Chapter 16: Vincent Noir
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5 people were walking slowly towards the huge administrative building towering over the whole 'academy town' located within the Institute premise.

The faces of the 2 siblings were filled with sense of wonder as they passed the beautiful arrangements of houses and buildings along with the cobblestone tiled ground under their feet. For a place built solely for the students, instructors, and staffs living inside, it was more crowded than what people normally imagined.

"A private town huh~ Why are there so many people when the new school year hasn't even started?" Jeanne asked curiously as she looked around.

"The new school year is close, most students are already finished with their holidays and have decided to come back. Plus, not everyone would choose to return home for winter break, what with how the Institute accomodates their life here." Alter explained.

Leo and Milly's ears twitched at the latter half of his sentence, but this time he quickly defused their incoming tantrums by once again promising to return during holidays.

For the local and non-influential students who got into the Institute through the Entrance Trial, aside from being exempted from their tuition fees, they would also be given enough allowances for their daily necessities. As long as they were not too wasteful with their spendings, it would even be enough to cover weekend outings with friends.

Still, unless you were of high social standing, or were provided by your countries in the case of non-locals, if one wanted to experience a more high-end lifestyle and entertainment here, they would have no other choice but to look for an additional source of income.

'Which reminds me, shouldn't Her Excellency be able to safely secure a seat through the Silvergard's connections?' Alter pondered a bit on this until he realized that Anastasia probably would never want to go down that route.

"It's still amazing even though this is the second time I came here." Another voice sounded from behind in an effort to join in the conversation. It was quite obvious that the person was not a usually talkative one.

"...So you're called Norn, Alter Norn?" The voice continued.

"Yes Mister Faulkes, but you can call me in the way most comfortable for you." Alter turned slightly at him and replied.

"Alter then, and you should as well." Arthur was mentioning the fact that he can also call him by his first name.

Alter only gave a slight nod as a response.

The first time Alter had introduced himself to the two, Jeanne seemed to want to say something when she had heard his last name. But without knowing what went through her head at that time, she had decided to hold herself back and kept quiet until they reached the living area of the Institute.

"You know, it's a good thing you came when you did! Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to enter on my own!" Jeanne once again thanked Arthur for letting her tag along with him.

"Which reminds me, how are you 2 able to have your tags already?" She asked the thing that's been bugging her mind for some time.

Arthur waited for Alter to explain to her as he had been doing since earlier. But seeing that Alter stayed silent as he turned his head towards him, he understood that Alter seemed to want him to be the one explaining so he reluctantly opened his mouth.

"...I can't be sure, but it seemed me and Mister Norn will be placed in the same class. I also know of one other who had been given the tags early and she too will be in that class, so I can only assume that it's because of that?"

Arthur called him by his last name despite what he had said previously. Alter couldn't help but think that the current Arthur was really bad with conversations and gave a wry smile.

"Wow, what's up with that? Is that like a class for an elite group of people or something? ...So I didn't make it huh..." She seemed sad for a fraction of a second before she went back to her usual cheeriness.

'She's a really positive person.' Alter took note of this minute changes in expression and complimented her inwardly.

"But then you guys must really be strong, well, I know Alter is though." She commented.

"That's an understatement, you're talking with someone who is probably the first rank out of all examinees in the practical exam." This time Alter responded to her comment.

Jeanne was surprised at the revelation and quickly shoot a follow-up question, "You are!?"

"Not me." He gave a short reply.

Arthur's face tensed up when he heard Alter's word, which further prompted Jeanne's brain to look towards him.

"...There's no definitive proof that I..."

"Amazing! What's your score?" He was interrupted just as he tried to explain.

"...Anyway, Mister Norn, why are you coming here today? And where are we going?" He changed the subject before the questioning got more intense.

"? ...What do you mean?" Alter showed a curious expression as if the answer should've been obvious.

"Well, I came today because I wanted to look around the inside of the Institute in more detail, seeing that I was given the chance to enter early. But we seem to have been walking towards a specific destination? " He explained his purpose to Alter.

"..."

"Have you read everything inside the booklet?" Alter asked.

"Yes?"

"Then have you tried to think why you were given the tags early?"

"...Hm." Upon realization, Arthur didn't bother to ask another question as he was sure that Alter would show him the answer soon enough.

***

Before long, the group reached the towering white bulding at the center where they stood in front of the entrance. It was the main administrative building within the Institute.

The automatic glass doors slide to the side as they approached and Alter made a beeline directly towards the information center in the middle. The woman behind the circular table noticed immediately the group closing in on her and put on a professional smile as she greeted them.

"Welcome, how may I help you?" She inquired.

"Excuse me, how do one usually go about selecting their electives in here?" Alter asked politely. He didn't really know the procedure since he had never physically come here to pick classes before.

"You were quite late huh, are you the new 2nd years? Students can log into the Institute's network to select their elective courses. Usually the competitions for popular classes are fierce, since all classes have limited seats, the popular ones were usually filled by the end of the first day." She patiently explained.

Truthfully, she felt quite weird explaining all this during this time of the year since most people who asked questions like this usually appeared at the start of even-numbered semesters when the 1st years first got their chances to pick their electives.

But she didn't feel that she needed to probe all that much. The people in front of her were probably students with bad scores during their first semester such that they hadn't been given any elective classes quota for their second one.

"Should I help you log into our network from here and teach you the process?" She asked with a smile.

"No, um, we haven't been given our network account yet. There should also be a direct procedure right? Can you point us to the department that handles our schedules?" Alter explained patiently as he pulled his tags out to prevent unnecessary questioning.

