Battlefield Restart: Mortal God
The 'spar' I had with the Young Miss was really broadening my horizons little by little. The thought of going offensive didn't cross my mind. The weapons I held moved to form a solid defence.
Holding a sword and a knife, I used my new Combat Body 'Universal' Art to its absolute limit.
It was to keep up with the storm of Astral Swords swarming around my body. There was not even the faintest glow of energy underneath my skin. This even though the multiple enhancements made by my new Universal Art were easy to see.
Although I couldn't fight on even terms with the Young Miss (with how she was exploiting my only weakness of ranged-combat), my mastery over the new 'Internal' technique I personally increased.
I had learnt how to smoothen the circulation of the various powers within me. Using them all correctly.
As time passed, my fighting style became more stable and focused. It was seemingly 'evolving'…
Each sword movement become more fluid.
My deflective attacks aimed to parry the swords connected to my next movements with ease.
This wasn't due to any enlightenment I got in the midst of battle. Instead, it had more to do with how my body slowly getting used to my 'Combat Body' Universal Art, and how to properly apply its power.
I had already discarded the ordinary Mana Clad sub-technique of the 'Burst Manipulation' Art.
This choice was in order to concentrate on the subtle intricacies of my new Secret Art, allowing me to figure out the advantages and disadvantages of my new technique… Even without having to go into ACTUAL combat with someone else.
The both of us weren't even serious yet…
This was just us 'playing'.
She was trying to get a read on my patterns, and I was trying to adapt to wide range of attacks.
The flying swords were really hard to deal with…
They didn't only shoot in one direction. They curved and changed angles freely with her will.
Almost like I was fighting invisible swordsmen…
With that being said, the only flaw I could find in my Universal Art was my lack of defences against my opponent's techniques. It used a lot of Mana like the Young Miss' Infinite Swords on top of that.
The Art lacked any ranged abilities that could be used at long distance... So what was I to do?
It's almost like I'd met the bane of my existence.
I may have had greater amount of magical energy now that my Mana Flame wasn't the only reserve for Sun Mana, but that didn't change the fact that my innate limitations still remained the same...
Unfortunately I'd come to the realisation that having more Mana… didn't mean being able to increase my overall output of Spell or Arts. My body felt a limitation on manifestation of energy.
It seemed like my F Rank Magical Talent still acted as a restraint. No wonder it was called a 'Failure'.
This Rank was qualitatively different from E Rank.
At the very least, having the ability to cover one's whole body in reinforcement and shoot basic level Combat Spells was alright. It wasn't exactly ground breaking, but it was good enough as a springboard.
However, 'Failure' Ranks didn't much hope.
No wonder everyone only looked at my Affinities…
It was a stupid Rank that stopped me from expelling Mana any size bigger than a thumb.
As an unfortunate result: Although I now had a wealth of Mana at my disposal, the amount that my body could actually spend on Spells or Arts was no different than before. A limited budget millionaire…
Meaning: I was going to have to make due with thumb-sized projectile-type magic from now on...
It was a good thing I'd been preparing a countermeasure for this sort of situation in my own room. A mere lack of firepower wouldn't be a problem. High hurdles couldn't keep me down!
A soldier rises to any occasion!
With a swing of the Young Miss' index finger, the ethereal 'spines' of many of her Astral Swords smashed my body into the ground. I was lost in thought, not paying any attention to the pain.
The damage done was ineffective. I had properly defended myself using my weapons from the frontal attack. Though I was sure she could've bypassed my defences if she was really serious.
I only had two arms, after all...
How was it that I was still able to get up and fight normally despite the extra damage that came with smashing into the floor? Was I now immune to environmental damage without any explanation?
It's actually quite simple to tell the truth. All I did was use my 'Kinetic Muscles' to absorb the physical force of the impact. It 'ate' the damage that came with hitting headfirst into the ground!
I know, I know… This new ability that I luckily got from my Secret Art is practically cheating~
Not that it mattered to me.
Well... It's not like I was using the full strength of my 'Combat Body' Universal Art anyway.
The condensed Sun Mana refined into my bones still hadn't been released into Spells or Arts of Time Specialists (which I fulfilled the conditions for due to my Mana's purity).
On top of that: The Moon Mana within my blood also hadn't been used to gain access to a sort of 'Space Specialisation' (which only I was compatible with). Though this situation wasn't by choice…
I just didn't have much of a reference to go off.
Light Mana had telekinetic functions that acted similar to Time Mana somehow.
