As soon as we entered the building, instructor Shar told us to line up in front of the targets with our bows. She then told us to start shooting as she examined us one by one. Just like before Abigail and one other student, I think his name was Raul, started creating arrows out of magic, which they fired at the targets one after one. Instructor Shar nodded approvingly when she saw this. I and the other two kept to our ordinary arrows. The red-haired guy, pretty sure he was called Oscar, could at least infuse mana into his arrows. However, he had a smug expression when he looked at me shooting regular arrows without any magic, but I ignored him to the best of my ability.
I took a deep breath and looked at the target. Putting my left foot in front of my right, I held my bow in front of me and grabbed an arrow from my quiver. I nocked it and pulled the string back till it was taut. The target was fifty meters away. With my perception now being 3.14, it felt like the distance wasn’t even half of that. I set my sights upon the target’s middle and let the arrow loose.
A low thud soon followed the sound of the arrow splitting the air. I looked closely at where it hit. It was almost on point. I took a peek at the other student’s targets. At this range, they were all hitting exactly in the middle without exception. I sighed heavily and nocked another arrow. I just had to keep enduring this. As long as I kept working hard, I’d eventually catch up.
I kept firing arrow after arrow at the target. From the side, I could hear the occasional remark from the instructor as she went from student to student.
-Good stance, but you’re too slow at drawing. Put more strength into it.
-Acceptable stance, but your magic control is too unrefined. Keep to ordinary arrows until you learn to control it better, or you’ll never progress.
-Why are you infusing mana into your arrow like that! Are you trying to make it explode? Stop wasting arrows and learn how to use your magic properly.
-Hmph. There are too many things to point out. I’ll get back to you later. Until then, practice entering a correct stance. Like this.
Suffice it to say; she was harsh. Not even Abigail, who was easily the most skilled of us, escaped her criticism. When she finally came to watch me practice, she said nothing at first. I could feel her watching me from the side, but I didn’t stop shooting at the target. After observing me for a while, she finally spoke.
“Why are you an archer?”
That short sentence made me freeze.
“Don’t make me repeat myself.” Her voice was ice cold. “Why are you an archer? Your skills are terrible. Your stance is full of holes, your draw is weak, and you’re barely hitting the target at only fifty meters distance. Why would someone like you choose the bow?”
I turned slowly and looked at her. She was standing with her arms crossed and staring at me intently. I started sweating when I saw those blue, cold eyes judge me. The other students had also stopped practicing and was looking at me.
I swallowed my saliva. I’d seen monsters that felt like little puppies compared to her. But I’d also seen monsters that were much, much worse than her. I could handle this. I was afraid something like this would come up, so I’d already prepared an answer.
“Because I didn’t have much choice.”
She didn’t blink as she kept staring at me. “Why?”
I had to bend the truth a little, but it was a necessary evil. “I recently had a late Awakening, and it had to do with bows.”
Awakening. Most people who have a Talent get it sometime before they’re six. The moment they get their Talent is called an Awakening. But I’d read about cases of people having their Awakenings at later ages. That is a late Awakening. Those with late Awakenings are mostly the people who are lucky enough to gain two Talents. It’s uncommon, but it can happen. And it just so happens that a late Awakening is the perfect excuse for my poor archery skills.
Instructor Shar had dropped her arms now and was staring at me even more intently than before. Now it truly felt like she was looking straight through me.
“You’re saying that you have a specialized Talent?”
Specialized Talent? I hadn’t heard that term before. “With specialized Talent, you mean—”
“Is your Talent specifically related to archery?” She cut me off.
“Oh. Then, yeah.”
“What does it do?”
I hesitated for a second at her question. “That’s a bit… I’d rather not say.”
She kept staring at me for a while before she walked up to me and grabbed my bow. “If I find out that you’re lying to me, you’ll regret it. Understood?”
I nodded my head firmly. “Understood.”
She took a stance with the bow and nocked one of my arrows, before firing it at the target. I didn’t even hear any sound. One second the arrow was in her hand; the next, there was a large gaping hole in the middle of the target. She then pushed the bow back to me. “That’s how you shoot. I’m expecting some results to prove your claims soon. Now, take a stance.”
Both I and all of the other students that were nearby looked at the target with our jaws dropped. I then looked back at her, and forcibly cleared my mind. “Yes, instructor!” I called and took a stance.
“Move your foot further back and keep your arm straight! And why are you leaning backward!”
She quickly got to work with criticizing me and kept on doing that for the rest of the evening.
When we finally finished for the day, and the instructor had said her goodbyes, I was heading back towards my dorm when I heard somebody calling from behind.
I looked back and saw a large guy with short, frizzy dark hair and burly muscles running towards me. It was one of the other archery students, Raul. I think he was Brazilian, or maybe Portuguese. He caught up with me with a friendly smile on his face.
“Your name is Kim, right?” He put forth his hand. “I’m Raul Passos Menezes.”
I took his hand. He had a strong grip. But that’s about what you’d expect from the students at this academy. “Kim Hooper,” I said as I shook his hand.
He pointed in the direction I was walking. “You heading to the dorms?”
“So am I. Mind if I tag along?”
I looked at him and his smiling face before I shook my head and started walking again. “No, I don’t mind. Besides, it’s your dorm too.”
He laughed at my statement and started walking beside me. I glanced at him from the side and saw that he was looking at me intently. “What?” I asked him.
“Is it true that you had a late Awakening and got a specialized Talent?”
I kept walking as I answered. “Yeah, I guess so. But is it really something that special?”
“Are you kidding me?! A specialized Talent essentially guarantees great synergy with a weapon! Almost all the people with specialized Talents have gone on to master their respective weapon.”
I shot Raul a surprised look. “Really? I didn’t know it was something that special.”
“Wow. Talk about lucky.”
“That I am.”
“But you had a late Awakening too, right? Was that your first Awakening, or do you actually have two Talents?”
I stopped walking and stared at him with my eyebrows raised.
He scratched the back of his neck slowly. “Aah, sorry. That was rude of me, just asking about your Talents like that.”
“Yep. Kinda” I’d learned quickly in this world that being quiet about your Talents was considered the norm. Even though all of humanity faced the same threat, there was still a lot of competitiveness amongst heroes and guilds for the resources that came from the monsters and instances. Keeping quiet about your Talent was just good business sense. “You wouldn’t like me asking about your Talent, would you?” I questioned and started walking again.
He chuckled lightly. “Actually, I don’t really mind telling you. My Talent lets me convert some of my magic force into brute strength for short durations. It can be pretty powerful at times.”
I shook my head at what he said. “While I appreciate you being such an open-minded guy, I’m still not telling you…”
“Ahaha, that’s fine.” He said as he caught up to me once again. “Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t happen to be good at studying, would you? You see, this girl from our class invited me to this study group and…” and like that, the rest of the short walk to the dorm continued.