The Rebirth of the Hero’s Party’s Archmage chapter 34

Episode 34

“I will conclude the test now.”

As Professor Kyle flashed a faint smile, the teaching assistant beside him projected the rankings into the air using a magical device.

1. Logan & Lain Ludwick: 00:59.

2. Krista Worden & Rumlou Besley: 04:13.

……

……

……

Most of the teams that passed the test recorded times in the mid-20 to early-30 minutes.

The two teams that failed either ran out of magical power, failed to control the force of their magic and got caught in the aftermath, or were hit by summoned creatures three times or more, necessitating a retake of the test.

Not only the F-grade cadets forced to retake the test but also the E-grade cadets who were given the chance to retake the exam sighed despairingly.

“It’s over……”

“That’s unbelievable……”

Conversely, those who passed with a D grade or higher exchanged words of comfort and congratulations among themselves. Rumlou said,

“Thanks to the princess, I’m getting good grades…… Thank you……”

However, what was etched in Krista’s eyes was a fiery frustration and dismay…… It was something like anger.

‘Did I lose again?’

To the person who always blabbered about how fun magic was, I lost again? Since only the first place gets an S-grade, she would have to settle for an A-grade.

‘Why didn’t I think of collapsing the labyrinth? No, even if I did……’

Noticing Krista’s heated gaze, Professor Kyle let out a soft sigh.

“Still burning with competitive spirit…… A good attitude. Though the path you chase is fraught with thorny trails.”

The old saying goes that a quail will tear itself apart trying to follow a swan, but who knows? One day it might fly just as the swan does. For now, it might be better to offer some small consolation.

“Originally, S-grade was intended for only one team, but this test is unusual, so we will award it to two teams.”

“!!!”

“We paired Logan and Lain Ludwick based on entrance scores, which seems unfair in terms of equity.”

The other cadets nodded in agreement, thinking that made sense. There were no objections to Logan and Lain.

“Thus, to the 12th team who no one thought of, who brought down the labyrinth with unprecedented thought and action.”

There was no one muttering, “So we just had to demolish the labyrinth?” It wasn’t that simple.

What if there was even one summoned creature left alive inside the collapsed labyrinth?

It was impossible within the given time to use magic to clean up all the debris and find that summon.

“And to the two teams that ended the conventional options with impeccable judgment and magical prowess, both will be given S-grades.”

Lain smiled wryly, clapping hands crisply with Logan. Logan’s eyes shone with excitement.

“Truly remarkable, Your Highness!”

“It’s all thanks to you being here.”

While both received the same S-grade, Krista couldn’t smile at this moment. Unable to laugh, her only response was to clench her fists until they bled.

How humiliating, to be so overwhelmingly defeated in a fight she was sure she would win.

And humiliated by not objecting to this pity-filled decision…

“……”

Lain glanced at Krista, took a soft breath as if pondering something, then walked over to her.

“This makes us even on the first assignment, huh? You really have some skill.”

As if touched in a sore spot, Krista’s eyes, clasping her fists, shimmered with rage-sprung tears.

“Don’t come any closer!”

“……?”

“Do you think I can accept this outcome?”

“Why, you don’t like getting an S-grade?”

“Don’t mock me! Nobles of a Great House, magicians, should not receive pity! They must be regarded with something akin to reverence… And yet……!”

The feelings of humiliation, and anger that she could not express, spilled over, and tears flowed from her eyes.

Krista turned away from Lain, wiping away the tears that freely fell.

“Damn, to receive pity from the professor on the first test… It’s the worst. To think there’s no way worse, yet I feel like I might just die from it!”

Krista, at the young age of 16, had lived a life stained with pain and effort since she was six.

Far from enjoying a happy everyday life, everything for her was lost in defeat––since she had devoted her whole life to study.

She couldn’t rely on her family; she had to be the one her family and she herself could rely on. She was the only one who could carry this out.

She had lived such a life since she was six, without even the existence of a friend to share joy and sorrow. There was no place for such an existence in her life.

Perhaps that’s why she immersed herself in novels – through the worlds in books, through their protagonists, she could feel people.

