Locke continued to attend classes in the following week. After attending cultural classes in the morning, he went for the knight's training courses. Since he'd registered for the courses himself, he'd chosen to train in the areas that he wasn't proficient in, such as his equestrian skill was one of his main weak points.
"Go! Go!" Commands were heard endlessly on the racecourse as the knights galloped along the wide path. Henry had also signed up for the riding lessons. Locke had trained with him in the past few lessons.
Their teacher was a dark-faced man dressed in a sturdy outfit. He stood tall like an iron tower, quietly observing the trainees from a slope on the racecourse.
The horses on the racecourse were all thoroughbred. They were several times better than the ones Locke got when he was in the cavalry battalion as they could sprint faster and last longer. He fell in love with thoroughbred horses the moment he rode them. A good warhorse could increase a knight's fighting potential by at least one-third. Every knight wished to have a horse that could be in sync with them.
"Take a five-minute break!" yelled the instructor.
Their training was very simple: all they had to do was circumvent the obstacles placed around the racecourse, but it wasn't as easy as it sounded. The students who'd just come into contact with these horses faced a huge learning curve. Mainly, it wasn't because they couldn't react fast enough, but rather that they didn't know how to properly convey their intentions to their horses.
"How are you so good at this, Locke?" asked Henry, panting heavily. His equestrian skills hadn't improved much in half a week, but Locke was one of the fastest improving ones among the sixty students in their class.
Locke scratched his head as he didn't know what to reply. Was he reacting better because he had battlefield experience? After mingling with others during the past few days, Locke realised that no one there had ever been on the battlefield before. He was the only one among all the students there who had been baptised by battle.
Aomar had a vast territory, but it begs the question: had this empire always been able to stand firm through trying times over the past three thousand years? Had they not been invaded by other countries before?
Locke wasn't sure if there was another empire in the mainland that was on the same level as Aomar, but he believed that there would be countries that would provoke Aomar's dignity. After searching for information in the library and asking knowledgeable people like Angelina, the answer was no.
It was incredible that apart from the occasional suppression of internal revolts, there hadn't been any rebellion or revolution in the long history of the empire. Finding it nothing short of a miracle, Locke immediately dug into the file records of the neighbouring countries around Aomar and found that there indeed had been no war between them and the empire.
There were dozens of kingdoms and hundreds of duchies around Aomar. Other than the battle between Faustian and Shalor last year, there hadn't been a single large-scale conflict in the past 100 years, let alone a war of annihilation.
The last war to be chronicled 165 years ago was between the Kingdom of Rand and the Kingdom of Zebic in the northwest of Aomar. Rand annexed Zebic after four years of war just like how Faustian occupied Shalor.
It was no wonder Locke had a feeling that while his classmates' level of impetus was comparable to his, their overall strength was no match. How could Locke, who'd survived a cold-blooded massacre, compare himself to the nobles who grew up like precious plants in greenhouses?
All in all, Locke's equestrian skills were ranked third in his class. As the top two students were adepts who'd been trained systematically by their family since their childhood, Locke's achievements shocked many.
"You've been on the battlefield before?" asked the instructor in surprise.
"Yes!" replied Locke loudly as he knew that his instructor admired knights who were upright. Plus, he was a Ritter that was worthy of his respect.
"Good job!" The instructor patted Locke on his shoulder and stuffed a grey potion into his hands. "This is your reward for getting third place!"
The top three students would receive different levels of rewards. This was a tradition in the academy. Locke had already attended a lot of classes, but this was his first time receiving a reward. He'd never seen this grey potion before, so he decided to ask Angelina about it first before deciding whether to use it or not.
Locke took a shower in the bathroom outside the racecourse after he was done. He changed into a short-sleeved shirt and draped noble robes over his shoulders casually, causing passers-by to turn their heads and look at him as they walked past him.
It was rare to see someone with such a personality in the academy. Even the more carefree knights had good noble etiquette and would dress appropriately in public.
Perseverance's cafeteria was always crowded, so Locke only found a seat after quite some time. After fumbling through the few gold moores in his pocket, he ordered another salmon.
He'd brought thousands of gold thalers with him when he left Faustian and he had the spoils that Glace kept in her spatial ring which were worth about eight thousand gold thalers in total. However, Locke had only converted some of his gold thalers into two thousand gold moores at the official money exchange office in Aomar. He was on a tight budget in school and he still had to leave some money for his sister and Suzanne.
He didn't have to care about Kristin, Glace and Laffey as they had the fortune from Felippe's house stored in their spatial gear, so they were much wealthier than him. As far as he knew, the spatial ring was worth three thousand gold moores.
After all, he wasn't the type of man who mooched off women. He hadn't asked Glace and Angelina for money ever since he'd arrived in Princeton and he planned to earn some money of his own when he had the time to do so.
"Do you love eating fish?" Irene popped out of nowhere with a plate of food in her hands and sat opposite Locke.
It was bread with bolognese sauce on her plate again, her staple meal, just like how Locke's was salmon. It tasted decent and only cost one gold moore.
"I'm fine with fish." Locke glanced at the food on her plate and didn't say anything else.
Irene had more or less helped him in class and there weren't any extra seats in the cafeteria now, so he couldn't ask her to leave. He just hoped that Angelina wouldn't come and see him today, otherwise she would grow jealous again.
After knowing Irene for a month, he found out that she was a daughter from a minor noble family in Aomar. Although her father's noble rank wasn't high, he was quite rich as he still managed to send her to this academy, though their wealth wasn't limitless. Her allowance was barely enough to keep the fireplace burning in an expensive city like Princeton. He could probably ask her to tag along on job assignments in the future. Given that she was a Knecht from Princeton Academy, she had a lot of advantages. As long as she worked properly, she wouldn't need to worry about money.
Locke finished his small portion of food quickly, but Irene chewed on her bread slowly and unhurriedly.
"I've got to go. You can take your time to finish your food." Locke then stood up and left. He had an important class in the afternoon, which was the actual combat course for knights. Irene didn't reply and just waved at him.
Nobody knew what her intentions were when she first approached Locke. They were just passing acquaintances for now, but they were deskmates for almost a month and were often seen eating together in the cafeteria.
While a man like Locke wouldn't care, it was surprising that a noblewoman like Irene wasn't worried about her reputation being damaged. Perhaps all the knights behaved like this.
Locke only knew a few female knights. Although the ones in his class were decent looking, they behaved roughly and would always talk and joke around with the male students after the training sessions.
As he walked towards the training ground, he continued to ponder his earlier discovery of the unnatural peace among the neighbouring kingdoms.