Even Dark Mana had teleportation aspects that made imagining Space Mana hard to differentiate.
Although it wasn't farfetched to think I could become some sort of 'Space Specialist' with the assistance of Moon Mana, it was too hard. I wasn't capable of displacing myself and manipulating my physique even if I'd trained to use my Mana.
This was not even mentioning the fact that my 'Ether Skin' was only capable of blocking and absorbing natural phenomenons created by Mages, not Mana infused Spells.
I was sure that if I was to go up against a Mage instead of a Swordsman like the Swordwick Household's Duke, then... the outcome would be more harder to predict. They just needed to slip up.
In truth, I was actually a little disappointed that I'd lost my ability to make unpredictable attacks.
Maybe I shouldn't discard Burst Manipulation yet…
If my previous form of swordsmanship was unpredictable before due to the constant changes in my Elemental Bursts, then my current sword style looked more 'normal' in comparison.
There was a need to readjust my swordsmanship to fit my new Universal Art. It wouldn't take too long.
The task was easier than adapting to every Burst…
There were no longer any need for tricks in my new style of swordsmanship. It focused on efficiency…
That's why I only displayed both flawless and intricate swordsmanship that was adjusting to defend the Young Miss' attacks. Even she seemed surprised at how nimble yet forceful my sword was.
My body danced around with a blade in hand.
"Nice work~ It seems that personal swordsmanship of yours is improving... I'm absolutely sure you will be able to attain a higher level. You'll have a more intrinsic mastery over the sword than any other.
Just keep this effort up!" A voice could be heard not too far from me. I'd finally taken in a breath…
I didn't even bother to be distracted by her sudden praise. I'd already knew of her intentions to break my concentration anyway. Her 'generous' words were already quite lacking… in my point of view.
While I was trying defend myself from the technique that was known as 'The bane of all Swordsmen', she just casually relaxed with her Personal Maid. The girl wasn't even standing.
There was two people having a picnic near me. She was having her lunch while manipulating swords!
I might have been embarrassed by how disinterested she was in taking the spar seriously.
Well, that was if I HAD the noble dignity of a Swordsman... Something that was foreign to me.
And a good thing too~
It was better than being beaten into submission... I liked how she was completely holding back on me.
However, a part of me felt a bit uneasy…
What if this girl truly became my enemy?
If she truly did, then my family would die. I'd be sold into slavery. Everything would be lost.
It made me feel reluctant to leave things like this.
A glint suddenly appeared in my tired eyes…
I was once a man who had never 'lost' after sharpening myself. My skills were excellent.
…So why wasn't I winning?
Was I… a 'loser'?
No, no… no… I had to calm down….
What was the point of being like this? Did the old geezer within me not handle losing to a little girl?
I had to be more open-hearted in this life.
With that thought calming me down, I opened my eyes. However, the surroundings had changed.
It wasn't as if my body had been transported, and was more like a 3D image overlaid onto my sight.
A static image ripped straight from my memories…
There, my body was in the same position. Even my age was the same… with only a few differences.
First: My clothes had changed.
Second: I was standing in front of a mirror.
My shirt couldn't hide the itchy, pale skin and injuries that had mixed in from my school life.
No one cared for the injuries I had…
The scenery changed again, and I caught a shadowy glimpse of a young girl with a sword.
She seemed to be five years old…
Was that the Young Miss…?
Before I could comprehend the still image, my sight had returned to reality. Where I was still escaping.
Had time stopped momentarily…?
'Mild hallucinations, my ass…' Was this what Mark meant? It was worse than what he'd told me about.
Anyway, how had I forgotten…?
Earth also wasn't so kind to 'losers'. If you let your growth stagnate, your future just becomes worse.
An itchiness started to arise from the heaviness surging through me. Had I forgotten my past?
There was a contradiction in that mindset. The kind of person I was in the past only messed things up.
Strong… but not the kind of 'strong' person who could protect others. My specialty was killing.
Was that kind of strength needed anymore?
Killing only caused problems if done without legitimate excuses… Those given by the military.
I needed a different kind of strength…
At that very thought, another memory had arisen.
I nostalgically remembered a capoeirista who I'd met among my many battlefield encounters.
He'd felt different from me…
For me, who had become a war machine that strictly followed protocol. He was really inspiring.
A man who had thrown off the chains of regrets and responsibilities. Almost as if he was truly 'free'.
It was a word that gave a sour taste to my mouth.
Even in this new life, I wasn't ever free from my past life. Regrets, resentments, bitterness, etc…
…Everything I'd thought was cast off was there.
