Dewan Horizon

Hi, I write fantasy novels which are released in serialized form. My novel is called the Flight of The Draykes and it is a System-based sword and magic novel

Flight of The Draykes – Prologue: You Are...


I should’ve known that this Balakash would be waiting. He saw this route last time, and he’s not stupid, though he is a big brute.


I ran faster than I was running before, In the hopes of perhaps wriggling by the ring of teenagers headed by the vicious-looking red-haired brute of a specimen.

No such luck.

Feeling the rain of blows upon my body, I idly shielded my face and looked up at the sky and remarked to myself, “At least it’s a sunny day and those kites up high are getting to watch a good show. Oh, the clouds are gathering too – to see the spectacle of a boy being pummeled by a bunch of bullies with anger management issues. The only problem is, why does that boy have to be me.”

Then a punch hit my nose, and clutching it, I almost fell to the ground.

A nasal voice sounded out in front of me, “Are you sure you didn’t get any money, eh?”

Looking up, I gazed into the eyes of the red-haired brute who was brushing the hair out of his face and revealing a heavy-set face with scowling eyebrows and a flat nose. A rather immature face with a very mature expression of anger on it.

Snarling at me, the brute spat out, “Your parents aren’t spending on those ptooey books for you now? I would say you need them, boy – since you were so stupid as to try to trick us by taking this route!”

Then the kicks, punches, slaps rained down, and I tried to shield myself as best as I could, curling up on the ground only to have the brute pull me up and under the bright sun, he gazed into my eyes – eyes that were deep-set and empty looking at the moment.

I think I unnerved him as always with those eyes. Maybe that’s why I did that. But whatever the reason was, as usual, the brute curled his fingers into a fist and, with a thunderous sound, smashed it into my face.

Flying backward, the apathy in my eyes didn’t change as my disdain for what was happening was writ on my bloodied face. I knew why it was happening – or I thought I knew why it was happening – but that didn’t change how incredibly stupid it was for Harold to be doing what he was.

It was pure madness, his actions. I knew that, and yet here I was, being beaten up, and resignation tinged my anger at the situation.

You might ask why the brute’s actions were a product of madness?

What else is it but madness when you dare to beat up the son of the reigning count in his own county?

And the son in question was, of course, me!

I was the younger son of the House of Drayke, led by Count Callum Drayke – a just man who believed that a person should stand up for themselves without aid. Though when aid was needed or justice had to be upheld, he would be the first one to be on the scene. However, in a fight between children like myself and the brute, Harold – He would not dirty his moniker of Count Callum ‘the peaceful’ and intervene.

Even then, the action of beating up the son of the Count in his own county, or for that matter, anywhere in the Kingdom of Leon, would have led to death by hanging faster than you could blink. Yet here Harold was, charging forward to deal another blow.

Thud. My body landed on the ground and skidded backward for a foot or two – raising a cloud of dust, and I groaned out.

Getting to my feet shakily, I wiped the blood off my nose as I grumbled to myself, “All the Baling Proteans have extraordinary strength, agility, endurance, and stamina. Where in Bal are my strengths and such?”

I mean, sure, they were exceptions, but I didn’t have to be one of them – right?

Surrounding me again, the leader of the gang – Harold, walked forward and smirked at me before saying, “Quite tough, aren’t you, boy? We’ll beat the toughness out of you soon enough!” while his gang cheered in the background.

Smirking, the brute and his gang began advancing towards me, only to hear a piercing scream that stopped them in their tracks.

“HAROLD, you balakash, you take one more step and I’ll make sure you never take another!”

I stiffened up as soon as I heard those words and as I turned; I saw a girl; her face set in stern lines that were radiating anger, marching toward us while her right hand played with a sword pommel, as though itching to draw it and make quick work of the bullies.

Raising his hands, Harold slowly backed away while saying, “Alessia, this is a misunderstanding. We were just sparring, isn’t that right, boy?”

Glaring coldly at Harold, the girl, Alessia said, “Is that right? Then I presume you wouldn’t mind a spar with me?”

“Hahahaha, I’m tired from the spar just now, but maybe I’ll take you up on the offer later.'' Saying this, Harold, trying to hold on to his dignity, made his escape, following his gang who had already fled as soon as they heard Alessia’s Scream.

