Academy Head Levins
Overlooking the vast school field, Lorist stopped in his tracks and reminisced the times when he stood on the old platform instructing the hundreds of students who attended his swordsmanship class...
"Huh? You want to learn a high-level sword skill, but not the basic sword moves? You're saying that even three-year-olds can pull that off? Bullshit! You're trying to run even before you've mastered walking! Do you know the difference between sword skills and swordsmanship? Yeah, you. Answer my question."
"Wrong! Your explanation only barely scrapes on the surface of the truth! Listen up to what I have to say, no one else will be so good-hearted to tell you this in the future. Swordsmanship is about using the most suitable and efficient method to take down your enemy in the least amount of time. Sword skills on the other hand is the combined execution of several efficient sword moves. It's still too early for you to start training in sword skills! To do so would be akin to trying to build a house without first laying the foundation. The house would crumble instantly once a strong wind blows by."
"Now, as to why I asked you to focus on the eight basic sword moves, the answer is simple. No matter what kind of sword skill, it would definitely involve a combination of these actions: thrusting, slashing, raising, parrying, flicking, sweeping, swiping and guarding. I want you to train it to the point where all eight moves become a natural reflex movement of your body. This way, even if you can't see the path of your opponent's sword, your body would be able to react to the strike by using these basic moves and save you from certain death. Only when one trains to this point can one claim that they are able to defend themselves with swordsmanship.
"Oh, I forgot to mention that this is how I personally train as well. I believe you guys have seen how I took out those Silver ranked instructors. The main reason I won was because these eight basic sword moves have been ingrained into my body so deeply that they have become a natural reflex. What I relied on to win was the most reliable eight basic sword moves rather than some 'ultimate sword skill'. That's why I could win easily in only a few bouts.
"As for sword skills, I would only be harming you if I let you train in them before you master the eight basic sword moves. Without the basics, your sword skills are only good for spectacle and showing off and are of no practical use. Alright, enough of that. Focus and train in the basics seriously for a thousand times. Twenty of you whom I deem most focused will personally receive further instruction from me."
Time really flies. It has already been three years since then. The Incador Medal had already been returned to the hall of honor and is awaiting its next owner. Ever since Lorist got the Gold ranked Battle Force instructor badge, he requested the academy to custom make a new badge which represented the status of a Gold ranked instructor in both Battle Force and swordsmanship and returned the Incador Medal to the academy. Anyone who wants that medal must once again gain 30 consecutive wins against higher level opponents.
When he asked for the special medal to be made, he said, "Wearing three different medals on my chest is way too unseemly. Someone might even take me for a badge seller! Why don't the academy make another medal that will represent these two?"
The academy administration found his reasoning to be sound and agreed to the request.
What is the old bastard up to this time, Lorist thought. He didn't believe what Charade had said about the academy desperately needing the money gained from the registration fee. If the academy was really that financially unable, it wouldn't be able to stay among the ranks of the top ten on the Grindia Continent.
In the three years Lorist has been interacting with Academy Head Levins, he came to the conclusion that Levins was a cunning and devious person. If one was not careful, one might end up counting the money Levins gained from selling oneself out without knowing! It was always wise to keep one's guard up when dealing with him.
Back when Lorist had decided to join the expedition to the Relic Islands to clear his mind of his relationship troubles as well as to take the opportunity to train against mid to high-ranked magical beasts and try to break through to the Dark stage from the Bright stage, he went to see the academy head to sign up for the expedition.
It ended up with Instructor Claude battling him to test his abilities. After that, Academy Head Levins used the excuse that Lorist didn't qualify to join the expedition with his Battle Force rank and forced him to agree to several conditions before finally giving him the greenlight.
Standing outside the office of the academy head, Lorist took a deep breath, calmed his ragged breathing from climbing up five flights of stairs and knocked on the office door
Lorist pushed the door open and walked into the room.
"Oh, Locke, you're back."
Nodding, Lorist said, "Yes, academy head. I've returned."
