70 Day One

Not even an hour had passed from the start of the mock exam, and Lith was already tired and vexed enough to seriously consider the idea of throwing in the towel and returning to the White Griffon.

His teammates were so embarrassed, that every time they opened their mouths to apologize, not a single word came out. No matter what came to their mind, it all sounded too little and too late, even to them.

First, they had ostracized him, then they had ignored all of his warnings until it was too late. He was the only reason why they hadn't been instantly wiped out, despite all their undeserved confidence and embarrassing performances.

The two that had previously lost control of their bladder, had a particularly hard time looking the others in the eyes, and could only thank the academy's Forgemasters for the self-cleaning uniform.

"I'm Visen De Brae." The first one to muster the courage to speak was the boy, once again holding out his hand. This time Lith shook it, but barely. His anger was still smoldering.

"I'm supposed to be… I mean I'm a Warden." He corrected himself, laughing nervously. Visen was a fifteen-year-old, 1.63 meters (5'4") tall with brown hair and chestnut eyes. He had a regular build and a small mole right under his left eye.

"As such, my specialty is a sturdy defense. Wardens can conjure several kinds of arrays with any element, we can even alter the landscape if needed.

"In time of war a Warden can easily build makeshift bridges and siege towers, we are the only defense an army has against War Mages. In times of peace, instead, our role is to build such things as dams, castles, and roads. Whatever the Kingdom needs. Let me show you."

Visen cast an unknown spell and placed his hands against a wall. Then he cast another, moving the stone pillars around and strengthening the whole structure.

"See? First, I checked the stability of the ground, then I fixed things so that the cave is now safe like a natural one." He kept smiling, hoping to have proven his worth.

Usually Lith would be impressed, even taking a mental note to check out Warden's spells. 

'A Warden that cannot even stop a Cingy despite seeing it coming from a mile away. What the f*ck do you have to smile about?'

Right now, it took all of his willpower to not strangle him on the spot, so he just nodded in response.

Then, the second person of the p*ssing duo stepped forward.

"My name is Milna Kratic, I'm a War Mage." She was fifteen too, 1.60 meters (5'3") tall with shoulder length black hair. She had a fully developed slender body, but her round face had too many childish features to call her beautiful. She was pretty at best.

"I know what a War Mage is. My mentor is one too." Lith cut her short.

She became red from rage, but managed to hold it in.

"I can shoot down a magical beast with a single spell." She continued with a stone-cold voice.

'You wish.' He sneered inwardly

"My name is Phloria Ernas, I am a Mage Knight." She was the tallest of the group, 1.76 meters (5'9") high, with chin length black hair and the build of a professional swimmer.

"My specialty is a defence as well, but unlike a Warden, my skills are better oriented at covering a smaller area or a single target. Mage Knights are also trained in the use of weapons." She said opening her robe and revealing an estoc hanging by her side.

"Hi there, and thanks. I'm Belia Ulphar. As a Battle Mage, I'm a jack of all trades, or at least I am supposed to be. According to my Professor, I should be able to hold my ground alone in every situation or to support any team member needing help.

"But considering my performance so far, either he is bad at teaching, or I'm a slow learner." She was 1.7 meters (5'7") high, with long blonde hair with shades of black held up in a pony tail.

Her honesty was refreshing for Lith, all the others were still kind of stuck up, flaunting their skill like it was actually worth something.

For a moment, he thought about lashing out at them, reminding them how useless they had been in an actual fight. But then he decided against it.

'Calm down, old man. Rage will not get us anywhere. Besides, it's likely that we are still being watched. They can lose as many points they like with their foolishness, but there is no reason for me to stoop down to their level.' He said to himself.

'Yeah, remember what Shakespeare said: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players".' Solus chimed in. 'Oh, another thing, this is what I think about the test….'

 While listening to Solus, Lith took a few deep breaths to regain his composure. He extended his hand to every member of the group. They shook it immediately.

"Okay, let's forget what happened before. Let me share with you what I think of the current situation." At those words, the other four stiffened up their expression, expecting a scolding or for Lith to brag about himself.