“The day you do will be the day that every bone in your body is broken,” muttered Alessia under her breath as she whirled around and ran to where I stood.

“Are you alright?” She asked with concern in her voice.

I wiped more blood off my face, looked at my dirtied tunic and ripped trousers, looked to the side for the shoe that had come off when I was sent flying, then I turned around reluctantly and said, “I’m fine.”

The girl who was following my actions raised an eyebrow which quivered for a second before saying, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t come earlier.”

“Not your fault, Alessia. I’m the one who ran off. I thought I could avoid them but they found me.”

Taking part of her tunic in her hand, she grabbed me and cleaned me up as I squirmed under her grip.

“Alessia, I can do this myself. Let go!” I cried out, a little miserably.

Ignoring my protests, she continued her ministrations until satisfied and then let go of a significantly better-looking version of myself than before.

Examining me closely, she took note of my pale white skin, the long aquiline nose, the sword-like eyebrows, the feminine eyelashes, and the terrifying pools of darkness that were my eyes.

Conscious of her gaze, my eyelashes came down to cover the darkness and when they opened, they were back to how they usually looked, full of warmth. But they only looked like that when I saw Alessia, a few others, and my family.

“Alessia. Alessia!” Rapping my knuckles against the forehead of the girl, I knocked her out of the daze she was in.

Embarrassed, she looked away and her gaze was drawn to the blood that still stained the tiled roads of Draconis city.

She looked at me with a serious expression and said, “Listen, you need to become stronger. I can teach you how to fight and fight well at that.”

I shrugged my shoulders as I said, “I’m what, 6 and a half right now? I don’t have any strength, agility, stamina – though I might have endurance -” I said as I wryly looked at the blood on my clothes, and then continuing, I said, “You, on the other hand, are a prodigy. You’ve awakened your warforce at 8 and now at 10, you’re already a squire – a full 5 years ahead of everyone else! You already don’t have any time and on top of that, you keep saving me from Harold. I can’t accept more than this from you.”

Pursing her lips, Alessia replied, “I will always have time for you. As for Harold, he’ll be a squire in 3 years. I’ll challenge him fairly then and make sure he won’t be able to move for at least a year,” and illustrated her words by flexing her arm and throwing a few punches in the air.

Laughing, I said, “I don’t doubt it and I would love to have the pleasure of seeing it, but leave him to me when I turn 10 and awaken my warforce. For now, let’s go home, aye?”

Smiling, Alessia patted me on the shoulder and dusted me off one last time, before turning to look at the magnificent Castle on the hill that overlooked the city and saying, “Hey, you know how you said, you don’t have any strength, agility, or stamina and that I’m a prodigy?”

“Yeah?” I muttered, a little distracted.

“I might be a prodigy, but you’re going to shine brighter than both me and the stars and maybe even the sun,” she said solemnly.

“Why?” I asked.

Turning to me and smiling radiantly, she said, “Because you are Faustus Drayke.”

I smiled.

Chapter 1 – The Draykes

We reached the castle pretty soon and despite trying to sneak in; we were still caught by a matronly-looking woman with a smile that was curved downwards at the moment, with lustrous hair the color of fire.

Seeing me, she cried out, “Faustus, my child, you’re hurt again! Let me take care of that!”

“Ah, mother! Not you too! Alessia already took care of me,” I groaned out, for it was my mother who was right now trying to clean up the crusted blood and sand on my body and hair.

Frowning, my mother turned to Alessia and was about to speak, when I quickly interjected, “It was my fault. I fell while climbing a wall.”

Turning a dubious eye on me, my mother, Alina Drayke ‘The light,’ replied, “I suppose the wall was also the one who left that nasty bruise on your eye?”

Cheekily, I grinned and said, “You wouldn’t think that it could throw punches, but it can! Our enemies will have a hard time with it for sure!”

Laughing out, my mother shooed me away, saying, “Pfft. Go then. Get ready. It’s your brother’s Knight Accolade tonight and you better be presentable!”

Continuing on, she said, “Not you though, Alessia dear. We need to talk.”

