Chapter 4:

Training and the Test

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

For the next several days, my routine consisted of morning training with Pietro, browsing through the library, and dinner preparation with Carina. Starting with the next day, Pietro no longer purposefully knocked me out, but I still had to be on guard for random surprise attacks.Bookmark here

Eryn explained that she went through the same thing during her training, as it was Pietro's style to imbed a sense of fear to keep you focused and take training seriously. At some point, I started noticing the slight pressure change that signaled the more dangerous attacks.Bookmark here

However, meeting them head-on only resulted in being blown back and tasting the dirt, so I began to dodge away by reflex, occasionally managing to redirect the attacks slightly. My hair stood up whenever one came my way as being slightly delayed in reacting led to pain great enough to drop my sword.Bookmark here

Eryn was away during the day to take care of various tasks. I guess it was typical noble stuff. She had asked me to stay home until everything was ready, questioning how exactly to treat me as a familiar. I felt like that prize you won that you aren't sure whether or not to be proud of.Bookmark here

Without Eryn around, I had to suffer the consequences of my immense skill gap with Pietro. All I could do to treat myself was to massage out the sores and bruises like my Mom had taught me. Thankfully, these injuries seemed to be light as I felt noticeably better after this make-shift treatment. I would ask Eryn for help later.Bookmark here

I spent much of my early afternoon browsing through the library for anything that would be useful to adapting to this world. The setting of this country was similar to the stereotypical RPG, with a monarchy in power and adventurers traveling around to fulfill requests through a guild. Magic tools were commonplace in this world, leading to a fairly high standard of living among the populace. I had completely overlooked how out of place things like refrigerators and hot water heaters were in this kind of setting, yet these devices existed through the power of magic amplification. These devices were embedded with a magic sequence that activated by an external supply of mana, which was usually recharged by the owner. I chuckled at the thought of how magic could so nonchalantly replace science for this world's technology.Bookmark here

Cooking with Carina had become a fun activity, despite my capabilities being limited, such as not being familiar with the ingredients or devices. I spent much of my time cutting and slicing vegetables, deboning and carving meat, and generally playing the role of Carina's sous chef. She happily rattled off recipes as I took notes and interjected with questions here and there. This invoked a sense of nostalgia as these moments overlapped with memories I had with Dad at the restaurant. I was a bit surprised at how quickly I adapted as I hadn't worked seriously like this in some time.Bookmark here

Wrapping up each night, Eryn would come to my room to offer treatment and demonstrate the basics of magic control. Feeling and drawing upon mana was actually rather straightforward, while the casting of magic relied more on visualization of a firm image to convert mana into. I got to the point where I could cast fire on the tip of my finger, but…given my low Mag stat, it ended up being no larger than a candle flame, much to my disappointment. At the very least, it was enough to operate some magic tools.Bookmark here

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And so, several days past. I was once again training with Pietro as normal. My footwork and parrying had gotten a lot better. However, the number of bruises and pain had not lessened. Pietro must have been scaling up the training to maintain a constant pressure on me. Despite this, I started gradually putting more force into my deflections and occasionally throwing an offensive strike, ignoring the fact that it was likely pointless. This continued for roughly half an hour, when…Bookmark here

CRACK! During one of my randomly placed attacks, I felt a small shockwave shoot up my arm. Shards of wood flew up in the air as the upper half of Pietro's wooden sword snapped off and clattered on the ground.Bookmark here

Pietro's eyes widened in surprise as he examined his broken sword. Then, he bent over and picked up the broken piece to look at it also.Bookmark here

"Is there something wrong?" I took a moment to relax.Bookmark here

"It's nothing. Likely fractured from extended use." Pietro was back to his normal self. "Let's end training here as I'll have to acquire a replacement."Bookmark here

Thankful for the break, I bowed and walked towards the house. Pietro rubbed his beard and followed suit moments later.Bookmark here

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During dinner prep that day, Pietro dropped in to check how I was doing. It was becoming progressively more likely that the kitchen was where my calling would be.Bookmark here

"Really. It won't be long before he won't even need me anymore." Carina gave glowing praise about me.Bookmark here

