I decided to choose the eastern sword, ‘Ken’ that Zhou suggested for me. I was trained in this specific style of practice to the point I had eventually grown to like it. Whereas Aura continued to use the same sword type she had since her arrival.
Since it was just a simple sparring session, we were both using wooden replicas instead of the actual weapons. So, we put aside our iron-welded death tool and used a lesser lethal wood plank, carved for our preferred battling type.
Our sparring field was the same field we had our sword training. Because it was located next to a farm, there were no trees blocking the sunlight shining on us. With that, we had to tackle both the fatigue from training and the intensity of heat coming from the bright sun.
This time too, Aura and I stood in the middle of the field, approximately twenty meters apart from each other while getting into our respective battling stance. Zhou was looking at us from one end of the field, watching over our spar as our mediator.
“First one to fall onto the ground, loses. You can start any time now.” Zhou reminded us once again as we had stood in the same stances for almost two minutes. None of us were ready to take the first move. Since we had trained with each other for a while now, the both of us knew more or less what we would do, especially since we were still a complete novice when it comes to sword mastery.
Aura had her left leg forward and her right leg behind her body. Her body was slightly bent forward. She had her sword above her head, gripping it tight as she raised it with her right hand, The tip of her sword was facing towards my direction as she kept her eyes dead centred onto mine.
It was her usual battling stance. Throughout her training, she had always been the more aggressive type. She would always be the first to initiate the battle and would decide her next move in the heat of the battle. Despite that, she kept her cool and remained calm. She always listened and followed the advice Zhou gave. Since Zhou and Aura’s train of thoughts during combat were more alike, they had a better chemistry going on during training.
For me, the only thing alike between Zhou and I were our choice of combat style, which was the eastern style. Zhou told me that according to my facial complexion and my body build, I looked more like an eastern local folk. Because of that, he suggested to me to practice eastern style combat as it would eventually be more compatible with my body complexity. I wasn’t against the idea so I took up his suggestion.
With the combat style I had picked up, my stance was a lot more defensive. The bottom half of my body was the same stance as Aura but the main difference was how I held my sword. Instead of raising the sword up above the head like Aura’s, I had my body bent slightly lower and had my sword as low as my hips, keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible and my balance as firm as it can be.
This stance allowed me to prepare myself for any form of attacks, be it brute force or any feints. Keeping the centre of gravity low allowed me to keep my balance when confronted with a difficult situation as long as I kept my eyes focused on my opponent. It was also a lot easier for me to prepare an opening for a counterattack.
Since Aura is the type to always initiate the first move, this stance was considered a direct counter to her combat style. Any move she made would be used against her regardless of her choice of attack. My best bet on winning this sparring session was to tire her out with my counterattacks and feints and conserve enough energy for a finishing blow.
At least, on paper that is.
As I was still analyzing her movements and thinking of other possible ways to defeat her, Aura kicked the ground as she dashed towards me with her sword behind her back. It would seem she didn’t want me to think any longer and decided to come for me, hungry for blood. I held my ground and kept my eyes on hers because I knew what she was going to do.
As she drew closer towards me, I prepared myself for a counterattack. If my memory served me correctly, her first move would be to lunge her sword across my chest. She would then assume I would dodge that hit by bending my body backwards but lose my balance in the meantime. She would then kicked me off the ground and kept me pinned on the ground.
That would have been a successful initiative.
If I didn’t know her for such a long time now.
It wasn’t long for her to be within an arm’s length distance from me. She swung her sword and aimed it towards me. However, she didn’t aim for my chest, she was aiming for my belly. But not with her sword, she was planning to kick me. She then retracted her sword quickly and spun her body around with perfect footwork. After a successful turn, she raised her left leg and aimed it towards my belly.
A cry came out from her as she jabbed her foot towards me. Her face was filled with a smug, thinking she was successful with her feint. However, the contact she felt was not of a leather worn clothing by a young boy. She looked towards the direction of the kick and noticed that she had failed after all.
