Zero to Hero
"Wake up Ken, we have to get going if we are to make it on time for the selection." As Ken opened his eyes, he saw the familiar face of his sister looking down on him trying to get him to wake up.
"It's that time already?" Ken murmured while rubbing his eyes trying to summon the energy needed to wake up.
"I told you last night that we need to be up by 5! don't you listen to anything I say? geez" The girl was obviously annoyed as the boy slowly got ready for the long day ahead.
While the sky is still dark, the pair set out on their journey to the capital square where the selection process is taking place on this very day.
"Ughh, I wish we had money and could take a cart or horse to the capital instead of having to walk in this cold, been poor sucks" Ken complained before the pair even walked for 5 minutes.
"Are you going to be whining for the next 5 hours until we reach the capital?" the girl snapped back.
With that, the boy took the hint that it's time for him to shut up so his sister doesn't get agitated and the already long and cold day gets more unbearable.
While the two grew up together since infants and are closer than most blood siblings. As they walked towards the capital, the small countryside orphanage they grew up in slowly disappeared beyond the horizon.
After an hour of brisk walking, the pair finally exited the small narrow country road of their small town and got onto the main road heading into the capital.
As the sun begins to break through the dawn, more people begin to pop up from sideroads onto the main road all heading towards the selection.
"FINALLY!" screamed the exhausted boy, after 4 hours of non-stop walking, the pair finally arrived at the city wall of the capital city.
On the 1st day of the new year each year, the selection takes place all over the world where the best of the best gets selected to attend the most prestige school in the world, The Dragonspire Academy. Named after its founder Magnus Dragonspire, who founded the school 2000 years ago to educate and train the most talented no matter the race, wealth or status.
To this day, the school kept its principle of accepting anyone over the age of 15 no matter their gender, race, wealth, status provided they can pass the selection.
For the pair of 15-year-old orphans, this is their one and only chance of attending school and escaping from the cycle of poverty.
The city of Miodod is the capital city of the Miodod kingdom located in the heart of the beastman alliance. While no major wars have broken out between the races for almost 2 centuries, border disputes still occur often with kingdoms on the border regions constantly at odds with each other.
Thanks to its location, this medium sized kingdom without a large army or a talented commander has been a peaceful place for its civilians.
As citizens of age from all over the kingdom gathered for the selection, gate soldiers are working overtime to make sure no one dangerous slipped in with the hordes of teenagers hoping for a brighter future.
As Ken and his sister got to the checkpoint, they were met with the familiar gaze of suspension and discrimination that's all too common for the pair now.
Afterall, with the lack of a tail or animalistic ears, the pair stood out quite noticeably in the heart of the beastman territory.
With jet black hair, dark brown eyes, and good symmetrical features, Ken is a rather handsome boy. While due to the lack of proper nutrition, he is quite skinny, but standing at 6 feet tall, if he was to pack on some muscle mass, dressed in proper gear, he could no doubt fit the role of a proper human Hero if it was only in looks.
His sister on the other hand stands out for a completely different reason. While she has delicate and beautiful features, her mixed blood made her look like a mismatched doll.
While some mixed breeds can pass off and blend in with pure breeds. With a third of her hair pure white and two thirds golden blond, one sky blue eye, one forest green and her human sized ears but pointy tip. It was not hard to tell that she had both human and elf blood running through her.
After spending quite a bit longer than the rest at the checkpoint answering questions and explaining why a human and a half elf is in the heart of beastman territory, the pair finally made it through the walls to enter the capital city.
As the city has enjoyed centuries of peace, it has prospered and grew into what it is today. The stone paved roads are wide and smooth to accommodate more than 2 lanes of carts with plenty of space left over for people to walk about and see all the shops, restaurants, bars, inns, and houses, stacked one after another in this bustling city.
"Hurry up Ken! It will take us another hour of walking to get to the town square. So glad I woke you up when I did instead of letting you sleep long."
"Come on, it's not like we are going to get picked anyways. The whole thing is just a lie to make it seem the school is just. You know that literally only nobles, royalty and kids of high rankings ever get selected right?"
As the pair of countryfolk hurried along the busy streets without giving into the sights, sounds and smells of the city. Finally, after 5 hours of brisk walking and 30 minutes stuck at the gate, they made it to the city square with 30 minutes to spare.
"Hey Emma, once this selection is over. We should spend the afternoon explore the city!"
"I don't even think we have enough money for food in the city and it's another 5 hours to get back home. Where are we going to spend the night if we don't head back right away?"
