After enjoying a long, and somewhat interesting, lunch with the girls, Vahn made his way out of the tent and jumped down from the plateau to watch over Mikoto. She had been so focused on her training that she had likely skipped lunch so Vahn felt obligated to ‘lecture’ her a bit as her Master. Even when he showed up at the periphery of the area where she was training, Mikoto continued to hold her sheathed sword in a drawing stance as she waited patiently for her opportunity. She had already noticed Vahn’s arrival but hadn’t greeted him yet since he didn’t seem intent on interrupting her.
Vahn could see that, unlike her normal stance where she kept her sheath attached to her obi, Mikoto now held her sheath in her left hand in a somewhat loose stance as if she were preparing to draw her sword. When a gentle breeze passed through the forest and caused a leaf to fall, Mikoto’s brows twitched slightly as she unsheathed her katana in a swift motion and attempted to cut the fallen leaf. With her high dexterity and trained eye-sight, it wasn’t that difficult a feat but Vahn noticed that there was almost no sound to the draw and it seemed to pass through the wind soundlessly before slicing the leaf into two halves. Though he thought it was rather impressive, Mikoto showed a conflicted expression before sheathing her katana. Afterward, she turned around and bowed her head low as she said, “Forgive me for making you wait.”
Hearing her words, Vahn furrowed his brows slightly and said, “Such formalities are a bit wasted, Mikoto. As long as they stay safe, I’d rather everyone have some degree of independence…continue doing your best to follow the path you chose for yourself, don’t feel obligated to act on ceremony with me. After all, though we may be Master and Apprentice, we are also family…family doesn’t treat each other in such a ‘distant’ manner.” Vahn truly believed everyone within the Hestia Familia was his family and it worried him a bit since Mikoto behaved so distantly, even though she had also opened her heart to him slightly. He didn’t want her to pressure herself unnecessarily, even though he appreciated her ideals and her earnest desire for strength.
Mikoto nodded her head slightly and showed a softer expression for a brief moment before holding up her katana and saying, “I’ve been practicing the techniques of the scroll you gave me…they are honestly more incredible than I expected. Though I didn’t doubt you would give me something powerful, I hadn’t expected something so…extreme. I will do my best to master this technique you have bestowed to me, Vahn. Thank you…” Vahn smiled before asking, “Have you made any progress with your water control since yesterday? I was thinking of taking you into the Dungeon this afternoon, but I won’t force you to come along if you want to focus on refining your techniques.”
In response to Vahn’s words, Mikoto showed a somewhat thoughtful expression before saying, “I think it would be better to fight monsters to increase my experience further. There is plenty of time for training when I return to the surface, but it’s not often I’ll have opponents like the Black Rhinos who are much stronger than me but easier to deal with than some of the more problematic enemies in the upper floors.” Though they were very powerful, Black Rhinos were mindless and uncoordinated so, unless you ended up getting ambushed and overwhelmed by them, they weren’t that dangerous to fight if you have ‘proper’ equipment. Mikoto would have died if she tried to fight them with her old katana, as she would have eventually been overwhelmed by them, but her [Mizuryū-no-Mai] was more than capable of cutting through their thick hides.
Vahn nodded his head and said, “Very good, Mikoto, that is the correct decision. Though increasing your understanding of your current capabilities is of significant importance, it is still better to increase your parameters and combat proficiency. Working with stronger materials creates more powerful weapons when they are refined properly. However, no matter how much you polish a piece of iron, it won’t be able to take down powerful monsters in the end. By increasing your parameters, you’re strengthening yourself so that further refinement will be for effective…” Hearing Vahn’s words, Mikoto nodded her head and showed a resolute expression on her face as she said, “I’m ready, Vahn.”
However, against her expectations, Vahn shook his head and said, “Ridiculous…remember what I said to you just yesterday, Mikoto? Rest is equally as important as training, and you haven’t even eaten lunch yet from what I can tell. Though your stamina might hold out, you need to constantly be aware of the mental strain you suffer from excessive training. If you can’t relax more, you’ll only increase the number of bottlenecks you face in the future.” Mikoto’s eyes widened slightly before she startled and grabbed the small bag that Vahn tossed at her. Opening it up, she found several doughy meat buns inside that were still warm and had a fragrant aroma emanating from them. As for Vahn, he plopped down on the ground and reclined in the grass as Fenrir bounded over and cuddled up next to him casually.
Mikoto wasn’t quite sure how to react but Vahn spoke out in a firm tone, “Eat, Mikoto, and then wake me up in around an hour or two. I pushed my body to the limits quite a bit earlier and just leveled up so I’m a bit tired…don’t disturb me for at least an hour.” Because his body had been ‘full’ for an extended period of time, Vahn wasn’t lying about the mental strain he felt. The small event with Lefiya had allowed him to calm down and relax a bit, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t tired anymore. Without resting his mind and relaxing his body for a short while, even Vahn could overtax himself and open himself up to making mistakes.
