The sun shined bright giving a sliver of warmth to the people braving the peak winter coldness during the break of dawn in Calistran Kingdom.
It was the dawn of the 2nd Day of the 1st Month, 916. Based on the common law applied to most nations in Myr, all the people born within the year 900 would be legally judged as being 16 years old this year, even those born in the last day of 900.
Alter, having prepared everything needed for the entrance trial, left the orphanage alone with almost no sound so as to not wake anyone.
He was wearing a black turtleneck shirt with simple blue jeans and a backpack.
He didn't really need to convey any goodbyes nor bring any luggage since the day of admission, where they announce the students who passed, had approximately a week gap from the day of the trial, which was held today.
"Here goes." With the somewhat slim backpack, he closed the door and jogged towards the direction of the Institute.
The Frontline Institute for Soldiers, otherwise simply known as the Institute, was an institutional facility where they trained and taught people with the focus of military discipline, strategy, and combat competency.
With that said, its scope was not limited to only combat related classes as the students were also required to complete their compulsory general education including history, biology, math, physics, etc.
It was the most elite learning facility for its kind, even throughout the whole continent. That's why every year, the Institute specifically reserved several spots beforehand for the sake of diplomacy, letting several exchange students from neighboring countries learn within the Institute's environment.
Although still located within the hexagonal wall of Calistran Kingdom and contributed to it becoming the Kingdom of Learning, the Institute wasn't necessarily built within the capital city. With the reason that it's simply not possible.
With the size of almost half of Calistran Kingdom's capital, the Frontline Institute was an enclosed environment of its own, even within the wall. They had their own detainment facility, and the security of armed forces even rivalling those of royal palace around the premise. And rightly so, considering the effect they had on Calistran's international affair.
Most of other country's nobles or prestigious families would send their heirs and offsprings here for education before letting them inherit a certain amount of authority.
Of course, being a citizen of Calistran, Alter received the advantage of having the chance to try getting into the Institution for free. In exchange, the standard for admittance had been raised way higher than those with reserved seats.
'The nobles... The Langster Family's heir.' Alter's line of thought had inadvertently led him to one particular individual.
The Langsters were a prestigious family from the Republic of Fendria who had also donated enough to Calistran to reserve a seat in the Institute. Based on the most convenient timeline crafted within the ledger, the young heir should be the first one to be crossed off the list.
Previously, Alter's knowledge of him were only limited to his professional courtesy as a Bookman that required him to know many political figures and situations in general. But his contribution towards the downfall of The Archive in the future, no matter how minor, warrants a record within the red ledger.
'In 916, he should be in his second year...' Just as Alter tried to dig deeper into his plan as he jogged, he realized that he had reached the outer premise of the Frontline Institute.
A large wall of steel and concrete stood 50 meters high from the ground up, a passage point could be seen where a line of asphalt road from the direction of the city went through towards the inside of the wall. The man in uniforms standing outside the checkpoint with their firearms gave a contrasting colour to the surrounding greeneries around the area.
One of the man in uniforms raised his hand as Alter approached the checkpoint before the wall.
"Your identification please!" He said sternly.
As prepared, Alter took out the dog tag he was wearing on the neck and gave it to the soldier.
Receiving it, the soldier then passed it on to one of the guys in the back, getting him to go towards the outpost where the guy scanned the dog tag with a scanner connected to a computer.
After a while, the computer showed a record of data with a picture of Alter on the upper-left. Only after comparing it with the young man in front did the guy finally shouted towards the soldier from inside the outpost.
Hearing this the soldier who stood in front of Alter all this while finally sidestepped letting Alter to go past the checkpoint.
Alter gave a firm nod as he admired the dutiful soldier in front of him.
The dog tag was actually something he received roughly a month back as a reply to his application to join the entrance trial. It served as an identification for the examinee who, at that point in time had yet to be formally accepted as a student nor had any other form of clearance to enter the facility.
Alter took back his dog tag at the outpost, and just as he went pass it and stepped into the wall's passage, the guy who scanned his tag shouted at him from behind.
"Hey kid, don't you need the map to the rendezvous point for the trial!"
"Ah!" Alter finally realized how weird his situation was.
Since all you received for the trial was an identification tag, normally, most people would inquire in some way or another regarding the direction for the test area considering how large the place was.
However, since Alter was already way too familiar with the areas inside, he didn't consider this from a new examinee's standpoint.
