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378 One Above All

    After two weeks, the students had been allowed back to their homes, but while most of them were going back to the safest place they knew, in hope to show their progress to their parents, that was not the case for Ivan, who was now standing next to his father, and the nicely dressed fat merchant inside a large office. They were currently reporting what Ivan had learned to his employer, the middle aged merchant.

    The conversation was being held between the fat man and the rich middle aged merchant while Ivan remained quiet, and his father anxiously observed the reactions of the leader of the conglomerate to which he was part of.

    "It would seem that the academy is focused on teaching problem solving, and the merits of befriending other cultivators regardless of their status or power." Said the fat merchant while giving a summary of what Ivan had told him. "Their infrastructure are more than adequate, and if their teachers were known cultivators, the academy would be considered a high level facility."

    The middle aged merchant stroked his long black beard while in a pensive state, then turned to look at Ivan, and asked, "You have visited high level academies before. Tell me the biggest difference between those, and this one."

    Seeing that he had lost the attention of the middle aged man, the fat man tried to respond before Ivan could by saying, "Sir, they come from a poor and ownerless system, and-" However, he was interrupted before he could finish speaking.

    "I wasn't talking to you." Said the middle aged man with an authoritative tone.

    "It does not feel like an academy. We do not have limitations on our movements, and we are allowed to start trade, give assignments, or complete them for additional resources. We can cultivate as long as we have enough crystals, and pursue the path that we prefer. It feels like a simulation of our life outside of the academy, but when we follow a more.. Benevolent path, we are rewarded." Responded Ivan with a single breath, while trying to convey his impression of the place he had been in for the last two weeks. Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click  for visiting.

    While aware that the rest of the high merchants were only letting him do the dirty work, and that they would ultimately take the academy away from him to turn it into a neutral place, the middle aged merchant was still a father and a grandfather. His interest for this academy was the same as the rest, and while his children were not as hopeless as most of the others, he knew that there was more that he could have taught them to be more prepared for their future.

    "Tell me about the students you have mentioned before. The senior students." He then asked to Ivan, completely ignoring the presence of the fat man.

    "They act as simple students, but their standards of power is impossible to match. None of Cato's students can compare to any of the most notorious stars of the high academies of the universal government, but the senior students.. They are on another level, Sir." Responded Ivan as honestly as possible.

    In an attempt to gather information, Ivan had spent the past two weeks practicing the mastery over his sword in the training ground, only stopping whenever one of the senior students would begin their training. He would then spectate, and try to gather as much information as he could.

    "Have you ever spoken to them?" Asked the middle-aged merchant with clear curiosity.

    Ivan nodded faintly, then responded by saying, "Multiple times. They were not too friendly, but I haven't felt any form of hostility towards me. Regarding their powers, I have asked in many ways, but the only responses I have ever obtained, was related to the founder of the academy."

    After hearing these words, the middle aged merchant became pensive, and kept on mindlessly stroking his beard. He only stopped the moment a faint smile appeared on his face a few minutes later. He then turned to look back at Ivan and his father, and said, "You two can go. Mister Mir will give you your next assignment before your return to the academy."

    Almost as if waiting for this, Ivan's father bowed politely, and left while dragging his son by the right arm, leaving the fat man called Mister Mir and the middle aged merchant to talk alone.

    "Sir, may I ask what you are thinking about?" Asked the fat man after a few uncomfortable seconds of silence.

    "They might be lying, or not be aware that something is acting to increase their power. We need to have a look at those kids. Have Ivan spread the rumor about the One Above All. Cato still has seats to occupy. And don't forget to have him mention us, of the Egregious Mercantile Ethics when on topic." Responded the middle aged merchant with an uncertain tone.

    The fat man was shocked by what he had just heard.

    The One Above All was an event that had been organized by the universal government for the first time in history, and whose prize and purpose had yet to be revealed. The only things that were known about it, was that millions of the most known and talented students of the universal government's academies, would face each other in a series of events, from which the most powerful and talented prodigies would come out victorious.

    What had been kept as a secret, was that the winners of this event would be the ones that, just a few years from now, would have to participate in the competition between the universal government, and the invaders that came from the other side of the wormhole.

    For this event, numerous seats had been granted to each galaxy, and as the core of its own galaxy, the rich merchants of Cato had been able to obtain a large portion of it. Similarly, a few spots had been granted to the many factions and the military academies.

    "Sir, I don't think.. They are qualified to compete." Responded the fat man with a genuine amount of doubt.

