288 Chapter Eighty Eight - He feels I am not worthy

Jude enrolled into the Institute during the same recruitment drive as Leon, in fact, it was in the same town as the other as well, just he journeyed with his family from another village.  He was also of similar age to Leon, but apart from both entering the outer alchemist school, that was where their similarities ended.

Jude was his family's third son.  Their village's traditions were that the eldest son followed the father, taking on his father's trade and inheriting his father's property.  The second son took on a path that supported the first son, while the first son acted as his pillar in life.  Such roles were often scholars thus helping to relieve the family of taxes, merchants who provided monetary support or at the worst as assistants, relieving the burden on the first son.  Third, fourth or fifth sons were sort of spare.  If the second son became a (mortal)scholar, then they might be allowed to venture into business, but if there was already a scholar and merchant, then they could only work for the eldest son as free labour.

Jude didn't want that, but his family couldn't afford to spend money on him as all the money was invested in his second brother who repeatedly took exams and failed.  Yet for some reason, they retained their hopes for him and without capital, Jude could only grudgingly assist his brother in the farm.  It was backbreaking work and Jude who had always been of weaker body since birth struggled immensely becoming the target of scorn of his parents and elder brothers and sister-in-law.  When he heard that the recruitment drive for the Institute was going to be in the nearby town that year, he convinced his parents to let his second brother (and himself in consequence) take the tests to attempt to get into that place.

His sly tongue put a lot of emphasis on his older brother; how could those officials be so blind as to not see his second brother's potential, the potential his parents rightfully believed in?  Getting into the famous Ascending Mountain Institute would not only prove those officials wrong, but open a new path for his second brother, the path of cultivation!  And everyone in the village looked up at the untouchable Immortals more so that ordinary scholars...

They were convinced and Jude smirked inwardly.  While it wouldn't be impossible for his lazy, spoiled second brother to enter that world, Jude didn't think it was likely either.  In truth, no one in the village had the talent or ability to cultivate for more than a century, so chances were against his brother.  The reason he didn't think about the chances being against himself had something to do with an ability he'd discovered in himself when young; he couldn't be burned by fire.  That had been an accident, of course, no one would willingly stick their hands into burning flames and even though his skin was undamaged, he still had experienced the blistering heat of them, the pain of temperatures that no person could withstand.

Sure enough, his second brother had no internal roots, so he could not cultivate and could not enter the Institute.  But just as the family turned to return home, Jude had approached the Teacher to be tested, ignoring the summonings from his folks and was found to have two roots; a minor Plant root and the Ember body root, this latter was what gave him his small immunity to fire.  His parents were shocked, but after the shock wore off, they finally looked at him with eyes of value and allowed him to enrol into the Institute.  He was given a whole twenty silver, more money than he'd ever seen in his life.  This happened to be what his mother had originally saved his brother's education, so he made some weak promises to pay his mother back as soon as he gained the ability and headed to where the handful of other boys and singular girl stood waiting to be transported to the Institute.

As he did so, he heard a youth pleading with the Teacher to be allowed to enrol into the Institute, promising to work hard and other things.  Jude had sneered, thinking that the boy, who was his own age, was like his second brother and so many others, just not qualified to enrol.  What surprised him was that the boy managed to get accepted!

Both he and this other boy had no ability to enter anything but the alchemist school; both were physically not strong, too wary of most beasts and their roots did not qualify them as mages.  Jude could not read, the other youth had some literacy, but it wasn't a scholar's level, and that boy's aptitude was even weaker than his own, so they were placed into the outer alchemist school with some other undesirables.

Jude had to work hard to learn how to read before he could dive more deeply into herbs and alchemy, while Leo was already beginning to mix his first Potions, stirring up a rivalry inside of the former.  This passion for studying paid off and soon he was also exploring potion making, while Leo took his first steps into pill making.  Then a half year later, both were producing clear Spiritual Pills and one heart pills, but Jude was ready to move onto more difficult creations.  The gap which had seemed to divide them in the beginning had reversed and Jude, with his natural (however less than ideal) aptitude had the advantage.

Just as their second year in the Institute had ended, Jude had broken through to Secondary stage of cultivation and was ready to move onto even more complex pills.  But this was also when he began to become more complacent. 

Fire and Wood roots were a boon to Alchemists and lesser variations, flame and plant roots were also considered useful.  Therefore the outer alchemist school had a great many cultivation methods suitable for individuals with these types of root.  Jude happened to have the advantage of one of these methods as well as his original will to succeed allowing him to get so far and above those fellows who had enrolled with him.  But he did share the same blood as his second brother, in fact, he also had a similar temperament, just that with the hard labour and filial expectations, he'd been forced to endure and the constant scoldings, it had been suppressed.  Now he was succeeding in life, receiving praise and attention that had once belonged to his second brother, that lazy, lacklustre nature began to rear its head.

Returning to school after the summer break, he learned of the rumours that Leo had made Caprian, the student's unofficial boss, unhappy and not only had Caprian 're-educated' him physically, but Leo's cultivation had deviated somewhat.  This made Jude recall the boy, who'd begged to enter the Institute, but he didn't much care about it.  Just thought that his original idea had been correct; Leo wasn't suited to be in this place.  He thought that Leo would even disappear, leave and go back to whichever village he came from.  He never imagined that Leo had great tenacity and thick skin!

Worse still, he began gaining support once Caprian left for the inner school.  Martial artists seemed to like him, Teacher Sagi wanted to teach him personally.  He came and went as he pleased, not bothering to hide the white stripes that had formed in his hair thanks to the deviation.  He was aloof, never talking to anyone except the tall martial artist that came to hang around him so much, probably providing him backing for some unknown reason. After all, why would anyone want to hear that stutter and be forced to smell poverty (he'd selectively forgotten that his own background was similar) but what really irritated Jude the most was that this useless waste actually attracted the attention of one of their school's twin lotuses!!

Miss Maimai was clearly just soft hearted and felt sorry for the waste, yet that waste wouldn't let her alone and Miss Maimai was increasingly obliged to treat him with kindness.  He wanted to teach Leo a lesson, but he wasn't stupid like those fellows who'd sent the idiot to the Healer's Hall that time and got themselves expelled by doing so.  He would teach Leo in an above board manner, during this competition with a challenge!  After all, Leo had never been as good as him at alchemy, so he would beat Leo down and show him once and for all that he just wasn't worthy to clean Miss Maimai's shoes let alone walk beside her!

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