“LUCY HARDTVELT!” A voice boomed from the head of the enormous room, where an aged man with a beard sat behind an unnecessarily tall court bench. With fervor, he punctuated his shout with the hard slam of his fist to the bench, causing the decorated nameplate that read Headmaster Falk to topple over.

From where he sat, the echoes of his shout reached the ears of the other Schoolboard members, all of whom were seated up high in a rising series of pews on both the left and right sides of the room. Each of them, including the Headmaster, wore a brilliant purple robe laced with gold trimming. Two other figures were present as well. One stood close to the base of the Headmaster’s bench, while the other stood near the entrance on the opposite side of the room. Both of them wore black cloaks with hoods drawn and faces concealed. And in the middle of all this, standing before the Headmaster’s bench with every one of these eyes upon her, stood the aforementioned Lucy Hardtvelt… a pitifully terrified look on her face.

“This is the fifth time you’ve been summoned here! Five times! In the two months since the academic year started! This is an unprecedented record in the history of this academy! How do you defend your position here!” Headmaster Falk barked once again.

Lucy fixed her frightened gaze onto the Headmaster, doing her best to keep his intimidating presence from completely destroying her nerves.

“W-well, you see Headmaster,” Lucy began to stammer. “I was only trying to practice a spell for my upcoming sorcerer’s match… and I, well… messed up… just a bit.” Lucy’s voice trailed into a whisper at the end as she thought on something… there is no way destroying an entire lecture hall ceiling can be passed off as messing up.

Headmaster Falk slammed his fist onto the bench once again.

“THERE IS NO WAY THAT DESTROYING AN ENTIRE LECTURE HALL CEILING CAN BE PASSED OFF AS JUST MESSING UP!”

A surge of wind created along with the Headmaster’s shout tackled Lucy, almost throwing her off her feet as he continued his rant.

“You should consider yourself lucky that none of the other students were injured because of your antics! Had Professor Farland not been present to control the damage, I daresay that half of our first year students would currently be on leave due to serious injury!”

Lucy looked up to the pews to her right, spotting the Professor who was responsible for saving everyone from the trouble she herself had caused. There was a cold look in his eye.

Lucy brought her gaze slowly to her feet, trying her best to hide her discouraged expression as the Headmaster let out a heavy sigh.

“I wish I could be as lenient with this matter as I have been before, but with this scale of damage and irresponsibility, I daresay expulsion is certainly not an unreasonable-“

“No! Please!” Lucy pleaded. “I really am sorry that I caused so much trouble, but I was only trying to practice a spell for my upcoming sorcerer’s match, because-” Lucy hesitated, looking down at her feet again before continuing. “Because… if I lose again, Rosseau might not want to be my partner anymore…”

Lucy felt her heart sink at the reality of her words. However, she quickly lifted her eyes to meet the Headmaster’s.

“So please, I’ll accept any punishment. But please don’t expel me!”

Murmurs had begun to pass around the room while the Headmaster’s eyes remained focused on Lucy.

“You say that you were practicing for an upcoming sorcerer’s match,” he held his hand out beside him as he spoke, where a large envelope fell into out of nowhere. Gently removing the papers it contained, he read through them. “Tell me, out of the four matches that you have participated in, how many have you succeeded in winning?”

“…N-none, sir.” Lucy stuttered.

“I see,” the Headmaster replied with pity. “It also appears that you are struggling with your academics. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but scraping by with barely passable scores is no way for a student to behave…”

Done with the papers, the Headmaster placed them onto the desk. With a subtle drag of his fingers on the surface next to them, the papers moved back into the envelope which then sealed itself shut. Another moment later, the envelope had vanished.

“Look, Lucy. I know better than anyone how determined you are when it comes to your studies. And I cannot imagine how it must feel to face such overwhelming obstacles here after… well, wanting to follow in your Mother’s footsteps. But, with all of this evidence against you…” The headmaster let out a heavy breath. “Lucy, do you firmly believe that you have what it takes to become a mage?”

Lucy lowered her head, her shoulders noticeably shaking.

“…As I thought. Perhaps it would be best to-“

“AREN’T YOU BEING A LITTLE TOO MEAN!”

Confused expressions occupied the room as everyone focused upon Lucy, the young girl whom they figured was about to break down and cry, but now was throwing an aggressive stare at the academy’s Headmaster.

“HOW CAN YOU SPEAK LIKE THAT TO A FRAGILE YOUNG GIRL YOU MEAN OLD MAN!”

Lucy whined as the whispers of the school board became increasingly audible with phrases such as, “She said old man,” and “Oh dear…”

“Wh…why you insolent little… how dare you speak to your elder that way!” The Headmaster yelled, flustered.

Lucy replied in turn by sticking her tongue out at him. Needless to say, the tense debate that had been taking place had turned into a childish fiasco.

Dawning a more serious expression, Lucy stepped forward.

“It’s true, I haven’t won a single match since the tournament started, and I also haven’t been getting the best grades…” Lucy clenched her fists as she took yet another step forward. “But that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of becoming a strong Mage!”

