The first class was over two and half hours after it had begun.
Leon and Valeria had spent the entire class working quietly on their runes. They knew the rune was correctly drawn when they could channel their magic into it and create a magical effect. The spell paper they were using was very cheap, so the effects wouldn’t be particularly dramatic. An air rune might create a slight gust of wind just powerful enough to move a few stray hairs, or a fire rune might cause the edges of the paper to smolder a little.
Ultimately, these runes were useless in a practical sense, but they weren’t meant to be used. The students were using this time to work on the runic equivalent of hand-writing. This entire next week would be devoted to letting the students build up the muscle memory they needed to write these basic runes quickly and correctly, so they wouldn’t need to spend hours working on a single enchantment.
Leon had a little experience in this regard. He had learned how to draw a few enchantments from the books Artorias had made him read. But, in the end, he was only memorizing the shapes and patterns of specific enchantments so he could replicate them later. This was no different to an illiterate person memorizing the word ‘fire’ because they knew it meant fire but having no idea what the individual letters meant.
The art of enchantment was often referred to as ‘The Language of Magic’ because of this characteristic. In essence, this class had the trainees start the same way a young child learns to read and write: by studying individual letters first.
But while Leon and Valeria were peacefully working, Gaius was stewing in anger so much that he hardly lifted his quill to write anything until the instructor began walking around the room to inspect the trainees an hour after the class had begun. When the instructor saw that Gaius had only written half a dozen runes whereas the other trainees had written almost fifty, he only spared Gaius a single derisive look before shaking his head in disappointment and moving on.
This dismissiveness from the instructor drove Gaius to new heights of rage. He could barely sit still in his chair and he snapped his quill in half from clenching his hand. It took every ounce of patience he possessed not to immediately challenge Leon to a duel.
‘This was supposed to be my time to shine, to match my older brothers! If it wasn’t for that contemptible rat I wouldn’t have been repeatedly humiliated! He’s made a fool of me! I’m sure that barbarian bastard is laughing at me right now! Laughing at me in front of Valeria! I’m going to kill him. I’m going to tear him limb from wretched limb.’
Gaius was so caught up in his anger that he didn’t even notice that Leon and Valeria weren’t even speaking to each other, despite Valeria’s excuse for sitting with him.
When the class was over, all the used spell paper was thrown away and the trainees left to go to their next class.
As Leon made his way out of the room, he and Valeria made eye contact. They didn’t say a word to each other, but they gave each other a respectful nod.
When Leon had walked part way to his next chosen class, he felt an intense burst of killing intent. His hand immediately found its way to his sword and he spun around to see who was threatening him. What he saw was a livid Gaius scowling at him from across the hall, emitting a killing intent that surpassed anything the noble had previously shown.
Leon slowly removed his hand from his sword as Gaius walked away.
[As much as it entertains me to infuriate that one, you ought to keep an eye on him. He’ll be trouble, no doubt about it,] said Xaphan.
[I’m sure he will be. But, given the combat skill he’s demonstrated so far—or the lack thereof, more accurately—I’m not too worried. Let him be angry,] responded Leon with a dismissive tone, though he didn’t turn around and continue walking until he lost sight of Gaius.
Xaphan didn’t respond and Leon moved to his next class in silence.
The other elective he had chosen apart from ‘Basics of Enchantment’ was ‘The Classics of the Bull Kingdom’. Leon had been tempted to take a few other courses, but the factor that finally pushed him for this literature course was its description that led Leon to think it was a class about quietly reading old books.
Leon was absolutely correct in this assumption. What made it even better was that no one who would bother Leon took the course at the same time. It was two and half hours of very quiet reading in comfortable armchairs and Leon relished every silent moment.
After this class finished up, the units gathered in the central plaza between the six class buildings. It was time for dinner, so the Senior Instructors led them on another run back to the dining hall. After an uneventful meal, the units returned to their respective towers.
“Tomorrow will be the same deal as this morning! We’ll go to the training field first thing, so be down here at seven a.m. sharp! The schedule for the next few weeks will be largely the same! Everyone understand?!” Once he got at least a nod of acknowledgment from everyone, he turned around to leave. But then, just as he was about to reach for the first set of doors, he turned back around.
“Ah, right! Theoderic! Get over here!” The Senior Instructor’s voice boomed throughout the entire tower and the trainee in question froze in terror for a moment before sheepishly stepping forward. The Senior Instructor was about to drag the young trainee outside when a thoughtful look appeared on his face. His silence felt extremely oppressive to the young man, but Theoderic didn’t have to suffer under it for very long before the Senior Instructor opened his mouth to shout again.
“Castor! You get over here too!”
