Chapter 111: Good Night
“Training partner?” the kid echoed before I had the chance to respond. “Master, I thought you told me to come here so that I could get a chance to finally receive some individual training…”
“Taci, you will also be training as you spar with Arthur here, now come here so we can begin.” Kordri gestured toward the obviously dissatisfied child.
“Master, what benefit will come from training with this… lesser being?” he grumbled, shooting an annoyed look at me.
I thought of it as odd, hearing a child haughtily complain using diction and syntax that didn’t suit his babyish appearance or undeveloped, tenor voice.
“Arthur”— Kordri stressed—“has been receiving special training from me. Sparring with him will help with your development. You also have the rare honor of training using the Aether Orb, yet, you dare complain?”
“N-no, I would never defy your instructions, Master. This pupil only finds it beneath Master to waste your time training a mere human when the Thyestes Clan has many pupils awaiting your mentorship,” the child named Taci clarified, lowering himself to another bow.
I didn’t want to stoop down to his level and be offended by the child, but I had to admit he had a rather special knack for p.i.s.sing people off.
Letting out a defeated sigh, Kordri continued, “Taci, you are one of my most talented pupils, but it is your arrogance that will hinder you. Windsom, will you be okay keeping up the Aether Orb with an additional person?” Kordri turned to Windsom who was seated on the other side of the pool holding the orb.
“Three people won’t be a problem,” the asura nodded in response, shaking his head as well at the child in front of him.
Keeping my immature thoughts to myself, I returned to my meditating position inside the pool. The child jumped in as well, ignoring me as he sat down so the three of us formed a triangle. Once again, we were inside the same gra.s.sy setting as we had been since the beginning.
“Arthur. While the Pantheon race all differ in their utilization of what you call ‘force-type mana’, Taci here has been training in the special arts of the Thyestes Clan. Like I showed you a few times recently, one of the components of our combat art lies in swift, precise strikes, coupled with throws that take advantage of momentum and center of gravity. By relying on our senses to perceive where the opponent is distributing their weight and momentum, we match our attacks to properly take advantage of their strengths. By doing this, we use little effort to dispel their attacks, and conserve our strength for when we attack,” my mentor explained.
Taci had his arms crossed besides Kordri, not taking his eyes filled with contempt off of me.
“When learning this, even our own disciples are forbidden to use mana until they can properly display the basics of our techniques. I am not saying this to boast, but our clan’s fame came from the deadliness of our combat art. When looking at a master, you will see that our form of fighting is both fierce and fluid, like a deadly cyclone. I have only shown you a glimpse of this, Arthur, but I want you to train by fighting against Taci,” Kordri continued as he turned his attention over to the child. “Taci, you are to use your full strength to fight against Arthur; do not worry about fatal injuries or death here.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the blatantly delighted smirk on Taci’s face as he was told this. However, his smug expression immediately disappeared by what his master said next. “Arthur, you are not to use any mana. I will not be applying any pressure on you as of now, but expect it to come later on. You are also not allowed to attack him at all, but simply block and deflect. The only form of offensive maneuvers you are allowed to make are throws.”
“M-Master? This doesn’t make any sense?” Taci stuttered, shocked. “Shouldn’t you be placing restrictions on me instead of the human? By doing this, do you mean to say that, without these handicaps, he would be able to defeat me?”
“Taci, I am growing tired of your pitiful whining. Are you doubting me?” Kordri’s eyes grew sharp as he spoke. There was no mercy shown in his expression, immediately shutting Taci’s mouth as he frantically shook his head.
I never had the chance to indulge in this feeling… this satisfying sense of victory over a c.o.c.ky kid when his parent unexpectedly sides with me.
Simply saying that I was surprised would be a lying; no, the more accurate word would be astonished. I had a feeling that it might end up this way, but not this soon. Arthur Leywin… what a truly mysterious individual.
