Chapter 3: Entrance Ceremony
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Mahoro pulled on his black uniform decorated with trimmings, and he sighed in front of the mirror.
The lines of the jacket fit close to his body, with gold buttons running down the front. The slim trousers and black knee-high boots were also provided by the Academy, and with a black cape over the jacket, it became the full-dress uniform. Today was the entrance ceremony and it called for full-dress, but the look was similar to a military uniform and there was no one more unsuited in it than Mahoro.
“Ahh, we look like we’re playing dress up.”
Zach looked just as mismatched in his uniform as Mahoro, and he laughed as he let his cape flutter open. The black cape was lined on the inside in a deep crimson red, and a fleeting glimpse of it looked very sharp. It would mostly suit someone tall with a sturdy build, but it looked out of place on Mahoro and Zach who still looked younger than they were.
“I feel like we’d almost look better if we dressed up for a school arts festival.”
Mahoro let his shoulders slump in front of the mirror. There were bunk beds, two desks, and two wardrobes in the room that he shared with Zach, and the space was quite cramped filled with two sets of belongings. Mahoro envied the top cadets with their individual rooms.
“Mahoro, I’m sure they’ll suit us by the time we graduate!”
Zach gave a bright thumbs up.
Mahoro had spent all night talking with Zach, and they were now fast friends. He vowed that he would do his best at this academy with Zach, the first friend he had ever made.
The time for the entrance ceremony approached.
“—Shall we get going?” Mahoro asked.
“Sounds good, let’s go.”
They stepped out into the hallway, and they could see trails of cadets dressed in the same uniform heading towards the Auditorium. Yesterday after unpacking their luggage, Mahoro had explored the Accommodation Blocks and Main Building with Zach. It had been the final day of summer holiday, and at dusk, cadets in the years above started returning to the Blocks. As expected from a prestigious academy, everyone had looked talented and capable, and Mahoro became anxious when he saw them.
“Things are so inconvenient at the bottom of the pack,” Zach complained as he peeked at the pamphlet that he had brought with him just to be safe.
The Academy was a vertically structured society, and the new cadets had to follow the order of the rules set for them even to bathe. The other cadets could use the baths any time after 5 pm, but the new cadets could only use them after 8 pm. Lights out was at 10 pm, and it made every day a maddening rush. It was the same for the lounges and recreation rooms, and each year the cadets would receive additional freedoms.
“Everyone is gathering at the Auditorium.”
At the south side of the Main Building was the Auditorium, where the entrance ceremony was held, and it could accommodate all the cadets at the Academy. Mahoro had heard that there were currently eighty-seven cadets, not counting the Fourth Years who were participating in field training in the military. The number of candidates accepted changed every year, but this year the Academy had accepted thirty-two new cadets.
They passed through a hallway and entered the Auditorium. Mahoro looked around and gawked, stunned at the resplendent sight inside. Spectacular works of art of the Holy Mother painted the walls and ceiling, and an exquisite relief sculpture embellished the top part of the stage. And there was the Chapel, with ministers too, next to the Auditorium.
Incredible… Lord Sieg attended the entrance ceremony here too.
Mahoro was deeply moved. It was incredible that he could participate in the entrance ceremony for an academy with such honour and prestige and in an auditorium as beautiful this.
“What’s wrong? Mahoro, let’s go.”
Mahoro was captivated by different features around the Auditorium as Zach pulled him along.
Let me remember this sight for the rest of my life.
Feelings of gratitude welled up in Mahoro as he joined the queue for the new cadets.
The gothic-styled auditorium was built in a semi-circle fanning out from the stage. New cadets were seated on the ground floor, whilst cadets in the years above were seated on the first floor. Mahoro and Zach sat in the seats near the back of the ground floor. The seats gradually filled, and the chatter became louder. The older cadets were particularly amused watching the new cadets below them, and from time to time there would be bursts of laughter.
Mahoro was nervous, and his facial muscles stiffened.
Members of the instructor cadre and staff ascended the stage. That was when Mahoro felt like someone was watching him.
Mahoro turned bewilderedly to look around him. Had he just imagined things? He felt like someone was staring hard at him just now…
“Attention please, we will now commence the ceremony.”
A white-haired woman holding a microphone walked onto the stage from the wings. She appeared to be an instructor. Although her hair was white, her face appeared youthful. She wore a cloak like a sorcerer and a wide-brimmed hat on her head, and the moment she appeared, the cadets on the first floor cheered and whistled through their fingers. Mahoro wondered if she was a popular instructor. She waved at the cheering cadets with a smile and stopped at the centre of the stage. There she turned and threw a kiss towards the new cadets.
Mahoro watched her face and remembered where he had seen her before. She was one of the examiners. She had black hair at the time, but now it was white. Mahoro leaned forward in his seat, his curiosity drawn.
“Congratulations to our new cadets! I am the Commandant, Diana German Reed, and this is my celebration gift to you.”
