After a turbulent day off, we returned to the school and exams awaited us.
It was the mid-term exams. We had to answer a hundred questions about the Mitoan language, the Mitoan culture and decipher texts that we had learnt so far after class.
It was Spartan of them to make us do this during class time and after school.
Each question was worth one point and no partial points were given. Students who failed to score more than 50 points had their names shamefully posted on the bulletin board and were required to do a follow-up exam later.
But the exam wasn’t difficult as long as you took classes seriously and did your homework every day.
Recently, my bullying has stopped, and I had nothing to be afraid of as I was able to work hard on my studies.
The results came out a week later.
“Now, let’s do it. One, two, three!”
Clifford and I showed each other our test papers at the same time in a classroom right after class.
Clifford’s face immediately distorted, “Dammit.”
His test paper had a single circle on it while mine, on the other hand, had nothing.
The circle didn’t mean the answer was ‘correct’ it meant that the answer ‘was wrong, so double check it’.
The total written down on his test paper was 99 while mine said 100.
“I won this time.”
“Tsk… I’ll win next time!”
Clifford crumpled his test paper and vowed.
Hmm, I won’t be careless next time either. It was great having someone compete seriously with me since it brought out my competitive side. But sometimes being too serious can be scary.
“You two are amazing.”
Alec was watching us from the side and looked impressed.
Clifford straightened up while still feeling frustrated.
“No, I cannot accept your compliment. Being beaten by a commoner is proof that I have not been diligent enough.”
“Both of you are impressive. It’s amazing that you only made one mistake when there are so many questions. I had many more questions that I didn’t understand.”
Alec showed me his test paper. Sure, he got a few circles on some of the questions, but there weren’t that many.
“You got more than 80% correct. You also did amazing.”
“Thanks. I’ll do my best to compete with Aime and Clifford next time.”
Alec was also getting competitive, though not as blazingly obvious as Clifford.
Now then, it’s time to drag him into this conversation even though he doesn’t want to join.
“How did you do, Rock?”
The Crown Prince’s aide quietly looked away. Of course, his master was confused by his action.
“Do you have to retake the test!?”
“No! I do not have to retake the test!”
Rock unfolded his test paper as evidence in a panic.
“Ah, hmm, you barely passed.”
He had scored exactly 50 points; he would have failed had he gotten one more answer wrong.
“Isn’t it because you put more effort into being a guard?”
“Because that is my job. I can’t neglect it.”
“Don’t neglect your studies because of your job.”
Alec warned his aide in exasperation.
“You might be able to use magic. It’s important to do your job, but it’s also important to expand your prospects. That is also for the good of this kingdom. It’s not a waste of time to study.”
Rock, who was usually the one who admonished his master, was the one being scolded.
His position required him to be with Alec as much as possible, so it may be difficult for him to take time off to study. I believed it was fine for him not to be so on guard, but I guess he’s a serious person.
In short, it’s fine if he can study while guarding Alec, right?
“Say, we don’t have any homework today, so why don’t we have a review session?”
Our tests were given back to us, and it was up to us to review them on our own. Everything was written in the textbooks, so we can review our answers by ourselves, but it was more fun to do it in a group and we can better understand the questions if we discussed it with others.
It’s just like what I’ve been doing with Rille-nee.
“Let’s all go to the study room!”
Alec was the first to agree to my cheerful suggestion. Clifford stared at me.
“I’m sorry but would you mind accompanying us?”
“… Yes, if you are alright with me being there.”
Clifford paused for a second, then answered promptly.
He looked happy that Alec had invited him. I felt like I had done something nice.
There were other people in the study room, but it wasn’t quiet since we were discussing the answers with each other.
Clifford was so enthusiastic about teaching Rock as if he had been given a mission by the King that he left no room for anyone else to speak, so I helped Alec with the questions he got wrong since he was sitting in front of me.
“I’ve made another reliable friend.”
Alec laughed at Rock who was being lectured by Clifford when we took a break. They were so focused on their work that they couldn’t hear our conversation.
“You’ll make a lot more. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would like to be friends with you.”
Not many people approached him because of his awe-inspiring status and Rock’s glare, but I’m sure they’ll feel closer to him if they could see him like this. I could feel someone glancing at us.
“I believe a lot of people want to talk to you too, Aime.”
“I don’t know about that. I’m just happy that they’ve stopped bullying me.”
“Have they stopped completely?”
“Some have glared at me and said mean things to me, but nothing as bad as before. I think a lot of them were just following the crowd. That’s why I got this score.”
I picked up the test paper with the perfect score and smiled.
“I’m sorry I worried you so much, but you don’t have to worry anymore.”
Alec nodded calmly this time.
“That’s how you create your own path.”
He muttered to himself.
“You’re strong. You’re smart, courageous, gutsy, and most importantly, you’re kind. I admire you for that.”
He stared straight at me.
I was embarrassed by his serious gaze and compliments.
“Hmm, umm, thanks.”
Alec was exaggerating a lot and I wanted to deny that I wasn’t like that, but it made me happy to hear those words, so I just thanked him.
“――― Did your hair grow?”
After a moment of silence, Alec asked as if he had just noticed.
“What? Oh, I haven’t cut it in a while.”
My hair was above shoulder length when I first entered the school, but it is shoulder-length now.
“I guess it’s about time to cut it.”
“You’re going to cut it short?”
“Well, it gets in the way. What? Do you like girls with long hair?”
I asked, lightly teasing him.
He replied with a smile on his face.
“Not really? You look cute with short or long hair.”
I fell silent for a bit.
“… You know, Alec. That sounds like you’re flirting with me.”
I warned which surprised him, but he continued.
“Can I not call you cute?”
“… Well, you can…”
He smiled reassuringly. Ermm…
“You shouldn’t say things like that so easily. It will definitely cause trouble later on.”
“It’s alright. I only plan to tell you that for now.”
Huh? Are you seriously hitting on me? Or are you a natural at this? Are you a natural flirt?
Hmm… Well, whatever.
I don’t hate being complimented.
“Shall we continue?”
I decided to resume our review session before the other students notice our conversation and start intimidating me.