At the end of the boulevard was a crowded plaza. Lorist couldn’t help but wonder why the plaza would be so crowded at a time like this. What was going on there?

By the time Lorist arrived at the plaza, the sound of chatter rose audibly.

“Instructor Locke is here…”

“That’s Norton Lorist?”

“Where? Which one of them is him?”

“That one. That’s Instructor Locke……”

“……”

Lorist emerged from the crowd of people.

A rough looking man with a bearded face wearing an old leather armor ran towards him while unsheathing his two-handed greatsword. Raising his blade high, he roared, “Aha, Lorist! I’m here to request a duel with you…”

The two-handed sword emitted a glowing light that signified his power as a Two Star Silver Swordsman.

Different Battle Force ranks were easily distinguished. Bronze Battle Force gave one a slightly buffed look and greatly increased one’s strength, agility and endurance when it circulated through one’s body. Iron Battle Force mainly focused on the protection of the body. For example, it can be used to fortify the hands, causing them to radiate a faint glow and have the toughness of iron, greatly increasing their defensive capabilities multiple times more than that of an average person’s.

Silver ranked Battle Force excelled at the attacking aspect. Silver Swordsmen can project their Battle Force onto their weapons and make them emit various forms of sword glows, with the length of the glow indicating the Star rank of the swordsman.

As for Gold Swordsmen, they can gather their Battle Force to execute ranged attacks. Beyond that was the level of Blademasters, who could project their Battle Force onto anything from flowers to blades of grass and use them as invincible divine weapons to eradicate their enemies.

Sword Saints, however, were more like legends. Not much was known about them, though it was said that they can utilize something along the lines of a “domain”. There were only about four or five known Sword Saints on the Grindia continent. Nations which had the backing of a Saint had incredibly stable foundations. That’s why these Sword Saints were kept hidden from the masses and were shrouded in mystery and enigma.

Lorist looked at that man holding the raised greatsword with a look of admiration. That guy must have quite a few gold coins to spare for him to dare to draw his sword like this in the academy, he thought.

“Stop!” A loud cry rang out as a troop of black uniformed swordsmen marched towards the plaza.

Sword glows pointed at his throat, lower torso and chest, the brutish man stood still without moving an inch. The scary part was that two of the sword glows that were pointed at him were much longer than his own. The owners of those swords were definitely Three Star Silver Swordsmen.

The few other men who came with the brutish man hurriedly attempted to hide their weapons.

“You, you, you, and you, the one wearing a chainmail, yes you! And that other one in the blue clothes! And that one wearing the leather hat! You guys are really brave… For you to even dare to unsheathe your weapons in the academy! Bring them to the Enforcement Department!” A fat man appeared before the men and shouted loudly.

Those who were named by the fat man attempted to escape.

“You dare to run from me!? You guys, apprehend them and double their fines!” said the fatty with a cruel expression.

“Yes sir!” said the black robed men as they made the chase.

If the students of the academy were asked to name one most wretched people in the academy, that person would definitely be that fat man who was also the head of the Enforcement Department. His name was Charade and was called by many as the “Deathly Miser”.

As the head of the Enforcement Department of the academy, Charade never scolded or physically punished the transgressing students. Instead, he gave them a very huge fine. If the students couldn’t pay up, the department has got just the solution for them. The Enforcement Department provides loans for the fined students. And to make sure they repaid their loans, the department also found jobs for them and made them work until their debts and interests were paid up in full.

Once, there were two students who broke the rules and did not have the money to pay the fine. The fatty merely smiled and said, “Don’t worry about the money. As long as you can work, it’ll be fine.”

Without delay, they were sent to the mines for three whole months. It was also rumored that they almost got sodomized there. After the three month term, the fatty called for someone to go bring them back. A tear-jerking scene soon unfolded: the two students knelt and desperately hugged the ones who were sent to pick them up, refusing to let go.

