.
No matter how little he trusted her, he still trusted her more than anyone else.
The last thing Kiel did before his mind turned to mush was to call out to her.
* * *
When Dusk Rose received his mission, he wasn’t too thrilled about it. This type of mission wasn’t something he usually accepted. If he hadn’t been asked by higher-ups to take it, he wouldn’t have accepted it at all.
Apparently, there weren’t many people qualified enough to take the mission, for the mission required one to be able to enter Muni. Since Dusk Rose was currently partic.i.p.ating in the Muni entrance exams, he was one of the rare agents capable of taking the mission.
The mission details stated that there was a possibility of another Shadow interfering with his mission, which meant that they needed to send someone capable enough to handle a Shadow – another Shadow.
And thus, the task fell onto Dusk Rose.
Unlike the a.s.sa.s.sination missions he usually took, this mission required him to kidnap his target before they could take the exam and bring them outside Muni where they would be picked up by the client.
When Dusk received an image, name and entrance exam number of the target, he suddenly felt much more interested in the mission.
What a pretty boy! Such a pity…
Dusk clicked his tongue.
And they say that we a.s.sa.s.sins are devious. Plots of the n.o.bles are much more devious if you ask me.
* * *
The stormy Wednesday morning arrived, and Dusk Rose too arrived in front of Muni.
The first thing he did was check when and where his own exams will be taking place.
Apparently, in the afternoon. Dusk had the whole morning to take care of his target.
Good. Dusk smiled.
His smile froze when he noticed when and where his target had his exam. Dusk almost swore out loud.
Why did it have to be the first timeslot?!
Initially, he intended to catch his target while he was waiting for his exam, but now his plans needed to change. He didn’t have any time to search for his target. If he ended up missing him, his mission would end up as a failure.
The only way he could ensure that he would cross paths with his target was if he waited in front of the target’s designated cla.s.sroom.
Thus, Dusk broke into a sprint and quickly made his way towards the cla.s.sroom of his target. There, he blended into the crowd and patiently waited for his target to arrive.
Time ticked too slowly. Before Dusk even knew it, the doors of the cla.s.sroom opened, and the examiners asked them to enter inside.
Dusk looked left and right, but there was no sign of his target.
Is he running late? Should I wait for him in front of the cla.s.sroom and stop him from entering?
While Dusk was deliberating what to do, suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted, and he had to suppress the sudden jolt of his own body.
His mana sense suddenly picked up an additional person. He seemed to appear out of nowhere! If Dusk wasn’t on full alert, paying attention to everyone in his surroundings, he would have missed the appearance of an additional person.
Dusk’s pupils involuntarily shrunk. That person was not only concealing their presence, but they had even turned invisible!
Imagine Dusk’s surprise when he realized that that person was exactly his target.
So a Shadow is indeed helping him! Cold sweat instantly covered Dusk’s back. Good thing I decided to wait in front of the cla.s.sroom. If I had decided to wait anywhere else, he would have pa.s.sed right next to me, concealed and invisible.
Unfortunately, now it was too late to stop his target from entering the cla.s.sroom.
Dusk Rose again blended in the crowd of examinees, keeping his target in his line of sight while not drawing any attention to himself.
The examiners seemed to take hours to explain the exam. Dusk Rose waited patiently, keeping a low profile the entire time.