Chapter 5: A Decision Made
“Faster! One break in your rhythm and your opponent will strike! Don’t give them a chance to respond. Strike from unexpected angles!”
Sweat streamed from my brow as I followed the orders. Though I was only striking a wooden post over and over, my arms were aching from the exertion and my shins and elbows throbbed in pain. I kept going though. This pain. This ache. It was fantastic. I could feel myself getting stronger every day. More so than when I trained with magic, I could feel real progress. Even though it had only been 6 months since the day I selected my instructors, I had already broken through the ranks of a basic level swordsman. This speed was quick, but nothing earth shattering. In fact, Alexander was already an intermediate swordsman despite only being a year older than me. He was truly talented, and that talent brought with it arrogance. Not even 10 years old and already with the body size and skill of a grown man. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t envious.
After running through my practice routine once again, I paused for a break. Wiping my brow with a cloth, I let out a deep sigh. As fulfilling as it was, training was truly exhausting. A hand found itself on my shoulder, and I turned my head to look up at one of my instructors. Despite seeing it for almost half a year now, I still couldn’t get over the gaudy colors of his clothing. A patchwork cloak with a multitude of colors sewn into it over a shirt and pants that were equally jarring to look at. Still, despite his strange idiosyncrasies, he was a good teacher.
“Good work out there. You really are improving. You’ve been applying the salve to your arms and legs in the evenings right? It’s important to recover after striking something as hard as a post for hours every day.”
I nod in response. How could I forget about putting on that stinging ointment every night. It made my skin crawl and itch every time, but when I woke up in the morning my aches and pains were mostly gone. He really was taking care of me. Before I could vocalize my thanks however, another, much firmer, voice called out from the side.
“Oy, if you have time to gab, you can be working on your stances. Let’s go. Draw your sword.”
I unsheathed my blade in a flash and stood on guard. Without a second’s hesitation, my second teacher attacked. An assault that left me gasping for breath, cutting off any thought of escape. Don’t panic. Read the flow of the attack. There is always a break. A misapplication of force.
While my mind was racing, trying to defend myself, I found myself grinning. I suddenly remembered the day I would take these two men as my teachers. I still laugh when I think about it.
“Father, I’ve decided.”
Though it seemed like I had made this decision rather quickly, I had carefully thought about all of my options before deciding. Of course they were all excellent swordsmen in their own right, however I needed to select the style that was right for me. I also had to take into account that some of them were likely to have more affinity as a teacher than others. Hearing my words, my father was grinning from ear to ear.
“Of course, of course. If you really desire it, this old man will take time out of his day to train you in the art of the sword. But who is going to be your second teacher? You have a rather small body, so the Shattered Blades style will be a bit hard to master until you unlock your internal energy. It might be a bit hard to learn from someone who doesn’t know what their own style is, but that man is likely to reach Saint rank in the near future, so he could be a good choice. What do you think?”
A small smile crossed my face at my father’s words. He seemed to think it was a given that I would select him to teach me. I suppose that made a bit of sense. He was the strongest of all of them, and was my own flesh and blood. If he was willing to teach me his own sword art, who would turn him down.
. . .
. . .
“Father, I wish to train in the Formless and Flowing Water styles.”
“Right, that makes sense. The Flowing Water style has a good defensive system to offset the sheer offensive capability of the Crashing Thun-
. . .
Did you say Formless?”
His signature grin fell from his face, and he blinked over and over as if not believing the scene in front of his eyes. Blood rushed to his face, staining it red, and his confusion turned to an angry look.
“You don’t wish to learn from the strongest swordsman in the city!? Tell me then, oh all knowing son of mine, what I am lacking to be the teacher of yourself?”
It was clear that he was furious. He had offered to train me personally, and I turned him down flat. To be honest, I somewhat expected it. Though he was a grown man, my father was surprisingly childish at times. It took all that I had to not smirk at him after seeing that outburst. Instead, I bowed at the waist.
