It was dawn and Lorist was training with his upper body bared at the yard. At the moment, he was practicing one of the core foundational teachings of the Aquametal Technique, the 18 Stances of the Savage Tiger. While the name sounded pretty traditional and awkward, it was a set of highly fatal unarmed fighting moves. While learning the basics was easy, actually training in the moves were hard. The style attempted to condense the essence of a tiger’s movements into 18 stances, such as when a tiger descends from the mountains, stalks its prey, engages in combat and goes in for the kill.

Aside from that, the Aquaheart School’s other two core basics were the 18 Stances of the Aquametal Sword and the 18 Moves of Wave-walking. The former was a set of 18 foundational sword movements while the latter was a set of movement techniques that enhanced one’s footwork that emphasized on the coordination of one’s perception, mind and body.

According to his grandfather in his past life, the Aquametal School originated from the Five Phases School of the dynasty of the Southern Song. One of their ancestors had found the teachings of the school to be overly complicated and had created a new set of simplified techniques with its main inspiration from the water and metal phases, thus forming the new Aquametal School. The principle behind the teachings of the Aquametal School was for the practitioner to be sharp as a metal blade, have unbeatable force, as well as be unstoppable and incessant as the flow of water. It remained that way until the post-revolutionary era in China during the 1910s, when firearms and cannons were starting to gain popularity in the country, when the elders of the Aquametal School decided to invert those principles and made the style an art that was as sturdy as a mountain that even lightning couldn’t faze and strike explosively like the force of the waterfall.

Engrossed in his training, Lorist repeatedly executed the 18 forms in sequence for three times to the point when his body was almost letting out steam before he returned to a neutral position to wipe off his sweat. Training in the martial art really served as a great warm up activity in the morning; his skin was flushed red with the improved circulation while his bones clacked and loosened as he prepared to go wash himself up.

A sound rang out from the backyard door. Lorist turned to look and saw Els clapping away as he walked closer.

“Why have you come?” Lorist asked while he looked around to see if anyone else came along with him.

Els knew why he had turned his head around to look like that and said grumpily, “That damned kid didn’t want to come along. After hearing that you were only an Iron rank, he said that he wasn’t willing to learn swordsmanship from you. He even bragged that he would be able to beat you down when he gets to the Iron rank himself within two years. That little rascal really doesn’t what’s good for him…”

“Hehe,” laughed Lorist. He, on the other hand, didn’t care about how the others saw him. He had only accepted Els’s request to take on a disciple because he owed Els a favor. In actuality, he was delighted that the other party had saved him quite some trouble.

“This new place of yours is pretty nice, if only a little too quiet. Why don’t I send two serving girls here to attend to you? They can take care of the house during the day and warm your bed during the night. I’ll definitely make sure they serve you however you want! Don’t worry, they’ll definitely be beauties, I assure you,” said Els as he walked around the lounge, checking out Lorist’s new home.

“Call it off. I need it to be quiet and calm whenever I train in the sword. I can’t afford to have two women yapping away at me when I’m preparing for the duels. Don’t blame me for losing during the duels when the time comes,” said Lorist as he refused Els’s offer.

“Then we’ll leave this for another day. The duels are your priority now. Oh, what were you training in just now in the yard? I think I saw a magical beast before my eyes for a moment there,” asked Els, intrigued.

“Oh, that was a body training method of my family. My ancestors analyzed the ways in which magical beasts fought and came up with a set of movements that mimicked their forms to raise the body’s coordination and reaction ability, further increasing the practitioner’s skills in unarmed combat.”

“Oh,” Els stopped asking as he understood that training methods like these were usually hereditary family secrets that could not simply be told to others.

“Do you have anything to do here at the academy this early in the morning?” asked Lorist.

“Sigh, let’s not talk about that already… How is it still early? Yesterday, I brought some ale and meat to see the fatty but he put my ale away and brought a barrel of fruit wine that he said he had just brewed. That wine really tasted really strong and thick… With him recommending it to me so enthusiastically, I couldn’t exactly let him down and not drink any either, so I downed several cups before I got myself drunk. I woke up this morning with a serious hangover and only managed to properly get rid of the drowsiness after drinking tons of water. Even now I still feel worn out… Charade had already gone out first thing in the morning and left me a memo that asked us to go to the Red Grace Inn later tonight to talk about the betting operation,” recalled Els with a hint of frustration.

Lorist tried his best to hold back his laughter as he had heard Charade say that he had discovered a number of berry plants at a corner of the newly-acquired Yellow Ribbon Academy that tasted strong and sour, they were left alone from the preying hands of the students of the academy. However, he was like a man who came upon a treasure chest and picked all of them to try to brew them into alcohol. It’s a shame that his brewing skills were poor and the liquor he had produced tasted rather poor; Lorist instantly spat it out upon taking a sip. Who would’ve expected Els to manage to drink a few cups of it… Lorist really respected him for his gut.

“Well, I originally wanted to invite you to come have a drink with us, but Charade said that you have been quite busy moving your stuff around these two days and wanted to let you rest…” complained Els.

