Clean steel flashed as it sliced through the open morning air, parting an imagined head from its shoulders. The knight, not quite completely out of his fighting kit, stepped off to the outside angle as he followed the motion through, blade tightly arcing back around. Just before it returned to his guard, he brought it down from the roof, an overhead strike from the new angle, splitting the helm of another visualized foe. Perhaps one charging in as the first fell. Something of that nature.
This process continued as he witnessed again every man he had fought before, their shadows testing his technique. His sword was already long-used to most of the motions, so now came refinement. Honing everything to a keen edge, tightening and ironing out every minor imperfection. Mind balance and position. Don't throw anything off-kilter. Don't overextended but don't under-commit. Be assured, be swift, and be precise. Refine it. Refine it. Refine it, because there was so much left to work on.
Quickly, his blade was pulled back as he drew his lead foot inward, a massive visualized sword inches away from shattering it and tearing straight through him. As the tall figure within his mind's eye brought that absurd sword to bear, Had he given enough ground? Could he afford to? Was he too slow, or simply tired from the night prior? ...That didn't matter. He wouldn't have the luxury on the field of battle. He needed this. He needed to be able to fight well even drained. He needed to grow much, much stronger.
So he would cut a thousand times more, or until he could no no more.
Whichever came first.
Then he could rest.
The home of the Order or Iron Roses was truly massive, befitting the grand scale of Aimlenn. Gerard had always marveled at it much as he had the city itself, but the chord Candaeln struck was much more personal in that he was certain his village could comfortably nestle itself within its walls, or at least come very close. Home of the entire order, he like all the others had found himself still working to familiarize himself with its entirety— but he knew the Training Yard all too well.
The wing was filled to the brim with all manner of equipment, everything from the classical straw dummies and sparring rings to entire sections dedicated solely to refining physical capability— gymnastics, weights to lift, everything he could imagine and likely more. Its reach even spread to part of the courtyard that dominated the compound's center, a general free space where one could practice form to their heart's content— and if one was bright and early like Gerard, in relative solitude.
Plenty of open room to work, when one simply wanted to throw themselves wholeheartedly into simulating swordplay. He doubted any of his fellows would be quite so rambunctious as he was, either in the midst of waking themselves or returning from this mission as he was. Drilling with another body was out of the question— and likely just as well.
He was here because that battle was eating away at him. He could not be satisfied with where he was at now. If he did so, the next fighter of Jeremiah's caliber that they faced would be his last. The last of countless more. Perhaps it was simple selfishness disguised as altruism, but for the sake of his comrades if not himself, he needed to be able to rise to such a challenge. A knight was the one who stood against the dragon for the sake of those that couldn't. They donned their armor to take on any danger that threatened those that couldn't. It was why they even bothered wearing it in the first place.
The world was much bigger than he.
The massive form of Knight's Doom, a silhouette of savage power, loomed over him as the other men he faced melted away. He had no trouble with their ilk. He hadn't for years. But even in his mind's eye, he could scarcely find his way inside the Bandit King's range and reflex. It was this that he chased, even as he ran through every defensive gap, as though possessed.
His sword whirled and bit out around him, searching each potential angle. Thwarting Hews, overhead strikes, thrusts from the Ox guard, even the displacing Crooked Hew— everything possible. Sequence after sequence of strikes lashed against what he remembered of Jeremiah through the brief times their swords met. Against an impossible, mountainous force that promised certain death, should he ever linger for even a moment too soon.
Sharper. Faster. Waste no motion. He was not the only one out there. There would be others to face.
A respectable sheen of sweat glistened upon the young man's brow, and his hair was once again damp. A deep, raspy burn had begun to build in his lungs, adding a texture to his sharp, short breathing. He was warm all over, and his shoulders in particular were beginning to ache in protest, even more than the rest of him. He felt his heart race as it tried to keep up with his mind ordering his muscle around. There was no denying that he hadn't come in fresh, and yet...
Would he really be able to bring a great evil like that down if he gave up here?
He began again, taking his pace a notch further. His master hews, all in the order they had been learned, sprung to life. Bread and butter techniques. Reliable. Tried. True. Seven years ago, he had taken the first step on this journey to become an ideal knight, one he could proudly declare himself as. Countless miles were ahead, now more clearly than ever—
He had many swings left in him this morning.
Rest could come after he had shortened the gap a bit.