On principle, Mikoto didn’t have the right to refute Vahn’s words because he was both her Master, Lord, Captain, and the man she had decided to serve. Thus, without offering any words of complaint, Mikoto looked for a spot to sit down before a wide cushion appeared on the ground out of thin air. She knew it was Vahn showing consideration for her so she looked over at his ‘sleeping’ figure and bowed slightly before sitting down and enjoying the steamy meat buns Vahn had given her. They had a very rich flavor on the inside, something that Vahn called curry, and Mikoto was quite fond of them when she first tried them in the past. Whenever they ate together, Vahn always ‘produced’ a variety of differently flavored meat buns and she was always somewhat excited to find out what flavors they were…
An hour passed in silence with nothing but the wind and sounds of nature to accompany the Mikoto after she finished her meal. She would periodically look over at Vahn’s sleeping face and he seemed to be at peace with Fenrir snuggled up against him. Mikoto had never actually seen him taking a ‘break’ like this before so it was a strange sight to behold. Though he almost always had a smile on his face, at least when he was talking to people, Mikoto’s impression of Vahn was a very serious and hard-working boy who was only slightly older than she was. It was hard to imagine herself being in the same kind of position he was in, even if she were much older, so she had a lot of respect for him. Seeing him ‘expose’ himself like this, showing that even the Sage Aldrnari had moments of weakness, made Mikoto realize that he was simply ‘human’ just like she was.
Because she couldn’t bear to wake him up from his peaceful slumber, Mikoto sat on the cushion and mediated for the entire two-hour period before Vahn awakened on his own. He sat up from the grass and released a long yawn before taking both of his hands and stroking the sides of Fenrir’s head and playing with her ears a bit. Afterward, he looked over and showed a gentle expression as he said, “Thanks, Mikoto, for letting me rest for a bit longer.” For a brief moment, Mikoto was going to say something like him not needing to thank her but couldn’t find the words as Vahn rose to his feet and dusted himself off. The only thing she managed to do in the end was nod slightly before rising to her feet and preparing her mind to enter the 51st floor.
After running over to their destination, as Mikoto wasn’t the type that liked to rely on Vahn to get around, the entered into the 51st floor and began their hunt once again. Mikoto had changed up her style slightly and it looked like she was trying to practice the basic form of the [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll], Battōjutsu. Though it looked like a simple drawing technique, it actually allowed a person to enhance their speed by several times during the motion of unsheathing the katana. As the blade curved slightly, a person could make use of their Power, Dexterity, and Agility simultaneously to achieve much greater speeds than simply swinging it. As it didn’t require complex movements of the body, as the action was guided by the sheath itself, the only thing they needed was proper timing.
Though it was a relatively simple concept, Mikoto had never placed emphasis on it since it was ‘abnormal’ to think of sheathing your sword in the middle of a fight. Now, after witnessing the might of such strikes, Mikoto was focused more on the concept of ending fights in a single blow. According to the [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll], speed was the most supreme force within martial arts as it allowed you to freely control and respond to your opponents. If two people were of comparable speed, it might become a battle of power and proficiency, but if a person were much faster than their opponents they could almost even ignore differences like power, techniques, and even defense. With unrivaled speed, there were no obstacles in the world and it was even possible to eliminate several opponents in a single strike if you were proficient enough…
When a Black Rhinos charged at the intensely focused Mikoto, she lowered her hips slights and traced her right hand along the handle of her katana. Just as the Black Rhinos was about to bear down upon her, Mikoto shifted her weight while drawing her sword in a flash of light. It wasn’t much different from her own style of combat, except for the fact that she executed the motion from a sheathed stance using one hand instead of simply swinging it with both. As she passed by the monster, Mikoto felt almost no feedback at all and, if not for the fact that the Black Rhinos was completed bisected by her draw, she would have thought she missed.
One of the principal aspects of Battōjutsu was understanding the length, angle, and arc of the blade as it was unsheathed so it would have been a big problem if she made such a fundamental mistake. Seeing that her strike had been ‘more’ than successful, Mikoto showed an almost imperceptible smile before sheathing her sword again and charging at the next enemy. Though Battōjutsu was the most important basics [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll], it still emphasized every form of speed as being pivotal in its execution. Mikoto wouldn’t just need to have unrivaled drawing speed if she wanted to master the techniques contained within, she would need to harness the full potential of her body to achieve greater speeds while enhancing her senses to the extreme.
There were several different breathing techniques and even some medicinal baths that were listed within the scroll, all which would enhance her perception, but it still required her foundation to be nearly flawless and for her ‘mentality’ to always be pursuing higher degrees of speed. One of the actual techniques documented within the scroll was to be faster at running away from large groups of opponents in order to separate them when their differing speeds came into play. If they stayed together, you were almost guaranteed to be able to escape from a pinch if you run fast enough. However, if they made the mistake of splitting up to continue the pursuit, you could reduce their numbers and even eliminate their stronger and faster members before the weaker members could swarm you.