"The city is so big! I'm sure we will be fine; we could even sleep on the benches right here or something"
"Ken! It's literally freezing out here and I am a girl you know. You expect me to just sleep outside in this weather on some street bench in the middle of this huge city?"
"But it's our first time in such a big city! You want us to just go back home without exploring the city at all? When will we even have another chance to come back? Don't worry! I told mom we will be staying the night. I will figure something out and make sure you have a proper place to stay at night as well."
As the time got closer and closer to the selection, the massive town square is now filled with thousands of teens anxious to be judges and many more thousands of parents hoping for the same outcome.
As the selection time approaches, a group of royal guards can be seen approaching from the castle gates carrying a giant mirror.
Once the mirror was brought into the square and placed on top of a platform in front of the crowd. An academy provided artifact plus a high-grade sound amplifier artifact are placed by the mirror and instantly instead of reflecting the crowd that's in front of the mirror, the figure of a woman appeared.
The woman in the mirror appeared to be middle aged. The way she dressed and carried herself, it was easy for everyone to see just how important of a figure this woman is.
"Welcome to our annual selection process. My name is Evelynn Dragonspire, the current headmistress of the Dragonspire Academy. As my ancestor's goal in creating this school is to allow equal education for all who are talented, for the past 2000 years, we have carried on that tradition."
A few sneers and chuckles from the crowd make it clear that Ken wasn't the only one who thought that the fair selection was more of a lip service than truth.
"As I have done this for many years, I'm sure some of you might be thinking that the selection must be rigged somehow or how come most of the selected are of noble or royal birth?"
"The answer is rather simple" Evelynn continued. "My ancestor decided that the fairest way to pick students for this academy is to judge someone based solely on their maximum potential. Over the millenniums we have kept that original principle and kept refining the spell used for the selection so that we could pick the best candidates with the highest possible ceiling to join the academy and try to achieve greatness."
"It's just a spell that's going to pick us? I'm glad that we don't have to do any sort of test"
"For sure! Can you imagine us taking an actual test Emma? We probably end up getting the two lowest grades!"
"When two human mates, they will produce a human child. Same with elves, beastman, lizardman, and merman. But when the parents are of different races, the child would end up with traits from different races. With their higher level of education in general and understanding of the world. It didn't take long for the wealthy to begin selectively breeding with those that had the potential to be accepted into the academy. And after 2000 years of selective breeding where the royal and nobles would seek out those with high potentials to mate, the reason that most of the accepted happens to be of noble birth is simply that they are just superior with higher potential."
"Way to be fair but having the rich cheating anyways" The orphan boy complained to his sister.
"With over 100 million participants worldwide every year and only around a thousand who will get selected. I am sure that some of you are dissatisfied with my answer but even after 2 millenniums, we have not found a better way to allow the brightest to shine so until that day comes, the majority of those that will be entering the academy will be from noble families who just happened to be bred to have a higher potential."
With those words, Headmistress Dragonspire cast a spell and suddenly small green floating spheres appeared all around the town square.
"If a sphere turns red around you, you have my congrats of been one of the selected. Please remain within the area of the spell until you have been approached by a staff member with the full enrollment details."
As a sea of green spheres floated through the town square, the sound of disappointment started to get louder as families saw their dream of life change disappear with no red sphere in sight.
"KEN! Look! Look!" screeched an ecstatic Emma.
Low and behold, the boy who never thought for one moment he would be selected, is now surrendered by spheres that kept turning red as they got close to him.
As the nearby onlookers stared in awe and envy, the general crowd began to slowly dissipate as the families of those not selected started to return to where they came from. While a selected few still held the belief that they would eventually be selected as it's not unheard of for older people to be selected after many failures. Most are brought back to reality and now faced with the question of continuing to attend their local school for a higher education or starting the process of becoming working adults.
Words traveled fast and it wasn't long before the king himself, Edwards Miodod the third was standing in front of the pair of orphans.
When the king first laid eyes on the chosen human boy, it was a look filled with disappointment but after hearing that his kingdom offered the orphan boy a place to live and Ken wasn't just some pass by who decided to do the selection at the closest kingdom, the king's whole mood changed. From being disheartened that the chosen one happened to be a human to trying to persuade the boy how this generous kingdom has taken him in and offered him a home.
The end goal of the king is to have the boy serve the kingdom as it's nearly impossible for a kingdom of this size and wealth to be able to compete with the major powers when it comes to hiring academy graduates. The king went as far as offering the boy one of his daughters in a marriage proposal even if the boy fails to do anything while at the academy. The sole fact that he has the potential and has been accepted is enough to marry into royalty.
