The Greedy Grimoire #1
A man with dark circles under his eyes called Theodore's name. The man's thin cheeks pushed his cheekbones higher, giving off a bonier impression. He would've been considered a resident of the slums if he had been dressed poorly.
However, this man was actually a third-grade professor and a 5th Circle master, making him one of the best within Bergen Academy.
The skinny man, Professor Vince, spoke in a businesslike tone, "You should know why I called you."
Theodore Miller, shortened to Theo, nodded with a shadowed face. This was because he couldn't bear to open his mouth and answer the question. He had been prepared for a while, but it felt like his heart was falling apart now that it was actually happening.
"Your written grades are brilliant. You were only deducted three points among all your subjects. Even then, they were just minor mistakes. There was no one else who could answer it except for you, so you can think of it as a perfect score."
Although it couldn't be confirmed publicly, some test questions had been 'designed to be wrong'. It was a tacit rule in the academy so that a full score wouldn't be granted easily. Nevertheless, Theo only had points deducted for three questions. Perhaps it was a better performance than some professors.
Vince admired the talent of this young man while feeling sad at the very same time. It was because Theodore Miller lacked the talent to become a magician.
"However, you can't graduate because your practical results were a failure."
The decisive voice pressed firmly on Theo's back.
The academy had two graduation requirements: one was to have a written score above 70 points; and the other was to become a 3rd Circle master. The former wasn't difficult, but the latter condition was the problem.
For Theo, who had been born with a low amount of magic power and sensitivity, the wall of the 3rd Circle was too high for him. Even though he had reduced his amount of sleep just so he could practice, he couldn't even reach the level of his classmates' feet. Despite his practice, his magic would pour out wildly.
As a result, Theo hadn't been able to graduate for three years.
"Hu… Theodore, what circle are you now?" Professor Vince asked with frustration.
He had asked the same question last year and the year before that. However, the answer had never changed. Theo once again repeated the same answer, "…2nd Circle."
It was a terrible number.
Most of the academy's students usually reached the 2nd Circle by the end of the first grade and the 3rd Circle when they entered the third grade. It wasn't uncommon for excellent students to reach the 4th Circle by graduation.
However, Theo had stayed at the academy for five years and still couldn't cross the wall of the 3rd Circle. Additionally, that wasn't the only problem.
"Have you mastered 2nd Circle magic?"
"…I failed." Theo's voice died down even further.
If the only thing that was lacking was just the amount of magic power, then he could supply it from outside sources. This was a bit expensive to do, but if he took reagents made of magic power, he could gain enough power needed for the 3rd Circle.
However, Theo's sensitivity was close to the bottom, and this was indispensable for using magic. The lack of magic power could be overcome, but there was no method to increase mana sensitivity.
It was why Professor Vince had given up on sponsoring Theo.
'It is a waste of Theo's brilliance, but… with poor magic sensitivity, he will never survive as a magician. Spending 5 years and not even mastering 2nd Circle magic, it is hopeless.'
He looked down at Theo with a wistful expression.
Any other student would've given up sooner… Theo, who knew better than anyone else that he was without talent, had been trying for three years. That commitment was incomparable to the other students who had grown up like plants in a greenhouse.
If Theo had ordinary levels of magic sensitivity, then the position of chief graduate would've been his.
However, reality was too cruel to Theo.
Professor Vince pulled out an envelope from the drawer and hesitated for a moment. This wasn't the first time, but it felt like the weight of the envelope had increased as the years passed. It was a letter given to a grade repeater.
"This is my role as a professor, but… I can't help feeling like I'm doing something wrong to you. I'm sorry."
"…No, it's fine."
"Read it once and discard it. There shouldn't be anything different from last year, but you never know."
Theo accepted the envelope calmly.
His fingers were continuously on the verge of trembling, but he managed to resist it somehow. This was his third repeater letter. Receiving it once would make someone an object of ridicule, while receiving it twice would make someone the shame of their family.
