"It's time to give up. Baan."
Baan didn't respond. Instead he gripped his sword. His allies have been long-since dead. He hasn't had time to mourn. There were much left to cut down, and he was alone.
The opponent spoke.
"You're the only one left. There's no reason left for you to fight. Why don't you surrender now? You're the famous sword-master Baan. The new Kingdom would treat you well."
"If I cared about how I'd be treated, I wouldn't be standing here."
Baan let out a twisted smile. He had no burning animosity left. The fight was over, and he was defeated. He looked around with a bitter look in his eye.
"What a meaningless war. What have we fought for? Every… one is dead."
"It was a war to end all wars. The new kingdom will bring eternal peace to this land."
"I didn't take you as one to believe in fairy-tales."
Baan scoffed at him and gripped his sword. No strength left. He had bled out too much to observe the opponent's face anymore. The weight of the sword however, was the one clear thing left.
"No more senseless conversation."
And as he was about to swing the sword… Thud! With a sharp pain, Baan gripped his head. He no longer had a sword in his hand. The plains full of enemies were nowhere to be seen. What he could see was… a stubbornly wrinkled face.
"The end my a.s.s. What kind of absurd dream were you having! Wake up lazy."
"You realize you have a lot of work today. Right?"
Baan got up with a sullen face. Just a moment ago, he was staring down numerous bandits and thieves, but no longer.
To be fair, in the real world he was just an apothecary's apprentice. Let alone a sword-master, he wasn't even a swordsman.
"… d.a.m.n, it was a nice dream."
On the mountain. Baan couldn't stop thinking about the dream while digging up medicinal herbs. Today's Sword-master Baan was in high quality. For one thing, the feeling of the sword in his hand was distinct, and the dialogue too…
"No more senseless conversation… d.a.m.n sounds cool."
Baan sighed after swinging around a tree branch through the air and smiling like a madman. Fantasies always tore him up inside. What does it matter if the dreams are life-like, in real life he's just a child that has never held a sword.
Baan wanted to become a swordsman. For a 15-year-old boy, maybe its natural.
Think about it. A swordsman who splits the sea with a swing and drops the moon with a lunge. What could make a boy's heart race besides such a fantasy?
Baan stopped digging and grabbed a branch. He swung it about, and soon tossed it aside as the air of excitement escaped him.
Pointless training. He didn't know if this was how he was supposed to swing a sword, and in truth his future wouldn't change from just swinging a tree branch in the mountains.
An apothecary's apprentice could only ever become an apothecary. He couldn't become a swordsman by just swinging a sword for a day. Not even the village guard would take him in. An apothecary was much more valuable to the village than a lone swordsman.
His master Jensen would never know. Baan never returned just because his basket was full. There was one thing waiting for him every day.
It was watching the guards' drill training. It wasn't much of a training area, just an open field where they swung wooden swords… but even that was enough to make something within his heart squirm.
It was then, a low, husky voice from behind him. What he saw as he turned his head was a man of bear-like statue and a face full of scars looking down at him. The head of the guards, Aidan.
"Ah! Mr. Aidan."
"If Jensen found out, it wouldn't end with just a scolding. You know this."
"Yeah I know…"
Baan knew, but he just couldn't resist. Just being able to see the dancing swords was the least he could do to quench his thirst and let him sleep without being restless.
Aidan too knew how much Baan yearned for a chance of being a swordsman. And because of that, he shook his head that much more.
"Learn how to brew medicine properly. Jensen is the best apothecary I know. When you become an adult, you'll truly realize how much of a blessing it is to be his apprentice."
"I'm doing my best. I'm always thankful to my master."
"…and you still haven't given up on coming here?"
Baan gripped his basket feeling embarra.s.sed.
"Just looking is fine, right?"
"Stubborn, aren't you."
Aidan sighed. It's not as though he couldn't understand. He knew how childish boys this age were.
He put his hand on Baan's head. A hand full of calluses.
"All swordsmans.h.i.+p does is kill people. However, you're able to save them. If I said I envy you, would you believe me?"
"No. I won't."
All Aidan could do was laugh at his audacity. In truth, Aidan knew it was impossible to stifle his pa.s.sion with just worlds. And because of that, Aidan actually didn't dislike Baan coming here. No, in truth, he would be disappointed if Baan stopped coming. There was n.o.body as pa.s.sionate as Baan in the village guard.
'If only he gripped a sword earlier…'
If so, it was possible he could become a knight instead of just a plain guard. He wasn't sure how talented Baan was, but if he truly loved swords this much, it would be impossible not to improve.
But alas, it was already late. The body of a 15-year-old is too stiff to learn new tricks. The probability of him becoming a great swordsman by starting to train now was minute.
It was probably better for Baan. Just living on as an apothecary in this small down. It wouldn't be flashy, but it would not be an unhappy life.
"Don't stay too late."
Baan didn't hesitate to answer.
And he continued to watch the training area until sunset. He traced the line swords were drawing. The shaking tip of the swords. The squirming muscles, and the dizzying footsteps stomping the dirt.
Again. Again. And again…
"Where have you been all this time?"
"What do you mean? I've been digging for herbs all this time."
"You've been digging herbs for years now. How come you're still so slow?"
"Not slow enough for it to matter…"
Baan muttered and walked in. Jensen sent him a fierce glare and spoke with a subdued voice.
"Don't stay out too late. It's dangerous."
"I'm an adult now. Don't worry so much."
"Adult my a.s.s. You still murmur "I'll send you off without pain" in your sleep."
"Ah! H-Hey! Master! That's unfair to talk about my dreams"
"Be quiet. Hurry up and pick out the herbs."
Baan didn't have much to say when he brought up the 'Sword-master Baan' dreams. Baan ran away to the herb storage with flushed ears. How funny. That such a fabulous dream would become something embarra.s.sing in the real world.
'Eh, whatever. I want to swing a sword even if it's just once.'
There was a wooden sword in the house, but the wooden sword wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to feel the sharp sword split the wind. The weight of the steel bearing down on his wrist, the well-sharpened blade fragmenting the moonlight.
'If I became a swordsman, what would master Jensen say?'
If he doesn't beat me it would be fortunate. Not to mention being kicked out of the house as a given.
That moment. Maybe because he has too many thoughts, Baan lost his grip on the basket, and spilled all the herbs. All the work of half an hour down the drain.
"… well, f.u.c.k."
Baan sighed and started gathering the herbs again. As he was groaning about how long this would take, he grimaced and stared at the floor.
'What is it?'
Just a moment ago he hadn't noticed anything, but the floor was a bit weird. Just to be sure, he reached down, and the floorboard just lifted up like it was meant to be. And as Baan saw the hidden box underneath, he couldn't help but let laughter slip.
'What could it be that Jensen wanted to hide so much?'
It was strange no matter who looked at it. Baan glanced at the door, and slowly brought the box out. Maybe it's a pot of honey. Or something embarra.s.sing he couldn't bear to show to his apprentice? Whatever it was, Baan hoped it was something he could make fun of. Something he could use as payback for bringing up 'Sword-master Baan'
But when he opened the box, Baan was stunned.
It was something he never expected.
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