The Pawn and the Announcement
Instructor Claude rushed into the Academy Head's room with a face full of worry.
Sitting behind a large desk and browsing through a document, Academy Head Levins lifted his head and asked curiously, "What's wrong? You look very anxious. Has a fire broken out?"
"Um, there's no fire, sir. Academy Head, are you going to just leave it be? Another three of our Silver ranked instructors have just resigned today," said Instructor Claude.
"Oh, I know that," nodded Levins as he stood up. "Would you like some tea or some macks?"
Macks was a beverage that was quite similar to a chocolate drink; the beans would let out a rich, fragrant aroma when ground and boiled with water. It was even rumored to be the favorite drink of ancient fairies as well as the legendary magi of the past and was quite highly priced.
"I'll be fine with some plain water. Right now the Silver ranked instructors are extremely afraid of being challenged to a duel by Lorist. If this keeps on going we'll be even more understaffed and will find it hard-pressed to maintain our usual classes. It's one thing if the students only spectate the duels, but they are also eager to see Lorist beat the crap out of all the Silver ranked instructors in the school. Every day a whole bunch of them would follow him around in anticipation of such a scene; it's quite pressuring and humiliating to the instructors Lorist challenges," explained Claude.
Levins lifted a silver kettle on the table and poured some water for Claude and asked, "Has Lorist lost a match yet?"
"No. He's fighting his 28th duel today and hasn't even lost one match, and I don't think he will either. I've seen a few of his matches and I believe those Silver ranked instructors wouldn't be able to put up a fight with Lorist at all. Most of them lose within ten sword bouts when dueling Instructor Locke," replied Claude.
"Then there's no need to do anything. We can stop him after he gets the Incador Medal."
"But Academy Head, 13 of the 28 instructors he challenged have already resigned due to the humiliation of losing to him in public. Even several of those who hasn't received any challenge from him left in fear as well."
"If they don't even have the courage to face failure, I wouldn't stop them from leaving. We don't need spineless cowards like those in the Dawn Academy."
Laughing bitterly, Claude continued, "Academy Head, say that as you may, but think about how we're supposed to maintain our regular classes with the sudden loss of more than 20 Silver ranked instructors. There are already three swordsmanship classes that can't continue anymore due to the sudden vacancy, with the students left with nothing to do but to wander around in the academy."
Slowly moving up to the window and gazing outwards, Levins said, "Claude, don't you feel that our academy has been stagnating for some time now, much like a pool of still water?"
"Hm?" Instructor Claude tilted his head as he did not understand what the Academy Head just said.
"While our academy has only 13 Gold ranked instructors, the Silver ranked instructors number a staggering 129 people! Even the rest of the Iron ranked instructors and the assistant instructors only number 42 people, with another 31 people being non-combatant professors who focus on other disciplines. The academy management staff consists of 45 people, the Enforcement Department has 68 and the other miscellaneous workers number 76 people. Apart from them are roughly 5000 students. Given that kind of ratio, don't you think the Silver ranked instructors hold a little too much influence?"
Levins turned to Claude and said with a smile, "We have always put more focus on the actual abilities of a person when we intend to appoint someone as an instructor. Since when has it been based on their Battle Force? If it were like that, doesn't mean that a cripple like me who can't train in Battle Force should resign as the Academy Head as well? As Silver ranked instructors, not only do they not continue to strive for perfection, they harbored jealousy for people more skilled than them, banded together and formed their own hierarchies and even dared to put pressure on the academy when anything starts to go against their favor."
"This time, the reason I let Locke do as he pleases was partly due to Charade's support as well. It is time that we wake up the Silver ranked instructors of the academy and remind them that their status in the academy is not dependant on their Battle Force ranks but rather their actual skills. If there's anyone who's unsatisfied with this policy, they're free to resign for all I care."
Wiping sweat off his forehead, Claude said, "Then, what do we do about the suspended classes? Should we start recruiting new instructors?"
"There'll be no need. I already negotiated with the city's garrison general and will be having ten or so retired military officers who are all of the Gold rank to come over and be replacement instructors for a while. If we still lack people, we can appoint some promising students to be our new instructors, but only if they're truly capable."
"Duly noted. I suppose I'll make my move now," said Instructor Claude as he put down the cup on the table and turned towards the exit.
"Wait," said the Academy Head. "There's still two other things. First, when Locke gains his 30th consecutive victory, carry out a small ceremony to award him the Incador Medal. Second, put up a notice that states that instructors of the Dawn Academy cannot refuse challenges from other instructors or students. Those who do not comply should leave the academy. Hmph, if I don't force them like this, they won't continue to strive to improve their skills."
"No problem. It will be carried out."
"Oh, and you mentioned three classes having no instructors in charge at the moment?" Levins gave it some thought and continued, "When Locke gets the Incador Medal, assign him to take charge of these three classes since they lost their instructors because of him in the first place."
"Wow, is that for real?" thought Instructor Claude, speechless.
In only three sword strokes, Lorist forced the instructor he challenged to admit defeat.