I blocked her kick with my sword using the face of the blade as I had my free arm supporting the tip of the sword. I then quickly pushed her foot off my sword, ducked down and swept my foot across the ground, hoping to kick her off balance. She managed to dodge the attack by leaping a few steps away from me, getting into a safer distance.
I knew it was a feint. It was something Aura thought about during our off days. During the night, I noticed Aura would wander off somewhere behind her tent on some days. Obviously, she was trying to hide something. At first, I thought she was stealing something or have been keeping a dark secret from the village.
So one day, I decided to sneak up on her, hoping to decode her secret. It turned out that she was just practising on an attack. And that attack was this feint that she enacted. I was glad to know it wasn’t an evil deed but I was lucky enough to uncover a combat secret of hers.
“How did you know that I was going to do that?!”
Aura looked at me with an annoyed look. She had definitely practised this move a hundred times just so she could use it one day and hope to defeat someone with it. It was something she was proud of but failed to utilize it the first time she could use it. I sympathize her feelings but too bad for her, I had found out about it.
“Of course. I saw you…”
It hit me.
I couldn’t tell her about the fact I found out her secret. There was no way I could tell her that I sneaked up on her at night, went behind her tent to see what secret she was hiding. Forget about getting called as a pervert, there was no way Zhou and the others in the village were going to overlook that incident.
I made sure no one else saw me when I sneaked up on Aura. Every time I walked into her secret training, I kept super quiet, making sure I didn’t make a single sound. I even had to keep my mouth shut about it to make sure I would not be found out. There was no way I could let that secret fly now and waste all the effort I put into keeping it.
I have no choice.
I need to come up with a lie.
“Ahem… W-We had practised together for so long now. I know most of your moves and knew what you were going to do.”
“I see. This must be what Zhou meant by my weakness.”
Because Aura had always been the one to follow her instincts and let the heat of the battle guide her, she would not prepare the battle and study her opponent. She was able to utilize that because she would remain calm despite facing a troubling situation. For example, she was able to dodge my counterattack as she had sensed something wasn’t right. She didn’t panic and managed to get herself back on track.
She must have also understood that I was the type to study an opponent before a battle. Realizing that because we practically have known each other long enough and spent enough time together during sword training, I had eventually learned all about her moves and secrets. Because of that, Aura felt like she was at a disadvantage.
However, you were wrong, Aura.
It wasn’t that complicated.
I knew about the feint because…
I stalked you.
Aura gripped onto her sword tightly and charged towards me once again. She raised her sword as she lept into the air. I quickly got back into my stance and raised the sword up and shielded my head, preparing for her whack.
She then swung her sword downwards and both our sword clashed as the sound of an impact of two properly carved wooden sword could be heard.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
The sound continued to echo as we continued to exchange blows. To be honest, it was more like I was defending every relentless attacks coming from Aura. Occasionally I would find an opening and tried to go in with a counter-attack. However, she would dodge all of them.
As the battle dragged on for about 10 rounds, the battle fatigue started to kick in. It was a weird feeling because usually I wouldn’t get tired from clashing blades with Zhou until it was past 30 minutes. Something didn’t feel right. However, before I could even think about the reason behind it, Aura swooped in with another slash across my waist
I quickly raised my sword and used the blade side of the weapon to shield my waist, preparing for the impact. However, I had miscalculated the impact and was pushed off my balance. Aura didn’t give me a single moment of breathing space and raised her sword once again, going in with a slam from above. This time she was aiming for my head.
Another cry came out from her as she slammed her sword from above. Thankfully because I was off-balanced, I was lucky enough to avoid the attack by a hair’s length. I managed to keep myself from falling on my butt and held onto the ground. However, what I saw was even scarier than falling.
I noticed that the slam Aura tried to do that was aiming for my head had slammed hard enough to tear the ground apart as the dirt was torn apart. If that thing had successfully hit my head, I may not have died but I would definitely be put out of commission, ending the duel and my days’ plan right there.
