TL: There will be a report on the duels after chapter 125.
Chapter 124 – Standing at the edge
Brendel took several steps back and readied himself into a defensive stance, and Veronica allowed him to do so. Her earlier attacks were nothing more than attempts to gauge his strength.
They took a pronounced pause as they sought for weakness in each other’s stance. Brendel found hundreds of lines prodding at his body, and he shifted ever so subtly to react to any changes. It caused Veronica to knit her brows slightly.
[This level of raw talent….. It’s such a pity that he’s not a Kirrlutz citizen, or I will definitely get him to be my disciple and inherit my swordsmanship.]
Silence filled the area and the tension rose to the point where everyone was holding their breaths. One could almost hear every subtle movement from both Brendel and Veronica.
The female commander was the first to attack. The Evaluation skill reduced the number of lines pointing to his body, but there was still a dazzling number that pointed all over his body. It was proof that the skill had its limits in predicting someone of her skill. In the end, Brendel turned it off and relied on his experience to defend against it.
Their blades met in screaming union, and a flash of green and black blinded the crowd. The youth gritted his teeth when he felt the immense impact. Veronica’s blade had incredible speed and power which caused him to nearly shift out of a defensive position, but he planted his feet firmly on the ground to resist her.
Her blade drew back and she flicked it to his. He pulled his body back a little while rotating his sword so that its large flat blade guarded against her needle-like thrust.
As soon as the blades met again, her sword was drawn back like a bowstring and shot out towards its next target at his thigh. Brendel took a single step back while his sword swung down to sweep the incoming blade away.
Veronica utilized his momentum and allowed her blade to go up before she went for an overhead sweep. The youth kicked off from the ground to the sides to avoid her sword, but there was almost no pause of the exchange of swords crashing into each other.
Both duelists changed the directions of their swords midway before their weapons clashed again. The female sword saint tried to disarm him by dragging his weapon upwards into the air. Brendel felt a force sticking onto his weapon like glue and hurriedly leaped into the air to avoid being disarmed, somersaulting once before retreating yet again.
Veronica’s eyes widened a little when she saw his move, and she changed into another style again. Her arrangement of attacks started to grow in complexity and speed. A song of metallic rings echoed throughout the market. Even without the Analyze skill, Brendel felt he could see afterimages of the lines happening because Veronica was thrusting her sword at an astonishing speed.
However, it was not the speed of her sword but the intricate designs of her attacks that were causing him to break out in cold sweat. In order to defend against her swordsmanship, he had to find the best moment to block or deflect her attacks.
It was as though he had to get the thread into the eye of a needle, and he had to do it every single time on the first try.
On the other hand, Veronica was feeling a little baffled. The level of his swordsmanship had exceeded the depths of what Aouine’s swordsmanship should be. No matter how many times she changed her patterns, he was able to fight against them as though he had been dueling against her for years, no, perhaps even decades against the different styles of the Kirrlutz Empire’s swordsmanships.
Brendel continued to guard himself tightly while he clad his aura around Halran Gaia. Every time she attacked, he could sense the subtle changes of her form and reacted accordingly to it, improving little by little. Each parry and deflection took even less stamina than the previous ones.
[….. I think I finally understand my grandfather’s swordsmanship. It’s not just having precise movements or fundamentals. It’s about reading the enemy and finding the best moment to counter it.]
Veronica was an opponent that forced him to use everything he knew about Aouine’s swordsmanship. The memories of the old Brendel surfaced; his grandfather was strict about calculating the range of attacks when he trained as a child.
He parried Veronica’s thrust and launched his own riposte for the first time. She easily knocked it away, but the knights around them gasped in utter amazement.
Was the youth actually holding his own against their commander?
Murmurs started to worm into Veronica’s ears, and she gradually raised her power in order to calm them.
The barrier implemented in place started to flicker and distort as invisible blades ran across the ground and buildings. Finally, the spirits ignored the request made by Rono and started to go after her. However, the Sword Aura that she invoked instantly sliced them to pieces without even putting her mind into it. They were unable to enter within ten feet around her.
But Halran Gaia was able to suppress it by having a defensive barrier that formed tightly around Brendel like a cloak. Although the Azure Green was a Fantasy-ranked weapon, it had a Wind Element power and was countered by Halran Gaia’s Earth Element power. This was the reason why he could avoid being cut by her weapon.
Veronica started to feel impatient.
The Kirrlutz Empire had sent them out as messengers in the name of improving the relationship with the Druids, but its real goal was to investigate the reason for the powerful Mana Resonance a few months ago. The wizards were certain that it was a Divine Resonance and it was likely to indicate the location of the Empire’s long-lost weapon, Lionheart.
