Chapter 8.1: 13
The inside of the building was a spacious hall reminiscent of a smaller version of the one used for the Synthesis Ceremony. However, there were no chairs to sit on. So Akira and the rest of his group leaned against the wall of the cramped hall, waiting for the exam to begin. Looking around, Akira counted about 250 people standing around either talking among each other or quietly waiting.
“It’s stuffy in here. Da hell’s with this ‘mount of people? Ain’t the ‘cceptance rate of JNIM ‘bout fifty people a year?”
To his brother’s grumbling voice, Hiroshi brought his hand to his chin and scratched it as his eyes swept across the room.
“Yeah, this is rather strange. There’s no reason for so many people to be here. What’s going on?”
To be able to take the acceptance exam for JNIM, the Maestros were required to go through several pre-examinations. Several factors such as mana amount, Speculo abilities, magic spells, and the overall intelligence and resourcefulness of the Maestro were taken into account. While Speculo rank did play a little role in the decision process, any rank below A would not have a big impact on the decision; there were cases of some exceptional low ranking Maestros increasing in rank with each evolution they had gone through.
Of course, while Akira was hopeless in terms of ability, as an S-rank he was added into the acceptance list without a second thought.
“I’ve heard this year’s batch of Maestros was pretty amazing. Maybe that’s why there are so many people?” Akira chimed in, sounding unperturbed.
“Hey[Oi], are you[ya] gloating[gloatin’]?”
“Besides me! I mean, look at you three. All of you are A-ranks. A-ranks! It isn’t as rare as S-rank, but it’s still pretty rare. Not to mention, Akane, you have an MA Speculo on top!” Realizing how his words should’ve sounded to the others, Akira rushed to explain himself after receiving cold stares from all sides.
“That’s probably the reason,” Hiroshi confirmed Akira’s theory. “There’s been a larger amount of high ranks emerging this year, even excluding the two S-rankers.”
“Huh, so our generation’s just amazin’?” Shun asked his brother while wearing a smug smile. in response, Hiroshi simply rolled his eyes.
“Haaa… That’s oversimplified, but yes.”
“… What was that sigh for ya-”
“Hey! You two, it’s starting.”
Before Shun could start another argument, Akane cut him off early. Hearing her words, Akira, Hiroshi, and Shun looked towards the front and saw a woman wearing a suit. A curvaceous body in an hourglass shape. Golden hair flowed around a thin face adorned with a pair of stylish glasses, behind which lay her striking blue eyes. Walking over with an air of confidence, the woman attracted the gazes of most of the audience.
“Good morning, all of you! I am the administrator for today’s exam.” The woman spoke in a loud, clear voice. Hearing her, any people who had still been talking hushed themselves and turned towards her, entranced by her smooth words and alluring atmosphere. “We will begin the exam soon. Please form groups of at most four people during this time. Once half an hour is over, the contents of the exam will be revealed. If you fail to form groups, you will be removed from the exam and asked to exit the school grounds. That is all for now, please start.”
Once she finished talking, the room shuffled around as people started forming groups. Some people didn’t move at all and instead stayed put with their friends, but others who had come alone looked around for places to join in.
“Well, that’s perfect, innit? Were a group o’ four already.” Shun yawned, “Question is, what’s the exam goin’ ta be like? Why are groups needed?”
“I’ve heard it’s a practical exam and nothing else is known,” Akane responded. “Nothing about the exam’s ever been published, right Onii-chan?”