The Sword Saint
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
My long afternoon nap left me too awake to fall asleep, so I spent the night helping out with the village’s restoration efforts. In other words, it was a rather uneventful evening. The same, however, could not be said for the morning after.
“How long has it been since you first began using a sword?” The hero-turned-butler-turned-instructor sheathed his sword as he asked the question. We were currently situated within a training ground, one that all three militaries were simultaneously putting to use.
“Not… too… long…” I said, between laboured breaths. “I think it’s… been less than… two years.”
How is he not tired? I’m pretty sure he was moving around just as much as I was. Does being efficient and shit really make that fucking big of a difference? God damn.
“Your swordplay is rather impressive for someone that’s had so little exposure to it.”
“It’s all on Enne. She’s the only reason my dumb ass has been even remotely whipped into shape.”
As we had just been sparring, I wound up using one of the wooden greatswords I had lying around instead of my signature weapon. And I’d probably rely on her way too much if I used her anyway.
All the sword-based techniques that I did know came from the manner in which Enne would correct my mistakes whenever I fought. Remembering the way she altered my movements allowed me to reproduce them even though I didn’t know why I was doing what I was. It went without saying that the sword saint totally destroyed me in our spars. I needed Enne if I wanted to put up a decent fight. And even then, his technique was still miles ahead of mine.
“I agree. You certainly do seem fairly dependent on your weapon,” he said with a nod, “but that does not come as a surprise, as I believe you’re more of a caster than a melee fighter.”
“Yeah, more or less,” I agreed. “I started out mainly using a sword, but nowadays, I more or less throw a bunch of spells and only get up close to wrap things up.”
“From what I’ve seen, your skills as a mage are first rate. Are you sure you wish to improve your mastery of the blade? There isn’t any real reason for you to seek further martial prowess, is there?”
“Honestly, I just want to make better use of Enne.”
“Reasonable,” he said with a chuckle. “Now, why don’t we discuss some strengths and weaknesses? I’ll start with your strengths.” He smiled. “Our bouts have led me to believe that your combat experience is mainly sourced from fighting monsters. I can also see that you have a good understanding of feints and their importance. You weren’t doing a great job of executing them with a blade, however, but I believe that’s because you normally use magic for your feints instead.”
His evaluation was spot on. Most of the fighting I did involved the Wicked Forest’s monsters. I’d normally lure them into a trap, pelt them with spells, and have my pets jump in and finish them off once they were sufficiently harmed or distracted. The vast majority of my battles ended up following that exact flow, so I rarely ever had the chance to practice feinting with a sword. Of course, not all our foes were formidable enough to merit strategy, but those that weren’t were often dealt with through the application of brute force. I’d never really had any chances to polish my ability to duel. Yeah, probably not a good thing. Leaving the dungeon means I’ll have to fight without my pets, sooooo… yeah.
“Your most glaring fault is that your attacks are easy to read and counter. That, unfortunately, hampers your defense.”
“Yeah, I can tell. You kinda kicked my shit in,” I said with a shrug.
The two of us weren’t actually alone. Soldiers from all three nations were hanging around and watching us. I couldn’t blame them. The sword saint’s demonstration wasn’t exactly one that happened on the daily. In other words, they were watching me get my ass kicked. There goes what little pride I had left.
“Not being skilled in defense is not strictly a bad thing,” he said with a smile. “Or at least not only a bad thing. Simply put, you’ve chosen to specialize in offense instead. Rather than working against your foundation, I suggest that we embrace it and focus all of your training on bolstering your offenses even further.”
“Wait, what? You sure? Because I was kind of expecting you to tell me that I should focus on getting better at defending.”
“If all you do is focus on your weaknesses, then you’ll become a generalist with no particular expertise. While it is not always better to focus on your strengths, I find that doing so is generally better than not. All of the stronger individuals I know have strict areas of expertise.”
Makes sense to me.
“And in my eyes, your greatest asset is your body. Your raw strength is far higher than what any member of the races can possibly output. The best way to put it to use would be to enhance your strikes to the point where they cover for your weaknesses. I believe the ideal you should aim for is the ability to kill something that is otherwise beyond you in a single blow. If you manage to achieve it, then you will no longer have the need to defend. Your offense power will become your greatest defense,” he said.
So basically he wants me to build like a nuke. He’s got a pretty good point too, now that I think about it. I’m pretty sure massive swords and brute force have pretty much always gone hand in hand. What kind of idiot tries to do silly fancy tricks with his giant unwieldy weapon anyway?
“Thanks for the feedback,” I said. “I’ve pretty much been self-taught so far, so I really appreciate it.”
I was really starting to see why Remiero was known as the sword saint. His explanations were great too, no doubt in part a result of the wisdom that came with his years. I was also starting to understand why Nell was so good with her blade. His frequent instruction was no doubt a major contributing factor.
“I’m glad to be of assistance,” he said. “It seems you’ve caught your breath again, so I believe we’ve taken a long enough break. We don’t have much time, so let’s get right back to it.”
Our training came to a temporary halt once the sun was more or less directly overhead.
“I see that your training has yet to cease.” Lefi laughed at me as she entered stage right. She had come with Enne and Nell, the former of which was holding both the other two’s hands.
“You guys here to watch or something?” I asked.
I was on the ground with my face in the dirt and my arms and legs spread wide, completely exhausted.
