Chapter 16:

The Duel

Battlefield Restart: Mortal God

A duel was different from any of the spars I had with Father or Mark. I had to hold back…

Wouldn't want to accidentally kill my opponent.

Now that would cause a commotion…

As I walked towards the Training Grounds, I saw many people that were normally busy with other matters in the house. The Young Miss of this Household I currently worked for was here!

The House Master's daughter was indeed a girl with Rank B Magical Talent alright... Looking at her pure silver hair that signified the strength of her Light Attribute, my eyes couldn't help but twitch a little. I felt my inferiority... Being born with less…

She truly had the looks of a 'Genius'.

Someone who had swordsmanship and ranged magic that far surpassed those of her own age.

Her talent was the strongest in the kingdom's current youngest generation of nobility.

Even if she couldn't compare to my parents right now, the potential she showed already indicated that she'd definitely be able to surpass them in the future. This was especially true considering her attainments in Fire Manipulation and Sword Arts.

She looked at me curiously. I made my way towards the temporary arena made by the servants of the Swordwick Household. All of them looked like they were looking to see a good battle... and I was determined to live up to those expectations!

This will definitely be a 'battle', not a true 'fight'.

Definitely… Gotta obey the rules…

I didn't really hide much of my abilities in the past five years.

It probably caused a debate among the servants about my ACTUAL battle prowess and abilities.

I was about to battle against a strong opponent like that arrogant prick, which made many unable hold back their curiosity towards what a F Rank Magical Talent of this Noble Household could do personally.

There were likely many of them that were actually placing their bets on who would win this match.

I made my way to the Arena with a confident stride despite my inward cautious nature.

My parents, who were walking beside the House Master, watched the battle from a seat that was prepared beforehand. They stood on each side of him, showing how much faith he had in them.

Only they had the right to stand next to the Swordwick Duke of the Drakeyol Kingdom.

They had special positions in the household…

The Swordwick Duke was also known as a C Rank Magical Talent just like my parents, but the overall ability of this sharp-eyed, well-built man in combat far exceeded my parents by a large margin. Even the Royal Family would be cautious around him...

The reason was simple: That grey-haired old Swordsman has his own unique Intrinsic Art

It could be used in sync with Burst Manipulation.

An Art renowned through the world.

Burst Manipulation could be said to be more of a passive ability created by the Sword God.

Since most humans couldn't bring out the technique's true strengths, the only way for others to increase their power was by actively creating their very own 'active' type Arts instead.

Burst Manipulation was the first true 'Art' to be made in human history... and after the weak Human Race saw the potential of intricate Arts, many more were created after it through experimentations.

Duke Swordwick's 'Infinite Swords' was one of such Arts. It was passed down through his lineage through every generation. Although I hadn't seen it myself: It is said that when he uses his Art, a large amount of swords were able to be formed.

And they'd all float around and obey commands.

Even though I already had the eighty years of memories from my past life gradually becoming clearer, I wasn't easily able to create Arts that others had never seen or heard of before.

Especially not of that quality…

No wonder my parents said that personal Arts were hard to create without a clear goal in mind!

Well... at least I was able to bring my strength up by a notch through mixing magic and science together. Looks like it was time to test if my abilities could be used in a real battle against opponents.

Both of us stood centre stage, awaiting to hear the rules of the challenge.

In this duel, we were each given strict orders to not use any magical equipment or defensive tools.

Also, we were commanded harshly to not lethally injure our opponent using any of our abilities.

I looked at that massive prick that was holding his wooden spear in disgust. He looked too good…

Why did he have to look so damn handsome…?

My body was currently warming up by swinging my wooden knife and wooden sword in each hand.

I tested different stances…

Of course, I knew that having two weapons didn't mean I'd be able to properly apply force to them.

Posture and grip were important to apply strength.

It was the reason most used a Forward Grip stance using a sword rather than holding it backwards.

In fiction, the Reverse Grip really DID look cool on the outside. However, it had two problems with it.

