Chapter 7- Test of Valor
It had been some time since three new arrivals had transferred into our class that was meant for only us, the highest nobles of the Holy Empire. Although I didn’t show it, I was surprised and curious myself at the strangers.
At first they seemed to be no competition for us. One was a weak and vulgar girl who fought with her bare fists. Another was some mage that managed to best one of the lords. Finally, they were was a free demi-human.
My first impression of them went as expected. I believed that there was no denying our strengths compared to their. At least that is what I thought at first.
As time went by, the vulgar girl named Shae and the male mage named Nu-Ru gained the ability to defeat some of us one on one. I don’t know how they gained such power in such a short amount of time. If so, we would have quickly picked up on their growth. That left one plausibility; they held back their strength. That was the only conclusion I could draw.
But that raised another question, why? According to the testers, they two passed with relative ease but ‘struggled’ with us. The lack of consistency was bothersome. In any case, most wouldn’t go so far as to hide their true strength. The only reason for someone to go that far was because they held a secret.
But that still didn’t answer the question. What was so important that they took counter-measures to keep themselves hidden? It was this thought alone that caused me to distrust them. No good will come from individuals that choose to hide their true nature.
Unfortunately, there was no hard evidence that supported my claim. So there was no true saying on whether or not they are a threat or not. Or at least it was that way.
A day has passed since our heated argument. Leaving the argument without any clear end, the situation between us grew awkward. Neither party knew what to really say to amend the situation. Ultimately, we decided to drop the matter but we would never forget about it.
In class, I was sitting by my lonesome. Looking over some of the research books I purchased, I was experimenting with the limits of magic.
“Come on…” Concentrating, mana condensed within my hands. As I was researching the concept of mana and magic, I came to several questions. One that I’ve been wondering for a while is learning new magic.
This question came from the fact that I couldn’t recreate Als’s crystal magic. Despite wielding vast mana capacity and applying the knowledge of this world, I still can’t recreate it. However, should I try the same method on any spell I am familiar with. I am able to recreate it with no effort.
This then led me to another thought. Whenever I use my magic and cast a spell, I am not directly casting the spell, merely my body is performing it. Like an automatic response from back when it was a game. If this is true then that would explain why I’m having such trouble with recreating Als’s magic. It’s I haven’t been expose to this particular magic before.
In [Eternia], there was no classification to Als’s magic. Which makes sense why I couldn’t perform the spell as easily as my others. Because it’s foreign, something that my new body has no prior knowledge about. Essentially, I needed to learn the basic once again.
Bringing my thoughts back to reality, the crystal was forming nicely only to fall apart. Going awry, the crystal formed rough, jagged surfaces. “Failed…again.” Letting out a defeated sigh, I turned my attention backs to the books.
Although I was dejected by the constant failures, a part of me was glad. Learning how to recreate Als’s magic was just the beginning. There could be an infinitely number of spells that didn’t exist in [Eternia]. A fire was lite in my heart, a goal I wish to see through.
Flipping through the pages, the sound of magic brought me away from my books. Again, Als was training by herself. Watching her cast her magic made me a bit envious inside. But that would only motivate me further. As I watched her from a distance, something came to me. An important reminder.
Brushing myself up, I quietly walked over to Als. “Hello Als, there is something I wish to discuss with you.” Calling out to her, as per usual Als ignored me. Playing passively wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I got straight to my point. “It has to do with your sisters and those that tried to kidnap her.”
Als froze, her body halted in mid action. Turning to me, I had Als’s complete attention. Pointing towards the back of the room, we needed a location to have a private conversation.
“Ok talk, what exactly do you mean?” Crossing her arm, she didn’t waste any time with her question. Taking a second to collect my thoughts, I answered her. Spending the next few minutes, I recounted the events of yesterday to her. When I finished, Als was clearly distressed by the news.
“Do you perhaps know why they are chasing you?”
“What else would they do but enslave us?” Als curtly replied back. “For the right buyer, someone as young as Alia will be sold for a small fortune…”
Pondering on her words, I could see where her distress came from. Since coming to the Empire, the most common demi-human enslave were the elves. Als is protected by the Academy but Alia is a different matter. One careless action, and Alia might round up being a slave.
“Will Alia be ok?” I asked.
“We were doing fine…but looks like I need to be careful going home and I’ll need to find alternate pathways…” Biting her nails, Als looked be stuck.
“Perhaps….I can be of some assistance? Maybe I can take her in…” Before I could finish my sentence Als grabbed a hold of my collar. Jerking my back, she slammed me against the wall.
“Don’t you dare!” Placing her hand centimeters from my face, Als prepared her spell. Her voice was filled with anger, her eyes flared with hatred. Als looked ready to kill me at a moment’s notice. “I would sooner have my arms and legs chopped off than hand her over to you.” Her voice formed a growl, she didn’t take kindly to my suggestion.
