Escorted by Charade and Els, Lorist, Marlin, Reidy, Potterfang and his children all returned to the Dawn Academy Gold ranked instructor residence. After returning Instructor Marlin to his home and asking Charade to call the academy herbalist over to look at Potterfang's wounds, Lorist let out a breath of relief.
Pulling on the rope that was connected to a bell in the management office, Lorist called Kelly over and instructed her to look after Potterfang and his children for the next three months. He let Potterfang and his children use the guest room on the first floor while Reidy took his luggage to the servant's room on the ground floor and went to look after the Zeno Horses afterwards.
After everything was settled, an hour had already passed. Lorist also asked Kelly for supper to be prepared for the group before sitting down on the couch in the lounge. Bringing over the a bottle of unopened macks extract, Yuriy put an iron pot into the fireplace in the lounge and started making the drink and added milk and honey crystals into the pot nonstop. After a while, a thick, fragrant smell spread throughout the whole house and even lured the two children and their father upstairs to come down.
Pouring the children one cup of macks each and telling them to go check out what Kelly was cooking for supper in the kitchen, Lorist started describing the whole encounter with the assailants to the group, including the fact that one of the assailants said that their junior apprentice brother wanted them to take only one of Lorist's arms. However, Lorist had no clue about anyone he had a grudge with.
"No one has has a grudge against you?" Charade said derisively before coldly laughing. "This isn't about vengeance or anything you know. You might not have realized it, but you've already become a huge pain in the neck for many people, especially so with the case of the duels. Your relationship with most of the Silver ranked instructors of the academy was already bad enough, and right now, it's not an overstatement to say that you're an existence like that of a nightmare for the other Silver ranked instructors in the whole Academy Sector. After only dueling for a month, you have already defeated all the Silver ranked instructors from 13 academies. It's quite possible that the ones whose turns are next wish to cripple you to end this whole dueling event prematurely.
"As for the challengers that don't represent the academy, do you know how many people have lost fortunes for betting against you? During the last month itself we managed to get a profit of 18000 gold Fordes from the betting pool! I bet many of them are hoping that you will lose so that they can earn some of their money back. For that, they won't hold back at all and will throw everything they can at you. From today onwards, you must be really careful for your safety. The Enforcement Division will have a group of people following you at all times to ensure that nothing bad happens to you. Terman, send some elites from the Swordsmanship Society to accompany Locke as well. With that many people following him around, I doubt that many will dare to cause any sort of trouble.
"Alright," replied Terman.
"Don't do that, it's horribly inconvenient for me to have so many people following me in and out all the time! It'll be fine as long as I don't leave the academy right? I'm pretty sure that I can keep myself safe here at least," said Lorist quickly. I can't have a horde of people by my side all the time! Imagine how it would feel when I need to go to the washroom!
"While it is indeed safer in the academy, it is still not completely foolproof. Don't worry Locke, I'll just have the people follow you around in secret without crowding around you. If we don't do at least that, the old bastard will really give us a harsh scolding by the time we report the incident to him tomorrow. Who asked you to be such a precious money-maker for the academy? The old bastard is quite fond of you, you know." The group laughed out loud when Charade said that.
"You don't really have to let him know about it, right? Can't you not spread it at all?" asked Lorist.
"We must definitely let the news get out as best as we can! That way, we can let the others who are plotting against you to rethink their plans. If we were to keep this hidden, it'll only let them think that you're afraid of future attacks and they'll try even harder to hurt you!" said Charade. "Also, Els, make sure you get rid of the corpses of the assailants and spread the word that they ran away after seeing reinforcements come for Locke, but still managed to injure him quite badly. Put a bounty of the two if you have to. Make sure nobody knows that they were killed by Locke."
"Huh?" Els didn't understand why Charade wanted that done.
On the other hand, Lorist already had an inkling on Charade's plan. "Sol, the fatty's going to rip people off again..."
As expected, Charade said, "If word gets out that Lorist managed to kill 2 Gold ranked fighters, then who would continue to bet on his loss?! Think about it, who would bet on a Silver rank's victory against someone who has killed two Gold Swordsmen?!"
"Oh, I see," said Els as he slapped his head in understanding. He then asked, "Fatty, would anyone believe that Locke survived the attack unhurt as he is?"
