[Translator – Anwen]
‘I’m sorry. We have to make a living too.’
The male student closed his eyes tightly and teleported to Shirone.
Fatal injuries were inevitable in the event of a collision.
He cried out in fear, but he did not feel the impact he was preparing for.
When he opened his eyes, Shirone was exactly 10 meters away from where he was.
In the process of traveling forwards, Shirone abruptly curved right to avoid a collision. It was better than dropping out due to a collision, but he still took a speed loss nonetheless.
The female and male students plunged down with satisfied looks. They had successfully slowed down Shirone.
Shirone, whose repetitive compulsion was cut off by the dodging he did just now, gritted his teeth and focused his mind to try and raise back his teleportation tempo.
“Hey. Just now, the movement of those two kids. Wasn’t it kind of weird?”
A kid from the Intermediate class said with a frown.
“I thought so too. Maybe they just got tangled in a rush? No way they tried to crash on purpose.”
“By no means was that an accident. They did it on purpose.”
The person who made that comment was a student from Class 5, Yiruki Mercodine.
She was the same person who had given the advice to Shirone back then when he was in the Image Zone. She was thin as a rail, had heterochromia, jagged teeth, and a pointed nose.
“How are you so sure? Sure, it was suspicious, but you can’t be positive unless you’re part of the accused party.”
With one palm spread open, she collided it with her other hand which was clenched in a fist.
“One person blocks the road. The other hits from another side. It’s a great strategy to block both the instantaneousness of teleportation and the space leap aspect of it. If Shirone didn’t dodge by modifying his usual cycle, he would have fallen down. Well, I would have found some other way using equations of motion.”
Her classmates turned their heads towards the training ground again.
‘Gosh, what a poser.’
Meanwhile, Shirone began to get a little nervous after looking at the growing distance between him and Mark.
350 meters remaining.
By the halfway point, the only competitors left were Shirone and Mark.
‘I won! I’m first!’
Convinced that he was going to win, Mark’s body vibrated with excitement.
Although he had leaped about 40 times, seeing as how there was no one standing in his way, he did not feel fatigued.
‘I’m the one who will pass!’
High-speed promotion to Class 5. The faces of envious classmates and the sour faces of Class 6 upperclassmen crossed his mind.
“HAHAHA! I’m first!”
As Mark sped up the tempo of his teleportation, the distance between him and Shirone began to widen even more.
‘Mark is in good condition. He will complete the exam by the looks of it. At the rate I’m going, I won’t be able to retake first place.’
There was only one possible method left for Shirone.
While he might be able to get closer to Mark, the risk of breaking his routine was high.
However, the only solution was to increase his teleportation link rhyme by a beat faster.
With clenched teeth, Shirone’s rhythm suddenly accelerated. The sound of the teleportation wave resounded like the beat of a drum.
The excitement of the students reached its peak.
“Shirone is starting to catch up! The winner is going to be decided soon!”
“Mark! Faster! Faster!”
Like the last spurt of track and field, everyone’s adrenaline shot up as the distance shortened.
Then, something strange was detected by Mark.
The iron bar of the Bridge That Cannot Be Crossed started fluctuating like waves.
At first, he thought he was mistaken, but now he was sure that the bar was squirming around like a living creature.
The material of the Bridge That Cannot Be Crossed had alchemical components to it. It was a special material that could change its shape in response to electromagnetic force.
‘There should be no obstacles though… It should be set to level 1.’
Shattering Mark’s belief, the bar bent like rubber and turned into a lasso.
“AAK! What the hell!”
At the same time he freaked out, Mark’s body passed through the huge circle and came out the other way.
Though the situation was not too dangerous, since the bar completed its transformation, it was now as solid as steel.
‘Why is this happening?’
Then, the mechanical voice of a woman rang out within the training ground.
–Warning. Warning. The engine system of the Bridge That Cannot Be Crossed has been activated. Level 10. Level 10.
While Mark was questioning who exactly was operating the engine system, he was also doubting if he had heard the system right. He heard it say level 10.
The black iron bar that bent and twisted created an ugly-shaped obstacle.
“Wh-What is that?”
Since Class 4 trained on a difficulty level of 6, The class 4 students watching couldn’t help but fear for Mark and Shirone.
