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Chapter 51 - Guardian Shadows (4)
Kairen only unsheathed one of his two swords. As if he had been planning on joining this practice session, he already had his armor on.
The moment he saw the Dragon Sword, Azell thought about Arrieta's sword.
'It seems the princess' sword was made in imitation of this sword.'
The Dragon Sword and Arrieta's sword looked alike. The hilt and the blade looked different, but both the swords held a white glow. Unlike Arrieta's sword, his sword wasn't curved. It was a double-edged longsword. The hilt looked like a dragon with wings. It made the sword look like a ceremonial sword instead of a weapon used in fighting.
‘The blade must be made out of Dragon bones.’
Kairen's Dragon Swords were entirely made out of ingredients harvested from a Dragon's corpse. The sword was probably manufactured using magical means on the Dragon's bones.
"Let's play a little bit. Truthfully, I've been a bit bored. Who wants to go first?"
Giles stepped forward first. In a flash, Boar's expression hardened, since he had lost the initiative. Azell laughed.
‘A Dragon Sword.’
Azell eyed Kairen's sword. Since he carried a pair of swords, Azell inferred Kairen was a dual sword user. He only took out a single sword to enjoy the sparring session, since there was a huge gap between his opponent and him. If he wanted to show his true skill, he would use his dual swords.
‘His hands are in such conditions...’
Both of Kairen's hands were rough. He had countless callouses from wielding a sword. It was the hands of a person, who had swung the sword even if blisters had burst open on his hands.
‘Well, he is from the Dragon Demon race. Even if he is a dual sword user, he could sever bones with just a single hand.’
Dual sword wielding was rarely found within the knights. Truthfully, even if one also counted the mercenaries, there were that many people that used that style. The difficulty of learning the techniques were too high, and it was disadvantageous to use it against an armored opponent or a monster with a tough hide.
However, Azell had learned it in the process of searching far and wide for sword techniques, and he had even used it in real fights. When he fought the Dragon's Shadow, he had used dual sword techniques with the sword he had hidden with his stealth skill.
Giles stepped forward enthusiastically.
Kairen was excited as he received Giles' attack, then he counterattacked.
The confrontationdddddddddddddddddddddddddd didn't last very long. Around the 20th exchange, Kairen's blade rested on Gile's neck.
“Ook. I've lost.”
“Your basic foundation is st.u.r.dy. You move well forward and backwards. However, you are clumsy at reacting to attacks from the sides. Keep that in mind for the future.”
Giles was moved since he was able to spar with him, and he also got a pointer from Kairen.
‘His advice was concise and to the point. It seemed he’s quite talented at teaching others.’
This opinion was reinforced by the fact that Kairen exchanged 20 blows with Giles. If he used his true skills, he could have won with a single exchange. However, this was a sparring match, so Kairen tried to bring out the best in Giles. Then he a.s.sessed his weaknesses.
Boar was next. He also lost after they exchanged around 20 blows, and Boar was able to hear Kairen's critique. Boar used a shield, so he was better than Giles in terms of defense. However, he was dispatched without a problem by Kairen.
Kairen spoke as he looked at Azell.
“How about you?”
“If you want me to spar then I'll give it a go.”
“You are acting hard to get. Why don't you follow the examples of these young men?”
“Ha ha ha. It might be because I've met the Duke only recently.”
Azell unsheathed his sword as he spoke spoke those words.
It was true he had wanted to face Kairen at least once. He had completed dual banding his third Ring of Life yesterday, so he wanted see how much his battle capabilities had increased. Moreover, he needed an opportunity to evaluate his Senses.
“Come at me.”
“Then&h.e.l.lip; I won't decline.”
Azell showed his respects then he immediately went offensive stance.
‘He really doesn't like to lose.’
Kairen frowned. He had been planning on giving Azell the chance to attack him first. However, Azell approached him in a languid manner as if he was provoking Kairen. It was an att.i.tude that said Azell wanted to see who would give in and attack first. It got on Kairen's nerve, so he eventually took the first strike.