Diana pulled out a wand from her cloak and wrote something in the air with it. A gust of wind blew through the Auditorium as a vortex of pink flower petals swirled over their heads. Mahoro sat in surprise and clutched a flower petal that had dropped into his hand. Where had all these flower petals come from? But this was what people called “magic.” The new cadets marvelled at the sight, and their eyes sparkled at their first magical encounter with high-level spells.
The House of German Reed was the line that controlled lightning magic, but with study and practice, sorcerers could use other types of magic like this.
Diana waved her wand again with a smile. The flower petals gathered near the top of the Auditorium, and one by one they turned into a flower blossom. Each blossom was a rose, and under the guidance of her staff, they deposited themselves into the breast pocket of each new cadet. She appeared young, but she was the Commandant in charge of the academy.
Zach jumped to his feet and clapped his hands in delight. Which reminded Mahoro, didn’t Zach say last night from the top bunk that he really looked forward to learning magic?
“The Commandant is known as one of the Four Sages in the kingdom, and she’s an incredible sorcerer!” Zach whispered to Mahoro, unable to contain his excitement. Mahoro smiled as Zach gazed adoringly at the rose in his breast pocket.
The entrance ceremony had commenced with this unexpected welcome, and words of encouragement continued from the cadre and aides-de-camp from the kingdom. An instructor who presided over the ceremony called out each of their names.
I feel someone… staring at me again…
Mahoro tried to focus on the stage, but the uneasy feeling bothered him and he let his eyes wander. The gaze seemed to stab him, and he couldn’t calm down. He dared to ask Zach, “Is someone watching us?” but he only received a blank stare in response.
“Next we have a representative from the corps of cadets, Noah St Johns, who will deliver the congratulatory address on behalf of the cadets in the years above.”
A tall young man stepped up to the lectern at the introduction.
Ohhh, what a beautiful person…
The young man—Noah stood at the centre of the stage and stole all the attention from new cadets. Mahoro wasn’t an exception as he gazed up at the young man almost enraptured. Noah was as beautiful as a sculpture displayed at an art museum, and he looked down at the new cadets from the lectern. Long, dark brown hair cascaded onto his shoulders as his eyes, like long slits of the bluest gemstones, shined quietly with light. There was no excess bulk on that long and well-proportioned body, and contrary to his beautiful face, he did not look weak or frail in the slightest.
The new cadets let out their breaths at once in the face of such incredible beauty. Noah held the papers with his address in hand and stared at the new cadets, as if he was searching for something. The moment his gaze met Mahoro’s, Noah widened his eyes as though he had found what it was, all whilst shock ran through Mahoro’s body like he had been struck by lightning, unable to move.
M-my body feels like it’s trembling. Did he perhaps use magic? I feel like he’s really glaring at me?
Noah stared at Mahoro so hard that it scared him. He had never met the person before; perhaps he just imagined everything, but Noah silently applied an even more intimidating pressure.
“Is he looking at me!?” Zach asked in a whisper, dancing in his seat. Mahoro smiled wryly, deciding yes, perhaps he should ascribe it to his imagination. In the first place, there was no reason for the corps of cadets representative to stare at him.
“I wonder what’s wrong?”
The cadets stirred restlessly as Noah continued to stand at the lectern silently. He finally released his gaze and took to the microphone as if nothing had happened.
“Congratulations, new cadets. Welcome to Loewen Military Academy.”
Noah gave an enchanting smile to the audience, and the cadets’ faces all softened as he charmed them with a smile that seemed to bloom like a flower.
“You are the chosen ones; for you possess magic conduits. Among the citizens of the kingdom, you are exceptional.”
Noah’s beautiful voice rang out across the Auditorium. He suddenly lowered his gaze to the lectern, and the new cadets watched spellbound, waiting for his words. They leaned forward in their seats wondering what would come next.
Noah crushed the papers he was holding with the address on it.
“…Every last one of you look like you have your guards down. Let me warn you, I’m going to crush you under my heel if you think you’re so special for being chosen here. I despise ugly things the most. I’ll root out every single rat who believes any of that nauseating noble doctrine. The end. That concludes my remarks.”
The new cadets all froze at the complete change in Noah’s voice. Mahoro could hear cheers and whistles from the section where the third-year cadets were sitting. Noah turned his beautiful smile into a disparaging one and left the lectern. Angry voices from the instructors yelled after him. Mahoro was left with his mouth hanging open at such a sudden transformation.
“W-What an unbelievable person…” Mahoro whispered, still feeling overwhelmed as the commotion from the new cadets grew louder. He had no doubt that the beautiful face he saw contained a monstrous fiend inside.
“I need to find out more about him!” Zach whispered excitedly. Apparently Zach did not mind that behind the beautiful face was something very frightening.
“Next we have a representative from the new cadets, Keyes Ainsworth.”
