The presence of the long-time dunce was a feature of Bergen Academy which was known not only amongst the existing students but the new freshmen as well. Everybody knew the fact that Theodore Miller had to repeat the same year three times. Someone said that this would be his final year, while others said he would drop out.
None of the countless people at the academy thought Theo would be able to graduate. Professor Bernard Wheeler, who was in charge of the third grade's alchemy classes, was the same.
'I don't know why he decided to step foot in the academy… Although he endured four years of it, that impudent fellow will soon return to the countryside.'
He looked at Theo, who was staring outside the window like he wasn't aware of the gossip.
The relationship between the two of them hadn't been so bad in the beginning.
Although Professor Bernard was a narrow-minded person who judged a student's worth by their status, Theodore Miller was from a noble lineage, no matter how low his family had fallen. There was a separate reason for Professor Bernard's hostile attitude.
It was perhaps two years ago…?
Theo, who had received his first repeater letter, had still been working enthusiastically in class, and Professor Bernard had still been treating him as a student. The relationship between the two had changed due to something which had occurred in one of the alchemy classes.
-Professor, I'm sorry, but that paper you quoted from was withdrawn from the Magical Society two years ago.
-…What? Are you saying that my class is wrong?
-No, the Magic Society said it.
–How dare someone like you say such a thing?!
Maybe it wasn't such a big deal. If an ordinary student like a duke or earl had made the same comment, he might have accepted it quietly. However, Theodore was a baron from the countryside and a poor student who had repeated a year. Such a person was finding fault with Bernard's class…
Bernard was proud of his status and authority, so he hadn't been able to endure being shamed like that.
Since that day, Bernard shook every time he looked at Theo. He had spent many nights worrying about how to remove him from the academy. However, Theodore's conduct was exemplary, and there was nothing to be faulted except for his practical performance. Therefore, Bernard came up with another approach.
"The combination formula you will be learning today is 'Full Moon Bead', which is more complicated than you might think. If you make a mistake, then the precious ingredients will crumble. On the other hand, too much magic power will turn it into a poison, not medicine. But the effect is amazing, enough to allow a half-dying person to catch their breath."
Bernard kept writing on the board while watching Theodore. He was staring at the blackboard without writing anything down. Even so, that gaze was extremely annoying. Knowing that he had already crossed a irreversible river, Bernard forgot his conscience and laughed.
"Then the question… Theodore?"
"Yes." Theo answered the call with a gentle expression.
"Explain why 'Full Moon Bead' is difficult to combine. Haven't you been taking my class for three years?"
Some of the students giggled at the taunt. There were a few students who remained expressionless, but they weren't able to hide their side glances of interest.
The day was the same as always, with the same taunts. It was only Theo who had changed.
"Each of the ingredients of the 'Full Moon Bead' has strong magic power and can't be dealt with unless the person is a magician. If you can't control the magic power precisely, then the material will be corrupted. For this reason, the 'Full Moon Bead' is very difficult to make."
Although Bernard was secretly laughing at the answer, he gestured to the other students.
"Yes, you know it. Everybody clap!"
Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap…
The insincere applause rang out through the classroom. What else was there? Theo was almost afraid to look at Bernard.
Bernard pointed to the podium where the ingredients for the 'Full Moon Bead' were placed and said, "But anyone can do it with their mouths. Theodore, please combine one 'Full Moon Bead'."
"Yes. If you have studied in this school for five years, then you should be a model for the other students."
This was what Bernard had been aiming for.
Theo clicked his tongue inwardly as he understood Bernard's intentions.
Bernard was probably convinced that Theo would fail this combination formula. The 'Full Moon Bead' was the most difficult combination drug in the third grade. A task of such difficulty wasn't something to be given to the 2nd Circle Theo, who often failed.
However, Bernard wanted to show his incompetence to the other students and throw him out for wasting expensive ingredients. If Theo refused, then he would be mocked for the five years he had spent here.
The academy's professor had a pretty good plan.
'Well, I can also use my head.'
However, Theo was different compared to before the winter vacation.
Theo got up from his seat and headed to the podium where the ingredients were placed. Bernard thought that he had made a mistake when he saw Theo's confident attitude. However, his logic decisively denied his intuition. He believed there was no way it was possible.
