The day after Schnee’s “spoil me please” day, Shin and Schnee went to the institute. Their destination was the school’s training grounds. More precisely, the training field used mainly for party vs party mock battles.
“Okay then, let’s start with the training. Let’s do a quick one-on-one first, then switch to party battle.”
“Mr. Shin, I see you two have different equipment than yesterday, but is that okay?”
“Yeah, that equipment would have made things too dangerous.”
Shin nodded to Lecus’ question. Myu and Lecus were wearing the same equipment they had in the dungeon, while Gian’s was clearly of inferior quality. It was probably a spare or gear he borrowed from the institute. The type of equipment was the same however.
Myu and Lecus were wearing their best, in contrast to Shin who wore a blue/green jacket with cargo pants that had a rather neat design. Schnee was wearing a similar outfit too.
Shin and Schnee both wielded handmade 『Sponge Blade』 weapons, albeit of different length.
Made of sponge, they looked just like wooden swords. Part of the “Sponge” series, these weapons would cause very little damage even if Shin swung them at full power: in a way, they were an exceptional item.
“Sponge” versions existed for all types of weapons: depending on shape and type, they had different denominations. Long swords were “Sword”, katanas were “Blade” and so on.
“First of all, let me see how much you can fight. Even if you hurt me I can be healed right away, so come at full power. Use skills if you want. I’ll be your opponent first, then Yuki will.”
Shin’s implied “I’ll go easy on you kids” made Gian’s eyes flare up. Differently from Myu and Lecus, he had harbored a certain hostility towards Shin ever since they met in the dungeon.
Shin’s words were like a taunt for him.
Myu raised her hand, eager to fight Shin, but Gian stood in front of her. Myu was annoyed by the interference, but feeling the fighting spirit emanating from Gian she stopped in her tracks, wide-eyed.
“That’s rare for you to be so openly hostile.”
Gian spat back at Lecus to be quiet and readied his spear. He lowered his center of gravity and concentrated all of his fighting spirit in Shin’s direction.
His solid stance, fitting for the party’s shield, made it seem like he could counter attacks from any direction. His gaze towards Shin was now void of hostility, but simply very serious.
(He’s not planning to hide his strategy, huh.)
Shin waited for Schnee to move away, then readied his blade. While it looked a little silly, it was tough enough that even Gian’s former equipment wouldn’t scratch it.
“I’m ready anytime.”
Gian moved as soon as Shin spoke. His spear closed in on Shin very quickly, leaving after-images behind. It was hard to believe that he was still under level 200 by how fast he moved.
Shin calmly calculated the spear’s trajectory and hit its tip with the blade. Despite the soft “poff”-like sound made by the clash, Gian’s spear was smacked out of his hands and fell down on the ground.
Shin looked at the spear and realized his mistake. Because of the shock from hitting the ground, the part connecting the tip and handle of the spear had bent.
“That can’t be helped. Use this, as replacement for the broken spear.”
Shin said he would fix the bent spear and return it later, then pulled out of his jacket -actually, from the item box- a card and gave it to Gian.
The boy was looking at his hands and the spear Shin knocked down, with a grave expression, which changed to perplexion when he materialized the card Shin gave him.
“What is this?”
“It’s a 『Sponge Lance』, a weapon made for training. It looks soft, but it’s actually tougher than Adamantine. With this, we won’t have to worry about breaking weapons anymore.”
Shin was the most worried about this though.
Gian swung the new weapon a few times, then was convinced and nodded.
“Okay, let’s start again. Feel free to use skills or magic too.”
Shin pointed the tip of his blade towards Gian and got into a fighting stance. Gian too pointed the lance towards Shin.
Gian had lost his weapon in the previous confrontation, but his strike did not rely on physical strength only. His footwork, movement of the center of gravity, and concentration of strength were definitely fruit of many days of training, as Shin was impressed to notice.
“I won’t hold back.”
Gian thrust his lance towards Shin again. His expression did not reveal how he had received Shin’s words. When Shin aimed at the tip of the lance, to knock it to the ground one more time, the lance’s blade started glowing yellow.
“Gian’s getting really serious.”
Myu and Lecus’ whispered conversation reached Shin’s ears. They seemed to know what Gian was about to try.
Just like before, the blade knocked the lance down. What followed, though, was not the same outcome. Yellow blades shot from the lance, following the path it had before being knocked down, headed towards Shin.
Shin’s kinetic vision did not miss the crackle on the blade’s surface before the yellow blades were hurled at him. They were, in fact, made of lightning: their speed was nothing to underestimate either.
At the same time as Shin dodged them, Gian had pulled back his weapon. He had anticipated that it would be knocked down, so he did not drop it as before, but had it ready for the next strike already.
“Are you a monster…!?”