Not only did holding a weapon backwards limit flexibility, it made blocking from the front nearly impossible. Even if one managed to do so, they wouldn't be able to hold their grip on the blade.

The decisive factor was the thumb…

Grip strength usually focused towards the index finger and thumb. The closer to the top, the better.

The pinkie was where strength was diverted the least. It made holding blades in Reverse Grip loose.

The longer the blade, the higher the instability…

However, that didn't stop me from practicing the Reverse Grip at times. There was a reason for this:

The impracticability of the Reverse Grip had been proven to be solved using Emerald Reinforcement.

When using superhuman speed, the Reverse Grip became a practical tool for self-protection.

Although the front couldn't be blocked, Wind Swordsmen usually moved so fact that running directly at the enemy was foolish. Passing by from the side was better, as they would crash much less.

Then they could 'drag' their blade through a target.

It was a deadly tactic I'd probably never use… but that didn't mean that stance was useless to me.

Especially when handling disposable weapons…

The tools we were given were blunt, just in case any of us actually ended up gravely injuring each other while fighting. You could even say that they went all out regarding different safety measures.

The Mana Clad I wore seeped into my flesh and bones, but didn't release out of my skin into a 'flame'. The reason I did so was… because this was the only way a F Rank Magical Talent like me could cover my entire body with reinforcement.

I called this a type of 'Internal Reinforcement'.

The ones everyone else used being 'External'…

The only downside to this method was having less physical and magical resistance than others...

I didn't want to use the Secret Arts I'd been saving up yet, not because I doubted his abilities, but due to how I was waiting for him to underestimate my strength. I mean, how could a weak person earn the chance to become that little girl's butler?

The fact that he wielded a spear at his age gave me even more of an impression that he would be able to gain the upper hand in physical power. I had done my best to do a bit of research beforehand.

Apparently, that kid's father was a Spearman even more skilled than my own in using his weapon.

The only difference was that he lacked talent as a Mage. Though this weakness was covered by Jack's mother. She was also purely a Mage, unlike the Sword Mage my mother was certified as.

Just looking to where his parents stood, I felt that one of them had a strange air of sophistication.

His mother looked like a former 'Lady' of nobility…

However, what disgusted me to point of not wanting to have anything to do with him…

…was the fact that this prick was actually looking down on me! How dare he not take me seriously?!

It doesn't take a genius to understand that he was probably the most talented along his peers.

A savant among the younger generation of servants when it came to pure Magical Talent.

His disdain towards me wasn't something new…

I'd seen many people consider me as a weakling just because I had a F Rank Magical Talent.

The other kids gathered around him were always sarcastic when asking how my regular training regimen with Father was going... They didn't believe swinging my sword about had any worth.

Only the strength of 'Reinforcement' seemed to matter. Techniques were only a byproduct of it.

Now that I think about it, looking at him in disgust was a total waste of my time.

I should just bash his face with my sword, then be done with it. They couldn't say anything about it.

"Are both of you ready?" Mark said with a tense look. He was refereeing the duel from the side.

A Wind Specialist like him that focused his efforts into speed was usually required for duels.

After all, sometimes only a swift-footed individual could stop things from getting out of hand.

If any of us was to be in danger, he would always be ready to step in and stop us from breaking any rules. This was only natural in a fast-paced 'Duel' on this household's high standards.

"Ready." The giant youth stopped talking those friends his age. He cracked his neck a few times…

…and stepped onto the stage with an innocent, yet strongly charismatic smile. If I hadn't seen the contempt he had for me earlier, even I would have been fooled by that honest-looking expression.

He wore that expression like a mask…

"Ready." I declared, before holding both my wooden knife and sword in Reverse Grip...

Oops, I quickly changed them back in a hurry!

A look of embarrassment appeared on my face.

I pretended that didn't happen.

Yup, that was a mistake that didn't happen…

My body kept forgetting that I was just a Swordsman now… instead of a soldier with knives.

I didn't need to hide weapons that were shown to them behind my wrists. They are exposed already.