Though her manner was strong, Lucy couldn’t help it as a trace of a tear fell from her eye as she finished her pouting rebuttal.

The headmaster gave an irritated expression at her apparent childishness as he spoke.

“Even so, the fact remains that your presence here threatens the safety of the other students, and it would be in everyone’s best interest to remove you from the campus.”

“But-“

“That being said,” the Headmaster interrupted. “I do believe that you have the determination, and with a great deal of hard work can overcome your current incompetence in the magical arts…”

Lucy gave a confused look, trying to figure out if here situation was becoming worse or better.

“However, in my current position I am still expected to give you an appropriate punishment. So…” The Headmaster flicked his wrist upward, causing a blank piece of parchment to appear floating in the air next to him. “I propose an ultimatum…”

As he continued to speak, words began to appear on the blank piece of paper next to him.

“If you can succeed in winning your upcoming sorcerer’s match, then I will see it as evidence that you are indeed a potential asset to this academy, and you will be allowed to stay.”

Lucy gave a hopeful smile upon hearing the Headmaster’s condition. But her smile soon lessened as she realized what the alternative meant.

“However, should you be unsuccessful in winning the match, then I am afraid that you, Lucy Hardtvelt, will no longer be welcome to study magic at Greidwhen Academy.”

The Headmaster finished, giving Lucy a solemn look to make her understand the seriousness of her situation. A nervous look on her face, Lucy looked up to notice the previously blank sheet of parchment float down towards her. Studying it closely, she saw that it was a contract written with the terms for her punishment the Headmaster had previously stated. All that was left was a blank line for Lucy to sign in agreement.

“Well, do you accept these terms?” The Headmaster asked.

Lucy looked long at the space where her name was to be signed, a look of fear bordering in her eyes. However, she managed to put on a confident face before speaking up to give her answer.

“Yes. I accept.”

Upon giving her answer, the blank line had filled itself with her name and the contract had been sealed. Immediately it floated back up to the Headmaster who gave another flick of his wrist to cause it to disappear.

“Now then,” The Headmaster said, his patience worn thin. “GET OUUUUUUUTTTTTT!”

The force of the Headmaster’s yell swept Lucy off of her feet, pushing her back towards the hall’s entrance whose doors had swung open from the booming command. Paralyzed by shock, Lucy couldn’t help it as she continued to slide by the heels of her boots past the doors which slammed shut before her. The magical force accelerated, continuing to push Lucy through the lengthy corridor that had lead to the Headmaster’s hall. Lucy managed to look behind her, wincing at the sight of another set of doors she figured she would be slammed into. The doors opened, however, and the force of the Headmaster’s yell finished Lucy off by tossing her past them and flat onto her back.

“…Ow.” Lucy groaned as she stared upwards at one of the Academy’s magnificent chandeliers.

“…I take that it went well?” A rather handsome, blond haired boy asked, standing beside Lucy who was still lying on the stone floor.

“Rosseau!” Lucy shouted with delight as she jumped up to her feet, throwing herself into him. “Oh, Rosseau it was terrible! The Headmaster is so mean! I thought for sure I was gonna be turned into a crab this time!”

“A crab? I’m pretty sure that’s just a rumor meant to scare the first-years.” Rosseau said as he tried to calm Lucy down. “But more importantly, what happened in there? I can’t imagine that the Headmaster left you off without any punishment.”

“Oh…uh…well…” Lucy hesitated to tell Rosseau about the deal she had made with the Headmaster, to win her next match or face expulsion.

“He said… that… I’m to be given a week’s worth of cleaning duties. Yep, that’s what he said! From morning to night… except for classes of course!”

“Well that’s no good. How can we be expected to practice for our next match if you’re busy all week.” Rosseau began to move towards the door which Lucy had come flying out from. “Perhaps I can make an appeal to the Headmaster to have your punishment postponed-“

“NO!” Lucy yelled, causing Rosseau to face her with a confused look.

“I mean… he said that I can practice as well for a few hours a day. So there’s no problem, yep, no problem at all.” Lucy forced a laugh. Anything to keep Rosseau from learning about her deal with the Headmaster.

Rosseau let out an irritated sigh. “You should have said so then. You understand our position right? We’ve already lost our first four matches. One more and we have no choice but to win every single one after. Otherwise it’s over. We can’t afford to not-“

Rosseau paused, noticing Lucy’s depressing expression and the harshness of his own voice.

“…Sorry. I can’t imagine how much pressure it is to be a Lead Sorcerer, but I know you’re trying your hardest.” Rosseau spoke sincerely.

“It’s okay.” Lucy managed a weak smile, which Rosseau returned.

“Now then, we should head out if we don’t want to be late for our next class.” Rosseau said as he grabbed a pair of leather bags off of a nearby bench, handing one off to Lucy.

Taking it, Lucy slung the bag’s strap over her shoulder as Rosseau led the way to another set of brilliant wooden doors, where the two of them passed through into the main grounds of Greidwhen Academy.