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 26th of Month of Snowflakes

Inner Courtyard, Inner Section, Cainhorn Castle, Cainshire

"Yap!!"

"Higher!"

"Yap!!"

"Faster!"

"Yap!!"

"Stronger!"

"Yap!!"

"To the right! To the heart!"

"YAWP!!!"

Clannnnng!

...

The Inner section of the Cainhorn Castle housed the Lord's Keep, a three-storied concrete house along with the huge orchards, a small altar of prayer to Goddess Mithra, the Goddess of Earth and the great courtyard. The great courtyard was more of a training ground than a courtyard with various stone pillars with cracks and chips, jutting out like ugly grey hair at an abnormal pattern and dummy target at almost every corners of the courtyard. On one side of the courtyard, there was a small smithy spewing black fog constantly and a pretty big arsenal beside, with a variety of weapons shining with cold glare.

On the courtyard, there were six people, four adult and two young boys of about 6yrs old. Two of the adults, one of them was a young adult of twenties with a lean stature and the other slightly older and a lot stouter and more humongous, of about forties sat observing a duel between one of the adults and a kid. There was another adult watching the duel from only a few paces away from the duel with folded arms and a frowning face. He always moved with the duelers to keep a certain distance from them as well as to observer it as closely as possible. The last kid, looked at the duel behind a stone pillar with a face full of awe and reverence towards the two duelers.

The adult dueler was a relatively young man, approximately in thirties, with long wavy black hair tied in a small pony tail and brown eyes sparkling with vigor. He was a bit tanned and dark, but his face was oval-triangular shaped with a broad jawline, long nose, a perfect French-cut moustache and thin lips. The man was fairly tall, at about 6½ feet and by normal standards his body was humongous. He was wearing a titanium-alloyed steel scale armor without sleeves and long brown-rugged trousers, through which his taut and strong muscles were clearly visible.

On the other side, the kid seemed to be only 6yrs old and was about half the size of the man, which is also quite humongous comparable to normal standards of his age. He too had a tanned skin like the man, though not quite that dark and looked surprisingly similar to the man. He had the same nose, brown eyes and long wavy hair, but in addition to that, he also had a bit of his baby-fat on his cheek and brown hairs instead of black.

The boy held a long wooden sword made of Hardwood and was 1.5 times the length of his torso, which is a bit smaller than a regular one, but nearly the same weight as a regular one. He also wore a similar scale armor like the man, but the height definitely didn't suit him, as the armor was dangling beyond his torso making clacking sounds constantly.

The man had a steel dagger with him, with which he parried most of the strikes of the kid. Even though being a real steel dagger, its edge was blunted so as to not damage either the kid or the wooden Greatsword. The man stood leisurely and always had a slight smile on his face, a smile of happiness and amusement and would always avoid striking at the kid at obvious openings.

The man was none other than Lord Aston, while the kid was his son, Felix and they were having a greatswordmanship training.

Young Felix, just like his father, had tremendous amounts of strengths for his age to wield the heavy Hardwood sword, but not quite enough strength to fight with ease. He would regularly step-in to launch an attack, which was generally a horizontal-slash, followed by another slash and then a thrust. The first two consecutive attacks would deplete Felix's stamina tremendously and his last thrust would go a lot sloppy, which would be immediately knocked back by Aston.

"Damn!" cursed Felix under his breath. His breathing has already turned rugged and his limbs turned wobbly. Extreme fatigue was hitting him like Warhammer's blows and sweat has already drenched his back completely.

'Why are these scale armors so damn hot!' cursed Felix in his mind.

But right then, his muscles started to twitch and like an involuntary movement, he jumped back. Not a moment too late, his father Aston had done a perfect thrust right at the place where his heart should've been, making it an insta-kill. Previously, he had always been pinned by this attack because his reaction speed was too small, but after repeated practice it has become a muscle-memory, which is exactly what he needs.

"Nice dodge, son!" remarked his father, brightly, but Felix didn't have a single ounce of strength to speak. His throat was already as parched as a dry desert. He was barely able to stand and it was all due to his strong will, which he has inherited from his dad. His limbs started to shake but even then, he didn't call a stop. His father smiled proudly at him but he was not a man to go easy on training. He flipped his dagger back, such a way that the he held the blade so that the pommel hits Felix and was about to 'pierce' Felix's shoulder to secure the victory and Felix, like a lamb for slaughter couldn't do anything other than flitch and try not to fall down due to fatigue.

