The royal family.
Typically, anyone associated with royalty is considered powerful and noble.
However, things were a bit different in this empire.

There were…just too many of them.
'The emperor has over a hundred children, right?'
The royal family was grand and all, but once the number of descendants reached the triple digits, people would start raising their eyebrows.
With so many children, Yi-han could probably sneak into the palace pretending to be a prince and no one would notice.
Just as he had to work hard in life because he was born later than his elder brothers, the emperor's children were subjected to a similar fate.
Unless they were the firstborn…they would inherit nothing.
In a sense, they had it worse than Yi-han.
After all, the patriarch of the Wardanaz Family at least knew the names of his children and provided them with opportunities to succeed.
Children of the royal family, on the other hand, would have to plan everything out by themselves.
Of course, a diamond on a dunghill was still a diamond.
To the commoners, they symbolized authority.
Unfortunately, those gathered here were all descendants of the empire's bigwig nobles, which meant they didn't need to humble themselves before the princes and princesses.
In fact, Yonaire Maykin probably had a higher standing than most of the royals present.
Which begged the question, why was she following a prince around?
'…Is she on the slow side?'
Yonaire would've likely erupted if she had heard what he was thinking.
However, it was true that the people around her were snickering, mocking her for bringing shame upon the nobles' pride.
Members of the empire's nobility were as prideful as the royal family, and even the emperor would have to give face to the more powerful ones.
Knowing all this, Yi-han accepted Maykin's invitation.
'I doubt anything bad will happen.'
He wouldn't suddenly become a laughingstock just because he accepted the invitation.
What's more, as powerless as the prince may be, it was better to make a friend out of royalty than an enemy.
Who knows, there might come a day when he would require the prince's help.
“Really? Thank God!”
Maykin's smile was as radiant as the sun.
She seemed awfully happy about something rather trivial, which made Yi-han suspicious.
“I've already been rejected by three people.”
For a second, he regretted accepting the offer.
Gainando was the empire's 97th prince.
Since many of his siblings were born around the same time, some sources said he was the 101st, but he strongly insisted he was the 97th, probably because he didn't want to stoop to the triple digits.
However, except for the fact that he was a prince, there was nothing special about him, and he was just another immature boy.
People in this world treated 15-year-olds as adults, but not everyone was equally mature, and Gainando had yet to realize that being a member of the royal family brought him no benefit in this academy.
“You hear me, Yi-han? That bastard turned me down.”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear you.”

“How dare he!”
“He's just not aware of how noble a figure you are.”
“Noble? But I'm not a noble.”
Gainando stared at Yi-han, confused.
The latter just showed a kind smile before nodding.
Yi-han's evaluation of Gainando had just dropped a notch, but he didn't let it show.
“As an adjective, it's used to describe someone with high moral principles and ideals.”
“Well then, it's a word that fits me perfectly.”
“Anyway, that bastard turned me down, and yet he's speaking to Adenart! Such humiliation!”
Adenart, who Gainando had just brought up, was also a royal, and she was either the 43rd or the 44th princess.
'The atmosphere around her is completely different.'
Adenart had long, wavy silver hair and clear, blue eyes.
She appeared graceful, and the way she carried herself showed that she was no fool.
Just by standing there without speaking, the temperature around her seemed to cool down a bit.
She was a princess that naturally exuded elegance, which made the nobles gather around her.
What's more…
'She probably didn't have someone else call them up.'
Nobles may have their pride, but they wouldn't outright ignore a royal talking to them.
If Gainando had approached the students himself and spoken amicably, there would've been a few that stuck with him.
“Later on, can you beat him up for me?” Gainando requested Yi-han.
Yi-han had a better build than most people his age thanks to the constant practice of swordsmanship.
Though they may become mages in the future, at the current moment, their fists were a stronger weapon.
Nonetheless, Yi-han wasn't keen on picking a fight with others just for the sake of satisfying Gainando.
“Someone that's noble won’t ask others to bully someone.”
“It's not bullying.
It's punish-”
“Doesn't matter how you phrase it.
Those that are noble won't make that kind of request.
Think about it.”
Gainando thought long and hard about what Yi-han had just told him.
In hindsight, it did sound unsightly.
“Then Yi-han, what do you propose we do?”
“Just forgive and forget.”
“…Anything else?”

“You can also challenge him to a duel.”
“He should consider himself lucky that I'm such a benevolent prince.”
It seemed he wasn't too fond of the second option.
Seeing this, Yi-han realized one of Gainando's strengths: he was very straightforward and simple-minded.
“Wow, I'm amazed you were able to convince that stubborn prince into listening to you.”
Yonaire appeared genuinely impressed.
In response to her praise, Yi-han asked her a question that had been on his mind the whole time.
“Why do you follow him around?”
“We're relatives.
He's my cousin.”
“Still, that doesn't mean you have to listen to what he says.
The Maykin Family's quite powerful as well…”
Before he could continue asking, a booming voice reverberated throughout the hall.
– Done chitchatting? Then shut it, you Ironheads! You'll have years for that later on.
It was the same voice that spoke to them at the gates.
A giant skeleton with fiery eyes appeared at the center of the hall.
It released massive amounts of mana to the surrounding area.
'A Lich!'
Liches were formerly powerful mages that turned themselves into undead to overcome death.
Yi-han had heard rumors about them before, but it was his first time seeing one with his own eyes.
The students murmured among themselves, also seemingly curious.
– Let me ask you all a question.
Why do you think I call you all Ironheads?
Adenart raised her hand.
Gainando, who had been watching her, glared at her in disdain.
– Speak.
“…Because iron is the symbol of us freshmen.”
– Excellent.
10 points for your dormitory!
“There's a point system for dormitories?”
– Of course not.
If you wish to become a mage, you must first learn to discern lies from truth.
Adenart had been celebrating her achievement, but she blushed when she realized she'd been tricked.
– Indeed.
Iron is the symbol of you freshmen, while bronze is the symbol of the 2nd year.
Iron, depending on how you mold it, can take various forms.
It truly fits the 1st years well.
“So there's a deeper meaning to it…”

