Adam had just gotten off from his afternoon flute lesson with Julianne when Alfred came running over, shouting: “Adam, did you hear the news!?”
“What? No, what’s going on?”
“Madame Jeanette said Hansen could train us in the sword! Everyone that isn’t working is talking about it!”
Excitement also filled Adam: “Really!?”
Many young boys and girls aspiring to become a hero wished to learn the sword. Whenever you heard a story about some great knight slaying a dragon, it was always with a sword!
“When are we going to start?” Adam asked.
“In a few days. Apparently, a few people have been asking to join in on the training too. Hansen’s going to have us all head to our regular exercise spot, and we’ll start off from there!”
Later that night, Adam was talking to Vivienne: “Hansen’s going to start training us the sword in a few days! It’s been so long since I’ve trained with father. I wonder if I can remember everything.”
Vivienne nodded: “I’d heard. About that, though, I don’t think you should start training with the sword again.”
Adam’s heart started to plummet: ‘Is mom going to make me give it up!?’
“Adam, you are already doing flute lessons and trying to study to become a Spiritualist. I don’t think you should add this to the mix. However… before we had to leave, your father and I had talked about letting you make your own decisions. While it’s still a few years off, you’ll become an adult before we even know it… I’ll let you make your own decision about whether you want to train with the sword again, but I want you to promise me one thing; if you need to choose between doing one thing or another, do what is right, not what is fun.”
Adam gave a defeated: “Okay.”
At the same time, he thought: ‘Do what is right, not what is fun? Studying isn’t fun at all, so that’s probably what mom wants me to do… ugh. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with the training in addition to everything else and won’t be forced to choose.’
For the next few days, the boys continued their morning exercises with Hansen as normal. A few prospective trainees came around, wondering if maybe they would start the sword training early, but Hansen never spoke of the subject. Finally, the day they all had been waiting for came. There was a large turnout of around twenty people clustered behind the dormitory where the boys normally exercised. Most of those gathering were boys, with a few girls actually being in attendance. A few among them even carried some simple wooden swords made of two planks of wood that formed a cross.
Hansen appeared in front of the eager group. He calmly observed the group before saying: “You are all here to learn the sword?”
The crowd enthusiastically nodded and voiced their agreement. Hansen continued: “Before you can even hope to hold a sword, your bodies must first be thoroughly trained. Adam, Alfred, Bruno, Clyde, Derek, and Franklin; lead the others in our normal morning exercises.”
Hansen didn’t say anything else as the boys stepped forward. They hadn’t done something like this before, so it was a little awkward at first. Many of the trainees were left disappointed as they expected to go straight to the sword.
When they were finally done with their exercises, they were gasping for breath on the ground. Hansen merely nodded and said: “I’ll see you here again tomorrow.”
The next day, they did the same exercises. And the next day, and the day after that. As the days progressed, fewer and fewer trainees showed up for the morning exercises. Finally, after a week of exercises, Hansen said something new: “Those without the resolve to stick to proper training have been culled. Now the exercises will intensify to prepare you for the next phase of training.”
Hansen pushed them all to their limits. This time, Adam and the other boys were left gasping for breath with everyone else. While relaxing in the baths after the hard exercise, Adam groaned: “I thought Hansen’s exercises were already exhausting. I didn’t know he had worse ones hidden up his sleeves.”
Franklin piped up: “Yeah, I can’t believe we’ve lost almost everyone that initially wanted to join us! If I hadn’t started exercising with you guys, I probably would have quit too.”
Derek added in: “Why do you think Hansen is driving us this hard?”
“I think he’s testing us,” Adam said.
The others looked at him: “Do you know something about this?”
Adam shook his head. He wouldn’t tell them of Hansen’s past behind his back. “He said that those without the resolve were culled. If he doesn’t feel we’re good enough for it… I don’t think Hansen will teach us anything about wielding a sword.”
