Chapter 76 – Leo (Part 1)
After tossing and turning in his bed for hours Leo had finally managed to get a couple of lackluster hours of sleep. He’d been anxious the entire day before, and now the night before his first real test where his life would be on the line had left him anxiously running a stream of non ending thoughts in his mind.
“Today I am finally going to put to use everything my grandpa taught me… My family has slowly declined after years… My grandpa was seemingly the only one in multiple generations that had shown any talent and worth and he taught me everything he could so that I could prove that our family name still has merit… Now I’ve finally earned my right to enter the Lumea Academy and undergo their 5 year exam.”
The Lumea Academy had once been heralded as one of the most important and renowned academies in the various cities. Now it held an esteemed position equal tantamount to raising royalty. It was the place where geniuses were born. It was the place that gave birth to the strong, the ones who protected the city and the ones with the power to leave it.
Those who entered were destined to carry on in the upper echelons of the human race, and those who excelled were destined to do what they wanted after they graduated. Whether it was to have a position of power and knowledge in the capitol or to explore the vast land and gain more power and fame. The Lumea Academy was the place to attain the power and knowledge necessary to bear these responsibilities.
Leo’s family had once held a position of high nobles, but over the generations their power had dwindled to near non existent due to the highest ranking members becoming greedy and lazy. Instead of understanding the law of the world, that only power could maintain position. They basked in their wealth, and earthly desires. Over time, having men like these lead their family had led to a decline in the family. A steep decline.
Leo’s grandfather was the first in years who had managed to gain some power and respect back for the family, he’d even managed to enter the Lumea Academy himself and once he’d graduated he chose to become an explorer for the city. It was a highly regarded position, as only those with power and courage dared to leave the barrier protecting the city and traverse the wilderness that now surrounded them.
The wild beasts, the tribes of monsters and the wandering elites in the wilderness were enough to stomp an average adult male like an ant without noticing what it had even done. The fear in the villagers of the outside world had led to the humans of the city splitting into two branches. Those that were weak and desired safety & those that were courageous and sought to grow stronger.
The weak chose a path of utility. Making themselves useful by either working towards growing crops for the city, creating useful tools or materials or other non valued but important positions. Although even among these jobs, there were still people to be respected. Those who could create highly useful weapons, new inventions, or commanded the masses or maintained public order were highly valued regardless of their lack of courage. After all maintaining a city required all sorts of talents.
The strong desired more knowledge and power, and regardless of the resources in the city. There was a limit to what could either be learned or acquired with limited land. They sought to expand the city, seek out other cities or even grow stronger by doing battle with the monsters of the land. Even so, their power was limited and in the end, the majority (even those with lofty ambitions) had to settle for protecting the city. These were the heroes of the people, the people acknowledged that without them, the city would be destroyed and the people could only slowly wither away.
After all, even with a barrier protecting the city, limited resources and with occasionally monsters or races being able to penetrate the barrier… The city could only rely on the strong to both protect them and help them prosper.
Humans inevitably regardless of their position…. Need hope. Hope that there is more to life, and that their future can grow brighter. Only this hope can allow them a happier and healthier mentality.
After waking up Leo didn’t do anything except lay in bed, still anxious… but excited!
This was a once in a life time opportunity for him, and he knew he had to do his best today. Today would be the beginning of a corner stone to his life. He knew that if he did well, he could prosper in the future but if he did poorly… His ambitions would be limited.. Even worse if he failed the exam… Failing the exam was almost more horrifying to Leo than dying during the exam!
The Lumea Academy took on new students every 5 years. There would be a preliminary exam in which 90 in 100 students failed. Those that remained would be allowed to move into the preliminary residences temporarily set up by the academy for a few days before taking the practical exam.
“I need to be prepared… Prepared to face even the strongest of beasts! I know we’ll have city guards with us… But if I have to rely on them to save me… That’s tantamount to failing!” Leo’s ambitions were not so lowly as to want to merely survive or pass the exam. Leo wanted to thrive! His goals were to stand above the rest so he could reclaim the past glory of his family…
“If I can do that… If I can stand at the top… Then I can repay my grandpa… I can make my parents proud, and I can finally leave.” his expression turned to one of longing as he stared off into space.
