- Chapter 9 -
Making his way toward his training hall from the mess hall he could see three women sitting around a table drinking tea. The sight reminded him that they would be having guests over to help with his training.
I hope they are nice people and want to be friends. Mano thought to himself before waving towards the party and giving his salutations.
“Master I'm home!” the prospect of meeting new people washed away the fatigue of running with the weights on.
Master Kreig stood up to approach her student and properly introduce him to Tabatha and her disciple. Once Mano was close enough she stood to his side and placed her hand on his shoulder, “This here is Mano. He's socially inept but a cute and honest kid. Please treat him well.”
“N-nice to meet you all! I hope we can be friends!” Mano noticed the same predatory look coming from the older woman as the maid-aunties at home as well as a strange look from the girl to her side. It made him nervous. Causing him to stutter a little.
Master Kreig of course noticed Tabatha’s stare and pulled Mano closer to her. Tabatha who saw this didn't back down and you could almost see sparks coming from their eyes. They both caught themselves and coughed before easing up.
Tabatha stood up and took a nice bow before introducing herself, “Nice to meet you Mano. My name is Tabatha and I'm a master class healing mage. This here is Hoku. She is a new mage who I've taken on as my disciple. I hope you two will get along well!”
Tabatha motioned for Hoku to introduce herself and she stood up quickly before bowing, “My name is Hoku Stevens of the knight house Stevens in the Greenwood Kingdom. You should be honored to have me healing you from now on!” it appeared she collected herself and her confident attitude came back, looking triumphant taking a power stance with her arms on her hips, legs spread shoulder width apart, and chin slightly tilted up.
“Hey! What did i tell you about your mout-"
“So cool!” Before Tabatha could scold Hoku again for her mouth she was interrupted by and excited Mano who ran up to Hoku and started bombarding her with questions, “A knight house that's so cool! Are there any vanguards in your family? Well I guess not… they are probably swordsman. How strong is your father? I bet he's strong to be a knight! My dad is super strong! I'm gonna be a vanguard like him! How did your family like you becoming a mage? They must have been so happy right? I wonder if I could be a mage…”
The thought of a knight family sounded so cool to Mano. As a Stonewall for the most part his family mainly works in business and trade. Although he would have to deal with that a bit less as a branch member, all of that sounded so boring to Mano who was slightly brainwashed by Krieg's hellish training. The thought of knights charging into battle on their horses or fighting to defend justice brought stars into his eyes.
Hoku was visibly overwhelmed and her confident attitude left her completely as she ran to hide behind Tabatha's leg.
“Whoa there Mano slow down! You're crowding her!” Kreig quickly picked up Mano by the back of his collar. Almost like a cat picking up her young. She was inwardly blaming herself for not teaching him how to behave around new people and planned on having Tabatha help her teach him how to socialize properly in the future.
“Are you okay Hoku? Sorry about my disciple here. I'll make sure he runs five extra laps for this!” Kreig apologized to Hoku after taking a menacing look at Mano, which made all life leave his face.
“...” Hoku’s face was beet red and couldn't respond.
Tabatha clapped to break the awkward silence, “Well then! Since night is upon us and we have all had a long day how about we turn in for the night? A bath sounds great too! I heard you have a nice one.”
The word bath brought Mano’s lifeless face back to reality, “The bath here is great! Me and master bathe with each other all the time!”
“Hou~?” Tabatha had a mischievous face on as she looked at Kreig. Meanwhile you could see a slightly hateful face coming from Hoku.
“Did I say five laps? I meant eight!” Master Kreig’s embarrassed face was beet red as life left Mano’s face once again.
On the shore of the lake outside Kreig’s training hall you could see a boy running hard with a crimson haired elf right on his tail.
“Master this feels much faster than usual!” Mano nearly passed out more than a couple times while running today. The shackles burdened him a little less now than yesterday but it was almost unnoticeable. Looks like it would be a long time before her would lose all the wasted movements.
“Now that we have healers here we don't have to hold back at all in your training! So if I see you slack of even a little…” A terrifying glint could be seen coming from her eyes. It took nearly an hour to explain to Tabatha that she was innocent and bathing with Mano had no ulterior motives. She worked hard to make sure her friend wouldn't tease her about it. So she was working Mano a bit harder today as punishment.
“Au~” Mano’s daily hell training just got a bit worse.
Sitting on the side of the lake, at a table under an umbrella drinking tea, watching all this happen were the two new additions to their house Tabatha and Hoku.
“Turns out Kreig bathes with him to bond and provide a space where Mano can speak freely. She also helps his recovery along with a massage. Seems Kreig is investing quite a lot in this boy. She even uses the barbarian elixir on him. Either way you should be prepared. Apparently she trains him quite hard. This will be good chance for you to improve. A lot of our progression as healers comes from using our magic after all.”
Tabatha was explaining how their current training regimen will go in the coming days. Mages have many different methods for training but healers find themselves working right away because much of their magic is based upon piled up experiences. Healing magic is highly variable and a basic understanding of anatomy and the inner workings of the body are required to even begin training. It's hard to find many people who will be consistently injured or in need of healing so many aspiring or growing healers either find themselves in adventuring parties or working in schools like these, where many people require healing to help them through their training. Before she took another sip she also reminded, “I can't be staying here for free so I'll be working with the infirmary while we are here. Try to get along with Mano okay?”
“I know already! Jeez.” Despite her attitude Hoku was quite diligent and was progressing really well with her training. “Also I don't know if I can be friends with a boy like that.” She tried to sound convincing but her slightly red cheeks gave her away.
“I'm not sure what you mean?” Tabatha teased.
“I-I mean...Someone who goes through this kind of hellish training every day has to be messed up in the head right?” Hoku was trying to cover up her embarrassment, but she was genuinely curious.