Ah... It looked like 'old habits die hard'...!

Fighting like a 'Warrior' wasn't really my style. After all, there's too many 'rules' when facing someone head-on. I'd rather be inside where I can use corridors for cover, rather that out in this field...

Good thing Father gave me experience in this.

"Then let the Duel start." Mark clapped his hands.

The audience were in rapped attention towards us.

They tried to probe both our strengths.

"Simon Rainglow, just give up. You can't win against absolute power I wield." The massive p- I mean, the 'innocent giant' asked in way that made him look magnanimous and kind-hearted.

It was as if he was the kind and gentle older brother. He was trying to advise his younger sibling to stop him from making a mistake. This was what I mean by how he was frickin' looking down on me!!!

This guy talked too much...!

My eyes couldn't help but gaze at him like he was some kind of mental patient.

I switched to using one of my five Affinities with my widely-known F Rank Magic Reinforcement.

An amethyst glow appeared under my skin and caused his words next to be swallowed back down his throat. His eyes narrow in seriousness. This kid found out that I wouldn't be that easy to deal with.

It wasn't easy finding someone like myself, who could utilise the Lightning Affinity at such a young age... However, having a rare Elemental Affinity Mana Clad under my belt didn't mean much.

My weapons were held in a 'X' pose, despite the disparity in length my knife had with my sword.

It didn't look all that impressive since it lacked symmetry. They knew my 'balance' would be off.

At least, if I hadn't already known Knife Arts…

I had enough time to train it over the years.

Looks like I was underestimated him, it seemed like he knows just how dangerous Lightning Arts were.

He must have also trained at a very young age to have such an impeccably strong mind and will.

Not that I was surprised...

The audience wasn't bored when we started to inch closer together while sizing each other up.

We kept on moving closer to one another until there was only a step left. It was bad for him…

A spear couldn't be used at such a distance.

So why did he confidently step into my range?

"Nepotistic bastard…" He whispered into my ear.

What, was that all there was to him?

"Pfft~" I barely held in my laugh. The saliva from my mouth touched his face, but he didn't react.

Instead, he seemed unusually calm…

"What's so funny about it?" Never mind, that face definitely had a bulging vein popping at the side.

"Just counting my blessing… Anyway, are you sure you want to fight me so closely?" I licked my lips.

Then cleaned my mouth with the back of my hand.

Perhaps he had a strong sixth sense, but it looked like his body stiffened when my adrenaline shot up.

I let him step away as he pleased.

There was no reason to fight too seriously. Better to see how he'd fight when using his full strength.

"I'm sorry for looking down on you. Let us have a good fight." He said while readying his wooden spear into a formal stance. My eyes looked at his stance in interest. What was 'Defensive' here…?

It looked too aggressive to be a counter stance.

The opal glow appeared on his released Mana..

It far exceeded the size the puny Amethyst Reinforcement under my skin, but his face didn't show its previous arrogance. He instead had his gaze displaying pure confidence of his abilities.

We didn't talk with our voices. We used our tools to exchange expressive attacks with one another.

Both of us charged towards each other at the same time as we readied our personal Arts and Spells.

A bolt of purple electricity sparked out of the transparent reinforcement glowing inside my arms.

I clashed with him head-on.

My unpredictable sword movements were quickly followed up by a swift knife thrust to his chest.

It tried to poke a hole into his solid defences... He altered the Earth Mana around his body to conjure an 'Earthen Armour'. This defence blocked every one of my attacks after slapped away his spear.

Our figures moved everywhere around the stage.

We clashed many times, but none of us was able to gain an upper hand in any of our short exchanges.

The armour he formed out of his Earth Affinity was so thick… I wondered if it was heavy or not.

Every one of my Lightning Mana infused attacks weren't able to pierce through deeply enough.

I couldn't cause any sort of significant damage to his body. He was spotless this entire time.

Urgh… Now this was annoying.

His lack of pain or fear when stabbed said it all.

That said, his power wasn't any better than mine…

…when considering how superior my experience actual life or death battles compared to his.

