Important Notice: Someone has rightly complained that the special event is unfair. It’s a big world, lots of time zones and many would not even know a chapter is out or be awake for it until long after the time is past. Long story short, the anniversary event is unfair. I had to concede. I honestly never considered that when planning this and I am thankful that it was pointed out.
The time period has been extended to a grand total of 24 hours from the first post for the entire event!
So if you felt you lost your shot. Don’t worry, you can still make it. Feel free to send your answers whenever but I’m shutting this down after 24 hours.
Chapter Nineteen: News Gets Around
Whilst Valerian and his fellows were preparing to justify their places as Lady Bloodworth’s apprentices, the rest of Marrbissi was going crazy with the news.
“Did you hear?” a girl on the sidewalk asked her friend.
“They say that one of the Grand Elders, Lady Bloodworth is…”
“Oh, that!” her friend interrupted. “Don’t tell me you’re only now hearing about that! That’s old news! I’ve known since yesterday”, she lied.
“Really?” the first asked.
“Of course”, the second bluffed. “You know my uncle works in the dispensary, don’t you?”
The other nodded much to her pleasure.
“Well, some members of staff knew long before the news broke publicly and my uncle was one of them. He said that the list of resources and equipment that has been earmarked for Lady Bloodworth’s new apprentices is insane!” she explained loudly, referencing the conversation she had had with the man just a few hours before. “They’re getting their own essence convergence dais and three times the cultivation resources given to third years! My uncle even told me that there are plans to expand this list after the first three months.”
“Heavens!” he companion muttered with a hand to her chest. “Are you serious? A private essence convergence dais? That means they don’t have to visit the essence towers.”
“That’s just the half of it”, her friend stressed. “They aren’t even living the dormitories. No! They have been given a manor in one of the restricted areas. Can you imagine? A manor to themselves. I’m so jealous right now that my liver is probably green. If I could fight I would have signed up by now.”
“Yeah! Me too! So jealous!” the first girl agreed.
“What’s up with that by the way?” she questioned. “They say Lady Bloodworth’s chosen her disciples and they say she hasn’t. Now, there’s talk about a fighting tournament. Some are saying it’s in her honour. Others; to welcome to her apprentices. There are even rumours that the winner will become one of the Grand Elder’s apprentices.”
This caused the second girl to smile conspiratorily, before shooting quick glances around to take note of all the people leaning in to eavesdrop on their conversation. The smile quickly turned into a smug grin. She could not love this moment any more than she already did. Which young girl did not love being the centre of attention? Mentally, she thanked her uncle. Usually, the man was just plain annoying with how he demanded she check in with him often but today? They were together when the news broke and she had had a front side seat, watching as the school staff broke down the news.
“I’ll tell you but it’s too important to say in the open”, she told her friend, gleefully noting the disappointed looks on the faces of the people around them. Even her friend was pouting.
“Trust me”, she stressed. “When you hear this, you will freak out!”
Subtly, playing up the importance of the news she had, she dragged her friend towards their dormitory stressing silence, all the while picturing the coming scene. All the girls, especially the older ones, waiting on and listening to what she had to say for a change. The gossip queen smiled, basking in the limelight. It was her time to shine.
A random thought struck her. ‘She probably hasn’t heard the news. I wonder what she would say when I tell her.’
Elsewhere in Marrbissi, an elder was meeting his students.
“Teacher…”, one was saying in confusion. “I’m not sure I understand. You want me to…”
“What is there to understand Malia?” her teacher asked in exasperation. “All you’ve got to do is WIN!”
“Listen, all of you”, he said to the gathering. “When I first took this advanced placement class, I told you that I will make you into the best cultivators I can. This is a chance to become exactly that.”
“This Bloodworth is better than Teacher?” the first student asked.
“Better than?” the teacher repeated, feeling as if he should start pulling his hair out. “Kid, LADY Bloodworth built Marrbissi! She is the second most powerful person to come out of this place, barely surpassed by the previous headmaster.”
“Look, all of you are lords in the making”, he added. “As your teacher, let me first say that this is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss. Lady Bloodworth is one of the most powerful cultivators in Bathar. Her name is even known throughout the empire. Once, she led Marrbissi to the final competition of the Advent Heroes Tournament hosted by the Empire, a first not just for our academy but for our kingdom as well.
“Power. Fame. Wealth. Lady Bloodworth has this and more. If any of you succeed in becoming her apprentice, you will possess them as well”, he praised. “If there is one complaint about the Grand Elder, it is that she is completely focused on combat strength but I guess that is the sort of dedication you need to become one of the greatest warriors in Bathar. It is also the kind of dedication you will need to develop to succeed as her apprentice”, he told his students. “It is why I am recommending that only those of you talented at fighting go to the tryouts. Knowing, Grand Elder Bloodworth’s interests, the provisional disciples she has chosen will all be skilled combatants. It is best some if you, Kather especially, stay out of it lest you get grievously hurt.
“I understand that some of you might be uncomfortable switching teachers”, he said, pointedly choosing not glance at his best student. “The only thing I can say is that for now, suppress that feeling. Every teacher wants the best for his students. Becoming that Lady Bloodworth’s apprentice is the best for you and I want you to use everything at your disposal and strive for one of those spots. I cannot promise that you will succeed. In fact, given how fast things are developing and the sort people showing interest, your chances are poor at best. I can, however, promise you that if you do not at least take the chance, you will regret it for the rest of your lives.