    "We need to get them out of the pocket dimension. If they really have an artifact that can boost their powers, they will need it in the competition. That is our only shot." Said the leader of the Egregious Mercantile Ethics with a stern tone.

    "The other students will spread the same rumors we have heard, and before they conduct their research, and come to the same conclusion that we have, we need to get a hold of that artifact."

    After only a few days of freedom, the students were called back for the official beginning of their education, which consisted in simple jobs, who would not only allow them to gain resources, but also introduce them to the feeling of gratitude of other people. A feeling which they had seldom felt during their short and egotistic lives.

    During the following few days, Ivan made sure that the rumor of the 'One Above All' would reach every student within the Hiel Academy, and when he was asked about how to join this event, he never failed to mention that the conglomerate of which he was part of, called Egregious Mercantile Ethics, was one of the few groups in Cato to still have the right to choose a few participants.

    The rumor spread like wildfire, and ultimately ended up reaching the ears of the current leaders of Daniel's group.

    -----

    Black Castle.

    "It would help us making ourselves known." Said Ligart, who along with Alis and his own wife, occupied three of the many seats at the massive round table.

    "It is an event by invitation. No matter who we ask to go with, we will end up owing a lot to someone I don't want to be indebted with. We can gain exposure slowly." Responded Emelnie, who was occupying her spot next to the old man Golden Cauldron, and his son, the Silver Alchemist.

    Ligart shook his head in disagreement, then said, "I would have agreed with you. But we are not gaining anything. We are barely managing to keep the marketplace of the company building and the academy afloat thanks to the resources that come from the other planets, but we are consuming more than we are obtaining."

    For the past few years, Ligart and Alis had been respectively in charge of the marketplace and the business side of the golden karma company, and nobody more than the two of them and Emelnie, knew of how bad the situation for their group had gotten.

    "I don't know if it is safe to expose our group. We are safe outside the territory of Iewah's faction, but who knows what ideas might come to mind for the greedy merchants that rule this system." Said the Silver Alchemist who, unsure for what reason, was starting to feel that something was wrong. "We can add an entrance fee to the academy, and expand our commerce in other Systems." He then added in an attempt to sway their opinion.

    "No matter where we go, we will always stumble into someone else's territory." Said Master Kye with a low tone.

    The conversation had been going on for at least an hour, and it seemed that the group would never come to an agreement, until Ligart said, "Look.. I don't know what happened, but since our powers increase became permanent, I don't think anyone will be a match to the kids. If we manage to participate, we can gain much more than the entrance will cost us. I say we go and have a talk with this 'Egregious Mercantile Ethics'."

    "I agree with Lig. It is either that, or we give up on Hiel city, and send the students back home within a few weeks." Responded Alis after making the calculations about how long the company could afford to carry the academy's consumption of resources.

    "A talk won't hurt." Said Master Kye.

    "What do you think, miss Emelnie?" said the Silver Alchemist, still unsure about the whole situation.

    Emelnie thought about their situation for a long minute, until finally, she interrupted her silence by saying, "It doesn't matter. This company isn't mine, and I have no right to make this decision. Let's put it to a vote." She then stood up from her seat, and added, "Those who are against exposing ourselves to participate in this event, raise your hand."

    From the group of roughly thirty people, around a dozen slowly raised their hands. Amongst them, were the Silver Alchemist, the old man Golden Cauldron, and Emelnie herself.

    "Very well.." She said before turning towards the other side of the table, where Nilo, Mea, Reila, and the latter's uncle Thien were sitting, and said, "Nilo, can you take care of this?"

    Nilo immediately nodded, and said, "We only have two students whose families belong to the Egregious Mercantile Ethics. Their names are Ivan and Sigg. I will have a talk with them later, and report back to you by tomorrow morning.. But.. "

    "What is it?" Asked Emelnie with curiosity.

    Nilo sucked through his teeth, and appeared unsure of what he was thinking. He then said after a few seconds spent in silence, "I don't know. It's just a feeling.. I will let you all know about if it turns out to be something serious."

    As he finished speaking, he disappeared from where he was sitting without saying a word.

    -----

    Meanwhile, a few million kilometers away from Cato, a small group of cultivators were sitting inside a spatial sphere that was moving towards in the planet's direction at a mind boggling speed. By the speed to which they were approaching the planet, they were bound to reach it within a week.

    This group was composed by Daniel and the rest of the group, and amongst them, Daniel was sitting with his legs crossed, and eyes closed. In his mind, was a small window on which he could see the countdown that indicated the moment of death of his friends and family, which indicated that without his help, most of his friends would have a little more than ten days left to live.
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