(257) Practical exam
I queued for two hours. The middle-aged Lumberjack in front of me, I, the young man who rejoined the line behind me, and a veteran warrior-like man even further behind entered in that order.
By the way, that young man behind me was 【Apprentice Swordsman: Lv27】 whereas the veteran warrior-like man was 【Apprentice Swordsman: Lv25】 so the veteran warrior-like man’s tactic was superior. His deceptive appearance was perfect.
There were a couple of receptionists in the Mercenary Guild but we were not led to the reception area but to the training center further in.
There was a stage set up in the courtyard and there were a lot of wooden dummies about 2 meters tall. Not all the wooden dummies were made of wood, there were some made with straw and some that clearly looked metallic. Do I continue calling them wooden dummies when they are made of metal? But it was troublesome so I’ll just stick to calling all of them wooden dummies. (TL: In Japanese, that kind of target dummies are referred to as ‘wooden dummies’, even though in this case some are not made of wood.)
And a male examiner about 40 years of age — he was probably a soldier from this country and in fact, a knight with peerage given his job of Knight — was waiting there.
“Go up the stage in order and attack those dolls. The number of wooden dummies you are able to break in three minutes will be taken for reference in the decision to pass or fail you. In addition, you four will decide the order in which you will go up the stage. However, until all your members finish, the wooden dummies on the stage will not be replaced.”
We all looked at each other the same time the examiner finished his sentence.
In other words, this test was advantageous to the person who goes up the stage first. It’s obvious. There would be more targets with more intact wooden dummies and the scattered debris from the destroyed wooden dummies done by the first person would make movement on stage more difficult.
Furthermore, there were three types of wooden dummies, straw, wood, and metal so if the first person only crushes the fragile straw wooden dummies and the second person crushes the harder to break wooden dummies, then only the metal wooden dummies would be left.
Naturally, everyone would want to participate first.
“I will go first.”
It was the young man, Mr. Cut-in-line, who insisted.
“Wait, you can’t decide that on your own.”
“That’s right, I’d like to be first too.”
The middle-aged Lumberjack and veteran mercenary-like middle-aged man said at the same time. More importantly, the veteran mercenary-like middle-aged man actually said ‘I’. That was way too unexpected. (TL: The ‘I (boku)’ he used was the common more polite way, as opposed to the expected ‘I(ore)’ primarily used by rougher men.)
Nevertheless, the situation was proceeding poorly.
This test seemed to emphasize on attacks at first glance but making us choose the order seemed suspicious.
They were probably looking for the examinee’s ability to cooperate and solve problems.
“Ah, could you all hear me out for a second? Let me decide the order. In exchange, I am fine with going last.”
Everyone went silent after I said that.
That was expected. After all, everyone probably knew that the discussion would never end at that rate.
Mr. Cut-in-line said arrogantly.
“The first will be the Axe-user middle-aged man. I assume there are no problems with that?”
“Oo, so you understand me.”
Mr. Cut-in-line complained even though I thought it wouldn’t be an issue.
“Think about it, Axe-user middle-aged man’s weapon is the axe which focuses on one-hit deadly strikes. His number of moves are limited so the stage wouldn’t be that messed up even if he went up first and more importantly, even though the examiner said that the results were depending on the numbers, destroying the harder wooden dummies should lead to a better evaluation. If he can destroy either dummy with the same number of moves, it’s a given that he destroys the harder wooden dummies compared to the softer straw wooden dummies. In that case, wouldn’t it be beneficial to the two of you who wish to destroy the straw wooden dummies?”
“Mu, you’re right.”
“Sure. I don’t mind.”
Mr. Cut-in-line and Veteran-san seemed to have been persuaded by me.
Well, it was actually reasoning that was full of holes though.
Although the number of attacks possible with an axe was limited, he would still be able to destroy the wooden dummies with those few attacks so the stage would be a mess all the same and just as how the middle-aged Lumberjack would destroy the wood wooden dummies and leave the straw wooden dummies for the two swordsmen, conversely the two Apprentice Swordsmen could destroy the straw wooden dummies and leave the wood wooden dummies. The middle-aged Lumberjack could be the third to go up as well.