Discarding everything, suppressing all emotions and desires, she finally reached this stage.

She climbed to the stage where they called her a prodigy of the century.

Unyielding, unbeaten, overwhelming, she did not allow her heart to be affected by anything, dedicating herself solely to her studies and progressing that tower––feeling like it had all come crashing down in a moment.

“Do you even like magic?”

The boy’s voice cut through her contemplations. He spoke with a faint chuckling voice, as if lost in long memories.

“I mean, I’ve always liked magic; from the very beginning. Of course, even now. It wasn’t naturally fun to memorize theories and solve problems, but…”

“Why are you telling me such a thing!”

“But you know, studying, despite the hardships and pains, made me realize I have value in me. I used to be nothing but empty-handed.”

The boy, looking at his palm, seemed about to shatter with his distant expression. The spring wind blew and shook the greenery of the mountains.

“I was so happy about it. So at some point, studying magic became fun for me. Haven’t you had such an experience?”

Krista closed her mouth.

The joy of achieving in magic… It would be a lie to say she never felt it. But she always whipped herself, not to indulge in those emotions. Fear of becoming dull or lax.

She didn’t have the luxury to feel such things.

“Did you get mad at the mention of enjoying magic earlier? If so, I’m sorry. But you see, even if studying was hard and painful, it gave me a sense of value. I was from nothing.”

The boy’s expression, focusing on his own palm, appeared almost to dissipate, fragile as if a strong wind could scatter it away. The spring breeze blew, stirring the fresh green leaves of the mountainside.

“It made me so happy, and at some point, I started to enjoy studying magic. Have you never had that experience?”

Krista shut her mouth tight.

The delight from magical accomplishments… claiming she never felt it would be a lie. Yet, she continually pushed herself not to succumb to such emotions, afraid to become dull or negligent.

She couldn’t afford to allow herself such leisure.

“Did you get angry when I talked about enjoying magic? Sorry if so. But you know, even in the midst of hardship and suffering, studying brought a sense of worth to me. I used to be nothing but a pauper.”

His gaze still on his palms, the boy’s expression seemed so ethereal, as if he might crumble at any moment. The spring wind blew, rustling the new greenery of the mountains.

“It was such a joy. And then, at some point, I truly began to enjoy studying magic. Haven’t you experienced that?”

“I wouldn’t say such irresponsible things to just anyone.”

Was she making fun of someone? In that moment, Krista furrowed her brows in consternation and turned around, but the red eyes that met hers were full of innocence.

“Aren’t you skilled enough to have fun and then some?”

There was no pretense in the words she had spoken up to now, only a genuine expression. A bright smile formed above that expression.

“Thanks to you, the first exam was enjoyable. Let’s compete again in the next one.”

That was it. As if to say the conversation was over, Reign turned her back without a hint of hesitation.

Why?

For what reason?

Watching her retreating figure, Krista felt her face burning red with heat.

Was it the embarrassment of receiving pity from a rival, or something else…? But she didn’t feel the gnawing resentment that would typically accompany such feelings.

“I can’t accept this! I refuse to accept such an outcome to the match!”

Driven by urgency, she yelled at the back of Reign’s head, making her startle and stop in her tracks.

“Don’t get cocky over a single win! I will absolutely crush you in this exam, flatten your nose flatter than modelling clay!”

With a roar akin to that of a lion, and with a hmph, Krista turned on her heel, having snorted disdainfully.

The commotion was so loud that, including Logan, all the other cadets blinked in surprise, watching the scene unfold in bewilderment.

Even Professor Kail was no exception.

‘The wonder of overwhelming talent truly is mysterious.’

Without intending to, those with talent naturally become leaders for the others.

As a stimulant.

As a wall that must be crossed.

And as a friend.

‘I certainly made the right choice accepting the position of Professor Delighten.’

Watching Reign tilt her head with a puzzled look at Krista’s outburst, Professor Kail smiled broadly.

‘For the next three years, I’ll be able to watch these students grow more closely than anyone else.’

