Crawfield Academy was famous among Averati. It was one of the five top schools in the Barko Nation. Every year, Crawfield would send out elders to go recruiting for three months. At the end of those three months, they were to bring back promising candidates no older than seventeen.
Even though the City of Olato was a backwater city, where it was not even rated as a Third Class City and yet was still large enough not to be labeled as a town, it was still considered one of the top ten cities on the eastern border. And even though it had a few truly powerful figures, and some wealthy ones, it was still a city that was completely incomparable to the ones closer to the nation’s capital.
In such a city was a Crawfield Elder. He sat within the Wine Water Pavilion on the first floor with a few of his colleagues, drinking.
“Elder Lu, what are we going to do now? We were sent to this desolate place to pick up disciples off of Head’s orders. Not only are they sub par, but the amount that we found cannot fill our quota!” A skinny man, sitting across of the Crawfield Elder voiced. This skinny man was one of the three underlings that each recruitment elder was given to help them in their duties.
“I know, manager Ki.” Elder Lu looked glum. The Head of the Recruiting Division ordered him to go to cities on the eastern border to recruit students and, in the Head’s words, “form stronger bonds with the members on our eastern front”.
But Elder Lu quickly found out that out of the hundreds of elders sent out to recruit students, only he was sent to the east. The capital was much closer to the north and even the western frontier which bordered with a the human world, so at first Elder Lu was annoyed that he had to take a far trip to the eastern side. Then, when he found out he was the only elder to go to the east, he was excited that he would get all the good students to himself, but now? Elder Lu went to almost all ten great cities on the eastern border only to find out that even the top of the students there were below average when compared to the Crawfield standards.
He only managed to pick thirty students, and he had a quota to bring at least fifty. It was ok for some to fail out at the beginning, but he needed to have at least a few good ones that did not, otherwise it would adversely affect his status as a recruitment elder and he may even be demoted to an underling like the ones he carried around.
Elder Lu did not dare imagine the sneer of the Elder that he would be forced to tailor to if he were demoted.
“Damn it!” He cursed. “The Head mocks me! Why?”
Manager Ki looked at Elder Lu, downcast. “His son became a recruitment elder this year. I suppose that seeing as how you had some success in the areas you recruit, he wants his son to get that chance. If he does well, the school’s high elder may promote him to a high elder seat.”
“Hmm? Speak plainly, Manager Ki. Each year I change my route. How would me being gone help his son?”
Manager Ki sighed. “Elder Lu, don’t you remember that we have to submit our route to the high elder of the protection bureau? That way if something were to happen to us, the school could be able to track us? After you received those orders, I felt something was off and sent out feelers through a few contacts. Apparently the Head of the Recruitment Division is friends with that same high elder. He would definitely be able to give his son your route!
The glass in Elder Lu’s hand shattered. His palm was cut and bleeding, but he did not tend to it. Elder Lu was furious. It was do or die for him. If he was demoted, it would be almost impossible to become an elder again, much less advance to a higher position. He spent so many years to get to where he was, and now his life’s work was going to be in shambles because the Division Head wanted to make his son look good? The son isn’t even a main recruitment elder, but temporarily taking over the seat. The anger within Elder Lu rose.
He had a month left. He felt like leaving the eastern border and going somewhere to the south to look for students regardless of the fact that he hadn’t gone through all the cities yet. But what did it matter if he hadn’t? He already visited eight. There was probably nothing in the other two, and if he left now he would probably secure six or seven good students.
It was that moment that one of his managers spoke up, interrupting his thought.
The manager pointed out the window and chuckled, “Elder Lu, it seems some of the students you picked are causing a bit of a commotion.”
Elder Lu got up. He was furious. He took a side glance at the manager that seemed happy. “If I get demoted over this matter, I will make damn sure you never take my place, Manager Poc.” Elder Lu said in a deadpan tone. He knew what Manager Poc was happy about. Usually when an Elder was promoted or demoted, one of the managers would take that elder’s place. Manager Poc was on top of the list to do so.
Manager Poc’s face became solemn, and he shifted his eye from Elder Lu.
Elder Lu did not even look out the window. He got up and stormed out of the Wine Water Pavilion. His aura billowed out, hair flying. He was just about to go and smack those kids around when he saw the red-headed young man. And at that point he reigned in his aura.
A calmness overcame him.
“Stop!” He yelled.
He sauntered over to the group of kids.
Elder Lu glanced at them. Ten of them were the students he had chosen, two of which were from Olato City. The rest were just common students from Olato that he deemed too low-grade to accept. But that red-headed young man is different.
Elder Lu cast a gaze over the young man. The boy was dirty. His clothes were torn and made of the poorest quality linen he had ever seen. He also had no shoes or slippers. The boy’s nails were black with dirt. But dirty was not all, he was odd. He had symbols on his hands and arms and continued up his shirt. The sclera was red, which was a rare thing among Averati, and more importantly, Elder Lu could not see through him.
If a person was weaker than he was, Elder Lu could tell just how strong that person was. From the fact that he could not tell through the boy’s strength, then that could mean that the boy was stronger than him, which he doubted, or that the boy trained in an obscure martial art and to a decent level.
If he did, then that meant Elder Lu struck gold! The people of the eastern border were weak. It was weak because there was no urgency for them to be strong. There was much peace at the border as it bordered The Eastern Forest, whose domain kings never tried to expand their territory westward.
Furthermore, the eastern border did not have that many resources, so there were not many powerful figures willing to go there to live or trade. As the years went on, those in the north, west, and south grew more powerful and had more members join the five great academies. But the eastern border barely had ten that rose through the ranks. That left the east to be a bit more alienated than the rest of the nation. This alienation caused many problems.
The Crawfield Academy was not interested in a solution to that problem as they were not affected. Elder Lu knew he was sent as a pretense to look like they wanted to forge stronger relations. Even though the Head wanted his son to take over the route he had planned and went through many of his connections to learn of potential disciples, the Head could have sent him somewhere that was not the eastern border. This was obviously killing two birds with one stone! But if Elder Lu came back with no good students from the eastern border, the Head might use that against him, even if he found some good seedlings in the south.
“What’s your name, young man?” Elder Lu asked as he looked to the red head.
The red-headed youth seemed nervous when Elder Lu asked him that. “I’m called Delias.”
“Delias, huh. How old are you?”
The red-headed youth looked up at Elder you with puzzlement across his face. “I’m not yet seventeen.”
“Not yet seventeen. Good. Good.” Elder Lu smiled.
“How would you like to become a disciple of the Crawfield Academy?”