A few days later
Dale sat up from his meditation, glancing around his room. After losing his fight to Frederick in the Representative Tournament, Dale had decided to solely focus on improving his strength. His last battle was very taxing and if he had a higher base of cultivation, it might have turned out differently.
Thanks to the past several days of focus, Dale had broken through to the late phase of the Coal Metal Core layer. His strength had risen a small amount, and he felt that his energy veins had grown a small bit.
After he had collapsed from his match, the arena staff had taken him away to the infirmary, where he was treated. They released him back to his dorm the next day, determining that the reason for his collapse was due to exhaustion and fatigue. Feng had also lost his match, fighting against a Silver Core user that manipulated Ice.
Dale got up and walked out of his room, down the hall towards Feng’s room. He knocked on the door, “Feng, are you here?”
“Yeah, come in.” he yelled in a muffled tone, the sound partially blocked by the doorway. Dale walked in.
“How’s your strength? Have you reached the late phase yet?” Dale asked.
Feng shook his head, saying, “Not yet.”
Dale nodded, replying, “I just reached the late phase a little while ago." Dale was a bit proud of his achievement.
“Alright man! Nice!” Feng congratulated him, slapping him on the back.
"So what’s up, Dale?” Feng asked, curious. Dale usually visited him for a reason, when they weren’t messing around.
“Feng, I don’t know what to do. I feel like we aren’t strong enough, but I don’t know how to get stronger quicker.” Dale explained, “I talked to one of the teachers, and they just told me to focus on my studies and meditation. They all give me the same answer.” He shrugged.
Feng nodded, understanding. “I know what you mean. I think it’s because we’re kids, Dale. We don’t get taken seriously. I’ve spoken with the Principal, Instructor Darren, while you were practicing. He gave me some advice that’s been helping me.” Feng said, gesturing towards the floating flame that he had been focusing on, when Dale came in.
“Why don’t you go talk to him?” Feng said, “He’s a Gold Core expert, I’m sure he’d have some helpful advice, even though he's a bit scary."
“Alright, I’ll try it. I’m going to write a letter to my Grandpa as well.” Dale walked off and exited the dorm, heading towards the central campus.
The Main School campus is very large. At the center of this huge campus lies a large castle-like building. The building looked like a classical castle, with large buttresses and an imposing front gate. However, it lacked a moat and the gate was always wide open. It is home to several higher-level training and instruction rooms, as well as the principal’s office. Principal Darren was a very involved principal, and would often drop by in random classes to keep the teachers on their toes, Dale had heard from other students.
Dale made his way towards the center of the campus, walking past several students practicing various Arts. He saw one student controlling a Dragon made of water, having it float through the air and scare various younger students as they walked by. When he tried to scare Dale, Dale simply stared at him and laughed. The older student glanced at him in confusion, thinking he was an odd kid. Very mature for a 10 year old.
Soon, Dale reached the central castle. Walking inside, he walked over to one of the smaller rooms to the side, where a large, elderly man could be seen sitting inside. The man was completely bald, without a beard or hair on his head. He had several scars on his face, and gave off a slightly ferocious, but at the same time, kind air. He was talking to a rather odd, elderly looking teacher. The teacher had slightly blue hair, with an oddly familiar white stripe in it. He had a slight build, not very muscular, but not emaciated either. He gave off an odd air, as if he wasn’t used to talking to people. A secretary greeted Dale.
“Yes, can I help you?” asked the clerk.
“I wanted to see the Principal. I had some questions involving my training.” Dale said, nervously.
“Name? Do you have an appointment?” the clerked looked at him, expectantly.
“Uh, my name is Dale, and no, I don’t have an appointment. I didn’t know I needed to have one.”
The clerk looked at him disdainfully, “This is a huge school. Principal Darren is a very busy person. Please come back when you have an appointment booked. Here is a list of openings.” The clerk pulled out a long list, filled with lines and lines of writing.
“Never mind,” Dale walked off, grumbling. Just as he was about to exit, a voice called out to him!
“Boy! You there! You said your name was Dale?” exclaimed the blue haired teacher who had been talking to the principal.
“Yes instructor, my name is Dale, Dale Wensworth.” said Dale, bowing, wondering what the teacher wanted.
“I heard from one of our fellow teachers, you are a Time Art practitioner?” he said, questioningly. He had an eager look in his eye, and gestured rather oddly while he talked, as if he was trying to convey his meaning with his hands.
“Yes, I use the Slowed Time Fist Art.” Dale said, waiting to see how the teacher responded.
“Excellent!” the teacher proclaimed, “I am Instructor Lem! Northenk Lem. I also happen to be a Time Art Practitioner.” He said, warmly smiling at Dale, “I gather you don’t have a specific master yet?”
“Yes sir,” Dale said respectfully. On the inside, he was secretly jumping for joy. Finally! A teacher that doesn’t ignore him and treat him like a child!