The court’s Star Seers studied the stars for several months and had the same conclusion as the wizards. The Lionheart was incredibly important to the Empire. Even though Aouine’s Ancestral King, Erik, stole it from the Empire several centuries ago, they had never stopped their desire of getting back the weapon.
Since this city was not governed by the Empire, it was necessary to keep a low profile. It was a mistake for Veronica to take her eyes off Faena, and it was another mistake to overwhelm the youth with everything she had at the first opportunity.
[The boy’s concentration is at his sharpest and he’s pushing his skills to his limits. Even if I unleash the full extent of my techniques on him, I might not be able to overwhelm him given how good his reactions are right now. Controlling him with my aura wouldn’t work as well because he’s utilizing his sword’s power.]
Veronica was feeling a little awestruck.
When did Aouine produced such a gifted swordsman? She was born in a family of swordsmen and was the most talented star in her generation, but she did not think that she could be compared to youth in front of him at his age.
Every once in a while when he surprised her with an unexpected move, she wanted to put down her sword and ask him if he was willing to go to Kirrlutz with her and become her student. His talent was truly out of this world.
As time continued to pass, Brendel finally discovered a certain pattern amidst her varied attacks that occurred.
[There’s a very slight pause every time I make an unexpected move that counters her. Perhaps she’s trying to read my attacks? If I can exploit that…… Kirrlutz’s swordsmanship has a strong focus on consecutive flash strikes, but using it against her—]
Brendel was currently able to use various swordsmanships he learned in the game to an extent. He was certain it was because of the basic fundamentals of Aouine’s swordsmanship, and he started to wonder if the person who founded the swordsmanship was an incredible genius.
At the very first glance, it seemed like the various guards and attacks were restrictive and clumsy, but the way how each move can flow to another was almost effortless when he combined them.
[Given the history between Aouine and the Kirrlutz Empire…… Isn’t it possible that the Aouine’s swordsmanship is actually derived from the latter? …… But it’s pointless to use the Kirrlutz swordsmanship against a grandmaster. Wait— if we’re talking about history, then the King of Fire, Gatel. There’s a considerable amount of differences between the polished Kirrlutz swordsmanship and Gatel’s swordsmanship……]
Brendel started to change his state of mind. Fury and tranquility merged to form a ferocious whirlpool of emotions. Burning flames that would spill forth in a concentrated and relentless assault until nothing was left.
A barrage of murderous and unpredictable strikes sought to unbalance Veronica. The sudden tempest forced her to go on the defensive as each motion tried to eviscerate her. With each passing blow, it became harder and harder for her to react it in time as Brendel seemed to borrow from the momentum of her defenses and launch a new attack.
Veronica snarled and fought aggressively as well, seeking to dominate her opponent as she continued to pour more power and speed into her sword, but she was just slightly behind as Brendel was able to make the first move every time. The two duelists gnashed their teeth as the exchange intensified.
Both took risks to end the exchange. Brendel leaped into the air slightly and swung his sword downwards with all his might, while Veronica rotated her body to send a spinning kick to her opponent.
His sword missed its target by several centimeters while it caused a huge fissure to break out across the ground; her kick had smashed into his ribs from the side first.
The youth rolled several times on the ground, but he quickly got up and was ready for another round.
Several long hair strands could be seen flying against the wind.
[This bloody brat!]
Veronica roared as fury claimed her. She made up her mind to go all out. Green light particles gathered onto her blade and Orthlyss immediately warned Brendel:
He felt the hair on his skin stand. If Veronica unleashed her full power, she might split the market into half. It was not as if the Druids could do anything to stop her. At most, they would throw her and her men out of the city, but that was it.
The youth glanced at his back to see if there was any natives behind him, and he was shocked to see Amandina and Scarlett carrying Sifrid from a distance.
[This crazy bitch!]
“Invoke Holy Swords!” Brendel was just as angry.
Wings of light appeared behind his back as he raised his left hand. They quickly faded as hundreds of swords made from light floated in the air, pointing at Veronica and the crew behind her.
The female commander faltered when she saw this scene.
It was not just her, everyone had their eyes on Brendel when they saw the white glowing wings behind him, then stared at the hundreds of swords above him in astonishment.
“Just try it.” Brendel pointed Halran Gaia at her and said calmly.
“Are you threatening a general of the Kirrlutz Empire?” Veronica’s eyebrow lifted slightly: “Do you think these things can harm me?”
“Harm you? No. But these two hundred-odd projectiles have the force of a Silver-ranker and all of them can rain down in an instant. Commander Veronica, do you have the capability to protect every one of your men?”
The youth’s tone was light, but she frowned.
Rono was an Alchemist and a knight. He was one of the most gifted youths in the Empire and even received an audience with the Emperor. Faena’s status was even more unique.
Nothing must happen to these two.
She actually stood there blankly for a while, unable to think of a response.
“You’re despicable for trying to hold a lady as your hostage!”
