Locke slipped into bed after spending the better part of an hour answering assault after assault of questions as best he could and let his thoughts wander. The appointment ceremony making everything official would be the next day, but his thoughts were not on that. Instead, they swirled around his newfound force. What was impetus really? Sure he had heard, even read, about it on occasion, and he understood it was some kind of power, but what was it really. He had the words of his fellows and the notes on paper and parchment, but he held no personal, experiential, instinctual understanding of it. He turned his focus to the grain-sized spot inside him which he could instinctively tell was below his belly button. Wyr had simply called it a vortex of impetus, whatever exactly that was.
Any more thought he spent on it now would only be wasted, however. Better men than him had spent their entire lives pondering the question, and he had far less time than that on his hands right now. He could allay some of his questions by talking to Yoshk in the morning, he thought, so he instead turned his thoughts to Suzanne. He'd not felt her warmth for several days now. He could usually go much longer without unleashing himself on a woman, but he'd found resisting his urges far harder now that he knew he had one all to himself, just waiting to help him lighting his load.
The thought brought him back to his family. He had last heard from his parents, and they'd reassured him they were doing well. He wondered how his parents had spent the money he had sent back, if at all. In fact, he had more than a sneaking suspicion they were putting every penny they could pinch away for a dowry and wedding for him. The thought of marriage, suddenly made him giggle. He had rarely thought of it before, and back then it had been nothing but an intellectual matter, something he pondered with the kind of detachment a scholar might have considering some hypothetical. Now it had far more immediacy than he had been expecting it to have even when it had been all but proposed by his new lover.
Nobles were less fussed with marriage, but to a commoner it was a serious, once-in-a-lifetime, decision, as such it had to be as much a pragmatic consideration of pros and cons as a matter of love, if not more so the former than the latter. Locke was still young, his mind had yet to lose as much of its youthful fantasy he liked to let other think, and it now strung up image after intricate image of his possible future married life for him to consider. Suzanne was quite a decent catch. She could read and write, could brew, was literate, and her physical appearance left little to desire as well. That said, she was not... fresh, as cruder men might put it, a divorcee, and his parents were unlikely to approve of her.
His little sister suddenly appeared before him. She was the model of a perfect woman in Locke's quite objective opinion. She could do just about every household chore imaginable, and quite well at that. She had been doing just that for his parents since the day he'd departed to enlist. Now if only that nasty little taboo against siblings romances and marriages didn't exist...
His thoughts grew ever more ridiculous and fanciful as his mind slowly shut down for the night, but eventually, it faded along with the last sparks of consciousness as sleep overtook him.
Locke stepped onto the yard early the next morning. He was the only person present at the moment, besides the guard, which he quickly saw off with a curt declaration of his identity.
He wanted to test how much his newfound force had improved his strength. According to Wyr, he was currently a beginner Knecht. His impetus was still just a seed, so it could only be used to recover injuries and increase his strength. When his seed had grown to about an egg, he would be a peak-level beginner Knecht and stand a chance to advance to low rank.
Wyr had only taught him the training method for a beginner Knecht. He would only get the next level in training techniques once he had reached the peak of the beginner rank and was ready to break through.
Locke walked towards a boulder. Even with his best prior effort, he would only be able to lift it slightly off the ground for a couple short seconds before his fingers threatened to tear out of his hands and he had to drop it. He wrapped his hands around the boulder and grunted. As expected, without the use of his impetus the boulder went no higher than a couple centimetres, and thudded back into the dirt a couple seconds later.
He recalled the technique he had been taught the previous day. Wyr had shown him how to circulate the impetus he had accumulated throughout his body to strengthen his various appendage, willed his impetus into motion, and picked up the rock with a heafty heave.
"Rise!" he bellowed, and the boulder shot up to about shoulder height before Locke could bring it back to a stop.
His stomach suddenly felt very cold. The cold was rapidly spreading outwards from the depths of his bowels as his impetus drained away. He sucked up a sizeable portion of the impetus he had left and tossed the boulder aside as quickly as he could. The boulder struck ground some five metres from him and despite the mass difference between the two, he'd not budged an iota. Locke couldn't believe his eyes, he had just exerted over three times his own maximum muscle strength on the boulder.
