Chapter 55: Training Hall
Waking up in the bed that had became hers a few months ago, Nisha was excited beyond reason, to the point that it was impressive that she had managed to fall asleep last night.
The day before, she had visited the Guild, joined it, had her guild card issued, and had managed to convince the Guild to let her challenge one of the instructors.
Aubrey had disproved at first, like Berti who didn’t understand why she would insist on fighting someone after obtaining a level E examination.
After all, most people at the second and third rank in either aura or mana were in the level E, in the same way that people without any cultivation and at the first rank were placed in the F category, also called the ‘Beginner’s Grade’.
To enter level D, Nisha would have to beat at the very least a veteran instructor at the fourth rank, making the battle appear pointless.
Of course Nisha wasn’t quite as convinced of her failure as her new acquaintances; she knew she would always set her sight higher, and backed by her second rank strength she could allow herself to be a bit optimistic.
In the hunting grounds, she would have undoubtedly won, provided that hunting skills were tested, but such a thing was not conceivable in [Thurgau].
In the end she wasn’t really lying when she told the counter girl and her chief – who eventually gave in – that she just wanted to test herself.
The elven girl had been asked to come back the next day so that she could prepare herself, the guild employees had had no idea that Nisha had stored all her belongings in her [Soul Space], and she wasn’t going to reveal a trump card like that in front of strangers, especially after having been warned by her grandfather Eldrin.
Grandpa was always grumbling when I tore my clothing while hunting and fighting with monsters, so I’m sure he’d be against the challenge, too.
Sorry, grandpa, it’s a different matter this time.
It was dark outside, the sun had not yet risen to greet the world with its warmth and light, but the dragon was unable to sleep any longer, even though it was not the time for her to go to the guild at all.
Without a purpose in mind and a lot of time in her hands, she started thinking of the equipment she would use.
Ara, what do I take with me.
Standing in her space and looking at the heaps of weapons laying in the grass, spread in a wide half circle, Nisha was having a hard time choosing one.
Outfit is easy, my hunting gear should be sufficient and it won’t attract any attention where I go.
The elvish girl had not encountered any trouble the previous day when she had gone back to the noble district, she only had had to pull out her ring – aware this time of the impact it would have -, and she had been allowed to cross the checkpoint.
Constantly pulling it out of her space and putting it back in was tedious, so Nisha had decided to wear the necklace with the ring around her neck. To counter the depressing feeling she had whenever a guard was flinching upon seeing the ring, she had asked Galan for a small pocket in which she placed the green bird feather she had been gifted in the forest when she was blind, and threaded it next to the jewel.
There was still the weapon problem.
Usually Nisha liked to wield the [Taurith Short Swords], they were sharp, light and perfectly fitted for her small hands.
However they also had a unique appearance as the blades had a peculiar blue sheen, and even the country girl had enough common sense to know that such precious weapons were not something an average adventurer could have access to.
Some weapons around her were too large for her youthful frame or had an exotic shape. There were several items in which she couldn’t distinguish the blade from the handle.
Ultimately she narrowed her choice to a few daggers, and picked two among those simple blades, one the length of her forearm and the other only half of it.
Fashioned out of a material looking like iron – although Nisha had no idea what it was called -, the weapons were less shiny and much sturdier than regular iron, the blades had only one edge, small rifts running along their blunt edge.
Satisfied, Nisha exited her [Soul Space], strapping to her waist the two items she had selected, her smooth leather hunting outfit providing many lashes and buckles on which one could fasten equipment.
Braiding her hair – wet from the quick shower she had taken in the bath adjacent to her bedroom -, lest it could hinder her sight and mobility, Nisha felt ready to take on anyone the Guild would present to her.
Slipping out of the mansion before waking up anyone, she only shortly stopped in the kitchen to swipe a pair of sweet bread that had been meant for breakfast.
Cynthia, Galan’s wife, would certainly give her an earful when she’d notice that the elvish girl had pilfered her kingdom again – only to slip her a piece of candy when the employees wouldn’t be looking.