However, better late than never, I finally realized the reason I was losing fatigue. As time passed, her attacks had gotten faster and stronger. Because I had been keeping up to her pacing while blocking all her attacks, I didn’t realize that she was actually progressively asserting more strength as time progressed. It would seem that she had decided on a new strategy.
“What’s that all about?” I asked, hoping to get an answer from her.
“Something I had thought about during our duel. Since you knew most of my moves and I could also react to your counter-attacks, the battle will only remain a stalemate. So, I decided to just risk it all but using all my energy in this battle and fight through with everything.”
“So you are willing to sacrifice the time by using all your strength within a certain time frame before you would tire yourself?”
“Let’s see who can last longer, shall we?”
The moment she finished her sentence, she quickly pulled out her sword and swung towards me with another attack. I instinctively raised my sword and tried to block her attack. However, the impact was harder than I thought and it once again pushed me off balance.
Her attack continued as she went in with a jab as I tried to dodge it. This time I wasn’t as lucky as I was just now and took it to the chest. It may not pierce my body and cause my body to bleed but it was enough to numb my right arm. It was then I knew I couldn’t block her attacks anymore and I had to rely on dodging from then on.
Her swinging gotten increasingly faster and stronger as time passed and I may have been able to read her moves back then but this time they were too fast for my body to react to it. I managed to dodge most of her attacks but as her successful attacks increased, my body slowly weakened. If this kept going, I was definitely going to lose this battle. I had to improvise.
There was no way I could ever outspeed her nor be stronger than her in terms of combat. There was also no other weapon I could use, unlike the time I had the chance to use Zhou’s Two-Handed Sword. There wasn’t even a single combat skill that I could utilize that could come out on top of Aura. The only other thing I had left was a simple ‘Mana Channelling’ skill…
I dodged another attack from Aura and used what energy I have left to quickly keep about 10 meters away from her. I kept my eyes off her and looked to my sword. I imagined the mana in my body flow into my hands and up towards my weapon. I imagined the warmth, the flow and the weight of the mana that was going around my body as I channelled them towards my sword.
Before I knew it, the area around my hand began to glow blue in colour. The glow slowly raised towards my sword and eventually engulfed the entire sword with mana.
According to Elka, mana without magic is just energy. Applying that energy to anything would increase its sensitivity and magnify it. Just like how a ‘Status Card’ would show your status if mana was channelled onto it. Upon every activation, the card would identify the growth of your strength through that mana.
When applying mana on a weapon, it would become even more deadlier.
Aura noticed something was off and she was taken back by the spectacle. Even Zhou had his eyes wide open. He had a smile on his face when he saw my sword had glowed in blue.
My eyes were quickly fixated back on Aura as she decided that she had to do something other than standing around. Thus, she charged towards me with another attack. Clearly, because she was on a timer and she had to use all her strength without wasting any more time. She went in with another swoop across my chest and this time instead of dodging, I blocked it with my sword.
I couldn’t feel the impact at all. The mana must have eaten through all the strength she put into the blow. I wasn’t blown away by the impact or felt numb in any part of my body. I was fine. To be honest, it was an effortless defence.
Aura was shocked. She looked at me and realized that the tides have turned. She managed to hide her tremble and spoke out as calm as she could.
“I guess you learned something new too, huh?
“Well, I thought since I can’t outspeed you or outpower you in combat. I can probably outsmart you.”
I knocked her attack off by pushing her away with my sword, ending the clash between our swords. I had my left leg forward and my right leg behind my body. My body was slightly bent forward. I had my sword above my head, gripping it tight as I raised it with my right hand, The tip of my sword was facing towards her direction as I kept my eyes dead centred onto hers.
I said with a smile.
“Now, it’s my turn.”
I ran towards her and raised my sword from below and slashed towards her shoulder. She managed to block it but she was pushed off balance. With the chance given to me, I spun the sword around to have the sharp end of the blade face towards her and swoop it downwards. However, she managed to dodge it by retracting her left arm quickly.
She was shocked but she managed to keep her balance on the ground as she kicked the ground with her right leg. She spun her body in the air around with the strength from the kick and with her left leg she went in with a sharp kick towards my belly. I managed to block it well enough with my sword but because it was a powerful kick, I was pushed away by a few meters.
