Chapter 6: The Coming Days
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Literally the next day after the curious encounter in the Grand Library, Alter received Alfred's verbal token to be used on one of The Archive's establishment that handled manufactures for custom weaponry.

Because in this case, the staffs involved were already properly briefed on the situation, Alter had no trouble throughout the whole process of acquiring the custom parts and gunpowders he needed after he recited Alfred's verbal token to the staff.

After getting everything he needed to assemble his weapon, Alter spent the next few weeks on its completion and another week doing personalizations on the weapon to fit his current body.

And finally the weapon was finished.

***

Morning, 5th Day of the 6th Month, 915

Today, Alter was alone, standing still against one of the wooden dummies built on the riverside.

He was wearing a simple set of shirt and pants without carrying anything else. However, the right side of his pants was rolled-up all the way above the knee, revealing a conspicuous piece of equipment covering his shin and ankle with some sort rough metal plate.

The part of equipment around his ankle was a bit more bulky then the rest, and could be mistaken for an ankle monitor, if not for its metal strapping bolted together around the lower part of the greaves.

*BREATHE*

Alter took a deep breath before half-kneeling and reaching out his right hand towards the equipment surrounding his right ankle. Upon closer look, there was a protruding ring on a pin to the side of the ankle armament that was not unlike a hand grenade's safety pin.

*CLINK*

Alter pulled the safety pin with more force than one usually required for hand grenade.

After the pin was pulled properly, he didn't dawdle and quickly got into a kicking position, lifting and straightening all parts of his right leg below the knee.

Shortly after a brief delay, a powerful force was generated propelling his whole leg forward in one big burst of speed.

*BANG*

The exploding sound of the equipment and the sound of the metal greaves colliding with the wooden dummy overlapped.

"Ugh...!" Alter grunted as he forced his whole body to rotate and follow the direction of the propelled sweeping leg.

The whole process took but an instant, and afterwards, everything went silent. Reverting back the original calmness of the riverside.

As the propelling force dissipated, Alter's posture was already turned facing the other way from the dummy with smokes coming out of the lower part of his right leg.

"Phew!" Alter breathed aloud as he tilted his head back.

If one looked closely on the ankle's equipment attached to Alter, some parts of it already turned bright red with heat.

Realizing the heat, Alter slowly knelt down and pulled some kind of lever mechanism from the equipment that ejected the overheated part outward in a spring.

The part ejected was shaped similarly to a pistol's magazine. When it hit the ground, the grass around it immediately sizzled from the heat.

"Success!" He exclaimed, slightly pumping his hand.

On his back, the upper-part of the wooden dummy along with some of the protruding sticks were already blown up to bits and pieces from the kick.

Truth be told, the equipment, which Alter simply called a 'Booster' was already finished as long as one month ago. It partially utilizes the usual firearms or hand grenades' mechanism to create a controlled and directed explosion that propelled one's body parts forward in one giant burst of speed. Administering a destructive force in the direction of the target.

Although it seemed to be an effective weapon in theory, the reason this equipment couldn't be mass produced was because the general endurance of a person's bones and muscles differed for each individuals.

A slight discrepancy on the force and angle of the explosion could easily result in a crippling injury for the user.

The reason Alter could single-handedly calibrate and control the force of the explosion to barely fit what his body could endure without any advanced measuring tools was only because of his natural ability, Absolute Measure.

And even then, after the booster's initial completion, Alter had spent the next month or so to train and sync the movement of his body to cope with and follow the flow of the burst correctly, dislocating many of his joints along the way.

That last test was the first time Alter executed the kick move precisely without forming any injuries on himself. This showed just how much of a delicate process was required in controlling the force of the explosion, even with his ability.

"I wasted too much ammunition in the process of getting this right." Alter sighed regretfully.

The booster, like any other firearms, required ammunitions for each of its use, the overheated part that was ejected after the activation was precisely the cartridge containing the explosive materials for the booster.

'Even with all my pocket money, I only managed to make too few amount of ammunitions for the booster. With this test, I only have 9 left.'

"Guess I need to ration this. Either that or get a part-time job from the Institute and make more."

The Frontline Institute only allowed its students to work for their own facility and nowhere else. The good news was that they had a lot of openings with various kinds of work for the students.

This attempt at downgrading the booster's initial blueprint into its current form proved to be a really expensive venture for his current wallet.

Even with the stashed money he'd saved since his first allowance from the orphanage, he only managed to finish one piece of them for his lower right leg.

Alter looked at the leftover broken dummy and its scattered pieces. If it was a human head, the absolute best case scenarios would be a fractured skull, and that was assuming the opponent dodged.

"Crap, I need to fix the dummy for the siblings."

Another problem in Alter's mind was telling both the siblings and sister Mariabelle of his decision to enter the Institute. He had been avoiding this particular conversation ever since he arrived back at the orphanage.

All orphans within the Norn Orphanage received primary educations taught by the orphanage staffs since young. All the sisters working there had had some form of teaching licenses or qualifications since the orphanage were funded by the Kingdom.

At the age of 16, all children of the orphanage were allowed to either start working or pursue higher form of educations provided they could afford it or were offered a scholarship.

