It’s been a long year. I would’ve reached the legendary realm faster if I didn’t have to share Lucia’s qi with Puppers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. During this year, I’ve strengthened my fundamentals: power, speed, toughness, everything’s gone under a qualitative change. I’ve abandoned the spear and reverted back to using a sword like I should’ve from the start. A spear was enough to defeat Lucia while I was still realms above her, but now, it’s not. If I want to grow as a weapon spirit, I have to return to my roots. I’ve fully integrated the techniques of my fallen brothers into my swordsmanship while removing the superfluous: cutting as swift as a dagger, stabbing as sharp as a spear, swinging with the weight of a hammer, defending as if I had a shield, all the while maintaining the flexibility of a sword. Only a style as versatile as this one can hope to defeat Lucia’s outrageous natural abilities.
Now, I’m taking the last steps towards entering the legendary realm. Though I’ve developed a path of my own, the Versatile Path of the Sword, I have no idea how to proceed to a higher realm through it, which is why I’m following in Lucia’s footsteps and accumulating enough qi in my spirit seed core. My seed has been saturated for the past month, but I’ve been delaying the breakthrough to temper myself further. Unfortunately, today, I had a premonition that accumulating anymore qi would be counterproductive. Thus, I entered my weapon body and proceeded with the breakthrough, letting Lucia’s qi remold my spirit body.
And the first thing I saw after emerging from my weapon body after breaking through to the legendary realm was Lucia squinting at a pile of items on a table while sniffing a green slip made of jade. Her ears twitched, and she raised her head to meet my eyes, her face lighting up as a smile blossomed on her lips. “Durandal! You’re back!”
Though she didn’t say it, I could see the question etched into her facial features. “Yes, I’m back. And I successfully broke through to the legendary realm.”
As expected, Lucia’s face became lewd. It’s a good thing I threw away those pole-stiffening medicinal pills that I found while snooping through her interspacial ring. There was absolutely no reason for her to have those; thus, I took justice into my own hands and righted the natural laws. A crackling noise drew my attention away from her face. The jade slip in her hand was cracking near her fingers. “Lucia, you’re breaking it.”
“Hmm?” Lucia lowered her head, looking at where I pointed. “Ah! My treasure!” She placed the strip on the table and licked her fingers before rubbing her saliva onto the cracked portion. Of course, it didn’t help. She placed the sleeve of her dress against it and wiped the saliva off, revealing a pristine, undamaged jade slip. “Phew. Just in time.”
…Alright. Let’s not question that. “Who’d you rob this time?”
“A weirdo,” Lucia said as she placed the jade amongst the other items on the table. She met my gaze. “Oh, he’s dead, so you don’t have to worry about vengeance or anything.” She blinked when I didn’t say anything. “I didn’t kill him! He drank the poison that I put in the cup, but it wasn’t my fault!”
I sighed. One day, Lucia’s terrible actions will catch up to her. And when that day comes, I’ll be dragged into it too. Is it wrong that I’m looking forward to confronting it? Speaking of confrontation…. “Lucia. Let’s spar.”
“Eh? But it’s almost dinner time.” Lucia scratched her head and looked the other way, avoiding my eyes.
Well, when I said, “Let’s spar,” I wasn’t giving her a choice. I drew the white sword hanging from my waist and lunged forward. “Versatile Path of the Sword: Piercing Thrust!”
My sword pierced through Lucia’s Armor of Slaughter like paper, but as the tip of my blade made contact with her skin, a large resistance pushed back against my arm as if I were stabbing into an immovable mountain. I grunted and focused all of my qi into the tip of my sword, letting out a shout as I shoved my arm forward. “Pierce!”
Instead of injuring her, my sword pushed Lucia backwards, causing her to lose her footing and fall to the floor. “Durandal! What the heck!?” Lucia bounced to her feet as she drew mini-DalDal, a reddish-black qi rising out of her skin and congealing into a ram’s head behind her. Before Lucia could raise her sword, I advanced while condensing qi into the edge of my blade.
“Swift Slash!” I swung my sword horizontally, striking Lucia’s elbow to break her stance, leaving her wide chest wide open. With a flourish of my arm, I slashed my sword downwards like a hammer. “Meteor Slice!”
