Chapter 13: The Last Sprint
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Escaping from the encounter with the twins, Alter finally stopped only after 15 more minutes of moving around and covering his tracks.

He felt that he had made the right decision in taking Jack hostage rather than directly escaping while they were preoccupied with hunting Jeanne.

Back then, there were no available obstacles to hide in from his position to either exits. Taking everything into account, the chances of him escaping without getting noticed were barely as big as the chances of him getting spotted.

And if he were to be spotted while escaping, he wouldn't be in a good enough position to pressure them into letting him go.

Just like stealth, intimidation was a highly situational technique that depended on circumstances. Someone strong who was badly hurt or cornered could hardly intimidate anyone with his killing intent.

But most important of all, was the fact that everyone in this trial was still mostly normal people who had yet to receive their man-made abilities or awaken their natural ones.

Alter had been able to get by because of his experience, knowledge, and preparations that put him a head above the rest. But even then, he was still a normal human since his natural ability could barely help him in combat situations.

The case of someone being strong enough to beat their opponents while being outnumbered 5 to 1 or 10 to 1 in a direct gun fight was a fairy tale and not something possible given the situation. At least not yet.

'Should I lie low for a while until the last hour come?' Alter's thoughts led him to this conclusion.

His score was already within the range of other Shining Generation members currently. And while there were still around 2 and a half hours left in the exam, after knowing the twins scores he was quite convinced that even with the amount of time left, he could at least still get into the special class with his current score.

'Let's just camp here, if anyone come close, that'll be another point for me.'

Alter was currently standing in the middle of an even smaller open area than the last one. He had just finished 'specially designing' the surrounding areas to ensure his safety. It could very well be said that he was currently in the middle of his very own safe haven.

***

In a room full of monitors, Vincent couldn't help but be astonished. For a while now he'd been watching the screens almost without blinking as he stroke his beard once in a while.

Even the initially skeptical Luke was truly impressed by now. But different from Vincent, he needed to watch every other examinees for potentials so he couldn't continue watching the interesting ones for long.

"Incomprehensible... the examinees this year." Vincent mumbled.

"It's like they arrived just in time for the 'program'. How can this much talents gathered together in the same year?" Luke added.

The program they mentioned was a special tutelage program that had just been finished in time to be implemented this year. The main focus of the program was to allow the few highly gifted students that came by once every few years a chance to be under the direct tutelage of one of the Institute's High Instructors of his/her choosing.

The High Instructors within the Frontline Institute were a group of personages with skills at the top of their respective fields in the current time.

They were at the level of the strongest people in the world with power strong enough to be their own nuclear deterrent.

Through the power of their political connection with many different nations, the Institute was able to form collaborations with a couple of 'World's Strongest' from different backgrounds to serve as teachers in the Institute, giving them the highly respected title of High Instructor.

Needless to say, since they were of various different Nationalities, with some even having the position of general or commander general in their respective countries, not all of them could truly ally themselves with either Calistran or the Institute.

On the contrary, some of them were even there to scout promising young students to become their own countries' power if possible.

Though this was already a public secret, no one could do anything about it. The existence of the High Instructors was very beneficial to the Institute and Calistran as a whole, especially since for some nations, this arrangements were probably the last barrier preventing them from going on an all-out war against each other.

Even though the year 916 was a time of tranquility, the undercurrents of tension between different countries were always threatening to burst the delicate bubble known as 'peace'.

.

"The problem is..." Vincent was trying to voice out his only concern with the appearance of this number of talents he'd seen on the screens.

"Yeah." Luke nodded, "With this amount of people elligible to be the candidates for direct tutelage, we might need to change the format of the program a bit..."

He gave a long sigh before turning away from the monitor to look at Vincent.

"Sir Vincent, do you have any ideas?" He asked.

"Hm." Once again, Vincent stroke his beard with his hand to contemplate.

After a couple of seconds, he finally looked back at luke and asked, "Have you written down all the names and evaluations?"

"Extensively. There were about 30 or so examinees with great potentials, within which... 9 of them were real monsters." Luke shuddered a bit as he hand over a stack of hand-written papers to Vincent.

