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Author's note: Finished this chapter during my break at work so... releasing it in advance. 

Enjoy!


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The party swiftly arrived at the training center. While they had been harassed on the way there, Kirin kept the majority of people away while Zaran's own cold stare and moving his hand to his sword scared away the ones who remained. Zaran was eager to not only have himself level up but Kirin as well, as Kirin's aura needed to be effective on everyone again.

While he did understand why the majority of users were so inquisitive and curious about him, the skills and the blade, he really couldn't be bothered answering everyone's question. He had thought about making a forum post to explain things but it would be far too bothersome to do so and it would be quite hard to come up with a valid excuse. This left him with one real option, which was to scare users away from him.

Having arrived at the training center Zaran and Nuvahn took an empty spot in the training center and with a thought Zaran opened the menu screen for his sword school. He selected 'invite apprentice' and with a thought entered Nuvahn's name.

"Hmm... A class change?" Nuvahn mumbled as he got the invite from Zaran.

"Class change? What do you mean?"

"Well the invite I get states that if I accept to be your disciple my class will be changed to 'Dance of the Butterfly swordsman'. If I choose to accept you can impart me with your skills but I get a 50% damage penalty if I use other swordsman skills which will reduce by 10% for each proficiency level I gain... Which means that the current swordsman skills I have will only have full effectiveness if I reach Master level with them."

"Oh? There's that kind of penalty?" Zaran asked in an amused tone. "So this means unless you unlock skills on your own or through one of the instructors of your selected class there's a severe penalty?"

"Yeah. I selected a good swordsman school in my starting area, so I am a little disappointed with this debuff... Regardless it does mean you can teach me any skill that you add to the swordsman school and I will be able to use it to full effect."

"Heh, just accept it. You know very well that with the full set of moves from Dance of the Butterfly there'll be barely any worthy opponents. But I will still have to figure out how this whole swordsman school will work out. What if I make another line of skills that is not part of 'Dance of the Butterfly'? Will it create another swordschool or will both become a subcategory... or will something entirely different happen? I must say I'm quite intrigued."

Nuvahn grinned and mockingly said "I see that side of you hasn't changed... Whenever you find something that piques your interest you lose yourself into it. Remember that one time with that 'dungeon' I told you about? You were searching for it for a month! Only after turning the whole library upside down did you figure out that I was toying around with you!"
"Remember the beating you got back then?" Zaran said in an icy tone. Hearing Zaran's tone and words Nuvahn's face immediatly turned ghastly white. Seeing this Zaran chuckled and mused. "Don't worry, it was my own mistake to believe you on your words."

Nuvahn let out a wry smile and changed his class to 'Dance of the butterfly swordsman'. Instantly Zaran got a notice congratulating him on his first disciple.

"Ugh... message boxes all the time." Zaran muttered as he discarded the message box. He turned to Nuvahn and said with a stern tone. "Show me the first three forms!"

Nuvahn instantly brandished his greatsword and performed the first three forms... yet he failed miserably. While he had been no stranger to pressure, performing these three particular moves in front of Zaran caused him more pressure than he had ever felt before.

"Nuvahn! You were once my prime disciple. How can you mess up the first three forms like that? Have you even practiced the forms at all?!?" Zaran shouted in rage. While he initially was happy to have Nuvahn by his side again he hadn't expected Nuvah to perform so abismally. Every part of his movement had been full of flaws. Even if he hadn't practiced it in every lifetime if he had used it as his main offensive skill set in one of his lifetimes Nuvahn should have a better mastery than he had now. Zaran grumbled and brandished Gigenkai. Without activating the skills Zaran performed the first three forms to near perfection in the blink of an eye. "AGAIN!" Zaran barked.

Seeing the rage building on Zaran's face, Nuvahn gathered himself for a moment before he used the first three forms again. Only when he had calmed down and the majority of the pressure had dissapeared did he swing his sword again. However this time he did not perform the moves but first performed a few more slashes to get a better feel for the sword.

In the meantime Zaran was impatiently tapping the ground with his foot, waititng for Nuvahn to use the moves again. He had already decided that if Nuvahn failed miserably again he would get a far worse scolding than he ever had received.
With an entirely calm disposition Nuvahn executed 'Flutter', 'Rise and Fall' and 'Velocity'. While he still didn't execute them perfectly it was far better than his first try.