Pausing warily, I gazed at my mother before she exasperatedly looked at me and said, “No Faustus, I’m not going to scold her. I just have to tell her something.”

I looked at Alessia, who nodded encouragingly, and then I reluctantly left – before hiding around the corner and eavesdropping.

Raising her eyebrows in mirth, my mother looked at Alessia and asked, “Do you know what I want to talk to you about, Alessia dear?”

“No, Lady Courtesy, I do not,” replied Alessia.

Sighing, my mother, Alina Drayke – The Countess of the County of the Draykes – said, “You cannot protect him forever, dear. Leonidas came today praising your skills with the shield and sword but he was also exasperated at how you seem to disappear right about when Faustus gets into trouble.”

Blushing, Alessia was about to muster her defense when mother waved her hand and in a pitched raised voice said, “I know what you’re going to say. I don’t mind it, dear. But Faustus needs to rely on himself. He cannot always hide behind you.”

Clenching my hands where I stood – hidden – I sucked in a deep breath and fiercely nodded, thinking to myself, “Wait till I reach 10 and awaken my warforce!”

Then, turning my attention back to their conversation, I heard Alessia murmur, “He’s too young.”

Looking proudly at the dimming sky, my mother said, “He is a Drayke. He will always be a Drayke. The thing about us Draykes, dear? When we rage, the world shakes. One day, he will rage and be careful that your world doesn’t shake, yes?”

Then she turned with a swish of her dress, and my mother left Alessia and, by extension, me; to ponder on her words.

Looking at the moon that was just becoming visible, Alessia sighed and whispered, “I hope that day never comes,” and then she set off to find me.

Only to bump into me as soon as she rounded the corner, lost in my thoughts as I was.

Rubbing our noses, we both looked at each other before laughing and heading to my tower.

The Castle was divided into 2 wings, the east, and the west wing. Cradled between them was the central hall where the Accolade would take place. Watching over the skies were the towers jutting forth from the wings and the back of the central hall. Respectively, they were the East tower, the West Tower, and the Tower of Drayke in the center.

The Count and the Countess, my parents, stayed in the Tower of Drayke while my brother – Aaron Drayke – and I stayed in the East Tower.

The west tower was for the knights of the Draykes, which was where Alessia stayed.

While we were walking in companionable silence, I failed to notice that Alessia was lost in thoughts of my previous words.

Then she mumbled something in a low voice that I couldn’t quite hear but suspiciously sounded like, “A prodigy? That means I’ll become someone else’s knight and not yours, you fool!”

Now it was my turn to ponder as I thought of the path of a knight.

The route to becoming a knight was to awaken one’s warforce at 10, then become a page serving a knight till the age of 15, then a squire of a knight till the age of 21 when contingent on the warforce reaching silver rank, the squire would be granted his Knighthood in a ceremony called the Accolade.

Alessia, as I had said, was a prodigy. She had awakened her warforce at 8 and had attracted the attention of the observer stationed within Draconis city, Knight Leonidas, from the Kingdom of Leon within which both Draconis city and the territory of the Draykes were situated in.

As an observer, Knight Leonidas’s duty was to observe the working of the territories of the Kingdom but he could not interfere directly. As such, it left him with a lot of idle time which he spent roaming the magnificent city of Draconis, shaped like a Dragon crawling on the ground with the four feet forming the different quarters of the city from east to west.

Speaking of the city, I grinned as I thought of it. My city. Our city. The Drayke’s city. Draconis city.

The northeast was the noble’s area where the Castle was on the hill that was called the Elysee.

The southeast was the commercial area where the most elegant shops and restaurants were located to provide easy access to the nobles.

The northwest was the residential area, in the most secure position in the city as behind it was a towering mountain range called affectionately “the watchers” by the citizens of Draconis as it blocked access from the sea because of its insurmountable cliffs that gazed down haughtily.

Directly below it, in the south-west was the military camp which bordered one of the two entrances to the city, the south gate which led to the Viscounty of Viscount Jacob Drayke, brother of Callum Drayke, who protected the access to the middle sea for the Kingdom of Leon near the border.

The other gate, the east gate, was in the East, bordering the nobles area, and faced the only entrance in the east to the kingdom of Leon from the Hagarian Empire.

