"If I say sit, you sit. You are a b*tch, so act like one. Otherwise I'll be forced to teach you how to play dead." Thunderous laughter followed. Most of the class was truly enjoying the moment.
Tista was on the verge of tears, but instead of falling apart she stood up again. Then, she slapped her tormentor hard enough to make the blond girl spin 180° before falling on a desk.
"How dare you!" The blond girl was about to retaliate when something stopped her. Her body froze like time had stopped.
'All according to plan.' Lith inwardly grinned. He had given Tista a Ballot beforehand and told her to not introduce herself with her family name but as a simple commoner instead.
He wanted her to experience the true academy, without the shield his presence would grant her.
'Tista needs to grow up, I can't protect her forever. That slap was a really good one. I'm proud of her.' He thought.
"Good morning, my dear students." He said with his best Nalear impression.
"I'm Assistant Professor Lith Verhen and I'll teach you Principles of Advanced Magic."
At his appearance all the girls ran back to their desks, each trying to emphasize her own charms and draw his attention. From what they knew, Lith was the same age as them and, more importantly, single.
Many of them had planned in advance how to approach him to reap the most benefits both during and after the academy.
The boys could only hate Lith's guts. Compared to him they seemed like scrawny dwarves.
"Before starting the class, I'd like to share with you some bad news and some even worse news." He said with an angelic smile while memorizing every face in the class.
"The bad news is that this girl's full name is actually Tista Verhen. She is my sister."
Lith's smile disappeared and his eyes flared with mana. A single wave of his hand was enough to use gravity magic on every student but Tista. It made their heads slam against the hardwood desks with enough strength to make them bleed.
"The even worse news is that she had a Ballot all along. I'm sure Headmaster Marth will have many things to discuss with both you and your parents." The lights in the classroom flickered. Lith's killing intent brought nightmares to life for each student every time the lights went off.
Some could have sworn they saw their own shadow stare back at them with glowing eyes and a smile entirely made of fangs.
"For those of you who will not be expelled, I can promise you this. We have a long, long year ahead of us. It will be full of blood, tears, and sweat. I'll make sure of it. In the meantime, minus 200 points to everyone but Tista."
Even from their prone position, some managed to object at the insane punishment.
"I didn't do anything! Why I'm getting punished too?" Some asked.
"You just answered your own question. You did nothing, hence you deserve nothing. Minus 100 more points to everyone for questioning my judgment." Lith cruelly smiled.
He sent the Ballot to the Headmaster before starting the actual lesson. One by one, those responsible for the hazing incident were summoned to Marth's office. Many never returned.
Months passed and it was finally time for the mock exam. Lith and Friya were watching the events unfold from the Surveillance Mirrors, ready to save the students in case something went wrong.
"How is Tista doing?" Friya asked. It was frustrating how despite living so close it was so hard for her to get in touch with Lith. He was always busy with either his magical research, helping Tista study, or chasing Manohar to force him doing his job.
Being the newbie, he had been entrusted with the worst job possible in the light magic department: being Manohar's assistant, warden, or nanny according to the circumstances.
"So far so good." He replied while his eyes moved from one mirror to another.
"Her grades are good and she has no friends. All according to plan."
"Plan? That's sick! How can you do that to your own sister?" Friya was outraged.
"I did nothing. Her classmates simply acted as I predicted and Tista makes her own decisions." Lith explained. "Or did you expect her to forgive and forget just because of some lame a*s apologies?"
"Actually, no." Friya suddenly felt stupid. She had watched the recording from Tista's Ballot. Every time she was teaching to the fourth year students, Friya treated them like the trash she believed they were.
"Me neither." Lith replied. "That's why I made sure her group was picked at random and placed in one of the worst spots of the forest, just like what happened to me. It's only under situations of real stress that people reevaluate themselves and show their true colors.
"It's how Phloria found me. I hope Tista gets lucky as I did." Friya could still hear a tinge of nostalgia in his voice when he said her name.
House Ernas, during the academy break after the first exam.
The family was reunited to celebrate Quylla's success. Despite having spent so long without practicing light magic, a few failures and a lot of effort was all it took for her to regain the ground she had lost.
During the fifth year, the nature of the first exam depended on the student's specialization.
In Quylla's case, she had to deal with the simulation of the outbreak of an unknown disease. The simulation involved the use of lab rats instead of humans. Each one was at a different stage of the infection and their death also meant the failure of the exam.
After everything she had gone through, the death of a few rats would leave her unfazed. While the others went into panic, she took control of the situation becoming the leader of her team.
She assigned a role to each member based on their strong points. The less talented healers were tasked with keeping the zone quarantined, preventing the infection from spreading to the healthy specimens.
Those with mediocre talent were to use their abilities to slow the progression of the disease while Quylla and the others studied the pathogen in search of a cure. Her team achieved the best score and Quylla had received many compliments for her presence of mind.
Aside from Phloria, the whole family was reunited for the event, even Guniyn and Tulion, Phloria's blood brothers. It was the first time in years that Orion had managed to bring his sons back home.
Not only had Quylla aced her exam, but she was also slowly regaining her health. She had friends again and even a boy she liked. Despite all that, Orion Ernas was so down that he spent most of the evening staring out of the window.
"What's wrong with you, dear?" Jirni was seriously worried about him. When Quylla had told them about the boy, Orion didn't grunt or object. He didn't even order a priority one background check on the little pest.
"I just miss my little Flower." He sighed.