Everyone’s eyes flit between Leon and the unconscious Gaius. Their looks were complex when they turned to Leon. Some were disapproving, stemming from attacking Gaius when he was on the ground. Others were slightly fearful, and understandably so, given the implication of Leon having such an overwhelming killing intent. Even some of the fifth-tier knights present didn’t have a killing aura that was so potent! Leon had obviously experienced battle before and had seen a fair amount of death to have a killing intent like that.
A few of the nobles, like Marcus, Alcander, Asiya, and Valeria, looked at him with curiosity more than anything. Leon didn’t speak much and clearly wanted to be left alone, so they weren’t particularly concerned about him.
But, out of all the nobles who stared at him, none did so with the same mocking derision they had just a few minutes before. This was the value of strength. They might still believe themselves superior, but Leon had earned a modicum of respect today.
The same could not be said for Gaius. When the nobles turned their eyes back to his unconscious form, their looks were filled with pity and disgust. The former was from how quickly and brutally he had been crushed, and the latter from the brown foul-smelling stain on the back of his pants.
No one was more disgusted than the examiner overseeing the duels, who was checking Gaius for any permanent injuries. The damage Leon had done with the training weapon would wear off in a few hours, and he would then regain full functionality of his body. After he was sure Gaius was fine, the examiner gestured to a pair of his subordinates who were standing by the Legate to come over.
“Get him out of here. Leave him in the baths and get him a change of clothes. Bring him to the written test location after he wakes and cleans himself up.” The two men nodded and carried Gaius out by his arms and legs.
One of the Legate’s knights starting walking towards Leon, intending to admonish him for injuring a noble, but he was stopped by the Legate. He was certain Leon was a scion of House Raime, but given the circumstances it had fallen under, he wasn’t about to get involved. It had been rumored that Archduke Kyros had ascended to the eighth-tier just weeks before his assassination, and even if it wasn’t true, he was still the single most powerful mage in the entire kingdom. Someone who could not only kill him but his sons and his entire retinue as well was not someone the Legate wanted any involvement with.
‘He’s not of House Raime. He’s just an immigrant from the Northern Vales.’ The Legate just repeated this several times and turned his attention back to the test.
After the previous three duels, the remainder of the nobles fought quite unremarkably. No one paid any more attention than was polite, and the entire chamber had an air of tension in it. The duels started off magnificently with Marcus and Alcander, and only got better with Asiya and Valeria, but Leon had quite ruined the mood with his brutality.
When everyone was finished, the examiner led them outside and directly to a building just a few hundred feet away. Everyone was glad to be out of that training chamber and out in the warm afternoon sun, even if it was only for a moment. The building they were led to was just a boring administration building with little in the way of decoration, but it was the site for the written test.
The examiner pushed open the door and led everyone inside. To no one’s surprise, the building was just as boring and colorless on the inside as it was on the outside.
They were brought to a room which was filled with forty small cubicles. Within each was a table, an extremely comfortable chair, and a stack of papers. Each of the applicants were given a quill and ink and assigned a cubicle.
The test wasn’t long, but Leon was one of the last to finish. As he turned in both his scorecard and his test, the examiner told him the results would be posted in a week outside the main administration building of the Academy, and that he would receive further instructions then.
With all that done, Leon left. He had finished enrollment, and he was quite ready to leave this place. It had taken several hours, and he was starving. The thought of a late lunch at the burger place spurred him on, and he arrived in just a few minutes.
From outside, he could hear the sounds of raucous laughter and a very animated discussion, which made him frown. Having been surrounded by so many people all day and especially drawing attention to himself during the combat test had left him quite mentally exhausted. He didn’t want to deal with a loud environment. Were he not so hungry, and had he not arranged to meet Charles here, he would probably turn right around and return to the inn.
He took a deep breath, preparing himself as much as he could, then walked inside.
The place was extremely crowded, packed near wall-to-wall with celebrating applicants. The first and second-tier groups had finished their tests over half an hour before the third-tiers, and a good number of the commoners from those groups had made their way here afterward.
Leon almost froze at the door, as seeing over a hundred people in this small diner nearly made his heart stop. His eyes frantically scanned the room, finally seeing Charles sitting at a table with two others. Leon made his way over, squeezing through the crowd as best he could.
“Ah! Leon! You finally made it!” Charles exclaimed when Leon finally arrived. He rose and clapped Leon on the shoulder. Leon glared at him, and Charles hastily retracted his hand. Feeling a little awkward, Charles turned towards the others at his table.
One was a man of fairly average height, curly auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a handsome face. He had a slight build, but it was clear to Leon from his rough-looking knuckles that he was no stranger to fighting.
