The First Special Exam: Prelude (1)
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The tranquil beams of the afternoon sun fell all over the campus, not too strong and not too weak. The colors of the fluttering grass and the towering buildings around me were their deepest today, unsuppressed by the sun's whims, and so was the dim shade over the worn-out bench in the furthest corner of the northern park on the campus.

I adjusted my blazer and sat next to Zachy Bird on the bench. He acknowledged me with a nod and continued looking at the well-trimmed leaves rustling in the cool afternoon breeze.

{Awkward...}

Shit, I know!

I coughed and tapped my feet on the ground, waiting for the person who called me here to begin. Soon enough, the annoying sounds of the leaves were interrupted by a voice more chilling than the breeze.

"Ralph," Zachy said. "Are you tricking us? Is it all an act?"

Skipping all questions and curiosity, he dived right into the heart of the matter. A sigh threatened to leave me as I narrowed my eyes and looked at my companion from the corner of my eyes.

Zachary Ainsworth.

He was important—no, he was crucial to my plans. Ranked 1st in the grade, he was the person who had come to trust me the most out of everyone in this school, the person I had the highest chances of using however I wanted.

Losing his cooperation would be the greatest loss that my sister could have inflicted on me. 

"Are you going to answer me?" Zachary said, his voice as distant as his gaze.

My mind rushed to think of different ways I could counter this. I still had no idea what kind of excuse Damian and Isabella were going to come up with, and there was no way to confirm if their excuse would still help me maintain things here.

The scion of an esteemed family, there wasn't little information on the Ainsworth family, and I wasn't savvy to a little either. Zachary Ainsworth had been subjected to a great amount of pressure and expectation since he ranked 1st in the entrance examinations. There was no doubt that he tried to keep his image up at all times. From using me to maintain a neutral rapport with the other students, to keeping the other top-ranked in his contacts and even maintaining his image in front of them.

He was a student concerned with his goals.

Goals I could use.

Even if the others were a problem, Zachary was someone I could pin down as I was now. To maintain his rank, an impossible feat for just him with the rising suspicions of the special exams, I could use his situation and force him into following my orders.

"Zacha—"

Before I could begin, Zachary turned his head toward me.

The gaze of my friend finally met my own.

"Zachy..." I said. "I am not tricking you...

"...Of course not."

***

The next morning came upon us without slowing down in consideration of my busy day at all. 

As I skipped through the well-paved brick path in the misty morning, I checked the messaging app on my watch. Despite multiple reminders, Damian didn't think of letting me know whatever in the world he and Isabella had come up with, feeding the flames of my uncertainty for class.

The towering structure of the awakener course's building came up in front of me, and I made my way up the empty stairs to class 1-A on the first floor. As I turned around the floor and toward the hallway leading the class, the thought of how absurd it was that no one from another grade had bumped into us even once.

As the heavy doors of the classroom opened, the pale curtains fluttering in the wind caught my eyes for a brief moment as they slowly backed away, paving way for Kristina's long, black hair to take the stage. With her face turned away and her crimson eyes staring out of the wide windows in the classroom, for a brief moment, I couldn't back away.

A sense of dissatisfaction filled me as the air draped the curtains again and I moved toward the back of the classroom. 

Twice.

Twice now, the repercussions of my sister's machinations had taken form in a way that left a staunchly bitter taste in my mouth.

"Morning," Kristina said when she noticed me.

"Morning."

I dropped my bag and plopped on my chair, crossing my legs and leaning against the rough wooden desk.

Just what was my sister thinking? 

Why?

Why did she do it?

To get revenge on me, there were hundreds of other ways to go about it. Then what was the reason that she went this far? I had no doubts about its effectiveness, but her actions still didn't have as great a result as they should have. Not many people were pointing their eyes of suspicion toward me, so what did she risk her image for? Her reputation as a driving force of the second years and a member of the student council, the effects weren't strong enough yet.

I wasn't annoyed enough yet.

Was this all to her plan?

While I was thinking of the situation surrounding me, the door to the class opened again and Mr. Claudio Alo stepped inside the classroom. As usual, we only gave him a nod. He, on the other hand, was staring at me, as if admonishing me for skipping yesterday with his eyes alone.

He hadn't stopped staring at me with a skeptical gaze when the other students slowly started to pour into the classroom. Zachy, Luke Reese, the other members of the top 10, Odis, Cauldron and Florris, the entire class was filled in no time and the first bell of the day rang.

Mr. Claudio pushed his hand on the table and stood up.

"Good morning, class," he said with a smirk. "Today, I have a special announcement to make."

The students all straightened their backs in alert as Mr. Claudio spoke up.

"In two weeks, you will have your first Special Exams."

 

Hello everyone, I hope you all are well!

I had to take another unexpected break to tend to the same medical emergency, but I believe everything is fine now and I am completely back. I am sorry for the long wait, but we're diving right back into the action!

I didn't completely waste this time either, I've been thinking of a new story to fit more into the verbose and descriptive style that many people like, unlike F-Ranked which is entertainment-focused and very fast-paced. Maybe if the sun is extra bright some day, I just might publish that other work too? 

See y'all soon, take care!

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