The guard bobbed his head at Essairyn. “Yes! All aspiring Knights receive free training before becoming official Knights! Of course, they can continue their education for free after too. For especially excellent students, they can study at the main campus in Neu’arth!”
“Hmm…” Essairyn inclined her head thoughtfully. No matter one’s circumstances or relationships, one had to join the Knight’s Order in order to receive the free training. “Then how do you join the Order?”
The guard proudly thumped his chest. “Anyone can become a Knight! You simply must swear to serve the people and help all those in need of your services! The Knight’s Oath encourages furthering one’s education, pushing their personal limits, and giving back to the community!”
“Errr…” One of Essairyn’s eyebrow winced at the guard’s passionate statements. Talk about a good spokesperson for the Knight’s Order and Academy. He’s almost overdoing it on the enthusiasm hah… A Knight’s Oath and Order sounded appealing in terms of designation. But it also sounded restrictive in being obligated to assist others upon request. While good for the community, and Essairyn applauded the integrity and mission of the Order, the notion of helping everyone that asked anything of her was highly undesirable. It sounds like too much trouble and effort. I might just get stuck helping others all the time instead of adventuring.
On the other hand, Essairyn’s concerns mostly flew over the head of Darren. The guard was almost comically impassioned in his eyes, but the idea of joining a Knight’s Order and taking on an oath enticed him.
“What kind of training and education? Do we get to live in dorms or something?” he asked the guard with repressed anticipation. Darren didn’t know whether dormitories existed in this world, but it was likely since it was an Academy.
“Yes, you get free board if you reach middle-upper D rank as a human after taking the entrance ranking exam! But we offer discounted rooms and food for trainees and Knights.”
“Sweet!” Darren grinned. He was positive that was a doable feat for him. And the discounted board and room were tempting offers. With this he could live a life close to what he was used to while figuring out the world and his next course of action. He also wouldn’t have to rely on Essairyn anymore.
At his enthusiastic response, Essairyn furrowed her brows. Does he not want to adventure with us anymore? I thought we could stay together at least until Neu’arth… In the brief time that they were together, it made the journey more enjoyable. Even though she had Akari, a solitary journey without another human seemed daunting now. Additionally, he also had the same Earth experiences as her, so they could relate. Or at least, that’s what she had presumed. She had gotten used to his presence, just like with Akari before him. But perhaps he wasn’t so keen as she was on staying together.
Seeing the quiet girl, Darren prodded her gently with the back of his hand. “How about you? It sounds pretty cool right? And we won’t have to be too worried about expenses or anything. It’ll be like attending school, but even better probably.” The arrangement was ideal. He would be safe from any demon disturbances like the wolf encounter back at the Welforts’ farm. And he could live easily while improving himself. We’re both college students, so we know the importance of preparing to live independently. In this strange world, we better off remaining as students and living at the Academy.
The zealous sensation he had after first jumping onto the rooftops had largely evaporated. He opted to live securely at a pace he could control rather than the whims of the world or Essairyn. Darren felt like the oddball out between her and Akari. He wasn’t even certain how the fox felt about him. While she seemed innocuous enough, Lachlan had said she was dangerous. If even ghosts were hazardous through possessing animals, then it wouldn’t be far fetched for Akari to be a significant threat too. So coupled with faint suspicion, he was starting to despise the feeling of losing control and not knowing what the day would bring. The known world had capsized into an unknown abyss. This sinking realization that had been partially hindered by Essairyn’s calm presence was slinking into the recesses of his mind.
Essairyn’s eyes narrowed a bit at his encouragement and ambiguous expression. She did want to train and learn more about the world, but she didn’t like being tied down again. Not after she finally gained her freedom. So instead of responding to him, she turned to the guard. “What if I don’t join the Order, how do I receive the training and education then?”
“You must pay the tuition in order to train and study at the Academy. The dormitories and food are also an added expense. In total, for one year, it’s one hundred plus fifty eleuars,” answered the guard who was well-rehearsed in such questions. He was actually a Knight himself as the majority of the staff and teachers were at the Academy. Although he wasn’t ranked much higher than cadets, he still took pride in welcoming newcomers.