The entire central part from east to west was a long boulevard with trees and shrubbery dotting the sides and magnificent buildings bedecking the roadside, buildings such as the adventures associations, the mercenaries guild, the blacksmithing guild, etc.

The reason the residential area was in the most secure location, while the nobles area was near the walls, is that Draconis city was a frontier city of the empire of Leon. In the event of war, the nobles and the army would be the first line of defense while the common folk would retreat safely.

Of course, this was also due to Count Callum Draykes’ insistence that he would die before his enemies touched a single hair of his citizens.

This was a policy that Leonidas appreciated, as he, too, was a man of the highest moral principles. A frontline fighter relegated to becoming an observer because of political missteps as a result of his frank and honest personality.

Initially, I had heard from Alessia that he had regarded the assignment as a demotion, but over time; he had begun to love the city and its people.

And then, one day, as he was wandering the streets, he saw me getting beaten up, and more importantly, he saw Alessia in action.

She was protecting me from the beating and, with quick movements, was dispatching all the would-be bullies bawling into the arms of their mothers.

Leonidas was going to intervene when he saw one of the bullies pick up the shard of a broken bottle and attempt to stab Alessia in the back, only to be stunned as she whirled around and smashed apart the shard with her fist for Alessia had awakened her warforce.

Excitedly after the fight, he asked her how old she was and when he heard 8 years old; he was ecstatic and instantly begged her to be his student.

She refused, but eventually the sight of a grown man almost groveling as he begged her profusely moved her heart. That, as well as the nod from me that said she should accept it.

Being a gold-ranked Knight, Leonidas was an incredibly fearsome person on the battlefield. His vast reserves of knowledge and experience he imparted without reservation to Alessia and he was gratified to see her improve at a breakneck speed.

Now she was a squire, and I was but a brat who hadn’t even awoken my warforce.

Letting out a deep sigh and coming out of my thoughts to flash a smile at Alessia, who was staring at me in concern, I stood outside my room and asked her, “One hour?”

“One hour,” she confirmed before she turned and walked away.

Staring after her, I shook myself from my reverie, and turning, went inside my room.

After all, I had an Accolade to attend.

Chapter 2 – Warforce (Part 1)

Moving into my room, I came face to face with a boy, not much older than Alessia, who had a frantic expression on his face.

Seeing me, He cried out, “Honorable Faustus. What outfit would you like to wear for the Accolade?” and then he pointed out at the dresser where various expensive-looking and fancy outfits lay.

Eyes widening at the sight of them, I turned to the boy, Ares – my personal attendant – and said, “None of them! I’ll be wearing the same clothes I usually do! If you could lay them out while I bathe, that would be fantastic!” and then I turned to the bathtub, only to wince as an anguished voice sounded out.

“But, But, Honorable Faustus!”

“No buts,” I said firmly, as I removed my clothes and sank gratefully into the hot water with a sigh of relief.

Dejectedly, Ares soon had an outfit ready for me and he stood there with a miserable expression before I clambered out and got ready.

Then we heard a knock on the door, and Ares went to open it to find Alessia standing outside with concern on her face as she stared at Are’s expression.

“What happened to you,” I heard her ask.

As though Ares had found an outlet, he let out a stream of words saying, “I laid out the formal attire for honorable Faustus, but he took one look at it, said no, and changed into his usual black outfit.”

And right at that moment, I greeted Alessia -wearing said black outfit and looking quite good – if I do say so myself.

Blinking her eyes at me, I could almost hear Alessia think of what mother would say if she saw me like this.

Then Ares suddenly gasped and ran off to get something, and Alessia and I came face to face with each other as we stepped out of Ares’s way.

Embarrassed, we leaped apart – laughing as we looked at each other.

Looking critically at myself, I mentally checked off the items – a black tunic with matching trousers, and a dark blue cloak over my shoulders.

Nodding in satisfaction, I was about to exit the room when from behind me, Ares came running back, crying out, “Honorable, you forgot the family badge!”

Exasperated, I looked at him and said, “How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that! Call me Faustus!”

“Honorable Faustus,” Ares answered.

“No, I mean... never mind…” I trailed off as I stared at the ceiling.