"Much better... Why were you so nervous if you're able to do it to this degree? It's still far from perfect but good enough." Zaran said in a tone that was in between calm and rage. He called upon the menu and imbued Nuvahn with the three first moves. Giving skills from his swordschool was as simple as just going to the swordschool menu and use the menu that had the name 'imbue skills'. From thereon you just name the person you want to give the skills to and the system hands over the skills, as long as the target is within a short range of you.

Zaran felt that this was too easy but then he remembered that people wouldn't be likely to advance to even intermediate level in the skill if they had none who would teach them the inner workings of the skill. Maybe a true genius could figure out skills by himself but even then for a skill that had advanced as much as Zaran's 'Dance of the butterfly' it wouldn't be something that could be done in a few years time. He has had multiple geniuses as his pupils throughout his lives but even so there were few who came close to grasping the full extent of the skill set. The skills themselves look very simple but it's the very minute movements of the sword coupled with the meaning behind each move that makes it so strong.

Disregarding pupils, even Zaran felt like he hadn't truly mastered his own sword style as he still found points for improvement every now and then. Even though it currently only had seven moves he had long been working on an eight and a ninth move, yet he hadn't been able to finish them just yet.

After receiving the skills Nuvahn started utilizing them and then switching back to performing the moves by himself without the system's guidance. Zaran stood to the side and practiced the same set of moves on his own while keeping a close watch on Nuvahn's progress. At first Nuvahn's movement was very uncoordinated and half an hour had passed before the first real improvement started to show. From thereon his movements got more fluid until he finally seemed to get a grasp on the essence of the skills again. Seeing that Nuvahn had progressed far enough for now Zaran stepped forward.

"Let's spar! But let's do it without using any of our skills." Zaran said whilst already readying himself for the fight.

Nuvahn let out a wry smile at Zaran's suggestion. He had lived a fifth of Zaran's time and wasn't as gifted as Zaran to start with. Even if he had been a heralted genius, Zaran was still far more of a monster in every aspect of the sword. Be it his understanding or his gift with it, he far outclassed Nuvahn that much he knew for sure. Moreover... there was something about Zaran that terrified Nuvahn even more.

He had lived a thousand lives himself but he had grown weary of reincarnating. The endless cycle of growing up, training from the start to regain his former strength only to lose it all on his death, loving people and seeing them die, having to experience and learn about yet another world, ... the list of his frustrations went on and on. Due to all that the endless cycle of repeating it over and over felt more like torture than a gift from the gods.

Zaran on the other hand had lived five times as long and still seemed like he could effortlessly live double as long before even getting remotely close to being bored. He remembered the time he and Zaran spent earlier and even then when Zaran wasn't teaching others he was either training, indulging himself in various pleasures, reading books, going on an expedition, learning other martial arts, et cetera.

In short Zaran was someone who didn't really sit still at any point in time. In short Zaran was always learning or putting his knowledge to test. This caused Nuvahn to greatly respect and fear Zaran at the same time.

Still, Nuvahn raised his greatsword and sent a duel invite to Zaran. Even if he was going to be trashed at least he could see how far he had come in comparison to Zaran. In invisible ring instantly appeared around them blocking outsiders from a radius of 10 meters around them to enter.


A countdown appeared and both sides started to plan their first few moves.

5...

4...

3...

2...

1...

FIGHT!

Zaran quickly stabbed towards Nuvahn as the duel started who dodged it by shifting his body to the right and following up by slashing to the right. Zaran scoffed and effortlessly brought his blade back to block the strike with the upper part.

Nuvahn noticed Zaran's intent and pulled his greatsword closer to him, making the slash miss on its own but since it was not blocked he could immediately follow up with another sideways slash to the left.

A smile surfaced on Zaran's face as he noticed how Nuvahn had reacted to the situation. He quickly kicked the ground with his feet, instantly creating some distance between him and Nuvahn.

Nuvahn closed the gap instantly and slashed upwards but this slash was instantly knocked away by Zaran and was followed up by a stab from Zaran which Nuvahn was unable to dodge. Luckily for Nuvahn the greatsword had a knockback effect and the stab caused him to be knocked back a few steps. Were it not for the knockback effect Zaran would've easily been able to deliver a few more slashes to Nuvahn.

