Year 1, Summer, First Month, First Week.
“Run, run. You need to go faster Toni. Imagine if we were running from a beast, you would be dead... Look at Tael, he passed you three times already...”
“Sorry. That’s not fair, my legs are shorter and I’m heavier than him! You said that I’d be using a shield to block the beasts, why do I need to run?”
“Stop complaining Toni, do you think you can block everything?.... Diana, why isn’t Karl training?”
“Humpf! He’s working on our weapons... But he can dream about escaping training, later he’ll have to run too. Now, stop speaking and run!”
After talking with the boys, the three elders decided to allow them to look for materials in the village’s surroundings. They would stay close enough to run back if they met danger. They also decided that Diana would go with them.
When the boys heard that Diana had trained since early and had some good sword skills, they were shocked. Everyone knew that Chief Omero was training his granddaughter to be the next Chief, but no one knew about her fight training.
However, the real shock came when she joined the group and showed her sword. The boys had only seen metal weapons in Wind Castle on their ceremony, they could never have imagined the Chief’s granddaughter owning one.
For two weeks, she trained them on physical resistance and weapon handling. To make better use of their time, she decided to train each of them on a different weapon that better suited their abilities.
In the upcoming mission, they would each fit a position in the party, covering the basic requirements. She would be doing the short-range attack with her sword. While Tael would be responsible for the long-range attack with a bow, the defense would be left to Toni with a shield. Karl would be fitting the support position with a simple stone knife.
Since Toni was the strongest, he was fit for the defense role. Tael’s quick response and fast movements were ideal for an archer role. This arrangement was thought of not only by Diana, but the three Elders also helped.
They also made arrangements to free the boys for training. Chief Omero even offered them more food, hoping to improve their physical condition.
“Ok, you can stop now. Let’s rest a little and eat.”
Diana brought some bread and a vegetable soup. They distributed it into their pots and started to devour it.
Since they started training, Diana felt very ashamed. She always had a lot of assignments from her grandpa and never realized that the other children only ate in the morning and evening.
She wasn’t insensible or dumb, she knew about the villagers starving, but her grandpa made appear natural for her to have three meals a day. Seeing how much they were grateful for something that she always had, made her feel bad.
When she brought it up with the Chief, he only said she had a higher purpose and they couldn’t afford to fed everyone. She thought about abdicating the extra meal, but after thinking a little, what good would that do? She couldn’t feed the hundreds of hungry children with her spare food. Finally, she decided to continue eating her meals and do all in her power to improve the lives of the villagers.
As far as the specifics of the training goes, it was pretty simple. For resistance training, the boys would run, carry heavy stones, and do stretchings. While the specific training, with the shield and bow, was conducted by Old Bill. Only after they got guidance for him, the boys would do some live combat with Diana.
“Tael, Diana, I have something for you...”
Karl handed three arrows to Tael and moved in Diana’s direction. Diana saw how carefully he was carrying her sword like it was a baby, she couldn’t help smiling at the boy’s silliness.
When he handed the sword back and heard her thanks Karl blushed a little. Diana was a beautiful girl. She was 17 this year and had just bloomed. Even though she trained regularly, there weren’t any scars on her light brown skin.
“What’re you getting embarrassed for? Even if this sword is rare, with your skills, later you’ll see a lot of good things...”
“I’m not emb... cough... cough... Ehhh, Toni, I need more time to work on your shield. The Toughness Rune is new to me, but the effects will be great, you’ll see!”
“Humpf... If you haven’t finished all the weapons, why are you here?”
‘She was so thankful earlier, she even teased me... Why she got angry all of the sudden?’
“I’m out of spiritual energy so I came to do some training... You’re always complaining that I'm slacking off...”
“Stop fussing around, quickly, go run! Hey, look at your arrows later, now it’s time to run!”
To properly use the shield one should place it in front of one’s body while taking a defensive stance behind it. Old Bill was training Toni on quickly adopting the defensive stance.
To exercise his stances, they moved to a small slope. With Toni positioned at the lower part Old Bill pushed a round stone from the higher side.
The stone rolled through the slope and gained speed. At the end of the slope, the sweaty Toni took the defensive stance. To his relief, the stone stopped and the shield held.
“Ufff... I'm not gonna lie, I was a little scared... But I also enjoyed it!” Toni said and then laughed.
When it was time for the bow training, Tael had some difficulties, but with Old Bill’s help, he got a handle on it. To test the bow, they placed four wooden plates at different distances to serve as targets. Since Tael didn’t have much practice with the bow, the targets were big enough so that he wouldn’t miss them.
Tael took the shooting stance put the arrow in the bow and breath like Old Bill taught him. After taking a moment to prepare, he drew the arrow a little more and shot. The arrow with increased sharpness easily cut through the wooden plate.
Since they could only use stone to make the arrowhead, Karl decided to improve its sharpness. Draw the small Rune was surprisingly easy, but the results were lacking. He realized that the small drawing would use less spiritual energy, and consequently, less magic energy.
Thinking about it, he tried to use more spiritual energy in the small drawing. He discovered that condensing the spiritual energy would make the Rune effect stronger. The effect also worked in the bigger drawings. Condensing the spiritual energy was very tiring, and he would lose some energy in the process. Even so, it was worth it to make his Runes more powerful.