Charade suddenly had an idea and turned to look at Lorist, then to Yuriy before saying, "Yuriy, get me a chicken tomorrow morning. We're going to help Lorist with his 'injuries'. Brother Locke, I'm afraid that you will have to play along with us in this."
Lorist furrowed his brows and said, "Hey, you guys are really too much!"
""It's fine, we'll just say that you got injured during the assault and wrap you up in some bandages and sprinkle some chicken blood on it. Oh, and Terman, notify the herbalist to not tell anyone about Lorist's condition unless they pay up. And in the event that they do, make sure the herbalist says that Locke got the injuries Potterfang currently has. Locke, try harder to show that you're hurt in the duels during the morning and make them think that you'll be unable to keep up. Hehe... Think of all that money that'll fall into our pockets!" Charade and Els's eyes radiated a golden light.
Even though this method was rather shady, Lorist didn't oppose to it since he would be getting a cut of the profit anyway. As for the ones who would lose their money to the betting pool, he couldn't care less about them and even believed that they deserve it for not having the eyes to discern his true abilities.
Charade poured another cup of macks and continued while sipping his drink. "I have two suspects in my mind who could have plotted the attack just now. One of them is the Saint Marceau Academy. The academy challenging Locke tomorrow, the Clearwater Academy, shouldn't be much of a threat to him. However, the 15th academy that has accepted the challenge, the Saint Marceau Academy is our academy's number one rival. That's why they are my prime suspect. Then again, if they were involved in this, I doubt that they'd send those two losers to deal with it. It doesn't fit the academy's modus operandi."
Lorist raised a voice of objection. "Hey, those two were One Star Gold ranks you know."
"Even so, they are still losers for having been defeated by you. If I were there, maybe I would even manage to kill one of them myself," boasted Charade.
"Ugh..." Based on the junior assailant's performance, Lorist had to admit that Charade did make some sense and that he would probably win if he fought against the junior one. Apart from being very good at dodging, the junior assailant didn't leave any other impression on Lorist.
"There is another person I suspect," said Charade. "Do you remember Sandoz?"
"Who's that?" asked Lorist while shaking his head.
"Oh, you..." Charade was totally frustrated. "Didn't I tell you that once before? It's that assistant instructor that riled up the dual elite course students to surround and attack you whom you later beat up, remember? After recovering, he got accepted by the Kalia Kingdom's Sword Saint as a disciple and he's now at the peak of the Silver rank. This time, he's back at the academy to duel you for revenge! Sheesh, I even reminded you about him once before you know."
"Oh, his name was Higuita or something, right?" said Lorist.
"It's Sandoz Hirda, not Higuita," said the fatty as he fervently shook his head. "You even got the name wrong... It seems that you really don't hold him in any regard at all..."
Lorist's face reddened in embarrassment. Due to being dragged along by a friend to watch a soccer match in his past life, the goalkeeper Higuita left quite a deep impression on him. Now, they very sound of Hirda's name makes him think of that goalkeeper.
"It can be seen that this fellow is exceedingly ruthless in his methods from how he gathered all those people to beat you up three years ago. Even though he should be quite confident in defeating you during the duel, given his background as a noble, he should be quite adept at using some other underhanded plot to make his victory doubly certain. I wouldn't be surprised if he dares to try something sinister. The next open match will be the 12th one and he's on the challenger list of your 14th open match. He would probably be trying something within the next few days to weaken you before the match. The only thing that I still can't figure out is the origin of those two Gold ranked Battle Force badges. It doesn't seem like they were issued from the Kalia Kingdom either..."
"Oh well, let's stop worrying our minds over something like this. With my capabilities, no matter what kind of trick this fellow pulls, it'll be useless just like what happened with the assailants just now. It's getting late, so we should all be getting some rest."
"Sol, you're only an Iron rank yet you dare to claim that you're capable? For your safety, I will be staying over at your place tonight just in case. You do have an extra bed, right?" asked Charade. Now that Lorist was an important piece for his money-making scheme, Charade had to make sure that he would not come to any harm.
"Nope, the other servant room is already occupied by Kelly. You can either use the couch or sleep on the floor," replied Lorist.
