The morning was... eventful.
Despite some heavy drinking, and like many other things, which kept quite a number of our group awake into the early morning, we were roused from our rooms at the crack of dawn, and brought down to a training field.
Then, without any context or explanation: we were made to swing swords.
That was that. Draw our weapons, and swing.
There was no practicing with wooden weapons, or with dummies, or anything of that sort. We were told to draw our weapons, and swing them to match the instructor in the courtyard with us. By the end of the hour, five of us were taken away by that same instructor for further training, while the rest of us were brought over to several targets and handed bows.
The process repeated: arms already tired from swinging a sword, we were made to shoot at the targets for another hour, while somewhere behind us the lucky selected for swords were made to... continue swinging their swords.
Maybe, we were the lucky ones, after all. My fingers felt like they were close to bleeding by the end of it, either way. As was my forearm, from catching the string.
The message flashed past my eyes, right at the very end of the next hour.
It was a good feeling, and provided at least a little bit of an explanation for whatever we happened to be doing. Still, despite the fact that I felt I'd improved somewhat by the end of the hour, I was moved on with all the rest, yet again.
This third time, to swing staffs.
By this point, of course, people were starting to complain.
"Maybe we want to take a breather?" Paul replied, tone more than a little grating, as he stared back at the staff instructor. "We've been at it all morning. It's not like many of us were soldiers- and most of them were already picked." He pointed towards the five who'd been selected for the sword. "This is new for most of us."
"Do as you're instructed." The man staring at Paul didn't budge in the slightest. "If you do, you will progress."
"What if I don't?" Paul frowned.
"That's your choice, then." The man replied.
The way he said it, though... despite Paul, and several others, walking off to the side of the courtyard to rest, I continued to swing the staff. Sure, my hands felt like the blister would probably be unpleasant, but I could read between the lines. What the instructor had said was not a threat, but a warning.
The people training us, here, were not like the King. When they looked at us, it was a strict look, but never one I felt was of ill-intentions. It simply... was. Like they had done this with many people, many times: training them for battle.
By the second time I got a message
The staff seemed a little more... nimble. That was the word: it felt nimble in my hands. The rest of the day was spent with the weapon, following the same forms until lunch, then again until dinner. I received one more message, for strength. Then, I was allowed to return to my room. My clothes were taken away, new, clean ones, were provided.
As I lay down to rest, I felt this was at least something potentially good for us, as a whole.
But, it was strange.
Why was I going along with this?
"Because it's the chance of a lifetime!" The memory of Paul's voice practically shouted in my ears. "This is it!"
No. That was just the thing.
It wasn't. At least, it wasn't my reason. Maybe it was Paul's reason, or many of the others who had been dropped here to play hero, but I knew that wasn't quite right.
The King's voice still hummed, in the back of my mind. That man, up on the throne... he'd done something. What had been said in that throne room wasn't just words, and that was something I didn't quite understand. The King hadn't used brainwashing, but it felt similar.
There I was, objectively considering this, and I still couldn't understand.
What I did understand, was that- while I was going along with things, I recognized I was still uncomfortable. In a lot of ways, a part of me I almost wanted to walk out the palace gates. That same part of me wanted to tell them: no "I'd rather not do any of this" but...
Where would I go?
How would I make money, or find food- or work? I didn't have a skill set for life in a fantasy world, did I? It wasn't as though they'd made it easy for me to learn anything they didn't specifically hand in my direction. What, with carting us to specific places, and providing taciturn instructors and Knights as chaperones.
Even still, I knew those reasons were superficial.
Why wasn't I angry about all of this? I'd been kidnapped and told to fight for people I'd never met, but because they were calling me a hero, and providing me magical abilities- it was a fair deal?
Some people had clearly made their minds up, believing just that, but was it really?
Wasting my last waking hours trying in vain to level the [Identify] skill again, I decided that I was undecided. Not particularly helpful, but at least I'd come to terms with it. Perhaps, it was good that I wasn't hadn't shown immediate talent, I thought. Unlike the bow or the sword, the remainder of our had been allowed to slack off if they wanted. I had continued to follow instruction, but there seemed to be far less pressure on those who decided not to. Especially, when compared to what I'd watched the selected groups go through.
Swinging a weapon around pointlessly for long enough, and suddenly it wasn't so pointless anymore. The increase in stats actually did something, I was sure of it, and If they were going to put us through a few weeks of this, maybe the training would build on itself until our stats had increased enough to make a significant difference. Who even knew what the limits were for such a power?
Of course, little did I know then, but we didn't have a few weeks.
They gave us one, and it wasn't nearly enough.