Even if he looked cool and composed, however, the whisper that escaped his lips revealed his true thoughts. Gian wouldn’t give up yet though: He thrust the lance again…at a distance that would never reach Shin. When he did, just like the second strike, yellow blades sparked from the tip.
“This brings back memories.”
Shin parried the blades this time, then whispered to himself.
What Gian had used was the Spear/Lightning combination skill 【Tri-Edge】. This skill was a Spear/Lightning composite, but there existed 【Tri-Edge】 skills with other elements and weapons: it was a skill common to all bladed weapons.
It allowed the attack to change elements depending on the foe, so it was used in various ways by beginners and veterans alike. The skill’s effect was to add elemental follow-up attacks to weapon attacks.
“It’s not over yet!”
Gian looked at the lightning blades parried by Shin and swung the lance. He drew a cross, then added a horizontal stroke. The strikes, drawn as to divide Shin in six parts, burned bright red. Gian didn’t stop there however: he quickly pulled back his weapon, then thrust it again. This time the tip released a blade of wind, difficult to discern with the naked eye.
“You can use combos too?”
Shin dispelled the flames and blade of wind headed towards him with a swing of his weapon, then went to attack Gian, a pleasantly surprised impression on his face.
Some skills, when used in quick succession, became combinations: Gian had used one such technique, which the players called combo.
Even if he used skills, Shin only had to swing his weapon to neutralize them.
Gian witnessed this reality and cursed it. That too, however, was put to a stop when he blocked Shin’s blade. Sponge weapons did look soft, but when Gian blocked Shin’s blade with the handle of his lance, the impact was strong enough to make his body shake left and right.
The boy managed to parry Shin’s attacks three times; the fourth time his arms went numb, and on the fifth the lance’s handle was pushed into his body, which flew in midair.
“Gian was using his skills, but was pushed back all the same…it looked like he was flying along the ground, but will he be okay?”
“Mr. Shin said that he would with that equipment, so I think so. Look, Gian’s standing back up.”
Lecus looked worried, but Gian was already on his feet again. He touched the spot struck by Shin’s blade with some confusion.
“You don’t have any damage except sliding on the ground, right?”
It felt very strange to Gian to not have suffered any damage after an attack like that. Shin checked Gian’s HP gauge to be sure, but it really had not decreased at all.
“Next is my turn, then!!”
Leaving Gian aside, the even more excited Myu ran up to Shin. They knew already that her gauntlets and leg guards could not sustain Shin’s attacks, so she had switched to Sponge Knuckles and Greaves.
“I’m going all out!!”
Differently from Gian, Myu used skills since the start. The aura enveloping her body was probably 【Ki Manipulation – Living Lightning】. The relative stability of the aura showed that it was a Skill, not an Art.
Her physical abilities boosted, Myu prepared to jump straight close to Shin…not that he would ever allow it. He lowered his blade on Myu’s frontal charge, but she made no attempt of defending herself or dodging it.
If hit, she would be knocked to the ground, but the blade simply passed through Myu. Like smoke swept away by wind, Myu simply vanished.
“Oh, 【Ki Strike】, huh.”
Behind the vanished Myu, the real one was not about to punch Shin. Knuckles and Greaves wrapped in flames, if she punched or kicked flaming versions of her fists and feet would extend for about 30 cemel.
Myu’s illusion had been created by the barehanded martial skill 【Ki Strike】, while the flame attack range extensions by the Barehanded/Flame combination skill 【Flame Kata – Crimson Lotus】.
Myu went for a right jab, a left jab, then crouched down and did a leg sweep. As all these attacks were dodged by Shin, Myu continued with a spin kick, making use of the sweep’s momentum.
【Flame Kata – Crimson Lotus】 lasted for 60 seconds. Myu’s aggressive offensive made it look like she was on fire herself, but Shin blocked it completely calmly. The flame attacks had physical mass, so they could be stopped by Shin’s blade.
Myu was frustrated to see all her attacks miss, but she remembered about the skill’s time limit, so she stepped away from Shin. Without waiting another moment, she gathered fire around her greaves.
“How about this!!”
Myu drew an arc in midair with her leg, turning into a backflip. When she landed, she unleashed a flying kick towards Shin. On the spot where she had done a backflip, two balls of fire formed close to the ground and also headed towards Shin.
“Oh, not bad.”
It was a method to perform an attack from multiple directions alone, very popular in the game era. Usually, long-distance attackers such as mages or archers used it, but depending on how it was used, the skill was suited to close distance fighters like Myu too.
Feeling a bit of nostalgia, Shin ignored the flames and focused on countering Myu’s attack.
The skill Myu used was the Barehanded/Flame combination skill 【Crawling Fangs】, which allowed the user to shoot flames from the feet, at one’s preferred timing.
