Every time I breathed in, my throat stung.
It was my first time in a real battle. It’s nothing like dealing with petty thieves or village low lives. The terrifying rebels. If it’s those that take on war as an occupation, maybe it’s not supposed to be compared to village guards.
I could lose.
I cloud die.
So, am I afraid?
The training up until this point was all for this moment. Yes. I could lose. I could die. That is the life of a swordsman.
Dolby was breathing heavily. The dilated pupils gave me light even in the darkness. The horse hooves were close enough to be heard thundering the ground. It was the moment I thought they should be caught in the traps about now…
The sound stopped.
“…What a childish trap. WooRyong, is this your doing?”
“Damn… You found out. Why does it have to be you? Eesuh Sonad?”
“Sorry but I can’t let you go back. It’s not possible to let someone who knows our location just return.”
“A lot of talk. For someone who betrayed their family and their kingdom.”
WooRyong growled and stood up from the bushes. While they were worried that it might be six, but fortunately it was just five opponents. WooRyong clenched a fist and quietly said.
“I’ll take that big mouth traitor. GintNell. You take the one in armor. From the look of it he’s probably a Knight. And the rest… allocate them yourselves.”
“Yes. Dolby and Baan team up. Me and Goad will take one each.”
Aidan commanded. Baan got up without a complaint. In duels he won against Goad, but that was just a friendly duel. As he didn’t have any real combat experience, it was probably better to team up with Dolby.
And it was that moment. Sonad spoke through gritted teeth.
“Everyone get back!”
It was a moment beyond comprehension. Baan saw WooRyong embracing a giant tree that he couldn’t wrap his arms around completely.
No, he saw the roots becoming exposed.
‘What kind of strength…!’
“Take this, you bastards! Hahahaha!”
Cho simply swung the tree like a stick. The nearby trees splintered, and rocks were unrooted and rolled. But there wasn’t time to be stunned. Aidan shouted.
“Now. Everyone attack!”
There was no need for words. Baan and Dolby ran in sync. Two were definitely Knight-level, the other three…
‘Not a Knight I hope.’
The enemy that Baan and Dolby ran at looked as though he was a similar age. In his hand was a longsword. That was another reason they chose him. In a forest overgrown like this, it would be difficult to use the longsword properly.
“What. My opponents are kids? Even so two is too much.”
The opponent muttered. Baan smiled and said.
“Sorry. But go easy on us, since like you said we’re just kids.”
“Hmm… does going easy mean let you live?”
“Well, we don’t know who is going to beg for their life.”
“… Damn hicks.”
The man sighed. And that moment. Baan hurriedly turned his head when felt the hair on his body standing up. And the next moment. The enemy’s longsword was in the exact place where Baan’s head was.
“Huh? You evaded it?”
Baan couldn’t answer. It was quicker than what he could imagine. Even Jensen or Lucas in the memories couldn’t stab that fast. That was almost on Captain Aidan’s level…
“Dolby. Gather your senses. We attack together.”
Dolby too had a different look after seeing the stab. Probably because he knew it could’ve been his grave.
Baan gripped Lucas’ shortsword. Even now, Lucas’ memories and senses were permeating him.
What would Lucas’ have done. Would he have attacked first? Or would he watch one more attack.
Take deep breaths. Seeing through the dark was easy. Baan saw the sweat beading on the man’s face. Was the strike just now an overexertion? Or was he just tried from following them all the way here.
The important thing was, that the man wasn’t in a good condition.
Chink! Baan’s sword struck the man’s blade. Dolby’s sword headed toward the man’s midsection as though waiting for that very moment, but the man had already taken a step backward.
It was a combination that wouldn’t give him a moment. They were better rested than him, so they wanted to drag this fight out.
Baan focused only on the movements of the blades. He didn’t even pay attention to the ruckus coming from WooRyong’s side.
If he had taken one wrong step, he would’ve fallen down the cliff. Even though he wasn’t the leader, he had enough skill to take on both Dolby and him at the same time.
‘The world is definitely big.’
Baan smiled while swinging his sword.
[You are battling someone of a higher skill level.]
[Sword Arc Analysis Adjusted to Very Low.]
Every time the blades struck each other, he was absorbing the opponent’s sword movements. It wasn’t enough to mimic the opponent, but it was enough to give him a sense of how and where he was going to strike.
The opponent must’ve realized that. He quickly jumped back and took a stance while taking a breath.
“…Are you reading my movements?”
“What was the stab from earlier?”
“Doesn’t even know what ‘Ki’ is. I’m being pushed back by that kind of idiots… Fuck.”
