Chapter 17 – Fruits of Labor (Part 1)
After their mini adventure to retrieve of every sort of baked good from their local bakery at Lily’s behest, Eve and Lily returned home with Haru as he put his things away and bid them farewell for the afternoon.
After he’d turned 11 or so they’d begun letting him walk to school and back as well as to Erith’s dojo on his own. Only occasionally would someone come pick him up, and it was less out of necessity and more out of their desire to see their son and spend some extra time with him.
Soon he arrived at the dojo and entered without waiting, Erith had given him a key after he had diligently trained with no instruction that first year.
One year and all he did was swing a sword, in the exact same way trying to accomplish 1000 swings. It took him one year before he was finally able to swing that sword 1000 times, which he’d personally believed to be slow and no one had corrected him. It was only after Haru had failed to protect Lily during their attack last year that Erith had finally told Haru that a normal 11-year-old child could never swing one of the swords on the bottom rack properly, much less 10 or 100 times. Even a child with a good bloodline would struggle to accomplish such a feat as swing 500 times.
In his own words: “The only reason I formally took you on as a disciple after one year is because you did something incredible. Your swordsmanship reached the bare minimum standard to be called just that in one year. Even being able to swing a sword effectively for 1000 swings in a few hours is an extreme achievement. You have talent in the sword, never doubt that. Now stop moping like a little girl and get to practice.”
It had been the most Erith had said to him in two years all in one go shocking Haru to the core.
After his first year, Erith had gone out of his way to mention this and that occasionally as Haru practiced, never more than a sentence and never more than a few during his entire practice at the dojo per day. Hearing him speak so much had jolted Haru out of his brief depression and strengthened his resolve to practice swordsmanship and to get stronger.
Up until then, he’d thought that Erith had hated him or something since he spoke so little to him despite being his teacher. He already knew that Erith could be friendly and semi talkative when he spent time with his father or mother, but around him he was only ever solemn.
He’d even convinced himself that perhaps Erith harbored some sort of grudge due to being asked or even forced by his parents to train him in the sword.
“Haru is here!” a few children yelled.
Haru nodded at them and saw a little bit of himself in every one of the children here. 9 children had seen him practicing outside of the dojo one day, on such a day that Lily had come to pick him up with Eve. Lily told them his story, that they were commoners, that he had a weak bloodline and that to make up for it he practiced the sword. It wasn’t to embarrass him, but because Lily was proud of her brother. She saw his dedication and knew that despite her little experience, not many children could push themselves at hard as he did for seemingly such little returns. These other kids, some older and some younger were in an even worse position than him.
These were commoner kids with no bloodline, who had stopped their education after the general schooling at 10. They worked jobs doing menial tasks, not pushed too hard due to their ages and small/weak bodies. After seeing Haru train so diligently over the course of a few days, they’d decided to try and ask for help. They wanted him to teach them and Haru feeling guilty, told them the truth. “I’m sorry, I just… I don’t really know swordsmanship.”
Seeing their downcast expressions and ruddy clothes made him impulsively follow it up “But I can ask my teacher to teach you if you’d like” nearly choking on his own words the moment he said them aloud as he realized how stupid he sounded.
The man that barely taught him anything and refused to teach him anything else, would he really teach them anything at all? But after saying he would, he wouldn’t go back on his word and so with a heavy heart and even heavier feet he met with Erith and asked for them.
Much to his surprise, Erith only shrugged his shoulders in neither disagreement or agreement but Haru jumped for joy in his heart and took it as the latter and left before his teacher changed his mind.
The children were just as excited as Haru but that excitement didn’t grow or dwindle after they became “students”. They soon realized that Haru wasn’t qualified to give them instruction and that Erith the “teacher” and owner of the dojo had no intention of instructing them, even his own pupil he barely instructed, giving him a few words of encouragement or correction on the most astonishing sight. Day in and day out they watched him swing his sword, in the same way, an uncountable number of times seemingly never growing bored of the same motion.
