On Monday morning, Leon grabbed a dozen trainees and made the trip back to the tower to pick up the Snow Lions’ breakfast. He kept them moving as quickly and quietly as he could; he didn’t think the tower was being watched, but he decided to be cautious anyway.
He left the group a few hundred feet into the tree line and personally scouted out the tower, only calling them to pick up the food when he was satisfied that no one was watching.
After the Snow Lions had eaten, their training began. The Senior Instructor had arranged for the materials he needed to teach first-aid to be delivered with the food. The same things taught to the rest of the battalion at the training field was taught in the Snow Lions’ camp in the hidden gorge. The three Instructors even had the three third-tier mages help out with the class—after ensuring that all three knew what they would be teaching, of course.
Leon wound up showing the five guys he usually hung around with how to properly apply bandages and tourniquets, as well as the application of healing spells. The former was practiced with the actual medical equipment, while the latter was practiced with simulated healing spells that only lit up with bright light when correctly activated. They couldn’t heal the tiniest of splinters, but they could be used repeatedly, making them perfect for training and instruction.
After several hours of this, Leon led his group back to the tower to carry their lunch back to the camp, following which the Senior Instructor had the first-tier trainees head back into the caves to meditate.
It had only been two days since they lost their banner, so most of the second-tier trainees still felt too much shame to show their faces during afternoon classes. Consequently, most of them stayed in the caves and passed the time by joining the first-tier trainees in meditation. Castor and Alphonsus decided to do likewise.
However, Leon had no intention of missing his enchantment class. A handful of other second-tier trainees felt the same, so he led them back to the tower and gave them strict instructions to meet him back at the tower after classes were over. They didn’t want to lose their camp’s greatest strength—its hidden location—with a few moments of carelessness.
The group attended their classes, much to the astonishment of the other trainees. When the classes were over, the Snow Lions returned to their tower to meet Leon, just as he had instructed. Leon carefully looked around the tower to make sure none of them were followed, then led them all back to the camp, while carrying the unit’s dinner that had already been delivered.
This was generally how the next week progressed. The Instructors and the third-tier mages would teach the trainees how to stop bleeding and apply healing spells in the morning. In the afternoon, everyone—save for Leon and a few others who still wanted to attend their afternoon classes—would meditate or train in their sword techniques.
There was one event that broke the new routine, though: One afternoon, Leon noticed that some of the second-tier trainees had been followed by spies from other units as they assembled at the tower.
In order to deal with this problem, he softly whispered to the group, “Head a few hundred feet into the forest. Make sure to move with purpose. You’ll be followed, so make it look convincing that you’re actually going somewhere. I’ll be right behind you…” After he finished speaking, he calmly walked back into the tower, leaving the other Snow Lions a little confused and on edge due to the sudden predicament.
After waiting a few moments, the group of Snow Lions started walking off to the north-west of the tower. They walked quickly, not bothering to keep an eye on their surroundings. Instead, they started up a conversation about what they had done that afternoon, acting as if they were completely unaware of what was happening.
Leon allowed them to get a good head start, then quietly followed. The Steel Century, Crimson Tigresses, and one more unit Leon had not yet come into contact with, the Silver Legionaries, had all sent a second-tier mage to follow the Snow Lions back to their camp.
Leon doubted that the other Snow Lions would’ve noticed these spies if he hadn’t, given their seeming proficiency at hiding among the trees and underbrush of the forest. However, Leon had spent almost his entire life hunting in a forest much denser and wilder than the one in the Knight Academy, so these three watchers from the other units stuck out to him like sore thumbs.
It took no more than three minutes for Leon to take care of the situation so silently that the other Snow Lions didn’t hear a thing. He crept up behind the spies one-by-one while they were captivated with the other Snow Lions, and with a single slash of his training sword apiece, stunned them all into unconsciousness.
“We’re good! Help me with them!” he shouted when the last spy had fallen, summoning his aimlessly walking unit mates. They carefully carried the three second-tier nobles back to the tower. The two noblemen from the Steel Century and Silver Legionaries were rather unceremoniously dropped at the door, while the lady from the Crimson Tigresses was carried inside and left on a chair in the entrance hall.
Leon and the group then grabbed the unit’s dinner and made their way back to the Snow Lions’ camp, with all of them alert for any more signs of uninvited guests.
Fortunately, Leon had taken care of the only spies, and the three units who sent them seemed to get the message and didn’t try again. At least, they didn’t try again that week.
The week ended with a scenario the Instructors ran each squad of Snow Lions through, ten trainees at a time. First, they were ‘sent on a patrol’ to the other end of the gorge, where they would find an ‘injured’ Snow Lion. After notionally treating the nonexistent wounds, the squad would have to carry the injured trainee back to the camp while keeping an eye out for the Instructors and the third-tier mages, who may attack them if they think things aren’t going so well.
“Keep alert and don’t forget to call out if you see anything,” said Hostilius, the second-tier mage leading Charles and the others through the course. He was one of the few second-tier mages descended from minor nobility that wasn’t affiliated with any of the third-tier nobles. He was actually from a family of hereditary knights who served in the Praetorians, the Bull King’s royal guard.
The other nine Snow Lions in his group nodded to him in acknowledgment, and they set out. They followed the stream west, toward the other end of the gorge, where their ‘injured’ comrade lay.
