"Hey Hamm, didn't you say there wasn't a traveler you couldn't teach the sword to in a day? How is this one getting on?" mocked one of the other trainers, earning a laugh from the others and a glare from Hamm.
"Shut it, Markus! He is coming along fine!" snapped Hamm.
His brow furrowing, Hamm stomped off, accompanied by the laughs of the other trainers. He returned a couple minutes later, dragging a massive box. With a grunt, he kicked it over, and a massive quantity of real swords in all shapes and sizes poured from the top.
"Markus is right, curse him. You are so strong you need something heavy enough that you can feel its weight to learn control. See if any of these work for you," Hamm said to Thorn, who began to root through the pile. There were short swords, long swords, bastard swords, broadswords, massive claymores and even a couple of naginata, but none of the swords felt heavy in Thorn's hands. He was so strong that even the heavy iron broadswords felt weightless to him.
Shaking his head at Hamm, Thorn said, "Sorry, none of these are any heavier than the practice swords."
"Well, you are going to have to get used to them. After all, pure force will only take you so far in a fight."
"Are you talking about softness?"
"Softness?" sneered Hamm, "Why would you want to be soft? I'm talking about flexibility! You are strong, but using that strength all the time will fatigue you! You need to be able to relax your body and then apply your strength where you need it!"
"Right, like softness transitioning to hardness. Explosive strength," nodded Thorn, oblivious to Hamm's growing rage. Thorn picked out the largest blade he could find, a massive great sword that was a full six feet long. Despite the fact that it was designed with fantasy in mind, it looked like a normal long sword. The blade was not as flexible as the Taijiquan swords he had practiced his forms with, but it would work for a demonstration.
Holding the hilt in a reverse grip with his left hand, Thorn brought his hands together in a salute before sinking into the first stance. His countless hours of practice made the motion a natural one. Sinking into a horse stance, he shifted two steps to the front and then rotated into a bow stance, pushing his right hand out toward the front while blocking on his left side with his blade. Rotating his right wrist, he turned his body, cutting with the end of the blade and deflecting with his hand. As he continued his slow kata, he could hear the snorts of disdain from Hamm and the mocking chuckles from the others watching.
Yet, as he continued the Taijiquan forms, the snorting lessened. The longer he watched Thorn's forms, the less ridiculous Hamm found them. Despite the slow speed and gentle motions, Hamm could tell that Thorn's absurd strength was waiting to burst forth. Imagining himself on the end of one of those excruciatingly slow stabs, Hamm couldn't help but feel himself breaking out in a sweat.
Not everyone felt the same way, though. A large human warrior who had been looking on from the side spat on the ground. Hoisting his large sword to his shoulder, he walked in front of Thorn, forcing the giant to stop his kata.
"Oi, big boy. Anyone can pretend they know something about fighting, but real men fight!" the big warrior bellowed, grinning. "Or are you too scared for an actual fight?"
The brief nervousness that Thorn had felt when the man first walked up evaporated into excitement, and he looked at Hamm with a burning gaze. A chance to try actual combat with a body that worked? Thorn couldn't be more willing! In fact, his excitement was so palpable that the big warrior took a step back, caution floating through his mind.
"Is there a ring we could use to spar?" Thorn asked Hamm, who pointed to a spot along the back wall where there was a square sparring ring.
Walking over to the sparring ring, Thorn was about to step inside the lines when a prompt popped up in front of him.
All warriors need to hone their techniques through mortal combat. Enter the fighting ring to prove yourself a warrior!
Players will respawn upon death with no penalties
All wounds caused in the ring will heal upon exit
No City penalties for fighting
Accepting the prompt asking if he wanted to duel, Thorn stepped over the line and walked to one corner of the ring, excitement burning in his heart. While Thorn had never experienced actual combat before, he was quite familiar with blood and pain, so the thought of fighting with real swords held no fear for him. Besides, this was a game, right? No matter how realistic the experience, it wasn't like he was actually going to get injured.