The flames heading for the target, however, were 20% a physical mass and 80% a magical object, so closer to magic, which meant that they were pretty much meaningless before Shin’s high magic resistance.
Lecus, who was not aware of the flames’ actual composition, shouted towards Shin, who stopped Myu’s flying kick only.
Myu meant it when she said that she would go all out: the ground-crawling flames had a rather high temperature. If they hit, Shin would be fine, but Myu herself risked to be hurt.
Before Myu, her leg caught by Shin, could protect herself, Shin stomped his feet on the ground. With a powerfully echoing sound, the ground formed a rift. The vibration caused the rift to rise even higher, and the flames clashed against it and disappeared, never reaching their target.
Only faint sparks of lingering heat remained, brushing against Myu’s cheeks.
“Game over. I’m going to let you go now, okay?”
“You’re so amazing, Mr. Shin…”
Myu landed without trouble. She had experienced Shin’s strength firsthand, so more than anything else, her respect towards him increased. Her thirst for a battle had settled down, so she now looked at him like she was looking at a hero.
“Hey, is she always like that?”
“Well, actually, it’s my first time seeing Myu like this…”
Shin asked this question to Lecus, who stood before him as the last opponent, but the boy was just as confused.
“Once, she said that she likes strong people, so that might have something to do with it.”
“I see…oh, sorry, that wasn’t something to ask before training.”
“No, despite knowing her for a while I was perplexed too, so I understand your question, Mr. Shin.”
Personality-wise, Myu tended to favor strong people, but it was apparently the first time she showed such a sudden change of attitude.
“Let’s start then. As I said before, no need to hold anything back, all right? I’ll be okay even if you hit me with all your power, so do that.”
Lecus was not worried anymore about hurting Shin. He had seen how Shin had remained unscathed from Myu’s 【Crawling Fangs】, so he knew that he wasn’t lying.
Lecus was a mage, so he started his battle strategy from a more distant position than Gian or Myu.
“O magic filling the air, gather in my palm…”
(O magic residing in my flesh, rush to my foes…)
Lecus started chanting. Just like he had done for Gian and Myu, Shin let him make the first move.
“So this happens when you do multiple chanting.”
Shin’s ears picked up Lecus and one more voice doing the chanting. He knew it was because of the 【Multiple Chanting】 skill, but wondered how it exactly happened. Shin possessed the 【Instant Chant】 skill, which if used with 【Multiple Chanting】 made it possible to use multiple spells at the same time without chanting.
He had no need to waste time chanting thanks to it, so he did not know how 【Multiple Chanting】 worked by itself.
“…well, it’s the right chance to try.”
Using 【Instant Chanting】 was the norm, so Shin had never tried 【Multiple Chanting】 alone. Since the timing was just right, he tried chanting with the same timing as Lecus.
“Come hither, frozen lands. What I seek is…”
(O dew traveling in the mist, gather in my palm…)
It was a very peculiar sensation: Shin’s mouth chanted the words to create a magic ice barrier, while in his head resounded the chant to create magic ice bullets, overlapping with the chant he actually pronounced.
(I can do it, sure, but…)
To think while chanting was something he never did normally, but as it turned out, it was not problematic at all.
Soon enough, the chanting ended. Shin had started a bit later than Lecus, but they finished at the same time.
Lecus had chosen the spell 【Air Bullet】, which as the name says launches bullets made of air, and 【Thunder Line】, which allows the caster to shoot lighting bolts in any direction they wish.
Shin, on the other hand, had chosen 【Ice Wall】, which creates a barrier of ice, and 【Water Bullet】, which shoots a barrage of water bullets.
The first clash was between the water and wind bullets. Shin’s water bullets struck the invisible wind ones one by one, as he could see them. That was possible thanks to the 【Magic Vision】 skill, which let the user see magic power. In the game, it was a skill pretty much all players had to learn to compete.
“There is too much difference in the power of one single blow, I see. But in this situation…”
Seeing five of his wind bullets being destroyed by one of Shin’s water shots, Lecus realized that he could never win in terms of firepower. His eyes, however, showed that he hadn’t given up yet: he probably wanted to try to strike a 【Thunder Line】 through the spot where the wind and water bullets clashed.
The trajectory the caster could have 【Thunder Line】 travel through varied from person to person. Inexperienced casters could only make it travel in an arc or change directions two to three times only. As the caster gained experience, they could make the lightning take more complex routes: a very small number of players could use it as if the lightning itself avoided the obstacles on its path.
In order to test Lecus’ skills, Shin divided his ice barrier into several smaller ones, setting up several icicles while the water and wind bullets clashed. The bullets would obviously hit the icicles too, making it harder to target Shin. In such a case, even moderately experienced users would decide to make the lightning bolts take a roundabout path.