The third-tier trainee was halfway up the first set of stairs when he stopped in confusion. Most instructors didn’t bother the nobles unless they were noble themselves, so Castor was very surprised at the Senior Instructor calling him out. He calmly walked over after recovering himself.
“Sir?” was all he asked.
“You are the leader of the Snow Lions, are you not?” asked the Senior Instructor.
One of Castor’s eyebrows rose to give the Senior Instructor a quizzical look before he answered, “Yes, Sir.”
“Good. That makes Theoderic your guy. Thus, I will leave you to carry out his punishment. Two hundred laps around the tower with a seventy-pound log. Get to it.”
Castor stared at the Senior Instructor in such disbelief that he didn’t even move.
“You’re training to be a knight, aren’t you?! Act like one!”
The Senior Instructor’s sharp reprimand brought Castor back to reality and the noble looked over at Theoderic in resignation.
“Might as well get this over with, then. Let’s go… Theoderic, was it?”
“… um… Ah! Yes!” Theoderic was so surprised that the noble had actually remembered his name that he stared at Castor with just as much disbelief as Castor had shown a moment before.
“Well then get moving!” shouted Castor. Theoderic ran outside while Castor made a quick gesture at the five second-tier nobles waiting on the stairs. It was obvious to the watching Leon that these trainees were probably related to people who serve Castor’s family because they immediately followed Castor and Theoderic outside.
The Senior Instructor took one last look around before he left as well, accompanied by the other two instructors.
Leon was just about to head for the stairs when Henry called out to him.
When Leon turned around, Henry and Alain were staring at him with great expectation.
“You’re going to teach us some of those moves you taught Charles, right?” asked Alain.
“You did say you would this morning…” added Henry.
“I did, didn’t I…” muttered Leon. He glanced at the two young men, then over at Charles who was watching and stifling his laughter at Leon’s obvious discomfort not too far away. “Fine. But first, show me what you were taught this morning.”
“Alright, but we weren’t taught much…” said Alain.
After about five minutes, Leon had a fairly good grasp of what they had gained from their first lesson in Basic Combat. The knights had made practice a single stabbing attack hundreds of times and little else. Leon understood the emphasis on the stab, though. His own training sword was about the same length as his personal sword, which was longer than the one-handed arming swords the first-tier trainees had been given, but shorter than a large two-handed sword. The hilts of both of his weapons were long enough to use with two hands, though at the third-tier Leon was more than strong enough to use them with only one hand very comfortably.
Given what Leon knew about Legion fighting tactics, this emphasis wasn’t a surprise. Most of the rank-and-file soldiers would fight in a tight formation with large shields which were often paired with shorter swords that were designed for very close-range fighting. It made a lot of sense to him that stabbing attacks would be the bread and butter of the heavy infantry that made up most of the Legions.
But Leon wasn’t too fond of that style of combat. Everyone here was training to become knights. They would be assigned to leadership roles suited for a far more open style of fighting at slightly longer ranges rather than filling spots within large shield formations.
‘This is only Basic Combat. Maybe they’ll be taught better fighting styles later…’ thought Leon.
“Ok, I think we can start with some footwork,” he said out loud.
“Footwork? Not actual fighting moves?” asked Alain in disappointment.
“… Take a swing at me,” said Leon.
“You have that sword in your hand, use it to try and hit me.”
“… But…” Alain clearly didn’t want to do so. Leon was a third-tier mage, so there was little chance he’d actually hit him anyway.
“Never mind, then. Try and hit Charles instead,” said Leon after thinking a little about why Alain was hesitating.
“What was that?” asked Charles, who had been starting his own practice session.
Alain glanced over at Charles and gave him a wicked smile. Both had power that was about on par with the other, but the tall and muscular Alain was clearly far more physically powerful than the shorter and much skinnier Charles. Alain immediately struck out toward Charles using the very stabbing move they had been taught that morning.
To the shock of everyone but Leon, Charles dodged the strike with ease. He seemed to vanish from in front of Alain and reappear to his side in the blink of an eye, completely unscathed. Alain swung his sword again, abandoning any pretense of skill or instruction. Again, his sword tasted nothing but air as Charles almost effortlessly dodged his slow and uncoordinated swing.
“You’re putting too much strength into the blow without the technique needed to take advantage of it. This makes you slow. Charles can easily dodge that with the basic skills I taught him,” Leon explained to a slightly frustrated Alain. “A week or two of practicing your footwork and you’ll be able to do the same thing.”
Alain and Henry nodded at him enthusiastically. Charles chuckled a bit before returning to his own practice. His little demonstration kept a proud smile on his face for the rest of the day.
