Airn woke up earlier than usual, staring blankly at the ceiling.
After a while, he got up from the bed and looked out of the window.
A familiar scene.
A familiar room.
The scenery that stood still, the smell of grass, the sounds of birds, everything which was boring and friendly at the same time.
Everything he saw was the same as yesterday.
But that didn’t feel the same in his heart.
He quietly pondered about last night’s dream.
‘It has been long.’
A dream he hadn’t had recently.
But before the man appeared, it was a dream he had at least once a week.
It was a sweet paradise, like a dream.
It was dark all over but had a cozy feeling, and although it felt full of something, the space wasn’t stuffy.
Rather, it felt warm and nostalgic, and Airn, as a child, used to force himself to sleep by using that dream.
Because it was an illusion, he created of being held in the arms of his dying mother.
Just an illusion.
The boy had known for a long time that it wasn’t his mother’s arms.
But Airn couldn’t leave.
When Airn opened his eyes, he was afraid of the anxiety that would take over him, and if he got out of the bed, he was scared of the gazes of those around him. It was hard to bear.
Therefore, the boy who suffered from the accident went to sleep and slowly became obsessed with the dark place in his dreams.
The silver-gray sword lit up the darkness in his dream.
The moment it appeared in front of him, it felt like a pillar of warm light, and Airn held onto the sword.
It was because he hadn’t grabbed one in four months.
So the boy grabbed it and swung it as hard as he could. Just like the man in dreams would do countless times.
Then, the black veil that had been blocking his vision broke open and brilliant light poured out.
Brighter, warmer and purer than any energy he’s felt.
Airn Pareira, who escaped from the prison, felt his heart turn light.
With eyes closed, Airn knew how much clearer his mind felt.
And that lingering sound, even after waking up, immersed his entire body in various emotions.
“… it’s time to get out.”
Mumbled Airn softly.
He knew it.
As far as the fact that he was obsessed with being in his false mother’s arms felt nice, he knew that it would only serve as an obstacle to his future growth.
And today, finally, he managed to overcome it.
He opened the window and took a deep breath.
He would never forget it.
Memories of the past made it difficult for him to move on, yet they were precious to him.
Even now, 10 years later, Airn’s heart would beat for his mother, missing her.
However, he was not going to be bound to those emotions.
With that in mind, Airn left his room. And walked for morning training.
To spend the day the same as yesterday.
But that wasn’t the truth.
Inside Airn, something greater was taking place.
“You probably know what I am going to say.”
After all the bloody training, all the Krono prospective trainees gathered in the auditorium.
It was because Ahmed had a message for them.
Naturally, the children knew what he was going to say.
It had been 3 months and 20 days since they entered the school.
It was that time.
“The mid-term evaluation.”
Silence filled the room. Everyone looked at the instructor with nervous expressions.
The ‘mid-term’ evaluation was completely different from the physical fitness test, which the children experienced for the first time after entering the school, or the monthly tests.
Unlike the previous tests, where the results had no effect on their life in school, this test would decide which trainees would pack their bags.
‘I should never quit. No matter how hard things get here.’
‘I’ve endured that hellish schedule for four months, and they want me to go home again? No! I will see my parents only after the final evaluation, when we are given time for vacation!’
‘Even if I have to die, I won’t leave this place. I will never!’
All these terrifying eyes looked at the instructor.
Even though they were only children of 12 to 13 years, they managed to endure the hellish training.
Therefore, they were looking at Ahmed with confidence.
Of course, no amount of confidence on their faces would persuade Ahmed, who reached the greatest heights.
On the contrary, the instructor smiled.
‘Not bad. They are stronger than the last batch.’
It made him feel so proud to see these guys who were determined to stand against evil would be his students.
The feelings of being a teacher strengthened as he saw the children.
‘… about 30 people or so.’
Despite the pressure of the test, few trainees remained calm.
They all had something in common.
The fact that they were top scorers in last month’s evaluation.
It was because of the self-training they did even in the heat.
Knowing their strengths, they didn’t have any doubts about getting eliminated from the midterms.
Which meant that they were at ease.
‘Don’t stress. The evaluation is an absolute one. If I have faith in your abilities, there is no reason to worry.’
That was right. Ahmed mumbled to himself. He hated the cheeky bastards the most, but he wasn’t so brash to show his feelings.
Even more so because he was an adult.
He burst into laughter and clapped.
Then, magic appeared in front of the auditorium.
