A group of four arrived back at the city that housed the Star Whale Academy, they walked through the main gates of the city and moved towards the area where many teenagers had gathered around. Children that hadn't hit puberty to those that had, milled around the entrance to the Academy, waiting for someone to open the gates to allow them in. The group walked past the crowd and towards the front gate where they were promptly let in by the guards, with the gates closing behind them.
Protests broke out as the crowd were irritable after spending hours of their time standing outside of the gate. The smarter ones had left to do other things, mainly to find things to entertain themselves with. The group walked through the Academy grounds, towards a lone building that was by far one of the most obscure buildings in the entire Academy. They walked in and handed in four badges to the person inside of the building's office before exchanging some words and retrieving their badges back.
They made their way to a building where they promptly re-registered their badges to a residence that they had been inhabiting for the past few years since they had asked for a place to stay after their first year had been finished. After doing that they left to the Mess Hall.
The group continued on their way to the Mess Hall where several adults were talking outside and were walking inside the building. The teachers glanced at the group before returning back to their conversation, deeming them to be nobody of consequence and that they were allowed to be where they were at the current time. The majority of the adults in the school had an inkling of who they were since their reputation had risen to an admirable level after their second year in the Academy.
Many students that saw them and knew of their reputation and what they had recently returned from, broke into gossip to talk about them. Their reputation had spread to all corners of the Academy and only those that were freshmen wouldn't know of them. It brought them trouble because of countless students picking a fight with the group to prove their strength. Those groups that threatened them or had picked a fight with the group were beaten down mercilessly, making them regret their decisions.
Once they had established their reputation as strong students, the established groups of the Academy tried to recruit them for their own gains. It failed and many of the leaders that led the groups weren't pleased. The stronger leaders of the group didn't have much time to care about it though since they left on Academy missions the majority of the time.
The leader of the group looked around the room to spot an adult waving at them with childish glee. Sighing at his behaviour, they walked towards the man to exchange pleasantries. "Hello, Jin Yuan. Why are you waving at us with such enthusiasm today? Did you manage to make something new from the book I gave you? I'm honestly surprised you haven't actually finished attempting every single one in that book."
The girl in the group spoke. "I bet he's trying to perfect each dish before he moves to the next one. Even though he doesn't seem to be a perfectionist he seems to be very critical when it comes to new food that he's learning to make."
The man, Jin Yuan, scowled at her comment. "I like learning to make new food and I always want to taste the best before I move onto the next dish. It's not like you can cook anyway."
Another boy in the group laughed nervously as he watched his mentor argue with his friend as if they were two immature children in a fight. "Jin Yuan, I think you can tell us why you want us here. There's no need to argue with Shang Yang, both of you are mature enough to act like an adult so do it. You're an actual adult so I don't see why you argue with her so often."
Jin Yuan huffed before pouting, an expression that did not look cute on such an elderly person. "She keeps being critical about cooking when she can't even cook."
The boy quickly waved him off. "Let's just forgive and forget shan't we not?" The boy tried to divert the topic by ending it quickly.
Jin Yuan nodded at the indiscreet diversion. "I have something you should try out. I've recently made a new dish that combines several dishes that I've made before into a singular one. It should be eaten in a particular order, but I'll tell you when we get there. It should be nice that the four of you get to eat something so delicious the moment you get back from an Academy-sanctioned mission from the Vice-Principal."
The last person in the group spoke up, stretching his arms up and placed them behind his head in a leisurely manner. "I'm surprised we were even given a mission this early. I'd have thought that the missions were primarily for those who were nearing the end of their Third Year to those of their Fifth Year."
Jin Yuan wasn't very surprised when they had been given their mission by the Vice-Principal. "Your strength is probably on par with those prodigies in the Fifth Year. I have no idea how the four of you managed to become such a terrifying group but your reputation as the strongest and youngest group is well-known throughout the Academy. Many influential people and families are interested in your rise in strength when the four of you were pretty much nameless when you first started out at the Academy."
"I'm certain I could find information down to where you live and who your parents are in less than a few minutes of information retrieval. They've spent quite a lot of resources looking for information on the four of you and whether they can bribe you or not." Jin Yuan was leading them to his private kitchen as he was talking.