For the next twenty minutes, Leon slowly demonstrated a stepping method that Artorias had taught him when he became a first-tier mage. This was the same technique that he had taught Charles several weeks earlier. It was essentially just stepping to the side and pivoting around on that foot.
Artorias had also taught Leon how to properly channel his magic to maximize speed, but Leon didn’t bring it up. He thought it was best to let Henry and Alain learn the normal version first, just like how he taught Charles. In fact, Leon hadn’t even given Charles the more advanced technique yet!
“This… actually isn’t so hard…” said Alain in a surprised tone.
“It isn’t hard because you’re not trying to use it in battle. You need to build muscle memory, first. Train like this for an hour or two every day for the next week, then we can have you show me how easy you think it is…” responded Leon with a slightly sadistic smile.
Leon sat down in a nearby chair to concentrate on his own training. As a third-tier mage, there was little need for him to train his muscles unless he needed to learn a new technique or fighting style. Thus, his training mostly revolved around filling his body with magic power to come closer to ascending to the fourth-tier.
Several of the other first-tier Snow Lions watched them train. They were quite curious as to what Leon was showing the other three, but given his status, none of them felt comfortable approaching the group to watch closer. Despite it having been made very clear from where Leon sat during meals and the antipathy shown to him by Gaius and Tiberias that he wasn’t one of those high nobles, the lower-tiered trainees couldn’t help but group him with them.
“Hey Leon, I’ve got a question,” said Henry after a little hesitation.
Leon waited a moment for Henry to continue before he realized that Henry was waiting on him to say it was Ok. He gave a slight nod.
“You’re from the Northern Vales, right? Why did you come all the way here?”
“Those are two questions, guy,” muttered Alain only just loud enough for the other three to hear.
Leon took a moment to think before answering. “I just wanted to be a knight. Isn’t that enough?”
“Don’t get me wrong, it certainly is, it’s just people from the Northern Vales don’t come south very often.”
“Valemen come south plenty. Usually on trading missions, or for the occasional raid in the case of the vales in the west. They just don’t stay. Can be very hard to get through the Frozen Mountains. Makes moving entire families nearly impossible.”
“But don’t you have people you want to see again back home?”
Leon frowned a little and quietly said, “No…”
Henry easily picked up on the fact that he had started getting into some things Leon didn’t want to talk about, so he decided to switch gears.
“Well, just wanting to be a knight is as good a reason as any. Hell, it’s a better reason than Alain’s got.” Henry said in a playful tone. Alain’s face went red with embarrassment.
“Oh? Why are you two here then?” asked Charles curiously, much to Henry’s delight.
“Well, my buddy here is quite the ladies’ man. Too much of one, in fact. He got involved with three girls back home and ended up getting all three pregnant!”
Charles immediately turned to Alain with a boggle-eyed expression. Even Leon took on a subdued surprised look for several seconds.
“Really?!” asked Charles incredulously.
“… Yes…” confirmed Alain. “But I love all of them! And they’re going to be the mothers of my children! I’m going to do right by them, but I can’t get married to all three unless I become noble! I have to become a knight!”
“And they’re Ok with this?!” asked Charles with increasingly mounting disbelief.
“Well, yes,” replied Alain.
“Our village is rather poor,” added Henry. “We only became first-tier mages by a happy accident when we found a small pond in the nearby forest that had a slightly denser concentration of magic than everywhere else in the village. By hanging out there, we ended up becoming mages completely without intending to! And when this guy knocked up those girls, signing up at the Knight Academy just seemed like the natural thing to do.”
“But what about you?” asked Leon.
“Well I couldn’t let my best friend join the Knight Academy alone, could I?”
Charles just lightly grunted while still staring in amazement at Alain, who pretended to double down on his training to hide his embarrassment.
“Hey Charles, your turn. Why’d you come here?” asked Henry.
“Well…” said Charles as he turned away from Alain. “I met Leon not too long ago. He was on his way to the Knight Academy, and since I was a first-tier mage, I decided to accompany him.”
“It was a spur of the moment decision? Really?!”
“I… also hadn’t made much of myself in Teira… to put it mildly. The way I saw it, I could go back home and work in my parents’ mine or sign up for the Legion. Since I potentially qualified to be a knight, I figured I might as well see if I could become one.”
The four continued to talk while they trained for another hour or so. They swapped stories about their hometowns and about the girls they had chased. Leon, for the most part, just listened, but he occasionally told them a few things about Vale Town.
Eventually, Leon felt that he had enough of being around people and was getting desperate for solitude, so he left for his bedroom. The others didn’t last much longer than he did before retiring to their own room to meditate and perform breathing exercises for a while.
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