Sol, the reason he didn’t invite me was because he was afraid that I’d go collect the rest of the gold coins he owes me! For the past two days, in fear of being asked to pay the rest of the money for the books, Charade had strived to avoid meeting Lorist face to face and had somebody else inform Lorist on certain matters in his place. Lorist decided to go to Charade’s office and reclaim the books the day after.

“Oh, and Louise asked me yesterday if you would still want to have the room at the inn reserved for you. And, you better go collect the reward money for the requests you have completed during your expedition to the Relic Islands. She has also collected your clothes from the laundry and has packed them away from you and also asked me to tell you to not forget your promise to her,” reminded Els as he recalled his visit to the inn the day before.

Lorist thought for a bit but still couldn’t remember what he promised Louise. Turning around, he asked, “A promise? Why don’t I remember anything like that? Do you know what it’s about?”

“How would I know? You just have to go there to find out. I really can’t think of anything else right now, the headache is killing me. Locke, let me sleep on your couch for a bit…” Unable to hold on, Els collapsed on the couch and instantly fell into the embrace of sleep.

……

At night, the Red Grace Inn was filled with a merry atmosphere thanks to all the customers who were gathered there to enjoy a good time and savor delicious meals.

With a large cup of blackcurrant ale in his hand, Lorist sat at the counter and chatted along with old man Charlando.

“Nineteen requests fulfilled with the total reward going up to 139 gold Fordes, 13 large silvers and 4 small silvers. The inn will be collecting a 5% fee of 7 gold Fordes as well as 5 large silvers and 3 small silvers for your expenses and the room rent, which leaves you with 132 gold Fordes, 8 large silvers and 1 small silver. Oh, and, I almost forgot about the 18 gold coins Els owes you for the Terrence Donkey-whip. Will you leave it here on your tab or do you want to collect it right now?”

“I’ll just leave it with you for now. Seeing them drinking away so merrily, I might have to pay for their rooms if they’re too drunk to go back. Just count the expenses for the night on my tab, lest Els causes more trouble for you by skipping out on the payment,” Lorist said as he pointed towards three tables at the corner of the inn where Els and the others from the academy were seated. Charade drank away with abandon after hearing that he wouldn’t have to pay a single coin for the night.

“Well, that’s okay by me. How’s the operation going?” asked Charlando.

“For now, it has been decided that I will be getting a 20% cut with another 10% going to Charade and the others from the academy. Deducting the costs and bribes for the other inn owners and syndicate bosses, Els would gain about 30% of the profit as well. I really hope that I will be able to make quite a bit this time so that I can buy myself some property in the city just in case. Honestly, old Char, you know that I don’t have any lofty ambitions or anything. However, I really have no say in this matter as it was all the fault of that old bastard academy head. Who knows how else he would exploit me in the future… I better start saving up and plan to leave the academy. After all, I’ve already graduated from there long ago. At least, I can make a decent living by collecting rent if I own some real estate in the city…” Lorist sounded like he was a little drunk, given how he had casually talked about the hidden desire in his heart.

“If you really think that staying at the academy is a pain, you might as well get out of there. Locke, given your abilities, you’re much better off as a full time mercenary, living freely without being subjected to the whims of others. Just look at the earnings you’ve got from the trip to the Relic Islands. That alone should amount to more than 60 gold Fordes after deducting your costs. As long as you do something like that once a year, that’ll be more than enough. Or, you could always get a few close friends and form a mercenary troupe.” Charlando was of the same opinion that the academy was going a little too far by having Lorist fight all those duels without first discussing it with him.

Lorist laughed heartily at how Charlando was still hung up on the notion of reforming his band of mercenaries and unconsciously pushed his hopes onto him. “Hehe, old man, things aren’t as simple as they seem. While being a mercenary certainly allowed one to live freely, it wouldn’t be an easy life either, having to camp out in the wilds and what not. Plus, it’s much riskier to go on such expeditions compared to those that are organized by the academy. Additionally, do you know that I’m a dual Gold ranked instructor at the academy? I get paid 30 gold Fordes a month there while Instructor Klaude, whose salary is the second highest in the academy, only gets 20. I can only force myself to go along with that old bastard’s plans given the benefits that I enjoy by being an instructor of the academy. Do you think that I will be so willing to part with a 30-gold-coin monthly salary?”

“The heck! Your annual earnings exceed the yearly profit of my inn! The academy really is spoiling you! It makes me want to get a position at the academy as well,” said Charlando as he swore. Before, he was under the impression that 60 gold Fordes was quite a big haul for Lorist. But after hearing about how he could earn that kind of money within two months, it seemed that he wouldn’t be so willing to resign from his position at the academy and become a full time mercenary.

“Oh, that’s right, I heard that you’ve proposed to Louise while I was away? I haven’t congratulated the two of you yet. I’ll definitely get a nice gift for you during the ceremony. Then again, why did you want to settle down all of the sudden? I thought you had resolved to live out the rest of your life single,” said Lorist to Charlando.