But that couldn’t be done because for the two swordsmen, their opponent was not the Lumberjack but each other. They both hold the same weapon, a sword — so it was natural that they would be compared.
“Second will be Mr. Cut — no, you.”
I looked at Mr. Cut-in-line and said.
Mr. Cut-in-line was elated whereas Veteran-san had a look of dissatisfaction.
But, I had a reason for that as well.
After all, I felt that it would be a hassle if I placed Mr. Cut-in-line in the third position. Them getting into a fight here would affect our evaluation.
“After all, you are a swordsman with considerable skill, right? And you have trained a substantial amount with your sword. In that case, you probably could destroy the straw wooden dummies with a single strike. If you destroy all the straw wooden dummies, he would not be able to achieve anything. I placed your position behind due to my estimate that you are a veteran Swordsman.”
” … I have no other choice if you put it that way.”
All right. I was somehow able to bluff my way through by stimulating his pride.
Well, his personality was a mirror of his appearance. Furthermore, he did not really push to be first even when we were deciding on the order. I imagined that he was a man with great pride and I was on the mark.
All right, the order has been set.
Of course, that order was the most disadvantageous to me but a come-from-behind victory was possible if I could show results under such circumstances.
We decided on the order so we immediately started the test.
Middle-aged Lumberjack swung his axe and broke the wooden dummy.
He precisely decapitated the wooden dummy with a single strike — as expected of a Lumberjack. Chopping a stationary object was the forte of a Lumberjack. In the end, he destroyed two-thirds of the wood wooden dummies.
“All right, how was that?”
The examiner didn’t say anything regarding his evaluation or anything for that matter. He urged Mr. Cut-in-line to go up the stage.
Mr. Cut-in-line manipulated his sword with quick movements but perhaps because the location of his strikes was scattered, he had a hard time destroying the straw wooden dummies. In the end, he ran out of time after he destroyed just one-third of the straw dummies.
“Tch, did they put something extra within the straw?”
Mr. Cut-in-line complained as he turned a blind eye to his lack of ability.
Then, the last to go up was Veteran-san.
Veteran-san abruptly used the Apprentice Swordsman skill Slash and destroyed a wooden dummy from a distance.
“Wha, I was the one who damaged that wooden dummy.”
Mr. Cut-in-line complained but it was his fault for not destroying it.
Then, Veteran-san moved to a location where the wooden dummies were gathered and used the Rotational Slash skill to destroy one wood wooden dummy and two straw wooden dummies at the same time. His single attacks were no big deal but the way he utilized his skill was great.
In the end, Veteran-san destroyed two-thirds of the remaining straw wooden dummies and a couple wood wooden dummies before his time ran out.
It seemed that letting Veteran-san go third actually helped him. In addition to the level difference, there was also a difference in fighting style. Mr. Cut-in-line would have fought better if he went up after watching this attempt.
Under the examiner’s prompt, I walked up to the stage.
“Sorry, I went a little overboard.”
Veteran-san apologized on the way down the stage as we passed each other.
Well, apologizing won’t help.
There were only a couple of straw wooden dummies left on the stage. There weren’t many wood wooden dummies either.
“Now then —”
I drew my sword and destroyed the remaining wood wooden dummies and straw wooden dummies one-by-one.
I destroyed all of them with a single strike but at that rate, I would be ranked below Veteran-san and above Mr. Cut-in-line. I would likely pass with that but I wanted to be certain. I at least had to show enough strength to be sent to the forefront.
So I kept my sword in its sheath.
Miri told me that I should use this skill except when I was hiding my power.
The skill that only Sword Saints are able to use — now was the time to use it!
A magic sword appeared in my hands.
A glowing white sword — I gripped that sword and split the torso of a nearby metal dummy in two.
“Examiner-san, I still have time but should I destroy all the remaining metal dummies? The metal dummies seem hard to recreate though.”
“N-no, that is sufficient. You have done enough.”
The examiner replied and forcefully terminated my test.
Mr. Cut-in-line went ‘Wha-what’s with that sword! That should be a foul!’ but the examination allowed for any kind of weapon so it wasn’t an issue and I completely ignored him.