And at age 18, the orphans were expected to live independently in the outside world, in which case the orphanage would have no further obligations to support said orphan.

'With that said the people of the orphanage are all good people. There were cases when some of the orphans who had come-of-age were not quite ready to live by themselves and the sisters would try their hardest to house them for as long as possible even with the consequences of the funds getting tighter everyday.'

Alter reminisced back to when the orphanage had fallen into hard times financially because of such cases.

"This is going to be a tough conversation..." Alter scratched his head as he pulled down the rolled-up pants and head back towards the house on the hill.

When the pants were rolled back down, the booster along with the metal greaves were barely noticeable within, with the exception of the seperate part of the greaves that reached the upper-side of the shoes.

***

"YOU WHAT!!?" A loud voice resounded at one of the dinner table within the orphanage's dining room.

"Um... Yeah, so." Alter stuttered a bit as he barely covered his ringing ears in time. Some of the other people within the room turned towards them because of the noise.

"The Institute? It's that Frontline Institute for Soldiers?" Sister Maria tried to collect her thoughts as she asked.

"Yeah, that's the one." He nodded.

"Why would you pick such a dangerous place?? And how are you going to afford the tuitions of such an elite place?"

"It basically operates under the Kingdom's military so there're no such things as tuitions for those who managed to get in. And the entrance examination are also opened to anyone who passed the preliminary health exam."

Although not comparable to actual soldiers, the Institute would even provide their students with allowance depending on their achievement. But they do had a pretty high standard for their basic health exam, things such as minimum stamina, strength, and agility were required to pass that test.

"That's why I said... Why would you choose to enter the military in the first place!" Sister Maria couldn't help herself but to sigh and slightly bang her head against the table.

"Don't worry sister Mariabelle. I promise I won't be joining the military even after I graduated." Alter comforted the worried sister, "It's just, the Institute is the most cost-effective choice to receive advanced education as a whole. Their study programs don't lose out to any of the academies in Calistran."

He didn't tell a single lie with that statement, and it also seemed to be the right thing to say seeing as sister Mariabelle became quiet for a moment.

*SIGH*

"Well, I don't really have any rights to restrict your choice. I just hope you can always put your safety above all else." Sister Mariabelle finally acquiesced.

"I will, thank you very much sister." Hearing this, Alter too replied with a warm smile.

"...Though I won't be helping you in convincing the siblings to let you go..." She replied under her breath.

"Ahaha..." Alter smiled as he heard this, he knew it wasn't over until he'd told the siblings.

***

Evening, 27th Day of the 12th Month, 915

With less than a week until the entrance examination for the Frontline Institute, Alter didn't have the time to slack off with his preparations.

At the peak of winter, wearing just a single layer of long sleeved shirt, he breathed heavily with sweats covering his whole body. He just finished his last stats measurement tests before the coming exams.

Strength 1.7
Agility 1.8
Stamina 2.0
Muscle Flexibility 1.5
Reaction Time 2.6

He wrote down his stats on the ground that was thinly covered with layers of ice.

Just like he thought of previously, he combined punching force, grip strength, kicking force, and a couple other performance stats to create the baseline for his strength stat.

Sprinting, charging, and quick turns would account for agility stat. And with the help of the siblings ambushing him, he could finally measure his reaction time!

Different from the other stats where every performance highly dependant on his body. The reaction time stat combined his already honed instincts and senses with his current body performance giving him more than just a slight edge compared to his other stats.

"The overall is still lower than my peak even though they've been quite stagnant for a while. I guess it's because of my still growing body."

If compared to when he first started, his current body showed a well-defined muscles all around, with no area being too much bulkier than other.

The difference is too obvious even while he's wearing his shirt, which he guessed added to sister Mariabelle's feeling of security in allowing him to attend the Institute.

In the case of Leo and Milly, after much convincing from his part and buckets of tears from both of the siblings, they too finally accepted the fact that Alter would leave the orphanage after the new year.

Alter had to repeatedly assure them that he'd come back for the holiday for them to barely quiet down regarding his departure.

But because of that fact, in the last couple of months, the siblings became more motivated than ever with their trainings and competitions with each other.

Their growth even made Alter, who initially only started training them half-heartedly to spend time with them, became more and more astonished with their talents.

'These performances for two 10 and 11 year-old child are truly scary!' Alter felt conflicted. On one hand he wanted them to get stronger and stronger with their combat talents, but he also wouldn't want Leo and Milly to follow the path of soldiers in this life.

"Well, nevertheless getting stronger is a good thing, especially with the coming war... Plus they won't necessarily become soldiers just because they're strong."

Little did he know that at that point in time, both Leo and Milly already had a firm decisions for their futures.

'Everything is on track.' Alter looked towards Leo and Milly who were also training on the side, even in the cold weather.

5 more days until the entrance exam. Each with their own thoughts on the coming days. For Alter at least, the slowly closing in first hit on the list placed a greater burden in his mind than the Institute's entrance exam.

 

1. I just love Rider Kick!
2. For me, this marks the end of the prologue, the next chapter will be the start of the Entrance Trial + School Arc.

As usual thank you for reading! And any comments and feedback will be much appreciated~

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