The only difference was having an immature body that couldn't handle the weight of my spirituality.
A body that could barely express the bloodthirsty psychopath that had been paraded as a legend.
So… a new identity needed to be formed…
I thought back to the man's words. How he, who knew nothing about me, had praised my 'talent':
"You should have become a professional Martial Artist if you were THAT skilled. What a waste of skill…" He shrugged his shoulders. Almost as if he was truly regretful he couldn't make me an ally.
A spark of inspiration suddenly hit me!
What was 'Martial Arts'?
For me, it had nothing to do with dynamic vision or the ability to destroy others. For good reason too…
As a legendary soldier, those two traits were already in the bag. However, it didn't change me.
I was still just a madman waving a knife…
It was different from the feeling that capoeirista had given off. A true 'Martial Artist' was… sublime.
Efficiency wasn't the point of practicing a form…
No… It had to do with personal expression.
Through an accumulation of good battle habits, a person's strength increased… but that was only a byproduct of modernisation. In fact, many classical martial arts moulded the practitioners over time.
It gave them a sense of elegance and harmony I'd sorely lacked in my past life. With my 'bad habits'…
Kicking between the legs, eye pokes, scratching, ripping, and other 'ungentlemanly' habits had been learned in my past life. I couldn't use those habits in this situation. They were sealed away… for now.
Though that STILL didn't make things optimistic.
She was stronger than me. I had to admit that she had zero weaknesses that were easy to exploit.
Even now, Sapphire was only playing with me.
If she was actually serious, those many swords floating above her would rain down all at once.
Techniques were useless against such power…
"You fight way too forcefully. 'Techniques' were meant to be used to beat those stronger than you."
That capoeirista's words changed my mind. The words he'd spoken in the past resonated again.
It made me remember my own personal motto:
'Remember… Focus on what you have!'
The 'Sun Bones' of my physique started to transform their nature. I also added all my Mana.
F Rank 'Sun Bones' plus my F Rank 'Magic Talent'…
Together, they caused my conditioned body to hit the 'limit' that had been restricting me since birth.
My lungs found it harder to breath…
There was a sort of external pressure forcing my Mana down. It stopped me from using Mana Clad.
But I didn't stop…!
The Wind Affinity raged inside of me. They roared at the chains of fate that stopped my 'ascension'.
Slowly, the hurricane within me died down…
A new technique was comprehended.
Rather that infusing energy from the outside, the Wind Mana started reinforcing from within.
This put a large burden on my body. However, it also felt much stronger than my previous attempt.
[Internal Clad- Storm Sublimation!]
"…!" A small explosion resounded. The repulsive force pushed the air around me. I'd got her attention for the first time. She leaned up from the grassy field and looked straight in my direction.
No words were spoken…
Our eyes were enough to convey that now was the time to get a little serious. My body was glowing emerald. Not just my inner body, but even my hair had changed colour from the infusion of energy.
A sword appeared in her hand. Sapphire got up to walk towards me without looking at her maid at all.
She probably didn't want anybody to interfere…
Since I didn't want her to gather her momentum while approaching me, my quick feet acted first.
Afterimages started to appear around me…
Finally, I used proper Speed Affinity type Arts!
The feeling was different, but familiar enough for me to instantly get a hang of my high acceleration.
[Capoeira Style- Ginga Rebellion!]
She threw more swords, but this time… they all missed my body. Not even touching my clothes.
The swaying, dance-like motions were extremely unpredictable. They had a peculiar 'rhythm'.
And yet, 'Ginga' was different for each individual.
With the basic movements of capoeira, I switched to a traditional technique of the Speed Affinity.
[Speed Style- Encirclement of the Phantoms!]
Swords rained down and created a fence of blades around her, but they couldn't stop my advance.
As long as there was a gap between the blades I could move between, such a measure was useless.
…It wasn't enough to catch her off guard though.
Something had to be added into the mix.
My 'Kinetic Muscles' flexed, and I found myself executing my movements with much more finesse.
I realised that the control over my own physical force had increased. It made me 'sharpen' myself.
The trait was used to its fullest potential!
[Kinetic Control- Jasper Gear of Readiness Potential!]
The moment she blinked, I instantly shifted my musculature's readiness potential to lunge at her.
My body appeared in front of her like a gust of wind using a manoeuvre impossible to execute.
At least, not unless they reached a new height as a proper Martial Artist… like I'd now accomplished.
Finally, she was in my domain of specialty.
