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"Oho, you've noticed me?" a voice rang out from the nearby thicket. Soon after a bald human wearing a loose robe leisurely walked out from the thicket. A pearl bead necklace adorned his neck, a greatsword hung diagonally on his back and a longsword was sheathed at his waist. The man looked to be around sixty years old, yet a very youthful feeling emanated from the man. 

"I would like to wish why you were spying on me." Zaran unpolitely said. He hadn't much respect for people who spied upon him. Nevertheless he was quite wary of this person. A human in the Liberiu kingdom wasn't something he expected to see. Therefore, even though he was rather impolite he made sure to not be too impolite, as he was rather sure this person must have tremendous strength. Not to mention being able to spy on Zaran without his knowing, being so deep in enemy territory Zaran was rather sure that there was no way this man was weak.

Even Kirin and Cindarrah seemed wary of this person as Kirin was growling loudly and Cindarrah seemed ready to pounce at the guy. Zaran quickly told the both of them to calm down as Zaran didn't want to have unnecessary trouble. 

"mmHmm... a man can't look at a stranger who is practicing arts near his home and who is invading his territory?" the old man said

Zaran's eyes were instantly filled with shock. This was the guy Henry told me about!

"You must be the person Henry told me about?"

"Oho... Henry picked up a pupil? Now that is surprising news."

"Yes, he has bestowed much of his knowledge on me and has told me that I should venture off to the wide world. When I asked him for a secluded training area he pointed me to this area. I hope this one is not intruding."

"No no, not intruding at all. Now I'm rather curious as to those arts you were practicing as I've never seen them before. I've traveled far and wide in my young days but I've never seen a sword school that had movements close to yours. Care telling me where you picked it up?"

"Ah... that is my own style actually." Zaran said as he scratched his head.

"Oho... is that so. Care to give this old man some pointers?" The old man said with a rather surprised look on his face. To him Zaran looked like a young men that was still wet behind the ears yet he claimed that he had already made such a strong looking sword art? What the old man didn't know was that Zaran was many times over his senior. If he knew that Zaran had reincarnated many times over he would most certainly immediately kowtow before him. Furthermore a hint of the true way of the sword could be felt by the old man each time Zaran had used his skills. 

Zaran pondered about it for a second. He was sure the old man would wipe the floor with him if he used his real strength, but seeing as he was asking for pointers and really interested in Zaran's swordplay he most likely wouldn't use his full strength. Moreover Zaran had only been able to unlock 'Flutter' due to its usage in actual combat. Seeing as how he had currently reached a bottleneck with both 'Rise and Fall' and 'Velocity' he might be able to create the skills after an actual fight. "Sure why not." Zaran said as he nodded at the man. 

"I'll go first then!" the bald man said as he unsheathed his longsword. Zaran immediately followed suit and took up a loose battle stance. This surprised the bald man for a second as loose battle stances were usually the sign of grandmasters, not for young men that were still wet behind their ears. The bald man decided to test the waters with a rather simple slash. Zaran scoffed as he easily parried hit and delivered a blow of his own at the same time. The bald man took a step back to dodge Zaran's slash towards his head and a smile surfaced on his face. "Let's not do lethal blows now shall we."

"As if you couldn't dodge that!" Zaran replied while letting out a short chuckle. Immediately after his expression turned grave. "We both know your first strike was to test my skill and to be fair you dishonored me with a simple slash such as that!" While he was still rather polite, he really felt like his honour was hurt. Such a low quality strike was a joke even for beginning swordsmen so why should he not feel dishonored if he received one like that, especially if it was to test his quality. In Zaran's eyes a small glimmer of red began to surface. 

Zaran instantly unleashed an interchanging barrage of 'Flutter', 'Rise and Fall' and 'Velocity'. With the strength that the old man was currently was using, all he could do was block, parry or evade Zaran's various slashes or stabs. The old man started to use double his current strength and started to be able to throw some slashes of his own. While the old man had doubled his power he still found himself unable to keep up with Zaran's movements. 

This brat is actually able to push me back! The longer we fight the stronger he gets! Let's see how he keeps up against skills mixed with the true way of the sword!