After the black robed men apprehended the ones who tried to escape, the fatty walked towards the one who brandished the greatsword leisurely. He motioned for him to sheathe his sword, which the man soon did with much haste.

“Have you come to the academy to rob and kill?” asked the fatty with a “courteous”, wanting tone.

The burly man replied with a flustered look, “Umm, no-nope. I came here after seeing the notice issued by the academy.”

“Notice? What kind of notice allowed you to come terrorize our students? I don’t ever recall seeing anything like that,” said the fatty with an expression of intense curiosity.

“What?” the man let out a startled cry. “It’s that duel notice that you guys put up! It says that any Silver rank contestant who can defeat the Black Iron Gold-ranked Instructor Locke gets to take his place as gold-ranked instructor and will be rewarded a hundred gold coins! That’s the reason I came…”

“Oh, it’s that notice. That’s right, the academy did put up something like this. But, are you sure you checked it out properly?”

“Of course I did! The words on that notice were larger than my fists! How could I have missed anything?” roared the burly man loudly.

“Well, then. Tell me the fine print on the notice! It was never stated that you could come in randomly and just pull your sword out in public!” shouted the fatty, whose expression had suddenly turned dark, glaring at the burly man.

That man winked and coughed out, “I was just worried that someone would beat me to Lorist! I didn’t see no fine print!”

“It was stated very clearly on the notice. Didn’t you say that you had read it carefully?”

“You mean those words that were smaller than my fingernails? That was the fine print? Who reads those? I only read the words at the top…” The man’s voice grew softer and softer. He looked like he just realized his grave error.

“Did you think the academy would just let anyone barge in like that with a sword in hand? Of course there were terms and conditions! We at the Dawn Academy are the elites of the Grindia Continent. Everything we do has to follow strict protocol. It is stated that any Silver ranked individual who wished to challenge Lorist was to report to the Enforcement Department. You see that white stone building over there? That’s the Enforcement Department! You must go there and apply for a duel and pay a registration fee of ten gold Fordes. After that, we will notify you the time and place for the duel within two or three days. If you don’t show up at that time, it will be considered your loss by default and we will not return your registration fee.

“You won’t profit if you don’t invest. It might cost you ten gold Fordes, but think about it: your opponent Lorist is but an Iron ranked swordsman with somewhat better swordsmanship. If you had won, not only would you get a hundred gold Fordes, you will also be employed by the academy as a gold-ranked sword instructor! A gold-ranked instructor’s salary is ten gold Fordes a month. You can easily buy a house in this city and settle down here with that kind of money.”

Charade talked like a patient salesman with the brawny man nodding to every one of the points Charade made.

“It’s such a shame…” said Charade with his expression turning glum as his tone changed. “You actually ruined such a good chance by not reading the notice carefully and committed such an act at our academy. Not only have you broken the rules of our academy, you have also greatly insulted the academy and caused deep mental anguish in our students! That’s why, you must be punished before you will be allowed to register for a duel.”

“Punishment? What kind of punishment?” asked the brawny man, scared.

“Oh, don’t worry. According to our academy’s rules, we will not cause you any physical harm. We only ask you to pay a small fine. This matter will be settled if you hand over five gold Fordes,” said Charade with a pleasant smile on his face.

“What! Five gold coins?” The brawny man could never imagine having to lose five gold coins just for drawing his blade. “I… I don’t have that kind of money…”

“That’s perfectly okay. You can borrow it from some friends. If you can’t do even that, the Enforcement Department can find you some work which will guarantee the repayment of your debt.” The fatty got a little impatient after hearing the man’s reply. He waved for the men in black to bring the transgressing men back to the Enforcement Department.

By the time this ended, only half the people who were at the plaza remained.

Lorist turned to look at Charade with a grim expression.

“Deathly Miser! What are you up to this time!?”

The fatty replied with a face full of smiles, “Haha, isn’t this brother Locke? It’s so nice to see you again! I’ve missed you so very much.”