“The choice is yours!”
Someplace far from Marrbissi
Alhstan silently urged his mount to go faster in his heart. The beast was going full tilt as is but in his anxious state, it did not feel fast enough. ‘What a fine time to be away from campus he thought to himself.
He had reason to be anxious. He had just received an essence transmission from one of his ancestors. The Jade Demons were a big clan. He was quite certain that his ancestor had probably not known he existed before today and yet the woman had called earlier. For someone like him, who had never met the upper echelon of his clan, speaking directly to the ancestor was like a local farmer who after struggling to meet his Baron came face to face with the king.
Nevertheless, it was not the fact that she called but what she said in her call that had him worked up. She just told him that the Queen of Flames, Lady Bloodworth herself, was going to be choosing legacy disciples. As the only descendant who was both a consolidated disciple and student of Marrbissi the clan’s hopes all rested on him seizing a spot. He was their only qualifying candidate.
It was for this reason and this reason only that his revered ancestor called him. All to make this request. ‘Mission’, he corrected mentally. Ordinarily, he would be happy to have the spotlight fall on him. This kind of opportunity was something all the juniors in his clan dreamed of. As a matter of fact, he would do so even without the clan’s prompting. The Queen of Flames was someone who his clan, powerful though they were, had to be respectful to. His ancestor might have a place on the same Board of Administrators but their statuses and strengths were completely different even he knew that much. Becoming the legacy apprentice of a cultivator that powerful was all but a surety of future success.
Unfortunately for him, the trials were going to be held in three days and he was currently a five days journey away from Marrbissi. There was practically no hope of getting back in time, a fact he had kept secret from his ancestor. Now, he did not know which was worse: the fact that he was going to miss the opportunity of a lifetime or the exile that would be forced on him when the truth got back to the clan.
He looked down at his beast companion, a rhino daemon and prayed for a miracle. He had to make it back in time to compete! He just had to! Galloping towards the horizon, Alhstan cursed himself. Why did he pick his mount based on power and not speed?
Back in Marrbissi
Robert rushed towards the quarters. He had news for his leader, something he would definitely be interested in. He was not sure why but many of the noble students were either completely unreachable or holed up in their chambers. Then, there was this rumour about a sudden fighting tournament with high stakes. Somehow, the connection between the two near simultaneously occurring events did not register in his mind. Then again, correlation did not necessarily imply causality. All he knew was that his boss would reward him for bringing this kind of news. Anything that gave him a leg up on his colleagues gained special attention from him.
Sweat beading on his brow, he made his way up a walkway to the two youth that guarded the entrance. They glared at him as he approached causing him to hesitate. Robert both feared and envied the two guards. They got to go everywhere the boss went and to serve at his side. The pay, equipment, techniques and resources they got were all top notch and in his opinion, they barely worked for it. The boss did not need their protection. He was more powerful than ten of them put together. He only kept them around because it was befitting for someone of his status to have guards. The guards were not like him and the others. They busted their chops day in, day out for minimal pay and no benefits. Still, he said nothing, keeping his thoughts to himself.
“Kevin! Stephen!” he greeted. They looked at him with eyes so cold his heart quivered. The boss was certainly more powerful than they were but they, in turn, were more powerful than he. Scared, Robert bowed deeply and quickly, revealing the pale skin of his long neck in a manner reminiscent of a just weaned cub before his elders.
“May I please see the boss?” he pleaded. “It’s urgent!”
“The boss is not taking any visitors!” one of the two brutes said.
“Please!” Robert begged. “He insisted that we report any strange movements or activities by the other nobles. I have got some news he will definitely be interested in.”
“Sorry!” Kevin told him in a tone the said anything but. “The boss is busy. No Visitors!”
Robert was weak but he did have sensitive hearing and just then, he heard footfalls. He looked behind and sure enough, he saw two other errand boys making their way over. He knew this would happen. Given his status, any news he learned was just as easily obtained by others. Turning back to face the guards, he begged for an audience. He had to be the first to report the news or he would have no reward. Sadly, the two doorposts turned deaf ears to his pleas, they had seen this a hundred times over and could no longer be bothered.
With a pained expression on his face, Robert pulled out the last few coins he had, offering them to the guards. It was all he had left of this month’s pay and if not for the promise of a greater reward he would never be willing to give it up. To his surprise, the two gave it a single glance and turned him away. In fact, Stephen grew angry.
“The boss is busy. What about that don’t you understand?” The guard yelled. “Now back up before I beat your nose in!”
Scared stiff, Robert fell on his arse as he stepped backwards. Just then, he could tell, the guards were not playing around. Forcing himself back onto his shaky legs, he tried to imagine what could possibly be so demanding of his boss’s attention that he would not receive visitors. This was the perfect time for him to strike at those other noble kids. Again, the coincidence surrounding the timing of his boss’s sudden withdrawal and the events of the day never occurred to him. After all, correlation did not necessarily imply causality.
Trivia Question Three: Verre, the setting of HoGW, has two aspects, Heaven and Earth. Which is feminine?