A cold breeze blew past and woke Lorist from his thoughts. He just noticed that he had been hoodwinked by the academy head yet again.

The acquisition of the Yellow Ribbon Academy, the request for the loan, the insult the academy received from the people at the Association of Academies and even the bet with the other academy heads were all caused by Academy Head Levins. Yet right now he had successfully retreated to the sidelines without having take responsibility for any of his actions and made Lorist shoulder all the burden.

Now that he had been put on the frontlines, he had to bear the responsibility of defending his Silver Undefeated title, fight for the future development of the academy as well as be the beacon of hope for the rest of the instructors and students of the academy. That old bastard laid it all out to him, dug him a large pit, and Lorist jumped into it himself willingly. He couldn't even take it easy on the duels. Otherwise, he would be drowned alive by the rebukes of his fellow colleagues should he cause the academy to lose the bet.

There really wasn't anything Lorist could say about the old bastard for betting against the rest of the academy heads. The problem was Charade, who was going all over to put up that duel notice and thinking of making a big buck from this affair. Even if Lorist went back to see the old bastard about this, Levins would only say that there was no harm in doing so and find some way to sweet talk him into accepting it anyway.

Turning his head to look back at that greyish-green tower, he saw the white curtains of the academy head's office flapping away in the wind and made a mental note to stay away from that old fox if there wasn't a good reason to go see him, lest he get fooled by him again.

Holding the copper key in his hand, Lorist decided to go check out the house the academy has allocated for him so that he can move over there if he likes the place.

In actuality, he had already been granted a room back when he got the Incador Medal. However, that room was at the instructor dorms and that was the headquarters of the Silver ranked instructors. Lorist knew that he wasn't liked by those instructors one bit and returned the room key to the academy. He decided he would be much better off if he shacked up with his girlfriend and stayed outside the academy.

The Moon Lake was located at the south of the academy. Favored by many students as a great place for relaxation and romantic rendezvous, it was a circular, crystal clear lake with a magnificent view across its shores. Originally belonging to the Yellow Ribbon Academy, the hill to the north of the lake was once a small mulberry forest. The mulberry trees were cut down and replaced by lofty villas with unique architectural design. According to Academy Head Levins, that was the newly-developed residential area for Gold ranked instructors.

With the walls separating the two academies having been knocked down, Lorist easily reached the hill by walking along the cobblestone path. He circled around the bamboo fence that surrounded the small hill and soon made his way to the entrance. Lorist was greeted by the sight of a two-storey wooden housing with a large double door.

A worker dressed in servant's uniform brought Lorist to the first room at the end of the wooden building. It was a large office with five tables within. A white-haired woman could be seen in the room with her head lowered, seemingly working on something. The worker pointed to her, indicating to Lorist that she was Supervisor Skali.

Taking Lorist's copper key and verifying the inscribed words on it that said '35th Moon', Supervisor Skali smiled sincerely and said, "So, you are our academy's legendary Gold ranked instructor Iron Locke. I've heard so much about you. Haha, I was in charge of several of the academy's shopfronts throughout Morante City before and wasn't at the academy often, so I never actually saw you in person."

Lorist wasn't too surprised at the fact. Having been at the academy for more than ten years and making quite a name for himself, he was familiar with most of the administrative staff of the academy.

Skali personally showed Lorist his new room. She was a rather talkative person. "Locke, your residence is quite near the shore of the lake, so it'll be rather quiet around there. House No.34 is quite a distance away, Instructor Marlin lives there. You should be acquainted with him, right?"

Lorist lightly nodded. Instructor Marlin was one of the retired military officers that joined the academy as a Gold ranked instructor three years ago to take over the SIlver ranked instructors that left. He was a frank person whose two favorite things in life are alcohol and his horse. He sometimes even jokingly referred to his horse as his second wife. Married to a beautiful gentle woman and father to a cute little daughter, he brought his family as well as his horse over to the academy when he first took the job. According to him, Jenny, his horse, had saved him on multiple occasions on the battlefield. That's why he dedicated so much of his time to care for it.

His residence was a small villa made of rock and wood and was two storeys high, with an attic on the top floor. Being at the far corner of the Moon Lake with not many buildings in the area, it was indeed quiet as Skali has mentioned. The roof of house no.34 could barely be seen from the courtyard.

The courtyard was pretty vast and took up most of the land of the surrounding area with a row of holly trees enclosing it. Although the house was near the lake, a well was built on the courtyard nevertheless. Lorist inspected the well and noted its square bluestone walls. The bottom of the well was covered with fine, white sand that was presumably used to cleanse the well water.

Two wooden structures could be seen on the courtyard as well. As Skali was unlocking the villa, she said, "That's the stable. You can keep up to two horses there. The other building is the garage where you can keep your horse cart when you're not using it. You can use it as a storehouse as well if you don't have any horses. Ah, it's finally open. I better grease this key, otherwise it won't turn easily... Come on in."

The first room they entered was the main lounge. In it was a fireplace as well as a sofa. On the walls hung several tapestries[1]. Although they were not anything expensive, they provided the house with a warm, homely atmosphere. Nodding, Lorist noticed that the furniture has already been prepared and he did not have to take care of it himself. As a person who hated troublesome things, he was really satisfied at how everything in the house had been prepared for him beforehand.

"The kitchen and dining hall are at the back. To your left are two servant rooms and to your right are the bathroom and storeroom. You can also use the empty space below the stairs as an extra storage space. Let's go upstairs," continued Skali.