“How the hell did this happen?! Why did the engine activate all of a sudden?!”
The instructors were in disarray.
It was not enough that the safety device was turned off, but the difficulty of the traps was also at its highest.
The advanced-class level obstacles had complex shapes and their speed was also very fast, so the risk of injury was extremely high.
“Damn it! Engine room!”
Thadd was the first to teleport to fly off to the engine room, while the rest of the instructors questioned what to do now.
“Headmaster, what should we do now? The promotion exam…”
The only students left were Shirone and Mark. They had come so far.
If the exam was interrupted while there was no clear winner, some people might speak ill of the academy.
In particular, since this was a promotion test, they would have to suffer pressure from many nobles.
‘This is not a simple promotion. Students who have already dropped out will insist on fairness as well.’
In that sense, the instructors’ questions were understandable, but Alpheas shouted in outrage.
“Are you all really asking that right now?! Halt the exam immediately and signal the participants to stop!”
Thadd, who came down to the ground with a boom from teleporting, frowned and headed towards the engine room.
“Whoever it is, if I catch you…”
‘For the prestigious Alpheas Magic Academy to have an engine system malfunction… It’s probably a mistake done by staff.’
He roughly twisted the door to the engine room.
The door was locked.
Thinking that maybe this whole thing was not a mistake, his eyes turned hard.
“Oh, so you want a piece of me?”
While he held up his right hand that held a big fireball, he felt the inside of the room with his Spirit Zone.
Someone had their back against the iron door.
If he released his fireball like this, it would put that person in danger, so he first sent a warning.
“Open the door. Now. I’m going to cast Fire Strike. If you don’t open the door, you’ll die.”
“I don’t care. In fact, please do it.”
“You… Are you Maria?”
Although Thadd had never been her instructor, she had entered the academy while he was in the Advanced class.
“It is Maria, isn’t it? What are you doing? The promotion exam’s a mess. This has turned into a huge problem.”
“I’m sorry. I troubled everyone once again.”
“First, let’s talk face-to-face.”
“Mr. Thadd, am I going to be expelled? Will I go to jail?”
“No, Maria. I don’t know what your circumstances are, but I’ll listen.”
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“I don’t think I was thinking straight. I only came to my senses after I did everything. I must’ve gone mad. I’m sorry…”
“So open the door. I don’t want to use harsh methods.”
“But the thing is… I don’t want to live, Mr. Thadd. What should I do?”
Hearing Maria’s cry, Thadd quietly put out the flame in the palm of his hand.
He no longer thought of turning off the engine system to turn the promotion exam back to normal. He knew it was going to get canceled anyway and that the students would be fine.
What kind of a student was she?
A quiet, timid child whose name had never once appeared on any paperwork at the academy.
“All right, I understand.”
[Translator – Anwen]
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Thadd scratched his head and turned his back. He just leaned against the railing as if to say he didn’t want to think further.
“If you don’t want to come out, don’t.”
Maria did not answer.
However, the fact that he didn’t try to turn the handle and start yelling at her calmed her a little.
Amidst the silence, Thadd looked up at the sky.
‘Still the same.’
The blue sky of the Alpheas Magic Academy that he so hated during his academy life.
“You hate me, right?”
“Don’t you know? I don’t hate girls.”
“Why is the world so unfair?”
“Why? Cases where someone is born as pretty as you are rare. You’re not lacking in any way.”
“You, someone who’s called a genius mage, wouldn’t know what it means to have no talent. Even if I do my best, despair is always waiting for me ahead. It feels like anything I do just… goes down the drain. Nothing feels like it’s working, I can’t seem to do anything. Do you know what that feels like? Do you know how daunting that is?”
“…Of course. I know that feeling very much.”
Maria turned her head toward the iron door.
“I graduated when I was 22, so it’s already been four years since I’ve become an instructor. When you entered the academy, I must have been in the Advanced class. You know I’m a graduate from here, right?”
“Then do a bit of thinking. Have you ever heard of a student named Thadd attending this academy?”
Now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember a single time she heard his name during his time as a student.
Shirone was an outlier as he was the topic of the students’ gossip as soon as he entered the academy.
