The area inside the Second Warzone Simulated Field were filled with echoes of gunfires. The time was currently 15:00, all the examinees got precisely 3 hours left till the end of their entrance trial.
Arthur was currently alone within the encirclement of 3 people pointing their rifles at him.
He had just finished eliminating a different group of 2 when another 3 people quietly encircle him during the heat of battle.
There's no use for idle conversations in their situation so as soon as their formations were made, they quickly got into their shooting positions and prepared to pull the trigger.
And yet, the first sound of gunfire didn't come from anyone within their group. No, it came from outside their encirclement.
When they realized that one of their friends staggered forward with a pair of white eyes and a blinking red lights on his shoulders, both of them couldn't help but to shift their attentions towards the position behind their downed friends.
Standing at the mouth of a tunnel, Anastasia held one of the remaining 2 at gunpoint.
As soon as their heads were turned and before they could react, a blunt sound was heard from behind them causing one more person to be eliminated by a strike to the back of the neck.
"You shouldn't have looked away." Arthur calmly announced.
In no time at all, the 3 people who initially held the advantage were eliminated.
"What's your current count?" Arthur asked.
"Including the 2 out of this 3-man group, I'm at 14. You should be at 15 right?"
"Yes. This team-up turned out quite well." He replied.
Anastasia could only nod at the statement, their speed pretty much doubled after they had moved together, and that's taking into account the fact that they needed to share points.
Along the way, Anastasia proposed a plan for Arthur to move by himself in the light while she herself worked in the shadow while casing the environment.
The formation worked pretty well. They had successfully intercepted every groups or individuals they'd encountered with the same arrangement.
"Truly a tactical genius." Arthur muttered.
"Stop saying nonsense and move. We can't stay in one place for too long." Anastasia coldly replied.
She was annoyed that Arthur could still casually call her a genius after witnessing her being surrounded and almost eliminated. She felt like she was being patronized.
"..." Arthur on the other hand truly meant what he said. Although he was quite certain that he was more capable than her combat-wise, he didn't think he could best her in battle strategy.
Plus he knew better that in an all-out war, almost every movement was strategized. If a plan was well executed, direct combat that counted on personal instinct would most likely never happened.
He could only shook his head as he continued to lead the way while Anastasia stayed in the shadow.
"Skillfully done. No wonder Her Excellency could become the second best in this practical exam back then... Turns out they'd teamed up with each other." Alter commented as he watched the two from a different direction.
During her first year in the Institute, Anastasia's result had actually been really average compared to the rest of the Shining Generation. She was certainly not the worst, but she was not the best either.
Of course it was not to be said that she wasn't at the top of the class.
All Shining Generation members were at the top within the special class, even the worst among them would still be counted as the top just because of the huge gap of ability between them and normal special class students.
Only, because of her results during that time, many people had said that her getting the overall second rank during the practical exam of the entrance trial was just a fluke.
Alter now concluded that the ranks were most likely because she teamed up with Arthur.
"The Head is the best at leading. Give her a team and even a bad one could win against the best." He mutterred.
Although the talent hadn't fully bloomed, the bud could already be seen by Alter.
Alter currently had 10 points because he met an unfortunate giant pinkrat on the way of following Anastasia and Arthur.
He was about to continue to follow them when a figure at the other side of a tunnel caught his attention.
The figure was turning left and right trying to make sure the area was clear without noticing Alter's eyes on the other end.
"That's..." Alter couldn't finish his words as a burst of memories flooded his mind for a moment.
The figure was that of a girl with shoulder-length black hair that were wavy at the tip. She was carrying a single assault rifle with 5 hand grenades hanging on her belt strap.
'She's taking the entrance trial this year? That means she's also a repeater like me?' Alter couldn't help but contemplate.
The girl named jeanne was a student of the Institute back in Alter's future. However, she was of the same batch of student as Alter was when he finally got accepted in his second try.
She was quite a high-achiever as she graduated within the top 10 of all students and top 3 within her class, nobody would think that she was a repeater when they saw her achievement.
"Her skills shouldn't allow her to fail a trial of this level... Unless!"
As Alter said, she shouldn't be at the level where she could fail this exam. And the span of 1 year for normal people would hardly create any drastic changes on someone's capability.
The highest possibility would be.
'If she encountered anyone from the Shining Generation.' He concluded.
The existence of the Shining Generation was no joke. Their skills and techniques were nothing short of a balance breaker even at this stage where they hadn't acquire their man-made ability.
What made the entrance trial of the year 916 very different was the fact that the result didn't truly reflect the actual skills of the examinees who had passed.
Someone of average skills who didn't encounter any of the Shining Generations might get the chance to pass while even the strongest prospect could easily be eliminated should they cross path with one of them.
No matter the content, usually the practical exam of the entrance trial would always contain a certain amount of luck in play for the participants. But never in the history of Calistran had there been one as unbalanced as the practical exam of the year 916.
Without realizing, Alter had started following Jeanne who walked through the same path as Anastasia and Arthur. Jeanne was a strong soldier and a good student, but for Alter, her existence was something more than a simple classmate.