Unfortunately, at some point, it didn’t matter if the Rune was condensed because the effect wouldn’t increase. Master AI reminded Karl of the magic energy limitations.
Since the weapons would be used outside, he decided to condense as much spiritual energy as he could on them. As for the stone knives that he used for training, he wouldn’t waste energy on something that would be limited by the village’s environmental energy.
“Hey son! You’re late again... Are you having problems in the fields?”
“No dad, I’m just helping the Chief with something. Let me cut the taro mom.”
Karl took the taro and knife from his mother. Silently, he exchanged the common knife for another with a Sharpness Rune. Then he peeled the vegetable without much effort, cut it into small parts, and hid the knife again.
For now, he would keep it a secret from his parents. Reiner was surprised at how fast her son cut the taro into the boiling pot but didn’t dwell on it.
Soon, the smell of the cooking vegetable rose and she added the taro’s leaves to the mix. Although it wasn’t very tasty, they couldn’t afford to waste any part.
On the side of the fire, she placed the rolled dough that her husband just kneaded and covered it with a clay pot, to let it bake.
When it was ready, they sat around the fire and ate the soup with some bread. The food was simple and only had the flavor of the vegetables, without any seasoning, but they felt very happy and grateful.
To them, this was the best time of the day, when they could eat and talk without care. Of course, they couldn’t eat their fill, half of the food had to be stored for the morning meal.
At this time, some families had already retired and the village was very quiet. These families had elders that would prepare the food before the evening.
Before sleeping, Karl would use the rest of the fire to study his Runes. By now, his spiritual energy was replenished and he could train some more. To his parents, he was training writing, but his goal today was to master the Toughness Rune.
Karl took two weeks to understand the Sharpness Rune. But it already has been two weeks and he still didn’t comprehend the new Rune. Master AI told him that some concepts were more complex than others and thus would take more time to comprehend.
The Toughness Rune’s drawing was simple. But its concept was too foreign for Karl.
***Image in the comments***
When studying the first Rune, he took more time because he wasn’t used to working with concepts, now the problem was different. Since he could imagine how something could be sharped, the concept was easy to get. But how could something become Tougher?
Before he went crazy, Master AI gave him some advice. When stuck on solving a problem, one could benefit from observing and talking to others. A new perspective could end up unlocking a solution. Surprisingly, that worked.
After talking with his friends and the three elders about the Toughness concept, Karl received some inspiration. The first clue came from Old Bill. He told Karl that blacksmiths tried to harden metal by heating and hitting it, which got him thinking about changing the structure of the material to make it tougher.
But the true realization came when he talked with grandma Marlen. When making shoes, she would bind more straws, compressing them, to make them tougher. Then he remembered that he could make a stronger Rune by condensing the spiritual energy in the drawing. Using the mindset, he finally figured how the Toughness Rune worked.
“Ohh... It’s much stronger now…”
When Karl finished the Rune on the wooden shield, he brought it over for Toni to test. The new shield could take a lot more before breaking. Even so, Toni had to continue training.
While the Sharpness Rune was great to increase the attacking power, the Toughness Rune could only keep the shield from breaking. But the effect was still worth it because it would be fatal if the shield broke in the middle of a battle.
“Now that everyone has an enhanced weapon, we should do some real training.” Diana exclaimed with a wicked smile.
“Ahhh... real training? Until now, wasn’t it for real?” Toni couldn’t help feeling afraid of her.
Karl and Tael weren’t much better, they looked at each other with aggravated expressions and gulped. Diana’s diligence was truly scary!
“Come at me at once!... What are you waiting for? Attack me! You three together... What? You don’t want to?... Hahaha, so let’s do it like this... I’ll attack first!”
Diana moved fast slashing her sword against Toni’s shield. Instead of going for his openings, Diana attacked the shield, she didn’t want to kill him.
Under everyone’s shocked exclamations, the shield held and the sword only left a mark on it. However, Toni wasn’t prepared for it and was pushed back by the force of the attack. He stumbled back two meters but didn’t fell.
Diana wanted to give them a good beating experience, so she didn’t stop after attacking and move to kick Tael. Tael had fast reactions but everything was too sudden, he could only shift his body to offset some of the attack’s impact.
The kick ended up hitting his side, but he was at least successful in decreasing the impact.
Diana didn’t continue attacking him. She wanted to give everyone a taste, so she dashed against Karl and used the sword handle to attack him.
Karl didn’t have as much training as the other boys, but he had the advantage of seeing the boys being attacked. So he backed away sidewards and successfully escaped Diana’s attack.
For a second Diana was surprised, her eyes opened wide but quickly shift back to focus on Karl. She raised her right foot, made a twist with the support of her other leg, and delivered a powerful kick on Karl’s stomach. Karl didn’t dodge it time and was sent flying a couple of meters back.
Diana was satisfied with the boys’ performance. They all failed, but they were able to resist one surprise attack from her. She hoped that Toni and Tael could do it, but Karl’s dodging her first attack was a surprise. He wasn’t worse than the other but he only trained a little.
“Now we’re ready to go out! Take a good rest today because tomorrow we’ll be testing it... outside!”
Diana’s statement made everyone pause. They looked at each other with mixed feelings. From excitement to fear, for better or for worse, after tomorrow their lives will never be the same.