Haha. If cooking were really that simple. The knowledge that my Dad passed on to me barely scratched the surface. Carina's experience was likely not inferior given how she handled delicious meals on a daily basis. Returning to my duties, I began my normal routine of chopping the ingredients while the two continued talking.Bookmark here

"The young miss should be finishing up her arrangements soon, shouldn't she?" Carina asked Pietro.Bookmark here

"Yes…All that should be left is acquiring her badge and to register the lad under her name. For now, he can serve as support, but in terms of combat…"Bookmark here

"Well, at least we won't have to worry about her being fed properly. You know what tends to happen when she tries to cook for herself."Bookmark here

"I'd rather not have a repeat of…" Pietro's statement trailed off suddenly as he looked over at me.Bookmark here

What attracted his attention was the peculiar cutting motion. While the speed of the cuts was typical of a practiced chef, each cut followed a pattern of careful approach followed by a swift, fluid motion. A motion as if the object being cut offered no resistance at all.Bookmark here

"Ok, done! I'm going to leave the ingredients here and go set the table." I called out to them as I left the room with a tablecloth and some plates.Bookmark here

"Excuse me, dear." Pietro walked over to the chopped ingredients after I left.
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A diced mixture of carrots, onion, turnips, and thinly cut slices of pork loin were plated. Picking up a single cube of carrot, straight edges could be seen along all the cut surfaces, with no sign of jaggedness. Peering between the layers of the pork, no signs of tearing was visible between the cut layers. This level of flawlessness was certainly odd.Bookmark here

'What could this mean?' Pietro thought for a moment before he left the kitchen.Bookmark here

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After dinner, Eryn was sitting at a desk in her study looking over some papers. In one hand, a registration form had been completely filled, minus one section pertaining to one's familiar. Eryn had been hesitant to finalize this document based on the uniqueness of her summon. Summoning an Electi was bound to attract attention, but what would people think once they learned of his lack of aptitude? Would they attribute it to her being near the bottom rungs of nobility? Part of the reason she joined the Magician's Guild was to gain achievements that would bolster her family's position in this country. The other reason could be found in the stack of papers on her other side. Purchase requests, balance sheets, and progress reports of trade routes still in a neat pile. Her uncle was currently managing that line of work, but she was expected to keep up as the next successor. She sighed as a hand pushed the pile away.Bookmark here

"I should head over to Claude's room." She whispered to herself. There was a knock on the door as she stood up.Bookmark here

"Come in."Bookmark here

Pietro entered the room holding something in his hand. "Young mistress." He bowed.Bookmark here

"What brings you here, Pietro?"Bookmark here

"I came to discuss a certain matter pertaining to Sir Claude."Bookmark here

"What is your evaluation of him? Will he be ready for deployment?" Eryn asked hopefully.Bookmark here

"While he has some basics down, there's still much to be concerned about. He is light on his feet and shows promise as a defender, but the lack of offensive capability is a major demerit. Normally, I would advise against taking him along, but…"Bookmark here

Pietro sets the object he was holding on top of the desk. It was the broken wooden sword from that day's training.Bookmark here

"This happened to my sword during training. What do you make of it?"Bookmark here

Eryn looked confused. It just looked like the sword broke from a hard swing. Inspecting it closer, she then noticed that there was something odd with how it broke. Typically, a stress fracture would show signs of splitting along the wood grain. But this?Bookmark here

"You notice it too? The sword did not simply break from use. It was 'broken'." Pietro nodded in confirmation.Bookmark here

That shouldn't have been the case. Not against someone like Claude, unless…Bookmark here

"There is something that I would like to try."Bookmark here

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The next morning, I arrived at the courtyard for training as usual. However, there seemed to be something off. Pietro was holding….a giant, white radish?Bookmark here

Dumbfounded, I just stood there staring. Pietro turned towards me and got in a stance.Bookmark here

"What are you waiting for? Training begins now."Bookmark here

Without any hesitation, Pietro started attacking me with the radish. Slow to react to this situation, the radish crashed into my face, lifting me off the ground. My body traced a nice arc in the air as I land and kept rolling.Bookmark here