None of his strikes could even damage my clothes.

I hadn't even been touched once by those slow thrusts. However, something felt wrong about it.

His heavy wooden spear was always redirected using my sword. This happened regardless of his tactics; no matter which angle he stabbed towards me using his Earth Mana coated spear.

It was useless endeavour for him to think he could overpower me just because of his Magical Talent.

But something kept nagging at me…

In the small opening when I fell into thought, he struck my hand. It didn't push me back one bit.

However, my forearm was thrown flying back…!

If I hadn't conditioned it over the years to be more tough, then maybe a bone would have broken.

Wait… This was definitely 'that'!

"Ballistic Striking…" I mumbled. Now it finally made sense… He mastered a pretty useful technique.

It was practically a 'Finishing Move' in Martial Arts.

As a Systema user, there was no way I wouldn't be able to recognise 'Ballistic Striking' in the flesh.

Also known as the Ballistic Punch.

It was a physical technique required the release of redundant tension in order to properly execute.

Once released, the fist wasn't thrown 'through' the target. Instead, it was thrown 'into' the opponent.

This subtle difference allowed one to 'dump' all their weight into others. It didn't look fancy…

…but it could drop a grown man instantly.

Wasn't the demerit of this technique how much it relied on chance to actually 'unload' its weight?

How was he able to execute them so well…?!

Was that hit a coincidence? Or had he learnt a way to make his 'Ballistic Thrust' work with certainty?

Suddenly, my mind spun with an unfamiliar feeling.

Thanks to the 'Memory Recall' Lightning Art having activated my brain's synapses and neutrons, I was able to remember the many techniques I'd learned throughout my past life. Not one, but ALL of them!

It felt different from how I'd usually fight…

Normally, I'd train until the techniques I learned became a second nature. It wasn't out of diligence.

It was out of uncertainty…

I couldn't trust my memory. Even back at home and at school, I had always been ridiculed about it.

My memory had always been a sore spot…

Sometimes, I was like a bird that would forget what I'd been told after turning around and taking a step.

Sometimes, I would forget things that I was consciously trying really hard to recollect.

This made me bad at Martial Arts…

Battle Intuition relied on guesses based off of assumptions. They were formed via memorisation.

To NOT have good memory would make you easily fall for the same tricks. It wasn't a good condition.

That's why I worked harder than others…

And thankfully, my effort never betrayed me…

[Mastered Knowledge- Emerson Combat Systems!]

35 years of accumulated studies compiled by Earnest Emerson started to reappear in my head.

It wasn't that I studied for that long, but that the creator of these studies truly went beyond the call of duty. I remembered attending classes of an overseas mentor who taught me 'everything'.

Well… at least all that was practical in many Martial Arts forms. All flashy movements were removed.

The only things left were quick and easy movements anyone could do regardless of strength. It allowed me to master my personal strengths… even if I'd forgotten the moves I'd dabbled in. What was left was a mixture of skills.

Gasps of awe resounded when I changed my tactics. The wooden weapons were put away.

They were stuck on the belt I wore…

Anyway, what shocked them was what I did next.

Since he was thrusting slower to optimise it's destructiveness, I used that to my advantage.

My body instantly dashed in front of him, then my arm glowed bright red when throwing out an elbow.

The sound of a 'pop' resounded cleanly…

Both of our figures stopped.

"He won… that easily…?!" Mark mumbled in shock.

However, when the dust settled, both of us were unharmed. Jack just looked at me with wide eyes.

I'd made a mistake…

I leapt back and drew my weapons again.

Elbows were too lethal. If I had hit, then there was a chance I could have broken the bridge of his nose.

Although that wasn't much, and could be healed by the Mages on standby… It wasn't good for me.

This 'battle' would have became a 'fight'.

I decided to seal my 'Art of Eight Limbs' for now. A match like this didn't require such strong attacks.

It was when I thought so that Jack finally regained his composure. He looked red in the face.

His stance changed along with his attitude.

