Chapter 28

After leaving Julia, saying his goodbyes and wishes to her, he exits the street and meets with Carlo and Eckhart.

It is past noon when Eckhart stands with Carlo, waiting for him. A stern look on Eckhart while Carlo is a bit more laid back.

“Are you ready for your first lesson?” Eckhart asks.

“I am not sure how well I will do, but I promise you, Eckhart, I will do what I can. I know you serve me, but if I want to become stronger, I need to be trained by the best at their best. So don’t show me any mercy; give me the full attitude and demand like you would any other knight or squire.” Caleb speaks with a determined look. His fists clenched as the sounds of the gloves squeak from the pressure.

“Then fall in line.”

“Yes, sir.”

Standing next to Carlo, Eckhart hands Caleb a training sword. A hesitant look across Caleb slows his action. But with some inner conflict, he takes the sword. The best he can do is a small quiver in his hands and a small sweat across his brow.

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“Alright! Listen well. I am sure you read very extensively on Divine Arts and Swordcraft during your studies. It is essential to understand the basics, and I got a taste of what you can do at your current level. Carlo!”

“Yes, sir?” Carlo stands tall. He shakes slightly from the cold, and his curly black hair is sweaty.

“You two will spar. I will judge your attributes and fighting styles when you face a more evenly matched opponent. How you will adapt, predict, and execute your strikes will help me determine what Divine Arts you should learn first.”

Caleb and Carlo nod to Eckhart, who has taken a more refined stance, and observe the two young boys.

“Looks like we are matched for once.” Carlo chuckles.

“I won’t hold back; you got a bit more practice and years on me.” Caleb scoffs, and a friendly rivalry has begun.

“Begin!”

Drawing their blades, Caleb and is slow on the draw, leaving Carlo to win the initiative with the first strike.

Using his agility, Caleb rolls back through the snow, his cape painted white from the action, and stands with his hands on the sword. With a deep breath, he steps forward; Carlo, holding the blade with one hand, finds an opening and strikes from the right.

Ducking under the attack, Caleb strikes with his sword, dinging the side of Carlos’s arm. Reacting to the pain, Carlo quickly steps back as the dulled blade draws a bit of blood.

“At least it wasn’t my face,” Carlo smirks.

“What do you mean? I can aim at yours if you like.” Caleb retorts.

“You might want to realize sooner that I knew you would dodge my strike.”

“What?”

Caleb blinks and touches his cheek. A slightly warm, wet feeling drenches his fingers. Reeling back from the sudden drops of blood on his fingers, Caleb wipes the cut across his face.

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“I see you have developed a Swordcraft already.”

“I’ve been training for over a month now; it’s time to test it out for once.”

“Using speed and physical illusion to trick your enemies into thinking they avoided an attack, you widdle them down with each strike. I am impressed.”

“I feel bad for using it on you, Caleb, but I vow to become the greatest knight, no matter how far I must reach.”

“Fine, I guess I need to step it up too.”

Calming his nerves, Caleb brings the blade to the side before holding it in a unique stance that no one has seen before. Drawing on Sato Haruki, Caleb remembers the proper positioning. Bringing the sword vertically to his shoulder and leading his left foot forward, he aligns the blade to his right shoulder and advances.

Eckhart and Carlo are unsure what kind of stance or Swordcraft is being demonstrated, but the latter’s arrogance doesn’t read the situation and goes for a thrust. Using his sword, Caleb sidesteps and lets his cheek be cut once again but strikes with all his might to push Carlo’s sword into the snow.

Dragging Carlo and making him bend down, Caleb strikes with the hilt of his sword into his nose and then swings the blade horizontally to attack his side. Slowly backing up, blood trickles down Carlo’s nose, and he tries to focus again. The pain makes him uneasy. he steps to strike, but Caleb counters with an aggressive deflect into another hilt strike into his chest and then into another swipe with the blade, instead hitting his leg. 

Frustrated, Carlo momentarily kicks up snow toward Caleb’s eyes and blinds him. Slashing vertically with a quick twirl with his wrist. Opening one of his eyes, Caleb tilts his blade to catch the strike and lets it slide down the length of his sword. However, Carlo twists his wrist in the middle of the deflection to cause the sword’s tip to slash Caleb’s chest. Most of his clothes caught the attack, but his skin was punctured, and a burning sensation spread on the wound. 

“Tsk,” Caleb clicks his tongue before wiping the rest of the snow from his eyes.

Carlo attempts to attack once again, but Caleb ducks and takes a slash on his shoulder to shove the hilt into his stomach. Carlo reels over and begins to vomit from the intense strike but can defend from the next attack.

Using his other hand, Carlo grabs Caleb’s wrist only to throw him to the side and tries to slash once again. Knowing he needs to enter his range quickly, Caleb shoves his chest into Carlo’s arms, preventing the swing from connecting.

Before they could return to their feet to continue to strike at each other, Eckhart cleared his throat and shouted.

“That’s enough!”

With heavy breaths, Caleb and Carlo look at each other. Both received fair wounds and bruises from this encounter.

“Carlo, using your environment to get a sneak attack on your opponent is a valid strategy; however, you question your honor as a warrior or knight by doing such an act!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Caleb, you used an unfamiliar Swordcraft; I would commend you to focus on using a style that I can teach you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Take a moment; I need to review the results and answers before I assign you any Divine Art training.”

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