“Honorable Faustus,” I heard again.

“You can really stop it now,” I grumbled.

“But Honorable Faustus, you still haven’t taken the badge!” Ares cried out.

“Oh, right. Give it here,” and taking the badge, I pinned it on my breast above my heart. The badge itself was sapphire blue with a black dragon breathing flames onto a spear. It was the symbol of the House of Drayke, my House, and it was one with a rich legacy going as far back as the founding of The Kingdom of Leon.

It was us, the people of House Drayke, that were at the forefront of every war! It was us who fought and bled all over the future Kingdom of Leon until our forces reached the area which would be enfeoffed to us as Draconis City and more. It is we who still stand guard against the neighboring empire of Hagaria and its ferocious armies. It is we who are beloved as the heroes of the Kingdom.

The House of Drayke.

Legend says that the founder of our House was a dragon who transformed into a human and melted a giant gem into a spear with which he forged what would become House Drayke.

Looking reverently at the badge for a moment, I looked at Alessia, who examined me and quipped, “I can see that you’ve really taken some effort to get ready.”

Preening and laughing, I replied, “if I didn’t, mother would have had me for dinner.”

Rolling her eyes at me, Alessia said, “You know I was joking, right?”

“What,” I said, caught off guard.

“Lady Courtesy is really going to have you for dinner,” Alessia muttered, and putting her hands behind her back, she strolled away.

Calling out from behind her, I asked, “Wait, don’t you have to change?”

Turning around, Alessia proudly said, “No, I am a warrior and my armor is my dress.”

“Shame,” I murmured underneath my breath.

“What did you say?” Asked Alessia suspiciously.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” I hastily replied, and waving goodbye to Ares, we made our way to the Accolade.

Moving through the courtyard where the preliminary festivities of the Accolade would begin, we found our seats before the dueling grounds meant to show the prowess of the various Knights gathered here.

This was to show how important a knight was and how important by extension, his accolade or the Knighthood ceremony was.

Sitting, I noticed that there were four stages set up, and each had a different colored pennant hanging above them.

Motioning to them, I asked Alessia, “Sia, what are those pennants for?”

Looking at them, she turned back to face me and said, “Those are the colors denoting the warforce ranks.”

Looking at my puzzled expression, she asked, “Short version or long version?”

I quickly answered, “long please!”

Taking a moment to settle herself, she then said, “Sir Leonidas taught all this to me, and there is a lot that he hasn’t taught me yet. But basically, it’s like this-”

Chapter 3 – Warforce (Part 2)

And saying so, she launched into her lecture, “Warforce is the bloodline power that exists within us. It is there in most of the population of Protos – whether it be humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, etc – and they awaken it at the age of 10, though why so is still unclear.”

Interjecting, I said, “That’s why I call you a prodigy because you awakened at 8 years old.”

Blushing, she nodded and said, “Some, like me, awaken earlier and are considered geni-geniuses-” she said, stammering a bit at the last word, the blush deepening. Forging on, she continued, “Others who cannot awaken it at all are just normal people, Insignificant to people with warforce.”

Seeing my expression, she paused severely before saying, “Faust, don’t think too much. My Teacher also said to not be complacent. What matters is how we train. If we are lacking in discipline and commitment, we will forever be useless, even if we are geniuses. We have to have discipline and commitment and then we will be a genius even if we’re not actually one.”

Mulling over her words, I looked at her before saying, “You remember it well, huh.”

Nodding her head, she said, “Those were the first words he said to me. He told me to remember them well and engrave them into my heart.”

Falling silent, I looked at her before I pointed at the pennants, “So what does warforce have to do with them?”

A smile breaking her face, Sia said animatedly, “Those are, like I told you, the ranks of warforce. We divide Warforce into 5 levels, namely Awakening, Iron-rank, Silver-rank, Gold-rank, and Weaponmaster!”

Pointing at the stages which numbered only 4, I was about to ask when she continued on, “there are only 4 stages there because weaponmasters are too few and too revered to take part in ceremonial duels.”

Nodding in understanding, I asked, “Is there anything above weaponmasters?”

Slowly nodding, Sia said, “There is. They are called Wargods, but my teacher didn’t tell me anything about them. Just to run if I ever came across one of them.”

