Dawn Academy (1)
Lorist slept soundly the whole night until he was awoken during noon the next day by the noises in the main hall. Lazily lying by the bedside, he waited some time until the hall had quieted down before slowly pulling himself out of bed.
A set of new clothing lay beside the bed, among which included some grey linen undergarments, a dark green wool shirt, a black leather vest, a grey wool coat, some white socks as well as a pair of black pants. There was also a pair of black leather boots beside the clothes.
Lorist was very satisfied with Louise's purchase; she knew what he liked best: clothes with dark, unassuming colors. He thought the other mercenaries who often wore bright colors looked even more ridiculous than clowns. However, that set of clothing shouldn't have come cheap. It probably cost more than one gold coin.
Fully-dressed and wearing his new boots, he slot two daggers into his boots and equipped his mini-crossbow on his left arm. He then pinned his shorter sword to his belt buckle and slung the long one on his back. Ruffling his wallet and waist pouch, he checked if he left any belongings in the room before locking the doors behind him and heading downstairs.
The lunch hour is already over and there were only twenty or so people chatting and drinking in the main hall as they listened to Mike singing "The War of the Gods" in a wistful tone. This was an epic poem that depicted the conflict between the magi and the gods thousands of years ago. Only, the author of the poem was sympathetic towards the gods. The author described the humans who were led by the magi as the frenzied attackers, and mourned for the fall of the gods. Aside from this one flaw, the poem had beautiful language, unpredictable plot twists as well as brilliant pacing. The tale has always captivated the people of Grindia and has even been adapted into stage plays, musicals as well as other entertaining performances in bars.
Lorist went to an empty table and took a seat. Several acquaintances raised their cups and silently made a toast as a greeting, before refocusing their attentions on Mike's performance.
Louise appeared before the table and said in a low voice, "When I saw you sleeping so soundly in the morning, I just couldn't bear to wake you. You look great in these clothes. Do they fit right?"
Nodding, Lorist said, "They're great. Many thanks to you. Anything I can have to fill my belly with?"
"We just got a fresh batch of cod just now. Do you want one?"
"Alright, get McDuffin to fry the fish for me. I'd like some rib soup, one omelette rice with some sausages and a cup of blackcurrant ale as well. I'm going to the academy later this afternoon."
"Coming right up. I'll get McDuffin to work faster since you're gonna be busy."
"Wait," called Lorist as Louise was just about to leave. "I'm not in a rush to go to the academy later. Louise, I'd like the room for a few more nights, and leave my laundry inside when it's done. Get Mike a cup of ale too and put it on my tab."
Full and satisfied, Lorist exited the inn and waited for a little while by the street until he saw a horse cart taxi passing by.
Rapidly waving, Lorist said, "Get me to the Dawn Academy."
"Alright, it'll be fifteen coppers. Sit tight." The brown-clothed driver flicked the thip and the Delemont Striped Horse raced towards the destination.
After ten or so minutes, the horse cart stopped in front of the entrance of the academy. Lorist paid the driver one silver coin, which was worth 20 coppers, with five coppers as a tip for the driver. The driver showered him with gratitude by as he got off the cart.
Dawn Academy was situated at the western part of the Academy Sector. It offered courses in multiple disciplines and was ranked the fifth among twenty or so academies in Morante City and ninth among all the academies on the Grindia Continent.
A statue of a girl who looked about twelve to thirteen years old slaying a gigantic dragon with a jeweled sword could be seen at the entrance. This brave young girl was the Dawn Goddess Loria. She is the daughter of Singwa, the god of light, sun and war, and Daphlyn, the Silvermoon Goddess. In the Grindia mythos, it was said that the Dragon King of Darkness hated the lights Singwa emitted as he patrolled the world. By means of a trap, it managed to send the five divine horses that were pulling Singwa's chariot down the road to the Abyss. In this critical moment, Loria acted and successfully slayed the Dragon King of Darkness, returning the horses back onto their normal trajectory, allowing the god of the sun to once again illuminate the skies of darkness. It was at that moment Loria was granted the title of the Dawn Goddess.