Seeing Thorn so excited, the big warrior was much less confident in himself. He had watched Thorn's slow moves in disdain, but Thorn's reaction to his challenge was unlike what he had envisioned. Normally the biggest guy around, Thorn's 8' 9" height had made the warrior feel uncomfortable, and like most people who rely on their size to assert dominance, his solution was to try direct confrontation. But, despite Thorn's quiet, reserved, and respectful attitude, the giant seemed all too eager to take on his challenge.
As the two squared up to each other, they presented a contrasting picture. The warrior stood at 6' 6", 265 pounds of solid muscle. Studded leather armor covered his body, and a two-handed claymore hung from his back while a small metal shield rested on his belt. Numerous scars covered his arms; a small scar running across his left eyebrow gave him a dangerous look.
Across from him, Thorn was simply massive. Standing more than two feet taller than the warrior he faced, Thorn was twice as wide in the shoulders. The beginner clothing that he was wearing only highlighted the massive muscles of his legs, arms, and chest. His hand engulfed the pommel of the greatsword like a kitchen knife , despite the fact that it was almost as large as his opponent. His face, though wide and rugged, had a certain peacefulness that seemed incongruous with the idea that he was about to engage in a bloody fight.
Settling into his stance, Thorn's body exuded a relaxed air, as though he was resting while his opponent hopped up and down a couple times to get his muscles engaged. Hamm, who had followed them over, waved for the crowd to be quiet and checked to see if both players were ready. Getting the okay, he waved his hand.
With a low roar, the big warrior dashed forward, his claymore held in two hands. As he was about to reach Thorn's range, he jumped to Thorn's left and delivered a vicious cut with his blade! Caught off guard by the strong attack, Thorn froze for a moment before his instincts kicked in. Stepping back, Thorn's body seemed to collapse into itself, and the claymore slid past his chest with less than an inch to spare.
Sensing the incoming follow up, Thorn reversed his energy, flowing back toward his opponent. Switching his sword to a reverse grip to guard against the backswing, his shoulder blasted forward toward his opponent's chest! The big warrior had landed from his sideways movement, and his sword extended to his left, putting him off balance as he tried to retreat. Despite the awkwardness of his position, the warrior was an experienced fighter and managed to draw his small shield and get it between Thorn's shoulder and his chest at the last second!
With a loud thump, Thorn and the warrior collided, sending the large warrior stumbling backward. Not missing a beat, Thorn, who had not shifted from the impact, stepped forward. Switching from a reverse grip to a forward grip, he thrust his sword out so fast the blade seemed to disappear.
Desperately warding off the strike with his buckler, the big warrior continued moving backward, unable to catch his balance. Each successive stab put extreme pressure on him. Just when he thought he would be able to get his feet under him, Thorn pivoted, whipping a massive leg out in a sweep!
Unable to dodge in time, the big warrior hit the ground with a bone-jarring slam. Stunned by the fall, he could do nothing but watch as Thorn transitioned right back into a stab, planting his blade right next to the warrior's throat!
"I give up!" squeaked the warrior. His face was pale as he stared with horrified eyes at the blade that had sunk into the stone floor.
Grinning, Thorn suppressed a shout of excitement. Leaving his sword stuck in the floor, he picked up the big warrior and put him on his feet, dusting him off.
"Thanks for the fight! I'm Thorn, what’s your name?"
"Uh...Bi...Big M..Mac. Mac. You can call me Mac."
"Nice to meet you, Mac. Thanks for sparring with me. Want to try again?"
"No, no, I'm all good," said Big Mac, backing up. "I better rest."
"No problem," said Thorn, pulling his sword out of the ground. "Let me know if you want to try again!"
Watching the terrified warrior leave the ring, Hamm shook his head. Thorn's moves were smooth, powerful, and well practiced, but it was evident that he was woefully short on actual combat experience. Stepping into the ring, Hamm coughed to get Thorn's attention.
"Hmph. Do you still want someone to spar with, kid?"
"Yes, sir! If you are available."