Not even Jack could escape after getting this close. A backhand headed straight for her jugular.
A weapon user like her might have been strong as a Swordsman, but Martial Artists were different.
There was a difference between getting stronger by holding a weapon, and only being strong when exclusively holding a weapon. However, I had forgotten that she wasn't a mere 'Weapon User'.
In fact, no one like that existed on Gaia in the first place. Only Specialists existed in this vast world.
And they… were a little more flexible than that.
I held my wooden sword with two hands. My body's readiness potential had been stabilised once again.
A 'Kaiser Blitz' was ready to be thrown.
But at that moment, she threw one seemingly ineffective slash that wouldn't have an impact.
A one-handed slash from a distance that wouldn't allow her to put her hips into swinging her blade.
There was no pivoting point to for her foot to grasp when turning. That only meant one thing:
Her attack should've been a light cutting motion.
However, what came out was something entirely different. The sword launched me off my feet!
I'd knew it from the moment that motion finished.
Wasn't that… Bruce Lee's One Inch Punch?
It had a different form, but the fundamentals of stamping on the ground to generate kinetic force was the same. The footprint on the floor was proof of that. Though that wasn't all there was to it.
The explosiveness of a true One Inch Punch came from muscle contraction. It let the force generated by the stamp to travel through the torso, all the way through until the power shot out of the fist.
Or in this case: Out of the sword…
It made me back away using my afterimages…
We returned back to the stalemate where I was running around until my stamina was drained.
Time started to pass…
An emptiness grew inside my heart…
No, she just thrown me back. There was no way I'd have lost in close combat. No way… No way…
My mind became hazy…
Even as I nimbly jumped about the Training Grounds, I was able to secretly peek at what those two little girls were doing from time to time. They seemed to be silently arguing despite her words...
A frown of dissatisfaction was curved on the poker-faced Maid's face. She gestured her hand at me.
"I'm not bullying him for my own enjoyment...
He's just a lot weaker than what I expected.
You can also 'spar' with me instead if you feel like taking his place. You know Mana Sharpening is meaningless when there's this many levitating swords flying around." Sapphire 'lazily' spoke up.
She shrugged her servant off with great effort.
The doll-like girl briefly paused. She let out a silent sigh, deciding to let the matter go. I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted off my back. It looked like the Young Miss eventually got bored of attacking.
I really didn't expect that Sapphire would shamelessly lie without blinking to her Personal Maid. No, even before that: Why did she seem nervous? She cared about Sylphy's opinion?
"Give me a chance to rest first." I groaned at her in great pain, before sweatily falling to the ground.
Nothing matters… Nothing matters…
That 'loss' didn't count…
Of course, I wasn't feigning weakness at this moment. Although I may be able to use Mana to enhance myself, that didn't entirely change the fact that my body needed rest from time-to-time.
Usually, I'd have been be able to resist the fatigue…
It was just that my willpower had dropped.
"I'll give you half an hour." The Young Miss said a bit loudly. She opened the book that young girl called Sylphy had brought and relaxed. The maid walked towards me cautiously and curiously.
She handed over a towel.
"Thank you." I said to the still expressionless girl.
She was looking at me. It was as if I was some kind of rare breed of an Animalistic Beast to her.
One that had never been discovered on Gaia.
"Why is she just silently standing here and staring at me? Am I some sort of rare species?" I couldn't help but ask the Young Miss, who was busy reading. Was there something on my face or what?
"She was born mute... I think it's best that you ignore her unless she really wants to tell you something. Plus, you ARE a rare species." The girl snapped without bothering to lift her head.
She didn't comment further about my earlier techniques. Was I not even worth her time…?
"You probably haven't noticed since you've lived here for so long, but every part of our household is monstrous.
It's to the point that displaying the fact that you originate from our household is enough for you to be labelled as a freak." She continued with a tone of helplessness concealed in her voice.
Oh, so that was it…
At her informative words, I couldn't help but lift my head and look towards her. I'd never expected that those of the Swordwick Household would have such a strange reputation in the Drakeyol Kingdom.
As for the doll-like girl was expressionlessly staring me down, I considered ignoring her a form of mental training. I didn't really have the heart to say anything bad towards this silent benefactor.
One who allowed me to rest. I'm sure Sapphire only stopped attacking on account of her opinion.
"The Swordwick Household is the only Duke lineage that has so many Healers, Rangers, Mages and Swordsman working for them as servants.
Not only that, but the ridiculous requirements our Noble Household has for its successors are insane.
