When I finished reading the book, it was already a few hours into our travels.
And what a book it was. It pretty much taught me about swordsmanship in this world far more than Father. Even though it was just an introduction, intended for beginners, it was so detailed about everything, from the history of the school, the beginner techniques, and, most importantly, the existence of this concept named Aura.
If I have to summarize it, it’s basically the swordsman version of Mana that mages utilize. It allows swordsmen to perform superhuman feats, far beyond the limits of a normal human.
It is a secret concept however, with only a few understanding it even exists. Most swordsmen would go their entire lives using it without even realizing it exists. Father, Sherry, and even the Legendary Hero back then didn’t know the concept of Aura. They just swing their sword hard and fast enough that their aura automatically comes out. So technically, you don’t really need to know about it to be strong. The concept of Aura itself was only formed in the last hundreds of years, thanks to the fact that for so many years before that, all the way to the era of the Legendary Hero and perhaps even beyond that, swordsmen could just train to swing their sword in a normal manner to achieve the usage of Aura anyways.Or at least, that’s what the book said.
Now I’m reminded of all those phony martial arts schools that also talked about aura and chakra and all that mumbo jumbo in my old world. Well, this is a fantasy world so it must be real, right? I like it better as an explanation for the superhuman feats swordsmen can do in this world. Not just because “he swung his sword really, really hard to the point that the air pressure caused by his swing alone can shatter a rock ten meters away”.
Though I wonder. How does aura really interact with mana? Are they actually the same thing? I don’t think so. If they are, then I should already be an amazing swordsman already.
I can’t help but feel it’s a shame whoever wrote this book didn’t want the knowledge to spread around. Though I understand their mindset. This book was written by a member of the Order of Galahad, and it seems to be this semi-secretive organization dedicated to training swordsmen and swordswomen in the Galahad-style. The book treats swordplay more than just martial art. It’s almost like religion and philosophy rolled into one. There are a lot of musings in the book about how one should wield their sword in the way of righteousness and justice and all that fancy stuff. So, if I have to guess, they probably don’t want their exalted knowledge, including the knowledge of aura, to spread to the unworthy public.
Haah, if only I’ve learned about it sooner, then I might have been able to get stronger at the sword. Unlike Sherry or Father, I’m the methodical type. I can’t swing my sword just by instinct.
Hmm, I wonder what type she is. Knowing how violent she is though, she’s probably the instinct type.
“Boy, you just thought something bad about me, didn’t you?”
To my surprise, the brat actually noticed me looking at her. She had been staring outside the window all this time, her twintails fluttering in the wind. And, as much as I hated it, she actually looked like a princess during it. Her sharp and dignified look exuded elegance and the blowing wind only enhanced that effect.
The illusion was immediately dispelled however once she opened her mouth.
“No, just wondering what type of swordswoman you are,” I replied.
“What type? What are you talking about?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Are you the methodical type, calculating every movement beforehand with extreme precision? Or are you more instinct-oriented, moving in a way that just feels right to you?”
To my irk, she responded with a laugh. “Hah, you really don’t know anything about swordsmanship, do you? Was your father really an S-rank swordsman? Didn’t he teach you anything, boy?”
“Just the basics,” I admitted honestly with a slight sigh. “He gave up teaching me beyond that. Said his type of swordsmanship wasn’t suited for me.”
“Oh? And what type of swordsmanship is that?” Her eyes lit up with curiosity.
“Raw strength. He carried around this huge greatsword with him that he wielded two-handed. He could send off powerful waves just by swinging it around.”
“I see. So it’s the offensive Lancelot-style. They’re big on sending off shockwaves like that. You can cut a thousand men in a single swing if you’re good enough, or so they say. It’s strong, but barbaric at the same time. It doesn’t have any elegance, like my Galahad-style. They just attack and attack and attack, hoping to overwhelm their enemies before they get overwhelmed themselves. That’s why they’re so vulnerable to surprise attacks.”
My heart suddenly ached. That was how Father and Mother had died. From a surprise attack by Vera.
“Well, my own style has its own weaknesses, mainly it doesn’t really have powerful ranged attacks. The way my style fights is to approach the enemy calmly in a calculated manner, waiting until the exact moment they enter my radius. And then, I swing my sword in a flash, killing them in an instant.”
That’s a surprise. I thought she would just dismiss Father’s style while praising her own.
“But, since you’re apparently a mage as well, powerful ranged attacks are already your forte, no?” She smirked, folding her hands under her chest. “Thus, learning my style would be the best for you.”
“So, your style is the methodical type then?” I asked again. “You make it sound that this Galahad-style of yours is all about being calculating and stuff.”
“Hmph. Instinctual movement and methodical, deliberate movement are not opposites of each other, boy. All swordsmen should train their sword arm and muscles so they could move on their own and perform the correct movement without thinking. That is instinct. You repeat enough deliberate, thinking moves, and eventually, you can do it without thinking.”