"It’s been a while since I last fought, so pardon me if I'm a bit rusty," said Hamm, pulling out a saber and shield from nowhere and doing a quick stretch.
Off to the side, the other trainers rolled their eyes at this line, muttering, "Been a while? Then why did you come back yesterday covered in bandit blood?"
This time Thorn made the first move, stepping forward and striking down with an overhead chop. Hamm deflected the blow smoothly while closing the distance and striking with his saber at Thorn's right foot, forcing him to step back. Hamm continued to advance, stepping inside Thorn's range, making it difficult for the giant to swing his large sword. Unable to create space, Thorn tried to force Hamm back with a body check. Nonplussed, Hamm blocked the blow with his shield, using the deflected force to spin around behind Thorn and deliver a slash to his hamstring.
The sharp, stinging pain told Thorn that he was in a lot of trouble if he didn't get away, so he slid one of his legs back and rotated his torso, striking with his arm. Because he was so close, Hamm wasn't able to dodge the blow and flew backward. Rolling out of the fall, Hamm bounced to his feet and dashed back toward Thorn, saber swinging.
Trading blows back and forth, it became clear that Hamm was much more skilled than Thorn. Within minutes, Thorn's body was covered in bloody gashes from the saber. Watching the scene, the crowd winced every time Hamm added a new cut to his massive opponent. Despite the cuts, Thorn was having a great time. The cuts were painful but looked much worse than they actually felt. Thanks to the pain reduction that Nova Terra employed, they felt much more like an insect bite than an actual cut, allowing Thorn to ignore them.
Hamm, however, was getting frustrated. Most of the time players would give up once he showed them how much better he was, but Thorn seemed to be indomitable. Finally, fed up with Thorn's lack of awareness, Hamm's form blurred. Dashing forward, he slid passed Thorn's guard, his saber coming to rest on Thorn's neck.
Stepping back and admitting defeat, Thorn grinned at the sword trainer. Clasping his hands together, he bowed to show his respect as he would when he trained with his sifu, Ms. Chen.
"Thank you for your instruction."
"You are a pretty incredible first-timer," Hamm said, shaking his head. "You're a machine. Where'd you learn those moves?"
"My master taught me. It is called Taijiquan straight sword, or Jian. Taijiquan is a primarily barehanded system of martial arts that also uses saber, sword, and spear."
"Well, it has a pretty strong base," admitted Hamm, wiping the sweat from his forehead. "But it is quite apparent that you do not have much experience actually fighting. Unfortunately, that means that we don't have much for you here." Taking a moment to gesture toward the other trainers, he continued. "Most of what we do is teaching new travelers how to fight in the first place. That means teaching them the basic forms of fighting. Most travelers come to this world with fear and a major aversion to violence. Our job is to break them of it and instruct them in the basic way of using various weapons. You don't fit that bill, since you already have those basics pretty much mastered."
"Oi, Hamm!" A dwarf clutching a pipe in his teeth pushed his way through the crowd, his meaty hand tucked into his broad leather belt. "You may not have anything to teach him, but that doesn't mean I don't!"
"This is Dovon. He teaches grappling," Hamm said with a sigh.
"M'boy, I saw your match! Quite impressive it was, too. But what do ya do when you are without a sword, eh? I can train you up so that all them muscles won't be for show, eh? Look at these tendons, Hamm, perfect for a grappler, and those knuckles! Exactly what ya need for a solid punch. Boy, you're with me now, I won't take no for an answer!" Stepping forward, Dovon latched onto Thorn's wrist and tried to pull him away from the ring but found himself unable to move Thorn even an inch.
Rather than becoming dispirited, Dovon grabbed one of Thorn's hands, examining it. After a long moment, he moved to the other hand and then to Thorn's arms and legs.
"Holy Terra, boy. I take back what I said. These muscles are not for show at all. What on earth did your mom feed you to turn you into such a monster? Eh, doesn't matter. Come on, come on, I'm going to show you how real men fight." But before he could pull Thorn away, a slim elf maid stepped in front of him, a knife dancing through her fingers.
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.