'These people... With their skills, they'll probably be stronger than most second years after just 3 to 4 months into their first year.' Despite the intimidating talents, he was quite excited to see the changes that will happen in the Institute because of them.

Even Vincent who was busy shuffling through Luke's notes couldn't help but anticipate these students' growth after they'd chosen their man-made ability during the first day of the school year.

"I'll make a copy of these real quick, right now why don't you instruct the rest of the supervisors and trial committee to pass this list of students no matter their results." Vincent ordered.

"What if they are eliminated before the end of the trial?" Luke asked.

"Doesn't matter." A brief reply was heard almost immediately.

Although he hadn't read through all of the names and evaluations, Vincent had confidence in Luke's judgement. Especially since the 9 examinees that Luke called 'monsters' also happened to be the people that he himself had marked personally.

He didn't doubt that if someone within the 30 or so names who Luke had judged as having 'great potential' were to be eliminated, it would be by the hand of one of the other 30.

All these names were raw gems with the potential to be within the top 10 graduates of their batch had they applied to enroll any other years. Vincent didn't want to fail them just because they eliminated each other.

"Roger that. Than what are you gonna do?" Luke asked once more.

"The current program's format is not designed to handle this amount of talents. I'll need to talk it out with the other board members to change it." Vincent waved his hand as he walked out without turning back.

As he opened the exit door, a gentle wind blew past him from the corridor outside and flipped some of the pages of the stack of papers in Vincent's hand. Because of it, the names at the top of the list were made visible for a brief moment.

Alter Norn
Male, 16
Traits: …
Evaluation: …

Arthur Faulkes
Male, 16
Traits: …
Evaluation: …

Without his knowledge, Alter's worry and struggle with maintaining just enough points to get into the same class as Anastasia while not attracting unneeded eyes to himself was already deemed unnecessary.

Because this moment marked the creation of the special class: 'MYTH'. And unlike what Alter thought, the requirements to get into the class was something that was determined outside of the practical exam's scoring system.

The scoring system was where the kill records of every examinees determined their acceptance and ranks at the beginning of the school year. They were tallied together by the numerous Institute's staffs and trial's supervisors constantly watching every examinees for points.

As for the new MYTH class students' candidates, they were choosen solely through the judging of Luke who had been tasked with finding exceptional talents from the start.

Even though at this point in time, the suggestion to create a new special class hadn't been raised, based on his and Vincent's conversation and what had happened in the previous future, at least this point wouldn't change much even in this second timeline.

Inside the room full of monitors, even after Vincent had left, Luke kept watching and rewatching the proceeding trial, double-checking his own evaluations in the process.

***

Back in the open area where the confrontation with the twins took place. Moments after they watched Alter disappeared without a trace, the siblings Jack and Renee still hadn't come to terms with what had happened.

Renee was looking in her brother's direction dumbfoundedly with widened eyes while Jack was almost going berserk hitting and kicking everything he laid his eyes on.

*STEP* *STEP* *STEP*

"?"

Only after she heard the sound of footsteps going away from her that she realized that Jeanne had took the chance to get away from them.

When she turned to look, her body was already gone into the dark tunnel in the pathway ahead.

"..." Renee went silent for a while.

*RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT*

"Argh!"

"Goddammit!! That cocky son of a..."

"Jack."

"!"

Jack was still in the middle of his cursing while firing his submachine guns in the air when he was interrupted by his sister's voice.

He immediately stopped what he's doing and turned towards her.

"Stop throwing tantrum and wasting bullets, it's unsightly." She stated.

Hearing her sister, he could only took a deep breath and let out a loud harrumph one last time before finally calming himself down. Even with his peculiar characters, his sister is the only one he would truly listen to.

Because they'd been together since they were born, he's the only one who knew what his sister was truly like. To him, his sister represented a different kind of fear from Alter's killing intent.

He walked towards Renee without being told to and asked, "Are we going to find him sis?"

"Are you stupid, someone like him would pass the trial 100% of the time. We need to focus on our scores." She replied.

"Dammit! This is humiliating!!" Jack kicked the ground in frustration.