“Funny you should say that,” I replied with a slight smile. “My father used to teach me that I should just swing my sword the way it feels the most natural to me. Your book, on the other hand, has lots of forms and movements and such that a student is supposed to remember, so the complete opposite of his teaching.”
“Then he’s not a good teacher,” she answered without skipping a beat. As usual, no holds barred in the insult department. “He’s probably the gifted type who just learns on his own naturally, without any teachers to guide him. That kind of person will never be suited to become a sword teacher. Your girlfriend is probably the same, since she actually got strong from his lessons. While you, on the other hand, you’re just like me, needing a good teacher to actually learn how to swing a sword.”
Her calling Sherry my girlfriend brought a little embarrassed blush and a smile. You have no idea how much I want to bring home a girl with me and declare her to be my girlfriend to my family back in my old life. And now, to have people around me that acknowledge the fact that I do have a girlfriend, it makes me feel happy. Most likely because I feel less like a loser that way.
“So you got a teacher, Fiora?” I asked. Immediately her expression turned sour. Ah, that’s right. I’m supposed to call her Miss Fiora instead. “Alright, fine. Please enlighten me about your teacher, Miss Fiora.” I made sure to put on that extra emphasis on the “Miss”, just so it would be all too obvious that I was saying it in a sarcastic manner.
“Very well.” Her smug smile returned. What, didn’t she catch my sarcasm there? Or was she already satisfied by me just saying the word? “Yes, I do have a teacher back at the palace. And she’s an excellent teacher at her job. I owed much to her.”
For the very first time, I saw it—her genuine, non-sarcastic, honest, and pure smile. As she smiled, she looked away from me, back to the window, reminiscing about this teacher that she held in high esteem.
…Damnit! If she’s like this, she’s actually cute. Grr, why can’t she be uglier? I’m weak to pretty girls, you know, even girls of her age!
As much as I hate myself for thinking it, she’s indeed what you would call in all objective sense a pretty girl. Perhaps not in the more conventional princess-like manner, but she’s still a beauty nonetheless.
“What’s the matter? Awed by your master’s beauty?”
Before I could cease my staring and look away, she gave me a slight glance and said those words with her usual smirk.
“Fine. I’ll admit it. You’re pretty. But that’s nothing unusual for a princess, really. Princesses are supposed to be beautiful and pretty and all that fancy stuff.” I replied, folding my hands with a huff.
Wait, was that— I gave a glance towards Nicole. That smile… she just laughed, didn’t she?
I looked back at Fiora and saw her doing the same thing, though compared to her friend, she didn’t try to hide it in the slightest.
And then, I realized it. The words I just said… that sounded exactly like what something a tsundere would say.
…Oh God, I’m not supposed to be the tsundere here! That brat is! I’m the main character! Main character!
And Nicole, why are you listening in, huh? You’re supposed to be reading your book, not eavesdropping on our conversation!
“E-ehem.” I did a fake cough to stifle my embarrassment. “Anyways, if you have a sword tutor back there, why isn’t she with you right now? If she taught you, then she must be pretty strong, right? And you seem to have a good student-mentor relationship going on, judging by that smile you just had.”
She paused for a second, turning away to the window once more. “I can’t. She belongs there in the palace. Hmph. I suppose there’s no harm in telling you who she is.”
She paused once again. Just spell it out already, goddamnit!
“Gloria Fitzgerald. One of the Seven Imperial Knights of the Holy Empire.”
My eyes widened in surprise.
“You do know who the Imperial Knights are, right?” she asked with a look of annoyance, seemingly ready to pounce on me if I declared ignorance.
“Of course I do. They’re the vanguard of the Holy Empire’s military strength. Each of them possesses incredible strength. As long as they’re still around, no other countries would dare to invade the Empire. And they’re the check against the Magocracy’s mages as well.”
Of course, I learned all of this from the geography book I read way back a long time ago. The book would give short explanations of the various countries in the world, including the Holy Empire, naturally.
“And that’s why they can’t take sides in this whole mess. They’re beholden to the Emperor alone. Not his children or wife or anybody else. They can only leave the Imperial Palace if the Emperor himself gave them permission.”
“So you don’t want to drag her into your problem that would make her lose her position,” I gave my best guess. “Wow, I didn’t expect you to be such a softie, Fiora.” I grinned.
“Ho? Is that a challenge I just hear? Fine. This is my first command to you as your sword teacher. Go outside and stand on the roof. We’ll start practicing there, now that you’ve learned the basics from that book.”
“The roof? You mean the roof of this carriage?”
“Of course. What other roofs are there?”