Each one of Lecus’ palms produced a lightning bolt. The bolts traveled straight through the field where the icicles and bullets were still clashing.
Dodging the bolts out of sheer physical ability, Shin let out a comment, impressed. The lightning’s streak clearly showed the difficult path they took. The bolts lasted for mere seconds, but to imagine two different ones in a field where magic forces clashed was a very arduous task.
Very few players could draw such complicated trajectories during battle.
“Hahah…he avoided them…not even blocked them..”
In contrast with Shin’s impressed tone, Lecus was both dejected and confused.
Lightning and Light-type magic spells were often a surefire hit, unless the caster missed themselves, as they traveled at the speed of light, much faster than a person’s reaction speed, thus unavoidable…or at least, supposed to be so.
Some people could do just that, actually: by reading the opponent’s movements, limiting the timing and direction of their attacks, detecting magic power, “somehow”, etc. The reasons were many, but each allowed them to avoid such attacks.
In Shin’s case, he somehow “felt” them coming through pure instinct. It could be an extension of his detection of danger. Because of this, he could not explain how he avoided them.
Lecus had witnessed Shin dodge lightning during the battle with Gian, but did not think that he could do it even while magic was clashing and icicles blocked his field of view.
“Let’s end this here, okay?”
“Aah, yes. If you can avoid that, I have nothing else I can do.”
Even if they continued, Lecus would be simply overwhelmed by Shin’s 【Water Bullet】 barrage, so Lecus accepted Shin’s words without hesitation.
“Okay, the final battle is with the whole party. Do you have any other members, by the way?”
“We three are the only regular members. Sometimes we join with other small parties or let solo adventurers join, but it never went well.”
The other students can’t keep up with Lecus’ party: the difference in base ability was that large.
Even the mage Lecus, from a normal person’s perspective, was as strong as a physical fighter.
There were other Chosen Ones in the institute, but for some reason they didn’t blend well together.
“I see. Well, there’s nothing I can do about party members. For the time being, let’s focus on powering you guys up.”
Individual training and team battle practice. Based on what he had seen in the dungeon, Shin thought that they had many things they could improve.
“I’ll say it again, you don’t need to think about holding back.”
Shin spoke after preparing his blade in a fighting stance.
Gian and Myu stood side by side, with Lecus behind them. All three of them looked very serious.
They couldn’t make Shin lose his composure a bit one-on-one, so it was clear that they were thinking of pulling it off together. Maybe because they were fighting as a party now, only Gian had a new piece of equipment, a Sponge Shield.
“Let’s do this!!”
Following Gian’s shout, Myu and Lecus started moving too. Gian charged forward, holding his shield high, using it to hide his lance from Shin’s view. He planned to not let Shin anticipate his attack until the very end. Over Gian’s head, Myu unleashed a flying kick.
Two attacks at the same time…thee, counting Lecus chanting behind them.
Shin caught Myu’s flying leg, spun once and threw her in Gian’s direction.
Gian instinctively moved his shield and lance to block Myu’s fall. When Shin attempted a follow-up attack, the surroundings were filled with mist.
“Get back, quick!”
The mist disappeared around Shin, but Gian and Myu had followed Lecus’ order and retreated, so he could not see them. Knowing that Shin would block the offensive, Lecus had prepared a magic spell to block his field of view.
“So, what are you going to do next?”
Shin knew where they were, thanks to presence detection. It looked like they would attack from three different directions. Maybe wary of Shin’s reaction, they took around 30 seconds to slowly move around him. One was right in front, the other two diagonally behind Shin.
They had probably decided the timing to strike. Without any particular signal, they all started attacking at the same time.
The attacker from the front, piercing through the mist, was surprisingly Lecus.
Fire, water, and invisible wind bullets shot from his hands.
From behind, Myu sent 【Crawling Fangs】 and Gian used 【Tri-Edge】 before both of them charged towards Shin. Knowing that normal attacks would never damage him, they tried to strike him all together.
“You’ve thought this through.”
In response to the three young warriors’ offensive, Shin walked towards Lecus. Magic would barely affect Shin, especially if Lecus was the caster. As this was battle training for them, Shin advanced while knocking the bullets down, then struck Lecus’ neck, who was trying to retreat. That meant that Lecus had died. Myu and Gian “died” too after a few minutes.
“Aah…not even one hit…”
“Just completely out of your league. Asking you for training was the right idea.”
Myu and Gian did not even try to hide their frustration. Lecus had understood that they would never match Shin in the first battle and was thinking if there was a way for them to get back at Shin.
“Okay, let’s review the battles until now. Then Yuki will be your opponent.”
As long as they didn’t lose all enthusiasm because of losing, they could improve. So Shin felt while he talked to the kids.