Being the last trimester, the students of the White Griffon academy weren\'t going to receive hidden report cards anymore.
They would be ranked according to their grades, letting everyone in the Kingdom know about their performance.
The royal decree that called off the third exam made many youths desperate.
Cooperation suddenly had no value.
Extra points had unexpectedly become more valuable than platinum, turning friend against friend and brother against sister.
Everyone would walk the extra mile trying to score as many as possible during the last two weeks, hoping to improve their ranking even if by just one position.
Classes and corridors turned into battlefields, following the principle that attack is the best form of defense.
During the practical lessons, sabotaging one own\'s neighbors was elevated to a form of art, while any student walking alone, no matter the time of the day, was bound to be attacked.
Lith barely noticed such inconveniences.
While performing the morning rounds for the Healer specialization, his only companions were the members of his group.
During the Magica Crystals classes, Professor Farg proved to have a frightening keen eye and a ruthless personality.
She beat the students at their own game.
As soon as she understood what was happening, anyone she caught not working on their gemstone without a good explanation would lose some points.
A couple of students attempted a coordinated attack.
One of them would ask for the Professor\'s help while the other used an almost invisible wind blow to shake their opponent\'s hands at a critical moment in the cutting process.
The result was for both being busted, losing twenty points each that were given to their victim as compensation.
No one dared to make a move against Lith during the Forgemaster lessons.
He had always been the teacher\'s pet, but since his visit to house Tanash, Professor Wanemyre had showered him with so much praise and attention that rumor spread the two of them were having an affair.
Unbeknownst to the public, Wanemyre was part of Linjos\'s inner circle, so she knew about the anti-mana toxin and had also been one of its victims.
Like many of her colleagues, she had believed her poor physical condition to be a consequence of Balkor\'s attack.
She was still grieving many friends and the long-lasting effects from the undead\'s venom only made her feel worse.
Wanemyre had suffered both personally and professionally, most of her latest creations were what she could only grade as cr*p.
After being cleansed from the anti-mana toxin, her magical prowess and Forgemastering skill returned.
Wanemyre knew it was all thanks to Lith.
Between the feeling of gratitude and the desire to find the ones that caused her so much suffering, even glaring at her favorite student was enough to make her deduct points.
Between lessons, things would get more up close and personal.
Lith being without a Ballot was public knowledge.
Several people were desperate and angry enough to give it a shot.
Forty clean fractures, twenty-four comminuted fractures, a dozen concussions, seven punctured lungs, and several ruptured spleens forced Linjos\'s hand to reveal the rankings ahead of schedule.
Much to the Headmaster\'s dismay, Lith had long stopped holding back, so his assailants were clogging the wards of the academy\'s hospital on a daily basis.
Be them Professors or medical staff, after learning how their patients received those injuries, the healers would just stabilize their conditions and give them the lowest priority, forcing them to waste almost a whole day in bed before administering them a sloppy treatment.
Enough to release them but not enough to allow them to perform well in their daily activities.
The Light magic department looked after their own and was capable of holding quite a grudge.
One week before the end of the last term, Lith was summoned in the Headmaster\'s office along with Friya and Yurial.
None of them had any idea about what was happening.
When they walked through the door, they found that Archmage Deirus and the Ernas couple were waiting for them together with Linjos.
A wave of the Headmaster\'s hand made three new chairs appear.
Yurial and Friya sat near their parents while Lith was alone.
He didn\'t like it one bit.
This is highly improper, Linjos. Lady Ernas said.
Where are Mage Lith\'s parents Shouldn\'t they be present too I don\'t know why you requested our presence, but it\'s easy to assume it must be important.
Lith and Archmage Deirus nodded in unison.
The reason why you are here is to make your children behave. Linjos explained.
Lith has proved himself to be reliable and discreet more than once.
His parents, however, due to their simple life in the countryside could be more of a liability than helpful.
No offense, Lith.
None taken. He replied while trying to read Linjos.
He seemed to be nervous, if not embarrassed.
Lith couldn\'t feel any hostility or bad news incoming, which made him even more curious.Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
The situation at hand requires confidentiality.
As you all know, the rankings are about to be disclosed.
To avoid information leaks, this time I had the Professors report directly to me.
Each student\'s grades have been converted into points, allowing to add them to the extra points gained during the daily evaluations and the exams\' results. Linjos handed them a piece of paper each.
It was a list of the students in ascending order according to their points value.
Lith was ranked first, with 19,481 points, Friya was second with 10,276 points and Yurial third with 9,742 points.
Phloria and Quylla were respectively sixteenth with 8,832 points and fourteenth with 9,156 points.
Lith could feel many eyes on him.
Jirni, Yurial, and Friya were grinning, while Orion and Archmage Deirus had their mouths almost touching the floor from the surprise.
Being second place is not that bad. Friya said.
I don\'t get it why Lith has almost doubled my score, though.
I know he performed better than me, but this much Does the ranking include the spell he shared
No... Linjos shook his head.
but it does take into account his contribution as medical staff during the plague and… the most recent events.
Every meritorious act a student performs gets properly rewarded.
Based on his academic results only, Lith\'s score would be 12,235 points.
Friya felt a tinge of envy ruining her moment and so did Yurial.
They had hoped the gap was due to Lith\'s services to the Kingdom and the academy rather than skill.
Two thousand points were an abyss compared to how close the rest of the scores were.
It doesn\'t matter since no one will ever know. A snap of Linjos\'s fingers and the papers turned into dust.
I wouldn\'t have shown you any of it if I wasn\'t aware of your good relationship and of how you shared your previous grades.
To do what it must be done I need your cooperation.
This is what will get released to the public in about an hour.
