Freya gripped her wooden sword. Cheers and shouts rained down from the stands as she walked out into the middle of the arena. She glanced around, trying to find Nightscythe but immediately gave up. There were far too many people. Instead, she focused on the demoniclast she was matched against.
[Lvl 18 Demoniclast]
She was relieved to see the man was a normal demoniclast. He had an average level for a demoniclast, and more importantly, he was not a game player. Yao wasn’t much taller than Freya and looked around her real age. His close-cropped hair revealed a scar that ran along the left side of his head.
They gave a small bow to each other then waited for the signal to start. Taking a wide stance, Freya tried to remember what Daveth had taught her over the past week.
While the main objective of this last trial was to show control of their qi, Freya suspected they were also being judged on their swordsmanship. She had hoped she wouldn’t have to worry about fighting with a weapon until after she became an apprentice. Unfortunately, all the other contestants seemed to have previous experience.
Not only did she have no prior knowledge about sword-fighting, but her Martial Artist class also put her at a disadvantage. It gave her bonuses in unarmed combat but nothing when using a weapon.
I better immediately use qi. I don’t want to drag this out.
Circulating her qi through the sword, she found it rather well built. Like her shaman staff, the wood absorbed qi well but didn’t want to hold onto it. It was designed to channel, not store energy. The smooth wood grain had no knots or cuts that disturbed the flow. However, unlike her staff, the qi was not guided towards a point. Instead, she could feel her qi fan out to the edges of the wooden sword.
The referee demoniclast approached them. He briefly looked between them, then raised his right arm to signal the start of the fight.
“Annnd let’s begin our last fight!”
Blocking out the announcer’s voice, Freya took a deep breath and surged her qi. Just like all the other fights, her demoniclast opponent hadn’t moved. Since this was a fight to showcase the competitors, the demoniclasts rarely made offensive attacks except to end the fight. Taking advantage of this fact, she planned to strike hard and fast first.
Freya swept her sword back and swung it at Yao.
He blocked it–as expected. All of Freya’s qi jumped to his sword. As the energy left, she threw in more.
A surprised expression came over Yao’s face. His sword wavered for a moment before he knocked Freya’s sword away. She retracted her blade. Keeping her sword close to her body, she let her qi leak out of the sword.
Wary of counter-attacks, she backed away. She needed to control the fight as long as possible. Running forward, she struck with an obvious overhead attack.
Again, Yao blocked. He lifted his sword over his head and braced Freya’s strike with both arms. She was happy to see his arms shake from the collision. Not able to hold off the attack for long, Yao nimbly maneuvered out of the way. She didn’t have sword skills to show off, but she could at least demonstrate her strength.
Freya retreated again, keeping her qi surging through the sword. It wasn’t efficient to lose so much qi to the air, but she knew she couldn’t predict her opponent’s attacks.
Sure enough, when Yao moved to attack, she barely blocked it. Her first instinct was to move her body away. Trying to stand her ground, she clumsily took the demoniclast’s attacks.
Yao hardly put any strength into his attacks, but Freya wished he did. Instead, he deftly wielded his sword. He didn’t make any large movements, yet his sword was everywhere. Always a step behind, Freya had no room to attack.
She kept her qi flowing through her sword. Each time their swords met, Yao’s face twinged. Still, Freya could sense she was fighting a losing battle. He was backing her up more and more.
Grunting, Freya wished she could use a Sweeping Kick or her Implosion skill to gain the upper hand. But she didn’t need to win this fight. She just hoped this performance was enough to pass.
Despite her flailing movements and molasses-like reactions, the battle was dragging out longer than she hoped. She had been worried it would be over the moment Yao went on the attack, but he seemed to be prolonging the fight.
He must be going easy on me, Freya thought. Chewing her lip, resentment burned in her heart. This whole trial really was for show. No, I should be grateful. I want to pass this trial. If this is the way it’s going to be, I don’t want to go out retreating.
Taking a step forward, Yao’s sword came a hair away from her face. Undeterred, Freya swung wildly, breaking up his rhythm. Channeling all her energy, she batted her sword in front of her, not even trying to aim at the demoniclast.
It looked intimidating. But Yao quickly regained control. With a few deft movements that Freya couldn’t comprehend, her sword flew out of her hand.
She felt freed. Without a sword, she could finally move as she wanted. It was as if she’d taken off a cumbersome backpack. She could finally fight for real.
But the fight was over.
“An impressive show by our last competitor!” the announcer’s voice returned to Freya’s attention. “Let’s see what our committee thinks!”
Freya faced the table of demoniclasts. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Yao. He brushed off his right shoulder.
The demoniclasts raised their cards one by one. The first woman gave her a pass. After a pause, Kamdale Tolan also raised a green card. Despite knowing the outcome, Freya held her breath until she saw four green cards.
“Frey Evenkey is the last to pass the demoniclast trials! Everyone, please rise and congratulate our eleven finishers! Or, should I say our new demoniclast apprentices!”
Under the cheers from the crowd, the ten other new apprentices returned to the center of the arena. The tall Jensina waved to the crowd. Botan also smiled and nodded to the onlookers. Arthyen and Kartish humbly walked down with only self-satisfied expressions. As Freya looked at her fellow apprentices, she noticed an important detail.
As quickly and discreetly as she could, she changed her Misidentify.
[Lvl 16 Demoniclast Apprentice]