Chapter 9: Under the starry skies
Nightfall. Resplendent starlight sprinkled down on every corner of Holy Dawn Academy.
The kingdom of Eiche was located at the southern end of Doraster, inside the Dragon Gasp Mountains. The Dragon Gasp Mountains themselves constituted the region in Doraster with the highest elevation. Added to the fact that the towns and cities of the kingdom were mostly built on mountains, it was why the kingdom of Eiche had had the title of the kingdom closest to the sky every since its very beginning.
The closest to the sky, the brighter the starlight at night.
The stars in the night skies seemed particularly big in most part of the kingdom's territory, particularly bright, as if you could pluck one down by just stretching your hand over.
Such “starry skies” were unique to Eiche, that's why Eiche gained the name of “the kingdom under the starry skies” later on, a name lasting until today.
And for many people of Eiche, the dazzling bright stars in these skies, seemingly so close to the touch yet unattainable in truth, also seemed like the dreams of each and every person.
In a quiet nook of the Thinker's Stone Forest, Chris rested her two hands on her knees and gasped nonstop for breath.
Sweat dripped down her fair pointed chin, drip by drip, to the soil at her feet.
Anyone would be able to see that she'd reached the utter limit of her body, but after a quick rest, she actually spit out two words through her clenched teeth in a light voice, “Once more!”
She began to sprint again, to leap up high. When her body reached the highest point, soon about to drop down, she suddenly twisted around and exerted her strength, stiffly made several extremely quick dodging motions in the air. Then she landed steadily, crouched down, and stamped her way forward like an arrow.
When her figure halted once more, she was finally unable to endure any longer, and fell backward on the ground face up, utterly exhausted.
Bitter and astringent sweat flowed into her eyes and her mouth, but lying there on the ground, she actually waved her fist toward the starry skies and whispered to herself, “I have to win.”
The woody area around the Ivy district was the best training ground for the freshmen.
Huge trees reaching the sky created a natural divide between many isolated, quiet spaces. Quite a consequent amount of grassy ground in the forest had already been stepped into solid clay grounds where not even a blade of grass grew.
For freshmen, Notebook Teacher Huston could only be described by the word “freak.” On top of that, the vast majority of freshmen were already unwilling to fall behind to begin with, unwilling to be worse than others. That was why light echoes of “Explosive Blazing Punch”... “Explosive Blazing Punch” came nonstop from the empty spaces inside the forest, shrouded by starlight.
Ayrin also stood inside one of these spaces.
Sometimes, when there were truly too many things someone was ignorant of, they wouldn't be in too great a hurry to understand these things. Instead, they would be more devoted to the matters right in front of them.
He was already certain by now that the bloodline old Ginns made him fuse with was definitely no shoddy stuff at all.
He'd already completed all the foundation exercises arranged by Huston. He probably wouldn't have been able to complete even half of it before, he would already be flopped on the ground by now.
Now he was also very tired, soaked with sweat from head to toe, but he could clearly sense his own progress. Under the tempering of such foundation training, apart from the soreness, he could even feel many extremely fine threads of heat moving inside him, penetrating inside every corner of his body.
From old Ginns' repeated explanations back in Cororin Town, he understood very clearly that an arcane master's power originated from physical strength and arcane power. Physical power also consisted of two parts, one part being the energy stored inside every minute particle of the body, the other part being the power of spiritual will.
He also knew very clearly that the power saved inside all the tiny particles inside the body would increase through diet and training, but he was even more certain that without the fusion of the weird bloodline, it would have been impossible for him to progress so fast.
“The strongest student inside the whole Holy Dawn Academy is also the one who trains the hardest huh... Let's try the Ardent Whirlwinds again.”
Most the other freshmen couldn't master the “Explosive Blazing Punch,” but he'd exhibited it in one try back in the classroom. Now he was already very proficient when he practiced it. For some reason however, any idea about resting went away on their own when he thought about that “Amazing Girl.” So he started practicing the “Ardent Whirlwinds” instead.
In the wake of an extremely quiet chant, his two hands suddenly stretched forward like lightning, dragging countless afterimages after them.
With a whoosh, two gusts of wind swept across his face. They tore several leaves dropping by to pieces.
“The power is greater than the Explosive Blazing Punch, the speed is also higher. It's just harder!”
Ayrin already knew he failed as soon as his hands shot out. Compared to back in class, it seemed he'd gathered arcane power too violently. Not even mentioning the ten whirling whips of wind he couldn't shape, the shock from the two uncontrollable gusts of wind almost cracked his bones when they exploded out of his hands. It was especially painful.
He didn't stop. He waved his hands and continued to train, very unwilling to admit defeat.
Once, twice, three times, four times... He had no idea how many times he practiced it. His sweat had even turned sticky from head to toe. The ten fingers on his hands seemed about to crack and split.
His body had reached its limit and his consciousness was becoming faint. He could even hear the urgent beats of his heart, hear his heavy and rough breathing.
He really wanted to just lie down like this and go to sleep... But it looked like he was soon going to succeed.
“Can't stop! Fight on!”
One moment he fought for breath, seemingly unable to get back up any longer, the next moment he suddenly stood up straight. His hands shot out without warning.
Ten spinning wind whips suddenly appeared in front of him, making piercing sounds entirely different from before.
“Haha, success! I'm the best!”
