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The Rithmatist (Page 5)

Instead he’d gone to watch Fitch.

Oh no …

Layton moved through the class, glancing at each student’s notebook. Joel slowly pulled out his own notebook and opened it to the right page. Ten unworked problems lay there. Undone, ignored. Layton stepped up to Joel’s desk.

“Again, Joel?” Layton asked, sighing.

Joel glanced down.

“See me after class,” Layton said, moving on.

Joel sank down in his seat. Only two more days. He just had to survive two more days and pass his class. He’d meant to get to the assignment; he really had. He just … well, hadn’t.

It shouldn’t matter. Layton put a lot of emphasis on tests, and Joel had achieved a perfect score on every single one. One more missed assignment wouldn’t mean much for his grade.

Layton moved up to the front of the room. “All right, well, we’ve got ten minutes left. What to do … Let’s work some practice problems!”

This time he got more than a few groans.

“Or,” Layton said, “I suppose I could let you go early, since this is the last period of the day, and summer is right around the corner.”

Students who had spent the entire period staring at the walls suddenly became alert.

“Very well, go,” Layton said, waving.

They were gone in a matter of seconds. Joel remained seated, going through excuses in his head. Through the cramped window, he could see other students moving on the green outside. Most classes were finished with end-of-term tests, and things were winding down. Joel himself only had the one test left, in history. It wouldn’t prove much of a problem—he’d actually studied for it.

Joel stood and walked to Professor Layton’s desk, carrying his notebook.

“Joel, Joel,” Layton said, expression grim. “What am I to do with you?”

“Pass me?” Joel asked.

Layton was silent.

“Professor,” Joel said. “I know I haven’t been the best with my assignments—”

“By my count, Joel,” Professor Layton interrupted, “you’ve done nine of them. Nine out of forty.”

Nine? Joel thought. I have to have done more than that.… He thought back, considering the term’s work. Math had always been his easiest subject. He’d given very little concern for it.

“Well,” Joel said. “I guess, maybe, I was a little too lazy.…”

“You think?” Layton said.

“But, my test scores,” Joel said quickly. “I’ve gotten perfect marks.”

“Well, first off,” Layton said. “School isn’t just about tests. Graduation from Armedius is an important, prestigious achievement. It says that a student knows how to study and follow instructions. I’m not just teaching you math, I’m teaching you life skills. How can I pass someone who never does their work?”

It was one of Layton’s favorite lectures. Actually, Joel’s experience was that most professors tended to think their subject was vitally important to a person’s future. They were all wrong—except for the Rithmatists, of course.

“I’m sorry,” Joel said. “I … well, you’re right. I was lazy. But you can’t really go back on what you said at the beginning of the term, right? My test scores are good enough to let me pass.”

Layton laced his fingers in front of him. “Joel, do you know how it looks to an instructor when a student never does their practice assignments, yet somehow manages to get perfect marks on their tests?”

“Like they’re lazy?” Joel asked, confused.

“That’s one interpretation,” Layton said, shuffling a few sheets of paper out of a stack on his desk.

Joel recognized one of them. “My final exam.”

“Yes,” Layton said, placing Joel’s exam on the desk beside one done by another student. The other student had gotten good marks, but not perfect. “Can you see the difference between these two tests, Joel?”

Joel shrugged. His was neat and orderly, with an answer written at the bottom of each problem. The other test was messy, with jotted notes, equations, and scribbles filling the allotted space.

“I’m always suspicious when a student doesn’t show their work, Joel,” Layton continued, voice hard. “I’ve been watching you for weeks now, and I haven’t been able to figure out how you’re doing it. That leaves me unable to make an official accusation.”

Joel felt his jaw slip down in shock. “You think I’m cheating?”

Layton began to write on his paper. “I didn’t say that. I can’t prove anything—and at Armedius, we don’t make accusations we can’t prove. However, it is within my power to recommend you for a remedial geometry tutelage.”

Joel felt his hopes of a free elective begin to crack—replaced with a horrifying image of spending each and every summer day studying basic geometry. Area of a cone. Area of a triangle. Radius of a circle.

“No!” Joel said. “You can’t!”

“I can indeed. I don’t know where you got the answers or who was helping you, but we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, you and I. You’ll come out of your summer elective class knowing geometry one way or another.”

“I do know it,” Joel said, frantic. “Look, what if I do my homework right now? There’s still a few minutes left of class. Then I’ll have another assignment done. Will that let me pass?” He snatched a pen from its place on Layton’s desk, then opened the notebook.

“Joel,” Layton said sufferingly.