Linjos\'s desk projected a hologram in the middle of the room, displaying the rankings.
There were only two differences with the previous one.
Lith\'s and Yurial\'s scores were swapped, turning the top three as following: 1) Yurial Deirus: 10,353 2) Friya Ernas: 10,276 3) Lith from Lutia: 10,125.
What does this mean Yurial and Friya blurted out, while Lith\'s eyes burned with mana out of anger before he understood what was happening.
Are you doing this for political reasons Lith asked.
Yes. Linjos nodded.
After the Griffon Kingdom went inches from a civil war that spread poison, corruption, and traitors deep inside even the most loyal institutions to the Crown, after Balkor, we cannot afford any more internal strife.
A grassroot commoner reaching the top spot in any academy is unheard of.
It would cause problems to any Headmaster, let alone someone like me that\'s already a controversial figure.
It would raise all the wrong questions and countless suspicions.
They would say that\'s just another ploy from the Queen to belittle the ancient noble families and turn the embers of the revolt into a fire once again.
This way, instead, we\'ll strengthen the Queen\'s new policies.
Lord Deirus\'s first place will make the new magical bloodlines happy, Lady Friya\'s second place so close to the first will make easier for the nobles to accept that you \'ranked\' third.
Do you have any questions
After being cleansed from the toxin, Linjos had regained his incarnate and strength, but he still appeared to be deadly tired.
He had deep set eyes, unable to hide the sadness that lied within his heart.
\'I never liked Lith much, but this is just bullsh*t.\' Linjos thought.
\'I became a Headmaster to change things for the better from the inside, not to be forced by politics to strip a student from their achievements just to please some old fogeys.
For every battle that I win, there are two more that I lose.\'
Does this mean that I\'ll lose my points Also, is there some prize for being first or second that the third doesn\'t get Being third was already bad for Lith\'s plans.
He had hoped to be in the lowest positions of the top ten.
\'The higher I get, the more trouble I will find.
I don\'t give a damn about being third, fifth or even twentieth, as long as I keep my points and prizes.
It\'s the only way I have to acquire magical equipment.\' Lith thought.
Of course you will not lose any point! Linjos raised his voice, outraged by the simple idea of it.
The total amount is unchanged, but only those present in this room will know the truth.
Whatever you need to exchange them for, will be presented as a gift from the Crown for your services.
As for the prizes, there is none.
The honor of being first it\'s its own prize, along with the glory and fame it entails.
Lith had a hard time repressing a scoff.
I\'m fine with this decision. Lith said.
Well, I\'m not! Yurial jumped off his chair, the pride for his achievement already fading away.
I wanted to be first, but not like this.
It\'s unfair as much as demeaning.
How can I watch myself in the mirror knowing that it\'s only a lie I refuse to be a puppet! Give the first place to Friya if she wants it and the second to Lith at least.
Linjos sighed deeply before answering.
Young man, this isn\'t a request.
It\'s an order from the Crown.
I\'m not asking for your permission.
I wouldn\'t have told you any of this if not for the fact that by knowing your respective grades you can easily discover the truth.
You have no idea how mathematically creative I had to get to fix the scores using only the third trimester points.
Someone inside the academy leaked all the report cards, otherwise I would have put Lith even lower and have this talk with him only.
House Ernas has no objection. Orion actually would have liked to say many things, but as a soldier, he knew that orders had to be followed not discussed.
He turned towards his wife, who winked at him with a smug expression.
\'She clearly knows what the little monster did to get all those points.
It must be something important if she isn\'t allowed to discuss it even with me.\'
Archmage Deirus was embarrassed by his son\'s behavior.
He could understand Yurial\'s outrage, he was the one that had taught him to never take shortcuts and only rely on hard work.
As the heir of House Deirus, though, he had to learn how to play ball, even when it was nasty.
House Deirus has no objection either. Velan Deirus clenched Yurial\'s shoulder, preventing him to say any more.
Excellent. Linjos replied.
Congratulations on your well-earned second place, Lady Friya.
Despite you went through a lot this year, your outstanding performance in dimensional magic and healer classes makes us all proud.
The Headmaster shook her hand, his words stabbed Yurial\'s heart deeply.
You are the best healer we have got since Manohar enrolled. Linjos shook Lith\'s hand too, handing him a pristine white pin the size of a button, shaped like a rampant white griffon with the number four etched on its surface.
The six great academies specialize in one element each.
Ours is light magic.
This pin identifies you like the top of the fourth year Healer specialization, the crown jewel of our institution.
No one can take such achievement away from you.
I can guarantee you that next year things will be different.
If you achieve again the first spot, you\'ll be allowed to keep it.
Lith nodded, storing the pin away and explaining to Linjos how he intended to invest most of his points.
There was something he had set his eyes on for a long time, but with the official ranking alone he wouldn\'t be able to afford it.
Don\'t let this ruse ruin your moment, young Deirus. The Headmaster shook Yurial\'s hand for last, giving him a pin identical to the one Lith received but made of gold instead of moonstone.
Your real score surpasses those of most students that ranked first in the past, it\'s something to be proud of.
All your Professors speak fondly of you and expect great things from you in the future.
Yurial smiled, while his hand clenched the gold pin so hard that it would have turned into a crumpled ball if not for its protective enchantment.
\'Who the heck cares about my score compared to the past This pin means nothing.
I would have never gotten such a score without Lith\'s and Quylla\'s private lessons.
Quylla deserves it much more than me.
Despite having only one specialization, she achieved an insane number of points.\'
Yurial\'s heart was reduced to shreds, all the insecurities that he had fought so hard to keep at bay overwhelmed him to the point that he could feel the weight of the tranquilizer flask in his pocket burning through his clothes, calling on him like a siren.