After the week of assessment, Mune and Mura were placed in separate training groups. Mune was placed in the highest skill group, while Mura was allocated to one of the middle tier groups.
The three boys sharing sleeping quarters with the two boys placed above Mura, and ensured that this fact was made apparent at every opportunity. Whenever he was not in Mune’s company, the trio made certain that Mura’s life was miserable. Through his tormentor’s efforts, the Masters’ opinion of Mura as someone who never strayed far from trouble was never fully shaken.
Mune’s standing amongst the Masters continued to rise. His compassion to the plight of others, alongside his prodigious fighting skill, marked him as a future leader of men. Over time, he came to stand amongst the greatest of students to have passed through Himeji Castle.
Mura had grown in physical attributes and ability. With the help of extra training with Mune, he rose from the middle tier groups to amongst the highest. This drew a measure of jealousy from his three room-mates, who had plateaued in their abilities.
The two boys held fast to their friendship, looking out for each other whenever difficulties were encountered. The Masters queried why Mune associated with a well-known troublemaker. He assured them the trouble was never caused by Mura, but by small-minded peers consumed by petty jealousy.
Mune stood by his friend, though he had begun to see how the years of torment by others had mentally scarred Mura. A constant simmering of pent-up anger lay in the mind of his friend, which took little effort to bring forth.
With Spring approaching, the yearly Challenge Tournament drew near. Mune had maintained his high standing, while his friend had consistently risen through the ranks. If Mura had a good showing this year, he would finally rise into the enviable ranks that Mune had occupied for many years…