An embarrassed look appeared on his face!

When he charged at me, I felt my body stiffen from seeing the adrenaline rush state he was in.

Was what I did really that bad…?

His spear was like machine gun. Its afterimages stabbed towards my stomach. The increase in his physical abilities were quite outstanding. Especially with how he wasn't using the right reinforcement for increasing the speed of his physical attacks...

I had to keep my wooden knife close to my body.

My body twisted with every single one of his thrusts while parrying. Feet were taking steps back towards the edge of the arena. It looked like he was thinking of suppressing me. Then he would throw me out of the ring using everything he had!

Too bad his expectations were going to be disappointed. I'd already predicted this situation.

The Elemental Affinity of Lightning might not have had the greatest potential when it comes to long and drawn out battles, but its extreme bursts of power after a few moments were tremendous!

It only required time storing potential energy, then it would become the strongest of all the attributes!

Just when I got to the edge of the arena, I released all the excess potential energy of my Lightning Mana into a burst of power! I redirected his assault and sliced my sword onto his Earthen Armour!

Although I wasn't able to break through his unreasonably strong defences, the force of my attack strongly pushed him back and threw off his balance... This gave me a great opportunity!

So what if he was angry?

I already had this in the bag!

My tactics didn't allow him to figure out what was going on. I switched my Mana Clas to the Wind Affinity in order to get closer to him. Then I changed it again into the Fire Affinity.

This was in order to continue pressuring him.

The shocked expression on Jack's face quickly faded. He swiftly manipulated the Earth Mana covering his body.

The Earth Affinity had the greatest capabilities when it comes to defence. No doubt about that.

It was only natural that Jack didn't have trouble defending himself from my unpredictable attacks.

Even if he couldn't see them, I couldn't hurt him.

The swordsmanship I displayed may have been strong, but it wasn't enough to injure him at all.

This damn annoying turtle...!

Looking at how he was slowly regaining his footing, I frowned.

I didn't want to lose the momentum I'd gained from my earlier surprising attack. Others might not be able to understand, but having 'momentum' in battle was advantageous in many ways.

Just like how he was slowly suppressing me…

Becoming passive wasn't a good sign.

Since I wasn't that knowledgeable of the spear, my situation would worsen the longer this went on.

And if I 'recalled' my experiences too hard, then there was a chance I'd accidentally kill him.

I needed to focus… concentrate…

Which mastered style would be most helpful here?

Suddenly, I felt some inspiration. As the fear of the unknown was making my movements stiff, I focused on the techniques that I'd used to curb my paranoia. Since I was feeling scared, I weaponised fear itself. To turn self-protection into a 'counter'.

By combining fastest human reflex, the 'startle-flinch response', with the strongest natural human kinetic movement, also known the 'cross-extensor reflex', which stimulated the readiness potential…

A certain style had been born…

"I have a SPEAR as well. Wanna see it?" I suddenly laughed out loud. My countenance had changed.

Excitement was painted across my mouth…

…and I showed the whites of my teeth.

One of the martial arts I had mastered in my previous life came to mind. I moved 'into' him.

Our distance was ultra close. The fears carved into my heart made my body move on its own accord.

The core knowledge of Emerson Combat Systems was combined into it. This allowed greater variety.

Of course, Jack didn't have the mood or time to respond with a snide remark.

He shifted horizontally and swung wooden spear to slam my ribs. It kicked up the dust behind him.

The usual scene between an F Rank Magical Talent and a C Rank one in these circumstances…

…would be the weaker individual being launched out of the ring uncontrollably; Flung like a rag-doll!

However, that scene never came to be...!

By fusing the unique special qualities of Lightning Mana with a specific martial art I learnt in my previous life, I was able to respond faster than my brain could react. My fear controlled me directly!

This was in order to meet his overwhelming attack head-on! A large 'boom' rang out! Small cracks appeared on my wooden sword that had once again momentarily knocked his body off balance!