The dawn, the time when the day breaks, the time that signifies the coming of light. In the Grindia mythos, Loria the Dawn Goddess was emblematic of bravery and hope.
Circling around the gigantic statue that was jokingly interpreted by some students of the academy as a lustful dragon pushing down a young girl, Lorist stood right in front of the main entrance of the academy. The entrance of the academy had no gates or doors. It only consisted of the statue and a boulevard that led straight into the academy.
Sighing, he reached into his waist pouch and took out an iron badge which was about one inch large and pinned it in front of his chest. On the black badge was an embossed image of a greatsword with three stars on top of the blade. That represented his Three Star Iron Battle Force rank.
There was nothing he could do about it: one had to wear one's Battle Force badge in order to enter the academy. Aside from that, professors, teaching staff and students all have their own respective badges that must be worn at all times within the premises.
Lorist put on another badge beside his Battle Force badge. On it was an image of a long sword plunged straight into the ground with a half-risen sun beyond the horizon in the background. This badge was gold in color unlike his Battle Force badge. It represented his status as a dual instructor in both swordsmanship and Battle Force awakening.
A few teenagers wearing the uniform of the academy came over from upfront. They should all be freshmen. Lorist recalled that the recruitment day was almost one month ago. As he watched these teenagers jump around in excitement, he reminisced his own times as a student here ten years ago. Time really flows quickly and unceasingly.
At first, these students didn't pay Lorist much heed. After all, there were many students of his age in the academy. But once they saw his golden badge, they all hurried to pay their respects.
Lorist merely nodded and smiled before continuing onward. At the Dawn Academy, students were required to pay the respects to the instructors.
Some sounds of chatter could be heard behind Lorist. "That must be Instructor Locke, the legendary Black Iron Gold-ranked Instructor of our academy!"
"He has a gold instructor badge even with his Battle Force at the Three Star Iron rank. The rumors were true... I even heard that he's invincible against Silver Swordsmen, earning him the nickname of 'Silver Undefeated'!"
"I really hope my Battle Force instructor will be him... I heard that all his students three years in a row have awakened their Battle Force without fail! They're already at the Iron rank now."
"I heard the seniors say..."
On the Grindia Continent, one's Battle Force and swordsmanship represented one's strength. The four different ranks of Battle Force included Bronze, Iron, Silver and Gold, which were further divided into three sub-levels for each rank. Beyond that was the level of Blademasters and Sword Saints. People like Lorist who were stuck at the Three Star Iron rank for more than three years were far and few. Aside from breaking through to the Blademaster level, which required deep levels of insight, when one reached the third star level of their rank, their Battle Force would usually break through to the next rank quite easily. This was why Lorist was so harshly berated in the academy.
Ten years ago, a carriage with an insignia of a roaring bear brought a 14 year-old noble youth from the Krissen Empire to Dawn Academy. McDuffin, who was selling food by the entrance of the academy with his parents, clearly remembered that scene. The youth that came down from the carriage had an ugly, unwilling expression on his face. He viewed McDuffin and his family with much disdain. That youth was extremely cold and prideful.
Not even one month later, McDuffin heard that that youth got into a fight with someone in the academy and got badly beaten up. He had to rest in bed for three whole months.
The next time he met that youth, McDuffin didn't see any trace of who he was before; in front of him stood a smiling, bright young man whose face radiated endless curiosity. He stretched his hand out towards McDuffin and said, "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Norton Lorist. What's your name?"
In the coming months, McDuffin got to know that Lorist befriended him because he couldn't stand the food provided by the academy anymore. Stale rice, black bread, potato mash and vegetable soup were served for all three meals every single day. Lorist had no choice but to go to McDuffin's stall for some variety to sate his cravings.
