Night Before the Exams
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[Mom: All the best kid, just relax and do your thing.]

[Ralph: Thanks, you too]

{Host? You too?}

“Oh fuck, delete delete!”

{It says seen. Deleting would be worse!}

I winced and backed out of the chat. The embarrassment of this moment was to be carried away by the cold evening wind marching in and out of my room.

I stretched my arms above my head and suppressed a yawn while staring out of the window. Many hologram windows were still open at my desk, the only mess in my almost empty room.

“All the others have strangely full rooms, huh?“

{Yours is bland.}

Having a conscious entity live in your head at all times was a weird experience. Most of the thoughts I would have kept in my head just naturally came out these days. I sometimes wondered if it would have been more convenient if the system could hear all my thoughts—

{Brrrrr. Brrrrr. Brrrrr.}

“What the fuck are you doing?”

{—What! Don’t tell me I acted like a bike out loud!}

I sometimes wondered if it would have been more convenient if this clown didn’t exist at all. 

Shaking my head, I pushed myself off the bed and went up to the desk on its side. The last few evening rays were slowly fading away, returning the room to the dark shade it wore. As I was closing off all the windows and shutting off the holo-pen on my desk, my watch rang. I answered the call and placed it on speaker.

“Holmes,” the voice I had gotten used to over the past few weeks said. “Work’s done, take em from me tomorrow.”

“Fast. Did you spend the whole day on it?” Once the desk was cleared out,  I moved back to the bed and fixed the sheets. “Shouldn’t you be studying, Remy?”

“Meh. Shouldn’t you?”

“Meh.”

“Alright then, by—”

The phone cut off before she finished her own sentence, as always, Remy marched to her own beat, maybe one off from her own beat. The sun had completely disappeared. I was about to go turn on the lights in my room when my watch buzzed again.

{Busy.}

“Sure is.“ With a shrug, I opened the messaging app and saw a text from Odis.

[Odis: Pool?]

[Ralph: Right now?]

[Odis: Yup.]

Well, why not? I was done studying anyway. I left the lights off and the windows open as I locked my room and rushed down the stairs of the first floor to the ground floor of the Green Wolves’ dormitory. 

Down the third door on the opposite side of the narrow passage that led to the reception and the lobby was a wide room shared between all years of the dormitory. Even the girls from the other side of the building came over here where the alumni from 20 years back had set up a bunch of indoor games.

Odis’ brown hair and round spectacles glimmered under the light as he leaned against a football table with his arms crossed. A cue stood next to him, also shining.

“Today is the day, Ralph. Be prepared to face my wrath!!“ Odis picked up the cue, spun around, and posed with the cue stretched out.

I ignored him and went to Jin Xuefeng at the pool table in the corner of the room. 

We skipped greetings and placed our hands behind our backs. Rock against Scissors, I won. 

“Sir Ralph, no using magic, alright?“ Jin said as I aimed my cue at the cue ball.

I adjusted my line of sight and aim and replied. “I am not that good, you know?“

“So it is possible!?“

“Of course…” The cue hit the cue ball. Clacks sounded from all over the board as two solids arced right into the pockets. “Who do you think I am?“

“Shouldn’t you be crediting your master here?“ Jin said. Odis too came up to the pool table with his eyes downcast and face redder than the evening sun I had just seen back in my room.

“When do you have to go, anyway? Or did she give you a break today?“

Being asked about Isabella had become a norm for me ever since I had told the others that I was learning under her tutelage. Even if they didn’t know her personally, the youngest and strongest magician in the world had a name that reached the deepest alleys of every city and town.

“I have an hour,” I said, missing the next shot. Jin took over the cue ball and aimed for the stripes next while Odis was still averting his eyes. 

{He’s even more embarrassing than me. I bet he wishes he had a physical body.}

He does.

For the next hour, we continued playing. Whenever we got tired or bored, we would switch over to table tennis and then come back to pool. Time soon passed away and even the last remnants of indigo had left the skies. We took our leaves without saying much, Odis went back to his room while Jin left to practice the art from his homeland. 

{Learning from that Red Witch has been really convenient, huh?}

“She’s teaching us exactly the stuff we needed.” There were still a few people walking around since it wasn’t so late, but the night streets of Agriche were stranded enough for me to openly talk with the system.

{Yes. I am sorry host}

I furrowed my eyebrows while making the turn that led to the Awakener course’s building. “What for?“

{I’m still unable to pull it off.}

“Don’t worry about it. We already made other preparations. Just keep trying until you can.“

{Got it…}

Heh. My furrowed eyebrows loosened up and my mouth threatened to curve into a smile. Seeing the system try to be useful was always pleasant. Wondering what new complaints Isabella will have about the entirety of existence, I walked into the building and made my way to her class.

***

Taking shade under the moonlit sky, on the roof of the Awakener course’s building stood two students. The girl rested her elbow on the railing as her beautiful black hair draped down them, dancing a slow dance in the soft wind. Her eyes narrowed and her lips curved into a beautiful smile as she stared at the black-haired boy giddily walking into the building.

“I wonder,” she said. “How he got the witch on his side.“

The blonde boy standing a hand away from her with his arms crossed followed the girl’s gaze. “He completely ruined all your plans… The Ralph Rubinstein I had heard of falls short against the one I see.“

“Now, now,” the girl waved her hand and said. “At least no one will call him an F-Ranked Leech anymore.“

At her words, he shifted his gaze back to her with a slight frown. “Rin, weren’t you the one who spread that in the first place?“

“Me? No! Of course not. Why would I ever have my cute little brother suffer like that? No, no, no, I only want him to be himself. I want him to stop acting and be free with his true self for the world to see and for me to see again. Yes, that’s all.“

A chill ran down the boy’s spine as he heard Rin go off on her own. Her words flowed out without hesitation or thought. Though he was scared, he was used to this behavior of his companion. Mustering some courage after a few seconds, he asked. “Then, who was it?“

“Who knows?“ Rin shrugged. “I am sure Ralph will take care of it.“

“Is that so…” The boy understood that pursuing the matter any further was of no use. “Your stunts ended with only your reputation falling. Will, you be alright?“

Rin’s ears perked at his words. She let go of the railing and turned to face the blonde boy. “Leone, are you worried about me?“ she asked. Before the boy could reply, a chuckle escaped her. Rin walked closer to Leone who tried to step back, but couldn’t. She lightly caressed his cheeks with her hands.

“I have everything planned out. You should worry about yourself. Go and study for tomorrow.“

Saying those words, Rin turned away from him and strutted out of the roof. Leone followed her back with his eyes until she closed the door behind herself. 

When she had gone completely out of sight, Leone walked up to the railing and rested his hands on them. A long sigh left the boy as he stared at the sky.

“I hate that bitch.“

*** 

The night, like every other, passed by, and a day unlike any other settled in for the students of Agriche. In the quiet classroom of class 1-A in the Awakener’s course, a single sound rang out.

“Start!“

The First Special Exams had begun.

 

 

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