Yes, the youth of these geniuses who will build the future of magic.

It’s going to be busy from now on.

It is our role to give them the chance to make the most of their youth, ensuring it is as valuable and fulfilling as possible. With a smile, Kail organized his paperwork.

“Those who need to retake the exam, please stay behind; the rest of you may board the school’s carriage and return to the academy.”

* * *

“Normally, during exam periods classes end by noon.”

“Really? Then after they finish, shall we go exercise?”

“Kekeke, sounds good.”

Thus, when we took the carriage back to the academy, we expected to be dismissed straight away…

But Professor Owen was waiting for us in the [Chunggang] classroom, a sinister smirk on his face as he piled a thick stack of documents on the teacher’s desk.

“Here we have an exam paper covering a total of 150 questions on mathematics & magic. Only those who complete it may return to the dormitories.”

“This is insane!”

“The look in your eyes screams, ‘why are you doing this cursed thing?’! Well, it’s because seeing those shit-eating grins on your faces is unbearably amusing. Now, march up here and take an exam paper without delay!”

The cadets, who lacked even the strength to be shocked, trudged up to the platform to take their papers, their eyes brimming with tears.

“Don’t even think about half-assing these questions, you monkey-like creatures. These scores will go straight into your written exam grades!”

“!!!”

“And one more thing, in 90 minutes, I will collect the exam papers. Any questions left unanswered will be marked zero!”

With that announcement, the sluggish movements of the cadets, who had been picking up their papers lethargically, suddenly became at least five times faster.

“My head… I can’t think straight…”

“How are we supposed to solve all this in time…!”

“If you mutter one more word, I’ll expel you on the spot!”

Reign arched an eyebrow, appearing amused.

‘So they’re conducting practical and written exams on the same day?’

The method was curious because it seemed designed to torture people. Despite the sheer volume of questions that now made every other concern in the world seem annoying.

1. Factorize the following expressions.

(1) x⁴ – y⁴

(2) 9x³ + 38y³

(3) x²y + xy² + x⁴y + xy⁴

2. If the polynomial x³ + ax – 16 is divisible by x² + 8x + b, then what are the values of a, b (assuming a, b are constants)?

3. Simplify the expression P = |a + 3| + |a – 2| when -4 ≤ a < 6.

4. Assume giving ‘binding’ and ‘explosive’ traits to Earth-element magic. Identify the runes to be used, and find the greatest common divisor of the polynomials applied to these two runes.

These were problems she had already solved thousands, if not millions of times before… And she had to solve them again? This wasn’t studying but rather resembled grueling labor.

“Bel Cidius.”

Therefore, she decided to use a shortcut. Or could it even be called a shortcut? Isn’t it just part of my own talent, after all? More importantly, she felt her head was a bit too tired to tackle the problems with full sincerity.

“Professor, may I submit my paper if I’ve completed it?”

About ten minutes had passed when Reign raised her hand, prompting Professor Owen to raise his eyebrows.

“You certainly solved them quickly with that monkey brain of yours. Of course, you may hand it in if you’re confident about your answers.”

As Reign stood up confidently, Krista, who had been clutching her head and frantically scribbling on question 128, scoffed.

“Hmph, you really are confident?! Truly? You think you can achieve a higher score than Krista Worden after rushing through it so hastily?”

“Can’t you even keep quiet during an exam, you piece of crap!”

“I’m, I’m sorry!”

After submitting her test paper and stepping out of the classroom, the usually noisy corridor was eerily silent, as not a single person had finished their exam yet.

‘Shall I exercise a bit before showering? Hmm, Logan is weak in theory…’

Click.

As she was about to leave the corridor, a door opened on the far side. Thinking she recognized the face, she glanced over.

“……?”

She was met with a gaze sharp with alarm, maybe even defensive. Beneath flaming red hair, eyes burning with an intensity hotter than fire glared back at her.

The confidence that no one could have possibly passed this test before her seemed to crack in her expression.

That was the first encounter with Lillian Carain, the girl considered to be the top post-grade student among the current Eight Major Schools.



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