A rectangular screen with detailed information on the course map for the mid-term came up.
The eyes of all trainees quickly followed them. The already quiet auditorium grew even quieter.
However, the atmosphere broke over time.
Unknowingly, sighs and moans and low-pitched swears words flowed from children’s mouths.
“Nonsense. How can we do it at that time…”
“Strange! No matter how much I think about it, this is too much!”
“Isn’t the time limit miswritten? Or the number of repetition…”
“It isn’t wrong.”
At the words of Ahmed, the trainees turned quiet. And looked like they were about to cry.
Either way, Ahmed decided to explain.
“As you can see, there is nothing special. The first five steps are the things you learned in the last 4 months, not to mention running and swimming. You just need to complete it within the set time. Regardless of rank.”
An easy explanation.
But it wasn’t that easy.
The number of repetitive movements that verify the overall body ability over the entire course was to check muscular strength, agility, and endurance, a course of high and lows, and sand.
The swimming course at the end was mediocre.
However, even the 30 or so confident trainees who looked at the time went stiff.
Seeing that, Ahmed grinned.
He liked the looks on their faces.
“The mid-term evaluation will start exactly 10 days later at 9 am, the end of the month. As it is an absolute evaluation, I hope many of you pass.”
“Ah, by the way, the top 5 will be given a personal prize from the master. I hope this motivates you all.”
It was supposed to be good news, but the children didn’t respond.
It was an impossible situation where their pass in the course seemed hard, and to think that their School Master would give them an award was a far way off.
Of course, Ahmed knew that.
Smiling, he spoke.
“There will be no classes for the next 10 days. The rest of the time, except for meals, can be spent freely. You can rest or train… good luck.”
Ahmed and the assistants left the auditorium.
The children stared blankly for a long time.
Of course, it was only for a while.
The children, who realized the reality, cried out in despair.
“Ah! They are being too harsh!”
“Ugh! I knew that fewer than 20 people would stay after the mid-term, but how did midterm get this tight…”
“So, will 20 people be able to come within the time limit?”
“Even if we try with our luck. I don’t think there will be 20 people….ahh.”
“Isn’t this what you should be looking forward to?”
“Right… I can’t go back without learning anything about the sword…”
It was like a battlefield.
They weren’t very old, but the children were ready to devote their lives to holding the sword.
Therefore, when larger walls approached them, they couldn’t help but shudder in frustration.
Even in that chaos, there was a calm person.
“Sir Loyd! Are you alright?”
“Of course he is fine! Is Sir Lloyd like you? Not only will he pass but also get the personal award from the master!”
“Well, I know, but I was just asking…”
“Don’t worry about it. You people can do it too.”
“Right. It will be a close call, but if you can move with all your might, it’s possible. Will you believe me?”
I will! With a shrill voice, they shouted.
Bratt glanced at a few other kids.
Among the top 30, there were a few who had the best skills.
Ilya Lindsay, Judith, and…
A few others who weren’t much of a risk factor.
He was definitely in the top 5.
He nodded and looked at the last boy.
‘… it is strange.’
A guy who continued his training was standing there.
He was a guy who hadn’t risen to even the middle-ranks. Airn Pareira.
He would fail this time.
Contrary to his first impression, Airn seemed to have a noble’s pride, but there was a gap in the training period between him and the others.
‘Why, why does he look like that?’
He couldn’t understand.
He was usually a weird guy, but he was even more strange today.
Although the face looked the same, the feeling felt different.
Today’s Airn was making even his rival Judith’s heart flutter more.
‘I guess I am not the only one who feels the difference.’
Everyone except Ilya Lindsay.
Judith, who was at the top, and he and most of the other trainees were all glancing at Airn Pareira.
Bratt Lloyd didn’t like that.
He forced his gaze away as he spoke to his followers.
“… let’s start slowly with the course, to get an understanding.”
“Yes! Sir Lloyd!”
Lloyd and the other kids too left the auditorium in groups of three or four.
Others moved individually, like Judith or Ilya.
Airn was the latter.
As he stroked his pendant, he closed his eyes, immersing himself into thought and moving on.
No matter how much he thought about it, there was only one thing he could do.
For the remaining ten days, he had to do his best. Irrespective of the chances of his success.
And after a week.
“Hmm, it’s much better to see for ourselves than to hear about it.”
Three days before the evaluation where the fate of the trainees would be decided.
The School Master of Krono Swordsmanship School, renowned over the continent, appeared.
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