“And that makes perfect sense. My grades were low, I didn’t have any talent, and in addition to that, I wasn’t from a big, rich family. In fact, I used to always go start fights outside of the academy.”
“Yeah. It took me an average of two years to go up a class. Hell, when I got into the Advanced Class, it started taking me three. Though, I know things are a little different for you.”
Thadd continued while imagining Maria sulking.
“But aren’t our situations quite similar? Unless you are the best period, everyone is bound to fail or be defeated someday. The same principle applies to me. I had gotten into the Advanced Class, but I flunked my classes every time without fail.”
“How did I become who I am now? It’s all luck. Luck. I met a wicked mage who yelled and scolded me. You know, I convinced myself that I was doing my best, but compared to others, that ‘best’ was nothing. And struggling to defeat someone was something I got sick of. But one day, that same wicked mage, told me this…”
Thadd recalled that time.
“To dream of success while not having the courage to give up something in order to achieve it is arrogance.”
Maria kept silent, but a lot of thoughts were going through her head.
“Maria, you don’t need to compete. You don’t always have to win over someone. If you like magic, there you go. That’s all you need. There are people in this world who don’t wish to compete with anyone. Like me. While it may be a tougher path than the one most tread, you have the courage to take that path. It’s something you can do.”
‘Something I can do…’
“What kind of person was he? The mage that scolded you?”
“He’s someone you’re very familiar with. The headmaster of the Alpheas Magic Academy.”
“Really? The Headmaster?”
Thadd’s eyes dimmed at the memory.
“Yes. From that day on, I became his full-time student and received private tutoring. It was a great privilege. Well, thanks to that, my life worked out for the best. Doesn’t that explain why a dirtbag like me gets called a genius? It’s because I was taught by a man whose name is known all around the continent. How’s that? Jealous yet? Life is all about luck. Hahaha!”
Maria once again felt blue.
“So, what I’m really trying to say is, the world isn’t fair. Some people are born with talent while most aren’t. Some, whether it’s because they’re dim-witted or laid-back, jump into any competition. Some just work their butts off. But for someone like me who has no talent or anything like it for that matter, sometimes, very occasionally, a miracle happens. That’s why I find life worth living.”
Thadd rose from his seat and turned around.
“What do you think, Maria? Wouldn’t ending things here be a waste and an affront to the effort you put in to get this far? How about trying just a little bit more?”
Maria dug her face into her knees.
“What more are you saying I should do? That miracle you mentioned… I don’t even know if it will ever come… Like, what if it never comes? Then what would happen to me?”
“What are you saying, Maria?”
Thadd spoke with his hand against the iron door.
“The miracle you’re looking for? You’re looking right at it.”
Maria’s face scrunched up.
Perhaps those were the words she’d been hoping to hear her entire life. Warm tears dripped down her face.
“Can you trust me and try one more time? I’ll help you become an outstanding mage.”
“Really? You think I can do it?”
“Of course. Talent isn’t being good at something. It’s having the heart to love that something so much your body devotes every facet of its being into it. That heart makes everything possible. Maria, you’re an excellent student.”
Maria started sobbing.
She, who was pouring out her emotions, suddenly realized and opened the iron door.
“Mr. Thadd, quickly, the system…!”
“It’s already too late. When I got here, an Illumination magic flashed. The promotion exam is canceled.”
“The situation has gotten a little complicated, but I’ll take care of it.”
At that moment, a person suddenly appeared in front of them. It was Siena.
“Mr. Thadd! What in the world are you doing?”
She first glared daggers at him, but after seeing Maria, her face was full of shock.
“Why? The exam is already over. More than that, the person responsible for this incident…”
“It’s not over!”
“Both of them did not give up. I’m saying the competition is still ongoing!”
Was that even possible?
Level 10 of the Bridge That Cannot Be Crossed was a practice assignment for the Advanced Class.
Of course, it was not an assignment that those in the Advanced Class really worried about, but for the two who were in Class 7, completing it was nigh impossible.
Thadd, who grasped the magnitude of the situation, was about to turn to the engine room, but a flash caused by Spatial Warp turned up near them.
Ethella rushed over.
“Instructors! Something big happened!”
Seeing her pale face, Siena asked while trying to hide her anxiety.
“Shirone, Shirone is…!”
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