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As soon as we entered the training ground, the instructors shot up a flare signaling the start of hardcore training. A week after the flare had been fired, the Academy proved that their training was the most hardcore out of all the Northern Country’s academies. Out of the 130 new users, 17 people— a little over 10%— were discharged for giving up. The interesting thing was that 15 of those users were Close Range Fighters.
I’ll say it again: the Northern Country was controlled by Korean users. If there was one thing that differed from other countries, then it would be that Korea required military service. It was required of all adult males, so it wasn’t rare to find a user who had served in the military before.
Perhaps, it was because the User Academy in the Northern Country was proud of its foundation that they had a militaristic system. They examine the trainees during training and provide trainees basics like food and clothing, but they controlled our lives by suppressing our freedom.
If it was just the training that was difficult, I would be able to endure it. But, the one thing that users couldn’t stand was the training regiment. The training we had to go through in the military was nothing compared to what we underwent here. Most of the users had proved their worth here only after throwing up as they couldn’t handle the training.
The special training that took place only on the weekends was the highlight of every week. Oh, days in the Hall Plain were calculated the same way as Earth. The weekend training took place on Saturday and Sunday of the seven-day week, and was the reason why new users left the academy. There was also a reason why most of the Close Range Fighters left.
That reason was that the weekend training consisted of 1 on 1 battles between users.
Of course, Spell Casters and Priests were exceptions. Spell Casters were required to gather mana, materialize it, and then shoot that mana at a target. However, in the beginning, gathering and controlling mana was difficult. On top of that, there were a lot of information they had to learn. Even if one was to train during the entire 13 weeks, it still wouldn’t be enough to learn all the basics. Priests were in the same boat, but since their specialty was in recovery and assistance they were exempt from most of the training.
If you thought that battles were just friendly tussles between users, you’re sadly mistaken. On cold days, the users are provided with weapons and are given one rule: was to hurt the other user. Of course, the users do wear protective gear on their vitals— but that was it.
Users do preparation right before each battle. The ones with reputation are often recruited as sparring partners by instructors, but they need to be prepared to take heavy blows. Because of that reason, Priests are always on stand-by.
Even so, the actual training was far worse than anyone could have imagined. No. It was beyond crazy; most of the users cursed the training and called it insane. Personally, I rated this training very highly because it was like how I had trained An Hyun’s group during the Rite of Passage.
No one knows when something nor what will happen in the Hall Plain. Once you were far enough from a city, there wasn’t a safe place anywhere. You could get caught in a trap; you could get attacked by a monster; you could encounter a Vagrant. Even though a place like this was heavily influenced by users, no one can know for sure what could happen in undeveloped lands.
Situations could arise that required a user to have good judgment and stay alert. Depending on how fast they react, they could retain their life or lose it in death. If one stands still and thinks about their own reluctance to hurt the other person, they’ll just end up frustrated. The weekend training was where users could get used to getting hurt and, at the same time, to hurting others.
If there was one thing that I was worried about, it was that I wouldn’t get hurt in combat training. As all I had to do was win every battle, it was impossible for new users to put a scratch on me.
I didn’t have any issue winning against a weak opponent, but it was a bit of a burden when fighting against a somewhat-strong opponent. One time, I balanced a match between Woo Jung-Min and I by focusing on defense. During the battle, I countered his attack, allowing me to claim victory.
Since winning was my only goal, it was only a matter of time before I gained some sort of reputation. However, since it was just among the new users, my reputation wasn’t anything amazing. It wasn’t uncommon to hear both instructors and users say stuff like, “The overall grade of this batch is pretty high, but among them Kim Soo-Hyun is especially outstanding and will certainly be useful in the future!” As such praise was within my acceptable range, I acknowledged it.
Those with outstanding ability will eventually have their stats revealed without trying to. In the beginning, I had an urge to hide my abilities no matter what— an old habit.
If this keeps up, you’ll end up doing the same things in the same situations. There’s a possibility this situation might be repeated once again.
User Kim Soo-Hyun. You cannot accomplish anything by yourself.
If I act the same way this time around, I wouldn’t be able to do anything again. What Han-Byul and Seraph had said shook my heart. This time, I don’t want to lose Yoo-Hyun and Han So-Young. This time, I want to be of help. This time, I don’t want a sad ending. This time… I wanted all of usl to experience a happy ending.
In Hall Plain, power was one’s trust in others, and could be estimated by how many trusted friends one had. Both history and my personal experience proved it. Even the strongest user in history was taken in by an alliance. Then, how much power and reputation does one need in order to gather these trusted friends?
I realized that my thoughts were different from last time. Now that I’ve entered the Hall Plain, I was willing to do whatever was necessary. As soon as I made up my mind, my actions changed.
No matter how difficult the training, I finished it without a complaint. Even if the instructors were being a bit harsh, I maintained a polite attitude. Since I aligned my attitude with my outstanding performance, I noticed that the instructors started favoring me. (For example, the user that was in charge of my dorm became my cigarette delivery boy.)
Words soon spread about Kim Soo-Hyun, and as a result my relationship with other users started improving. The number of users that wanted to be my friend or wanted to form a good relationship with me kept increasing. I made them think that I had improved by slowly taking my time.
Humans are animals that adapt to their environment. The time required may differ from person to person, but the matter of utmost importance was that they do adapt. Whether or not they adapt decides whether or not they could continue to live.
The second, third, and fourth weeks resulted in a good amount of users giving up. As time passed into the fifth, sixth, and seventh week, however, the number of users giving up decreased. No one gave up during the eighth week. Those left… were the cream of the crop.
Just because a user lasted until now didn’t mean that they were going to survive, just as because a user gave up doesn’t mean that they were doomed to die. It was hard to determine the survival rate by just the User Academy as there were so many different variables within Hall Plain. Whatever was possible, was probable here.