Even as he said that, Adam privately thought: ‘I know Hansen has his reasons but is this all really necessary? Dad was never this tough when he was training me…’
Reluctantly, the boys got out of the bath. Hansen’s intensified exercises were well and truly exhausting. As tired as they now felt, it was only the start of the day! Adam had to push himself forward. If he wanted to learn the sword under Hansen’s exacting conditions, he would still need to keep up with his flute lessons and Spiritualist studies…
After a month of the intense exercises, Adam was finally getting used to them. Despite some of the more boring subjects lulling him to sleep, he had been able to keep up with his studies during this time too. Adam met up with the other boys in the morning, as usual, but they had an extra tag along. She was the only one of the few remaining trainees that had managed to weasel her way into their little circle. They were still friends with the other trainees, but they felt something more with those in their little group. It made it hard for others to join in, but Kadara had somehow managed it.
Kadara greeted them: “Hey guys, are you ready for another day at Hansen World?”
Franklin gave Kadara a disgruntled look: “I still have no idea where you came up with that name. It sounds ridiculous!”
She just shrugged: “It just seems to fit whenever I say it.”
Hansen arrived shortly after they had. The hopes of those present began to rise as he said: “Before learning to fight with the sword, you will learn how to fight without one! Starting today, I will teach you hand-to-hand combat!”
Hansen started by guiding them through a few simple punches and kicks. Every one of them had poor form that needed to be corrected. Of them all, Adam was the worst: “Adam, your punch is too high!” “Adam, your kick was off to the left.” “Adam, your punch is too low!”
Over and over, he was corrected. If it wasn’t one thing wrong, it was another as he over- compensated for his errors. He couldn’t actually see what he was doing, so it was understandable. At the same time, though, he burned with embarrassment at constantly being called out. At least he wasn’t the only one: “Franklin, put your weight into it! Look at Kadara, she knows how to do it.”
Franklin looked over at Kadara, who seemed to be having the easiest time among them. “How are you so good at this!?” he hissed.
Bruno and Clyde attentively listened in as they weren’t doing so well either. Kadara merely flashed a bright smile and said: “All the girls here are taught how to dance. It taught us a lot about the balance and control of our bodies! The movements are different, but it’s similar in many ways to dancing!”
“That’s… not helpful at all.” Franklin said with a defeated look. Kadara couldn’t help doubling over and laughing at him before Hansen started yelling at the two of them.
After a while, they started to get the hang of the punches and kicks that they were being taught. They had hardly broken a sweat too! Secretly, they were all gleeful at the thought that maybe all the exhausting days of training were over! And then Hansen brought out small bags of sand: “Now we will tie these bags to your wrists and ankles. I expect you to maintain form!”
At first, it was rather easy. The bags weren’t more than a pound and hardly affected their punches and kicks. Slowly, though, the bags seemed to grow in weight as their arms and legs started to tire. By the end of the session, everyone was feeling a whole new kind of pain and exhaustion caused by the weights. Being theatric, Franklin huffed: “What kind of demon is he to put us through this torture!?”
Despite saying that, he showed up with everyone the next day as they continued where they left off. Unknown to them, Hansen had added a little more sand to each of the bags…
A few weeks passed and Hansen started training them on light sparring. Mostly, it was just drilling them through moves they would use on each other in a slow practiced manner. While everyone sparred… Adam stood on the side continuing to practice forms on his own. It was hard enough practicing the forms, which he was still terrible at, let alone sparring. As he was, it was impossible for him to continue the training in any meaningful way…
As Adam heard Hansen call out each set for those sparring, the frustration within him built up. Sure, if he managed to become a Spiritualist, he could probably do better concentrating on that rather than training, but he wasn’t really progressing much there either. Finally, he had enough of it. He stopped practicing the forms and picked up his walking stick before walking off in a huff.
“Adam!” Alfred called out in a worried voice. This was the first time one of them had just walked out.
At this point, the others noticed what was happening and stopped their own spars. Adam merely waived in their general direction, saying: “I’ll be back, just keep doing your own thing.”
Hansen hollered at them: “Back to work! Before you worry about others, worry about your own terrible form!”
