Chapter 63: First Special Exams: Pre-Practical Phase (2)
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The bright yellow lights dimmed the place an exquisite shade, an executive shade, actually. The professionalism of the Portal Stations with their wide domed structures, beautifully textured walls, and finely laid out floorings did not diminish even though it was one that had been made inside and for the Academy. I, Kristina, and Mr. Claudio were the only ones who had reached the place with 35 minutes to spare.

I had the gigantic bag I had taken from Remy hanging from my shoulder with another bag filled with food and water in my hands. I had also stolen the first-aid kit from the station on my way inside, which thankfully, no one else had taken yet.

“You're well prepared,” Kristina said, eyeing me up and down. 

“And you're not prepared at all?“ She had nothing with her. No food, no water, no medications. What was she planning to do here?

“Don't need anything,” she turned her head away and looked at Mr. Claudio. I looked at him, gesturing at him to tell her what kind of mistake she was making, but Mr. Claudio could only shrug.

{Did stress get to her?}

My mind fluttered back to the last session I had with Isabella yesterday, she had called Kristina too and let us know what was 'expected' from us. Well, this was better for me.

I opened the bag in my hand and took out a bit of food, water, and some potions and bandages and placed them in the bag on my back. Then, I tossed the slightly emptier bag to Kristina. It hit her hand and was about to fall, but she caught it right on time. 

Kristina looked at the bag and pumped her eyebrows at me. 

“Don't need anything,” I said and turned my head away. Words of gratitude were wasted here. I heard a soft sigh as Kristina shook her head and put the bag on her shoulders.

Before long, Seraphina Exise and her gang walked in. Blaine Sothsfield's short hair bobbed as she narrowed her eyes at Kristina. 

{Bad blood? When?}

The wolf-girl and the elf smiled and tapped Blaine Sothsfield's back as if asking her to calm down. Seraphine Exise laughed as she saw her gang perform their antics. 

“It's about the rank, probably.“

Kristina ranked 5, while Blaine Sothsfield was 6th… I internally prayed Jin wouldn't be coming after me. He wasn't in my class, but still.

More and more people flooded the portal station one after another, almost everyone had changed and was carrying bags filled with different items. 

Ardreth Vallen, the rude bastard ranked 10th had a long halberd resting on his back with a reversed bright smile. His two cronies on the other hand looked pretty smug, the shorter one had a short sword and the thinner one a gun.

{What were their names again?}

“I don't know? Thug A and thug B?“

The two thugs and Ardreth Vallen snapped in my direction and scowled at once.

{Did they hear??}

“Nah…” I said, meeting their scowl with a bright smile and a cheerful wave, which only pissed them off more. “It's something much better, you see.”

The next, and probably the last ones to enter the room were Zachy, Leone, and Luke.

It was rather nice to see Zachy getting along with the other two in his rank. He realized it was his responsibility to do so as the top of the year. And the closer he got to them, the more information he could divulge toward me. A win-win situation.

“Look out, Zachary,” Luke said, extending his hand at him. “I'll be taking the first rank this time.“

Hey! Fuckers, you're supposed to get along!

“I'll look forward to what you can do,” Zachy answered.

“Ok, but, do you guys have to do this in front of my face?“

“”Since when were you here!?“”

It might have been my imagination, but Leone's eyes were moist.

I looked around the place once again. The atmosphere of the high-end portal station added to the anticipation and nervousness on everyone's faces, but it was also just bright enough to make their courage shine. 

Only thirty minutes were left from when Mr. Claudio said the exams will begin. No one misunderstood his intentions and everyone had come up to the place on time. 

“Alright,” Mr. Claudio clapped his hands and gestured at us to follow along. “Let's go to the venue.“

Mr. Claudio guided us through the portal station towards a gate deeper inside the place. The portal station inside the academy was connected only to places important to, and places directly under the control of the academy. There were around 10 others gates that did not have any permanent portals and could be hooked up to many different places. We were currently moving toward those very portals in deeper parts of the station.

Only class 1-A was in sight, maybe the other classes went ahead or will be coming behind after us, but I was sure that each class was going to get a different exam since the one-hour thing still stood. Maybe the same had happened in the test as well. I wondered how they would be judging the ranks and scoring us all when we reached the portal we were to take. Gate number 9.

“Don't worry,” Mr. Claudio said. “The exam won't begin right after you step in this time. Get in.“

The students all nodded at his words, some with nervous smiles, some with excitement. One after another, they walked through the portal.

My turn came up, I took in a deep breath and stepped through the portal.

The world around me changed.

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