Hostilius’ eyes continuously scanned everything around the group, desperately searching for the two instructors and three third-tier mages he knew were out there. He didn’t need to search for the Senior Instructor, though, as he was right behind the group, watching and evaluating their every move.
“Spread out a little,” Hostilius said as they put some distance between themselves and the camp. Their opponents wouldn’t attack all at once, so it would be better to cover as much ground as possible. Charles, Henry, Alain, and another second-tier trainee spread out in a line to his right, while Matthew, Bohemond, and the last first-tier and second-tier mages in his squad spread out to his left.
But, for all his attention, he wasn’t looking for the injured Snow Lion. He didn’t really need to as the gorge wasn’t so wide that they’d get lost or miss their objective, but it was certainly wide and densely forested enough for someone to hide in. If his squad wasn’t vigilant, they could be attacked from the shadows without warning.
The walk to the other side of the gorge was uneventful, though it was the walk back that Hostilius was far more worried about.
“AARGH! HELP ME!” came the shout of someone rather unconvincingly pretending to be in pain.
“Over there!” shouted Hostilius, pointing toward the sound. The squad rushed over, but they did so with little caution or organization. In fact, once they saw the first-tier trainee on the ground in the middle of a clearing, they all gathered around to stare while Hostilius and one of the other second-tier mages began applying first-aid to the injured trainee, ignoring the rest of their surroundings.
“What’s wrong, are you alright?!” asked the second-tier mage.
“Fuck no, I’m not! I’ve lost my arm!” the injured trainee shouted, indicating toward his clearly still attached right arm. A strip of red cloth had been tied about halfway up his bicep which was meant to indicate where the severed arm was supposed to end.
Hostilius reacted immediately and broke out a tourniquet and one of the fake healing spells they’d been training with, while the other second-tier mage ran his hands over the injured trainee’s body to check for blood.
“What the fuck are you all doing, standing there like slack-jawed idiots?!” shouted Hostilius to the rest of his squad, who were still watching this play out. “Keep an eye on our surroundings!”
Charles, Henry, and Alain moved the quickest, turning around and keeping an eye on the trees, though not without a slight reddening of their faces from embarrassment. The others followed suit, but the damage had been done, and the Senior Instructor growled with a malevolent look in his eye, “Charles, you just took an arrow to the left thigh.”
Charles simply muttered “Shit…” and fell to the ground.
“Ancestors damn it!” shouted the last second-tier trainee, who rushed to Charles’ side while pulling out bandages and a pseudo-healing spell of his own.
Fortunately, Hostilius finished tying the tourniquet on the injured trainee and finished up with a flash of light from his fake healing spell while the man attending to Charles ‘removed the arrow’, applied some bandages, and used his own healing spell, all without the squad taking any more casualties.
Neither Charles nor the injured trainee could walk, so Hostilius’ two other second-tier trainees slung both of them over their shoulders in a fireman’s carry and the squad made for the forest.
“Keep your eyes peeled!” shouted Hostilius. The other two second-tier trainees were now beside him, where before they were on the ends of the line, so now he was forced to rely more on the first-tier trainees than before.
Despite their attentiveness, just as Alain walked past a tree, Leon appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
Alain barely had time to reach for his training sword, let alone call out, before Leon’s own training sword was brought down on his shoulder. Alain fell with a shout of pain and Leon melted back into the forest.
Hostilius swore and had the squad form a circle around him while he tended to Alain. A few bandages and another healing spell later, and Alain was draped over Hostilius’ shoulders.
The squad breathed a sigh of relief when they made it back to the camp without any more casualties, and the three ‘injured’ trainees were set back on their own feet.
“You only took about fifteen minutes, not bad,” said the Senior Instructor in appreciation. “I mean, it isn’t good, either, but there’s always room for improvement. Henry, you’re the new casualty.”
Henry grimaced while the rest of the squad smiled and relaxed. The first-tier trainee they carried back gave the red cloth to Henry and went to rejoin his own squad while Henry ran back into the forest. One of the other Instructors would take charge of him.
This entire training drill wasn’t very long, with every squad accomplishing it in ten to fifteen minutes. This allowed the entire unit to go through it several times over Thursday and Friday until every trainee had treated a casualty of their own and every squad made it through the course so well that the Senior Instructor didn’t have to punish any of them by ‘injuring’ any more trainees during the exercise.
And with that, their first-aid training came to an end, and the unit couldn’t be more excited about what was coming the next week: Small Unit Tactics, and the issuing of armor!
But before that came a weekend filled with nothing but weapons training and meditation to get ready for their first real classes in combat, rather than one-on-one duels. The Instructors also planned to have the first-tier trainees undergo some grueling physical training, to help their muscles adapt to magic and facilitate their advancement to the second-tier.
The first-tier trainees hated it at first, but they saw results almost immediately when one of their strongest first-tier trainees made the jump to the second-tier late Sunday afternoon. It was an incredibly welcome encouragement to the Snow Lions, as this broke the record for the fastest promotion of a first-tier trainee in the Academy’s history, a significantly more appealing record for them to set than the last record they broke, the quickest loss of a banner.
Consequently, the trainees vowed to double down on their training and looked forward to the next week with bright eyes and smiles all around.
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