"Even without a sword, don't think I'll go easy on you. You are nowhere near ready to be the young mistress's partner." Pietro announced with a stern voice.Bookmark here

Surprised by the sudden shift in tone from yesterday, the only thought in my mind was to prove him otherwise. I got up and made for an attack, but Pietro easily blocked it with the radish. There was literally no difference from before when he had a sword! Thinking that this would be similar to training before, I readied myself. However, Pietro's aura in the next moment begged to differ. He had never been this serious!Bookmark here

Panic started taking over as memories of the first day resurfaced. Why now? I had no time to think about it though, as my full attention was needed to block Pietro's fierce attacks. Despite this, one would occasionally slip through my guard and knock me away.Bookmark here

"Do you really think that someone with such poor skills could become the protector of Lady Eryn Faulkner?!"Bookmark here

No matter how much I struggled, reality was unforgiving. I did not have the resolve to answer back as I eventually lost the will to get up again after falling several times.Bookmark here

"Give up on being her protector. It does not suit you."Bookmark here

Letting the wooden sword roll out of my hand, my will to continue was extinguished.Bookmark here

Somewhere in my mind, I had hoped that I was no longer just an average guy. That maybe, some kind of interesting story would follow if I reached out and tried to act out the script of a main character.Bookmark here

"Then…what should I do?!" I bit my lip in frustration. Were all my efforts a waste of time?Bookmark here

"Here." Pietro held a chef's knife above me, beckoning me to take the handle. "Your role now is to be the young mistress's chef."Bookmark here

True. That seemed to be the only thing that stood out with my current skills. I reached up and grasped the handle. Slowly getting up, I resigned myself to my new role and looked at Pietro once again.Bookmark here

"Good. This will be the final test. A chef of Lady Faulkner cannot possibly be defeated by a mere radish. Show me your determination." Pietro taunted me as he once again took up a stance and charged.Bookmark here

Not caring anymore how ridiculous this situation has become, I gripped the knife tightly. As the radish quickly approached, I muttered softly to myself as if in a trance.Bookmark here

"Sliced it is…"Bookmark here

I intercepted the radish flying towards my head and was met with great resistance. The knife slid along the shaft of the radish until it met a point where resistance dropped suddenly. Sensing this familiar feeling, I flicked my wrist, and the blade continued right through the thickness of the radish and out the back. As the radish collided with my head, the top half snapped back, having lost its support, and fell to the ground. Holding onto the remaining stump that had a perfectly flat top, Pietro hmphed and nodded in approval.Bookmark here

"You pass. I'll allow you to accompany the young mistress."Bookmark here

Looking back and forth between the knife and the bisected radish, some questions started to build in my mind. Before I had the time to dwell on them, Pietro picked up the other half and tossed both for me to catch.Bookmark here

"Take those back to the kitchen. You won't be needing my help for now, so focus your efforts there from now on."Bookmark here

I nodded and made my way back to the house.Bookmark here

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As Pietro watched Claude walk away, the memory of the previous evening came back.Bookmark here

"There is something that I would like to try. I suspect that Sir Claude's Crit stat has something to do with this irregular outcome."Bookmark here

"Are you telling me that you understand how his Crit stat works?" Eryn perked up with interest.Bookmark here

"Not entirely. Its activation appears to be by chance, but what if it weren't?"Bookmark here

"How do you intend to test that?"Bookmark here

"I noticed that Sir Claude behaves quite differently in the kitchen. His skills were sharp and precise. I believe that forcing him into that role may reveal those secrets."Bookmark here

"I hope we find out soon." Eryn bit her thumb in worry as she glanced at the calendar.Bookmark here

"I will do what I can to stall, but a decision must be made in the near future."Bookmark here

"I know, Pietro. Thank you…for allowing me to be selfish."Bookmark here

As his attention came back to the present, Pietro smiled to himself.Bookmark here

"Good job, lad. 'Tis but the first step, but I hope you will be the one to forge a new path for her."Bookmark here

Pietro's sentiments scattered in the wind for none to hear.Bookmark here

Gerry Hines
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