With my fist extended his way, I gave a taunt:

"Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response... In other words: S-P-E-A-R... This is my own 'SPEAR'! Like the pun I made?" Rather than focusing on my words, he looked at his weapon.

His jaw almost dropped…

Was it that amazing I broke through his defence?

It's not that I was purposefully wasting my energy for no reason, but that I was hoping he'd lose his cool.

Hopefully, show any kind of weakness...

The SPEAR System in my past life was a hybrid martial art which helped Detect, Defuse, and Defend in real life. Due to its lack of set forms, it was among the easier to master martial arts.

As long as your body remembered, that was fine.

I benefited a lot from mastering this martial art in many ways. I was now able to respond to danger at speeds faster than I myself could consciously perceive. A response to any and all situations.

What I was aiming for now after defending was an opportunity to 'Defuse' him once he slipped up...

Though it seems like my efforts were for nothing.

He ignored my provocations without batting an eye at my figure. It looked like he curbed his arrogance in the heat of battle... This time, he was able to regain his stability and got to get into a stance.

I needed to change my tactics...!

Instead of switching my Mana Clad's Affinity, I decided to patiently overlay my Lightning Mana on top of my Fire Mana in order to store energy. This caused two types of reinforcements to manifest.

One ruby, one amethyst…

Jack's mouth twitched at the scene of my reinforcement taking on two distinct hues.

He seemed to me like he was a little panicked. This time, he tried countering before trying to forcefully break my momentum. He tried standing his ground no matter what was to be thrown at him.

"You can use two Mana Clads!?" He spoke for the first time throughout this duel in a disbelieving tone of voice. His eyes seemed to be turning crimson as a result. He was unable to comprehend how I could possibly use two Affinities simultaneously at once.

"Can't you... ask that after you've stopped defending?" My breath was a little bit ragged.

I hadn't been conserving my stamina enough…

Though I was able to force a deadlock between the two us, it was really hard to block his spears.

I couldn't really spare some time for idle chatter with him about the technique I was using, anyway.

"Not happening."

"Then how about giving me an opening I can take advantage of? Pretty please~"

"And why would I do that?"

"Hah... It was worth a try." I spoke after deciding to take some distance. My breathing was unstable.

Though this was also since I had been attacking, dodging, and parrying throughout this bout.

Jack naturally took advantage of this.

Although he wasn't perfectly successful in breaking my momentum, he was still able to fight back and put himself in a position where he would be able to stop me from storing too much energy!

The amount of potential energy a Lightning User could store within his Lightning Mana… was dependent on the user's control over their own Mana. That's why size wasn't really important.

A rare Affinity that had high requirements in skill…

I was one of the best in the household when it came to control over Mana. It was only natural I could've stored enough energy to throw him off the arena if he gave me enough time to 'charge up'...

But wasn't like he'd give me that opportunity…

I needed a new battle of action.

He made the right decision when it came to his next course of action, but how could I just let him stop me from charging my Lightning Mana? Why was adding my Fire Mana not enough to beat him?

I swiftly changed into a more defensive sword stance, the very same one I used against my father to block his attacks. After a nice parry, I'd attack with my knife with short bursts of Lightning Mana.

The people looking at my swordsmanship would only see me constantly changing the Elemental Affinities within my body. This was while also keeping my Lightning Mana up at all times in order to store and release small to large bursts of power.

The unpredictability of my swordsmanship showed itself.

I was able to hold my own against Jack without having to take any steps back!

Jack also wasn't able to forcefully push me towards the edge of the arena again, which allowed me to relax a little as we clashed. My mind was constantly sharpening as I focused on his moves.

It may look like we're even on the outside, but I knew clearly that his plan was probably to exhaust my inner supply of magical power. He didn't need to parry and dodge much compared to myself.

Plus, the arm he hit in his initial strike still hurt…

There were definitely bruises under my sleeve…

A confident smile etched across his face. The anxiety shown towards my skills slowly had faded.

I don't know whether to praise his stable mind, or curse the fact that his assumptions were spot on!!!

Looks like it was time to get finally serious!