The old man used some skills of his own this time and Zaran instantly felt an increase in pressure along with a vague feeling that he seemed to remember from somewhere. Using 'Swiftness' to further increase his speed he started pushing the old man back again. On top of that a strange feeling started to be emanated from his sword with every slash and the red glimmer in his eyes turned brighter. 

The longer we fight the more he uses the true way of the sword... What is this brat? What's more... this oppressive feeling that he's starting to give off. I should be careful. 

The old man doubled his strength again and this time started to give Zaran some real pressure. With every slash sparks flew from their longswords. While the old man was pushing Zaran back step by step at first, soon enough the situation started to reverse as Zaran's movements continuously kept grewing more fluent. 

My control over this body is improving at such a vast rate! Zaran thought as he met another slash of the old man head on. By slightly shifting his sword he parried the old man's sword and was able to slash at the old man's undefended chest. The instant Zaran's sword was about to reach the man's chest, the old man brought his black back and instantly disarmed Zaran.

"What the." Zaran exclaimed as he noticed that his longsword was gone. He hadn't even noticed what had happened in the instant he lost his sword. Zaran noticed that some notifications had popped up but he quickly dismissed them to the side for the time being.

"Let's stop here. Thanks for the pointers." The old man said.

"What's your name?" Zaran asked.

"Derek, and what might yours be?" Derek asked.

"Zaran Karaz."

"Good name... Now boy have you heard of the true way of the sword?" Derek asked

"True way of the sword? Can't say I have."

Derek was surprised at that answer. The skill Zaran showed with the blade was far higher than what a normal person at his age would be capable of. If he had been instructed in the true way of the sword it would not be surprising that he was this skilled with the sword. Now that Derek knew he wasn't instructed a few questions immediately surfaced.

"So... why do you need a secluded training area?"

"Everyone in the city would just bother me with questions about my two companions or about my skills. I thought it to be too bothersome which is why I needed a secluded training spot. Moreover do you think I could freely use these skills in the city without paying attention. What's more... none of the martial arts guilds wish to give me guidance so I don't really feel like I belong there."

"Not giving you guidance? Why's that?"

"For some reason they think of me as a great martial artist due to one of the skills I showed in our fight just now."

"Oho.. I see... well would one wish my guidance then?"

"Hmm... why not?" Zaran said after thinking it over for a few seconds. Seeing as he had asked for the true way of the sword Zaran was rather sure this would lead to a profession.

"Hahaha, now my guidance can be summed rather easily. But a question first: what's important in a martial arts skill?"

"That's simple, a martial arts skill needs to give the user the ability to defeat his opponent. In the best case without mortally hurting him. Martial arts should be used to defend one's life prior to being used to take someone's life." While Zaran would mostly indiscriminately kill his opponents, if he could somehow avoid killing his enemy he would always do so. There was no need for him to kill the weaker or kill people that he thought never would have the ability to kill him. While this had cost him his life a few times, he had lost his life many times more by indiscriminately killing. 

Derek was perplexed at Zaran's answer. In all his years he had asked this question many times over but he had never heard the correct answer. Zaran's answer was spot on. Seeing as how his sword emanated the true way of the sword, Derek now understood why that was the case. While many sword art school focused on being the strongest, dominating over their opponents or having flashy skills many had lost track of the true way. In its simplest form what a martial art needed to do was to defeat an enemy. 

"I see, so that's why... Boy you just pretty much summed up the true way of martial arts." Derek said with a solemn face. "Now what I am is a 'seeker of truth'. I believe there is more to martial arts than those flashy skills everyone seems to use nowadays. In their essence every martial art is suited to defeat an opponent without killing them. Therefore I strife to perfect my skills in every martial art I meet. Only through abundant experience can we become a profound grandmaster in a martial art."

"So basically you try to master a martial art beyond what a normal grandmaster achieves?"

"Indeed, you could summarize it like that. While grandmasters believe they have mastered the full way of the sword it's usually only one way. Grandmasters from one sword school naturally won't have mastered another sword school's style. This alone can make a disparity between two grandmasters. If one of both's martial arts are stronger by default won't the stronger martial art win? Does that mean the stronger one alone is a grandmaster? Or does that mean both are grandmasters? In my opinion neither are grandmasters. Focusing on one path is wrong, wrong, wrong!"

