Chapter 1.2: 16th Core Synthesis Ceremony
It’d been 5 hours since Hiroaki’s Core Synthesis.
So far, most of the remaining people had gotten their cores synthesized, but high rankers were rare. Overall there was 125 E rankers, 107 D rankers, 74 C rankers, 41 B rankers, 7 A rankers, and no S ranks.
But even then, each one’s Speculo looked impressive, of which all spanned across a wide variety of weapons from swords to bows, chains, gauntlets, and so on. Due to this great diversity, everyone in the hall continued to watch the ceremony with great enthusiasm. Many had started to play a game in which they’d guess what each recipient would obtain, thus making the gruelling hours seem like mere minutes. Akira and Akane also watched with interest as a pair of twins received a pair of gauntlets and a pair of leg armor, both ranked A. Until finally…
“Registrant number 356, thank you and please go down!”
“Akane, it’s nearly your turn.”
Akane’s complexion had worsened with each passing registrant, until she looked as if all her blood had drained from her body.
What am I going to do with this sister of mine? Without further ado, Akira put his hand on her head. Glaring at him, Akane pushed his hand off.
“Stop being an idiot. I told you not to worry, didn’t I?”
Akane stared forwards at the SIM.
Akira continued, “I know better than anyone else that you’ll be fine. You aren’t like me, you have proper circuits and a huge amount of mana. If there’s anyone with a 300% chance of succeeding, it’s you. I’m hopeless, but you aren’t. And even if its rank is low, you’ll definitely find a way to use it well. Definitely.”
To his relief, he saw that the childish glint was returning to her eyes. As she grinned to him, he returned a smile to her.
“…Sorry, I’ll be going now. Thanks for worrying”
As their talk concluded, the official called her name. “Registrant number 358, please proceed with the process.”
Getting up, Akane paused to say something.
“But you know, it does make me sad to hear you describing yourself like that.”
“It’s the truth, unfortunately,” Akira replied after a heavy sigh. “It’d be a miracle if I got anything above E.”
Although Akane felt a little disheartened at his words, she chose to say nothing more. She walked up to the SIM.
“Nishiyama Akane-san, please proceed with the process.”
“Yes,” she replied curtly.
Taking her glowing Core Container out, she held onto it for a moment, basking in its blue glow. After staring at it for a good minute, she placed it into the slot and put her palm in position. She glanced towards the official and received a short nod. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, sending mana into her palm.
The machine immediately started whirring. In just a matter of moments, it reached a level of blinding brightness. And a few seconds later, the machine’s light had already begun to die down. It split open.
Once the audience caught a glimpse of the contents, their spirits were roused. Inside the machine was a sleek blue and gold wand shaped like a stick.
“Almost 3 feet long,” Akane observed.
She was entranced by the gorgeous Speculo with two parts: a grip with lapis-blue leather criss-crossing around it, and a body of gold that protruded from one end of it. A small crystal ball glowed crimson at the far end of the wand.
She was awoken from her trance only by the voices of the audience.
“Oooooh! An MA Speculo! Do you know how rare that is?”
“This is my first time seeing one in real life!”
The official chimed in, “Great job! A Magic Amplifier type only has a one-in-twenty chance of appearing from A-ranks. Not only does it lessen the burden for spells like other Speculo, it’ll even boost their effectiveness. You’ll definitely be sought out by many organisations, but remember where you come from!”
She was about to grab hold of the wand, but the rehearsed speech made her put that hand to her gaping mouth instead.
But still, she didn’t pursue it and went for the wand again. Feeling its master’s touch, the jewel on the tip of the wand pulsed with a red light, before dying down.
She could already feel a change within herself. The mana that’d been like a thick mist spread throughout her body was now condensing at one area. She could feel its purity heightening. Overwhelmed with relief, she almost cried on the spot, but somehow held in her tears.
“Excellent. Now check its details and go,” reminded the official.
“Ah! Right, thank you.”
Overwhelmed by nervousness and, later, a flood of joy, Akane had nearly forgotten to learn her new partner’s name. She concentrated and recalled the wand into her body. Before leaving, she glanced at the small screen inside the SIM.
“ ‘Star – Nineteen’, as in the arcana? Interesting…”
Akane walked down and to her seat, where Akira sat with a wide grin on his face. The moment the girl sat down, he pinched her cheeks.
“I told you, didn’t I! You’d do well no matter what.”
“Thanks for earlier, now let go of my cheek!”
While he’d been laughing at his pouting sister, the official had finished his record-work.
“Last person! Registrant number 359.”
Standing up, he gave his sister a pat on the shoulder.
“I’ll be back soon.”
“You know it’s pointless.”
Leaving a somewhat depressed sister behind, he walked towards the machine. It was understandable why she felt hopeful, but there was no helping it.
“Hey wait, isn’t that Nishiyama from our school?”
He kept a neutral face, but his thoughts were in turmoil. It had turned out just as he’d feared: people from his school had recognized him. As the number of steps he took increased, so did the amount of murmuring he heard in the room. Seeing how far away he was from the machine caused him to curse himself for choosing a seat at the back of the room.
“Mana Paralysis? Isn’t that a one-in-a-million condition?”
Hearing the name of the accursed condition, he bit the corner of his lips. Strangers were sending him gazes filled with pity after talking to his classmates. Each such gaze was a knife stabbing into his heart. So what if he’d been born with a rare disease? Why did he deserve to endure the humiliation of constant pity? He felt an absolute loathing to the cruel fate that’d given him an unwanted gift he couldn’t get rid of.
“Please insert your Core Container.”
He snapped out of his thoughts; his feet had carried him all the way to the SIM. Following instructions, Akira put his container inside the slot and took a deep breath, before letting it out as a sigh. Although he couldn’t make out the faraway whispers, he had a feeling they were prophesying how the next few minutes of his life would play out.
“Place your hand on the indent please.”
Why am I even doing this? The only way I’d ever be remotely useful is if I got an MA Speculo like Akane did. As if that’s possible! Magicologists say the probability of a Mana Paralysis victim getting an MA Speculo is about one in a million. Tch… What kind of joke is this. My chances are one-in-a-million again? What did I ever do to deserve this…
With bitterness seeping into his mind, he stretched his hand to the indent.
The hall was lit up by a blinding azure light.
Before he’d even come in contact with it, the SIM had started pouring out a light so intense it made no difference if he had eyelids.
Before, he’d thought the light from other syntheses had been awe-inspiring, but none had blanketed the hall like his. Feeling pain from the sun that’d appeared in front of him, he raised his arms to shield his eyes. Only when he heard the robotic whir of the electro-magical wonder opening, did he take a peek at it.
It took his brain a whole 5 seconds to fully acknowledge the sight, and his jaw dropped when it did. It had a long, black barrel leading to a six round cylinder that was spinning by itself. Its grip was integrated with the main body and was of the same black material. Once the cylinder made a full rotation, the hammer automatically cocked itself with a satisfying click. In its black glass-like surface, Akira could clearly see his face and the audience behind.
It was a gorgeous revolver, and he felt dazed even though he’d recovered from the light. Only a fool would attempt to compare this elegant masterpiece to the crude Speculos that had appeared before it. He knew that no matter who he met, they would agree that it was simply a level above anything else. But that wasn’t the main reason for his shock. Besides it, on the screen…
…was a bold letter S.
A one-in-a-million chance.
Akira’s head emptied of thoughts as the hall erupted into chaos.