According to Durandal, I am a brute. Even though that’s the official name of the qi manipulation category I’m in, I still feel offended. I am a very elegant lady. Maybe I have a teensy bit of a potty mouth, but that doesn’t mean I’m a f***ing brute. Jeez.
“What are you thinking about now? You’re getting distracted again.”
Urk. Meditating is hard. How am I supposed to clear my thoughts? I’m part squirrel! Even an acorn on the ground is sufficient enough to distract me in the middle of a fight.
“Isn’t there some other way for me to learn to control my qi?” This is way too difficult. I opened my eyes and stared at Durandal. He was practicing with his metal spear. The wind howled and shrieked with every one of his thrusts. Isn’t he supposed to be a sword? Why does he feel like a legendary spear spirit instead?
“There is,” Durandal said and lowered his spear. He wasn’t even sweating after hours of continuous practice. Do weapon spirits sweat? I’m pretty sure they just draw on their owner’s…. Wait a minute…. That’s my energy he’s using! No wonder why I feel so tired! Thief! “It’s faster and more effective, but it’ll be painful. Are you—”
“No thanks. I’ll keep meditating.” Pain? I’ll pass. I’m not a masochist.
I can’t hear you. Totally sunken deep into introspective meditation. Mhm. One with the world. Only I exi—gah! Did he just stab me!? He did! “What the hell!?”
Ah, I shouldn’t have yelled at him. His aura’s too fierce. “I, I mean, yes, Durandal?”
“We’re switching to the other method. You haven’t been able to focus once in the past four hours.”
“But didn’t you say it was painful?” Don’t rub my head! You’re just trying to trick me. Ah, but that feels nice.
“I believe in you, Lucia. Won’t you listen to me?”
Mm. That’s a good spot, keep scratching there. What was he saying?
“You can do it, right?”
“Yes!” I think I just agreed to something I didn’t want to do…. “What can I do?”
“Mn. Just hold a horse stance,” Durandal said and removed his hand.
A horse stance? “Like this?”
Is that a spike? Where are you going to put that? Don’t tell me that’s going underneath me…? “Uh…”
“If you fall…. Don’t fall, Lucia.”
No way. This is inhumane! I’m a girl! What if I lose my chastity to a stick!? Where are you going!? “W-what are those pots for?”
“Nothing really,” Durandal said and poured water into two clay jugs. “I’m just going to put these on your thighs.” Ah, that’s heavy. But I’m not allowed to fall. This is really cruel. “Now, do me a favor and hold these rocks?”
Why are you smiling like that? Aren’t the pots enough? “I, I don’t want to.”
“Hold. The. Rocks.”
I’ll hold them, I’ll hold them. Oh, they aren’t too heavy.
“Great,” Durandal said and nodded at my suffering. Bastard. “Now instead of meditating, focus on circulating your qi to all the sore parts of your body.”
“I don’t feel sore though?”
“Give it a few hours,” Durandal said. “Unless you want me to add more rocks?”
“N-no. I’ll wait for a few … hours….” Hold on just a minute. Did I hear that correctly? “Hours!?”
“But it’s midnight! When do I sleep?”
“Martial artists don’t need to sleep. They meditate instead.”
Can’t sleep? “Where’s the justice!? Aren’t you Durandal, the legendary sword of the Godking? Surely, you’re just.”
“Just? Me?” Durandal raised an eyebrow. “Did I give you that impression?”
Now that I think about it…, isn’t he a cruel, manipulative person? But he’s hot, so I guess it balances out.
“You know the Godking started out as a bandit, right?”
“What? No way.” How could the Godking be a bandit? He was the epitome of an honorable person!
“Have you heard of Golden Rat?”
“Golden Rat…. Wasn’t he the really sneaky thief that the Godking captured? I think the emperor rewarded the Godking for catching him and returning the crown, right?” My legs are starting to feel numb. Let’s try circulating some qi there. Oh, that does feel better.
“Golden Rat was the Godking. He was the one who stole from all the nobles and merchants. The Golden Rat that Roland apprehended was a young noble who offended him.”
“That can’t be true.” Stop blaspheming my idol!
“Would the sword of a noble person do this to you?”
I don’t think the sword of a thief could be this cruel either. When did these rocks become this heavy? “The Godking really was an outlaw?”
“Yup,” Durandal said and nodded as he picked up his spear. Wait! Don’t practice! I’ll lose my energy even quicker!
“C-can I not do this?” I’m going to die. Didn’t he say learning to manipulate qi was the first step of training? I don’t want to know what the second step is.
“You have to.” The spear pierced the air, blowing Durandal’s hair back.
“Why?” What reason could possibly encourage this much suffering on my part?
“Aren’t you curious? If the Godking was the strongest person in the world, then how did he die?”
“Wasn’t it an illness?”
Durandal snorted. “Illness? He enslaved a pill master that could bring the dead back to life. How could he die of an illness?”
“Then … what happened to him?” Wait. Enslaved a pill master? Ah! That spike is cold! Why is it so close to my butt!? Maybe I can try resting on it…. Nope! Good thing I’m wearing thick pants today.
“He was cursed.”
“Cursed?” I should really stop talking. I’m getting too tired. Right, circulate qi. Just keep circulating, just keep circulating.
“Yes. Although Roland was an obnoxious bastard, I can’t deny he was my owner. I can’t rest peacefully unless I avenge him. And to do that, I need you to be stronger. Do you understand, Lucia?”
I think I do. “But isn’t that your problem?”
The world around me froze. Eep! Did I say the wrong thought? “I, I mean, I’ll do it! I’ll help you by becoming stronger!” …But what’s in it for me? Mm. I’ll just think of it as the price to pay for owning Durandal. Ah, my body hurts. Tonight’s going to be a long night.
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