When Baan first showed up, people a.s.sumed he was just here to watch them practice.
Everyone knew Baan's 'dreams'. It was as if someone said they want to become king and rule the world, I want to have a secret relations.h.i.+p with the princess, I want to sit on a seat made out of money. Just like how people don't give any weight to those words, they've never given much thought to Baan's dream of 'becoming a swordsman'.
"Hey, did you fight with old man Jensen?"
Dolby grinned and asked Baan. He thought Baan was having a moment of mid-life crisis. But Aidan wasn't the same. He instinctively scanned Baan's hands.
'… Must've been one off of a training.'
Since he was nowhere to be seen, was he training by himself. The blood-stained calluses showed it wasn't just for play.
Does that mean anything?
Putting the bitter questions behind him, Aidan walked forward. Nevermind the possibility, if Baan was coming from his heart, it wouldn't do to ignore it.
"Are you serious?"
"Captain. Don't take him seriously. All he's ever done is dig up medicinal herbs. The sword can't offer him anything…"
"Look at Baan's hands Dolby."
At that moment, everyone, not just Dolby, looked at Baan's hands and froze.
"Dear G.o.d… What could he possibly have done to make his hands like that?
"Was he training to the point his hands became so tattered?"
"If he was that serious he should've don't it earlier, why now…"
It was enough for everyone to recognize Baan's determination. Even Dolby started at Baan's hand with mixed feelings. Aidan said quietly.
"Does Jensen know about this too?"
"I plan on telling him after I pa.s.s the test."
"… You already know this, but you can't become a guard just because you want to. You need skill and talent. Do you think you're able to fill those shoes?"
"You can find out through the test, right?"
Baan looked confident. Maybe he had a reason to be. What could that reason be.
Whatever it was, he would soon know once the test began.
"Bring me two wooden swords."
"… Yes Sir!"
As Dolby walked past, Aidan started Baan in the eyes and said.
"The entrance test is the same one you know. Prove yourself through the duel. You're not accepted because you win and haven't failed just because you lose. There's no need to be hung up on the results. Just show your true skill. That's all."
"Who's my opponent?"
Aidan looked towards Dolby instead of answering. As though he already expected it, Dolby tossed a wooden sword to Baan and gripped the other sword tightly with his two hands.
"Sorry, but I plan on giving my all. If a friend has absurd dreams, I should be the one to wake him up."
"How do you know if it's absurd or not?"
"That's a lot of talk for someone who dreams about sword master Baan all the time"
Baan flushed at Dolby's words. He gripped down on his sword. It was quite different from holding Jensen's rusted longsword but… a master of a craft isn't hung up on tools.
Not that we was a sword master or a master of a craft…
But enough to say swordsman.
"What. You got something to say?"
Someday, Baan wanted to shut that low-cla.s.s mouth up. Baan roared and took his position. The guards whistled and smiled.
"Hey Dolby! Don't hurt him too much!"
"No, it's fine to hurt him! Friends become closer after seeing some blood."
"Don't worry guys. I plan on showing him what's up."
Dolby grinned. He was looked down upon within the guards as he was the youngest, but he was a swordsman who trained with them every day. Baan seemed to be determined, but Dolby wasn't one to be felled by someone with such a short span of practice.
'His posture… isn't bad?'
Dolby noted as he observed Baan's posture. It wasn't perfect, but for someone who taught themselves, it was pretty clean.
Well, he came to the training grounds more often than me. It wasn't weird considering seeing is learning as well.
"Hey. Come at me."
"A master always lets the newbie take the first three swings."
Who knows where he heard this. Considering there were no knights to be found in the village, he probably heard it from the village story-teller… But it doesn't matter, Dolby raised his shoulders in pride. When would he have another chance to say such a line?
But he soon regretted his words.
"Fine. Three swings."
Baan leapt and thrust at Dolby as soon as he spit out those words. It was much faster than expected. But a problem came soon after. As soon as Dolby startled and struck the sword away, Baan spun like a top and came around. Dolby threw himself on the ground as soon as he saw the sword coming at his legs.
"Dolby! Isn't that unsightly for someone that said three swings?"
This time it was Dolby that flushed. He took a rough breath through his nostrils and gripped his sword tighter. The guards broke out in laugher and started shouting.
"Dolby! What's wrong? Too pompous for your own good?"
"Hahaha… How did he even join the guards."
"Arrgh! Just watch! I haven't warmed up yet!"
Dolby screamed. But unlike his words, his faced showed tension.
'How is his sword so heavy?'
It wasn't just fast. The first time he struck Baan's sword, he almost lost his grip.
It wasn't a matter of strength, but a matter of knowing how to swing the sword properly. Baan let of an air of someone experienced. It wasn't possible he had experience from a real fight let along duels, but he was good at coping with the situation presented.
'Has to be coincidence.'
It was just two strikes so far. It could be a stroke of luck that the sword followed a good path. All the while, Dolby gripped his sword even harder.
"Ok. I'll take you on seriously. Hope you're prepared."
Baan didn't answer. He measured the distance while gripping his sword. Downswing? No. That's probably better as my last secret weapon.
Jensen's memories helped more than expected. It was obvious, but Jensen has fought a real person. Not sure if it was a real fight or a practice duel, but it gave a sense of how to deal with swordsmen.
Of course, it wasn't something I could lean on.
-- No need to be obsessed with victory. Show your skill.
Aidan's words rang in my ear. No need to be obsessed with win or loss, but I wanted to be obsessed. Baan didn't want to become any old swordsman. He wanted to be a victorious swordsman. A swordsman who could beat anybody and become just like his dream… a sword master.
His gift didn't work on wooden swords. And as a result, Jensen's memory wasn't being synchronized as of this moment. But that didn't matter. He learned all he could from Jensen's memory.
How Jensen swings is sword. The wooden sword doesn't remember, but Baan's mind and body did.
This time Dolby came at him. Seeing Dolby swinging down at him with two hands fiercely gripping the sword, Baan could tell he intended to strike the wooden sword out of his hands. Instead of dodging, Baan shortened the distance between them and burrowed into the area beneath Dolby's elbow. Dolby's knee instinctively came up causing Baan to pull back, but Dolby's sword was also pulled back as a result.
He could hear the guards murmur.
"Hey. Isn't Baan… pretty good?"
"… Yeah. Even though he never had a chance to properly learn swordsmans.h.i.+p."
"Is Dolby just inept? Or is Baan just that good?"
His mouth turned up into a smile. If it was sword master Baan, he wouldn't pay attention to those murmurs, but he was 15-year-old Baan.
Dolby also heard those voices. He had a taut face compared to before. He just wanted to wake Baan up from his absurd dreams with a duel, but maybe he's the one that will be waking up.
'Stronger than I thought. If this continues…'
I probably need to back him into a corner by not giving him any time. If that continues his inexperience will get the better of him. At that moment Dolby finished his thoughts and thrust his wooden sword forward.
Unfortunately, Baan was thinking along the same lines as Dolby.
One thing was different. While Dolby decided to back Baan into a corner, Baan decided to end it.
Baan's sword surged up after blocking Dolby's wooden sword.
At the end of the training,
Baan was able to cut one leaf.
Baan swung down.
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