Taci, while only seven years of age, displayed an unusual amount of talent from the beginning. He had covered the basics of our combat art in a quarter of the time it took for the rest of his cla.s.s. His mana distribution was still rough but improving at a rate that even the clan elders couldn’t help but admire. He was to be the next generation’s star. Yet even with all of the restrictions placed, Arthur was still holding on—no, it was more than that now—Arthur was slowly beginning to keep up.
In the span of only a few days inside the soul realm, Arthur had begun to match Taci. He, who had not even learned the true combat art of the Thyestes Clan, was absorbing knowledge like a starving beast and making it his own.
Despite the speed and power of Taci’s attacks, Arthur was able to persist against him. Through each punch, kick, slash and throw that Arthur faced, his steps, his shifts, his movements… they were all becoming faster and sharper as if his body was instinctively shaving away unnecessary movement. His improvement was at a speed that could be easily discernible even to one not trained in combat. How is this possible? What sort of past did he experience? How many people had he fought in order to develop this aberrant level of perception?
In my years as both a warrior and mentor, I had never come across a feeling like this before. I have trained hundreds in the art of combat, from young to old. I’ve nurtured pupils that had later become leading figures in the Thyestes Clan, but even then, training this boy, Arthur, had introduced me to a sensation that I’ve never felt before.
Constantly, as I taught him, I had noticed the feeling of excitement, awe, and pride welling up; emotions that I did not even feel towards myself. It was similar to that of unearthing an unknown, yet obviously precious, gem. Arthur was still dull and rough, but with each buff, he shone brighter and brighter. There was no telling what the final product would look like, but it was this longing to find out that made it so exhilarating, yet regrettable. Was he going to have the chance to develop to his full potential? Or will he run out of time first?
Had he been born an asura, he would be a prominent member amongst even the highest echelons of power. However, the G.o.ds have placed him to be merely a p.a.w.n; utilized until no longer needed. Such a pity.
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
This arrogant brat. If it weren’t for these restrictions, I would’ve painted the gra.s.s with your blood and tears.
These past few days had been filled with nothing but frustration and resentment at myself for the fact that I was unable to do anything against him. Taci, obviously annoyed by his master regarding him so lowly, coupled with the innate condescension he had over my race, led to me being tossed around like a rag doll and eating too many strikes for my temper to contain.
While his attacks weren’t on the level of Kordri’s in terms of fluidity and compact precision, due to his attacks and movements being reinforced with mana, they were at a level faster than I was used to.
I almost lost my life on the first strike, but was able to dodge only from the fact that his body gave away his next attack. With the amount of experience that I had with fighting and dueling from my past life and this one, I was able to somewhat antic.i.p.ate what the opponent would do next based on his posture and movement. This skill worked less depending on how capable of a fighter the opponent was, but Taci, while well-versed in his clan’s form of martial art, was still lacking in fighting experience.
Unlike fighting with Kordri, who had no openings or flaws in any of his micromovements, Taci was basically telephoning his next move. Dodging, however, was a whole different problem. While his attacks had openings, they were still at a level above anyone that I have faced. If it wasn’t for the amount of experience I had over the kid, I would’ve been thrown out of the soul realm already. The power and sheer speed of the onslaught could make any S-cla.s.s adventurer curl up in utter subjection.
The force of his strikes caused the air around him to whistle and every time I parried his blows, my arms would throb in pain.
Clicking my tongue, I ignored the pain and persisted. It wasn’t enough to just be fast. I needed to be faster than him. In order to do that, I needed to lessen my movement. The only way I could dodge successfully without using mana was to cut down my maneuvers to the bare necessities. If I couldn’t do that, I would soon be overwhelmed.
“You should go back to your kind instead of wasting my Master’s time,” Taci cursed as he unleashed another barrage of strikes. Much like myself, he seemed to want to hit me squarely instead of merely tossing me to the ground.
I didn’t have the same luxury to respond so I just gritted my teeth and focused even harder.
“My mother and father had told me how weak lesser beings were; it looks like it’s true. I don’t understand why we asuras were given the awful job of looking after you guys,” he growled as he turned, releasing an upwards knee jab.
