[Chap 5] Start of The Exam

“Enough with the superfluous words!” The professor’s sarcastic words irritated Dr. Fields, causing spittle to drizzle like the spring rain.

Backing up into his seat, the professor stretched out his arm as if calming a raging beast. For him, this was one spring rain he’d rather stay away from. He scratched the back of his head while he laughed, “Ai! If I’d known it would rain today, I would’ve carried my umbrella. How inconvenient.”

Dr. Fields’ face turned red from anger as he stared begrudgingly at the professor, wishing he could tear that unceremonious smile off his face. He tried to suppress the urge, however, his voice still trembled when he spoke, “Professor Blanchard, up until this point, I have endured your subtle insults and greedy overbearingness, but someone, as esteemed as myself, will remain humble no longer! As I’ve already done my part, I expect you to do yours. Although I shouldn’t have expected less from a hypocrite as yourself, I would appreciate a little customer service.”

“Dr. Fields sure is a straight-forward man. I like people who get straight to the point.”

…They are the most fun to toy with. (~v~)

“I feel truly ashamed for all the trouble I’ve caused my esteemed guest. I hope that you’ll pardon my rudeness.” Although the professor said these words, his smile did not flinch or subside one bit. He still seemed unflustered and relaxed as he continued, “Besides, I wasn’t lying about the rain. The forecast predicted that there will be heavy showers this afternoon. I’m sorry if you misunderstood my words.”

Dr. Fields clenched the coffee mug in his hands as if to vent his frustration, his face taut. He brought the coffee towards his mouth in order to take a sip but soon realized that it was emptied by him earlier.

Seeing this, the professor searched his table’s drawer before putting an object on the desk. “Eat this, too much coffee is bad for your health.”

Glancing at the object, Dr. Fields realized that it was a pack of breath mints. Dr. Fields sighed as his body deflated, collapsing into the back of his seat. While he looked at the professor, he envisioned the devil’s image gradually overlapping with him. He quickly realized that if he stayed in this hell any longer, he would only be tortured.

A myriad of emotions was sealed within Dr. Fields. He was like a bottle of champagne that was being shaken violently, steadily building up pressure. If he didn’t conclude the negotiations and quickly leave this place, he would pop.

“Just tell me about the new arrangements. Staying long will look too suspicious.” Dr. Fields said, almost in a pleading tone. There was no longer any form of arrogance or zest in his words. Today was a peculiar day for him— a rejection and a robbery, back-to-back.

The professor laughed at Dr. Fields’ gloomy mood, but in the end, he didn’t pour any more salt.

“The method is the same, but the ingredients are different,” The professor spoke while seemingly reminiscing about the past, “And I can guarantee that spice is the main ingredient.”

Dr. Fields looked puzzled and seemingly lost as he waited for the professor to expound further.

“For the A.C.E project, my team wasn’t the original creator. You could say we built upon the foundation and put the cherry on top. Most of the hard work was still credited to my colleague’s team. Her name is Lillian but we didn’t change it to Pepper for no reason. In respect to her contributions, the chief delegated the authority for her to set the qualifications exam. Funny enough, after it was reviewed, the chief, as well as both teams unanimously agreed for a replacement. I’m confident that if the candidates took that exam, most if not all would fail.”

Dr. Fields’ eyes lit up as if a spark reignited his vitality, “Haha, I didn’t wast— spend my money for nothing! So, you’re going to give that test to Jaylin? If that’s the case, that brat wouldn’t stand a hair’s breadth of chance.”

Before Dr. Fields could get too ecstatic, the professor added, “I was the new person chosen to rewrite and restructure the exam. If I give the same exam created by Pepper, I would be easily found out and questioned. So instead, stealing Pepper’s foundation once again, I will dilute the exam’s difficulty to suit the candidates. The boy, of course, will receive ‘a spicier course’.”

As soon as the professor finished speaking, his fingers drifted skillfully across the holographic screen as if painting a majestic scene. This scene, however, was not a delightful one— it was a looming nightmare for the anxiously waiting candidates.

Dr. Fields sighed, a little disappointed, however, he soon looked at the professor warily. What if this was a ploy in order to shake loose his extra change? In his case, the extra change was still a few blocks of gold.

After careful deliberation, he decided to leave the negotiations at that. Pushing the professor was also pushing his own luck. Messing around with state affairs wasn’t a light breeze he could just casually brush aside if he got caught. Even entrepreneurs have to compromise when the risks get too high. His years in the business world wasn’t all spent in vanity.

Furthermore, the thought of swallowing his pride and asking back for his money didn’t even cross his mind. Such huge pride would be impossible to swallow. If he tried, he might choke to death from embarrassment.

“I expect much from Professor Blanchard. I will take my leave.” Dr. Fields forcefully cracked a smile before leaving the office.

The seat Dr. Fields left was now a darker shade of black, damp with sweat.

“Am I really that terrifying? Wasn’t my smile warm enough?” The professor chuckled inwardly. Cracking his knuckles in preparation for his task to come, the professor commanded Android 9, “Treat the guests to some coffee and tell them to wait a couple of minutes. That’s all I need.”

“Yes, Master.” A calm, neutral voice responded.

As Android 9’s figure departed, the room was flooded with a hue of blue as numerous projections revolved orderly around the professor, responding to his swift movements.

The scene would be a perfect masterpiece if it was not betrayed by Android 9’s shadow. Its cylindrical body and dome-shaped head cast a d*ck-like image onto the wall, the swaying antenna depicting a gruesome, imaginative scene. Unfortunately, there were no perverts present to appreciate such a masterpiece.