A look of yearning crossed my face at that.

Seeing it, Sia patted my shoulder comfortingly and said, “One day Faust, one day.”

Nodding, I turned my attention back to the stage where the contestants were already warming up and pairing up for their matches.

I looked at the first pennant which was black and noticing my gaze, Sia, still in teacher mode again, said, “That’s for duels between awakened soldiers.”

Nodding, I recited what every single Protean knew. “Awakening is when one awakens the warforce within for the first time. It will manifest itself in a surge of energy that will enhance the body in a certain aspect or multiple aspects at once. It can be speed, dexterity, agility, strength, toughness, endurance, stamina, height, weight, an extra limb, your 5 senses, and if one was lucky – one might even be gifted with a special skill like some people have got in the past 300 years.”

Suddenly curious, I asked Sia, “Does Sir Leonidas have a special skill?”

Shaking her head in frustration, Sia replied, “I asked him so many times, but he never said anything!”

Still curious, I asked her another question, “What about when you awakened. How did it feel like?”

Sia fell silent before she said, “I was feverish and unconscious for nearly two days and when I awoke, all my aspects were boosted tremendously and this allowed me to grasp difficult concepts and execute them perfectly. Though it was still barely enough, according to Teacher, because of the limitation of my age. As to how I awakened, you know the story as well as I do.”

I knew the story. In fact, apparently, I was the cause for it. She had come across me crying after a session of bullying and she was apparently so angry that she fell unconscious. Then she awoke and had fought Harold and his gang, catching the attention of Sir Leonidas.

Looking at her wince, I figured she must be remembering that scene too, and the ones that followed it.

For Sir Leonidas had asked her how long it took for her to awaken, and when Sia had replied that it had taken her two days, he practically jumped into the air in shock.

Later, I found out that awakening usually takes only an hour or two. Someone extraordinarily gifted might take 7-8 hours, but multiple days were as rare as the feather of a phoenix.

Looking at me, Sia softly said, “Soon Faust, soon.”

Smiling at her, I heard the cheers of the crowd, and turning back, I frowned as I saw the first fight between the awakened had already ended.

Suddenly, a thought struck me and I asked Sia, “There are 5 stars for each rank, right? What star are you at, Sia?”

Sticking out her tongue at me, she said, “Awakened 5 stars at your service.”

Jumping up, I looked at her in surprise and exclaimed, “That fast? How do the stars even work?”

Gathering her thoughts, Sia said, “each star of awakening increases the concentration of warforce within me and increases my strengths accordingly. It’s measured with a force stone which changes from white to black in different shades according to how many stars you’ve reached and is usually per 20% concentration of warforce. Mine is pure black now which means 100% concentration!” She finished proudly.

Then, with a more serious look on her face, she said, “But don’t think that it’s easy. If you don’t train enough, you will forever stay at awakening star 1. Only if you practice and practice until it becomes like breathing for you to control the energy that is warforce will you be able to advance.”

Nodding rapidly, I signaled my understanding of her valuable advice.

Then she sheepishly smiled and said, “That was also told to me by Teacher.”

Smiling, I asked, “What else did Sir Leonidas teach you about?”

Pointing at the second stage with a bronze-colored pennant, she said, “That’s for the next stage after awakening, and its color on the force stone is bronze. It’s called iron-rank and you basically use your warforce to further enhance parts of your strengths or to turn weaknesses into strengths. It’s an enhancement that can make you run faster, fight better, think more intelligently, and so on. The potentials are endless!”

Frowning, I pointed at the people on the iron rank stage and then at the ones on the awakened stage and said, “But there’s no difference between them fighting?”

Crossing her legs, Sia knowingly nodded and said, “That’s because they’re almost the same. One can use warforce and the other can only take the benefit of having the warforce. The white and black circulation is common in both. That’s why you never know which rank you are fighting until they actually display their true abilities!”

Frowning even harder, I pointed to the next stage where the Knights, for they were Knights now, were fighting with silvery armor flowing around them. “What about them?”