As I opened my mouth to respond, a new voice interrupted us. “You too seem to be having fun…” Hearing the mysterious voice, we turned towards the source; being Shae. With her arrival, Als grew quiet. Looking back between the two us, it looked as if Als was weighing her opinions.
Letting me go, she walked the other way without another world. “Be sure to keep your friend under control…or else you won’t see any mercy from me.” Passing Shae, Als gave one last warning on her way out.
“Soo, you mind telling me what that was about?” Walking forward, I filled her in on what she missed. “And here I thought I was being nosy.” Ignoring her comment, I asked a question of my own.
“Is there something you need Shae?” Indicating with her fingers, she wanted me to simply follow her. Walking right behind her, we found ourselves on the open field. We weren’t alone, Rumo and Traus were standing on the field, hands crossed, their eyes trained on us.
“I don’t know what or why, but Rumo insisted on fighting us.” Briefing me of the situation, I couldn’t help but wonder what they wanted to achieve. First thing’s first, we need to ascertain their motive.
“If I may ask…why do you wish to fight us?” Politely raising my hand, the two were silent to my question. Unsure whether or not they would answer, Rumo finally replied.
“Prince Alphonso has given us, a special mission to fulfill. The six Grand families are up to the task but we believe it may be too much even for us. So we will determine if you are worthy of joining us.”
Instantly my ears twitched and perked rumup. The prince himself was relying on us. Thousands of questions raced through my head. ‘If the prince is choosing to rely on Rumo’s and the other families help…then that would mean whatever the task is, is beyond the capacity of a normal solider…’
Then that led to the question of what exactly is so dire that they would chose to rely on Rumo and the others then their own soldiers? The thought was inconsequential; ultimately this was the opportunity we were looking for. A chance to meet the prince face to face.
Giving Shae a quick glance, she nodded in return. “I see…we would be honored if we are allowed to help the prince in anyway.” As resident of the Empire, it would be consider a great honor and privilege to be asked upon by the royal family. We simply needed to play off of it.
Rumo remained silent, watching the two of us. “…Very well then. We shall determine if you are worthy by combat. Nu-Ru, you and I will fight while Haus will fight your friend. Are there any problems?” The two of us nodded, showing that we agree to the terms.
Walking away, Traus and Shae deviated themselves with Rumo and myself. Alone, the two of us stared at one another for an indefinite amount of seconds. There was no indication of the start of the fight, so all I could do was wait.
The silence was almost maddening as neither party decided to do anything until Rumo finally unsheathed her sword. Rumo’s weapon is Durandal; a great sword. Shifting his center of gravity and footing. Rumo took an offensive stance so I prepared myself as well.
‘Right now he’s testing me….I’ll need to play this cautiously.” Over the coming weeks, I’ve had many opportunity to study Rumo and his fighting style. With a two handed great sword, his strength and defense are nothing to scoff at. However it wasn’t just that, despite wielding such a heavy weapon his speed was still astonishing.
A warrior that is balance and can compensate for his weakness. In any normal situation, I wouldn’t be worry but winning and losing was the farthest thing from my mind. I must maintain my façade, and that meant fighting with handicaps. Overall, I must beat Rumo make it so that the fight ends with a tie.
‘Alright…Despite being able to wield his sword with precision, Rumo still have some weakness.’ Chatting to myself, I formulated a battle strategy. ‘Keep your distance…poke at him whenever you can and wither him down.’
Content, I was the one who made the first move. “|Seismic Shard|” Kicking the ground, several pieces of the rocky floor levitated. Swirling around my body, they accelerated before shooting towards Rumo. Rumo remained still and for a second I panicked if he was to dodge or not.
Instead he dashed forward, with swift and precise movement, he destroyed the incoming projectile. Witnessing his amazing feet, I couldn’t freeze up. Any sane man first instinct was to dodge. They flew with enough speed to make any man blink twice and hesitate. Yet Rumo showed absolute fortitude in the face of danger.
Taken aback by his action, he closed the distance and attack. Bringing his sword down, I rolled in the nick of time. Smashing into the ground, the floor cracked; sending small debris flying. Jumping back, I was light on my feet; skipping backwards at a steady pace.
“|Arcane Shot|” Activating my spell, sphere of bright blue mana shot towards Rumo. Gripping his weapon, Rumo dashed forward once again. With nimble steps, Rumo dodged the hail of projectile with minimum effort. For the ones he couldn’t dodge, he used his weapon to block.
Not slowing down, Rumo kept the pressure up. Attacking with several thrusts, Rumo wasn’t going to give me any chances to counter attack. ‘I didn’t think I would be having this much trouble…’ One part of me wanted to reprimand Rumo while the other wanted to praise him.