Theo was the only student at Bergen Academy ever to have received it three times.
More than anything, the third repeater letter had a separate meaning. This was the last one. A fourth letter didn't exist.
Professor Vince hadn't said it, but if Theodore Miller didn't graduate next year, he would be expelled. It would be a scandal so disgraceful that it would be better for him to quit and defend his honour.
'Is it only up to here?'
Theo looked down at the repeater letter with empty eyes.
His eyes which had once been filled with dreams were darkening. The young man, who had stepped into the academy to become a great magician, now had to face the grim reality which would cause his knees to buckle.
'I can do it next year. I can graduate next year.' Such a hope was now devastating for him, as he stood on the precipice of ruin.
He was born the eldest son of a disgraced noble family. The Miller family, which at one time had served the feudal lords as earls, had been pushed to their downfall 100 years ago. Their attempts at re-establishing their family had left nothing for Theo.
So, Theo had wanted to become a magician. Unlike those who had to undergo harsh training since childhood, children with noble titles were able to enter the academy without much difficulty. He thought he was quite smart, so he convinced his parents and stepped inside, beyond the threshold of the Royal Academy.
However, it was up to there. Theo would sleep later and got up earlier than anyone else. He worked enthusiastically in class and reduced his amount of sleep in order to practice his mana. Rather than blaming the scarce environment, Theo had believed he would be rewarded if he put in more effort.
'Was I too optimistic?'
His classmates had graduated two years ago, and juniors one year younger than him had graduated already. Now, there would be juniors two years younger than him who would accept their degrees.
Even the new students knew his name. He was the academy's long-time dunce.
Theo would bring dishonour to the fallen Miller family.
'Where did it go wrong?'
Was it when the spells used in the first test had failed? When he had realized that it was hopeless with his magic sensitivity? When he had accepted his first repeater letter a few days before the graduation ceremony? When he had thought that his efforts had been lacking after receiving two letters?
Or maybe… it had been when he first dreamt about becoming a magician.
So far, he had never resented his own poverty. There were people who ate less than him and those who couldn't live in abundance. Even though their status had fallen, Theo was still a noble and had managed to enter the Royal Academy.
However, his patience was reaching its limit.
The magic reagents which other students drank like water? Theo had given up on those knowing that one bottle would cost two months of the Miller family's budget.
Hiring another magician as a private tutor? He wouldn't be able to afford one even if he sold the Miller estate.
Of course, many students graduated without using such methods. They increased their magic power with natural born talent and didn't need to be taught separately. With no talent or no money…
One could still graduate even if they were lacking just one of these things. However, Theodore Miller had nothing.
"I should be going back."
As soon as the professor nodded in agreement, Theo turned around.
He wasn't confident about maintaining this cool composure much longer. His calm face was already half-distorted. At the very least, he didn't want the professor to see something so ugly.
The door closed with a harsher sound than when he'd entered.
With a heavy expression, Professor Vince looked toward the door through where Theo had disappeared, but the professor soon dropped his gaze back down to the book he was reading. The pages of the book weren't turned for a long time.
* * *
The loud bell could be heard in the hallway. It was a clock signaling that it was evening.
Due to magic, the volume was constant no matter where it was heard. Students staying in the dormitory couldn't leave school after this time, while students not staying in the dormitories were required to leave.
As Theo headed to the dormitory blankly, he suddenly stopped moving.
"…Come to think of it, I haven't eaten dinner yet."
Should he go to the cafeteria now?
He thought for a moment before shaking his head. Due to the repeater notice in his hand, Theo didn't have any appetite. Should he go back to the dormitory and sleep? No, his drowsiness had been lifted a long time ago. It would be fortunate if he didn't get a nightmare while sleeping.
In the end, Theo's footsteps headed to the same place as always.
It was a place that rarely had visitors, and it was the most comfortable place for him in Bergen Academy—the library. 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2020 So Far