~4th Day of the 12th Month, 923. Alternate Future~
Calistran Kingdom was at the height of war.
On a rocky terrain outside of Calistran, the hexagonal gigantic wall of the kingdom could be seen on the horizon.
In this place, hidden behind mountains of rocks, was a secret facility owned by the enemy forces of Calistran. Although the location was quite naturally hidden from outsiders, the current situation would call attention from any passerby within the vicinity.
*BOOM* *BOOM* *BOOM*
"Frontline squadron, RETREAT!"
It was a brutal battlefield.
Alter was a senior trainee of The Archive doing a reconnaissance mission on the war situation for the organization.
At least he was supposed to be.
He was currently ways away from the main battlefield, kneeling on the ground holding up the head of a wounded female soldier with his hands.
Although there was quite a distance between him and the main battlefield, the sound of deaths and firearms were still as vivid in his ears.
"WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT??" He screamed.
The woman only smiled lightly with no energy to move, she was losing a lot of blood as time went on.
"A soldier's duty is to protect the civilians." She answered jokingly.
"In what way am I a civilian!? Look carefully!" Alter was fully armed and wore a black combat suit symbolic of a trainee of The Archive.
He was angry.
Because of his inexperience, during one of his reconnaissance, he caught himself being targeted by both the enemy soldiers and Calistran soldiers alike. He almost lost his life during the crossfire when one female soldier suddenly broke away from her ranks and...
"I know, Alter... Norn, *COUGH* *COUGH*!!" She still put on a smile with her worsening condition.
"!!" Alter was surprised that a woman he seemingly just met knew his full name.
He waited for her to continue but she just closed her eyes and went silent.
She was silent for a good long while until she finally mustered enough strength to continue.
"You, took the name... *COUGH* You have a different name back then...!"
"Live on... Please. For Norn, for the sisters…"
"!" He widened his eyes.
"A, Are you... Were you...?" Alter was about to confirm if she were ever a part of the Norn Orphanage as a child.
But before the words could left his mouth, the woman in his hands was no longer awake.
Still in shock, Alter could only close her opened eyes with his hand as he laid her to rest.
After that whole ordeal, only through some information searching could Alter remember that she was a student of the same year as him during his time at the Institute.
More important than that was the fact that she used to live in the Norn Orphanage from the age of 2 until the age of 10. After which a certain family decided to adopt her despite the extreme reluctance on her part.
From the short conversation they had after she had saved his life, Alter figured that she had never known him even back when both of them used to live together in the same orphanage.
The Norn Orphanage was quite large. Not everyone would know everyone if they never played together, especially since they were all children growing up. It was really quite normal for her to not know Alter.
She probably only started to take note of him after he changed his last name to his current one. After the incident.
She risked her life for someone she barely knew just because they shared a home.
"...Once again I owe my life to the orphanage. Even when it exist no longer."
~2nd Day of the 1st Month, 916. Frontline Institute Entrance Trial~
All his life, Alter always wondered if he could ever be brave enough to sacrifice his life for his loved ones from the orphanage should the situations reversed itself.
The girl in front of him would save a stranger based on the fact that he was the last living remnant of her childhood home.
After a brief silence Alter could only shook his head. He had had half the mind to protect her just so she could pass this year's trial, but after further considerations he decided against it.
'I should have enough points to get into the special class right now considering I only have 5 points difference with the supposed rank 1.'
'I shouldn't risk changing the future unnecessarily by saving her here... This is not a matter of life and death, she will have a bright future even after failing here. I'll at least make sure of that.'
Alter firmed his decision after keeping in mind to make sure she wouldn't die needlessly in the war this time around. He already planned on doing so even if he hadn't discovered her here.
She was currently moving towards the same direction as Anastasia and Arthur, so Alter decided to increase his pace and overtake her without getting noticed since he too still needed to keep count of Arthur's or Anastasia's points.
Both of them were in a smaller open area of the mine cave and Alter was weaving through the boulders and obstacles along the perimeters soundlessly, trying to dive first into the pathway that jeanne was slowly moving towards.
Before Jeanne or even Alter reached the mouth of the pathway, a big bulky figure charged through from the adjecent pathway with a high speed and a loud sound.
It veered a little to the side as it reached the open area, and that slight movement caused a small cave-in to the entrance of the pathway that Alter and Jeanne was trying to go through.
After it stopped, both Alter and Jeanne could finally see the big figure more clearly.
It was a yellow medium-sized mining vehicle used primarily for drilling, there were quite a few of them laying around the whole warzone. But that's not where Alter's eyes were focusing at.
On the driver seat was a teenager with a lanky figure, he'd been giggling nonstop ever since he first rampaged around with the drill bit at the nose of the vehicle.
"HAHAHA! This is fun!" He laughed maniacally and looked towards Jeanne's direction. It seemed he hadn't discovered Alter's presence.
Alter clicked his tongue almost inaudibly.
'A troublesome guy arrived.'
It was the little brother of The Twin Death siblings. Jack Riezel.
Meaning there shouldn't be just one person who was blocking his path.