Barrett tried some of the nearby places recruiting warriors. At the first two, he was immediately rejected with a glance. Another three he waited in a long line of people before that rejection happened almost arbitrarily. It was finally at the sixth place that he actually got a chance. The large man there was very polite… and did his best to hide his doubt that Barrett could pass the test of strength they had.
There were a few options- he could lift a rock… perhaps almost a boulder, but only barely large enough for that. The other option was to knock down a statue. Barrett started with the boulder. He had been made to carry many heavy things as a servant… often for no reason. Not a boulder though. Still, Barrett crouched down. He had learned a bit about how to make such a job easier. The boulder wasn’t just a rock… it at least was shaped so that it had some places to grip below it. Barrett tried to lift… but just didn’t have the strength. He was hoping the boulder was lighter than it looked, but if anything it was heavier. He couldn’t even shift it along the ground.
That left the statue. It was big and made of stone… but he just had to knock it over. That was easier than lifting it. However, Barrett struggled with it for a few minutes before giving up. He knew there must have been some trick to it… but he couldn’t figure it out. Of course if he was much stronger, he could have just tackled it and knocked it over… but it was quite stable, and all he ended up doing was hurting himself. The examiner just shook his head… but at least he had let Barrett try.
The other places were no better. Barrett felt that a sword was light, until he tried to swing it… and he didn’t know enough to have proper form, and certainly not to cut through the targets. He thought perhaps archery would be better, but he underestimated how much strength it took to pull back the bowstring. He had already observed that most of those who passed had their own bows anyway, but at least he got to use one for a test. His first arrow didn’t reach the target, but once he put in all of his effort the next one flew far enough, though off to the side… and the third actually hit the target, but only barely. Of course, that wasn’t good enough to pass.
Barrett was disappointed… but he realized it was natural. After all, most of the tests were designed for those with some training… or at least for fully grown men or older teens. Here he was, thirteen years old… he’d actually forgotten that had happened, since his birthday happened while he was at his cousin and aunt’s house. Obviously, they hadn’t celebrated. So, Barrett thought his performance wasn’t as poor as it seemed… but still not good enough. His injuries hadn’t helped his strength either, and his body still felt weaker than when he had regularly practiced sparring… but those hadn’t even been with real weapons.
Barrett still went to every single place. He continued to be rejected, and just became exhausted. He set aside time to rest between each. It took him more than a day to try all of the warriors. Then, he moved on to swashbucklers. He didn’t know what a swash was and why it had buckles, but regardless these people practiced more finesse based techniques. They used daggers and other light weapons, focusing on speed. What frustrated Barrett in those areas was that he almost passed some of the tests, to just barely fail. Actually, he thought he’d passed one of them, and the examiner just hadn’t liked him, maybe because he was wrapped in bandages. Of course, some had extremely high standards and he didn’t even know where to start. He certainly couldn’t throw a needle through a series of ever smaller hoops… let alone one with each hand at the same time.
Then, there were the wizards… and the rest who did magic. Barrett had no idea how magic worked, but he still showed up and attempted every test he was allowed to. Unfortunately, most of them wanted him to use a basic form of magic… and he had no idea how to. Nobody had taught him, and nobody here seemed interested in telling him.
Barrett avoided the areas with the pyromancers until very last. However, they were really his last hope. Of course, most of them he was rejected purely on the basis of not knowing any of what they had to teach already. He finally found one place. They had some sort of magical object that could apparently test affinity for pyromancy. It was a small furnace, and he was supposed to stare into it and try to bend it to his will. Apparently it would enhance the effects of such magic, so anyone with the talent could do it.
Barrett sat cross legged in front of it. That was already hard. He heard it crackling and felt the heat. He swallowed, and focused his eyes on it. He willed the fire to move as he wished, to gather into a ball… to do anything. However, the more he focused on the fire, the more he remembered. The heat, the pain… Reina’s face. He relived the fire at his family home over and over, until he couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t help but vomiting off to the side. He didn’t need anyone to tell him he had no affinity for fire, and left.
In a way, Barrett was impressed that he had managed to participated in the tests of every school within the one week that they would be around. Of course, all of the immediate rejections helped to speed it along. Barrett sighed. Perhaps he wasn’t meant to be strong at all. He would have to go somewhere, and live as a crafter or scribe or… something. He could do that. It wouldn’t be the worst fate- like staying with Denton and Melody… but it would be the end of him actually accomplishing anything.
He looked around the entire recruitment event, just in case he had missed any. He found that he hadn’t. He was exhausted, so he just found an empty area of dirt and lay down, staring up at the sky. There was nothing else he could do. He had given his all. It was a few minutes before he realized where he was. He was back at where he had started, next to the table and chair… and the man from the Immortal Berserker Sect. Barrett stood up, his eyes sharp. If once wasn’t good enough, he would try again. Not that he had time to revisit everywhere… but he still wasn’t going to give up until everything was over.