WIth a sincere smile, Academy Head Levins said, "Come over here and take a seat. Let me make you a cup of macks. The macks beans this year taste pretty good."
"Oh, academy head, you don't have to be so courteous. I'm not thirsty at all," said Lorist politely as he refused the offer.
"Just take a seat. You don't have to show any restraint here. Just treat this as you would your own home," replied Levins as he ground the macks beans in a small silver cup and poured the grinds into a silver kettle before adding some water to it and boiling it.
"Locke, have you heard about the duel notice the academy released on your behalf?"
"Yes I have. But, there's one thing I don't understand. Has the administration set this up just to collect registration fees from the challengers like Charade has mentioned? Is there some other reason that I'm not aware of?" Lorist was slightly dissatisfied as he was the one who had to duel all those people.
"Hehe, Locke, I know you have some thoughts on this, since the plan has been passed without your approval. I would feel the same if I were you. But I really have to trouble you as this is an urgent matter. I hope you can gain some face back for our academy and teach the other academies a lesson."
Leaning towards Lorist from his chair, Levins said, "The situation right now is a little complicated. Let me explain it to your from the beginning. I hope you will understand my woes.
"Do you know about the Yellow Ribbon Academy that's situated right next to us?"
"I do. They are quite famous for their butler training and bodyguard training courses," replied Lorist.
"Two months ago, their academy head, Sir Knight Yarisborg, passed away from a heart attack. It happened before he managed to write a will and to nobody's surprise, his children started squabbling over the inheritance. None of them wanted to succeed Yarisborg's position as the academy head and they decided to sell the place and split the money among themselves. Our academy immediately sent some people to negotiate and acquired the academy for a price of 180000 gold Fordes."
Levins seemed really proud of himself as he talked about the acquisition. Although the Yellow Ribbon academy was not particularly highly-ranked (it was ranked at the lower bottom among the twenty or so academies in Morante City), the academy did have a history of sixty years and the grounds it covered was one third of that of the Dawn Academy. 180000 gold Fordes for all that was a pretty good deal, even more so if one takes note of the fact that the Yellow Ribbon Academy is right next to the Dawn Academy. The Dawn Academy could easily assimilate the Yellow Ribbon Academy's resources and facilities by removing the separating walls between them.
"Oh, that's great. By assimilating that academy, ours will become more impressive as well. We might even rise in the ranks among the top ten academies on the continent," praised Lorist.
"That might be the case, but the burden of emptying our treasury of 180000 gold Fordes puts a bit of pressure on us as well," said Levins as he poured Lorist a cup of steaming hot macks.
"Here's some milk and honey crystals. Add as much as you please. Being the old man that I am, I prefer the original taste more," Levins said as he lifted his cup and gave it a light blow or two in an attempt to cool his drink a little.
"The tuition fee our academy collects amounts to about 70000 gold Fordes a year. The various societies also contribute roughly 30000. Including some miscellaneous business our academy owns, the yearly income of the academy amounts to 110000 gold coins more or less. It might look like a lot, but our expenditures aren't a small figure either. Every year the academy pays about 60000 gold coins to our staff and instructors and use 10000 to 20000 gold on teaching materials, most of which goes to the maintenance of lances and swords used in our knight training and swordsmanship courses respectively."
"Other than that, the academy provides up to 10000 gold in scholarships for needy students as well as up to 30000 gold for research, especially those conducted in herbalism. The expedition to the Relic Islands this year also cost us more than 4000 gold. In short, after deducting the upkeep from the revenue, the academy only ends up with about 10000 gold of profit annually. When times are bad, however, the academy might even sustain losses of several thousand gold Fordes."
Letting out a long sigh, Levins continued, "The 180000 gold Fordes used in acquiring the Yellow Ribbon Academy was no doubt an astronomical amount, but it was an opportunity that couldn't be missed to further strengthen and expand our academy. But from the day our academy was first formed till now, the highest amount of money the administration could bring out even after mortgaging several of our side businesses amounted to only 15000 gold Fordes. After the assimilation of the Yellow Ribbon Academy, some more money would need to be spent on modifying some infrastructure. That's why I decided to go to the Association of Academies to apply for a loan of 50000 gold Fordes for our academy's development."
