༺ Combat Training Class (1) ༻
I knew it at a glance.
This is a dream.
It is a deeply engraved memory that I cannot forget.
The golden-haired girl in my memory smiled warmly at me against the backdrop of a now-vanished landscape.
It was a sun-like smile that once made me dance like a sunflower under the sunlight and made me writhe in pain every time I reminisced about it.
Ella slapped my forehead as I was lost in thought.
My younger self clenched my forehead and woke up from the trance.
“What on earth are you thinking about?”
“Nothing, huh. You were looking at those people again, weren’t you?”
Ella pointed at her inn at the foot of the ridge behind the mountain.
A mercenary group had been staying at Ella’s inn for a few days, and they were real mercenaries wearing flashy armor and swords that were hard to see in such a rural village.
The adults in the village were uneasy about having several armed mercenaries staying for days in a small rural village, but to my young self, the concerns and anxiety of the village adults were just stories of another world.
My interest was entirely focused on the mercenaries’ equipment. Real swords and armor, completely different from my wooden sword and brass helmet. If a knight from an illustrated storybook appeared before me, it would probably look like that… I just looked on with envious eyes.
Ella spoke like a girl lost in her dreams while looking at the mercenary group.
“They’re leaving for Shangria tomorrow.”
“Yes. They said they would rather find work in a safer region than a dangerous frontier if a big fight is going to happen. The reason is to make a lot of money and go to the region… I’m envious.”
Ella always missed her life back in Shangria. I had never experienced that life, so I could only imagine why she missed it so much. But I often thought how nice it would be if I could make her dream come true with my own hands.
I believed that if I tried desperately and tirelessly, I would eventually achieve that dream.
However, compared to those people wearing swords and armor, my current appearance, covered in dust, looked so pitiful. It felt like being thrown from a sweet dream into the cold reality.
That’s why I said something I would never normally say.
“If you’re so envious… Why not just follow them?”
“If you follow those people, you can go to the capital and be happy… Ouch!”
Suddenly, Ella slapped my forehead again. Having been slapped twice in a short time, I held my reddened forehead and made a sad face.
She looked at me with a stern expression, as if scolding.
“Why are you saying such weak things? It doesn’t suit you.”
“Where has the spirit gone that you promised to take me to the palace and the ball? Eon is the coolest when he pretends to be strong. So don’t ever say that again.”
Ella pouted with her arms crossed.
“Besides, those people are too ugly to be knights serving a princess. You’re much better.”
At that remark, my depressed mood disappeared in an instant.
It wasn’t because I was happy to be called handsome or cool. It was more delightful than anything else that Ella still remembered our promise and needed me.
Ella looked up at the sky and murmured quietly.
“It seems like it’s going to rain today… Should we head back?”
Although the sky was still clear without a single cloud, I nodded without hesitation.
Ella had an exceptional ability to predict the weather. Even the oldest people in the village relied on her to forecast the day’s weather, as she was more accurate than anyone else. If Ella said it would rain, it would undoubtedly rain.
That night, it did rain.
I woke up to the sound of something hitting the wooden window in the middle of the night.
At first, I thought it was the sound of rain. But it was unusually loud and dull for raindrops.
Who could it be at this time of the night?
I cautiously opened my mouth, gripping the wooden sword that I had placed in the corner of my room.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Eon.”
I hurriedly opened the window at the sound of the familiar voice. Ella was shivering in the pouring rain, soaked to the bone.
“Come in first. Quickly.”
I helped Ella through the window. Her hair and clothes were soaked from the rain. Seeing her looking like she would undoubtedly catch a cold the next day made my heart sink.
“Why were you out like this? First, let’s wake up your parents-“
“No. Don’t go.”
Ella grabbed the hem of my clothes.
Her shoulders were trembling, and her lips were blue, seemingly from the cold and fear.
“Don’t go, Eon.”
First, I had to warm her frozen body. I added more wood to the stove and covered Ella’s shoulders with a blanket. After a while, sitting together by the fire, I could feel her trembling subsiding.
Carefully observing her, I cautiously asked,
“What on earth happened?”
Ella wordlessly leaned into my arms.
I felt my breath hitch and froze in place. Not knowing what to do, my arms hung in the air as if they were broken. I thought I should push her away, but something told me I shouldn’t.
I could feel Ella’s sobbing. Her shoulders, which I thought had calmed down, were trembling again. The wet warmth seeping into my chest was probably her tears.
Faced with this unfamiliar side of Ella, my mind went blank. I wanted to stop her tears, but I had no idea what to say in this situation.
All I could do was hold her tightly in my arms, making sure her shoulders wouldn’t tremble anymore. Just like a knight protecting a princess.