He could no longer keep the relaxed composure he had in the beginning, he was taking this rather seriously. Baan wrapped his fingers around Lucas’ shortsword. Every time the swords collided, beyond understanding the enemy’s swordsmanship… he was gaining his own experience.
When feints were seen through, a stab being evaded, and being in a dangerous situation from a sword sliding towards him after colliding. Every moment, he was becoming a little bit stronger.
Baan took a look around. WooRyong wasn’t someone that made him think of ‘defeat’, and it was the same for GintNell. The ones who worried him were Aidan and Goad…
‘Is Goad being pushed back.’
Aidan wouldn’t be felled easily as his goal was becoming a Knight in the past. But Goad wasn’t like that. Even thought he had a lot of experience; his swordsmanship wasn’t that great.
The opponent opened his mouth.
“Let’s end this quickly. Both of you, and me as well want to help our comrades.”
“…Then could you be a dear and get stabbed? I’ll do a gentle stab.”
He broke out in laugher. And soon he said with a serious face with no hint of laughter to be seen.
“I’m Obun. What is your name?”
“…What a shitty name.”
“I’ll give you one last chance. Run away. Then we won’t follow you. Our isn’t no-names like you. It’s the head of that Cho family member.”
“Can’t do that. Our futures are dependent on that head.”
“The Kingdom is decayed.”
Obun said with a cold face.
“We will cut out the diseased part. Later, when the world changes, you will realize how foolish it was to stop us today.”
“When I realize, do I send a letter?”
“… Can’t get through your thick head.”
Obun fixed his grip on his longsword. The sword gently waved towards them like a curtain as a distinct trait of one and a half hand sword.
“You’ll regret it. The choice you made.”
The talk was over. A few leaves fell between them, and as the 5th leaf fell,
Obun moved. It was the stab from before. One thing was different, it didn’t end with one stab.
Baan leaned his shortsword and struck it away.
Obun’s longsword grazed past Dolby’s right forearm.
A bloody line appeared on Baan’s cheek.
Baan quickly stepped back from the sword aimed at his chest.
And the fifth stab.
It made a hole in Dolby’s stomach.
Everyone took heavy breaths. The fifth stab was the end. Baan was breathing heavy enough to fill his cheeks. But the one breathing the heaviest was Obun.
“Hooo…did you, hoo, dodge that too…”
Baan stood in front of Dolby instead of answering. It was a deep wound. It could be dangerous if not treated quickly.
It felt as though his blood went cold. Yes. Swordsman could die at any moment. And like he could die, Dolby could die as well.
“Dolby. Get yourself together. I’ll end this quick.”
“…Do you mean you’ll be done in quick? Or end this quick?”
“A loudmouth close to death. I’ll end it. Just wait. Keep pressure on the wound.”
Baan clenched the shortsword tightly. As though Lucas’ memories would help him.
Obun look more tired than before, but his eyes seemed more composed. Facing one instead of two was a different story. He asked.
“Do you still want to fight? Even though its only you instead of two?”
“…Do you want me to run?”
“Not bad. Avoiding fights are the best thing. Especially if it’s one like this with no merit.”
“Sorry but I can’t”
“Why? Because of the success you spoke of before? Hey. Success only matters if you’re alive. It doesn’t mean anything if you’re dead.”
“No, not because of that.”
Baan took a stance. It was a stance Obun knew. The lunge position.
“…Could I tell anyone I’m a man after letting someone who made a whole in my friend’s stomach?”
“You want to go against me with stabs? With a shortsword?”
“Why. You scared?”
“…I thought you were a funny guy but turns out you’re just stupid. Ok. I bid you farewell.”
Obun took his stance again. He didn’t have much strength left because he overused his Ki, but if it’s just one more…
Baan thought to himself.
‘The standard for 1 star is knowing how to swing the sword.’
Swing. Stab. Block. Hit away. Deflect etc.
Then what is the standard for two stars.
Baan could glimpse into that realm at the end of his first real battle.
Obun’s stab quickly came towards him. Even thought he should be exhausted, it was still fast. Seeing the stab, Baan smiled.
A battle of stabs.
That’s what Obun must’ve thought.
But Baan didn’t lunge. Instead, he walked forward. Obun’s sword glanced past his side and left a fiery pain, but if he let this opportunity go, it wouldn’t stop with just pain.
Dread came over Obun’s face, underneath his two arms at his eye level.
The requirements for becoming two stars is knowing how to use the skills and opportunities.
[You’ve reached 2 star level.]
[You are at the same level as the ‘Swordsman with an Overflowing Talent’. Memory synchronization increased.]
The swing that felled Dolby was now being used to protect him.