Zaran nodded as Derek said this. His thinking was along the same line. While his 'dance of the butterfly' technique was made by himself it still incorporated techniques of various sword schools he had seen over his lifetimes. Even after reincarnating as much as he did he still found that he could improve this skill set. In recent lifetimes he had gained the feeling that he was grasping something rather important in the sword style. It seemed as if there was just this last puzzle piece missing.

"I see you feel the same... then boy... will you step in my footsteps and become another 'Seeker of truth'?"

"Yes I wish to become one."

Congratulations you have become a 'Seeker of truth'!


Zaran quickly checked the profession information.

Seeker of truth
Disciples of this profession seek the true way of martial arts. They are able to level their skills to the seventh level, the profound level, and they don't have any disadvantages when mastering different martial arts unlike other practitioners.

Advancing a skill to the profound level grans powerful benefits unable to be acquired otherwise.


So there was another level past grandmaster? Zaran thought as he saw the message box. He knew that the skill leveling currently had six levels. Beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, master, grandmaster. These were the levels he knew of. Now a seventh level had been added to that. Zaran was quite happy with this profession. The clearing of disadvantages when leveling other martial arts was a huge benefit on his own. 

"... Thank you." Zaran said after thinking for a short while, not really sure whether he should call Derek master or not. For some reason he felt that having a master as a Seeker of truth wasn't right. 

"You may just call me Derek. I guess you were milling over the fact whether you should call me master or not. Don't worry, there's no need to call me master, we are both Seekers of truth now are we not? As a Seeker of truth you should set out for the world now Zaran. Staying here practicing won't help you master your arts further, mastery is developed over countless fights. Now then if you have no further questions I shall retreat myself to my home."

"There is one actually. What exactly is a human like you doing here Derek?"

"Ah... see that cave over there?" Derek said as he pointed to the nearby cave. "There's a seal there that I have to guard. Whatever you do, unless you are easily able to beat me you are NEVER allowed to come near it! There is something powerful and ancient sealed there and even I couldn't beat it."

Zaran decided to not pry further for now. "Well then Derek, see you later!"

Derek nodded and walked to the cave. Only after Derek was gone Zaran decided to check his notifications. He had seen that he had gained three notifications instead of the expected two.

You have created a S-rank skill! Please name it!


[/tr]
Rise and Fall (Advanced)
Level1Experience0%
DamageWeapon damage + 100-150Ki consumption50
Description
A powerful combination of an upward slash, a 360° slash and a downward slash is released upon the opponent.

With each level the damage increases.


You have created a S-rank skill! Please name it!


[/tr]
Velocity (Advanced)
Level1Experience0%
DamageWeapon damage + 125-150Ki consumption50
Description
A powerful series of slashes forming an & is released upon the opponent dealing a tremendous amount of damage as well as having the ability of disarming the opponent.

With each level the damage increases.


The last message was the one Zaran didn't expect to get. Although he was shocked at first, once he thought it over, he bursted out in laughter. This message box was JUST what he needed to finish his skill creation. 

The system has noticed that the skills 'Flutter', 'Rise and Fall' and 'Velocity' form a skill set.
Due to forming a skill set you have the ability to create a sword school.
Do you wish to create and name your own sword school?


Zaran pressed yes and named it 'Dance of the butterfly'. When he received the question to make his name public he pressed yes without a second thought. In contrast to other system wide announcements that appeared in text, this one was spoken.

"Congratulations to Zaran for creating the first user made sword school 'Dance of the butterfly'!"

His sister, Irina and Pantheon instantly congratulated Zaran on this achievement. While the user base was already in an uproar over the user Zaran due to his continuous skill creation, the uproar that this new announcement brought was many times greater than before. While Zaran knew that it was likely that he was going to regret this action, he still couldn't supress a rather wicked laugh. 

Quickly collecting himself again Zaran quickly focused his mind on the menu and the menu popped open. Under the 'Skills' menu item another item had now taken its place called 'Martial art schools'. Zaran skimmed over the contents until he arrived at "additional effects". 

Additional effects
- The skills can be used to form a combo. For a successful combo the damage of the last finished skill is doubled.
- You can break up a skill at any point and continue at a corresponding point in any of the other skills without a penalty.


After glancing over the additional effects, Zaran was rather pleased with them. As he had finished what he needed to do Zaran prepared to head out of the forest.
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