After a moment, a brilliant light filled the classroom.
"That is the 'Full Moon Bead'!"
The glass which Theo was holding contained a liquid medicine with tiny granules in it. Bernard watched the scene with blank eyes before grabbing the glass with a disbelieving expression. He had already forgotten about the other students.
"T-This is ridiculous. Y-You… how…?"
Even if he checked it a few times, it was clearly a perfect 'Full Moon Bead'. No, Bernard couldn't even make such a perfect combination. As someone who was a magician before a professor, Bernard's face turned pale.
Theo added a few words, as if to drive in the wedge, "Professor, I'm sorry, but it is better to add one more moon grass to the formula on the blackboard in order to increase the efficiency."
"It was in a paper published by the Magic Society last year."
It was the same situation and same voice as two years ago. Bernard, who faced the revived memory of a nightmare, sank into his chair. After that, he didn't even look in Theodore's direction.
The full-fledged change began the day after this incident.
The news that the famous dunce had succeeded in combining the 'Full Moon Bead' spread throughout the academy.
All the professors, except for Vince, didn't believe the rumour, and each one prepared a task for Theo. In particular, Professor Claude who taught magic circles prepared a task which even the other professors would find hard to do.
The task was to execute a triple compound magic circle. Apart from the amount of magic power, they had to understand the meaning and circulation of the magic circle.
In the old days, Theo had understood the secret, but he hadn't been able to succeed because he hadn't had the minimum level of sensitivity required. However, for him, it was now at the level of a mere headache.
Theo smiled silently at Professor Claude who was internally aghast.
'I was fed up because I didn't have much sensitivity… To think just this slight difference is so big.'
As a result of the steady feeding throughout the winter break, Theo's talent had jumped almost four or five times.
He learned most of the magic which he'd only had knowledge of and his magic power reached the middle of the 3rd Circle. If he continued growing like this, he would reach the 4th Circle before the first semester ended.
However, in the meantime, the rise of his sensitivity was minimal. According to Gluttony, it was at most [Mana sensitivity +30]? It was still lower than the average figure.
Even so, Theo's magic skills had developed brilliantly. Compared to the past, where he had almost no sensitivity, this was like water washing onto a dry land. Did those born with high magic sensitivity feel like they were flying around in the sky?
Theo walked back to his seat while thinking about this, and many pairs of eyes followed after him.
* * *
People who witnessed Theo's change often responded in three ways.
"That person is called a dunce? No way."
"Yes. Is there something wrong with the professors?"
"That might be the case. Or he really was a dunce until last year."
"Hey, does that make sense?"
First, there were people who questioned the existing evaluation of Theo. They couldn't understand why such an excellent person was called a dunce. There were even conspiracy theories that he had intentionally stayed in the academy.
Then came the second reaction.
"He has studied for five years, so I guess this is the outcome."
"Wasn't there a saying in the east about a 'late bloomer'? Maybe Senior grew like that."
"I think the top graduate this year will be him."
Some people accepted the reality they saw with their own eyes.
Theo was a man who had succeeded with 'Full Moon Bead' and a 'Triple Compound Magic Circle'. The students who had watched the process from beginning to end began to talk publicly about Theodore Miller's excellence. Some students even came up to him during break time to ask questions.
Finally, there was the third type of reaction.
"Look at the failure showing off…"
"Isn't he just a senior with some good luck?"
"A baron from the countryside who knows some things."
Despite the rumours, there were people who were convinced Theo was still a failure. Their sense of inferiority or discrimination rose to the surface as they stared at Theodore's back with hostile eyes.
The academy's strict rules made fighting almost meaningless, but some tried to find a method.
"Isn't the next class battle magic?"
"Yes, and it is clearly the first lesson…"
In the third grade, students started learning how to fight using magic.
During the first class, sparring was conducted under the professor's supervision in order to find out the levels of the students. The method they came up with, for the purpose of fighting Theo, was that spar.
"I'll do it. I'll crush the pride of that dunce."
"No, it is my role if it is battle magic."
"My family has received awards for magic."
Each one spoke in a confident voice. They would defeat the arrogant loser and show him who the poor one was. A smile appeared on their faces at the thought.
…Of course, it was doubtful that they would be as good as they thought.