The academy head seemed a little agitated at this point. "What I didn't expect was there was someone who dared to humiliate our academy! That bastard Weston said, 'Why don't you fire all your Silver and Gold ranked instructors? That way you'll be able to afford the assimilation! After all, I heard your academy has a Gold ranked instructor whose Battle Force is merely at the Iron rank, maybe you should promote the rest of your Iron ranked instructors to Gold rank and make up for the deficit! I bet their salaries are certainly much lower than instructors with higher Battle Force ranks'.
"What the heck is with that guy! He's just spewing rubbish! I immediately started arguing with him. You know what else he said? He accused us of making up a rumor about you, Locke the Silver Undefeated, for the purpose of attracting more students to our academy! He even said that several of the instructors that left after losing to you that year was actually forced to let you win on purpose so that you can get the Incador Medal to trick students into joining us!"
Seeing Lorist clasp his cup until veins showed up on his arms, the academy head's expression showed a satisfied smile. "In a fit of rage, I made a bet with that bastard. I said that you wouldn't lose even one match against all the Silver ranked instructors of the Saint Marceau Academy. Immediately after that, the rest of the academy heads wanted to join in the fray as well. In the end, the Dawn Academy made a bet against the rest of the academies, stating that if you defeat their Silver ranked instructors, we will get the loan of 50000 gold Fordes without having to repay it. If you are to lose even one match, we will have to pay back double the amount and even host a banquet to publicly apologize to them."
"Locke, please forgive me for my recklessness. I am truly apologetic for having signed you up for so many duels. I really couldn't swallow the insult and humiliation they were showing the Dawn Academy and carelessly agreed to the bet with that old bastard of the Saint Marceau Academy."
The Saint Marceau Academy was ranked eighth among the top ten academies on the Grindia Continent and the fourth among the twenty academies of Morante City, just one rank above the Dawn Academy. All the students and instructors of the Dawn Academy held surpassing the Saint Marceau Academy in the rankings as their ultimate goal. By the same logic, the people of the Saint Marceau Academy are also striving hard to prevent that from happening. The two academies were natural enemies. And the old bastard Academy Head Levins mentioned was Academy Head Weston of the Saint Marceau Academy.
Lorist stood up and said, "Thank you for the macks. It really tastes quite good. I'll take my leave now. Don't worry, I won't let you down."
"Don't be in such a rush. There's another thing that I have to settle with you," said the academy head as he tugged on a string that was connected to a bell. With little delay, a middle-aged female clerk came over from the neighboring room.
"Leanna, please bring me the file with Instructor Locke's name on it from the archives," instructed the academy head.
Receiving the file and opening it, he took out a copper key and said, "Lorist, as a dual Gold ranked instructor of our academy, you should have been given a residence by the academy administration. Before, we didn't do so because our resources were limited, but ever since the acquisition of the Yellow Ribbon Academy, we now have much more land than we previously had. That's why for the past month the academy has commissioned for a residential area for Gold ranked instructors to be built around the Moon Lake. Your house is labeled the 35th Moon. Just go over there and see Aunt Skali, the person in charge of your neighborhood."
Just as Lorist was leaving after he took the key, Academy Head Levins stopped him again and said, "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you two things. Your Battle Force awakening course will start in seven days with many more students than the last time, so we have moved the venue of the course to the great hall of the Yellow Ribbon Academy. The other thing is the academy has already approved the formation of the Swordsmanship Society and you have been nominated to be its chairman. The society can carry out its activities in the training hall of the Yellow Ribbon Academy. So, please draft up the rules and regulations of the society and submit it soon. The Enforcement Division has also suggested to appoint some of the elite members of the society as their reserve staff. Don't forget to discuss it with Supervisor Charade."
"Alright, academy head. I know what to do."