The next morning, Brad, the Clearwater Academy Head, heard about how Iron Locke, the Silver Undefeated, had been ambushed on the way home the night before by two One Star Gold Swordsmen. Even though help ended up coming for him and forced the two assailants away, Lorist didn't fare that well either and had incurred some injuries.
This was music to the academy head's ears. His only complaint was that they didn't manage to take his life too. Should that have happened, the Clearwater Academy's awkward problem would instantly vanish! What a shame! Academy Head Brad gave a long sigh and sent people to the Dawn Academy to check if the duels will still be held today or not, with the actual aim being to find out the extent of injuries incurred by Lorist.
Academy Head Brad decided that if Lorist really was hurt badly, he will not agree to postponing the duel to another day and insist that Lorist would lose by default for not showing up. If he didn't do something like this in Lorist's moment of weakness, there was no saying whether the Clearwater Academy would become laughing stocks like the other 13 academies before them. Given that Lorist had defeated all 260 of the Silver ranked instructors from the previous academies, Academy Head Brad was quite certain that his instructors wouldn't fare much better either. He was rather pleased by the timely attack that had put Lorist at a disadvantage. It's better if he doesn't show up at all and concede his victory. Well, even if he plans to fight, I'll have to make sure to encourage the 20 instructors representing my academy to do their best, thought the academy head.
If the 20 Silver ranked instructors couldn't even defeated an injured Iron rank, then the logical conclusion would be that the instructors of the Clearwater Academy were useless weaklings. Academy Head Brad wallowed in frustration once again and decided that he would sack these Silver ranked instructors should they all lose to Lorist.
Without much delay, the people he sent came back with the news that Iron Locke would not be postponing the date of the duel despite the Dawn Academy's advice to do so. He was quoted saying that he was only going to fight against Silver ranked instructors and not Gold ranked instructors so there was no need to move the duel to another day even though he was injured.
This news worried the Academy Head Brad as he wondered if it was intentionally leaked by that old bastard of the Dawn Academy. However, the people he sent to the herbalist paid 1 gold coin for information that stated he was indeed hurt. The herbalist even described the injuries Lorist had incurred: there was a slash wound on his left shoulder and a stab wound around his right upper torso. He even stressed that while those wounds posed no threat to his life, it would affect Lorist's mobility quite visibly, especially the one on his right torso, which has made it hard for Lorist to even lift his arm and would require at least two months to recover completely.
Academy Head Brad excitedly brought the instructors of his academy to the Dawn Academy for the duels only to return in the afternoon filled with anger and frustration. Even though the battles were all pretty close and the Silver ranked instructors of his academy had gave the best of their efforts and performed far better than they would usually have, for some reason, all of them lost by a hair's breath. For some reason, Iron Locke's luck was just that good and he managed to gain victory by the narrowest margin despite his impaired mobility.
In the case of the last battle, he even managed to win by using the scabbard he had cast on the ground before the duel started. Who would've expected that with his longsword knocked away, he would be able to pick up his scabbard and sheath his opponent's sword in it when the attack came and swing his shortsword to his opponent's neck? Nobody would be satisfied with a victory like that! It was merely a stroke of luck!
Aside from Academy Head Brad, the other academy heads also wore unpleasant expressions when Levins received a report from the finance department of the Dawn Academy.
The report stated that a group of instructors lead by Instructor Marlin had purchased 100 gold coins worth of betting tickets while the members of the Swordsmanship Society had bought 300 gold coins worth as well with the Enforcement Division also chipping in 500 gold coins into the betting pool. The reason was that they wanted to show support for Instructor Locke who has so adamantly decided that he would continue dueling despite having been injured the night before.
After the duels in the morning ended, the finance department of the academy had to pay out 180 gold Fordes of reward for the 900-gold-Forde bet whereas the money earned for the audience tickets and the ones who bet on Lorist's loss only amounted to 63 gold coins, 1 large silver and 3 small silvers. That meant that the academy had incurred a loss of over 116 gold Fordes for the day.
In the afternoon, the Dawn Academy Head issued a new notice that stated that the finance department would no longer be accepting bets for Instructor Locke's victory. That meant that people could only bet on his loss in the future.
"Tsk, who would be so dumb to hand their money over to the academy like that?" said Charade as he threw the notice into the trash.