"Excuse me, but may I have a little bit of your time?"
A man came up behind him and asked politely just as Lorist was going to turn around and walk away.
Lorist turned to his back and looked; it was one of the students who remained at the plaza. This young noble youth donned an intricately cut shirt under a white leather vest with baggy pants that were decorated with threads of gold. Numerous diamonds that were set on his boots could be seen gleaming in the sunlight while the collar of his shirt boasted two golden buttons. On the outermost layer was a refined black linen coat that was fastened tightly around his body by a black belt. The youth exuded an aura of elegance with a hint of defiance in his eyes.
The guy had a superficial smile that was typical among nobles which caused Lorist to feel a sudden impulse to throw a punch at his face. Although that person looked familiar, Lorist felt much disdain towards his condescending, prideful gaze which held no one else in any regard.
"What business do you have here?" asked Charade with a serious tone.
"Greetings, Instructor Charade. I'm only here to ask if Instructor Locke has missed me since we last met," nodded the youth to Charade and subsequently turning his gaze to Lorist.
"My dear Instructor Locke, I, your former student, has come to pay my respects to you. I am eternally grateful for the guidance you have provided during these past few years. I heard that you've been unable to progress in your Battle Force training. That's certainly too bad. As of late, I've managed to break through to the Three Star Silver rank and I have decided to return to the academy to offer my thanks for your lessons and advice. To my surprise, I've heard that you will be accepting duels from Silver ranked students, and that really awed me, since there's a great disparity between your Battle Force and that of Silver Swordsmen. I got the news a little too late and ended up being placed behind a number of your other challengers. My only hope is that you defeat all the others so that I may taste your blade and receive your education again. Please try hard for this student's sake."
After saying all that, the noble youth bowed, before retreating a few steps and walking away.
What's going on? He seemed sincere when he said all that, but something still felt off. What's up with that guy, thought Lorist. He proceeded to ask Charade, "Who was that guy? He just came up to me with five or six other followers and said some really weird stuff. Somehow, he looks kind of familiar."
Charade rolled his eyes. "Come on, you really don't remember him?"
"Well, I kind of remember seeing him some time ago... But I really can't recall who he is. He did seem like he was some kind of big shot though... He looks pretty loaded too," answered Lorist honestly.
Charade clapped his hands in amazement and said, "He lost to you in a duel before. Remember three years ago?"
"Three years back? What happened at that time?" Lorist still couldn't recall that incident.
"Sigh... Even if you can't recall it now, that guy couldn't forget it even if he wanted to. When you were first appointed as an official swordsmanship instructor three years ago, that bloke brought a group of other students to ambush you. He was the main perpetrator of the incident that occurred during the last dual elite course, and was also the one that you punished the hardest. He ended up bruised all over, with several broken ribs and got bandaged up like a large mummy," recalled Charade painfully.
Oh, so it was that guy. Lorist finally remembered.
Every three years, the Dawn Academy has special training session for the students who excelled in both Battle Force and swordsmanship. It was called the "dual elite course" and was also regarded as one of the most difficult courses offered by the academy. Given that the students that attended the course were the top among their peers in both disciplines, and that most of them were nobles with their own unique Battle Force techniques passed down through their families, the students were extremely arrogant and prideful and would not accept an instructor who lacked the necessary qualifications.
Three years ago Lorist was just appointed as an official swordsmanship instructor and had been given the task of teaching the dual elite class. Naturally, there were students who looked down on him, but all of them were utterly defeated by Lorist. That youth just now was ranked one of the top two in terms of swordsmanship and was also an assistant instructor of the dual elite course. He was swiftly defeated in a duel with Lorist after merely three blows. Unable to suppress his hatred after his loss, he managed to manipulate the other students into attacking Lorist en masse while he himself attempted to strike at Lorist while he was occupied, desiring to put an end to Lorist's life with the cruelest method available to him.
Lorist, unable to suppress his anger at that guy's actions, utterly pummeled him to the point where he could not go through daily life without assistance and was bedridden for more than six months.
"Oh yeah, didn't you say he went away to recover and even decided to leave school? Logically speaking, shouldn't he be brimming with hate and desperately trying to kill me? Why did he even come to pay his respects?" asked Lorist as he stroked his chin, annoyed.
"Hahaha..." laughed the fatty, "This is a custom of the nobles. Even if they were facing their archenemy and was going to challenge them to a duel to the death, they would still extend their greetings and salute the enemy. This is called 'being chivalrous'."
"Who is he to come over like that and spout all that insincere nonsense about me not letting him down and fighting my way to him! So what if he's a Three Star Silver Swordsman! I've defeated tons of people of that caliber!" said Lorist, disgruntled.
"Hehe, you better look out for that youngster. Do you know his family background?"
"I can't remember anything else about him, not even his name..."
"You... Sigh, forget it. Let me tell you. That kid is called Sandoz Hirda and he's the second son of the Archduke of the Kalia Kingdom, Sandoz Lyam. You do know about the Kalia Kingdom, right?"
"Of course I do. It's one of the neighboring nations of the Forde Trade Union and was located somewhere southeast of the union, I think," answered Lorist after contemplating for a while.
"To the east of the Kalia Kingdom is the Romon Empire and to its south lies the Khawistan Khanate. Do you know why there has been no conflict between the Kalia Kingdom and the two major powers right next to it?" asked Charade seriously.
"I don't know," replied Lorist honestly.
"That's because the Kalia Kingdom has a Sword Saint. Neither the Romon Empire nor the Khawistan Khanate wishes to agitate that person. The Kalia Sword Saint is also known as the 'Tempest Sword Saint'. According to rumors, he revealed his power once when he was still only a Blademaster: when the rain poured, he could pierce every single raindrop with his sword and after the shower, an area of three meters from the spot where he danced with his sword was completely dry, causing his name to instantly soar to fame."