Faena saw that her idol being caught in a bad position and the reason was her. She glared angrily at Brendel. If looks could kill, then she would have stabbed him a hundred times.
“And you are honorable for using numbers against us? Or to bully us with experienced fighters?” Amandina immediately retorted.
The two aristocrats did not allow each other to gain the upper hand.
Amandina continued to speak: “Commander Veronica, does the Empire’s honor come in this form?”
The Azure Green easily allowed her to identify Veronica, even if she did not recognize the latter’s face.
Veronica scoffed and did not answer Amandina’s question: “Elementalist, Alchemist, a Sword Saint and even bringing out the Equipment of Gods? When did Aouine have a genius like you? Speak truthfully, which faction is interfering with Aouine’s politics? Is it the Divine Pantheon of Wind, or the Sacred Church of Light?”
There was a slight pause before she added sarcastically: “I didn’t expect that Aouine is capable of drawing the attention of so many factions.”
Brendel wanted to cough out blood as he listened to Veronica’s words.
[What does the Holy Swords have anything to do with the Equipment of G—?]
He suddenly whipped his head and stared at the swords, and the urge to spit out blood came again. Why did he not realize that this Cleric skill somehow resembled the projectiles from the Equipment of Gods?
[But they are two different spells, right? …… Damn it.]
The Equipment of Gods was one of the signature spells of the Sacred Church of Light. Only a ranked personnel who was a Bishop and above would be capable of casting it. The Sacred Church of Light was also enemies with the Holy Cathedral of Fire, and they were rivals who fought bitterly with each other.
Brendel had no doubt that any Bishop belonging to the Holy Cathedral of Fire in the kingdom would invite him for tea, if they heard rumors about him casting the Equipment of Gods.
While he dared to go against Aouine’s nobles, he definitely did not dare to go against the Holy Cathedral of Fire.
[For crying out loud, they are comprised of two Empires and twelve kingdoms. If any of the seven Cardinals say something like “Destroy Aouine!”, the kingdom will be wiped off from the map. In fact, the reason why Aouine is safe from Kirrlutz is that they recognize the kingdom. Otherwise, Kirrlutz would never tolerate their presence. Shit, how am I going to explain this?]
“Hey, you know what? I’m a Planeswalker! What is a Planeswalker? Well, they are professional card players!”
Brendel could imagine Veronica slapping his face and making it kiss the ground. The youth felt a sense of dread and could only hope that this crazy woman was not one who gossiped. It was fortunate that the game’s Veronica was known for being a taciturn person in front of outsiders and was not fond of people who blackmailed others.
But Veronica did not continue to harp on this topic. She raised her sword coldly and arrogantly continued: “But do you really believe I wouldn’t attack, young man?”
Brendel knitted his eyebrows. He could sense overwhelming pressure all around him.
“She’s determined to attack,” Orthlyss warned him.
[Is she insane!] Brendel cursed inwardly and was frantically finding a way to stop her attack.
But a dignified voice came from above and interrupted both of them.
“Just try it, woman from Kirrlutz.”
The deafening voice reverberated in the air and thundered in everyone’s ears. The green barrier around the market shimmered as Druids started entering it. They stopped in front of Brendel and stood completely in the path of Veronica’s attack.
A moment of silence covered the market.
Veronica frowned inwardly and she lowered her sword.
The Druids finally appeared. No matter how prideful she was, she would not break the Druids’ rules in front of them. If she accidentally hurt any Druid, the Empire would have to give an explanation even with her status.
Even though these Druids seemed like they do not concerned themselves with the mortals, the fury from the Circle of Skies was not something to joke about.
There were thousands of Dark Forests in the whole continent, and each of them had Druids guarding in them. Only Mother Marsha knew how many Druids there were.
There was also the fact the Kingdom of Forests, Eirlann, was also their allies.
“Lady Veronica, your messengers promised not to cause trouble when they entered the city. You should understand your Empire’s strength has nothing to do with the Druids.” Andellu spoke somberly.
His forceful tone made Brendel stick out his tongue. That man was not giving Kirrlutz any respect. It was also clear that the Druids were siding with him by accusing Veronica first.
[It seems like the Druids are pleased with my suggestion.]
Meanwhile, Veronica’s expression was turning dark. She naturally felt the unfriendly tone from them. She originally hoped that her status as Kirrlutz’s messenger would be enough for these grass manipulators to arrest Brendel.
She thought that Brendel had come to the city in the guise of an adventurer, and the political clout she had would make the Druids think twice. She truly did not expect the Druids to shield him to this degree.
Thus she widened her eyes and observed Brendel and the Druids. Was it because the youth had some kind of connection to the Druids, or did they think that she was the one who was completely at fault?
But what did a noble from Aouine have anything to do with the Druids?