I felt a sharp pain in my ear as I was barely able to dodge the full brunt of the attack with a simple turn of the neck.
I couldn’t tell how much time had pa.s.sed; I was used to sparring for hours with Kordri, but this seemed much longer. As Taci continued his relentless a.s.sault, my body soon became a canvas of cuts and bruises.
Not enough, faster.
The asura child was obviously growing frustrated as he began trying to go for throws as well. I could see his hand extend out in a claw, hoping to grip at a weak point. By now, however, I was beginning to grow accustomed to his movements so dodging became easier. His strikes that once pa.s.sed by me in a blur, were becoming apparent.
“If it weren’t for the Vritra Clan and their disgusting half-breeds, my master wouldn’t have to be stuck here teaching you, hoping a dog could learn something meant for asuras,” the brat spat venomously as he grew more annoyed.
Sweat began stinging my eyes, impeding my vision. Blades of gra.s.s flew around us as our steps and movement lifted chunks of dirt into the air.
Faster, d.a.m.n it!
My body was beginning to protest as my mind grew dull. It was beginning to make sharper movements due to the fatigue in my body. Each time I dodged, my body jolted in pain.
What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t used to fighting for this long and dodging attacks of this caliber was wearing me down at an even greater pace than usual.
If I lowered my speed, then I would bear the full brunt of Taci’s childish rage, but I wasn’t sure how much longer I could continue to hold out.
My mind whirled trying to think of an answer. Think, Arthur. What had Kordri stressed this whole time? Conservation and proper distribution of mana and energy. Taci’s form of fighting wasn’t as concise as Kordri’s but since he was reinforcing his body with mana, he wasn’t tiring as easily as I was.
Yeah, fluid. Arthur, you dumba.s.s, Kordri had given you the answer. Be fluid, but stay fierce. Like a cyclone.
Even with a clear idea in my head, it was horrifying trying to implement it when one mistake could easily be the death of you. Even in the soul realm, it was still scary.
Taci was also showing signs of wear as his once smug face became lined with a tensed exasperation. His bombardment never slowed, however, as he continued his storm of strikes and grabs.
Don’t just dodge. Do more. Look for an opening in his attacks. Follow his movements and go along with it, not against it.
Another cut appeared on my cheek from Taci’s strike as I failed to execute the movement I had thought of in my head properly.
Not fast enough, Arthur.
His kick from the side landed squarely on my rib, spinning me off balance.
I bit down on my lip to keep myself from buckling in pain. I knew that a few ribs were broken, which meant that an organ or two were probably punctured.
Don’t go against his movement. Conserve energy. Be fluid.
Taking advantage of the fact that he had finally landed a solid hit, Taci immediately followed up with a right straight, his fist reinforced with a purple aura.
“Say good night,” Taci’s snide voice rang.
My brain screamed for my body to duck, to cover my vitals, to avoid this. .h.i.t. But if I merely dodged, it would be impossible to avoid his next attack.
I Ignored my instincts, using the momentum from Taci’s last kick, whirled my body counterclockwise, as his fist headed towards me. At the same time, I raised my right hand, timing it so that it would meet with his.
If I failed in grasping the right timing or speed of this maneuver by a millisecond, my head would probably get blown off, but I buried those thoughts and focused.
Time seemed to slow as my right hand grasped his right wrist. I immediately lowered my center of gravity and slung his arm over my shoulder as I maintained the spin of my body. I could feel the force of his punch as Taci was hopelessly lifted from his feet.
Using the power of his own blow, I redirected his attack and propelled him to the ground.
What I didn’t expect was my throw to produce a crater the size of a house. There in the middle of the devastation was Taci, sprawled out and gurgling blood, with the whites of his eyes showing.
I collapsed to my knees trying to catch a breath, as I realized that the broken ribs had punctured one of my lungs. While I normally don’t condone bullying someone younger than myself, looking down at the sorry state of the brat, I let out a satisfied grin.