“Well, it’s nothing big. I just suddenly felt that it would be very lonely living out my older years alone. Also, Louise has already been working at the inn for more than ten years… To think that the 18-year-old lass from that time had already turned 28… Given that her parents had already passed away and how she isn’t willing to go back to live with her brother’s family, she plans to continue working at the inn. It was then when I decided that we might as well get married, so I proposed to her and she accepted right away. Oh, I remember that she said that she said that she had some business with you and is waiting for you at the room you rented upstairs. Go on, it’s definitely gonna be something good,” said Charlando as he winked at Lorist a few times with a weird expression.

“What the heck is with the look on your face?” Lorist finished the rest of his ale and headed for the stairs.

Then again, old Char doesn’t know that this trip to the Relic Islands didn’t cost me much either. The beast skins that I brought back wasn’t purchased from someone else but was something I had hunted and collected myself. I bet he doesn’t know that I can easily handle those high-ranked magical beasts… Hmm, which room was it again? What did Louise need to see me for? I really can’t remember… Lorist mulled about these thoughts as he climbed up the stairs and examined the hallway.

It’s this one, Lorist thought as he rubbed his face awake before knocking on the door.

Upon entering the room, he discovered that there was another voluptuous young woman in the room apart from Louise.

Seeing Lorist come in, Louise exclaimed joyfully, “Locke, she’s the girl from my village that I told you about the other day. Molly here is going to be a serving girl for the inn from today onwards. It’s actually her first time so go easy on her, alright?”

Lorist was suddenly struck with realization as he recalled the conversation he had with Louise the other day. It seemed that he didn’t reject the offer outright and Louise had taken the silence as a yes. Almost fainting, Lorist thought that it couldn’t be helped now that they were this far into it. Otherwise Louise would berate him for being stingy about paying two measly gold coins.

“Um, nice to meet you…” greeted Lorist to the girl with a slighty blushing face. The girl checked Lorist out from top to bottom boldly before smiling and nodding timidly, obviously satisfied at the man who was going to be her first.

Louise clapped her hands and said, “Alright, I won’t be bothering you lot now. The bath water is already prepared. Molly, make sure you give Locke a good time and don’t forget what you have learned at the shrine. Use all the techniques to please him and he’ll reward you for it.”

After Louise left, the round-faced Molly graciously invited Lorist to go into the tub as she stripped every article of clothing off him. Just as Lorist was about to enter the bath, she suddenly remembered something and took out a vial from her clothes that contained a mysterious red liquid and drank all of it up.

“What did you just drink?” asked Lorist, curious.

“It’s the Elixir of Mishla,” replied Molly.

“Oh,” answered Lorist, already knowing what that liquid was for.

Mishla, the Goddess of Desire and Pleasure, was the youngest daughter of the Solar War God Singwa and the Bloodmoon Goddess Sufanna who was infamous for her capricious temperament. Legend says that she resided in a haven that was filled with handsome men and beautiful women that lived their lives to the fullest there without any worry or care. It was believed that those who prayed to Mishla would enter that very paradise and gain an eternal life of bliss upon their deaths.

To allow the believers of Mishla to revel in their carnal desires without worry, the goddess herself created an elixir that allowed a woman to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh without getting pregnant. Should a person who has used the elixir wish to give birth once again, a different potion could be purchased from the shrine to restore fertility to one’s body three months after consuming it.

However, the Elixir of Mishla didn’t have any effect on those who have already given birth before. This potion has helped Mishla gain a large following of believers and profited the goddess’s shrine immensely to the point where it became one of the richest shrines on the continent of Grindia.

“Why have you decided to become a serving girl?” asked Lorist, lying on the bed with both his hands supporting his head on the pillow, looking at the girl take the his hardness into the midst of her own soft being.

“Ouch, it hurts…” The girl let out a soft cry as she sat there, stiffened. She started to move after resting for a few moments.

“I…. I want to earn… 20 gold coins to… buy ten acres of farmland… in my village… That will, b-be my dowry…” replied the girl, stammering as she struggled to move. The pain slowly faded and the pleasure soon took over, causing her to let out involuntary cries of gratification.

Lorist also gradually lost himself in the pleasure as he had not touched any other woman ever since the last time he had spent a night with the young mistress approximately one year ago. Having been aroused by the young woman’s movements, he got up to push her down and engaged in rough, passionate intercouse…

The morning of the next day, Lorist woke up refreshed and energized and went downstairs to order a hearty serving of breakfast. Having spent much of the night doing that vigorous activity, he was prepared to eat up and recover his stamina. It was then when Charlando brought him yesterday’s bil…

Sol… Els, you better watch out… Lorist thought as he grinded his teeth.

After hearing that Lorist would be paying the night before, the gang stopped drinking blackcurrant ale and instead ordered two bottles of fruit wine each!

Sheesh, that fatty really is going too far…

Charade even took a barrel of ale as well as two bottles of fruit wine home with him after breakfast…

It can’t be… I’m sure Terman isn’t that kind of person…

Lorist couldn’t imagine a person like Terman asking to spend a night with two girls after he got a little drunk.

That’s it. I’m not covering anybody else’s bills anymore…





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