By far, he has given me the most challenge as of yet. Returning with another strike I couldn’t dodge in time so I deflected his attack. Concentrating my mana towards my hand, I detonated the attack at the same time of his swing. The same method I used against Requa.
Recoiling back, I staggered Rumo long enough. “|Gallio’s Swiftness|” Light gathered around my feet and with a simple jump, I was meters in the air. “|Arcane Hail|” Pockets of light radiated to life around me. Descending, they took the form of miniature dagger with spear heads. The sharpness alone looked to be able to rip away flesh.
Upon seeing the raining daggers, Rumo was left with no choice but to run. Dashing away, I knew I had but seconds. “|Sylph’s Honor Guard|” Landing safety on my feet, I activated another spell. The air around me glistened and sparkled, wrapping around my body. They took the forms of hands, a warm embrace.
Dashing through the fog of smoke, Rumo held nothing back with his next swing. Holding my ground, I raised my left hand to block. Under normal circumstances, my attempt to defend would fail however the outcome wasn’t as expected.
As the blade edge ever so closer, the trajectory of the blade reversed, shooting away from my body. There was a slight delay in Rumo’s expression, the surprise and shock of the situation. This is due to my spell, |Sylph’s Honor Guard|.
Back in [Eternia], my character’s race; the Alvians were spiritual creatures. Whom prayed to the Sylph, ancient spirits within the lore. The wind took the form of hands, a symbol of embrace and protection. The spell allows me complete negate any attack coming my way. The number of time I can do so is represented by the number of hands wrapped around me. A total of four.
Countering attacking, I landed a palm strike against his chest. Against Rumo’s armor the attack was minuscule but the true power of the attack came after. “|Solar Burst|” Light shined, accompanied by an explosion. Flying back, Rumo managed to keep himself on his feet despite the damage taken.
Smoke fizzed from Rumo’s chest pierce, a charred mark on his once pristine armor. Clutching the area of the wound, Rumo surprised me yet again. I attack with the intention of knocking him down, instead Rumo remained as tough as ever.
With some distance between us, neither one of us moved. Despite the handicaps, Rumo was tough. As two of us stared down one another. A sudden voice divided our attention.
“Come back here!!” The voice shrieked through the air, causing both of us to immediately check. Looking in the direction of the voice, it turned out to be Shae. Running along the field, she was chasing after Traus.
Traus was light on his feet, constantly jumping around. Shae on the other hand looked to be having trouble. Every time she goes in for an attack, Traus would gracefully jump away. Looking back, a trail of destroyed pavement followed Shae.
“Hold still and let me hit you!!” Roaring with her uncontrollable rage, she continued to chase after Traus. Watching her chase after him was hilarious, something out of a cartoon sketch. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the oddity of the scene.
“You two seem to be having fun.” Hearing Rumo’s voice, he showed a grave expression as always. “After all, you are holding back your true strength.” My smile died down upon hearing Rumo. Freezing up, Rumo looked at directly in the eye.
“Don’t bother trying to lie, I know it’s the truth.” As if reading my mind, Rumo cornered.
‘Calm down…calm down…’ I repeated in my head, trying to keep myself under control. ‘First, ascertain how much does he know and how much is speculation…’ Forming a plan, I treaded carefully. “Why do you say that?”
“I’ve always founded weird…going over your record, you beat the tester with minimum ease…yet when we first meet you lacked the appropriate strength.” Rumo pause, catching his breath. “But as you trained with us, you showed a sense of ease while fighting us. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but it felt that we were toying with us. I’ve been train and taught by the Empire’s greatest knights and scholars. And I know when someone isn’t taking me seriously. You’ve been hiding your true strength this entire time.”
‘How observant…’ Finishing his explanation, I couldn’t help but praise his observational ability. After hearing his explanation a part of me relaxed. So far he didn’t know as much as I fear. All that is left is to dispel his worry,
Of course it won’t be easy. Already, I’m stepping over thin ice. I have to choose my words correctly. “…You are right…we have been hiding our strength.” Proving his fears true, I could feel Rumo tensing up.
“And why is that?” Rumo asked once more.
“Well.” Scratching my head, I have two opinion. Answering with a believable lie or a believable false truth. “It’s because we were afraid…” Making my decision, I chose the latter opinion. “As important members of the Empire, it will be quite the uproar if influential members such as yourself were to lose to foreigners…”
The trick was to give a reasonable lie. Playing off their lack of knowledge, it would make sense from any perspective. Especially in our case, being outsiders. The best lies are one with some truth sprinkled in.
“So the reason for your concealment is because…you were pitying us?” Rumo responded in low and menacing voice. His hand tightened around his gripe, a vein visible on his head. It was clear that he didn’t take too kindly to my answer.
“It is true that I am a loyal member of the Empire, but I am also a knight!” Lifting his blade, Rumo pointed his weapon at me. “I would much rather be defeated by a powerful opponent than pitied by having such opponent hide his strength.”