“Cut the crap. What’s with that notice you guys put up?” Lorist said while glaring at Charade.

The fatty let out a long sigh and said, “Brother, weren’t you troubled by the constant challenges you received from people last year? Didn’t I come out with a solution to that problem that also profited us both by charging anyone who wanted a duel with you for five gold coins, from which I took two and the rest went to you? Us brothers earned quite a bit after 57 duels last year. However, that old bastard took note of our little business…”

Charade pointed at the sky, hinting at the pressure from his higher ups. “Just two days ago the old bastard came looking for me and told me that you still didn’t manage to break through during your excursion at the Relic Islands. The other academies mocked that of all the people in Dawn Academy, you, a Three Star Iron Swordsman, was appointed a dual gold ranked instructor. To teach those people a lesson, we decided to put up that notice, mainly to attract the Silver Swordsmen from other academies to challenge you and see for themselves your ability.”

“Is that all it is?” Lorist didn’t believe for one moment that that was all it is.

“Erm……” the fatty hesitated. “And, we also wanted to earn some money from this. The old bastard said that I didn’t think far enough and that I was satisfied with only just a little over a hundred gold coins. He thought that if we offered a tempting gold reward, it would attract even more people, even if we raised the dueling fee by two times. Of course, the old guy said that since you’re the one doing most of the work, you’ll still receive your cut of three gold coins per duel. The enforcement division’s share got cut to only one gold coin per duel for arranging the dueling location and maintaining security during the duel. The rest of the money will go to the academy.”

Lorist understood that the “old bastard” referred to by Charade was no other than Academy Head Levins. “The old guy isn’t afraid that I’ll lose a match?”

“Hehe,” laughed the fatty, “I myself trust you wholeheartedly. Even though I’m a Three Star Silver Swordsman, I know full well that I will not last more than twenty bouts should I battle with you. Based on your 57 wins last year, we at the Enforcement Division don’t doubt you one bit!”

“But I find it weird that the old bastard has so much faith in you that he set the reward prize so high. Oh, did you spar with Instructor Claude during your trip to the islands? I heard you took more than 200 moves from him without losing. Is that true?” said the fatty as he recalled the rumor.

Instructor Kellen Claude was a Three Star Gold Swordsman and was heralded by most as a person who would one day break into the Blademaster level. He was the chief swordsmanship instructor and was the only other person in the academy other than Lorist who had a gold swordsmanship instructor badge. He got it because of his skill while Lorist got his by winning 30 straight duels against opponents of a higher Battle Force rank than him. Additionally, Lorist would lose his appointment as a gold ranked swordsmanship instructor if he loses even one duel.

Instructor Claude already wanted to spar with Lorist ever since he heard of Lorist’s 57 wins. However, he was hesitant to do so as his Battle Force rank was far beyond that of Lorist. The expedition to the Relic Islands, however, presented itself to be an opportunity for him to spar with Lorist. The excuse was that Lorist’s aptitude had to be assessed to determine whether he was fit to attend the expedition.

Lorist endured more than 200 moves and finally lost due to the sheer difference in Battle Force power, which was already an amazing feat in itself.

“How did you know?” asked Lorist, as there were only three people present during that duel.

“The old bastard himself told me,” exposed Charade without blinking an eye. “He said that even though he wasn’t well versed in the matters of Battle Force or swordsmanship, Instructor Claude’s high evaluation on your abilities, which included your undefeatable status among Silver Swordsmen and your swordsmanship that far surpasses most Gold Swordsmen made the old bastard very confident in you, so much so that he’s willing to bet such a large amount of money on you. Ever since his duel with you, Instructor Claude has also entered seclusion training to attempt to break through to the Blademaster level.”

“Huh……” Lorist was speechless. Just like that, he was swept into this money-making scheme by the academy head right after returning, causing him to feel incredibly annoyed. “I’m going straight to meet that old bastard!”





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