He supposed it was unlikely his impetus was directly strengthening his muscles so much as amplifying the effect of their exertions The act of lifting a boulder well beyond his normal capabilities made his muscles scream at him furiously despite the reinforcement they'd had. The seed grew, for lack of more apt description, a stem and flowed upwards. He could feel a cool and soothing sensation along its path as it made its way to both arms. He immediately knew this was what Wyr had described: the automatic formation of a protective layer of impetus after sustaining an injury. The effect would be better if he actively circulated his impetus.
Locke gave up on the thought after he felt the impetus seed shrink once again. As Wyr had said, the accumulation of impetus relied on non-stop practice over years, and without constant practice, one would become incessantly weaker.
Locke looked around at the empty yard and sat cross-legged to practise the breathing technique. Time flew and when he opened his eyes once more, three hours had passed - it was now ten in the morning. He felt his impetus seed reverting to the size when it first condensed but it didn't seem to grow more than that.
There were four platoon jarls other than Locke in the yard. Yoshk and Wyr were there, too. Each occupied their own section as Locke did, and were practising the breathing technique. Wyr occupied the largest area in the middle of the yard.
One ought not be disturbed in the midst of cultivating impetus, lest the rate of absorption be affected, causing the practitioner to snap out mid meditation. Although he wasn't aware of the exact consequences, Locke didn't want to risk trying it out. He proceeded to train his swordsmanship using a longsword while waiting for Yoshk and Knight Wyr to end their session.
Another hour passed when and Wyr, Yoshk and two other platoon jarls completed their sessions. Yoshk saw Locke practising swordsmanship not far away and smiled. "Good brat, I see you've been here since early morning! Let's go get some grub!"
Thus Locke followed Uncle Yoshk together with the other platoon jarls out of the training ground. On the way, he was told that he and Jersson were assigned to 4th Platoon. He would be serving as the vice-jarl while Jersson was appointed platoon jarl. Admittedly, Jersson's experience and capability were greater than Locke's, so he had no complaints.
Locke asked Yoshk about impetus training the rest of the way. Yesterday, Wyr only briefly taught them the basics while leaving out the details, as was expected when dealing with an outsider like Locke. He was closest to Yoshk and only through him could he manage to learn the essence of it.
Everyone had their own take on impetus training. They were secrets not easily passed on to others. The other platoon jarls noted what they were talking about and conscientiously parted ways.
When asked why there was no progress after the session in the morning, Yoshk gave him a slap to his face. "Little kiddo, I practised impetus for over a year and only managed to develop it to the size of a soybean. You wanna gain godlike powers after only practising for a day?
Locke scratched his head and looked at Yoshk with embarrassment.
"Practising impetus requires patience and precision. You can only rely on yourself. If you practise harder, you will get stronger," Yoshk said.
"Is there no other way to quicken the rate of progress?" Locke asked.
Yoshk glanced at Locke and said, "There is. Several rare materials can be used to quicken it up. Some can even directly increase your power level, but I think you won't be that lucky to find any."
Upon hearing that, Locke felt disappointed. However, he recalled that Solon gifted him a red sea flower. Back when he went to town, he passed it to Suzanne to plant it in a pot so he had no idea how it was growing now. If it didn't grow more, he could only consume it as it was.
Upon seeing Locke's disheartened look, Yoshk comforted him.
"As we come from ordinary backgrounds, we should be grateful for the chance to even learn impetus. According to Sir Wyr, people that learn impetus can live about 20 to 30 years longer than the average person, which is already a luxury for us. We shouldn't yearn for anything unrealistic."
"Oh." Locke absentmindedly replied, his thoughts still lingering on the flower. He was still young and hadn't even begun to fathom his mortality.
"Besides training by brute force, we can also take medications. You can exchange military merit for medication required for cultivation, but it is only limited to first-class soldiers. Our army camp only has blood-stopping agents for exchange. If you want cultivation medication, you will have to head to division headquarters or military command. You'll need quite a lot of military merit for that. I know you saved some up, but how much would be left with after your promotion to platoon jarl? Moreover, the medication is hella expensive for backline forces and there are many people lining up to exchange the medication. We are not men of corps HQ, so it's basically impossible to make the exchange even if you have military merit."
"Seems like I can only work hard every day," Locke replied helplessly.
"Well, you're not alone. Don't you see Sir Wyr training every day even though he's of such high rank?" said Yoshk.
"Uncle, what is his rank now?" Locke asked, intrigued.
"Rumour has it that Sir Wyr is a high-rank Knecht..." Yoshk's eyes were filled with yearning. The high rank wasn't something either of them could dream to reach.