"That Sandoz Hirda whom you've beaten up has since become the disciple of the Tempest Sword Saint. Think about it, three years ago he was merely a One Star Silver Swordsman, Right now, he's already at three stars. He must have trained very hard all this time to settle this grudge with you. Some rumors say that he challenged those of the same rank as him and defeated them with merely two to three strikes. It seems that he's confident of being able to take that gold swordsmanship instructor badge from you. You better watch out, Locke, he's not your average small fry. Let me check his number..."
Charade took out a few sheepskin scrolls and scanned through them for a while. "It's here. He's your 284th challenger. He must have registered just yesterday afternoon."
"Huh?" Lorist exclaimed, starting. "Fatty! When did the registration start!?"
"Two days ago..." said Charade as he silently smiled. "As of now, there are more than 350 applicants. There were 30 others when I was walking over from the Enforcement Department just now. I believe it'll hit 400 by today..."
Lorist flicked his middle finger at Charade. "I'm really gonna give it to that old bastard! Does he want me to die!? How is that even remotely reasonable?"
The fatty snickered like a fox who just stole a chicken. "The old bastard just rebuked me this morning for not being able to see the big picture. He said that we should open the registration to the whole of the Academy Sector, and after that, Morante City! Maybe when this gig gets big, we can even let challengers from the Falik Plains come! In time, news of this will spread throughout the continent and there will be more challengers than we can count! By then, the profit we'll make from the registration fee will increase exponentially and our academy's reputation as well as influence will also rise... I'll be sending some students to go post the notices around the city later this afternoon, especially in the taverns and mercenary guilds... I'll need even more notices for those places."
Hearing that, Lorist staggered and almost fell face first to the ground.
The fatty delivered the final blow, saying, "The old bastard already said that he hopes that this year there will be as many as 3600 challengers. This way, he can arrange 10 duels per day for you. That's actually going rather easy on you."
"Bam!" Lorist fell straight to the floor, struggled to get up, flashed two middle fingers at Charade and walked away swiftly.
Charade was still yelling, "Locke, you better be careful of Hirda! Don't be careless and lose to him!"
Hirda can just go to hell. He's just a Three Star Silver Swordsman, thought Lorist as he dismissed the possibility of him losing to Hirda entirely. Lorist felt ever more confident in his abilities ever since his four months of training at the Relic Islands, Over there, a leader of some mercenary group who was a Two Star Gold Swordsman had been trampled and roughed up by a Dark-scaled Rhinoceros while he easily took care of that beast with a single strike.
Should he challenge Instructor Claude or any other peak Three Star Gold Swordsman to a duel, Lorist believed that it would take more than a 1000 moves before a victor can be decided, and he might just be the victor. Lorist wasn't being conceited or boastful; although his Battle Force was only at the Three Star Iron rank, he gained much benefit from training in the Aquametal Ki Technique passed down in his past life's family.
Just by squeezing his palms, he could easily pulverize a thumb-sized rock into fine grains. This was the power of the "Inch" component of the Aquametal Technique. In his past life, he had trained in the technique for more than 30 years, but he hasn't even reached the peak of the Bright Stage of the technique; the Dark Stage was even further away. However, in this world, by training his Battle Force with the Aquametal Technique, he managed to achieve the Dark Stage within a short span of four years. Maybe this world was more suited for training the internal energies of the body.
Silver Battle Force could be projected onto a sword and cause a sword glow to form which can only be blocked by weapons that are also infused with Battle Force. Battle Force infused weapons could easily dominate and overcome common weapons or shields. While Lorist himself couldn't form a sword glow, he could still infuse his weapon with Battle Force or internal energy and grant the weapon extraordinary strength and sharpness that rivals even those of weapons that emanated sword glows. Only, that effect was usually unnoticed by most other people as the energy was hidden from the eye and focused within the blade.
Currently, he could circulate his Battle Force with some methods from the Aquametal Technique at will and perfectly coordinate his body motion and his strikes, allowing him to execute forceful, fluid movements while maintaining a stable breathing rhythm, and every step he took was silent and stealthy as well as being firm and stable. His dantian contained boundless Ki energy which rapidly regenerated before he even got to use it up. That was the power of one who has reached the Dark Stage, as described by his family's technique manual.
The only difference was that the Aquametal Technique manual states that at the Dark Stage, the meridian points at the temples would swell up. Lorist's temple meridian points, however, were still flat and ordinary. He figured that it could be due to him training in the technique using Battle Force. Since that had no observable repercussions, Lorist didn't worry about it too much. His was more troubled by that darned academy head who was treating him like a money printing machine. He didn't mind dueling others himself and was already used to it. Furthermore, this body's enhanced dynamic vision gave him quite an edge; Lorist had never considered Silver Swordsmen to be a threat.
Ten duels a day wasn't strenuous for him either. It only took a few sword blows to end the duels; his usual swordsmanship classes required him to participate in ten or more mock battles to give his students some hands-on experience, and the fact that he had to point out his students' flaws made that even more troublesome than simple dueling. The only kind of combatant who would pose an actual threat to him were those who were at least of the Two Star Gold rank. Then again, no self respecting Gold Swordsman would stoop so low to challenge him to a duel.
His main frustration was that he had been ordered to duel others rather than asking for the duels himself. To him, that wasn't the same at all. That old bastard was profiting off his labor while he had to do all the work! Lorist solemnly cursed that old bastard to one day be buried and crushed to death by all those gold coins he made.