Climbing to the roof of a moving stagecoach might seem outrageous, but with my Wind Step, it’s a feat I can accomplish easily. To my surprise however, Fiora managed to climb up with ease as well, jumping from the now opened door of the carriage and vaulting herself up with one graceful move. We were still in the mountain passage, of course, and we were pretty high up, with a cliff to the right and a ravine to the left.
For a split second, I nearly lost my balance. Now that we were outside like this, the vibrations of the carriage felt more palpable, to the point of disturbing my footing. The rough road didn’t help matters either, as every time the wheels hit a rock, I would jump a little from my current position. Not to mention the wind, battering me from the front. And there was no positive side of giving me delicious pantyshots either, as Fiora wore a long skirt that fluttered safely below her knees.
She stood facing me, after telling her maid that we were going to start our training session now.
“Alright. Perform the basic one-handed slashing maneuver with your sword over and over until lunch. The one you just read from the book.”
“Wait, right here?”
“Yes, right here. This is a good place to train, you know.” She gave that classic haughty smile of hers. “This way, you’ll learn to keep yourself from being unbalanced in combat, as that is the quickest way for you to lose your head. Just a split second of weakened stance can lead to your head being detached from your body in a fight between two highly skilled swordsmen. Oh, and don’t you dare using any spells to glue yourself to the roof. Perform your swing with the hand you’re going to use for your sword. I don’t care whether it’s your right or your left.”
After giving those series of orders, she sat cross-legged in front of me, just like if she was a teacher at a sword dojo and I was her student.
I did as she told me to, using my right hand since I figured I could cast spells with my wand on the left just fine. I was indeed ambidextrous, but I think my right hand is just a bit better than my left.
It didn’t take long until she started barking again.
“Your stance is wrong. Spread your legs further apart. It makes your posture more balanced.”
“Your grip is wrong. I can easily knock off your sword if you hold it like that.”
“Your arm movement is wrong. You raise too far up. And now you’re raising it too far down. Don’t you remember anything from the book?”
And so on and so forth. And she didn’t even bother standing up in the process.
“You know, it would be better if you come here and actually show me how it’s done.”
I said it out of frustration and also because I realized it was the perfect opportunity for the good ol’ “skinship through mentoring” moment. You know, the one where the girl got close to a guy as she moved his arms to the proper pose, and vice versa. Let’s see if this little brat would get all embarrassed while doing it.
“Hmph, I suppose I can’t be helped.” She stood up. “Here. Let me show you how it’s done.”
She walked up to me, completely unperturbed by the rocking of the carriage, and grabbed both of my hands as she positioned herself right beside me.
“Here. Remember this position—the height of your arm, and the angle of your strike.”
Dammit, she isn’t blushing at all! I’m the one who’s reddening!
Gahh, why am I so weak to girls like this?
Of course, I already knew the answer. I was a turbo virgin in my old life, with no experience with women whatsoever.
Grr, her pleasant scent… I didn’t even notice she’s wearing perfume. And this softness brushing occasionally to my arm and elbow… her loose dress hid quite the good job hiding her ample breasts. And looking at her face up close like this… she really is cute…
“Oh my, not only you’re a crybaby, you’re a pervert as well.”
She smirked, pointing downwards. I followed and saw—
My one free hand immediately went there, covering the tent I was pitching.
“Boy, you’re having lecherous thoughts about me, aren’t you? How brave, to have that towards an Imperial princess. I could lop off your head for that.”
I gulped. She looked right towards my erection while she said that, making me think she was referring to my other head instead.
No, I refuse to let her take me along for the ride! She must have known I’ll be aroused from our close proximity! Heck, she even purposefully allows my arm to rub her breasts in the process! If I’m a pervert, then she’s a pervert as well!
“Look here.” I sheath my sword and folded my arms, not caring that my tent was still there. “I know you purposefully did that. You’re not some innocent princess who doesn’t know her own charms.”
“Hoo? But you’re the one who asked me to correct you up close.”
“Heh, at the very least, you should be able to avoid your chest touching with my elbow and arm.” I grinned.
“I would, if your stance wasn’t so wrong that I had to reach all over to correct it properly.”
“Hah, admit it! You want to see me pitching a tent, don’t you?” My grin only grew wider. “It’s alright. I don’t hate perverted girls.”
It’s true. It wasn’t just me taunting her. As a pervert myself, I would be a hypocrite if I hate them.
She didn’t reply. Have I done it? Have I just earned my first victory against her verbally? She instead sat down, gave a shrug and sigh, and said, “Think whatever you want, boy. But from now on, you’re on your own. Clearly, you don’t want my help.” And then, she looked away.
If I were to be honest, I think she wasn’t lying. She wasn’t flustered, nor she gave any of those predatory looks while she was fixing my form. She did it completely professionally.
But hey, this is my first win, just because she can’t think up on a comeback. And I intend to savor it as much as I can.
…Wait, did I just deny myself the chance to be that close to her ever again?