After the issue of who would take the first strike was resolved, the two of them exchanged sword strikes at extreme speeds.
Kairen was fast, but Azell wasn't a slouch either. When Kairen fought Boar and Giles, he matched his own speed to theirs. However, he was steadily increasing his speed now.
Giles and Boar's eyes became wide as they saw the action. The two of them were moving at a speed they couldn’t follow.
It was tight. Surprisingly, Azell was sparring against a living legend, yet he wasn't being pushed back at all.
Instead, as time pa.s.sed, Kairen was being pushed back. Kairen was astonished.
‘I'm losing in terms of predicting the opponent's move?’
The exchange was so fast that it was hard to follow it with the naked eye. Still, even in such a situation, Azell was a half step in front of Kairen. He was able to see Kairen’s moves, and he was able to make a move on the board accordingly.
As time pa.s.sed, the c.u.mulative effect of the exchanges mounted, and one could clearly see which side was advantaged and disadvantaged. It was evident after each blow that Kairen was faster. No. His movement, chained-moves and reaction was also faster. Moreover, each of his moves were sharper.
Yet he was being pushed back by Azell.
It wasn't as if Azell's a.s.sault was at a level where Kairen couldn't deal with it. Both of them only strengthened their body and senses. This was a simple battle with a sword where Spirit Order and Dragon Qi wasn't being used... Azell was frighteningly controlling the situation to the minute detail, and Kairen was at a disadvantage against Azell.
It felt as if the answer had been predetermined. No, it felt as if his opponent was solving a problem where every advantage was given to him. If he stabbed then his opponent would block it in a certain way. If he stabbed in a different way than the opponent responded in kind. At the time, Kairen had thought he was making a move that would give him an advantage. Azell's advantageous moves stacked one after another, and Kairen was a hair breadth away from defeat.
‘Huh! Where the h.e.l.l did a guy like this pop out from?’
After he got past his inexperienced and youthful period of time in his life, Kairen had never lost to anyone in terms of techniques. He was a master swordsman, who had trained longer than a human's lifespan. However, unlike a human, time hadn't aged or weakened him. He still possessed a body in its prime.
However, he had met an opponent who was better than him in terms of technique. It had been several dozen years since he met someone like that.
‘No. This isn't about the techniques....’
Kairen tried to find a more suitable expression.
Yes. It was his senses.
This didn't mean Azell was not using his intellect and moving based on his instinct. Didn't the word Sense have multiple meanings?
Each of Azell's sword techniques weren't close to perfect. His physical body was weak, and he lacked an edge.
However, he was able to a.s.sess and have a feel for the beat of the battle. Moreover, he could tie his senses to the the weapon he possessed, and he was able to manipulate the situation into outcomes he desired. He was showing an almost miraculous level of battle sense.
In the next moment, Azell stopped his onslaught then he retreated backwards. Kairen had been completely outmatched, so he had been slowly forced into a corner. Kairen frowned.
“Are you trying to give me face?”
“That isn't it?”
“I thought you would want to use your second sword right about now.”
Kairen's expression crumpled into a frown. He took a deep breath, and he spoke after he calmed his heart.
“You know are well acquainted with how I feel.”
Kairen unsheathed both Dragon Swords. There was a complete change in his spirit when he held both his swords.
Of course, Kairen was plenty strong with a single sword. However, it was rare to meet an opponent where he had to use his dual swords. He needed both to be able to defeat this opponent. This man was a true expert.
However, Azell&h.e.l.lip; He wasn't an opponent he could defeat if he held back their killing intent and power. Kairen had to use dual swords to be able to defeat him in swordsmanship.
‘Such a young human has this much skill...’
Age, experience and training didn't always result in someone having a higher cultivation level in martial arts. Still, how could a human keep up with the long-lived Dragon Majin and the Dragon Demons? However, it wasn't like that in reality.