My sword struck Lucia’s chest and forced her to bend her knees. The floor cracked beneath her feet, but she remained uninjured. Instead, her eyes glazed over, turning completely white as she activated her path. Her free hand flashed, and she grabbed onto my sword’s blade, locking it into place as she raised mini-DalDal. But I was expecting this! “Versatile Path of the Sword: Cheap Shot!”
I released my sword as I leaned in and firmly planted my lips against Lucia’s, causing her to freeze. Her eyes returned to normal as they widened, and her muscles relaxed as the tension left her body. Taking advantage of her moment of weakness, I disarmed her by striking her wrist while knocking mini-DalDal away at the same time. How could a Path of the Sword be versatile if it couldn’t be used without a sword? Roland had an arm-guard spirit who was an expert in grappling. I slid around to Lucia’s back and positioned myself for a choke…, but Lucia’s tail wrapped around my right leg and lifted me off my feet. She tossed aside my sword as she slammed me to the ground, back first, before mounting my waist. Her voice was breathy as she leaned forward and panted into my ear, “It’s my turn.”
Lucia knew how to grapple? When did she learn that? Her arms pressed against my shoulders, keeping my back in place. I lifted my waist in an attempt to slip out from underneath her, but her tail wrapped around my ankle and stretched my lower body out, preventing me from moving my legs. She chuckled with a flushed face as she leaned forward, her nose nearly touching mine. This, this wasn’t sparring anymore! “Lu—”
My words were muffled as my lips were covered. A foreign invader assaulted my mouth, dueling with my tongue. I tried to turn my head to the side, but Lucia’s hand appeared on my cheek, holding my face still. At this rate, I was going to be humiliated! Retreat back into mini-DalDal! …It didn’t work. My corporeal body was still being pressed down by Lucia. Why didn’t it work!? My eyes shifted towards mini-DalDal, and a sparkling blue bead attached to its hilt by a string caught my eye. Was that a spirit-restraining rope!?
…All hope is lost. Puppers, if we’re companions, please, come out and save me. The door creaked as a tiptoeing, armored wolfkin opened it and slipped outside. I’ve been abandoned. Is this the end…? Is this how I lose my dignity as a sword spirit?
As Lucia’s hands stripped off my shirt and as I was about to resign myself to fate, the floor trembled and the walls shook as cracks formed upon the ceiling. A second later, a massive booming sound echoed through the room, ripping up the floor tiles and tearing down the walls. The ceiling collapsed on top of us. It took less than a second for Lucia to clear the rubble, but killing intent was rising out of her body like smoke, her eyes red and teeth bared. Her hair flew upwards as she whipped her head back and forth, searching for the cause of the explosion.
“Lucia!” a familiar voice shouted. It was Ilya. Was she the one that saved me? But where was she? The rubble in the distance trembled as the demon’s head popped out, followed by her arms and torso. Her face was smudged with soot and tears streaked down her cheeks. “He exploded! He actually exploded!”
Who exploded? What was going on? I’m not too sure, but I know the first thing I have to do is remove that spirit-restraining rope around mini-DalDal.
“Where is he?” Lucia asked, her tail twitching back and forth, destroying the bits and pieces of the walls by her feet. “Who blew up my happy time!?”
“H-he’s dead,” Ilya said, swallowing visibly. Her tears also stopped flowing—it seemed like they were caused by soot in the first place. “I was interrogating him, and he told me to release him or else he’d self-detonate. I turned around to grab my pliers, and when I turned back, he was glowing while radiating heat. Then he exploded!”
“…You’re sure he’s dead?”
“Well, people generally die if they explode, right?” Ilya asked.
And with Ilya’s brilliant timing, I managed to slip the spirit-restraining ropes off of mini-DalDal and sneak back inside. …Or so I thought. When did Lucia place this enchanted ankle cuff around my leg? When I was pinned down and her tail stopped me from escaping? Just how many scenarios did she prepare for…? Then … I’ll accept whatever’s coming to me. It’s my duty as a weapon spirit to serve my master and teach her well. If, if bed stuff is required of me to bring her back onto the right track, then I’m willing to sacrifice myself!
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