To avoid getting noticed by the lookout guarding the gate, one of soldiers employed in the Dharnas’ personal force, Nisha agilely scaled the estate’s wall, confident in her ability to evade the guard’s drowsy eyes; opening the gate at this hour was bound to draw attention and everyone would know she had gone out.
Most thieves would have found it hard to find a foothold on the stone wall’s sleek surface, but Nisha had no such concerns, she had grown up in the forest where she was running everywhere and sneaking into the most absurd places, climbing a little fence was child’s play.
Few people were on the streets, a peaceful silence had taken ahold of the clean noble district. Here and there young couples could be seen sneaking out of houses, merchants were heading towards their stores to open up.
All in all, she quickly reached the gate where she had frightened a soldier the other day, this time more prepared.
The gateway was locked, a team of three guards was waiting in front of the door, their breath forming small clouds of vapor in the cold morning air.
Before they had a chance to ask her anything, Nisha was already presenting them the ring, her face kept neutral.
Since neither side attempted to make conversation, the squad leader just bowed slightly and opened the smaller portal for her, letting her through.
The two teams on the other side knew better than to stare at someone for whom the gates had open earlier than usual, they only made sure to remember her before resuming their duties.
I wonder what I have to do for them not to fear me. Maybe I should start wearing a silly hat.
Knowing that people were judging her based on her social status was leaving a bad taste in the dragon’s mouth, but she was unable to do anything about it.
Nisha reached the guild without any incidents, blending much more in the crowd now that she was wearing her leather armor, two sheathes hanging at her hips.
The younger individuals she could spot within that mass of people were not that much older than her but they were nonetheless completing missions. There were groups of adventurers everywhere; Nisha guessed that they had accepted quests as soon as the Guild had opened and that they were now moving to carry them out.
Taking the same door as yesterday, the elvish girl found Aubrey at her counter, just as the woman noticed her as well.
“Nisha! A good morning to you. Just give me a moment.
Veronika, would you mind taking over for me for a bit? Sandro isn’t here yet and I promised Nisha yesterday that I would show her the training area, she just signed up.”
After sticking her head through one door Nisha hadn’t entered, Aubrey pushed the counter’s exit and stepped next to the little dragon although they had yet to hear a response.
A redhead girl soon emerged, her expression somewhat dozy as she yawned.
“Sure, just let me … do it … yes, whatever.”
Settling down heavily on the seat Aubrey had left, the new girl rested her head on the desk and closed her eyes, looking asleep.
“Really, Veronika, you shouldn’t go out to drink late in the night when you know you have an early shift the next morning.
How long were you out anyway?”
Mumbling, her face sticking to the cool wood, Veronika explained.
“It wasn’t that long … Benjamin and his team returned from the dungeon yesterday and invited me to celebrate their profits with them.
I don’t know when I fell asleep though …”
“There you have it! Stop agreeing everytime, they just want to get you drunk.”
Laughing at her coworker’s hangover, Aubrey quickly left with Nisha with whom she had an appointment before the conversation could slip towards adult topics.
Behind the place where the adventurers were clashing the previous day, the elvish girl could now see that she had failed to notice a big gate in the wooden back wall, as it was currently wide open.
That door was leading to an indoor court, one half located under the Guild building’s roof, in some kind of covered hall, and the other half stretching into a green yard.
Wooden poles wrapped in braided straw were erected along the stone walls, bearing the scars inflicted by various weapons. Some adventurers were there, swinging their weapons over and over again on the targets.
“This is the training hall. If you want to try a new technique or train quietly, this is the place to go. The scarecrows are enchanted to withstand even the strongest blows, so feel free to go all out on them.
Whoever manages to break one gets a free beer from Sunno, the head of the training hall.
Let’s go and ask him if one of the battle stages is free.”
As they were heading towards the inner circles, a mountain of a man appeared in front of them, instructing two young boys who were drinking his words.