"Don't worry, we'll meet him again when school starts. Plus, I have my plans for him, ufu~"

"ufufufufUfuFUfUFuFUFu~"

Jack saw his sister breaking into a smile as she tried to finish her sentence. The smile then turned into a contained laughter as she tried to hide her expressions with her hands in front of her mouth.

That facade was something Jack hadn't seen for a long time, the last time he saw that, he was the target of that laughter.

***

With the remaining time slowly passing by, the rate of the eliminated participants too was slowly reaching 50% of the original number.

The time remaining in the exam was: 1 hour.

At this time, Alter once again started to move after 1 and a half hour of idling.

During that time, he caught an unfortunate examinee that was advancing towards his position with his simple wiretraps that was spread across the multiple tunnels reaching his small open area, bringing his total score up to 11.

Alter got out of his open area through the hidden channel he'd previously prepared to escape in case of emergency and walked slowly towards the closest source of sound he could find.

'It's getting a lot more quieter now.' He mumbled inaudibly.

His plan was, again, to check the scores of the Shining Generation members. Although he vaguely remembered that the average points of the special class students for the practical exam was around  8 or 9, it wouldn't hurt to double-check just to be sure.

He walked aimlessly through the long tunnel with minimal lightings, he found out that even the number of sightings for giant pinkrat had decreased drastically compared to the first hours where he had hunted them almost exclusively.

'Did they hide because of the commotions caused by the examinees?'

Even though they were physically faster and sturdier than normal humans, they were also cowardly by nature. The most likely reason for their disappearance would be because of all the loud firings all around the mines.

'Either that or most of them has been exterminated by some of the examinees...' Alter started thinking quite deeply on the early talents possessed by the Shining Generation.

Without realizing, his road finally led him to a 4-way intersection each with lights dimmer than the others. However, just as he was about to step closer towards it, he suddenly sensed a mild killing intent directed his way.

"!"

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG*

It was soon followed by a few echoing sounds of shots. But because Alter had discovered the attack earlier, only one of the bullets managed to scratch his cheeks before he jumped back letting his body fall freely to the ground.

When his back almost reached the ground, he used his left palm to momentarily hold his body afloat as he pivoted into a crouching position and rolled sideways towards the winding tunnel on his side, barely getting out of sight from the shooter.

'What a blunder! I was too deep in thought to react to his presence in time!' He cursed himself in his mind but soon stopped as this was not the time to reflect.

.

"Tsk!" Arthur clicked his tongue when he realized that his shots had missed the target. He was kneeling in the shadow on the path directly across from Alter's after the intersection.

Anastasia who had been hiding behind one of the walls of the intersection perpendicular to Arthur and Alter's tunnel also realized that they'd missed the window for their preemptive strike and chose to attack once more while the element of surprise hadn't completely died out.

"I'm going in, cover for me!" She said to Arthur as she took up her assault rifle and ran towards Alter's side of the tunnel.

"Wait! Be careful!" Arthur soon followed after her when he saw her rushing in.

Anastasia's eyes and gun muzzle were pointed forward as she advanced when suddenly, a pistol was pointed at her head from the direction opposite of where Alter originally rolled towards.

"Don't move." Alter's voice resounded.

It was a point blank range for the pistol in the relatively narrow tunnel.

"Drop the gun!!" But before Alter could give out further instructions, soon another pair of pistols appeared from a few meters behind Anastasia and pointed themselves at him.

Alter reacted quickly and pulled the other Fenrir handgun from his rig with his left hand and pointed it sideways towards Arthur's direction without turning his body.

"You drop the gun." He looked sideways at Arthur.

Anastasia could only temporarily stop moving, her rifle still pointing towards the empty tunnel where Alter first came out of.

Beside her was Alter with his right hand holding a gun against her temple and his left holding another one pointed behind her. Over there, Arthur could be seen standing, ready to fire at Alter at any moments.

'Oh dear...'

The time remaining in the exam was: 44 minutes.

 

Sorry for the really late update! Didn't realize that the Chinese New Year would take this much of my time T_T

But hey, better late than never right! (ha ha...). Anyway, here's chapter 1/3 for this week, thanks for reading everyone!

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