“Hm, that’s expensive…for now at least.” Essairyn could only pay just a fraction of the cost, and even if she sold her demon beast drops, she still would be far from the necessary amount. Hunting beasts for their potential drops was also too inefficient. Although, with Akari around, they appeared directly in Essairyn’s path like moths to light. So she felt a smidgen of gratitude toward the apparent danger which was actually advantageous.
“You’re not going to accept the offer?” Darren pursed his lips in a frown. He initially hadn’t expected her to ignore his earlier suggestion, but Essairyn was just being herself again and doing what she pleased. His words were ineffectual and disregarded.
“No, I’d rather not stay in one place,” she replied curtly before continuing in a gentler tone, “If you want to join that’s okay. I’ll stay and wait for your results.”
Darren’s gut twisted slightly. He wasn’t sure why, but her words had an accusing undertone that made him feel strangely guilty. Although he was dragged around in the process, she had helped him forge a new path. He was no longer clueless about the world and his circumstances because of her. So he could only force a smile in reply before heading inside the Academy. Essairyn and Akari trailed after since the school lobby was open to the public.
The vanilla marble floored lobby was spacious and fluctuated with indistinct wavelengths of light, of magical illumination. Essairyn had not yet seen electricity in action because the air was naturally lit by magic from the atmosphere. However, various lamps and lighting were scattered in the room. She assumed they were turned on during nighttime. With the Andelrins and Welforts, they had both used candlelight instead of electricity. So electricity appeared to be confined to towns.
Before she could ponder how electricity was created in a magical world not bound by Earth’s natural laws, Darren was being escorted by a lightly armored man to the entrance exam location. She instinctively started after him, but then she halted in remembrance of their agreement. The escorting knight noticed Essairyn’s actions, so he addressed her. “Do you want to come along? You can still watch even if you’re not taking the exam.” She instantly brightened up, nodded, and hurried after them both.
The ivory colored corridor led to a rotunda filled with aspiring young trainees, knight personnel, and curious spectators. An engraved ring painted in gold encircled the sparring area, and the examinees watched the matches on the sidelines while waiting for their names to be called. After Darren registered, they too joined the small crowd.
A trio of knights were the main examiners. They rotated the task of testing a trainee by fighting one-on-one with wooden weapons, and then together they would evaluate the trainee’s skills. Afterwards, a magical device embedded into the wall would read each trainees’ regular m’u amount when they placed their hand on its glassy surface. The knights’ evaluation and the regular m’u reading were evenly weighed and comprised the final rank of the trainee.
“Which weapon are you going to chose?” Essairyn gestured toward the weapon piles outside of the ring. The majority were various types of swords and blades. Other weapons included spears, clubs, bats, axes, poles, and hammers. Long distance weapons like bow and arrows were not permitted as spars were strictly hand-to-hand combat.
“Longsword,” he instantly answered. The slice of a sword was smooth and sharp. In Darren’s mind, it was the most dignified weapon of choice. The others felt too barbaric and didn’t suit his image. He was also the most confident in being able to maneuver it over any other weapon.
Essairyn merely bobbed her head in acknowledgement. No scythes huh? The piles of bladed weapons all lacked anything reminiscent of a proper scythe. For a split second, she felt a tinge of disappointment. But ruminating it over a bit, she resolved it was better to be unique. She could create her own signature style of fighting. Already she had employed a hybrid battle style with magical and physical attacks against demons. While it was still crude and far from perfected, she enjoyed being able to utilize a variety of weapons. She didn’t see why she had to limit herself to just one type.
After several trainees finished their spars, Darren was up next. He retrieved a longsword and stood up to the knight examiner. Seeing his determined gaze, the knight was pleased. He felt a slight pressure in the boy’s aura that signaled underlying potential.
“So your name is Darren? A fine name. I hope you can live up to it,” the knight with ash-auburn hair remarked as he readied his stance.
Darren momentarily was puzzled. What does he mean by a fine name? But he had no time to think as the knight struck first.