This was his 30th duel. There was a small stage about the height of a person beside the dueling venue. It was like they knew without a doubt that Lorist would win. Instructor Claude stood solemnly by the stage beside a beautiful female student who held a box that was about 30 centimeters wide, presumably containing the Incador Medal within.
Lorist was still in a rather good mood after his victory; he found the duels he initiated for the past ten days to be quite addictive. The feeling of owning the other Silver ranked instructors completely was quite pleasant. Maybe he could negotiate with Instructor Claude about whether he could continue dueling for another twenty or more times and create another record within the academy and rename the Incador Medal after him.
Too bad Instructor Claude rejected the proposal immediately and pulled him up to the small stage. All the students cheered as Lorist received the Incador Medal.
During the ceremony, Claude announced two things. He first congratulated Lorist for obtaining the Incador Medal and the history and explained the tradition behind the medal. After the long speech, he finally said something that is of direct relevance to Lorist, that is, Lorist was to be treated as a Gold ranked instructor in the academy and shall receive the same benefits and entitlements as a Gold ranked instructor.
The second announcement came directly from the academy administration. From that day onwards, no instructor is to refuse a duel from students or other instructors for no justifiable reason and the result of every duel would play a part in the yearly instructor evaluations. Should an instructor refuse a duel for no reason up to three times or should they lose too many duels, the instructor will have to relinquish their instructor badge. The rules and protocol of dueling was also announced to the crowd, namely, an instructor may not challenge a student, a person of a higher rank may not challenge those of lower ranks, etc.
But that special rule concerning challenges directed to lower ranks didn't apply to Lorist because he was the holder of the Incador Medal. Since he got it by getting consecutive victories against opponents of a higher level in the first place, he must still accept challenges issued by Silver ranked instructors even though his Battle Force was only at the Iron rank. Lorist will lose both the Incador Medal as well as the Gold rank instructor privileges should he lose even one duel.
Unbeknownst to Lorist, he was serving as a pawn in the Academy Head's plan to change the academy's attitude and as a whip to pressure the Silver ranked instructors. He did, however, feel that the timing for the second announcement was a little too coincidental with his obtaining the Incador Medal.
Initially thinking of bringing his winning streak above 50, Lorist came to understand after the second announcement that there will no doubt be flocks of students and Silver ranked instructors coming to challenge him to take the Incador Medal from him. On the bright side, he would not lack opponents to battle against. But it was pretty unfair for others to be able to take the Incador Medal from him after winning against him only once while he had to get 30 consecutive victories against opponents of a higher rank.
Without giving Lorist too much time to figure out the implications, Instructor Claude went before Lorist and talked to him sincerely, "I have good news and bad news for you, Instructor Locke. Which would you rather hear first?"
Analyzing Claude's behavior but not finding anything weird about it, Lorist said, "Let me hear the good news first. At least it'll cheer me up a bit."
"The good news is during this month, there will be ten retired Gold ranked military officers coming to the academy to take on posts as Gold ranked instructors."
"Huh? I can understand that it is good news for the academy, but what does it have to do with me?" asked Lorist curiously.
"Because, the bad news is you have to take charge of the three classes that have lost their instructors because of you. You are to handle their swordsmanship classes until the end of this month before the new Gold ranked instructors come. This came from the administration so there is no ground for negotiations. Consider this a light punishment for stirring up so much chaos in the academy."
Already crumbling, Lorist complained, "Where would I find a place to teach so many students at once?"
"Just use the school field."
Looking at the noisy crowd of students that Charade brought over which easily numbered more than a hundred from the stone platform on the school field, Lorist exclaimed, "Gosh, didn't you say there were only three classes? Why are there five classes worth of students over here!?"
Charade said as he laughed bitterly, "Don't blame me for this. Who asked you to defeat all those Silver ranked instructors within only three or four bouts? Now, the students are starting to get picky about the standards of their sword instructors and no longer want the Silver ranked instructors to teach them. That's why they're here now."
"Sigh, it appears that I have to go down for a bit. They're taking so long just to get in line, talk about discipline..."
After making his rounds around the field, Lorist returned with a handful of letters of challenge. "I already received more than 20 challenges in a single class! How am I supposed to survive this!?"
Looking at him with a sympathetic face, Charade said, "What did you think the Enforcement Division is here for other than to regulate the students and maintain order? Now that you're a well-known figure in the academy, the administration has sent us to make sure there won't be a stampede."
"I don't think I can live on like this... Other instructors have almost nothing to do compared to the hundreds of challenges I've received within three days... Even the Iron ranked students want a part in that, I really don't know what's going on in their heads. Fatty, this brother of yours is starting to regret listening to you in the first place... The Incador Medal has brought me nothing but trouble," said Lorist miserably.
Charade replied in an encouraging tone, "Keep it together, brother. Even though you got a lot of challenges, I bet most of them were made in the heat of the moment. They are no threat to you, given that you can easily take care of them in two or three strikes. Even taking on twenty of them is only a warm up session for you. These are just small fry. What you should watch out for are those with actual skills that will come later. Oh, the students have got into their lines. Aren't you gonna start your class?"
Lorist looked at the students who were lined up messily across the field and savagely barked, "Practice the eight basic sword moves for a thousand times!"