When the mass of muscles finished his speech, both of them nodded and went back to a battle stage outlined by a chalk circle drawn on the ground. Raising their swords at each other, they began to spar.
“Sunno! Over here!”
Calling out to the place’s master, Aubrey raised her hand to wave at him.
Turning around and spotting them, the burly man returned the greeting with a nod and wiped away a water bead on his forehead, sweating despite the cold morning air.
Wearing nothing but a pair of leather trousers, he should have been shivering, but Nisha couldn’t tell as she had no experience with the cold thanks to her flame.
“Brey, what a surprise. What brings you to my little kingdom?”
Despite his bulky appearance, his phrasing was clear and refined, only a slight hint of an accent could be heard in his voice.
“Don’t be like that, it hasn’t been that long since you drove me to run around the field, telling me that with my sluggish speed even an unranked monster would have no trouble chewing me and spitting out my bones! And I still come to train every week, no?
Anyway, today I’m here to introduce you to one of our newest members, Nisha. She wants to see how the adventurer life is like and improve her own strength, do you happen to have an opponent around the third-fourth rank waiting for a match?
I know it’s still quite early, so we can wait for the instructors to show up, this was originally supposed to be a challenge…”
Nisha was attentively observing the one called Sunno. His appearance was definitely different from that of the average city dweller, and his behaviour was so refined that she suspected his education to rival hers.
I wonder … I feel like I should know something about him. His skin has many markings, were they called tattoos?
And most importantly, she knew a sure fact about the ripped man. He was putting on an act, pretending to belong here.
“So, the popular counter girl is bringing me another recruit. Let me introduce myself then.
My name is Sunno, and the training hall is my home. Whenever you need assistance with a training manual or want to be instructed in the art of weapons, this is the place you should come.
I think that, with the exception of a few exotic weapons, we have instructors capable of teaching each of them.
I myself am proficient in axe wielding, I’m quite good with swords and at throwing axes. Also passable with the bow, but we got better teachers for that.
Nice to meet you, Nisha. Who do you want to fight?”
Extending his hand to shake hers, Sunno did his best to make a good impression on the little elf.
Nisha finally realized how the man could be familiar. His choice of weaponry had given it away.
“You were a hunter, right? Are you from the [Everfrost Tundras]?”
Smiling wrily, the large man didn’t deny it.
“Only a few people have guessed my place of birth. It’s my accent?”
“No, I haven’t met anyone from the [Everfrost Tundras] before. But my grandpa told me stories about the south, he travelled in that region and came to deeply admire the barbarians roaming the flatlands, hunting in small packs.
You have the aura of a hunter, I can recognize it.”
Nisha felt that everything that needed to be conveyed had been said and stopped talking.
“Brey, you brought a dangerous girl with you.
You know when you see a hunter because you’re one yourself, right, Nisha? We probably have a lot to learn from each other, but you’re not here for that today.
Truthfully, I’d love to watch how you fare against one of my students, but there are none there today.
I’d be surprised if any of the instructors show up before noon, we have no evaluation fights scheduled for the day; there was a big party at the Guild yesterday because an expedition returned from the dungeon.
Just take a look at the training hall with Brey, she should be able to show you around and explain how most of the stuff we have here works.
If I find someone who can spar with you, I’ll send him over.
MARK! Raise up that sword, or I’ll have you taste the dust!”
The girls flinched at his loud shout, but the exclamation wasn’t addressed to either of them.
In the ring behind them, one of the boys hastily took his sword again, resuming his practice instead of eavesdropping on his teacher’s conversation, looking at Aubrey with lovestruck eyes.
“And to think that Mark is the best swordsman of the batch… but don’t let him hear that, his head would grow so big that he wouldn’t train anymore.
Anyway, feel free to do whatever you want here, I need to beat some sense into the boys before they mess up even more.”
He left, the two girls chuckling behind him, and stepped into the white chalk ring.