Even as he said that, Hansen cast a glance back at Adam before continuing the drills. Adam made his way around into the dormitory. Once inside, he headed into the cafeteria and sat down. Adam didn’t even know what he wanted to do as depression washed his frustration away. He recalled the last time he had spoken with Catherine.
-“I don’t feel like I’m getting any closer to making the next step in becoming a Spiritualist.”
Catherine chuckled: “Adam, you’ve only been at this for a couple months. It’s too early for you to be complaining like this.”
“But, you said only a couple people make that step every year. Shouldn’t I be feeling different or something?”
Catherine sighed; “Yes, that’s true. However, I never said that it was the ones who started studying that year who became Spiritualists.”
“It takes more than just one year of study to become a Spiritualist. Most students average at least two years of study. Only a very rare few take less time than that. You still have a while to go before you finally take the next step.”-
Adam gave another sigh as he thought about that conversation: ‘That’s just not soon enough for me.’
Adam then heard someone sit down next to him. Helen’s voice came to him: “Why aren’t you training with the others?”
“Oh, hi Helen. I just got frustrated with everything. I can’t keep up in training with the others and I’m not getting anywhere as a Spiritualist. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Sounds like you should try to get away from everything and relax.”
“That actually sounds nice… “ Adam responded.
Helen looked at him. Even though it sounded nice, it didn’t seem he had a good idea on how to go about it as he still wore his depression heavy on his face. She said: “I’m free later this afternoon. If you want, I could take you over to the Hill Garden.”
Adam was surprised. He hadn’t thought of that before. Thinking on it, Adam liked the idea of visiting the Hill Garden: “Thanks! That place was rather calming.”
“I’ll see you later then!”
A breeze swept through the trees around them. Adam played a tune freely as he relaxed. Helen laid out in the grass nearby. It was quite nice, but Adam’s mind inevitably began to wander. He began to think of his troubles again and how powerless he currently was to change them. As his mind wandered, so too did his music. Helen piped up: “What happened? Your music turned sour or something.”
Adam put his flute down and gave a sigh: “Sorry, my mind began to wander. I was thinking of my problems I’ve been having with studying the Formation in A Spiritualist’s Path.”
“You were supposed to come here to relax, not think of your problems more! You’re defeating the whole purpose of me bringing you here.”
“We haven’t really talked about your problems with the book. Catherine knows more about that stuff better than me, but maybe you just need a fresh mind working on the problem. What exactly can’t you figure out about it?”
“Well, it’s like there’s something wrong when I recreate the song I heard. I do my best to replicate it, but something is just… off. If I can just figure out what that is, I’m sure I’ll be able to make that next step into becoming a Spiritualist.”
“Can you play the song for me?”
Helen listened to the song awhile before shrugging: “I don’t know much about music and less about being a Spiritualist. Still, I feel that what you are playing is more… constrained? Is that the word? I don’t know, but I definitely don’t like that song as much as the one you were playing earlier when trying to relax. Try to play it more like that!”
“But that’s different from the song from the book.”
Helen once again shrugged: “You said it yourself, your Path is totally different from other Spiritualists. The book just might be the problem.”
Adam blanked for a moment: “Maybe you’re right.”
Adam started out playing the song from the book as normal, but this time changed it. He tried to make it livelier and more free. After trying a few variations, Adam started to feel something change within the song. A small breeze picked up around them and then Adam suddenly felt tired. He stopped playing with an “Ugh.”
Helen glanced at him: “Are you alright, Adam?”
Adam shook his head: “I don’t know, I just suddenly felt tired.”
“… Is that good or bad? I’d heard you could get tired or develope headaches while studying the Formation inside A Spiritualist’s Path, this could be similar. I don’t know how good that is, though.”
“I don’t know, but I really feel like taking a nap.”
Adam fell from sitting on the ground onto his back, unconscious. In the deep recesses of his mind, something stirred. It was a want, a desire for that song to continue. Adam found himself dreaming of the song he had just played.