"Eh? Ah, um, in that case you may take the elevator to the right up to the 8th floor, room number 810." The receptionist was quite flustered at the unexpected situation, but since the question was clear, she only directed the group of people to the subsequent department that handled it.

Only after the group had left that she finally shot her coworker, the other receptionist, a questioning look.

"Hm? Those are the students of the new class program, they were given their tags early so they're technically qualified for elective classes. Didn't you attend yesterday's briefing?"

"Ah, I didn't come to work yesterday." She then looked towards the closing elevator with newfound curiosities.

'So those guys are geniuses...?'

.

"It's here." Alter mumbled.

The group quickly reached the room 810 of the administrative building and went inside. The inside looked like a normal office that was seperated by a long and tall reception desk, there were a few staffs working in front of their respective tables.

However, there was someone else who was seated in the waiting area on the corner across from them. One bearded old man could be seen sitting leisurely on the sofa with a hot cup of tea on the table.

The presence of the old man greatly jolted Alter's mind when he entered the room.

"That's..." he tried to recall the familiar looking old man from the memories of his past timeline.

'Vincent Noir!' He remembered the name of the old man, 'It's really him!'

Vincent Noir was a legend and a survivor from the previous warring period. He was a hero to his country and a demon to its enemies, wielding the power of a hundred-man to wreak havoc upon the battlefield. After the war had ended, he retired from the frontline and lived out the rest of his days in Calistran Kingdom, which during that time was one of the few countries not involved in the war.

Along with the conclusion of the war, his glory and infamy was slowly getting buried by the sands of time, but not his skills and experience. By the time this new era of peace and tranquility came around, he was simply known by most as one of the High Instructors of the Frontline Institute.

'Well, he is also one of the more obscure founders and current board members of the Institute.' Alter tried to recall the records of his life from what he had read up back in The Archive.

'What's he doing in this office in particular? Is he...' His thought was cut short when his eyes unexpectedly met with Vincent.

"Oho, if it isn't our new batch of fresh blood! And some very lovely children." He smiled pleasingly as he stroke his relatively short beard.

Arthur and Jeanne didn't expect the old man to initiate a conversation with them, and the two kids Milly and Leo seemed slightly frightened by the old man's face.

'So he really is waiting for the MYTH class students to come?' Alter guessed that he was probably trying to find out who among them would realize the greatest benefit that getting the tags early could provide.

"Are you going to personally handle our courses selection, Mister Noir sir?" Alter asked as politely as possible.

"...Hoo, somebody recognized me already? And it is none other than Mister Alter Norn no less." Vincent slowly stood up, showing his robust and well-developed figure even at his old age. Alter measured his height to be 2.09 meter with his eyes.

Jeanne and even Arthur was truly impressed when he saw the figure of the old man.

"Your reputation precedes you."

Alter gave a light bow as he replied, prompting Vincent to return with a respectful nod at his eloquent way of speech. He then proceeded to turn slightly and greeted the rest of the new students.

"Mister Arthur Faulkes, a pleasure to meet the record holder of the practical exam. And this miss is..." He contemplated for a bit as he tried to remember Jeanne's name.

"Right, Miss Jeanne Atkins. Truly a shame, truth be told I think that you were very close, so much so that if it were up to me, I think the results might've been different." He remembered every names that Luke had written to be the first batch of MYTH class, and although the top 9 within the list coincided with his own evaluations, some of the names from the full list of examinees were quite different from his own.

"Alas, I wouldn't undermine others' evaluations and judgement. Plus the door hasn't been entirely closed for good, so I hope you will do your best in the future."

"Uuhm, thanks?" Jeanne couldn't quite grasp what the old man was blabbering about so she just replied vaguely.

Arthur could somehow guessed what Vincent was talking about based on the way he looked towards him and Alter while he was speaking to Jeanne. But he chose to remain silent as he didn't understand the second half of his sentence.

Only Alter, who understood most of it showed a questioning look when he mentioned evaluations and judgement.

'Other's evaluations? So it's not entirely based on our total scores at the end?'

But as everything had already passed and he had successfully been accepted into the class, he kept his suspicions aside and waited for Vincent's next words.

"And this should be your brother and sister from the Norn Orphanage, what cute kids!" He exclaimed with a wide smile. But when he lowered his body slightly to observe the two of them, he discovered something that made him surprised.

"!"

'These kids... Their physiques are too well-developed for their age. And the development is so balanced!'

Ignoring the siblings who got more nervous the more they were stared at, Vincent kept his observation going for a few more seconds until he was interrupted by Alter.

"Is something the matter sir?" He asked with a slightly sharper tone.

Vincent turned his head to look at Alter suspiciously for a while but eventually shook his head.

"...apparently not." He straightened back his posture and continued.

"As per your question, I won't be handling your electives selection process personally but i can give you a few suggestion if you won't mind." He turned back into an amiable old man and answered Alter's initial question.

'Oh.' Alter showed an understanding expression.

"Thank you very much sir, but I have to decline seeing as I already made up my own decision on this subject. However, I will certainly look forward to your guidance in the future should the chance presents itself." Once again he gave a light bow to the legendary man in front and turned towards Arthur.

"By the way, Mister Faulkes, I think you'd do well to at least listen to Mister Noir's suggestions. After all, he IS one of the esteemed High Instructors within the Institute." He gave Arthur a light reminder before making his way towards one of the staffs working in the room.

Arthur once again showed a surprised expression, this time mixed with hints of respect, when he found out that the old man in front was one of the High Instructors.

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