"Ha!!" cried his father.

The dagger made a beautiful arc and was about to hit Felix's shoulder, when in fright Felix closed his eyes. He waited for the strike to arrive, but it never did.

Felix opened his eye slightly to see what has happened to make his father stop and was shocked to find the edge of a real blade infront of him.

His father's wrist carrying the dagger was only a few inches away from his shoulders, when it was stopped by a heavy Cavalry Sword. He looked up and found, the man who was watching the duel from a few paces away from them, holding the sword right at a critical point with his other hand behind his back. The man looked Felix with a gaze of a Gorgon, petrifying Felix and said coldly, "Fool! Hmph!"

The man withdrew his sword and sheathed it.

Bump!

"Ha... ha... ha..."

The moment the cold gaze was removed, Felix dropped to his knees and started to huff for breath as he held onto his blade for support. Even his father, who was the Lord of the region, withdrew his blade silently and didn't dare to utter a peep. The man turned around and said coldly, "Both of you have passed the assessment. Report this afternoon to start your Battle Technique training. Dismissed!!!!" saying that, the man started walking towards the smithy.

"Yes... sir..." replied Felix tiredly.

The man stopped in his tracks and glanced back at Felix, emotionlessly at first but then turned to the other kid and growled, "What about you?!!!"

The other kid jumped out from the cover of the pillar, stood straight, closed his eyes and said, banging his chest, "H-ha-yes! Yessir! Yessir! Yessir!!"

"Hmph!" the man didn't give another glance and marched off to the smithy and shut himself inside.

"Fue!" sighed Aston.

"Terrible, isn't he?" replied the other young guy sitting on the bench.

"Yep, yep. Loann has been in a bad mood for quite a few days, Julian. Don't pick on him now or else you will get one hack to your stomach."

Julian, the young guy sitting on the bench, was the official Castle Garrison Commander and Aston's best friend. Being a master of archery and longbow, he was Aston's constant companion in all of his campaigns and even though he is the Garrison Commander, the garrison is mainly commanded by his Captain, Peder Ruen. Considered as Aston's true brother, Julian lives with his timid son, Aslak, the kid hiding behind the pillar, in the Cainhorn Keep.

"Aye, aye. He certainly is, but why is it that I've to tackle him. Ha..." said the last person.

Aston waved his hand and said merrily, "No probs, no probs. He will listen to you, so just talk him out, 'kay, Torgeir.!"

"Sigh..." the man named Torgeir sighed dismally. Torgeir is the Keep's armorsmith. Originally being a Highlander from The Fractured Highlands bordering the Northern Continent and Central Continent, he has the characteristics of both the northern and central cultures. With a height of about 7feets and a waist as wide a tree trunk, his bear hug is enough to squeeze a normal soldier to death. With his steel-like palms, bulging muscles and robust arms, he can melt the strongest and toughest of steel into fabulous armors. He is the head armorsmith of the garrison troops, but due to the relative rarity of armorsmith compared to weaponsmiths, makes it immensely hard for him to supply the troops efficiently. Along with other various reasons like armors breaking, flaws, weak steel and such, makes it very hard for the Cainhorn soldiers to be sufficiently armed, but it doesn't quite make a difference with the mammoth Cainhorn Castle.

Lastly, Loann. Loann is Aston's another friend. Recruited by Aston's father and Felix's grandfather from the ranks of the Wardens, Loann is master of many weapons and is currently, the teacher of Felix and Aslak, teaching them the art of swordsmanship and virtues of Knighthood. Other than teaching Felix and Aslak, he is also the Commander of Cainhorn troops and the part-time instructor. He also lives in the Cainhorn Keep with the Dean family, but separately and more remotely, mostly in the Keep Library. With no family to speak of, Loann is a lonely man with eccentric and conservative behaviors, distinguishing from the crowds with his cold demeanor.

Aston looked at his tired son and patted his head. "Good job out there, son. You just need to increase your stamina a bit."

"Yep! Yep!" cried Julian from the side. "Unlike my son, you've got the spines, kiddo. All you need to do is run a bit and wham! Haha! Infact, why don't you use the half-blade techniques. It would be easier."

"Idiot! Loann hasn't taught them that. Say another word about it and I bet Loann would come charging at you with a zweihander."

"Ah! God dammit! I'm running."

"Do whatever you want, but don't make a mess. Both of you, go inside and take a bath and you, Julian! Julian stop climbing the walls, there's spikes beyond. Hey! Hey!!!!!"

...

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