Humans go through a extreme amount of change in their limited life span. This mean experience, and their way of thought could influence a human to either become stronger or weaker. Kairen had witnessed a human possessing exceptional talent suffer a single defeat. Afterwards, the human desperately trained himself, but he worsened as time pa.s.sed.
One had to know which path one wanted to take in life. It wasn’t about being lazy, or training in a repet.i.tive manner. One had to find the correct method for oneself. It allowed one to work hard and it would stimulate oneself.
Kairen was sure Azell had walked down this path. Kairen had seen numerous geniuses, but Azell was a monster, who was beyond his comprehension.
If Kairen knew Azell's ident.i.ty, and what kind of life he had led, he would have understood why Azell was so skilled.
The Dragon Demon war was h.e.l.l incarnate where it weeded out those who had partic.i.p.ated in it. One didn't survive, because one was strong. Being strong was a prerequisite in surviving the war, but one also needed luck.
Azell had great potential, and he had met many good teacher, who had nurtured him. Moreover, he was able to survive, since his potential had been allowed to fully bloom.
The process of his development couldn't be a.s.sessed with reason and logic. The world had been conquered by evil. The confluence of events was something of a miracle, and it was something no one else could replicate again. In the end, a monster capable of killing the Dragon Demon King Atein had been born.
Suddenly, Kairen asked a question.
“What does the sword mean to you?”
“Mmmm? Why are you suddenly asking such a question?”
“Please answer my question.”
“It seems you like to talk from a philosophical point of view. The sword is a lethal weapon used to defeat enemies.”
“Your answer isn't very heroic.”
“I have never thought about composing my thoughts on what the sword means to me. It is a tool I use to achieve my goals.”
This was why Azell didn't mind his sword breaking. If one used a tool, there was always a chance it'll break. He didn't obsess over the ruined tool rather he focused on how to acquire his next tool.
“So swordsmanship is just a way for you to kill people?”
“What answer do you want from me?”
“I want an honest answer.”
“Swordsmanship isn't just a method used to kill people.”
Kairen was puzzled by the unexpected answer. Azell continued speaking.
“Swordsmanship is a technique that allows me to use a tool named a sword in a proficient manner. I don’t see why I have to always use it with the intent of 'killing' something? My answer may be innocent, but I have a narrow point of view.”
“Huh huh. Should I say you views are too simplistic?”
“The simple answer is the best. If you want an answer that has a deeper meaning.... It is a game.”
“It's a game?”
“Yes. It's a game where I put my life on the line.”
Azell had become a swordsman, since the sword was the strongest and most effective weapon. Moreover, he liked the sword and swordsmanship compared to the other disciplines of martial art.
He did things that was impossible for others. When he faced opponents, he always found a way to come out on top. He always challenged himself to obtain something that shouldn’t be able to be achieved in such situations....
“That is what the sword means to me.”
“So, you just like swordsmanship. That's basically what you are saying. There is a saying. Those who are talented can't beat the hard workers. Moreover, those who work hard can't overcome those who enjoy what they do.”
“It isn't a sentiment that I can entirely agree with.”
Kairen was strong. He had lived much longer than a human as a Dragon Demon, and he was pa.s.sionately addicted to improving his swordsmanship. Kairen's techniques had reached an astonishing level.
‘If I looked at the completion of each of his techniques, he is on par with my heydays.’
At the time of the Dragon Demon war, this was the reason why he learned a diverse amount of techniques. No other Spirit Order pract.i.tioner was able to use as many variety of skills with his proficiency.
Of course, this meant his techniques weren't as complete as those who stuck to a single technique until it was perfected. However, he was able to chain various skills to optimize the usage of the skills. No one could reach his level of proficiency in this aspect.
‘Well, now... Should I experience his true skill?’
Kairen, who was using dual swords now, could be considered an entirely different person than the one he faced before. Azell's heart beat faster in antic.i.p.ation. He would be able to experience Kairen's true skills.