As I held Ella, I thought,
Had Ella’s shoulders always been this frail?
Her small body shivered in my arms, as if it would shatter with just a little force.
I had a terrible feeling as I looked at her. A feeling that, after tonight, Ella would disappear just like this. That’s why I held her even more carefully and gently.
Even though her body had already warmed up, Ella said that.
“Will you keep holding me?”
Her tearful aquamarine eyes sparkled in the firelight, looking up at me. Her trembling gaze seemed to carry a silent message, asking me for something.
Ella closed her eyes quietly.
On impulse, I pressed my lips to hers.
Our shadows overlapped, little by little, for a very long time.
The next morning.
When I opened my eyes, Ella was gone.
My ominous premonition never seemed to be wrong.
Marian looked up at the sky full of dark clouds.
‘The weather is terrible.’
It seemed like unceasing rain would pour down at any moment. On such days, the best thing to do was to leisurely sip tea by the fireplace and watch the rain fall outside the window. Unfortunately, it was class time, and to make matters worse, it was held outdoors.
The combat training class taught by Instructor Eon.
About twenty students from each class who had applied for combat training were gathered here.
In the Opal Black class, there were three other students besides Marian.
Gwyn, Batar, and Elizabeth.
Marian was a little surprised that even the royally-raised princess had applied for combat training. In that sense, it was also funny that Marian, who was raised just as luxuriously, was participating in combat training.
“We will now begin the combat training class.”
Instructor Eon spoke in a voice even more serious than usual.
Marian furrowed her brow slightly. It was because Eon seemed to be in a much worse mood than usual.
His expression was dark and ashen, as if he had just woken up from a terrible nightmare.
Today, he felt like someone who shouldn’t be provoked.
“Combat can have various interpretations. Not only the simple methods of wielding a sword well and fighting better than others, but also defeating enemies and achieving missions. All of these can be included in combat.”
At that moment, one of the male students who had gathered snickered and spoke up.
“Instructor, it looks like it’s going to rain today. Can’t we just go inside?”
The male student wore a pure white emblem on his chest, proving that he was from the Diamond White class.
“I don’t want to have a class in the rain…”
“Let’s just kill time in the classroom.”
Another Diamond White class student chimed in.
Marian recognized the faces. Cornelius, Lucius, and Zaius – the trio that Marian secretly nicknamed the “Three Orc Brothers” due to their ugly faces and tendency to stick together in social settings.
She had heard that they had entered Philion Academy this year, and naturally, they had been assigned to the Diamond White class.
Marian and several other students frowned at their blatantly sarcastic attitude.
‘What’s wrong with them?’
She had already heard rumors that the Diamond White homeroom instructor had a heated confrontation with Instructor Eon in the staff room yesterday. Could it be that he held a grudge and instigated his students to act this way?
While it seemed unlikely that he would be that petty, considering the rumors about Instructor Akeron in the social circles, it was a plausible speculation.
Instructor Eon did not show any particular reaction to the Brothers’ blatant disruption of the class.
“Combat training is, as the name suggests, a class where you experience various situations that can occur in real battles with your body. Naturally, outdoor classes are the most rational.”
“Ugh, still, having a class on a day like this isn’t right. If I catch a cold, will you take responsibility, Instructor?”
“That’s right. We all have noble bodies, so what will you do if we get hurt during the class?”
“Isn’t it a bit inappropriate to have commoners, let alone the princess here, getting wet in the rain?”
The ‘Three Orc Brothers’ daringly invoked the name of the princess who was present in the room.
Marian saw Princess Elizabeth’s eyebrow being raised involuntarily as she was mentioned without her consent.
However, the ‘Three Orc Brothers,’ taking Elizabeth’s silence as some sort of tacit approval, foolishly continued to blabber.
Cornelius of the ‘Three Orc Brothers’ opened his mouth with a mocking tone.
“Why don’t we just go back to the classroom? Well, we can kill time by having the instructor tell us stories about his first love.”
For a moment, Marian felt as if the air had frozen.
Raindrops began to fall heavily from the darkened sky, thick with storm clouds.
“…I mentioned earlier that combat can be interpreted in various ways.”
Raindrops fell on Marian’s neck.
However, she could not be sure whether the cold sensation on her neck was due to the raindrops or the frozen air.
In the quickly changing atmosphere, the ‘Three Orc Brothers’ could not even bring themselves to sneer, their faces turning pale.
“To me, combat is about survival.”
Eon spoke calmly, his face shadowed.
“Survive against me.”
A cold, golden glint flashed in the darkness.
“That’s today’s lesson.”
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