After seeing the ten spinning wind whips, the utterly exhausted Ayrin could no longer keep himself up. He stretched out his hands, a great proud laugh coming out of him as he softly flopped back on the ground. His hands were stretched toward the starry skies, even twitched a couple times now and then. It seemed completely ridiculous.
A bat flew out from the forest of huge trees around the Ivy district. It flew into the shadows behind a certain school building.
The young teacher Carter Ayrin met back at the registration suddenly followed behind that bat. He dove down from the top of a tree with no noise nor traces, and fell on this building's roof covered in withered leaves.
The moment his feet came into contact with the roof, a wind blew, rolled up countless dried yellow leaves. Liszt's figure emerged out of nowhere inside the fluttering leaves.
Carter didn't show any surprise when he saw Liszt's sudden appearance. He said in a soft voice, all smiles, “I thought it was you just now inside the forest, otherwise I wouldn't have had that creepy feeling of being stared at.”
“Are you praising me or criticizing me?” Liszt scratched his hair. He plopped down on the roof covered in yellowed leaves and sat, stretched his back with a lazy air. “But let's talk about you, why did you also come to look at the training of these freshmen, especially Ayrin's?”
Carter coughed softly. “Two reasons. One's because the headmaster let me look after the team for this season's tournament, the other is because you're paying special attention to Ayrin, so of course I also have to keep an eye on him.”
“So you're the one in charge of the team this time. This means you being at the registration had something to do with selecting the best freshmen.” Liszt rubbed his chin. “Looks like you guys can't sit still any longer. That's also normal though, our performance these few years has been truly bad. Not only the others all feel there's no powerful character anymore in our Holy Dawn Academy, even our own students are almost going to forget what's real valor and glory. Soon they're going to feel as if there's no difference between ordinary arcane masters and those who have the genuine courage to do battle.”
“Your judgment has always been very good.” Carter sat down beside Liszt and said earnestly, “There's absolutely no way for ordinary students to learn Huston's Ardent Whirlwinds, to say nothing of mastering it within a single day. Moreover, Huston's Ardent Whirlwinds has never been taught in public. There's no way Aryin could have been exposed to it before.”
“No need to make it sound so complicated. I understand your meaning.” Liszt threw Carter a glance and directly said, “Even his body's grown a bit taller since he's come to the academy. So it's either some hidden bloodline or some sudden mutation in his bloodline.”
“His bloodline doesn't show any obvious sign. I heard he's got an especially great capacity for food, but it doesn't look like pure giant blood either.” Carter held Liszt's eyes. “Did you find out anything?”
Liszt shook his head with a smile. “Even if it's not some mysterious bloodline, at least it' a very interesting one. And looking at his behavior, he seems to understand very clearly the advantages of not exposing the power of his bloodline. This way I don't even need to explain it to him.”
“You've also seen his training earlier. He indeed possesses the courage to put his life on the line. Since you're in charge of the team this season, I can only tell you not to make me disappointed.”After shaking his head, Liszt once again looked at the sea of giant trees all around them. He said, “Your luck is really pretty good, there are actually two others there who managed to master the Explosive Blazing Punch within a day or two. Three such figures emerging inside a group of students, the guys in the other schools would be so happy their mouth would crook from laughing if that happened to them.”
Liszt still had a very lazy and indifferent appearance, but Carter was actually shocked. He shouted in disbelief, “Three of them?”
“That high-level elven blood, and that kid who wears glasses.” Liszt smiled faintly. “Looks like you have to be a bit more industrious, old chap.”
“Rinloran? Belo?” Carter stared, his eyes open wide. He thought it wasn't much of a surprise for Rinloran to possess stunning comprehension ability. After all, even a little elven blood brought greater abilities in many areas, compared to ordinary people, not to mention one could tell at a single glance Rinloran had very high-level elven blood. He truly didn't expect it from this Belo though. So he couldn't help stare at Liszt and say, “That freshman who gets easily excited and makes troubles? He also turns out to be a rarely seen genius? Even stronger than the red-haired kid from the Quinn Clan?”
“You really underestimate him.” Liszt started laughing. “Good or bad he's the only freshman who's managed to secretly break into the Giant Beasts Enclosure. There's no telling what he's thinking of in this brain of his, but it's obvious his ambition isn't small.”
“He's the one who secretly broke inside the Giant Beasts Enclosure? So it turns out his injuries were due to..” Carter's eyes suddenly lit up.
Liszt stood up and stretched his body. “As long as you're aware of it. There are so many interesting little guys. Don't let me down too much at the tournament this time.”
“What does it have to do with this time, they're all still freshmen.” Carter blinked in confusion.
“What's the big deal even if they're freshmen?” Liszt looked at him. “What's the relation between being a freshman and their strength?”
Carter was thoroughly stumped for words.
“If you don't have the guts to act free and don't have the guts to hold hope, then there is no hope.”
Liszt lazily waved his hand as he turned around and left. “Things can only get more interesting if freshmen can really participate in the tournament.”
“I have one last question.” Carter suddenly thought of something when Liszt's figure vanished from the roof. He shouted, “Since you already knew Belo's an extremely excitable person who easily stirs up trouble, why did you put him together with Ayrin in the same room?”
Liszt's shadow was suddenly gone, but his lazy voice still came out. “From past experience, reckless students prone to stirring up troubles are often a bit stronger than usual.”
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