Just as she did, I didn’t give her an opportunity to catch her breath as I quickly ran towards her again. This time, I went in with the intention to end the battle.
As soon as I have gotten close to her, I raised my sword above and slashed her with a frontal attack. She was still recovering from the kick and even though she was quick enough to block the attack, the impact was too much for her to handle as she knelt on the ground.
The clash was intense as I pushed onto her with what strength I had left. I was sweating heavily and my legs were starting to give way. Aura was no different either as she was gritting her teeth while defending herself from the attack. I was waiting for the opportunity for the moment Aura was losing her strength so I could use the time where she let her guard down to swoop her off her feet and have her falling onto the ground, ending the duel with the victory secured for me.
However, the opportunity didn’t arrive.
Before she could lose her strength. The glow from my sword glowed brighter and even more intense. I had realized that something wasn’t right. The blue coloured mana around the sword quickly grew brighter and brighter until it was almost white. And then out of nowhere…
The sword exploded.
The mana on the sword had absorbed too much energy that the sword blew up and I was thrown off the ground. I was tossed in the air and landed on the ground with my butt first. I managed to close my eyes to prevent the splinters from the wooden sword to injure my eyes. It took me awhile to open up my eyes again. As soon as they were opened, the first thing I saw was the sight of Aura extending her arms towards me with heavy breathing.
It would seem the duel was over and I had lost the battle.
“Great match, Hunter.”
“I really don’t like that name after all.”
I said as I held on to Aura’s grasp. She raised me up enough for me to sit on the ground. I saw Zhou slowly walking towards us as he clapped his hands, giving us a complimentary applause. He looked like he was happy about the results as he gave us his congratulatory speech.
“Great job. Both of you had learned about your weaknesses and learned to also overcome them. You had even learned a new set of moves too! I would say this sparring session was a success.”
Zhou looked at Aura and I as he continued his speech.
“Even though technically Aura won the fight, but if this was a real battle with real weapons. Kid here would have won.”
Both of us said as we raised our eyebrows. It was clear that I had lost because I had applied too much mana on the sword at that final moment, causing it to blow. But if it was a real battle, wouldn’t the result be the same, if not even more deadlier?
“The reason your sword blow was because it was wooden. Different materials have different mana intensity tolerance. If it were a real weapon made with iron or steel, they would have been able to handle the stress from the mana you channelled. Although, if you channelled your mana properly during that duel just now, you could still come out on top.”
“I see…” Aura said as she looked at the ground, littered with wooden splinters. “So I won the match but lost the battle, huh.”
I looked at my hands and noticed they were trembling. It seemed that I was constantly straining mana into the sword without controlling it properly and without even noticing it too. I guess even in the heat of the battle I would still need to learn to remain calm.
I had much to learn.
“Anyways.” Zhou said as he passed us our ‘Status Card’ to us. “I’m pretty sure you two had some new skills by now. Go ahead and check what are they.”
I took my ‘Status Card’ and channelled my mana into it and realized indeed there was a new skill listed in the section. I tapped my finger onto it and checked the new updates of my skills.
|<Mana Channelling D> Unlocked a New Skill: <Weapon Mana Channelling E>|
I tapped on the new skill and another status box appeared.
|<Weapon Mana Channelling E>|
The ability to channel mana onto weapons.
Allows you to amplify the combat and magic prowess of weapons with mana channelling.
“It says I have learned a new skill called, <Constitution>.” Aura read aloud her new skill as she continued to read out the description. “The ability to gain more stamina and strength. Allows you to overall amplify the combat prowess. I guess the idea I had definitely given me a new skill.”
“That’s how skills are learnt, by experiencing more things. With that being said, the training ends earlier today. Tomorrow, I will let you experience something even more intense.”
“And what would that be?”
I said to Zhou, questioning his words. Zhou clapped his hands together, looked into both our eyes and said with the biggest smug he had ever given to us.
“Ever heard of the word, ‘Dungeons’?”