The leader of the group, Ye Xiu, returned to the conversation after he finished quietly speaking to his friend, Shi Die. "No matter what they do, it'd be impossible to bribe us. We don't have anything that we want or need currently." He spoke the truth as the group needed little because they could sustain themselves especially due to the fact that they all had a discipline that would easily earn them a lot of money. "Even if they tried, I'm pretty sure Sir would block any attempts of bribery in the first place."
Jin Yuan nodded once again. "That's true, the Principal certainly is a person that would do anything to protect his students. The four of you can be counted as his apprentices which means that he would protect the four of you to the best of his ability." Jin Yuan opened the door to his kitchen and sat down on a stool as he retrieved all the ingredients he needed from his dimensional storage. "I would do the same if the need arises and I'm sure Liu Fan would as well."
"Thank you for telling us that Jin Yuan. I hope we can repay that favour one day." Shang Yang promised him solemnly. Though they looked like they had the worst relationship in the entire group, they were actually very good friends. It was their way for them to play around.
The group stopped talking to Jin Yuan once he started to cook the dish he was going to serve them. They knew well that if they wanted to taste the best then they'd have to let him concentrate solely on what he was making. They conversed with each other quietly, light banter being exchanged between the four. They reviewed their mission since it was their first mission. It certainly wouldn't be the last one and the next time they took on a mission, it'd probably be one of a higher difficulty.
As they talked and watched Jin Yuan's rapid yet careful movements, they could see his cooking process and it was truly a delight to watch a master at work. Though he wasn't the highest rank at being a Spirit Cook, this didn't matter in the face of pure cooking skill and taste. Being a high-rank Spirit Cook did help improve the taste greatly but Jin Yuan liked to strive for perfection in the normal taste before infusing Qi.
Once Jin Yuan had finished his cooking process, he brought out four plates of his finished dishes. He started to explain the correct order that they should eat the dish in. "Each time you taste a different part of the dish the taste is enhanced so you must eat it till the end. Enjoy!"
They were in bliss as they finished the food. They thanked Jin Yuan for the food and Shi Die told him that he'd be back for lessons after the little break that he was going to take. The mission had tired them all out and they were looking forward to going back to their residence to rest for the next few days.
As the group went back to their residence for their break, they changed clothes into cleaner clothes. Though they had said that they were going to take a break for the next few days, there was never a true moment of rest for the group. They entered Ye Xiu's Dimension and began doing their daily routine.
This daily routine had been perfected by Xiao Bai after months of changing what was in the routine and how to maximise their gains and efforts in the allocated time. There was a very good reason why they had been assigned a mission this early in their Academy life and it was purely because they had trained with all their effort and combining that with their advantages, they easily became some of the strongest students in the entire Academy.
Hordes of students rushed into the Academy to come for the entrance ceremony. Those that had good connections and had been to the entrance ceremony before didn't go to them because they felt like it was a waste of time. They took that time to get registered for their rooms or residence.
The entrance ceremony was slightly different this time as there was a big announcement that had to be made to all the students in the Academy. Those that had been privately trained by a staff member already knew what was going to come up in the entrance ceremony because they had been informed about it a long time ago. When all students were informed of the upcoming tournament, the entire student body was excited because of it.
As the Vice-Principal introduced the tournament, several unknown adults walked into the hall where the Vice-Principal promptly introduced them as the Vice-Principals of the respective Academies that were participating in the tournament. There were over twenty different Vice-Principals but he mainly introduced those from Academies in the Top 20.
Once the introductions were over, the Vice-Principal had announced that the Academies that were participating had brought their selected students that were going to participate in the tournament over to the Star Whale Academy. It was a publicly known fact that whoever hosted the tournament would require all their contestants to make the long travel over to the Academy to live for an entire year.
Though San Guo complained about all the complications hosting the tournament brought, it also brought in a lot of benefits. The Academy that hosted the tournament would usually become stronger afterwards. It was due to the fact that their students would gain a lot of experience from sparring others and that would increase the average strength of the Academy.
San Guo was still unpleased about hosting the tournament but couldn't whine about it because the decision was already made and the respective Academies had already arrived.
All he could do was hope for the best for their Academy as he looked out of his office's window.