They cause a regular person's spine to freeze."
The Young Miss spoke again. The book in her hands was slapped shut as her face darkened.
I was unable to make out what she was thinking...
I didn't respond to her words. There was nothing I could do or say to lighten the atmosphere.
My mind calmed as I'd looked towards Sylphy.
She was trying to glare a hole in my body.
You know... I was actually starting to get annoyed.
Was she romantically interested in an oldie like me?
No, it kinda felt more like she was trying to figure out my current condition through sight alone.
Does she have x-ray?
What a strange girl...
I looked back towards the Young Miss, who was dispiritedly staring off into space, and suddenly got a nice idea. Hiding the smile on my face, I tried to make the greatest poker face ever mustered.
"Hey, girl, you look fine~ Go out with me~!" I expressionlessly confessed to the maid.
The girl was looking like she was trying to glare holes into my flesh. What was she feeling?
Did I do it right? That joke?
In the next instant, those eyes turned as round as saucers after she heard my roguish confession.
Sylphy, who was still looking like she was trying to find something interesting on me, suddenly looked at me with blank stare after widening her eyes. It looked like her mind short-circuited from shock!
"Hahahaha! What in the world?!" The Young Miss laughed uproariously after hearing what I'd said.
Now look at that~ Even an old man like me can be make jokes sometimes! After praising myself a little for my great social skills, my eyes couldn't help but peek at the young maid. She had finally reacted.
A blush was on her face.
She seemed to be unable to look at me in the eyes after hearing such an embarrassing confession.
My heart suddenly felt like it was struck by lightning, hit by a truck, and blown up.
I suddenly found her to be quite... cute~!
This was new to me...
Why was it that my mind ignored the painful sensation in my head? To think of her as cute…
Ah... I wish she would talk to me.
I really want to understand this girl more.
Actually, this joke of a confession I gave still counts, right? I don't care how embarrassing it sounds, it still counts! I'll have to focus and watch out for her answer to my boldness.
"..." She shook her head, then she gave me a respectful bow before running away in embarrassment! My heart felt pained. I watched her swiftly leave with bitterness in my eyes.
"I seem to have underestimated you. To
think that you'd actually give her such a roguish confession out of nowhere?!
Were dropped on your head as a child? No, sorry. That was going too far."
A newfound interest arose in the eyes of the person who had won our bout, but I didn't care.
A foreign feeling of depression spread across my heart. I stared foolishly at the exit this place.
Hah... Why did I have to be such a dense guy?
I hoped we could still be friends in the future, if not lovers. She was the only one who has ever caused my heart to sweeten with such a warmth. It made me want to ignore the alarms going off in my head!
"I think I've fallen in love." I spoke with scrunched up fists. A hint of red appeared on my cheeks.
"You sure you didn't just 'fall' for her naturally pretty face?" She asked with an unconvinced look on her face. This girl looked disgusted by how I was able to say such corny things so seriously.
I didn't feel angered by her venomous words. Only the opinion of a select number of people actually mattered to me. The rest were unable to even dream of moving my stubborn heart whatsoever!
Actually, I have to praise her lack of delicacy.
Wait... now that I'd thought about it:
My confession wasn't delicate at all!
When did I suddenly become so foolish?
I didn't remember being… the type of character who would pull this kind of stunt out of nowhere.
"You are the one who has a prettier face, right? I would have confessed to you if I merely wanted to pursue a beautiful girl. Don't belittle the feelings in my heart!" My thoughtlessness kicked in.
A smile curved onto my face. My eyes had closed. I was planning out how I would try to get closer to her. She was so mysterious that my instinct has been going mad from the very moment I met her...
When the Young Miss tried to get closer to me, my instincts yelled again that getting intimate with her equalled getting further from a quiet life, but the feeling I got from Sylphy was different.
I could somehow feel that getting any closer to her meant getting closer to death!
I didn't know what horrors she would go through in the future, but I knew that the current me would be unable to protect her!
I had to become a Skill Holder as soon as possible!
All to protect those I cared about!
"You're as narcissistic as Jack if you think you're worthy of me. However, if you're able to win your bet... Hmm, there might be some hope." The Young Miss shook her head before leaving the field.
"Also, thank you for admitting my beauty. You can come back here anytime you want."
And continued with an oddly pure smile appearing on her face. She was waving a goodbye.
It seems that this girl really is hard to understand.
I wondered why she talked so venomously when her smile seemed to display such goodwill...
I felt she was a little similar to my mother…