Hearing Rumo’s rebuttal, my opinion only grew. Originally I simply believed him to be a high and mighty knight, blindly loyal to the Empire. But Rumo is more than that, he’s a knight. He’s prideful but that could also lead to one’s undoing.
“Now that you know this…What exactly do you wish to do with this knowledge?” In the end, what was Rumo’s goal?
“That’s simple, to determine if you are a threat to the Empire or not.” Keeping his weapon pointed at me. I could tell that this question would decide everything. His eyes trained on me, asserting if my words are true or not.
Closing my eyes for a brief second, I knew exactly what to say. “If you ask me whether or not I have come to bring ruin to the Empire…my answer is no.” Answering him back, I did not waver in my resolve. A tense silence came to pass as Rumo and I remained quiet, waiting for the other to answer.
“I have known many people in my life. Some honorable, and some scum. In truth, I don’t know where to put you…but I know that you aren’t one to lie. Or at least, one that I can discern.” Hearing his words, I couldn’t tell if they were meant to be compliment or not. Nevertheless, I was glad that Rumo finally relaxed.
“If you are telling the truth then from now on I want you to fight with all your strength.”
“All my strength? Don’t blame me if you get hurt.”
“Arrogant aren’t we? We’ll see how hurts who” Rumo snickered, to which I returned with a soft smile.
“|Harrier Assault|” Before Rumo could be allow to take a stance, I attack without mercy. The air around swirled, taking the forms of arrows. Cutting through the air in rapid succession, Rumo charged forward. As expected.
Charging forward, he powered through my attack if it was nothing. As he arrived ever so closer, he readied his sword I intercepted his attack.
“|Heavy Pike|” Unworriedly, I casted another spell as Rumo was centimeters away from my face. The ground rumbled before shooting up from the ground. Rumo only noticed at the last second and blocked it with his sword. The force of the attack was far greater than he anticipated, resulting in him knocked into the air.
Landing down, I didn’t let up. “|Frozen Field|” Placing my hand on the ground, frost seeped from hands. Exploding, the ice expanded, encompassing several meter of ground with ice. Landing, Rumo had trouble getting his footing on the sleek, and slippery floor.
“|Boots of Levitation|” Triggering another spell, wind enveloped the bottom of my foot. Effectively, I was levitating above the frozen surface. Not only have that, the spell also increased my movement speed. Dashing across the frozen ground, it was no difference than ice skating.
“Hold still!” Rumo cried, trying to hit me. Rumo couldn’t keep a solid footing, as a result he would always slip and fall down when rearing for a powerful strike. As he struggled in vain, I fired a barrage of spells around him.
“Damn it…just what kind of mage are you?” amidst the action, I made out Rumo’s complaint.
“It’s because I’m a mage that I’m able to do this…” Taking a second to address his complaint. “As a mage, my opinions are limited when it comes to a direct fight. As such, unorthodox methods such as this gives me the edge.”
“What an annoyance.” Rumo grumbled, all the while I smiled inwardly. The plan was going better than I anticipated. I was worried that Rumo had caught onto our true strength but that is not so. He only knows that we were holding back, he still in oblivious to our true strength. It was more effective to lead him on by posing what could be seen as the truth.
“It would seem that I owe you an apology.” Alone with my thoughts, Rumo’s word drew me back to reality. “It’s about I got serious myself.” Relaxing his entire body, power started to seep from his body.
‘What are you planning?’ hesitant about his next action, I chose to wait. Promptly his body shifted, taking a different battle stance. But what grabbed my attention was his sword, Durandal, it is glowing. ‘Don’t tell me…’ Just as I came to my conclusion, I was a second late.
Swinging his sword, a shockwave of energy shot towards me. The speed of which, cut through the air, causing the space around us to ripple. A second late to counter, I took the full force of the attack. The impact of the attack was more powerful than I had imagined. It held enough force that I was knocked a couple meters back.
Thanks to |Sylph’s Honor Guard|, the attack was mostly negated. However that wasn’t the biggest worry on my mind. Rather, it was the fact that Rumo used Durandal. ‘So it’s just like Requa…they can use the swords and its special ability.’
Getting a grip, I easily recovered. ‘The power of the attack was nowhere near the original power. This definitely proves it.’ Making the conclusion, my hand tightened into a fist. This only added more mystery and questions but at the same time we were getting closer to solving said mystery.
“I believe this is enough.” Hearing Rumo’s voice, he sheathed his sword.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“You managed to withstand my swords special attack. Although a weakened attack, nevertheless that is impressive.”
“What about Shae?” Switching our attention, we both looked to see Shae still going about her business. Namely trying to catch up to Traus.
“If she is just as strong as you are….then you both pass.” Remarked Rumo. “I believe this is good enough for now.”
“So that means we pass?”
“Yes. Now it is time to meet the Prince.”