“Hm, I wonder if that's the case? From stories I heard from Krieg, It seems like she went through a similar training herself as a girl. Like I said, she seems to be taking his training quite seriously. It seems like Mano is just a normal boy though despite all of the pain. I wouldn't worry about him becoming some sort of training maniac...hopefully.” Tabatha felt a little bad for teasing Hoku too much and reassured her.
“...That's good.” Hoku whispered in a hard to hear voice.
And like that Mano’s morning run came to an end. He collapsed out a few times but Kreig was sure to give him a nice helping of tea to keep him going.
After the normal stretching exercises came Mano’s reaction and evasion training. Today Master Krieg was a bit more strict on his stretching and flexibility. Pushing Mano's body past his normal limits. You could almost see the soul leaving Mano's mouth.
The evasion training left Mano drained and covered in bruises. Just like the stretching exercises and running, Krieg was going to run him into the ground and released even more killing intent. For some reason Mano wasn't able to reach the flow today and was almost crushed by the pressure. When he asked Master Kreig why this was she simply shrugged. Apparently she was like this as well when she was young and said he will be able to feel it when it comes to him again. Mano needed to learn how to fend for himself without the flow anyways. What if he fights any enemy that can outlast his three minute time frame in the flow? They would just beat him to a pulp after.
Finally his day of training was at its end and Mano was excited to experience healing magic for the first time.
“Go take a bath first so they don't have to put their hands on your sweaty body.” Master Kreig admonished Mano because she could tell he was going to trot over to Tabatha asking for heals.
“Yes ma’am!” Mano ran into the house to get changed. Meanwhile Tabatha and Hoku made their way over to Kreig.
“You are quite relentless in your training Kreig. Don't wear the boy out. What if he quits in the future?” Both of the mages were astonished at the level of training Mano was being put through.
“If he can't take this much he can't become a Hellsman in the future.” Kreigs face was deadly serious.
Tabatha's eyes widened in surprise. “You're training him to be a Hellsman? No wonder his training is so strenuous. Well it’s better for Hoku to get experience because of it. Hellsmen get wounded often early on.” Tabatha had been with Krieg in the field and knew just how dangerous it could get and worked very hard to make sure she had no visible scars on her body. Mano would need a lot more training to be able to hold his own in the future.
“By the way did you bring the materials for his magic test?” Krieg inquired toward Tabatha. Mano's training was intensive so he missed out on the test he was supposed to take this year. Thankfully Tabatha knows how to administer the test but she explained to Krieg that the materials required were on low supply in Roland due to more children testing this year than normal. It would take a week for the materials to come in.
“If he has the compatibility will you force him to continue his training?” Tabatha inquired.
“I’ll be with him as long as he needs me." Kreig’s serious attitude made Tabatha chuckle. Krieg was ticked off by this and quipped, “What's so funny?”
“I can only imagine the amount of men that would kill Mano knowing how much affection you give him?” Krieg was normally ice cold and this side of her was refreshing to see.
“...Let's go inside and get set up to heal Mano” Krieg was tired of being teased and started walking into the cabin with the other two following close behind.
Once Mano walked back in the cabin from the bath he saw a small mat lying on the ground with Hoku and Tabatha sitting next to it. Kreig was getting dinner ready so she was busy in the kitchen while she let the mages do their work.
“Take your top off and lie down here Mano so we can start working on fixing you up." Tabatha cheerfully called Mano over while tapping the mat with her hand.
Mano quickly made his way over to the mat to lie down, excited to see how healing magic felt. He was knocked out the last time the school healers worked on him for his ribs after duel with Charles.
“Okay so remember to focus your mana into your hands and…” While lying down Mano listened to Tabatha tutor Hoku on how to manage her mana and what she should focus on. He tried to make sense of it all but it just went over his head.
Just when his brain felt like it was going to fry listening to them talk Tabatha noticed and turned to Mano and address him, “I know you're excited but please understand that this is a training opportunity for Hoku as well. Healing magic is one of the most complex forms of magic and if performed poorly can do more harm than good.”
“Okay.” Mano felt bad for disturbing their training and lay back down immediately.
After listening to them talk for a while the time finally came for Hoku to start working on Mano.
“Please relax and breathe normally.” Hoku had a very serious face on. She slowly placed her hands on Mano's chest and closed her eyes. Her hands started to glow a faint white.
Mano could feel a strange energy began to penetrate his body. It was hard to explain, It felt like running on a hot day and drinking a cup of ice cold water. The feeling seemed to permeate from his chest and spread out toward his limbs. The feeling was very comfortable and he could feel the pain in his muscles leave his body at a rapid rate.
After a while the light faded from Hoku's hands and she sat back and breathed a sigh of relief. You could see the small sheen of sweat on her skin from the exertion. She turned to her master to ask how she performed.
“You performed well, what you need to focus on to make sure...” Tabatha began explain to Hoku what she needs to work on and It all went over Mano's head again. Not wanting to fry his brain again he stood up and examined his body. He was surprised to find the pain in his muscles gone and was very pleased with the effect of the healing.
I wonder if I can beat Charles if I continue to train this way until the competition next year? Mano thought to himself as he opened and closed his fist.
Once the Hoku was done with her instruction Mano turned to them and bowed, thanking them for the heals. Hoku stammered in reply and Tabatha laughed on the side. They were going to go clean up before dinner so Mano walked into the kitchen to help Krieg with the cooking.
Mano was learning quite well from Krieg on how to cook. She explained to Mano that a man who can't cook might as well be useless on an adventure and that cooking well can boost a parties morale as well as help people grow closer. Needless to say Krieg bought a lot of different cute aprons for Mano to wear...
And like this a week passed until the time for Mano's magic compatibility test...