McDuffin couldn't forget the time when Lorist showed his culinary skills at his family's stall for the first time. His parents stared wide-eyed at the dishes he cooked up that emitted wafts of mouth-watering aroma. Even his siblings had their eyes glued to the food.
At that time, McDuffin's parents' stall only sold baked apples and potatoes as well as smoked sausages, soybean and some other common dishes. They were quite satisfied with a daily income of a few large silver coins. But after Lorist's arrival, their stall quickly became one of the must-visit places for food in the Academy Sector, reaching its peak of profit.
The young McDuffin quickly learned all the "hometown dishes" of Lorist, who was also happy to teach him everything. Lorist himself pointed out that McDuffin had a knack for cooking. The young McDuffin even believed Lorist's hometown to be a haven for good food and was planning to go on a "pilgrimage" to the holy land of food.
When Lorist finally had enough with McDuffin's annoying pestering he told McDuffin that those recipes came from a secret cookbook passed down only in his family and that nobody else in his hometown could make food like that. It's a shame so many ingredients listed in the book could no longer be found. But Lorist easily improvised and cooked out dish after dish of delicacies.
It was at that moment when McDuffin relinquished his desire to visit Lorist's hometown.
Time passed incessantly and five years passed quickly. Having saved up a hefty sum, McDuffin's parents stopped running the food stall and bought a small farm in the countryside to do some farming and his siblings tagged along. McDuffin also got a well-paying job as the head chef for the Red Grace Inn. Lorist was only nineteen back then and his Battle Force was at the Two Star Iron rank. He was promoted to an instructor by the academy due to his stellar swordsmanship and was viewed to be a growing talent with a bright road ahead of him.
Five years after, McDuffin was still the head chef of the inn while Lorist became a legendary figure in the academy, due to his dual instructor qualifications. However, with his Three Star Iron Battle Force unable to break through, he became the laughing stock of the academy. With much mockery and disdain, his peers referred to him as the powerless genius swordsman.
Usually, academy sword instructors of higher ranking academies were usually of the Silver rank and above. That was even more so the case, given that Dawn Academy was ranked number nine out all other academies on the whole Grindia Continent with most other instructors' Battle Force being at least at the Three Star Silver rank. Lorist was the only exception who was a dual gold ranked instructor with a Three Star Iron Battle Force, easily earning the envy and hostility of his peers.
The reason he got a gold rank instructor badge was due to the fact that all his students managed to awaken their Battle Force for three years straight. This 100% success rate was unprecedented. Even only 25 out of 26 students from noble families had their Battle Force awakened in one Blademaster's Battle Force course. The one who failed was deemed to have little force circulating in his blood. At that time, that was the highest recorded rate of success for Battle Force awakening courses. Usually, only two thirds of students will be able to awaken their Battle Force.
However, the moment Lorist was put in charge of his first Battle Force awakening course, all 17 commoner students who no instructor wanted to help successfully awakened their Battle Force one year later. The second class which was attended by 31 other people also had a 100% success rate. During the third year, his course was attended by 59 people, among which included 10 students of noble descent who went out of their way to apply for the course. But, the most eye-catching ones were the three students who previously failed to awaken their Battle Force.
One would still stand a chance at awakening their Battle Force even after the failed first attempt, albeit with a lower success rate. However, a year later, all three of them successfully woke their Battle Force. This didn't only stun the people of the academy, it also greatly surprised the whole of Morante City. Lorist had since become a legend who managed to awaken the Battle Force of three students who has already failed once, earning him his golden Battle Force instructor badge.
As for his gold swordsmanship instructor badge, Lorist got it from winning duels. He has battled students as well as instructors of the Silver rank more than a hundred times without a single loss, earning him the nickname "Silver Undefeated".
Walking along the boulevard, Lorist thought back at every effort, gain, loss, bliss and grief throughout his ten years at the academy with an air of sentiment and nostalgia.