The students gathered in the hall were in awe at Principal Skelly's words.
– As if! Ha! You were tricked again, you fools! We use iron to symbolize you since there's nothing inside those iron heads of yours! If you don't believe me, try knocking at it.
I'm sure it'll make a nice sound.
Those in the hall suddenly fell silent.
Many of them had never received an insult in their entire life.
However, none dared speak up before Principal Skelly's imposing figure.
Yi-han took a deep breath.
The density of mana had spiked up ever since Principal Skelly's arrival, so much so that the students were having difficulty even moving.
It was as if they were in the depths of the ocean.
'Even so…I'm pretty sure I can somewhat move.
Yup, there it is.'
Yi-han managed to squirm, which immediately caught the attention of Principal Skelly.
– …?
It was as if he was staring at something fascinating.
Yi-han immediately straightened his back.
He had come here to make connections and get that piece of paper that certified that he had graduated.
Catching the principal's attention in his first year wasn't part of his plan.
– I might have been too harsh on the young sprouts that will shoulder the empire in the future.
Principal Skelly's voice became slightly more gentle.
Some students seemed relieved by this, but Yi-han wasn't going to be duped for the third time.
'No doubt, this bitch has got some loose screws.'
To become a lich, one would have to abandon something.
However, in the case of Principal Skelly, it was apparent that he had left behind more than one loose screw.
Yi-han recalled his time at graduate school.
There had been a hint of madness in the eyes of the professor that worked in the lab next door, just like Principal Skelly over here…
'Nah, scratch that.
This Lich seems saner than him.'
Arriving at this thought, Principal Skelly's antics started feeling more bearable.
– Now, enjoy the feast that the academy's best chefs have prepared for the young talents that must have traveled far to arrive here! It's nothing much, but I hope it can do away with your tiredness.
After you finish, there will be a warm bed waiting for you in your dormitory…
A chubby student began drooling when he heard this.
A feast? What kind? Was it a chicken cuisine from the empire's west, cooked with oil and butter after being covered in flour? With onions, salt, pepper, and wine to serve as seasoning, it would be delectable indeed! Or maybe they'd be served gratin with bechamel sauce? Soft, white bread with cheese and butter would be nice too!
Perhaps it would be a dish from the east! Freshly caught fish seasoned with spice and grilled over fire sounded delicious as well!
The journey had been a long and arduous one, and they were so famished that they were ready to slurp down eastern noodles which they normally looked down upon.
However, nothing was served, and the table at the center of the hall remained as empty and desolate as before.

– Tricked once more! How stupid can you get? When will you wake up? With brains like those, how do you plan on becoming a mage?
'He's a f*cking psycho, I tell you.'
So many insults had been hurled at them that some students were about to break down into tears.
– Now, I'll tell you the rules of this academy.
This institution is a cradle for mages, and cravings are what act as a student's driving force.
Along with his words, shabby cloaks and wands appeared in the air.
– These will be your uniforms.
Hard loaves of bread the color of charcoal and cold rice balls appeared next.
– And these are your food.
“T-this is going too far…!”
One of the students protested.
Principal Skelly seemed all too happy to hear this.
– Precisely! That was the reaction I was looking for! You think the food's too disgusting? Then learn magic and get your own food! The cloaks and wands are too trashy? Then learn magic and get your own clothes and wands! You can get as many of them as you wish in this academy!
Yi-han was at a loss for words.
He knew that Einroguard wasn't an easy place to survive in, but he didn't think it'd be this bad.
The message was clear: If you feel wronged, learn magic and become proficient at it!
'Is this allowed?'
“Whatever, I'll just tell my servants to bring me what I need,” a cheeky student muttered, tears threatening to pour out.
Principal Skelly was exhilarated when he heard this.
– Yes, yes! I knew one of you would say that.
And to that I say, the first years aren't allowed to leave the academy's grounds! Don't even think about asking for your seniors' help either! You won't be meeting them for a while!
– You may go now, Ironheads! I wish you all luck and hope to see some of you become brilliant mages!
Yi-han could've sworn he heard someone mutter “Son of a b*tch” under their breath.
Principal Skelly probably heard it as well, but let it go unpunished.
When the lich finally left, Gainando burst into anger while stomping his foot.
“He has to be kidding! How can he treat us like this! Yi-han, aren't you angry as well? Only beggars would wear trash like this! Only pigs will eat filth like these!”
“Huh? Is it that bad?”

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