Looking at the stage with the silver pennant, Sia turned solemn as she said, “That’s what we should aim for. Silver rank since Knights are only knighted once they reach the silver rank. Their force stone turns silver once they reach the rank and they can form armor around themselves with their warforce called as forceshields. Every 1 cm of thickness means 1 star, so 5 stars are equal to 5 cm thickness forceshields.”

Blurting out, I exclaimed, “Wouldn’t that mean they’re impossible to kill?”

Shaking her head, Sia was about to explain when Sir Falmer and Sir Leonidas walked on to the last stage with the golden pennant.

Screaming out in excitement, Sia grabbed my hand and said, “They’re about to fight. The gold ranks!”

Infected by her enthusiasm, I looked at the stage curiously as the Knights bowed to each other before they began dueling with simple training swords. No fancy moves were exchanged and yet a storm of golden glows surrounded the two and a minute later – they separated and bowed to each other, their clothing torn in many places.

Puzzled, I looked at Sia, who was still shouting, and caught her eye before I raised my eyebrows at her.

Quickly, she began speaking, “Gold-ranks can unleash bladeglows from their weapons! Each bladeglow is a sword strike across a distance made up of warforce. Each 1-foot increase in the bladeglow is equal to 1 star, so 5-star gold ranks can unleash 5-foot bladeglows.”

In a hushed voice now, she said, “They’re one of the most deadly people on the battlefield because they have both the forceshield for defense and the bladeglows for attacks.”

Stunned, I squinted as I asked, “So what’s their weakness?”

“Weakness?” Sia asked, distracted.

Nodding, I repeated my words and Sia pondered for a moment before she said, “Their bladeglows and forceshield are made by warforce, so their expenditure is much greater, but their reserves are also bigger. So they have to use their warforce efficiently. That’s what my teacher said before he stopped, saying that it was too early for me to learn those things.”

Disappointed, I looked at the ground before looking up hopefully and asking, “What about weaponmasters and wargods?”

Looking at me apologetically, Sia said, “I only know that the colors are red for weaponmasters and violet for wargods.”

Patting her hand, I said, “That’s more than enough, Sia! You’ve told me so much – you’re sure you won’t get into trouble with your teacher, right?”

Shaking her head resolutely, Sia said, “Teacher won’t mind. He’s very good that way!”

Then, looking at me hopefully, she asked, “Maybe you can ask him to train you and he’ll accept?”

Waving off the suggestion, I turned my attention back to the dueling grounds, which were being emptied at the moment as the competitions finished.

“How long does it take to reach the silver rank,” I murmured.

“10 years!” Sia said, having overheard me, before continuing, “From awakening to iron rank, from iron rank to silver rank usually takes a person 10 years. A short period for us Proteans who can live for 300 years on average. Some of the Knights with extraordinary warforce can even live for 500 years. Oh, and Teacher also said that those old monsters are the wargods because it takes 100 years from silver rank to being a wargod.”

“10 years,” I said as I pounded my fist into my palm.

I will awaken at 10 and faster than 10 years – I’ll become a silver rank and get knighted like my brother is going to be today.

“Don’t worry,” Sia said comfortingly. “We’ll definitely do much better than the rest!”

Smiling, I asked Sia what her goal was.

Yearningly, she raised her head to look at the sky and said, “I want to be a weaponmaster. Able to use any object as my sword and slash out bladeglows everywhere!”

Shocked, I sputtered out, “Weaponmasters can do that?”

Turning to me, she grinned as she said, “Oops, I guess I forgot to say that. Well now, you know!” and she stuck her tongue out at me.

Pounding my chest, I said, “I will become a knight as fast as I can and then become a weaponmaster too!”

Bumping her fist on my chest, Sia grinned weirdly and said, “I’m sure you will. But according to my teacher, the road to silver rank Knight is filled with a lot of... interesting experiences. His favorite quote is ‘True training will only begin when the vessel is ready’”.

I repeated those words with a serious look, not knowing how much I’d regret them in the future, and then stood up, pulling Sia to her feet as I did.

“It’s time,” I said.

“Mm, go stand at your place. I’ll come by tomorrow to meet you if I can’t see you tonight.”

Grinning, I said, “You better! I still haven’t bought that book I was going for today!”

Chuckling, Sia and I went our separate ways to the central hall where the true accolade would take place.