"First of all, never underestimate a magical beast. Their intelligence is almost at a human level, if you treat them as dumb beasts, you'll fail fast."

From the faces of his teammates, he could see that they were doubting his words, but they did not have the courage to say it openly.

"I fought several of them in the past. Some I killed, others I ran away from with my tail between my legs. It's not just them being smart. As you have seen yourselves, they can use magic in a different way, with much shorter casting time."

With all that had happened, they had missed that part. His explanation not only made perfect sense, but also sent shivers of fear down their spine. Making them feel even weaker and more insecure.

"I will not lie to you, if they weren't crippled by the inability to use more than two elements, I doubt I could ever defeat even one of them" Lith lied, belittling himself to make them realize the strength of their enemy.

"And to be completely honest, I believe that we would have already been wiped out, if it wasn't for the fact that they are just playing along with the Headmaster's plan."

"What do you mean?" Phloria quickly regained her cool, intrigued by Lith's words.

"Think about it." He said rephrasing what Solus had told him earlier.

"This is just a bigger and improved version of Professor Trasque's exercise on the second day. Didn't you find it odd that the magical beasts announced their presence before attacking? What sense does it make shrieking before swooping down?

"The Cingy had no reason to perform that quake, it could have softened the ground and made its charge as silent as a cat's steps. Also, why attack one by one, instead of all together? They are clearly playing their part according to a script."

Milna scratched her head, thinking at full gear.

"That's why the monster bird kidnapped me instead of biting my head off or ripping me apart with the talons. I thought it was just playing with me before going for the kill, but this does actually make more sense."

Lith nodded.

"No one would send unexperienced teenagers into a dangerous and uncontrolled environment. If they are so certain that they will be able to rescue us, it means they have some kind of deal with the creatures.

"But that doesn't mean we can't fail, or get severely injured. Otherwise why would they include a Healer? To last for a week, we need to pool our resources and skills. In my dimensional amulet I have some food, potions and my hunter kit. What about you?"

An awkward silence fell in the cave.

"No food?" He asked in disbelief.

"Well, the canteen is opened 24/7. I had no reason to store any." Phloria replied, keeping her head low, fiddling the ground with her foot.

"What about the potions?"

"Never bought one." Milna said. "They are cheap, but I can't waste my points in one-use items. I never got why they sell them, they are useless." The others nodded at her words.

Lith scratched his head, resisting the temptation to pull out his hair.

"Useless? How do you think I was able to cast so fast? To hit the Cron so hard that I forced it to release you, without breaking my arm?" He wanted to add more, but only swear words came to his mind.

"What the heck do you have in your dimensional items? Tell me at least there's something useful."

It turned out they were mostly employed for storing books, feminine products, and personal items like jewels, money, and family mementos. Visen even managed to surprise Lith with his properties.

"I only have school books and, uhm…" He whispered in Lith's ear. "…other kinds of books, you know, for research purposes. I can't have them lying around, so I always keep them with me. I can lend them to you if you need to relieve some stress."

Lith didn't know whether to laugh or cry, he hadn't heard that phrase since browsing online comics back on Earth. He took out a plate of freshly baked cookies, stress eating them to calm his nerves and hasten his mana recovery.

The delicious sugary smell of almond pastries and chocolate chips immediately drew everyone's attention. Lith shared them with a heavy heart, hiding behind his smile the wish for his teammates to choke on them and put him out of his misery.

The food managed to raise everyone's spirit, and when they ran out of cookies, they seemed refreshed and ready for action.

"I'll keep the rest of the food for emergencies. There is too many of us, my reserve won't last for seven days We need to hunt on a daily basis. Who has any experience with it?"

Phloria and Mirna both raised their hand.

"Good! Do you know how to use first magic to help you during a hunt?"

"No." Mirna said, shaking her head. "But I think I'm speaking for everyone when I say that we now understand how ill prepared we are for this task. For any task, to be honest. Lith, you are the only one that seems to have any idea of what we are doing.

"Do you want to be the team leader?"

Their gazes full of expectations made him want to puke, there could be only one possible answer.

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