A young man sitting in the front row of seats stood when his name was called and took to the stage. According to Zach, he had the highest examination marks out of the new cadets. Mahoro received a shock when he saw his face. He was the one who had told Mahoro that he was in the way and pushed his suitcase. He was a tall young man with blond hair and blue eyes and apparently hailed from the House of Ainsworth. He delivered his formal response from the new cadets in a similarly imposing manner to Noah’s mad and ridiculous address.
Everyone except for himself had the appearance of someone bright and talented. Mahoro listened to the speech and hoped that by the time when he graduated that he would look the same way too.
The entrance ceremony ended, and the cadets filed out of the Auditorium en masse. The new cadets were scheduled to attend lectures following the ceremony. Mahoro was in Block D, which meant that he was in Class D. Similarly, Block A was Class A, and so the accommodation block and the class assigned to each cadet were linked together. He had heard that the classes were assigned by their academic marks.
Mahoro and Zach were heading to lectures with the other cadets when a young man stopped in front of them. It was Noah, the one who gave the congratulatory address earlier. Noah had already become famous among the new cadets, and everyone hurried out of his way. He stood there openly glaring with his arms crossed blocking the path, but Mahoro thought that he was talking to someone else and tried to walk around him; however, Noah grabbed him by the back of the neck.
“Huh!? What, me!?” Mahoro yelped, completely taken by surprise. Zach, who was with him, flushed red and yelled curiously after him, “Mahoro, what did you do!?”
“Yeah, you, pipsqueak.” Noah gave Mahoro a quick glance and dragged Mahoro with him as he stalked off. The cadets stared at Mahoro, wondering what happened, but no one came after them, scared off by Noah’s presence.
I hadn’t imagined things earlier! He was staring at me.
Mahoro didn’t know what was happening, his eyes darting in bewilderment as Noah led him away. He panicked, wondering if he had already done something wrong on his first day at the Academy, but he had never met this person before and he couldn’t understand why he would do this. Although Mahoro carried the House of Baldwin bloodline, he had never appeared at high-society functions or even family gatherings.
Noah wordlessly pulled Mahoro away from the areas trafficked with people. They left the grounds of the Main Building and headed to the gazebo in the courtyard of the Blocks. Noah checked to see that the place was empty before finally releasing Mahoro’s hand.
Noah stared at Mahoro like he was searching for something and examined his expression. Mahoro was angry that Noah had called him a “pipsqueak,” but there was nothing that he could do about it. Noah was over 40 centimetres taller than him.1
“Hey, jump for me,” Noah ordered, leaving no room to refuse him, and Mahoro let out a shriek as he cowered in on himself.
“Um, j-jump…? Why?” Mahoro asked nervously, afraid of his fierce stare, and Noah jutted his chin at him with a jerk.
“I ordered you to do it, so do it.”
From the tone of his voice, Noah was accustomed to ordering people around, and Mahoro meekly obeyed him and jumped.
“…That’s strange. There’s no sound.”
After Mahoro jumped a number of times, Noah crossed his arms and looked at him suspiciously. Mahoro suddenly hit upon a realisation and paled.
“Oh, this is a shake-down! Um, I don’t have any money!” Mahoro shouted without thinking, and Noah grabbed him by the lapels.
“Who’s shaking you down for money? Watch your words with me, or I’ll burn you into a crisp, you puny little hamster.”
He could never imagine that those words could come from such a beautiful face, and Mahoro hurried to apologise. This person’s face and personality were far too mismatched. Mahoro looked around hoping to find someone who might save him and saw a cadet running in their direction.
“Lord Noah! You must not be seen with a new cadet like that.”
The cadet who had intervened was a young man with glasses and sandy brown hair. His face was urgent as he pleaded with Noah, who still held onto Mahoro’s lapels. Noah clicked his tongue.
“Theo, huh. I didn’t call you here.”
Noah looked at the young man called Theo in annoyance, but he let go of Mahoro. He was saved. Mahoro pressed a hand to his chest, feeling relieved, but Noah turned back to look at him.
“You’re hiding a magic stone somewhere, aren’t you?”
Noah patted Mahoro’s uniform like he was checking for something.
Mahoro shook his head in confusion. “Magic stone…? Sorry, but I don’t have any…”
Was he referring to the black-coloured stone used at the examination? Why would he think that he would have one?
Noah doggedly searched Mahoro’s body. “So weird… There’s nothing. Why is it?”
After checking all the places, he finally seemed convinced that Mahoro really did not have one. Noah cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Sorry, it looks like I made a mistake. I’m sorry for doubting you. Will you forgive me?” Noah flashed a smile and fixed his gaze on Mahoro. Mahoro nodded, as if he was lured by the beautiful face in front of him.
Noah muttered, “White hamster, no brains.” He gave Mahoro a pat on the shoulder before turning and leaving. Theo ran after him, looking like he was saying something to Noah.
Mahoro stood there dazed as he watched them leave.
Huh? What? Wait… What did he…? What was that!?
The clock tower bell rang. Mahoro stood there alone in the gazebo for a while, not moving a muscle.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.