“Everyone, how about we go for a morning walk?”
The sound of sighs and laughter erupted from everywhere.
Instructor Karaka’s actions had put pressure on them until he opened his mouth.
The prospective trainees all answered ‘Yes!’ one beat later.
Karaka nodded and clapped his hands.
“Nice. Then, take a look around here. There is no need to match eachother’s pace, just enjoy yourself.”
Of course, there was no way it would be that simple.
No matter how friendly and easy-going his words were, he was still an instructor. The children remembered the pressure Ahmed released yesterday.
Thanks to that, they were able to understand what was happening. And with that, a group of 400 students began to move around the school.
“This here is the indoor fitness room. It is a place we use when the weather outside gets bad.”
“This is the place for theory education. Ah, is this your first time seeing such a place? Krono isn’t just a place to learn how to sharpen your sword skills. Appropriate theoretical education is necessary to complete all the courses in the school…”
“Haha, this is turning into a long talk. In the end, there is one thing I need to say. Before sharpening the sword, we need to make sure that you are thinking straight. You get that?”
“Nice. Oh, we’re just about that there.”
Karaka was a pretty talkative person.
Bland expressions flashed across the faces of the prospective trainees as he spoke, yet, the uninteresting talk continued throughout the walk.
However, there were quite a few people who thought otherwise.
However, it all came to an end.
The moment a long and wide road stretched out in front of them, Karaka made a surprising remark.
“Lastly, this is a place where physical training, endurance as well as muscular endurance are done. There are a few bumps, but overall this is a normal running course.”
“Come on, have fun running!”
After speaking, the instructor quickly sped up.
From fast walking to slow running, little by little, he sped up.
However, he never slowed down. Although the prospective trainees were flustered, they followed Karaka with eager expressions.
“Nice. Isn’t it nice to move our bodies?”
A roar of replies.
Even though they were young, they were all children who walked the path of the sword.
Each of them had more stamina than an adult male, so not a single person made a sound of discomfort.
Of course, it was only the beginning.
“Nice. Really good. Then we’ll speed things up from here!”
Unlike before, this time, the answer was late.
After a while, their anxiety turned into reality.
“Haa, haaa, ahh…”
“Nice. A little faster!”
Moreover, the distance between the instructor and the trainees kept increasing.
The faces of the prospective trainees turned pained.
Their breathing, which had been stable, began to turn rugged.
Some of the younger ones could already feel the strength in their feet loosening.
However, Karaka didn’t stop.
Even the tired children showed no intention of stopping.
Because they all knew that the competition had just begun.
‘I need to run till the end!’
‘I need to endure this at all costs!’
‘Damn, if I am kicked out early, I won’t be able to look my family in their eyes…!’
Competition, pride, self-esteem.
All their other emotions burned as fuel. The trainees were ready to run until the fire inside them went out.
Perhaps it would take quite a while for the surprise test to end.
Not everyone could afford to take it easy.
“Kuk, pant, pant!”
A child was vigorously panting in the back like he would run out of breath any moment.
No, he was too old to be a child.
The oldest trainee, the deadbeat noble, it was the first time he ran in years.
Before coming to the Krono Swordsmanship school, Airn had swung his sword harder than anyone else.
It was a truly fantastic thing. One day a boy who never did anything for the last ten years of his life began to change.
He trained so much that even his family, who hoped for him to re-enter the world, and the soldiers who watched him felt the need to stop him.
No one has the qualifications to denigrate Airn’s efforts for the past month.
No matter how brilliant he had acted over the past month.
Even if he managed to exceed what an average boy could do.
Compared to those who trained for a long time, Airn would only see despair.
The results were appearing.
“Gag, pant, kuk…. Pant…”
The correct breathing of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth while running was unknown to him.
It had been a while since his nose ran and he shed tears; even saliva mixed with dust came out of his mouth.
In that state, Airn was struggling to keep himself in the ranks.
But there was no one to help him.
Instructor Karaka was gentle yet cold-hearted, and the other instructors were all watching the test.
And other prospective trainees?
They wanted Airn to fall more than anyone else. That was the kind of place the school was. Only by trampling on others’ dreams could one rise.
So, everyone prayed. In particular, the children of the lower classes who were already short on breath prayed.
May the old trainee fall quickly. They prayed for his will to break, for him to fall on his knees and for him to fall from the ranks and end up in last place
Of course, Airn couldn’t do that.
Airn could continue running.