“I apologize Father. I don’t feel that it is right to take time from you just to teach me. I also think that the two styles that I selected best fit the way I want to learn. If you find yourself free though, I would love to learn from you as well.”
I smiled brightly, causing the enraged face of my father to slip to something more understanding.
He scoffed and turned on his heel to leave. While he was walking off, he turned his head and called out over his shoulder.
“Do what you will. Don’t slack in your training either. Arthur will be keeping an eye on you.”
I let out a sigh as he left. As amusing as it was to poke fun at adults, it was still draining. That said, now that that was over and done with, it was time to introduce myself formally to my new teachers. I looked forward to training with them.
A blunted edge of a wooden blade smashed into my sternum, drawing me out of my memories. Air blasted out of my lungs, leaving me on my knees and gasping for breath.
“Pay attention! Do you think that you will have time to let your mind wander during a real battle?”
My instructor was glaring down at my kneeling form, eyes filled with disdain. I had been lost in my thoughts and failed to read the flow of his attacks. This was the way he taught. Brutal strikes if I so failed to live up to the standard that he had laid down for me. It was hard. Over the last half a year, I had wanted to quit so many times. So often I thought that it was too hard and wanted to just give up. Every time I thought about that though, I remembered my past life and the promise that I had made to myself in this world. I wouldn’t quit. I would live up to the expectations that those around me had laid down. Every time I wanted to give up, I stood on my feet and faced the challenge again. This time was no different. I stood to my feet and raised my wooden sword in front of me. My eyes blazed with determination as I looked at the small man that I called Teacher, a smirk smeared across his lips.
“Ow. . . .”
I was walking through the halls of my family’s manor, rubbing the numerous sore and aching parts of my body. After my rather. . . . spirited display, my instructor felt that it was time to step up the level of difficulty. This step up basically meant that I was going to get hit a lot more. Still, by the end of the session, I was starting to read his movements a little better. At this point, it was a little before midday, so I was heading back to my personal compound to wash the sweat from my body and practice magic.
This was my routine. Wake up early and head to the training fields. Train with my instructors all morning. Then, I go back and practice magic till late afternoon. Study the books in the library. Go to sleep. Wake up and start the schedule over once again. It was a grueling program that I was on, but a fulfilling one nonetheless. Today however, I was going to be interrupted.
A tiny voice called from behind me, causing me to turn in place. A smile crept across my lips as I saw the little girl running down the hall waving her arms at me. Breaking from her usual pattern of tackling me with a hug, Sarah came to a screeching halt in front of me. Her face was flushed and she was panting from the exertion of carrying her miniature form down the halls after my longer stride. I waited for her to catch her breath. Before she spoke however, she puffed out her cheeks and started pounding on my chest in anger. Of course it didn’t hurt, but I was a bit confused.
“Stupid Big Brother! You said you’d go to town with me today! Did your forget?”
To tell the truth, I had forgotten. . . My days sort of blended together after a while, so I had completely spaced that today was the day I had promised to go to the market with Sarah. Honestly, I had only left the family home a handful of times, so I definitely wouldn’t be the best guide for Sarah who was going out for the first time. Still, she insisted it was me. Regardless of the circumstance, I couldn’t just tell her that I had forgotten. Instead I placed one hand firmly on the crown of her head. She looked up at, a scowl cutely adorning her face.
“Of course I didn’t forget. I just need to go get changed before we go. Cmon, come with me to my room. You can wait till I’m ready and then we can go.”
After a moment, her pout turned into a brilliant smile. She nodded her head over and over before grabbing my hand and taking off in a run toward the room I called my own. I could only laugh. She was clearly very excited, and I couldn’t take my eyes of the tiny little bouncing form that pulled me along. She had just caught her breath, but already she was running again. This was really what it was like to have younger siblings. It was as though her warmth and caring was filling a void from my past life that I didn’t even know that I had. A grin on my lips, I kept pace behind her. Magic training could wait today.