After one whole year did Erith finally change his instruction method, nothing much changed except once a week he would give various corrections to Haru’s form. Minute changes where he would first mention them and upon seeing his student’s confusion would have him perform the motions and smack some portion of his body with a wooden sword. They were light hits accompanied by little to no pain but they shocked Haru into realizing how big of a difference these minute differences made.
Especially so after they had begun basic self-defense classes at the academy. It took one year before the students began having basic self-defense classes. Were it a normal academy or other place they would have been taught this sooner, but this was a class focused to teaching those with the most potential. Maximizing potential meant focusing on bloodline and spirit foundation building, it would be the key to the amount of growth they could have in the future.
In their first self-defense class, Haru had shocked the whole class by going undefeated in their basic sparring matches where the professor gauged the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and he did all of it with a simple downwards chop.
It was as much of a shock to his teacher and fellow students as it was to himself. What he himself didn’t understand and his teacher chose not to mention assuming he already knew, was that it was not his strength or speed that allowed him to successfully perform such a simple chop with 100% success each and every time against his opponents but rather the aura he exhibited while positioning himself to attack. It was subtle, but the teacher noticed even if none of the students had understood what had happened to them.
After that first class, Haru had gone and asked Erith how he had managed such a feat only to be answered with a “Doesn’t matter. You’re weak. I’ll tell you what you need to know when you need to know, now start your practice.”
Haru only felt a slight annoyance but remembering how much he had progressed in his limited time doing something so simple he was not so foolish as to believe that anybody could do the same with the same methods, otherwise wouldn’t everybody be ridiculously strong?
While Haru practiced in a daze Erith asked him an uncharacteristic question “What do you hope to accomplish?”
Haru was in a daze for a bit before asking in confusion “I don’t understand?”
Erith didn’t seem to mind but he asked “You practice a simple swing, hundreds of times a day. Why?”
Haru didn’t hesitate this time “I want to become strong.”
“Why?” Erith probed further.
“To protect my family!” Haru yelled.
“Then you’ll never be strong.” Erith said with unmasked disappointment.
“I don’t understand.” Haru asked, a little crestfallen at his teacher’s words. He was still a young child after all.
“On the path to attaining strength, as a swordsman or otherwise. The road only becomes more narrow along the way.”
Haru was discontent with such an answer, it took him nearly half a year to come to understand the meaning behind those words. In that half a year one of his classmates who he had defeated with one chop before had finally awakened one of his bloodline skills, with this alone he had become an untouchable to Haru, to everyone in the class.
It was then that he finally realized how unfair the world truly was, the difference between being normal and having natural talents. The stronger someone with a bloodline became, the further and further he went from what a normal person could ever reach. He himself attributed his rise in strength to his teacher and as he practiced, he realized why his teacher had called him weak. No matter how much he thought he’d progressed, he’d only won his sparring matches against untrained 11 year olds. Children much like him who were only beginning their development and unlike him, were devoting their entire time and effort into resonating with their bloodlines. Their hard work would seem like nothing, until it suddenly paid off. It was this realization that had made Haru realized how complacent he’d become since that day at the blood awakening ceremony. That relief that had first washed over him when he realized he had potential finally felt like a cold bucket of water.
Upon realizing his mistake, he realized he needed to set goals for himself, true goals and only then could he hope to become strong, to protect his family.
It wasn’t until one and half years before Haru had been “promoted” by Erith. It took this realization before Erith “changed” his training by giving Haru another sword. Although it seemed no different, at a single feel Haru recognized the change in weight. It was about 50% heavier and yet while it didn’t seem like a huge difference, to someone swinging a sword; hundreds to thousands of times a day it made a monumental difference!
However, Haru’s personality was hard working and his perseverance admirable. Even so, he didn’t complain and took things in stride. Whether it was Erith’s seemingly non-directional teaching method or the repetitive and basic (almost limited) teaching. He took it in stride because he trusted his father who trusted Erith.