What lies beyond freedom
After a few weeks of training with clover, I knew that it would be a long time until I beat her. All of the blacksmiths in the city were busy so today was going to be my first day of training. First I would go to the stream to see clover. With any luck, she would teach me how to do whatever she did on our first day of training. After meeting with her I would go to the blacksmith to train. Plus every once in a while ill challenge my father too to measure my progress. With this and time ill be on my way to the royal guard.
I went to the river at the time she told me to find that she wasn't there. I stayed anyway to see if she would show up. When I realized that she wasn't coming I returned home to see my dad at the doorway.
“I'm heading to the town's capital today so I won't be back until tomorrow. Thankfully today is the day the gathering party joins with the hunting party. I swear they always treat it like a field trip. Especially the trainees.”
There was not a single word about where I was. He looked serious as if something major was happening. This wasn’t the first time he went to the capital but he did go every time the seasons changed and summer just ended. It wasn’t always like this though.
“You're part of the hunting party right? Then why do you need to go to the city capital so much?”
“I never mentioned it to you, did I? Before I joined the hunting party I was part of the royal guard. My job was to stand by the current king's side and be part of his guard. When I met your mother thought I retired. This was only around 13 years ago.”
“Anyway, I have to go because the king is discussing trades with neighboring paradises. I have to be there for additional security.”
“You told me that king Lot was even stronger than you. Why would he need extra security?”
“He is. The security isn’t for him though. It’s for his daughter Clover. Around 8 years ago after an annual meeting, something happened that threatened the life of princess clover and took that of Lots wife. we want to prevent it from ever happening again. She is going to be on lockdown for the next two days while the meeting happens so ill be gone until then.
Now I know why she wasn't at the stream today. For the next two days, I won't be able to see her at all. I guess this would be a good time to set up at the blacksmiths for my training With the thirsty blacksmith and his apprentice.
When I got there I heard a lot of metal clashing so I knocked on the door. No one answered. Realizing who I came to see I went for the best option. I kicked the door down and yelled.
“HEY FORGE! SPARK! IM HERE.”
Forge was a blacksmith who mainly worked on weapons for the guard, army, and hunting party. He was a friend of my dad’s so I’ve met him a few times before so we were sort of familiar. Sparks has been his apprentice for a few years now. After his dad was killed on a mission in the military. His mom died from a bite of a dillit bird. A red and green bird that’s bite could kill a grown man in just a few days. He’s been living in the orphanage with Forge being his closest family ever since. When I walked in they both turned their heads in disappointment
“What’s with the warm welcome. Shouldn’t the floor be lined with gold for my arrival?”
Spark took off his goggles and gloves and went to get some water.
“Save it for who cares enough. You just broke me and my teacher’s hearts.”
His teacher Forge did the same but went to wipe off his sweat and change his shirt.
“I met a single mother at the pub the other day with a daughter the same age as spark. We were hoping they came over as I asked.”
“So how long have you guys been waiting?” Spark stopped drinking the water and spoke with enthusiasm.
“It’s only been around 4 days or so.”
“I hope you guys know that they’re not coming.”
Forge grabbed two training swords off of the wall.
“Forget about that. Ash you and spark have something you should be doing right now. I promised your father that I would train you.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. I’ve actually never even seen you fight ash. Now im kind of excited to beat my junior into shape.”
“You’re only 2 years older than me.”
“Then im about to show you what two years can do.”
There was a yard behind the workshop so we decided to do it there. Forge gave us both a weapon and told us what was about to happen.
“Today I will have the two of you spar. Depending on the results I will know where both of you stand compared to each other. That way I will know the best way to train both of you. Begin when you’re ready.”
He sat on a log and waited on us to start. The both of us locked eyes and he dashed towards me. The way he attacked was similar to Clover. He started with a barrage trying to break my guard. They weren’t as strong as hers but they packed a lot of force behind every swing. Once I went on offense we were trading blows. That’s when I realized that his grip and defense weren’t as strong as I thought they would be. So I took a page out of clovers book while combining it with my own skills. I Threw my sword at him preparing for the opportunity that he would give me.
“Looks like I win Ash!”
He went for an overhead strike like I predicted so I did the same thing that clover did to me on our first day of training. I cuffed my hands around his sword and fell backward onto my back. After that, I pushed him with my legs and made him flip over me taking his sword in the process. I pinned him to the ground with his weapon and the match was over.
“Ash your defense was pretty well compared to someone stronger than you. Your offense was lacking however so we need to work on that. Also, the way that you turned the match around at the end surprised me. For right now all I can offer you is strength training and training on your technique.”
“I would appreciate that.”
“And spark. The way that you kept the pressure on ash through the match was above average. You couldn’t break his guard though and your loose stance may have given you greater speed but it caused you to lose the match. We can work on your transition between offense and defense. Also, remember that your sword isn’t your only weapon.”
“Alright we can take a short break then we can get to your actual training. Until then I have a few orders to complete.”
We went to the front of the shop and ate some fruit and dried meat. I noticed that spark was shaking. So I wondered if he was mad that he lost against me.
“Hey, spark are you feeling ok?”
When he turned around he was smiling like he was excited about something.
“Spark you’re creeping me out right now.”
“Sorry I just shake when im excited. I usually have to fight against master all the time and I have gotta say it gets pretty boring. It’s almost like swinging at a wall that occasionally hits you hard enough to shatter a bone.”
He doesn’t know how much that related to me when I spar with Father.
“Now that you’re here though we can have actual matches. If being in the military or the guard is as fun as this then I cant wait. I don’t even care that I lost because trust me. I won’t fall for that again.”