Mikoto charged directly toward a Black Rhinos, who turned to match her charge with its own, before side-stepping at the last moment. However, instead of slashing it instantly as she had done so previously, Mikoto spun around on her feet and leaped through the air before finding her footing and pursuing the Black Rhinos that had continued forward as a result of its inertia. When it started to slow down to turn, Mikoto had already been right behind it before drawing her sword at the moment when its momentum slowed down completely. Exploiting the gap created by the Black Rhinos, Mikoto had felled it in a single strike before instantly resheathing her sword in the same motion. From an outsider’s perspective, they would have simply seen a flash of light and a blur of Mikoto’s arms before she returned to her form and ran to the next enemy.
Of course, Vahn wasn’t a simple outsider and he had clearly seen the attack from execution to completion. According to the scroll, it was possible to reach speeds ten times that of your general slashing speed but Mikoto was only around three times as fast as normal. Given that her Dexterity was around 1400, with around 1200 Agility, Vahn was approximating her strike to be around the speed of an average Level 3. Though this might not seem that impressive, Mikoto was currently only Level 2 and her parameters were somewhat low compared to those that pushed themselves to the limits. If she continued this kind of training until mastery, Mikoto might even be able to reach the draw speed of a Level 5, even if she completely stopped developing her parameters further. This showed how monstrous the [Flying Heavenly Sword Scroll] was since it allowed a person to reach the ‘pinnacle’ even without being that strong…
Vahn was very tempted to try and master the skill himself in the future since it was something that seemingly defied the common sense of the record a bit. However, he believed that his path lay in the pursuit of magical and spiritual development and he wasn’t actually that fond of swords. Though they seemed useful, and often were, Vahn wanted to get to a point where he wasn’t reliant on anything other than his own body to overcome his enemies. He already had incredibly powerful weapons like [Enkidu] in his possession, which would continue on with him for the rest of his existence, so Vahn didn’t see the need to ‘focus’ on training his swordsmanship for the time being.
Instead, Vahn intended to focus on magic, research, forging, and taking care of the girls within the Hearth Manor. The path of a swordsman was a long road that required countless hours of practice and refinement, and Vahn simply didn’t have the time to worry about that right now. He also didn’t want to stress Mikoto too much by showing more proficiency with the skill just because his parameters were somewhat ridiculous. Though he might practice it a bit within the orb in the future, since it would be a good opportunity to at least familiarize himself with it, he wanted Mikoto to turn it into a technique all her own.
One of the things Vahn wanted to do, other than creating weapons and armor for the girls, was to give them all their own unique ‘heritage’. For Riveria, he wanted to help her become even stronger and study the very foundation of magic at her side. For Lefiya, she would become far more powerful than Riveria but her specialties would be based on the type of magic Vahn developed with her. For Haruhime and Lili, Vahn wanted the two girls to make the best use of their Innates and he intended ot teach them techniques that would enhance them further. He could already imagine a future where Lili could punch through an entire dragon with her fist, so Vahn wanted to increase her mobility even further. Fenrir copied his techniques for the most part, but Vahn planned to teach them to her seriously in the future, but her true power lay in her unstoppable claws and the ability to devour anything…
Each girl had different proficiencies and Vahn wanted to emphasize their individual traits instead of trying to make them ‘similar’ to each other. Though his combat style might ultimately be the strongest, that was only because he had far more Innates than normal and had a system like ‘The Path’ to bolster his growth. Therefore, he wanted the girls to retain their individuality by doing everything he could to promote their growth along the paths they decided for themselves. It was a bit shameless, but Vahn wanted them to be unique so that they could ‘inspire’ a variety of people in the future. He expected that many of the girls within the Hearth Manor would be the first batch of teachers at the Academy that he planned to build in the next few years.
After training for around four hours, as it was already pretty late when they entered the 51st floor, Mikoto had made a great deal of progress compared to her previous self. They didn’t have the somewhat ridiculous pace of Lefiya one-shotting everything with her magic, but it was still much faster than their previous stint. As a result, Mikoto had killed a total of 293 Black Rhinos on her own and had increased her parameters by a fair amount. The biggest thing to take note of was that Mikoto had already developed a new skill, something that shocked her to the core. There was also a big change in the balance of her parameters as she had experienced an explosive growth in her Agility while her Dexterity was reaching the ‘limit’. Her stats had always been somewhat balanced in the past, though not for any practical reason, so it was good to see her developing in a direction that allowed her to become much stronger. This also helped Vahn to verify that ‘mentality’ was important for parameter development and he began thinking of methods to help others more efficiently raise their parameters in the future…
Name: Yamato Mikoto
Skill: [Yatanokurogarasu:B], [Prometheus’s Blessing:A], [Battōjutsu:H](new)
Magic: [Futsunomitama:B], [Apocalypse: Innate(sealed)]
Development Skill: [Abnormal Resistance:C], [Swordsman:(sealed)]