A woman and a boy sat across each other, their right hands clutching a spoon as they continued to dig into the porridge, which, after an hour, had grown lukewarm. It was a pity for Gaius, who had three bowls of porridge in his tummy to compare to.
In contrast, the woman opposite him — Paragon Ying Xin — was still fumbling with her first bowl. Once in a while, she would sneak a glance at the boy, who was busily and mechanically shovelling spoon after spoon of porridge into his mouth. Gaius didn’t recall turning this breakfast into an eating contest, but when he looked at the others, who were also busily eating more bowls than any normal person should have for breakfast, a smile forced itself onto his face.
The first rays of sunlight darted across the horizon. Nothing seemed to change, but the sounds of eating dwindled as murmurs spread through the long tables set up. Chatter intensified, and Gaius looked up to see what exactly was causing the commotion.
His hand, holding on to a spoon full of porridge, stopped moving. “This is…”
Paragon Ying Xin looked at Gaius. “What’s wrong? Are you too full?”
“No. It’s…that.” The boy pointed at the horizon, at the extreme end of the Eastern Territories. A thick, black line had replaced the once-indiscernible line that divided sea from sky. From it, Gaius could sense an awe-inspiring might, one that he’d felt when the gods descended upon Orb. Somewhere beyond the Five Lands, two gods were clashing with each other, which was probably why Conrah had decided to spare the pitiful mortals from their daily dose of marching blue death.
Paragon Ying Xin looked at the black, thick line that had replaced the horizon, and the table shook as she rocketed skywards. Her bowl, still half full with porridge, shook and was about to tip over when Gaius caught it with his qi. The boy gazed at it thoughtfully, and finished off his own bowl.
After depositing a thick stack of bowls back at the washing point, Gaius flew over to a designated point for training. A few such places had been created since the God of Water began his assault, but for obvious reasons, few had seen it fit to use these places. There were a few others like him, training in a myriad of ways, having decided that doing so was a good idea after a hearty breakfast.
Gaius was here for a reason. He had realised that there were some issues with his avenues of attack — namely, he didn’t have a method to deal with multiple individuals as tough as him in close range. Bladework was fine and all, but without truly resorting to the specialties of Orb, Gaius intuitively realised that he would eventually be outclassed by someone similar to him.
Qi escaped from the boy’s pores, and the air began to shimmer. Gaius could guess that if someone was looking at him from beyond twenty metres, all they would be able to see was a translucent sphere, forty meters in diameter. Nexus had told him before — the energies roiling in the air around him now would return once they were more than twenty metres away. It was a limitation that the boy couldn’t understand, and Nexus wasn’t speaking either.
But this range was just nice for him.
At long range, he had the Moonshot’s true form to handle that. Up close, his knives had it. But in between…the boy thought back to the time he was forced to face more than one opponent. Unless caught off guard, closing the distance towards one of his enemies would leave him open to supporting fire, and as strong and as efficient the Stellar Core’s Barrier was, no one could take that many hits without feeling the heat. What Gaius needed was a means of attack that could cover close to middle range — and his qi was probably the best solution.
He already had an attack in mind.
The qi all around him shivered, and with a single thought, coalesced around the boy’s right hand to form a hiltless blade twenty metres long. At its current density, it looked almost solid, but Gaius had no doubt that this manifestation of qi was sharp enough to cut through iron.
Still, the sight of a twenty-metre blade was rather novel to the boy. Granted, he’d seen a Lord whip out a blade like his that spanned over a kilometre around two days ago, but that person’s manifestation was temporary. It had vanished after bisecting two Knights on the field, and from the user’s panting afterwards, the boy could tell that such an attack was incredibly draining. But to Gaius, keeping this blade of energy out wasn’t draining to him…but he couldn’t extend it past twenty metres either.
He swung it around, but it didn’t feel any different from waving his arm. This bladelike stream of energy was weightless, and Gaius had to practice a few good swings with it before he made any headway. The feeling of swinging his hand around, without any weapon in it, was not something he could easily get used to.
Hours passed in such a fashion. More and more people were occupying their own spots in the training area, after Conrah and his army decided to pull a no show for today. Quite a few of them were sparring in hand to hand combat, and Gaius watched as one such pair engaged in what seemed to be Orb’s version of judo. There were some rather unexpected additions to the sport, the most egregious of which was the fact that both fighters weren’t touching the ground at all. No matter how one threw the other, qi would erupt from their back every so often, preventing a painful touchdown.
Gaius wasn’t sure how the fight would end in such a case, if someone on Earth were to judge this fight, but it was entertaining to watch nonetheless. This extra-special set of Judo-ish movements might have been the legacy of someone from Earth, or maybe it had been created and refined over the course of millennia. He wasn’t too sure which was correct, but Gaius was sure that some changes would have been made either way.
Shaking his head, the boy returned to playing around with his powers.
As the sun began set, Gaius looked at the training area. It was a good day, one unmarred by death and aggressive gods. He looked at his hands, where two blade-like streams of energy extended from his arms, and swung them around aimlessly a few more times. There was really nothing much he could practice in terms of finesse and skill, so the entire day had been spent on testing out his theory that these blades could theoretically last forever.
He would have to wait for real combat to truly test them out, however. Gaius dispersed the long, sharp manifestation of qi, and their individual bits returned back to the boy. Sniffing at the air, the boy made his way towards the long tables, where dinner had been laid out.
Today had been peaceful.
But from that, the boy, when he looked back, should have guessed that something big was about to begin. But he didn’t.