First problem, Joel thought. Find the area of the three highlighted sections of the cone. The figure was of a cone with two segments removed, with lengths and measurements of the various sides given at the bottom. Joel glanced at the numbers, did the calculations, and wrote a number.

Layton put a hand on his shoulder. “Joel, that’s not going to help.…”

He trailed off as Joel glanced at the second question. The computation was easy. Joel wrote down the answer. The next figure was of a cube with a cylinder cut out, and the problem asked for the surface area of the object. Joel scribbled down an answer for that one.

“Joel,” Layton said. “Where did you get those answers? Who gave them to you?”

Joel finished the next two problems.

“If you’d already gotten the answers from someone,” Layton said, “why didn’t you just write them down earlier? You went to all the trouble of cheating, then forgot to actually do the assignment?”

“I don’t cheat,” Joel said, scribbling the next answer. “Why would I need to do something like that?”

“Joel,” Layton said, folding his arms. “Those problems are supposed to take at least five minutes each. You expect me to believe you’re doing them in your head?”

Joel shrugged. “They’re basic stuff.”

Layton snorted. He walked to the board, drawing a quick cone, then writing some numbers on the board. Joel took the opportunity to finish the next three problems of his assignment. Then he glanced at the board.

“Two hundred one point one centimeters,” Joel said before Layton even finished writing. Joel looked back down at his paper, figuring the last problem. “You need to practice your sketches, Professor. The proportions on that cylinder are way off.”

“Excuse me?” Layton said.

Joel joined Layton at the board. “The slant length is supposed to be twelve centimeters, right?”

Layton nodded.

“Then proportionately,” Joel said, reaching up and redrawing the cone, “the radius of the bottom circle needs to be this long, if you want it to accurately reflect a proportionate measurement of four centimeters.”

Layton stood for a moment, looking at the corrected diagram. Then he pulled out a ruler and made the measurements. He paled slightly. “You could tell by eye that my drawing was off by a couple centimeters?”

Joel shrugged.

“Draw me a line one third the length of the slant length,” Layton ordered.

Joel drew a line. Layton measured it. “Accurate,” he said, “to the millimeter! Can you do a circle with that radius?”

Joel did so, drawing a wide circle on the board. Layton measured the circle by getting out a string. He whistled. “Joel, these proportions are perfect! The arc on your circle is almost as exact as if it were drawn by a compass! You should have been a Rithmatist!”

Joel glanced away, shoving his hands in his pockets. “About eight years too late for that,” he muttered.

Layton hesitated, then glanced at him. “Yes,” he said. “I guess it is. But, well, you mean to tell me you sat there in class all this time knowing how to do this?”

Joel shrugged.

“You must have been bored out of your mind!”

Joel shrugged again.

“I can’t believe it,” Layton said. “Look, how about we do your summer elective as a trigonometry study?”

“I know trig already,” Joel said.

“Oh,” Layton said. “Algebra?”

“Know it,” Joel said.

Layton rubbed his chin.

“Look,” Joel said. “Can I please just pass geometry? I have plans for summer elective. If I can’t make them work … well, I’ll do calculus or something with you.”

“Well,” Layton said, still regarding the board. “Really is a shame you’re not a Rithmatist.…”

You’re telling me.

“Did you learn this from your father?” Layton asked. “I understand he was something of an armchair mathematician himself.”

“Kind of,” Joel said. Layton was new to the campus, having arrived at the academy just a few months back. He hadn’t known Joel’s father.

“All right,” Layton said, throwing up his hands. “You can pass. I can’t imagine spending three months trying to train you in something you already know so well.”

Joel let out a deep sigh of relief.

“Joel, just try to do your assignments, all right?”

Joel nodded eagerly, rushing back to get his books from his desk. On top of them were the two books that belonged to Professor Fitch.

Maybe the day wasn’t a loss quite yet.

Chapter 4

Joel left Professor Layton’s lecture hall, stepping out onto the grass. A girl in a white skirt and a grey sweater sat outside, back to the brick wall of the building, sketching idly in her notebook. She looked up, curly red hair bouncing as she inspected Joel. It was Melody, one of the Rithmatists in the class.

“Oh, is he done with you?” she asked.

Joel nodded.

“Well, you’re still in one piece,” Melody said. “I guess that’s a good sign. No bite marks, no broken bones…”

“You were waiting for me?” Joel asked, frowning.

“No, silly,” she said. “Professor Boring asked me to stay and talk to him once he was finished with you. Probably means I’m failing. Again.”

Joel glanced at her notebook. He’d watched her all semester, imagining the complex Rithmatic defensive circles she was drawing. On the pages, however, he didn’t see Lines of Warding, Forbiddance, or even any circles. Instead, he saw a picture of unicorns and a castle.

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