“Though you may not know it, Time Art practitioners are very rare,” continued Instructor Lem, “Would you be willing to be this old fool’s disciple?” he glanced at Dale. A glimmer was present in his eye; Lem had been searching for a suitable disciple for years. It truly was rare to find anyone that practiced the Time Art.
“Yes sir! I would!” exclaimed Dale, excitedly. Childish delight showed in his eyes, as he imagined all the amazing techniques he would learn now that he had a master.
“Excellent! Let’s start immediately! Follow me!” Instructor Lem turned around, with Dale in tow, heading out towards the outside of the castle.
Dale followed, overjoyed at his luck.
3 hours later
Dale immensely regretted becoming Instructor Lem’s disciple. The teacher wasn’t human, he was a demon, Dale was convinced. Dale had been standing still for the past hour and a half, balancing himself on a wooden log, while the Teacher occasionally shook the log while he read a book. Dale glared at him hatefully.
The first hour and a half of training was hard, but nothing impossible. It involved various jogging, weight lifting, and flexibility exercises to, as Instructor Lem put, “Test your foundation.”
Dale stood, perched precariously on the shifting log, doing his utmost to concentrate on not falling. Slowly, he began to feel the balance in the log, just a little bit at first, but increasing as time went on. Soon, he no longer shifted as much, and maintaining his balance when Instructor Lem struck the log was much easier.
“Very good, very good.” said the demon teacher, nodding his head approvingly, “Today’s key lesson is about maintaining your balance, no matter what elements obstruct you. The most important thing for a Time Art user is to never lose theirbalance. You will depend on your speed to dodge opponent’s attacks, and deliver your own riposte’s. Losing your balance is a deadly mistake.” Suddenly, he turned around lightning quick, throwing a powerful kick towards Dale’s head. Dale ducked furiously, slipping off the log and hitting the ground. “However, you have a long way to go.”
1 week later
“Dale, come here for a moment.” Instructor Lem called out to him, “I have something important to talk to you about.” They were outside, in the northwestern section of campus, in a small yard filled with trees. Dale was perched on the balancing log, concentrating on not falling. Over the past week, it had started to become easier and easier to maintain his balance. Lem was secretly surprised; he’d never seen a student improve at such a fast rate. The Instructor was reclining, sitting against a tree, with a rather somber look on his face.
“Yes instructor!” Dale said, dragging his verifiably dying (in his opinion) body over to the teacher.
“Dale, why do you practice martial arts? What do you hope to do in this world?” said Instructor Lem, “What is your goal?” he looked at Dale expectantly.
Dale thought about it for a moment. Then, a moment more. Dale realized, with surprise, that he had never really considered why he wanted to become strong. He had always felt that he must become strong, in order to right a wrong. But there was no wrong to right. Dale looked around, in confusion. He told the Instructor, “I’m not sure, teacher. I..I always felt that I wanted to be strong in order to fix something. But I don’t know what I need to fix. It’s just a feeling I’ve always had.” He shrugged.
“Righting a wrong is an honorable reason to desire strength.” Instructor Lem said, nodding his head approvingly, “However, Dale, if you are to truly be my student, there are a few things you must promise me.” Dale nodded.
“I am a member of an International Organization known as the Order of Fallen Time. We are more commonly known as Time Knights. You can instantly recognize one of our kind by the white stripe in our hair,” he continued, gesturing at his own light blue head of hair, and the strip of whiteness that hung in it.
“Our goal is to maintain the Balance of Time. Since ancient times, there have been constant battles between man and monsters. Legend speaks of a time where Dragons ruled and humans were mere slaves, obeying every whim. It is our purpose to make sure something like that never happens. I am one of the missionaries sent out in to the world to recruit new blood.” Instructor Lem spoke proudly, his eyes filling with fervor and strength, “We are humanity’s last shield!”
As the Instructor went on, Dale’s eyes began to acquire a glow. It was every boy’s dream to be a hero, and his Instructor was offering him a chance on a silver platter. Dale began to imagine himself, a glorious knight, slaying monsters left and right, while saving beautiful women.
The Instructor continued on, “However, it’s not all fun and heroics. Time Knights must travel from continent to continent, moving forward with their assigned projects, always fighting for justice. It is a hard life. That’s not to say it doesn’t come with its share of glory, it does! However, for the most part, our heroics are unknown, and only your fellow Time Knights will truly know what you do for mankind.” The Instructor looked back at Dale, and noticed his eyes were unfocused, no doubt imagining future glories. He ruefully shook his head, laughing. Dale was very mature for his age and he sometimes forgot that he was still a child.
“Regardless, today starts as your first official day of training! Now that we are past the warm up and conditioning practice, we can move on to real training!” The Instructor said, with an overly cheery expression on his face.
Dale groaned, and prepared for the worst.