I was glad that he wasn’t a sore loser. Now that I have a proper sparring buddy combined with training with clover. Who knows how strong I can get! While we were eating someone came through the door.
It was a girl that looked about my age. She had long blonde hair and green eyes and seemed to be really cheerful.
“Haha. I almost forgot your real name was ruth.”
Usually, when you get a new job or are training for one their teacher gives them a new name that they go by during training or work.
“Didnt I tell you to stop calling me that!”
“I know I just didnt get used to it yet.”
“I know you’re doing it on purpose. You’re lucky you’re cute or I would’ve been set you straight.”
“Yeah well too bad that means nothing coming from you.”
The worst part was that she said it with a smile on her face. I could tell that last statement hit spark right in his manhood.
“Your know ruth it’s rude to not introduce your friends to each other.”
“Are we even friends anymore? Anyway, this is my friend and new training partner, Ash.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ash im Rhea. Wait now that I got a good look at you arent you the guy that’s always running through the village early in the morning?”
Okay, now im wondering how many people actually know about that because I was certain that no one saw me near the stream. She went to shake my hand and I saw a blue marking on the back of her hand in the shape of a rose.
“Oh, you’re wondering what the mark on my hand is for? The hunting party is about to go out again and this is my mark that im a trainee in the gathering party. Our job is to collect any useful herbs or fruits that we come across while the hunters protect us.”
“Did they even give you a nickname yet? You’re training for like 9 jobs at once. Including farming, fishing, cooking, and being a mother at the orphanage.”
“That’s not true! My name at the gathering party is rose. And I only go to the orphanage to see you. Oh yeah, that reminds me. I came here to ask if you’ve seen Remus around here. He was supposed to be here picking up a new hatchet”
“Whos Remus?” I knew that I’ve heard that name before. I just couldn’t put a face to it.
“Remember a few years ago when we went to the hunters training. Remus was Orion’s son.”
“Now I remembered. Orion is the leader of the hunting party and Remus was that kid with red hair. He knew a lot about hunting and tracking but in terms of physical strength and speed he was bottom of the class.”
“We’re going on a 4 day trip with the hunting party so he had a new hatchet made in advance.”
“I see that you’re still attached to the hip with him.”
“Yeah well with my mom being the leader of the gathering party it’s only natural that we get to know each other.”
“Rhea, what do you mean by getting the know each other?”
“Wouldnt you like to know Spark. I can tell you that we’re closer than you’ve ever been with a girl.”
If the other one didnt hurt I can tell that one did the trick.
“I can’t even see that fat ass holding a girl’s hand.”
“What was that spark? I was thinking of what knife I was going to buy so I didnt catch that last part.”
This time when she smiled it was more of a sinister smile. I could feel her malice from where I was standing so I quickly backed up behind the counter. I planned on apologizing later. Before anything could happen though Remus walked through the door.
“Hello, I came to pick up my new hatchet.”
“Oh, Remus! Rhea came to meet you here. Shouldn’t you guys be getting ready for the hunting party trip?”
“First I came to get my new hatchet from forge is her here.”
Forge came bursting through the door covered in sweat with a prideful look.
“Right here! Your hatchet is good and sharp! Don’t forget to tell your father I said hi too.”
“Well, then that takes care of that huh? Come on Ash we have training to do.”
Thankfully Remus came out of nowhere. If not for him spark would’ve turned into a memory.
After a full day of training, Spark and I could barely move. This training was more about building strength and speed so it was way harder than the usual beatings from clover. Somehow I preferred it more though. Forge brought out some water and food for us again.
“Looks like training over for today. It seems like Forge was going tougher on me since you were here. If we keep going at this rate we should be able to take down dragon hogs.”
When I took off my shirt I had bruises on my body from training with clover. When I wiped the sweat Spark was staring like something was wrong.
“Hey ash, Have you been getting into fights with someone?
“It’s just been from training. Speaking of training why are you training in the first place if you’re working as a blacksmith?”
I couldn’t tell him that I was getting my butt handed to me by a princess or I would never hear the end of it.
“It’s because being a blacksmith is my fallback option. My goal is to get into the army
“Isn’t the gates guard job is to guard the Jahi forest?
“Yeah. As it stands all of the paradise villages are positioned in the great Jahi forest. Their job is to pose as an ancient human tribe and pretend that the forest is an ancient hunting ground. So what about you? I heard from your dad that you didnt know what you wanted to do. What brought you to train?
“Someone convinced me to be part of the royal guard. So now im training to be part of it.”
“I heard it was super hard to be part of it. Not only that but a lot of people don’t want to join because they will be assigned to be trained by Adams.
“He’s princess clovers escort. Forge has told me that he’s been manipulating the king through her.”
This is my first time hearing about this. Maybe it was his idea to plant those flowers around the village.
“That doesn’t matter to me though. Either way, I want to join the royal guard.”
“It looks like you won’t have much competition. Well, you know what. Trying out for the gate guard is a year after the royal guard training. Maybe I should try with you.”
“Wouldnt forge be mad at you for trying out for the Royal guard? We will be trained by someone he doesn’t trust after all.”
“It is my future, not his. He doesn’t have to support the decision if he doesn’t want to but he can’t stop me either. Besides I want to see how far you’re willing to go to join. For as long as I met you you always looked bored like you had no interest in anything.” I wish it was because I had no interest. It was because I felt trapped. Every day I hear the same speech from my dad. Things about training for a job title and preserving paradise and its self-sustaining ways. Most of all never trust those without a fang which is the one physical feature that distinguishes us from humans. I will never even know how it feels to be harmed by a human if things stay how they are. Hopefully one day I can leave here and that all can change with me following Clover.