“Gurgle, kuk, kuk, kuk…”
‘I… I can run!’
Making a sound like a wounded beast, the young lord thought to himself.
It hurt so much that his lungs felt like they were going to tear, and it felt like someone stabbing him. His joints even felt like they were cracking.
His muscles were screaming for him to stop.
Could he even run anymore?
If asked, there was a definite answer. Airn could still run.
It wasn’t just a commitment or pride either.
He was just stating what he knew.
The man who swung his sword in Airn’s dreams never stopped.
It was only when facing his own ‘limit’ that he fell to the floor and took a rough breath.
Since Airn had ‘experienced’ this indirectly, he couldn’t collapse at this point.
‘What is that bastard doing!’
‘Idiot! He looks so weak, yet he’s still running.’
‘Please fall down, fall down! I’m reaching my limit!’
‘Isn’t this how one dies?’
The trainees who were falling back looked tired. Some even looked at Airn with fear in their eyes, concerned about what would happen if Airn kept pushing himself.
Of course, Airn wasn’t the kind to care. He couldn’t afford to. In his blurred vision, the deadbeat noble did his best to move his body.
He ran for another 5 minutes.
Then he fell like a marionette doll with a broken thread.
“Give him a potion and quickly move him to the recovery room!”
The assistant ran to an exhausted Airn Pareira.
Fortunately, there was no major problem. He could be back to normal in a day or two.
Of course, he should’ve been stopped before his body gave out.
However, instructor Ahmed couldn’t stop him.
It was because an unbearable curiosity was creeping into him.
‘I was trying to figure out how far he would go, I almost made a mistake and threw away a capable novice.’
Ahmed shook his head.
With his excellent observation skills, he was able to grasp Airn’s physical condition.
To use an analogy, it was like he squeezed a wet towel hard enough that not even a single drop of water was left.
One could say that the body had done it’s very best and then collapsed from exhaustion.
‘That isn’t some impossible task.’
Himself, Karaka, and even the other swordsmen who graduated from Krono felt like that at least once.
The thing is that they had to move past their limits until their bodies couldn’t keep up with their minds.
Conversely, it also meant that one’s who graduated from Krono would never feel that thrill again.
“He’s a weird one. Despite being weak.”
Ahmed pulled out a list from his pocket. And then picked up a pen he brought along and wrote ‘potential’ next to ‘Airn Pareira’.
After thinking, he put down a question mark next to Airn’s name.
Shaking his head once more, he moved away.
The next morning.
Airn Pareira looked up at the unfamiliar ceiling and woke up.
It was the white ceiling of the recovery room. The boy, who had been lying there, nodded.
‘I collapsed while running.’
He couldn’t remember the details.
From the moment the pain crossed a certain level, the boundary between the conscious and unconscious turned blurred.
He wasn’t sure if he was running or the old man from his dreams was. And then his blurred vision stopped as he collapsed.
He was worried. Was his body fine?
Airn raised his upper body with a stiff face.
A deep voice ran in his ear.
“Don’t worry about your body. You are a healthy one.”
“I am instructor Rune Tarhal. I am also in charge of the recovery room.”
“Ah… thank you.”
That man healed him. Airn thought to himself and bowed his head to express his gratitude.
Rune Tarhal nodded.
“Of course you should thank me. Without me, you would have had a hard time recovering.”
After that, the instructor talked for a while.
About how huge the investments in the recovery room were, how great the equipment is and how skilled he was.
In addition, he said that the reason the recovery room was so well invested in was that the training in Krono was hard.
“Maybe, I’ll see you often. Airn Pareira.”
“That was meant as a joke. Don’t answer me so seriously.”
Contrary to the solemn appearance, the instructor was talkative.
As he was thinking about that, the man held out something.
A paper. Numerous names and numbers are written on it.
“What is this, instructor?”
“The test ranking. Don’t worry. It’s different from the mid-term evaluation and the final evaluation which affect the official admission. We just wanted to know the fitness levels of the trainees, so this training was done lightly.”
Airn couldn’t think of it that lightly.
For a light test, each trainee had been ranked individually.
Instructor Rune Tarhal, perhaps aware of what was happening, added.
“Well, getting a high rank does feel good but getting a low rank motivates one to work harder, doesn’t it? Don’t worry too much about it, as it will completely mess you up.”
Airn nodded his head.
The instructor was right. It didn’t matter what rank he was.
However, it was true that he was growing.
The boy who gulped confirmed the results of the competition for the first time in his life.
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