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The next day Joaquín teaches me to guide the horse. He says that this way he will be able to rest from time to time during the trip. I suppose I have to stay awake longer, the poor man seems like he can fall at any moment due to fatigue.

At noon, we stopped in a village to eat, buy food and firewood for the road. During lunch, Joaquín talked to the villagers, but I stayed away, since it reminded me of the atmosphere of the tavern and it's something I don't like to remember.

We leave the village and return to the road. Joaquín spends most of the day asleep. To entertain myself I look at the landscape and learn what I can of it. There are hardly any trees in sight, except for some little forests near the villages, all the houses are built of bricks as in the town, only a few are built with logs. I don't see mountains either, I guess the human kingdom is made up of plains, hills and valleys. But it would be silly to assume it by only seeing a small part of it. I will ask him about it when he wakes up.

At dusk Joaquín wakes up.

"Did you sleep well?" I ask him.

"No, but it's better than nothing" He responds yawning.

"I have a doubt. It is the whole kingdom like this, just made up of plains, valleys and hills? We have been on the road for a long time and I did not see mountains or large forests within sight."

"Yes, however, the territories of the other races have different features."

" What kind of features?"

"The dwarf country is made up mostly of mountains of different sizes, for this reason, the dwarves developed systems to easily go up and down of them and built their homes by digging in the very rock. The elven kingdom is basically a large forest, the elves create their dwellings within it, but without damaging it, they do not cut down trees or kill animals if they can avoid it and they live mostly out in the open, or use hollow trees as a dwelling. The demon empire has a strange land, in where very few things grow, there are rivers of fire, its capital is inside a gigantic hollow mountain and the demon's houses style are similar to ours"

"Was there always peace between the races? In the village there are people of all races, but from time to time there were problems."

"No. At the beginning yes, but over time a conflict arose between the dwarves and humans against elves and demons. I will not bore you with the details of what started everything, to put it simple it was a matter of mutual envy. Both sides wanted things from the other, but without giving anything in return. After many years of war, the people were already tired of so much death, with most of the people grieving for someone on both sides, but the leaders of the races did not want to stop. Is thanks to the church of the lights that the war stopped, it emerged as a common organization between the four territories, opposing the conflict. At that time, it did not even have that name. It is due his discourse, thanks to which the war stopped. A few days before a battle, four pillars of light appeared on the horizon, this scared the armies and the battle was postponed. The church took advantage of this, saying that it was a divine sign that pointed out that the gods wanted the end of the war. This idea gained strength in the nobility and in a matter of a few years, peace was reached. More or less, 900 years have passed and nobody is clear about all the details of what happened in those times. Nevertheless, as you well said, we can't exactly call what we have now 'peace' either. Tensions always arise between the different races from time to time, but the reminder of how much we can lose from war prevents a major conflict from happening again. "

"So, the church controls the four territories, or at least it influences them, right?"

"Yes, but according to the church they only interpret the divine will and do not try to interfere with political issues... but let's leave the history and politics lessons for another day. I think we should stop for today, it is already getting dark"

"ok" I say and dismount with Joaquín.

We build a fire and eat by the light of the bonfire.

"Listen kid, I wouldn't want to mention this, since I know it may bring to your mind things that you probably don't want to remember, but I need to know. Do you have family in the capital or in some village?"

"No, my remaining relatives are my mom's. I know they're in the demon empire, but nothing else. My mom didn't talk about them at home."

"You have demon blood... That explains the eye and hair color..."

"Yes, my mom was a demon. She had cobalt hair and eyes." My face darkens when I remember her.

"Sorry...." says Joaquín.

"It's okay" I say, but my sad expression doesn't change "Could you get me a job in the capital?"

"My original intention was to take you to a friend and there you could learn his business, while you waited for your family to come looking for you… but if you don't have a family you could stay there permanently, my friend has no apprentices and he would appreciate the help."

"Yes, it's..." I start to answer, but Joaquín interrupts me.

"But that would be a waste" he says interrupting me "You sound very mature for a 13 year old child, the questions you asked earlier show that you have an active mind. Do you know how to read"

"Yes, I can read and do simple mathematical operations. My mother taught me… she said it was very important for the job"

"And she was right, for many jobs it is very important to know those things. However, I don't know how much your mother taught you. Tomorrow I will test you, if you pass I can give you a second option that you might like more than being the apprentice of a blacksmith. Now go to sleep for a few hours. Tonight, I will do the first watch. "

I lie down to sleep. This night, nightmares disturb my sleep again, but I don't get up or scream when I wake up, I just settle back down and go back to sleep.

*******

I wake up and after having breakfast, Joaquín looks at me and says "today I'm going to test you in different areas, I want you to do what I ask you to do the best you can, but don't worry if you can't handle something"

The first test is simple, run following the horse. I guess he wants to test my physical stamina. I run for about an hour until Joaquín stops and asks me to ride.

"hmm, you don't seem agitated after running so much .... well, well…"

The next tests are about reading and math. Joaquín hands me a document and asks me to read it to him. Then he asks me to add and subtract random numbers of his choice. At the end, Joaquín seems satisfied.

"For the last test we have to dismount, I want to test the strength of your arms"

He asks me to lie face down, lifting my body with my arms and flexing them several times supporting the weight of my body. When I reach 100 push-ups he asks me to stop.

"I have a question boy, how much weight can you lift, have you ever tested it?"

"About 60kg I suppose, I used to move bags of flour or potatoes of that weight in the tavern without much difficulty, I never had a way to measure the exact maximum weight I could lift… why?"

" I never saw a child of your age with that strength. It's weird that you don't look tired after 100 push-ups, but I suppose it's normal if you have that strength considering your weight, which should be around 50kg"

"I don't know how much I weigh, it never seemed important to me… but, does that mean I passed the test?"

"Yes... it would be a waste for you to end as a blacksmith apprentice, you can help the kingdom a lot if you join the militia once you end your training. I have never seen anyone with such potential..."

It suits me that Joaquín believes so… after all, I have no money or a place to stay. But the reality is that this is the maximum that I am going to reach naturally, thanks to [Accelerated Balanced Growth]

"... So, the second option I propose is to enter the military academy. You will be trained to be a soldier. How far you go in the military career is up to you. The kingdom will benefit greatly from having someone with your potential in the military, you would also have a salary with which you could eventually buy your own house. Nevertheless, your opinion is also important, what option do you prefer? "

Nice!!! I can learn to fight in the academy and when I have learned enough, I can venture into the labyrinth of the capital and investigate its origins. In addition, being part of the militia, I could help the people, so that no one else had to go through what I had to go through, after all, they are the ones who defend the kingdom.

"I like the second option, to be honest I want to challenge the labyrinths and for that the military academy can prepare me better I think. But I don't have money or a place to stay, does the academy accept anyone?" I say when I realize the problem.

"Don't worry about those things. You can live with me, and I can give you my son's clothes, I even have the combat equipment that he used to use to practice. You can use it in the academy, they provide equipment to the newbies, but it's better for you to have something of your own "

"I don't understand…you hardly know me, why are you so good to me?" I say puzzled.

"Ahh" he says rubbing his forehead with his hand "I suppose it is partly to atone for the guilt I feel for not being in time to help my son." he says with a saddened expression"But it's not just that... I like you and, in the end, we are in the same situation. We both lost all the family that we had that day."

When he finished speaking, he returned to the horse and motioned for me to ride it as well. While we ride I think that I am lucky to have met Joaquín. After all the bad things that happened that day I suppose that something good had to happen to me. My life would have been sad if I stayed in town...

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