“C’mon Leo, I know you’re up. Get your ass up and let’s go get some grub”
Leo heard the gruff voice from outside his tent as he turned his head to look to the side. A 6 ft tall, thick as a giant guy with the most boyish looking face was standing there holding the flap to the tent half open.
Leo grinned at him throwing the half blanket off himself and waving him away “Give me a sec” as he pulled on his loose but fit leather pants and a black shirt. On top of his shirt he threw on a matching leather jacket which were his warrior clothing. Normally in the city people dressed in only three different ways.
They either wore simple linens which showed that a person worked doing menial labor or had a lowly position. It was also practical since these people would get their clothes dirty quite often due to their work or couldn’t afford better clothes. Even if they could, it would be a waste with their limited earnings.
Warriors wore steel or leather. Fabrics that would provide some resistance to physical damage or the elements. Although this was not always the case, it was the most common.
Those in higher positions of power or who focused were and were adept at using magic wore finer fabrics and robes. The robes served a practical purpose of cover most of the body. After all, even fi they could perform some sort of spell that involved the elements, they themselves weren’t immune to their own attacks. More over a lot of these robes were imbued with some sort of mana resistance, which was as effective in resisting magic as leather and steel were to physical damage.
Leo left the tent with his pack on his back. It held what few belongings he would need and still had. Even though most people from influential families gave their children a basic storage ring, no one was allowed to carry on during the examination. It was an academy rule.
Outside of the tent Leo looked around as the hustle and bustle of the street was in full swing. The section had been cornered off so that only the participants of the exam were still left but even then, there were thousands of participants on the street. Up ahead the city seemed to go on forever, no matter which road you took.
Standing to the side of the tent talking to some of the other applicants was the 6ft wide and stout giant of a boy who had called Leo. Leo smiled the moment he set eyes on him. They’d been best friends since early childhood and now they were taking the exam together, walking similar paths with similar goals. It gave Leo some comfort to know he’d have a friend if they both managed to pass today’s exam.
Leo was 15, while Marcos was a year older at 16. Neither of them were geniuses, but they were hard working. They’d both trained with the sword respectively since they were young and had been working to improve their mana control bit by bit.
Marcos noticed Leo and walked over as he waved towards the people he’d been speaking too. He was wearing similar warriors clothing to Leo, but unlike leo who was of average height and muscular but thin, Marcos looked almost barbaric due to his size. Despite his size though, Marcos was amiable. It was hard for him to meet someone who didn’t like him due to his boyish but hardworking personality. He gave the impression of a likable reliable guy.
“You were pretty quick! I just heard that our practical exam isn’t going to be so easy this time…” even as he said it, his usual smile had turned into a frown of concern.
“What do you mean? How do you by the way? I didn’t know they’d announced where we were going yet?” Leo looked at him skeptically. Marcos wasn’t the type to lie, but Leo didn’t believe gossip, especially when this sort of information wasn’t easily spread.
“One of the other kids man, his father is one of the city guards that’s going with one of the groups and his dad told him that this exam wasn’t going to be anywhere near the city. Everyone knows that means that there’s only so many places we *could* be going!” Marcos emphasized because if they weren’t going to simply be having the exam in the perimeter of the city… It didn’t matter where they were going, the amount of danger was clearly going to be higher.
Leo played it off, not wanting to show any concern in front of his friend “Yeah well, no point in worrying over nothing! We’re going to pass and that’s that!” as he smacked Marcos on the shoulder and started heading off towards one of the cheap food places nearby. Marcos shrugged it off and walked behind him. He knew that Leo was trying to seem less concerned than he was. Leo was the type to overthink the simplest of things.
Leo pondered the difficulty of the exam as he unintentionally balled his hands into fists. I need to pass. This is it, only one chance!