-75 (525/600)

Zaran grumbled at the knockback effect. Then again if he could use skills this knockback effect would be nothing to worry about as gravity would've been able to keep the knockback effect from happening in the first place.

Nuvahn on the other hand was cursing at himself for making such a stupid mistake. He had understimated Zaran's strength and hadn't thought he could knock away his blade to easily.

The two kicked off again and slashed at each other, forcing the greatswords to collide. Zaran shifted his greatsword to the flat side and slashed forward. Zaran's greatsword slid down Nuvahn's greatsword until it hit a protrusian and forced Nuvahn's greatsword to go towards the ground and deeply cut into Nuvahn's right shoulder at the same time.

- 98 (427/600)

All this happened in a mere instant, making Nuvahn unable to react in time. Only after the sword had buried deeply into his flesh was he able to move. Nuvahn roared in pain and quickly flapped his wings to go backwards.

"Slow." Zaran said as he looked at Nuvahn with disappointed expression. "Let's stop."

Nuvahn nodded in agreement. In the first few exchanges he had already realized that his strength, agility and flexibility were below Zaran's.

"What level are you Nuvahn?"

"25... How about you?"

"12." Zaran replied in a mocking tone.

"How the f... are you so strong?"

"You do realize you can gain stats by training? I trained for the majority of the past two weeks."

"Damn... your strength and speed just now was no joke. I had no time to react even if I wanted to. Guess I'll have to do some training too."

"Your speed is going to be far slower than mine though, because of the Zuno race I train 300% as quickly, which is the main reason why I am so strong at the moment. However I only get 5 stat points each level instead of the 10 you get every level."

"... I wish I had taken that race too now. Damn."

"It looks good now but... training doesn't really keep working, at one point my strength didn't increase any further even if I did a few thousand push ups no additional strength was gained. You only get more stats if you put a higher burder on yourself."

"Hmm... so you have to contiunously challenge your limits to get stronger... just like in the real world."

"Yes besides that you gain strength in here far faster so conventional methods become worthless after some time. Anyway it's about time we get going to the major's house. We've let him wait for too long now."

Zaran and Nuvahn quickly left the training center and ran towards the major's place. Minutes later they arrived in front of the major's mansion. Upon seeing Zaran the guards quickly notified the major. 

Soon enough a pair of maids came from outside the house along with the major. Both maids were carrying a bundle of gas masks in their hands. 

"Ah we've been expectig you!" the major said as he walked up to Zaran and firmly shook his hand. Then he turned towards Nuvahn and asked "Who's this?"

"A friend, he'll be helping me in my venture."

"I see, I see! Well then follow me!" The major said as he, the maids and a few guards exited the mansion. They walked through the city towards its upper left corner. The exit of the sewers was there and with the current condition of the sewers he didn't dare let Zaran and Nuvahn enter from another spot. After exiting through the northern gates they walked along the walls until they arrived at about a hundred meters from the entrance. The major urged Zaran and Nuvahn to put on the gas masks.

"These gas masks are necessary to enter the sewers. Not only because of the natural gas that exists in a sewer but also due to the gas specters that live there. I've had a leather worker create gas masks for your pets as well. This key will allow you to unlock the sewer gate, but make sure to close it after you enter! " The major said as he handed two special gas masks and an iron key over to Zaran. 

Zaran put on his gas mask and then put them on Kirin and Cindarrah as well. Both Kirin and Cindarrah didn't like wearing it but Zaran told them that they needed to otherwise they couldn't go down the sewer with him. As soon as he said that if they didn't wear it they couldn't go with him they both quietly let Zaran put them on.

Seeing that the party was ready, Zaran turned towards the major and quickly said. "We're off! You'll see us as soon as we know what's going on down there."

The round entrance to the sewers was made out of the same cobblestone as the city walls and was four meters wide. Yet the cobblestone here had a brown-green tint to it and had seemingly not been cleaned in decades. The opening was covered by a fence and gate that were brown from rust. Just from the first look you could see that none ever came here anymore. Zaran unlocked the gate and pushed the door open. After Nuvahn entered Zaran firmly locked the door again.

The major looked at the entrance for a while and mumbled. "Now all we can do is pray..."
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NianKaraz

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