* * *

Outside of the professor’s office, everyone was still waiting. Since Jaylin didn’t have the privilege of keeping his phone, he was sketching something in a notebook which he took from his sling bag. His movements were steady and refined, unflawed by any nervousness.

To the far opposite of Jaylin sat Mika. Her movements were so practiced and well taught that she was still fanning daintily, even though the room wasn’t hot at all— rather it could be said to be cold. She was using a new fan since she snapped the previous one out of anger. That is to say, could such a girl face a breakup or a crush’s rejection? Unfortunately, that would be the death of the poor chap.

Apart from Jaylin and Mika, the other three candidates already formed a small clique and were silently chatting away enthusiastically. They occasionally sneaked peeks at Mika before continuing their idle banter.

Their guardians also took the opportunity to know each other. Their deep voices weren’t loud but were still audible. However, the young people took no interest to listen. What interesting topics could three outdated businessmen discuss apart from last week’s condition of the stock market and how they hated taxes?

Just at that moment, Dr. Fields stepped from around the corner where he and the professor left in. He was rubbing his kerchief in his hands as if he was just coming from the restroom. The middle-aged men looked over and shook their heads. They weren’t fools. Anybody with a brain like theirs could realize that hidden dealings occurred behind the shadows. If not, surely he must have been constipated.

However, they didn’t say anything about the matter. Sticking their heads out may be rewarded with an arrow. It would be better to mind their own business.

Jaylin only glanced at Dr. Fields for a moment before resuming his sketch. Mika folded her fan and her lips curled up into a cold smirk. Dr. Fields would usually feel joyful seeing his daughter smile, however, when he saw it, the memories of his time in the office resurfaced.

Somehow, he managed to force a smile in response before glaring fiercely in Jaylin’s direction.

Let’s see how calm you’ll be when you see the exam. After you fail and return to your pitiable life, I’ll be sure to turn it into a living hell.

When he sat beside his daughter, he was bombarded with questions relating to the negotiations. He only replied vaguely, refusing to explain precise information. She failed to realize that the more she pressed for details, the more depressed her father became.

Just as Dr. Fields was about to be driven to the brink, the familiar squealing wheel was heard. Android 9 dashed in front of everyone before delivering its message, “Professor Blanchard is currently processing the exam. Estimated time: 2 minutes. Please be patient, thank you.”

After delivering the message it was commanded to, Android 9 approached one of the middle-aged men before opening a section on its cylindrical frame. Inside was a few mugs of hot, aromatic coffee.

“Coffee?” Android 9 asked, its lenses locking onto the man’s expression.

“Why not?” The man retrieved a mug of coffee, “Thank y-,” however before he could express his appreciation, the robot turned away in order to serve the other person.

He paused before smiling wryly, I guess robots don’t care about common courtesy?

In the end, only Dr. Fields and Jaylin didn’t take a cup, both for different reasons. Dr. Fields was reluctant to have any reminders about the negotiations while Jaylin was being cautious.

The middle-aged men praised the coffee’s quality and brew but weren’t so thick-skinned as to ask for more. Such high-quality coffee would definitely not be cheap.

When the last drop of coffee was sipped, the office door opened and the professor stepped out. He rested his weary hands in his coat’s pockets while his face remained the same: ever smiling.

“Candidates, please follow me to complete the exam. The rest, please sit and wait patiently.”

All the candidates, including Mika, stood up. Looking at Jaylin, she snorted arrogantly before following the professor. She was confident in her father’s ability to bribe, to be more precise, her father’s money. To her, Jaylin was no longer a rival to compete with, just another poor dog that she could freely step on.

Jaylin’s hands halted. The final lines were connected, completing the sketch he was drawing. It was the beautiful figure of a woman. She had a petite body that was supported by two slender legs, protruding from her flower petal-like skirt. With a hand on her slim waist, her disposition seemed strict and mature, but between her eyebrows, one could see a trace of mischief and playfulness. Although her beauty couldn’t be said to be to the point of making cities fall to its knees, she was still a rare belle in a man’s heart. This was Amara, his girlfriend.

Although Jaylin’s drawing skill couldn’t be said to be professional, his love, affection, and appreciation could be seen in his sketch. It didn’t stir the physical eyes, but the emotions. Putting the notebook away, Jaylin followed behind the rest of the candidates.

They soon arrived at a room adjacent to the professor’s office. The professor opened the room’s door, revealing a small room, set with a few computers. Five computers which were dispersed a few spaces from each other were already on.

“This will be your exam room. The exam will be done and graded electronically. When you’re done, just press submit. I will not be present in the room to supervise, however, “The professor pointed at five hidden cameras located in various corners in the room, “Those eyes speak for themselves. You have 35 minutes. Well, good luck.”

The professor looked at Jaylin’s back before leaving and closing the door. Whether it was intuition or just a guess, Jaylin felt that the professor’s ‘good luck’ was meant for him.

Everyone found a random computer before sitting. Their fingers played a silent tune on the keyboard as lines of text reflected off their pupils. Although the three candidates apart from Jaylin and Mika looked nervous, their furrowed eyebrows showed their seriousness.

Jaylin sat in front of the last remaining computer located in the opposite corner of the room from Mika. He hung his sling bag across the seat and sat unhurriedly. Scanning through the lines of text on the screen, his fingers moved…as fluid and unhindered as a flowing stream.

- my thoughts:
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