321 Chapter One Hundred and Twenty One - We join a team together

It turned out that their thinking was not wrong, the Teachers really did have sly thoughts in regards to the composition of teams. However, no team would no this until after all teams were registered and only a day prior to the team competition commencing.

Prior to that, both Pike and Bowyer worked hard to recruit the alchemist they wanted, Leon. Apart from becoming each other's obstacle, there was also the bigger obstacle of Jin Li to overcome.

Pike wanted to more or less resurrect his former team, though with some adjustments. For example, the scholar Roman, was equally as non-combative as Leon, plus Pike could only recruit four others this time instead of five. As with most scholars, Roman did learn a secondary skill, but these talisman charms were quite basic and not strong. Roman's strength really lie heavily in his knowledge of crystals, it wasn't helpful in a more battle focused environment, which was what everyone felt as if this competition was likely to be. He could only be left behind.

Bowyer had similar thoughts and had already contacted Borean, the berserker who's steady rise from the outer to inner school and slowly through the ranks since had earned many martial artists respects. He'd also spoken to his Mage associate; Song and to the scholar Luto, who while was a scholar, he was also talented in the arts of exorcism and could hold his own for at least a short while, in a fight.

"What about Aries, did he not stand in as your alchemist during the Exchange?" Pike pointed out as they continued to bicker over the small alchemist in his own house.

"It's not that Aries is a bad choice," Bowyer conceded, "but I wanted Leon on my team this time! Leon, how about it?"

"Don't steal my alchemist, you thief!" Pike poked the other's chest with a finger, which was slapped away.

"Eh, whose alchemist?" Jin Li's face had become increasingly unhappy over the course of the morning, actually since the pair of clowns before him showed up. At first it was just noisy, but saying that they wanted his alchemist, claiming rights and such over him, his mood soured further, until he could abide them no longer. As expected, they both were silenced for a moment. Bowyer jeered at Pike who'd used the possessive term in the first place.

"I didn't mean it in that way," Pike attempted to quickly reassure the short-tempered youth. "Leon was an excellent member of the team that time and got on well with the others, it's the sort of dynamic that shouldn't be tampered with by poachers." He glared at Bowyer, who just responded with a short laugh. "In fact, if you are concerned for Leon and want to help, you could also join my team, Jin Li."

Neither Jin Li nor Leon could help but turn their attention to Pike's words. Jin Li could compete this time? "Oi, oi, Jin Li's a first year, he's not eligible," Bowyer was quick to point out. No first years were eligible for any competitions in their first year, that had always been the rule. The Teachers used this as part of their tempering of egotistical nobles, submissive former servants and hotheaded village boys to name a few groups that needed to shed their former identities while being a part of the Institute.

"First years are being given the chance to participate this time," Pike sipped his tea, nonchalantly, however there was a smug look within his eyes.

"I've not heard of this?!" Bowyer protested. If he'd known, would he have not also tried the tactic of recruiting both Jin Li and Leon together!! But now, he had only one space left in his team.

"Teacher Corne told me," Pike admitted. Teacher Corne did not look like it, but there was a quick mind behind his intimidatingly large exterior. Likely, he'd passed on this information to his lone student as there was truly an exceptional talent not yet on the Standings list, not yet having a ranking and well known outside of the martial arts schools, not even that well understood within either.

"What about Troy," Bowyer mumbled, thinking of the second martial artist on Pike's former team.

"Troy requested leave to return home recently for a family emergency," Pike replied. "He left two days ago."  He placed down his empty tea cup with a sly grin and turned to Jin Li.  "Well, want to join my team along with Leon?"

All eyes fell on the youth who had already regained the expression of being owed by Bowyer and Pike.  While he respected them for their martial art talents and abilities, he still disdained the fact that they were disturbing his alone time with his small alchemist.  Come to think about it, was Pike not also to blame for Leon not being here when he returned from closed cultivation having achieved his goal and formed his core?  And also wasn't Bowyer to blame for making him accompany him to spar during those free hours when he could (and should) be doing other things with his small alchemist?  Jin Li dismissed the fact that there were others (Teachers with much higher cultivation than his own and also greater authority considering their location and everything) also involved in these matters.

Pike was not slow to interpret the changing expression upon Jin Li's face and knew it was time to bring out his trump card, which was another piece of information imparted on to him by his Master and Teacher, Corne.  Just as Jin Li was about to spill the negative word that he did not want to hear, Pike mentioned; "I heard that yourself and Leon had a bit of trouble recently with some rogues from that Academy."

"Tch." Jin Li was successfully distracted, while Bowyer could barely contain his curiosity.  Pike briefly summarised how those three had attacked Leon and tried to steal his pill recipes while Jin Li was away hunting and that they didn't succeed, but were caught and handed over to their Teachers.

"Bastards," Bowyer crossed his arms.  "Only those egotistical Qilin arseholes would dare do such a thing on others' grounds!"

"Indeed," Pike didn't disagree.  Like Headmaster, like student was the general consensus there, with thick skin and never thinking they were wrong to run roughshod like so.  It was a wonder they failed to notice how inelegant their actions look considering their standings regarding nobility and reputation.  "And I heard that they really got off lightly in the end.  Just some scolding.  They are free to make or join their own teams in the competition."

Both Leon and Jin Li frowned in unison.  With such a weak punishment, what was the likelihood that those three had learned a lesson?  They might not bother Leon again; he had Jin Li at his side, but what of others?  What if they decided to take it out on Tor, for example?  And Jin Li was acutely aware that he could not always protect Leon, no matter how much he wanted to physically tie him to himself.  It had been Leon who'd been mostly uncomfortable with Jin Li's idea to throw them over the cliff edge, but hearing that, they both really couldn't help but regret.  After all, being thrown off a cliff would probably stop those people from doing more bad things.

"Apparently, they are considered fairly talented amongst the Qilin students," Pike continued to say, "It would be a shame for everyone if they managed to do well..."

"I won't let them mwffffff...." Whatever Bowyer was about to say was cut off by Pike's large hands covering his mouth.  Leon tilted his head, questioning the other's actions at first, but he realised Pike's plan when he heard his lover finally speak;

"This Lord will join your team."

Next chapter