After one passes the Rite of Passage and advances to Hall Plain, there’s one common requirement to joining any clan in the Northern Country: graduation from the User Academy. Even in other countries, someone that graduated from the User Academy of the Northern Country will receive bonus points from the clan.
Within two years, the users that gave up (if they were still alive then) will probably regret not finishing the training and receiving those four attribute points.
All of An Hyun’s group managed to overcome the first segment— the part of the training that I was worried about. None of them, including An Sol, had given up and had completed their training so far.
I had assumed that An Hyun would become a Swordsman because of his skill handling a sword. To my surprise, he picked the lance as his main weapon. I asked for his class, and he replied with Lancer. As his basic physical ability was outstanding (excluding his mana), it was possible for him to wield any weapon with ease.
When Sol got into trouble at the vacant lot, he threw a sword and cut off the Deadman’s arm. As a result, I rated his synergy with the sword very highly. If he had chosen the same path as me, I would have helped him become a Sword Master. However, he said that he gets more excited when wielding a lance, so nothing was to be done.
Still, my curiosity prompted me to ask him as to why he chose a lance.
“Back at the Inn, I couldn’t come to my senses after being told that you were dead. To be honest, the people back there really pissed me off. I kept asking them for more details, but they avoided my question and kept saying the same nonsense over and over… the man there told me to be a swordsman, but I told him to piss off and grabbed a lance out of anger.”
An Sol, who was listening in on the conversation, quipped in and mentioned that An Hyun had said that he was going to be a Spell Caster in the beginning. She said that their Angels were surprised and even giggled. Seeing the two talk so comfortable caused me to let out a silent sigh within me.
An Sol’s decision, however, was within my expectations. Like I had guessed, she chose to become a Priest. An Hyun said that she took a while in the beginning when choosing her class, but she was faster this time than usual. As she didn’t like wielding a weapon, nor did she want to hurt others, a priest was the best option for her.
Yoo-Jung chose a dagger— the same kind of weapon she had used during the Rite of Passage. But surprisingly, this time she chose a two-handed dagger. When I asked her for her class, she replied with Mercenary.
Yoo-Jung was well-balanced, so any close-range class would put her above average. I would’ve recommended an assassin, but a mercenary was okay too since they could to wield many different weapons.
As new users’ information could be changed at any time, it wasn’t rare for them ask about each other’s attribute points and reveal their own at the academy. I gathered my members and warned them to not share details of their attribute points and other stats with neither the other users nor with the instructors.
I warned Sol three times. She didn’t know my reasoning and simply smiled. I felt like they started to treat me different after the matter with the Boss Monster.
One person had completely separated herself from the group. As my name became increasingly well-known within the academy, An Hyun, An Sol, and Yoo-Jung all carried a proud look on their faces. Even though they didn’t say anything, I knew that they didn’t think of me as a stranger anymore. All of them… except for Han-Byul.
Han-Byul kept her distance from the group. After the first training segment was over, we met up. When asked about what class she chose, she answered coldly.
“Soo Hyun just said to not tell anyone our information.”
I told her that what I wanted them to keep secret was important information, not their class. Giving away your class was something that couldn’t be avoided. On the outside, I just smirked, but on the inside, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness. Han-Byul probably felt it too, as she quietly said that she was affiliated with magic. I ended up nodding instead of verbally responding. Of course, I could’ve easily found out her class with the Third Eye, but I didn’t. I could assume her class by her stating that she was affiliated with magic.
There were many times when she missed our meetings. I understand that Spell Casters had a lot to memorize and practice, but the same goes for the other classes. Sol told me that Han-Byul said that she didn’t have the time so meet, despite the fact that we only meet for one or two hours once a week.
“Hey, don’t worry yourself over her. She’s in a different dorm from us anyways. Just let her be. To be honest…I never liked Kim Han-Byul.”
“That’s a bit harsh. But still…”
“What do you mean but still? From the rumors… you know the user that was explaining in front of everyone when we left the Inn? That male user. I heard someone mention that he and Han-Byul were talking to each other. That traitor.”
A bitter smile appeared on my face when Yoo-Jung called Han-Byul a traitor. My worried assumption was becoming the reality. The fact that she got an offer from the Golden Lion Clan wasn’t something that could be blamed on her. It’s only the eighth week and I’ve received offers from five clans. Among the list was the Golden Lion Clan.
However, Han-Byul was definitely keeping her distance from us. She joined our conversation from time to time, but she never talked except for the one time she looked at me and asked what I was going to do after graduation. I told her I was still thinking about it.
After that day, I was able to think of Han So-Young and Kim Han-Byul as two separate entities. I decided to not concern myself about her anymore. Of course, I hoped that she would stay with us, but I wasn’t going to force it if she didn’t want to. I won’t cling to those that want to leave, and those that I accept will undergo a thorough examination first. My goal was a small group; large groups didn’t appeal to me.
There’s this thing called fate. It’s when you form a relationship with a person. I never believed fate to be coincidental, but that it was something one could control. I believed in that fate. I’ve experienced immense power thanks to the bond created through that fate.
I decided to treat Kim Han-Byul as an example of fate. If we’re fated to meet, we will— but if not, I will let you go. I have the ability to form connections with people; it’s a stupid idea to hold onto a dubious relationship.
As soon as she stepped out of Han So-Young’s shadow, I was able to see things that I wasn’t able to before through my new perspective. Rather than holding onto Kim Han-Byul for her stats, it was more beneficial to my goals to sift through the users that have passed the first segment of training for more talent. Although there weren’t a lot of new users with similar skills, I’m sure that there must be someone out there.
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