"You know, it took 5 hours of walking for me and my sister to get here to the capital from our small village. We don't have enough money for a cart ride so if possible"
Before Ken could finish his sentence, the king waved over one of his attendances and handed the boy a bag of coins.
Happily accepting the coins, the boy promised that he would remember the good deeds the country had done for him and would return the favor one day.
Suddenly a representative from the academy appeared out of nowhere and advised the king that they would need to conduct the enrollment procedure promptly to ensure all those that have been selected can be processed in a timely manner. With that, the king made his final plea to the boy and with his entourage behind him, they made the return to the castle grounds.
The representative informed the boy that she is one of the professors at the academy and even though this opportunity is a once in a lifetime offer, he would still need to give them consent before enrollment can officially begin.
Without hesitation, Ken accepted the offer to join the academy.
The new school year starts on the 3rd Monday of the new year but as a first year, they are expected to show up one week earlier so they can get to know the academy, its rules and get some familiarity with the academy and its vicinity.
After getting Ken's basic information like his name, gender, age, and race. The professor offered him a small necklace and asked for a drop of blood.
"This artifact contains enough magic to teleport you once. The location is set to the academy's assembly hall, the time of the magic activation is set to 9 in the morning 8 days from today."
After pricking his finger for a drop of blood, the professor recited some incoherent words and his blood fused with the necklace as the pair of ignorant orphans watched in awe.
"The magic I just cast has bonded this artifact to you so it would only work if it's in your procession."
Apparently, teleportation magic is extremely difficult, and artifacts imbued with such magic are worth a great amount of gold.
It would also cause unnecessary hassle for anyone but the enrolled student to show up in the assembly hall at the academy, so for those reasons, the school has been using blood bonding magic for centuries to ease the process of admission and prevent unneeded drama.
The chat with the professor was short and to the point. The whole process took less than 10 minutes, and the professor vanished as suddenly as she showed up presumably teleporting to the location of her next candidate.
With money in his pocket and a new once in a lifetime opportunity. Ken couldn't hold in his excitement any longer as he grabbed his sister, the pair set out to explore the city.
The pair spent the whole afternoon wandering through every alleyway, peaking into every shop and restaurant and marveling at every fancy building. They decided to eat lunch from a packed restaurant ordering whatever the server recommended. As the sun began to set, the pair enjoyed dinner at another crowded restaurant and got a room at an inn with a view of the city wall.
"I am so full and exhausted, what an awesome day!" claimed Ken as he fell backwards onto the soft bed in their inn room.
While Emma was equally in awe of the day they had, the gravity of the situation suddenly hit her as she began to weep uncontrollably.
"What's wrong Emma? Why are you suddenly crying?" A concerned Ken rushed over to his sister's bed.
After a while, Emma calmed down.
"You know I'm extremely excited that you have been selected. But it just hit me, what about me? Without you around, what am I supposed to do? I am already 15 almost 16, a full-grown adult now. But I have no education, no skills, no anything. I don't want to end up like our older siblings that already left. I don't want to be someone's servant getting treated like I'm worthless while getting paid so little money that I can't send any back home to take care of my younger siblings. But what choices do I have?"
With that, Emma curled up in her bed feeling defeated.
"You know Emma, I never thought I would be selected. Not in a million years" The boy laid down next to the girl staring at the ceiling.
"Like you said. I didn't know what I was going to do either after the selection was over. We can't just keep living at the orphanage forever in that small village barely able to survive. I was thinking about going on a journey and just traveling around the world and seeing what's out there. I definitely refuse to ever be a servant."
"Not like that will happen now. Even if you do nothing at the academy, you can get yourself a princess as a wife and just live your life as a baby making machine for the royal family"
"SEE! There you go! Nothing to worry about because your big brother just hit the jackpot! Just stay put with the family while I'm at the academy and once I achieve something with my life. I will make sure my family especially my little sister Emma will get to live a great life!"
Pulling the bed sheets over her head, "Who's your little sister? I am older than you, stupid!" than in a whisper too quiet to be heard. "I never thought of you as my brother, you dummy."
"What did you say after calling me stupid?"
"Nothing! Now get off my bed and go to sleep! We still got a long walk tomorrow."
"Eh??? We aren't taking a carriage back?"
"We were lucky to get this money and we already spent way more than we should. We need to bring the rest home especially since you will be gone soon"
With that and a long day ahead, Ken rolled off Emma's bed, removed the light artifact from the glass bulb from the table in the middle and the pair fell sound asleep from the most exhilarating and exhausting day in their young life.