Chapter 25

Holding the blade tightly, Caleb takes a deep breath to focus on Eckhart. With a moment to size each other, the renowned knight has the blade in his left hand, placing his other behind his back to hold back.

“I know I am just a kid, but going easy on anyone can be life or death, Eckhart,” Caleb speaks loudly.

“This is for your benefit; let us see if you still have what it takes.” Eckhart lets out a fierce breath to refocus his stance.

With a single chirp from a bird to the freezing wind, it isn’t until a pile of snow falls from the giant tree that starts the duel. Eckhart approaches Caleb, tempting to cause a reaction, but he is focused solely on Eckhart. 

“You’re still shaking.” Eckhart proclaims.

Caleb doesn’t respond, only with a gentle sigh, and he closes his eyes briefly to relax. The painful scars attempt to drag him back into the abyss, but his control becomes a single point.

A step forward, a swing, a clash. Eckhart’s blade sparks against Calebs. The young ten-year-old boy grips the sword tightly but not too tight to lose control. He knows how to hold a sword at least; his small body is barely moving freely.

Whoosh

A heavy wind blows Caleb’s hair as he narrowly dodges a strike to his chest. Just rolling to the ground, he steps back and raises his sword to defend against another attack. Eckhart is forcing himself to be sluggish to see how he responds to the assault. Caleb notices the drastic change in Eckhart’s form, switches his stance, and produces a swift jab.

A soft gash knicks Eckhart’s cheek by the time Caleb ends his swing. He was surprised; Eckhart stepped back before swinging his sword, clashing with the sound of metal hitting metal. Caleb nearly loses his grip as Eckhart’s strength is far superior to the boy’s.

Hitting the snow, Caleb raises his hand and produces a barrier just before Eckhart approaches, stopping him in his tracks—a puzzled look and a smirk of acknowledgment of the man.

“Using an artifact in melee is difficult, yet you seem quite good at reading distance. Already, you have proven something very much astonishing. But this is not the end of this spar.”

Caleb raises to his feet, his hands trembling at strain from defending against Eckhart’s powerful strikes. With a finger, the barrier dissipates, and with a single step, Caleb goes on the offensive. Eckhart deflects the first strike aimed at his chest. The sparks flash, but another strike comes forth from Caled, aiming right at this throat.

Barely raising his hand in time, he pushes the blade away to avoid the lethal blow; Eckhart grabs him by the arm, tosses him to the ground, and kicks him down. Without hesitation, Caleb uses the barrier again to block Eckhart, but he swiftly breaks through with a massive blow to the magic.

With a smirk on his face, Caleb, with both hands on the blade, twists around and slams the pommel on Eckhart’s hand; some gravity carried the weight of the attack, but the tense feeling of his hand being fractured forces the blade out of his hand with a quick grunt of pain. He backs away in retreat.

“That was quite the plan you had there, baiting me into attacking. I heard you were into strategy, but you are just a smart kid, which is quite impressive. I will give it to you and your intellect. But what if you are facing an even more powerful foe!”

Without much time to recover, Caleb raises his sword to defend against a quick strike from Eckhart. With the blade in his main hand once again, he stances with the sword and is even more severe. With a shifting tide, Caleb defends against a jab strike from Eckhart, which nearly slashes across his face. 

A moment of defending strikes, Caleb begins to show the fatigue of the fight and barely holds his sword in front of him, his hands stiff and cramping, and a sizeable misty breath exits his mouth. Caleb begins to sway as stress and the sudden sickness well in his stomach. Lowering his guard, Eckhart proceeds to finish the fight once and for all; Caleb slides right under his feet and hits it with a dagger, indicating he has landed another hit. Caleb holds his sword in his right hand and his dagger in his left.

“Very well, I guess it is time I showed you the Divine Arts if you lasted this long.”

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With a single motion of his hands, a glowing rune appears on his blade and emits a golden hue to the blade.

“Divine Strike!”

The blade glows brighter, and a swift motion of the blade becomes blinding and strikes forward, right at Caleb. With both hands, Eckhart lands the powerful strike against Caleb’s defense; a minor clash occurs, sparks flying off the blades before the intense pressure of the Divine Art ripples and shatters Caleb’s sword and sends him back a bit.

Caleb begins to falter, landing on his back and quickly rolling to his feet while holding a significantly broken blade.

“I think that is the outcome. I will say I am quite impressed with your efforts today.” With a soft smile, Eckhart approaches Caleb.

“I-I lost…” Caleb speaks under his breath before kneeling down.

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Caleb forces the vomit rising from his stomach down and prevents himself from falling under deeper. Eckhart kneels beside him and looks at him. Caleb places his hand on his shoulder and stands up swiftly. 

“I think I’ll be fine,” Caleb says with an exhausted look.

“I didn’t expect you to hold onto that long; very good indeed. Now, your training can start.”

Holding the fatigued Caleb up to his feet, Eckhart lets go and nods gently. Caleb responds the same way; his hands softly shake, but a determined look washes on his face. Eckhart calls Carlo from his spot.

“Tanios! It is time!”

“Coming, Sir!”

Carlo runs up to the group and sheaths his sword. The young teenager and his curly black hair stand at attention, a sweat dripping off his brow.

“You two will be my personal squires; we will meet during the afternoon, listen and learn from me, and you will show off your skill each day as it progresses. Sword Arts, Divine Arts, and other weapons training will be constant here. I will not be easy on either of you, so do not piss me off, or you won’t sleep well for a week!”

“Yes, Sir!” Carlo salutes. It’s a little goofy, but he does it nonetheless.

Caleb nods and looks at the sky, taking another long, deep breath of the fresh, cold air, which feels nice. He has made progress and was able to use a sword. He had held back on vomiting during the fight with Eckhart as the stress of holding a sword was eating away at him, but he kept it up with no regrets and landed a few strikes on Eckhart. It was nothing too special, but the feat alone was enough to impress himself and Eckhart.

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