He could only go back to the outpost with an awkward face as he asked for the direction to the test area. The good thing was that the soldier was not at all suspicious and only regarded it as him being nervous.
After a few minutes of walk, he reached the gathering point at 06:42 AM. The gathering point was actually one of the buildings for classes within the Institute. At this point, the surrounding area already resembled nothing like the wilderness, but instead, looked more like a normal campus hall within the city.
Even outside the campus gate, there was a bustling town/lifestyle center with shops, cafes, sports halls, and the like. The only difference is the people living in this place consist of a majority of students, a small number of workers, and an even smaller number of instructors.
As he approached the building entrance, a large number of people were already gathered and were standing around doing their own thing while waiting.
A few eyes were attracted towards him as the newcomer, but Alter just quietly walked towards an open pillar of the building's entrance and leaned his back as he crossed his arms, at which point most of the eyes already turned back to doing their own thing.
He quietly observed the crowd trying to locate if any members of the Shining Generation already arrived before him. It wasn't any hard since before long, a truly noticeable silver coloured long hair revealed itself from within the crowd of people.
"Oh, she's here already." Alter muttered.
It didn't seem like Anastasia had discovered him at that point in time since their distance were quite far from each other, not to mention that she was surrounded by a flock of men and women alike trying to start-up a conversation with her.
'Already the ice queen even before becoming a student here huh.' Alter was amused looking at The Young Head maintaining her silent while sometimes answering a question with the bare minimum answer.
As Alter was about to go back to finding the rest of the Shining Generation, he caught a figure in his line of sight with a surprise look on his face as he looked at Anastasia.
"Oh!" Another voice escaped Alter when he saw the man.
The man had a well chiseled figure matching even the current Alter with the difference of his being slightly bulkier overall. Quite frankly, almost no one from within the people gathered here could match Alter's fitness as he had carefully programmed his whole body for a whole year with the ideal training procedures, dietaries, and supplements combinations not yet discovered in the current times. But that man seemed to be one of the exceptions.
'Arthur Faulkes. Leader and strongest of the Shining Generation.' Alter voiced in his mind.
'But why is he surp... Ah!' As he was about to ponder the surprised expression on Arthur's face, Alter suddenly remembered something.
In one interview, Arthur had mentioned that the very first member of Shining Generation that he got acquainted with was Anastasia Silvergard since they had the chance to meet once before his time at the Institute.
'Hoo, so they already have a bit of history. Interesting...' Alter rubbed his chin as he supported his hand with the other.
'But seeing his surprise when he found The Head attending the trial, it seemed they haven't quite discussed each other's private lives.'
Alter hadn't forgotten the last favour that Anastasia had asked him after she briefed him on the mission...
Although matchmaking was not his area of expertise, it wouldn't stop him from trying his hardest to fulfill it, he still remembered The Head's sad expression as she consoled Nora who came in the room.
And after seeing Arthur's reaction, Alter felt that the road might not be as long as he'd thought.
For the most parts, he was a quiet and disciplined guy with a very high moral. He was very strict with himself and others with regards to the rules and the laws.
He was also someone who's always composed in any kinds of situation, allowing him to make cool-headed decisions even in times of danger. All these qualities added together pretty much made him the most exemplary student in this Institution for soldiers.
A brief moment after his slight surprise for finding Anastasia amongst the crowd, his facial expression went back to normal almost immediately with him turning around to find a place to sit.
'That kind of composure at that age, and that body... He truly is the perfect soldier.'
Even though all those qualities made him looked cold on the outside, Arthur was a good guy through and through. He was the type to help an elderly cross the road or carry their luggage whenever he saw one, all the while maintaining that cold facade.
Back in Alter's future, this cool and composed look was probably the number one reason for his huge fanbase.
The Hero of Calistran.
As Alter was observing Arthur, unbeknownst to him Anastasia was also observing him.
'He's the one from the library. The one who uncle Sid said could sense him.' Anastasia easily recognized him at first sight.
'He didn't look formidable... How could he discover uncle Sid when he's the same age as me.' Of course she knew better than to judge someone based on their appearance, but the way her uncle had praised Alter ever since that day made her quite vexed inside.
'...Well, no worries, I finally convinced grandfather to let me enter the Institute before making my decision on inheriting the position. Now that luck has brought us to the same place, I can just test his ability here and now!'
Just when Anastasia began stepping forward towards Alter's direction, a loud announcement from the building's speaker resounded at the entrance.