On the second floor was another lounge along with one master bedroom with two other guestrooms. There was also another bathroom on this floor as well as a study room. The master bedroom was rather large and had its own bathroom and dressing room. The attic could be accessed from the stairs at the second floor lounge.

Smiling, Skali said that by the time Lorist starts a family and has his own children, he could even renovate the attic into a toddler's room. She thought the kids will definitely love it.

Lorist retorted by stating that he's single and won't be having any children soon.

Piqued by Lorist's statement, Skali asked Lorist about the type of girls he likes and so that she can recommend someone to be Lorist's wife.

Thanking Skali for her goodwill, Lorist rejected the offer by saying that he's in an important juncture in his training now and cannot shift his focus onto other things. He also had to duel all those challengers in the coming days. That finally diffused Skali's eagerness in finding Lorist a new partner.

Moving back to the lounge on the ground floor, Supervisor Skali asked Lorist what he thought about the house and mentioned that he could switch to another one should he not like the quietness of the area, as out of the 52 villas in the residential area for Gold ranked instructors, only 38 of them was occupied and there were 14 villas which he could pick from.

Lorist expressed his satisfaction with this particular villa and told her that he would be working to move his luggage over tomorrow.

The supervisor pointed at a green rope hanging by the fireplace and said, "Instructor Locke, this rope is connected to a bell in the management office. Should you need any assistance, just give the rope a pull or two and we'll send someone over. Given that you've just moved in, I believe that you don't yet have a servant yet. Please don't hesitate to ask the management to send someone over to help you with your tasks."

Pulling on the rope, she continued, "I have just sent for some cleaners to come over since you're moving in tomorrow or the day after. The place has started to gather dust after a while, especially the handrails on the stairs..."

"Supervisor Skali, isn't this building a little far from the management office? How is the rope tethered all the way to there?" Lorist asked curiously.

Letting out an enthusiastic smile, Skali explained, "That's simple, an underground bamboo pipe network houses the copper wires that are connected ropes like this. When you pull on the rope, it actually tugs on the copper wires underground that's linked to a bell with your room number on it. There is a wall in the management office that has over a hundred labeled bells. By checking the bell that rings, we are able to tell very quickly which house requires our assistance. I actually borrowed the design of this system from the ones that I've seen at some large merchant offices."

A little while later, some knocks could be heard on the door. A tough, burly female servant came in. Lorist broke into a smile the moment he saw her. "Kelly, it's you."

This servant was the one who had looked after Lorist when he had first crossed over into this world. Having not seen Kelly for a number of years, Lorist noticed that her previously plump figure had become more sturdy and fit.

In the beginning when Kelly first got the job, she didn't like the original owner of Lorist's body very much as he was a rather spoiled noble brat who looked down on everyone. Nevertheless, she carried out her caretaking task professionally as she had been paid to do so and did not bother to talk to Lorist much. But after the current Lorist crossed over and possessed that noble youth's body, he increased Kelly's salary and got her to read some books aloud to him as he yearned to learn more about this foreign world. In time, Kelly's sympathy for this poor young noble who had left his homeland at so young an age grew. It was like her maternal instinct kicked in and she started to show true concern for Lorist. Slowly, their relationship got better and better. Had it not been for Kelly's sudden family circumstances that prompted her to return home, Lorist would have wanted her to work for him for the long term.

"Ah, it's Young Master Locke!" Kelly greeted Lorist with much vigor.

"What happened to your family at that time? Back when I had just finished recovering from my injuries, I tried to ask the people at the management office but they only said that you stopped working there because of some family issues."

"Oh, at that time, my grandmother had fallen sick. I went back home to take care of her for half a year until she passed away. After that, I worked the fields at home and six years passed in a flash. By that time, my children had already grown up and I could leave the household to them without any issues. That's why I decided to come work at the academy again," explained Kelly as she struggled to count the years she stayed home with her fingers. Lorist wanted to laugh; he knew that Kelly wasn't good at arithmetic. Who knew that after all these years that habit of hers didn't change at all.

Turning to Skali, Lorist asked if he could have Kelly work for him. While the supervisor agreed to his request, Kelly herself wasn't willing with the reason being that she wouldn't get to do much for Lorist as he only lived alone, making her unable to earn enough money for her sons' dowries when they marry.

Smiling bitterly and shaking his head, Lorist mumbled, "My, how simple minded you are..."

They eventually settled with Skali's suggestion: hiring Kelly as a long term helper. She would be paid 5 large silvers per month for coming to tidy the house up twice a day. Kelly's eyes instantly lit up.

Kelly eagerly said that she could come over to clean the place tomorrow. Lorist gave her an extra key and subsequently sent Skali and Kelly to the door as they left. Looking back at his new residence, he thought, so, this is my new home, huh.

Having lived in the Grindia Continent for ten years, he has finally got himself a house. This was the place where he suddenly found himself in and it was the harbor for his troubled soul at that time. Taking a walk around his house to give it a look or two more, delight sprung up from within his heart. Even though his mood had been spoiled from his meeting with the academy head before this, he really felt like singing at the top of his voice right now.

There's still one thing I have to settle, thought Lorist as he stood by the window of the master bedroom on the second floor with his eyes focused on the Moon Lake, recalling the scene when he first met her. His felt a hint of pain deep in his heart. That relationship he had spent three years in had evaporated just like that. Was the title and power of a noble that important, so much so that she ditched him for another man despite all he had done for her, even at the cost of casting away the business they had built together?

Well, let bygones be bygones. I should probably settle this today. Grasping his fists and sending a forceful punch towards the wall, Lorist steeled his resolve.


[1]Tapestry: woven textile (cloth) art pieces. See Wikipedia.





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