The other man was quite tall, about an inch or two more so than Leon, and was very muscular. His biceps were almost as big as Leon’s head, and not even the loose-fitting shirt he wore could hide his perfectly built chest and chiseled abs. His looks were otherwise unremarkable, with plain brown hair and eyes, but his youthful looks were contrasted with the stubble that covered his face.
“This is my friend I was telling you guys about, Leon Ursus.” The two men respectfully nodded to Leon but didn’t go any further than that. Even a blind man would be able to tell that Leon wasn’t comfortable in this crowded place, and he wasn’t exactly subtle in expressing his displeasure at Charles clapping him on the shoulder.
“Leon, this is Henry…” Charles pointed to the shorter man, “… and Alain.” He pointed to the taller man. Leon nodded to them but remained quiet. Charles, having spent over a month with Leon by now, wasn’t surprised in the least at Leon’s silence.
“Good to meet you, Leon. Charles told us how you showed him a few moves to help him through the combat test,” said Henry.
“Yeah, you really helped me out! I don’t think I would’ve passed if you hadn’t!” Charles was beaming, and Leon noticed he was almost shaking from excitement.
“Congratulations,” muttered Leon as he slid into the last empty seat at their table.
“So how did your test go? I’m sure the third-tier tests were very different compared to ours, right?” asked Charles with a lot of enthusiasm.
Leon thought back to the tests. The power test was rather uneventful, but when he thought about the combat test…
He sighed, and propped his arms up on the table, resting his head in his hands. “They went fine. Made a fool of myself though…”
“Well, at least you passed, right?” asked Alain. Leon nodded in response. “Good, then that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?”
Leon frowned, but he had to admit that Alain was right.
“Good! Then in a week, we’ll all be classmates at the Knight Academy!” shouted Charles, and the entire diner of successful applicants erupted into loud cheers and celebration.
Leon and Charles stayed there for almost another hour, but eventually decided it was time to leave. When they returned to the inn, Leon was exhausted from being around so many people all day and returned to his room. Charles, however, was still jittery from excitement and spent his time talking to Jeanne.
Leon had recovered a little when dinner time rolled around and met up with Charles.
“So, what should we do tomorrow?” asked Charles a little nervously. Leon had agreed to train him in order to pass the enrollment test, and now that the test was over, Charles wasn’t sure if they would continue.
Leon thought for a moment. There was something he wanted to do, but he was a little hesitant. Xaphan still needed those potion ingredients, so he wanted to go to the capital’s Heaven’s Eye Tower to try and find them, but now that he knew Elise was here too, he grew a little indecisive.
“There’s… some business I should take care of tomorrow…”
“Oh…” Charles was clearly disappointed, which Leon noticed. Charles hoped the training would continue, if only because it was something to do for the next week until they could move into the dorms of the Knight Academy. He barely had the money to eat, let alone do anything else.
“If you want, we could continue training over the next few days…” Leon offered.
“Of course!” Charles had already gained so much just from the past two weeks that he answered immediately.
“Ok. I’m sure this Heaven’s Eye thing tomorrow will take all day, so be sure to exercise and meditate.” Charles nodded in acknowledgment.
Dinner came and went, and Leon returned to his room to bury himself in his books. Charles meditated until Jeanne got off work, then spent the rest of the day with her.
Leon woke up a little early the next morning. He made sure to fully prepare himself for going to the Heaven’s Eye Tower, taking a long shower and dressing in some clean black clothing. He finished by meditating for half an hour.
[Well aren’t you just the cutest little thing, getting all dolled up like that,] Xaphan said mockingly.
[Screw you, demon.]
[Hehe, looking forward to meeting that Elise girl, aren’t you? She clearly wants to ride you, why don’t you just let her?]
Leon had no words to respond, but his face immediately grew bright red.
[Hmmm… ‘Elise Raime’. Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Hey, is there any way I could convince you to name your first-born after me?]
[No, no, you’re right, I shouldn’t be so presumptuous. After all, there’s no way a shy little cherry boy like you could ever get a girl like that.]
[Yeah, she probably wants a guy who is actually capable of talking to her without his face glowing brighter than me. But hey, you never know, maybe she’s into charity and might give you a pity fu-]
[I’M GOING THERE FOR YOUR DAMNED POTION! Maybe I shouldn’t bother, I can just as easily stay here and read instead.]
[All right, all right! You need to lighten up, kid, I was only playing around a little. Besides, there’s no guarantee she’ll even be there, right?]
Leon sighed. Xaphan was right about that last bit, at least, Elise might not actually be at the Tower.
[What was that sigh? Relief or disappointment at the idea?]
Leon grit his teeth in annoyance, but he had no answer for Xaphan. His heart was beating fast and his hands were shaking slightly, but it could just as easily be from anticipation than dread.
Regardless, he soon left his room and went to get some breakfast.
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