“Indeed. We learned that you were being humiliated and came to mock you in your time of despair,” she said with a smirk.
“U-Uhmmm, I don’t think that’s what we actually came for. It’s lunch time, and we were hoping you’d join us,” said Nell. “I’m sure all that training has you hungry.”
“Let’s eat. Together,” said Enne.
Lunch? Is it really that late already? It felt like I had only just put Enne to bed in order to make sure that she got a brief morning nap, but apparently, my sense of time had been thrown off.
Lefi smacked me a few times on the shoulder before calling out to the old butler.
“It appears that you have shown him the extent of his incompetence,” she said. “He is clumsy for one of such a level. It will take great patience to temper him.”
“Don’t worry, I plan to have him whipped into shape in no time,” said the old butler. “Am I correct in assuming that you’re Leficios, the wife I’ve been hearing so much about?”
“Indeed I am. And you are?”
“He’s Remiero, my sword instructor,” said Nell. “I owe him a lot for all the things he’s done for me.”
“So you are amongst those who have offered Nell your aid? For that, I am grateful. Thank you,” said Lefi.
“I would say that she is the one that’s been helping us, if anything,” said the blademaster. His amicable smile remained for a few moments before it transformed into a much more serious expression. “Mrs. Leficios, I understand that this may seem rude given that we’ve only been briefly acquainted, but would you mind if I asked you for a favour?”
“A favour?” Lefi cocked a brow. “What manner of favour?”
“Could you please entertain me in a contest of might?”
He bowed his head as he made the request.
“Dude, you okay? Did you hit your head or something?” I blurted. I knew that the old butler was more than smart enough to be aware of the risk, but I couldn’t stop myself from commenting. Cause like, shit, fighting Lefi is what we call a death wish. Not even I’ve got the balls for that. Though admittedly, that’s mostly because it’s not the kinda thing I’d enjoy doing with Lefi.
“I am aware that even a casual spar with someone as powerful as you is likely to prove fatal, and that is why I would like to ask for a safer alternative. Could you please demonstrate the force of your will?”
“I shall not refuse, for you have already done me a great favour in training my husband,” she said. “But I must advise that the others stand not too close. The aura I am to unleash is one that is likely to slay them should they remain in my immediate vicinity.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Leficios.” Remiero looked towards the crowd and raised his voice. “We are about to do something extremely dangerous. If you wish to observe, then please do so from a distance!”
Every soldier heeded his warning without question, regardless of race. After confirming that they were a good ways away, the old man took a neutral stance with his hands at his sides and his legs shoulder width apart.
“I am ready whenever you are,” he said.
“Then I shall begin,” said Lefi.
A tremendous amount of pressure was unleashed alongside her words. Though they had backed off, the soldiers began collapsing without exception. Even those that managed to remain conscious were forced to their knees.
The intent to kill was something that could be both easily perceived and defined. Like magic, it was a phenomenon that could be brought from the caster’s mind into the physical world through nothing but the application of one’s will. And it went without saying that Lefi was capable of butchering everyone present without even lifting a finger.
The person that the brunt of the pressure was directed at was dripping with cold sweat. His breaths were heavy, laboured, but he didn’t collapse. He didn’t give in. He remained standing exactly where he was, even when exposed to something that would send the Wicked Forest’s monsters running with their tails tucked between their legs.
“I suppose that is enough.”
And after exactly a minute, the pressure vanished without a trace.
“I am impressed,” she said. “You have earned the right to be proud, for it is no common feat for a human to withstand my bloodlust for so long.”
“It seems… to me that… I still have quite the ways to go,” he said, slowly recovering. “Yuki, for example, did not even react.”
My nonchalant behaviour had led him to smile in a dry, self-depreciative manner.
“It’s kinda just because we’re family,” I said.
Personally, I don’t really think seeing a family member lose their shit is the kinda thing that freaks you out. You pretty much just end up going “oh boy, she’s mad again,” and brush it off. Didn’t help that she was just pretending to be mad either. I was fairly convinced that my reaction was normal given the circumstances, as neither Nell nor Enne had been affected by it either.
“Seriously though, you sure you’re not fucked in the head? ‘Cause that was the kinda stunt that gets people killed,” I said half-amazed, half-surprised.
“I’ve had very few chances to fight any notable foes as of late,” said Remiero, as he dabbed away at his sweat with a handkerchief. “It feels like I’ve been out of practice. A brush with death is the sort of event that draws out one’s potential, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any for such an experience.”
I mean, I kinda get it? Staring death in the face does kinda help hone your survival instincts, I guess… The more I thought about it, the more sense it started to make. There were only a few individuals in this world on Lefi’s level, which meant that training done with her was pretty much as good as it got. Still gotta be fucking insane to try it though, just saying.
“That is enough about training. It has come time for a meal, Yuki. Let us hurry along and begin,” she said, before turning to the old butler. “Remiero, was it? I shall offer you the opportunity to join us.”
“I appreciate it, Mrs. Leficios, but I’ll have to see to cleaning up after the soldiers. Please don’t mind me, and enjoy your meal,” he said. “I’ll see to continuing your training afterwards, Yuki.”
Though he was busy, the old butler had taken an entire day out of his schedule to train me. I should probably get right back to it once I’m done eating so I don’t waste his time.