Mune kept a brisk pace for the run down to the fishing village. To ensure the food was prepared in time for the students waking up, he had set out an hour before the sun had begun its ascent. The trip to the village and back to the Castle took around an hour and a half when walking, but his method of using the trip as training helped lower the time.
He had woken the others in his room. They had all protested by rolling over, earning them each a slap across the back of the head. Their lack of discipline had put him behind schedule, which meant he would have to punish them by keeping a faster pace than usual. He knew that Mura would have no trouble keeping up with him, but the other three boys would struggle.
Mune and Mura entered the fishing village side by side, dropping the baskets from their backs. They looked behind, and saw the others just reaching the bottom of the hill’s path.
Mune looked at the stragglers scornfully. “If they are suffering now, I am sure having their baskets filled for the return trip will be torture.”
Mura smiled contemptuously. “That may be so, but I have no pity for them.”
“They have been at their tricks again?”
“When are they not? If they paid as much attention to their training as finding ways to tease and bully, they would be formidable.”
Mune nodded in agreement. “That is true. They show promise, but their focus is never completely there.”
Mura shrugged. “You would think that my beating them in trainings would cow them enough. All it has done is make them band together to pick a fight, so they have a numbers advantage.”
“If they seek numbers advantage, we will let them have it. When loading the baskets, we’ll sneak a few more fishes into theirs than ours.”
Mura laughed. “That is mean… but don’t let me stop you.”
The three others finally reached them. They were bent over, trying their best to get extra air into their lungs. The five walked off their exertion, heading through the small village to the seaside. The fishermen awaited them, their boats showing a healthy catch. They removed the agreed amount of fish from the nets, filling the baskets that had been brought down from the Castle.
Mune looked to the three stragglers of the group. “Since you took your time running here, especially when we were already late, you can each carry four more fish in your baskets. It will do your stamina good, which seems to be lacking.”
The trio glared angrily as he pulled six fish from his basket, placing a pair in each basket. The looks turned murderous as Mura did the same, which could have been due to the cheeky grin they received from the one they took great enjoyment in picking on.
They remounted their baskets on their backs, and began the run back up to the Castle. Mune deliberately lowered the pace, knowing that the ascent and the extra fish in their baskets would slow the three down. They would return late, which the Masters would be sure to scold them for, meaning they would be washing dishes for the morning instead of sparring.
Mura looked to Mune as they ran, both easily keeping the set pace. “Why not just leave them to arrive late? We don’t deserve punishment for their laziness.”
“That may be so, but I’m sure you would have learned something from their methods. If you are going to make things harder, you need to be subtle in it to minimise your exposure. The Masters would soon hear we arrived far ahead of them, and punish us for lack of team unity. Since punishment would be received either way…”
“I would appreciate the extra training, since the Challenge Tournament is barely a week away. This will finally be my chance to reach the top rankings.”
Mune smiled. “I’ve sparred with you enough to gauge your abilities compared to others in the top ranks. You will easily move up, as long as you don’t let your anger get the better of you.”
Mura looked to the ground. “I know. It has stopped me from reaching the top ranks the last two years. Try as I might, it is hard to contain in the heat of battle.”
“You are not alone in that, Mura, but the top ranked students are the ones who are able to keep their composure in the most trying situations. You need to find a way to do it.”
The pair ensured that the others were not too far behind them, and they all reached the Castle just as the Sun was rising. The cook was waiting for them at the back door of the kitchen.
“You are late, boys. The Masters will be sure to hear of this.”
They bowed in apology. Mune spoke up. “We apologise. The remaining winter chill slowed us.”
The cook shook his head, and dismissed them. They returned to their room, collecting some water on their way so they could wash their faces before attending breakfast.
While Mune was looking into his chest for fresh clothing, one of the boys moved over to Mura.
“You won’t always have your protector by your side. Be sure that we will not let your actions go unpunished.”
Mura looked at the others, the contempt obvious in their eyes. He smiled at the three of them.
“You are cowards, teaming up to attack one person. Wasting your time with me, instead of focusing on your training, is why I will reach the top rankings, and you will remain barely fit for village sentry duty.”
Their expressions darkened as they returned to their preparations for breakfast.
– X –