[Attention all examinees, since the gathering time is 07:15 AM sharp, any participants who have yet to reach the building will be automatically disqualified from the rest of the trial.]
The voice announced without emotion and continued.
[The rest of you who have gathered here are to proceed towards the third floor and enter the classroom with your name plastered on the door. The name list will also include the seating arrangement, so please be seated accordingly within 10 minutes. The written exam will begin shortly.]
after the announcement ended, everyone quickly went inside the building and walked up towards the third floor in a brisk pace, some were even running.
Seeing this, Anastasia had no choice but to postpone her interaction with Alter and followed the group inside.
Alter also followed inside, but his movement showed that he was in no hurry with a calm state of mind. His eyes still darted around until he saw another two members of the Shining Generation.
"The Twin Death..." What he saw was a pair of boy and girl pair of twin with tall, slim, and almost lanky figures.
The Twin Death were their given moniker in the future. The genius assassins that could kill anyone in the most ingenious of ways, sometimes leaving no trace of the victim's death to the people close to them until a few days later.
'Only found four.' Alter sighed, '...Although I'm sure the rest were already within these waves of people since there's no way they'd be eliminated in the trials ahead.'
Alter and the rest of the examinees quickly found their seats within the allotted time and went on to start their written exam at 07:30.
The test started at half past seven and finished at noon. It consists of the general studies like math, history & geography, biology & chemistry, and physics. Along with the Institute's specialized courses such as combat strategy and general weapon knowledge.
Alter breezed through all the tests as he was sure to pass. Although he was not confident enough to be getting the top scores on the written exam since he didn't cram for any of the tests, but since the standard of the exams' difficulty was fairly low for him, he could answer most of them based on his established knowledge alone.
The more unusual questions that he didn't know the answer to, he would directly skip past without even attempting to solve it. Most of these types of questions were those that rarely had any applications in real life except in its specific field of study.
"Finally done...!" Alter yawned as he stretched his upper body, causing the rest of the people in the class to look at him in either confusion or contempt.
It's not that he was the fastest, it was the fact that he seemed to bear no tensions whatsoever as he finished his paper. This was the case even for the previous subjects.
It was a normal reaction for the others to either become curious at him or thought that he didn't take the exam seriously.
After everyone finally hand in their last subject paper for the written exam, all of the examinees were given a brief moment of respite before going to their practical exam.
A very brief moment.
When the announcement came that they only had exactly 5 minutes of rest and another 5 minutes to assemble at the building's entrance. Many people quickly took out their lunches and ate quickly as they once again were made to walk through the flight of stairs. Some were even bringing their lunch to the bathroom before going to the entrance.
One had to realize that after the mental exhaustion of the written exam, the feeling of hunger was imminent. That, and coupled with the fact that the next phase of the trial, the practical exam, would be the most physically taxing activity for the day, the examinees realized that skipping on lunch would be the most fatal choice one could make.
In this aspect, Alter did felt slightly bad for the other, the fact that he'd known about this beforehand had given him a larger edge over the others pressure-wise.
He took his time going to the bathroom and walking down the stairs as he slowly ate the three pieces of energy bars he had prepared this morning.
Believe it or not, in this short 10 minutes 'rest', the pressure from the time limit that caused the examinees to rush to consume their rations were the bigger cause for concern than simply not consuming enough to recover your energy.
Aside from the added mental pressure caused by themselves because of the time limit, the rushed eating pace could potentially cause indigestion after the meal. Which was not something you'd want to have during the practical exam.
Some people like Anastasia, Arthur, and most likely the rest of the Shining Generation had realized this fact shortly after the announcement. That's why they chose to adjust their mental state as they eat their food slowly and walked towards the entrance.
Alter who noticed this could only smile wryly when he remembered his first time experiencing this part of the trial and compare himself to the current Shining Generation in front of him.
'Truly a group of geniuses... There's no way for normal people like me to compare to them.'
He thought as he chewed on the energy bar, walking slowly towards the entrance.
'When you experienced it the second time, it was quite clear that the instructors judged not only the individual exams but also every moments that we participated in this trial.'
After a while, Alter finally reached the front of the building. He was most definitely the last one to arrive at the scene, but almost nobody had the luxury to observe him or even turn their heads on him since they were too busy eating.
Almost, that is.
'Well, practical exam, here we go!' Alter stretched his arms upwards as he felt the warmth of the sun hitting him when he walked outside the building, further energizing him for the rest of the day.