Despite having been the one to ask about the supposed 'swordsmanship practice' that his family members had in mind for him, Leon was already regretting having ever stepped foot outside of the Library. Finding himself being brought to the leftmost side of the mansions courtyard, the personal, dynastic regimental grounds built on the mansions periphery, Leon was nigh instantaneously assaulted by uncountable, myriad stares of all those nearby. Servants, maids, butlers, slaves, soldiers, knights, guardsmen, paladins, priests and even lodging merchants, all of their eyes were plastered upon him, their gazes filled to the brim with pure hatred and suspicion.
"So much for keeping my circumstances a secret and handling things 'delicately'..." Letting out a massive sigh as I muttered out with distaste, I turned towards Harkon to see the old man lamely rubbing the back of his head, his own gaze fraught with confusion. Ah, not his fault, I assume. "That was the plan, sir. I'd like to think that I personally adhered it to the letter."
"Which means someone else spilled the beans." Uncle Geoffrey spoke with a tone of equal distaste. And no wonder, if the news of me getting possessed by a demon gets out, it'll harm the family's prestige, something he's been tasked with improving and maintaining, partly why he had me dumped into this relatively unimportant county on the frontiers of our family's considerably vast stretches of land.
Ours is a dynasty of heroes, after all. Most humans are not heroes, not quite so valiant, so deserving of their power or possessed of the gallant nature required to upkeep such a reputation. Indeed, even the relatively uninformed, ignorant child that Leon was prior to my incarnation, knew full well of the sheer envy, greed and danger that the other noble families possessed. And who can blame them? It will always be far easier to remove the competition than surpass it.
"Not that I can blame them." I let out a loud sigh as I casually closed my eyes, before opening one and continuing with a knowingly manipulative tone. "Though, I certainly expected better from the servants of Lumenhart." With that finishing line, my accusatory tone caused a smirk to appear on my expression as I focused myself back to the front of the training yard, having come close enough to approach the dummies in use by the soldiers.
Most of those formerly staring daggers into my back looked away, though others somehow became even more suspicious than before, with a few of those whom clearly possessed noble blood even recoiling in disgust at the sight of me. Hmm, a fifty/fifty response, I'd say. One of the people whom seemed to adopt an even more hostile expression was the person guiding us all to the training yard; the captain of my mansion's guard.
Noticing that I'd turned my gaze to meet his, the one in question quickly distanced his own. "If you have something to say to me captain, you have my permission to speak."
"N-n-no. I have nothing to s-say." He stammered out, seemingly surprised at the suddenness of my question. Before I could comment, uncle responded first. "I shan't tolerate such uncouth behavior, peasant. You would do well to remember yourself in the presence of your betters."
Berthold blinked and took a step back in fear in response to Geoffrey radiating authoritative aura. "Y-yes, s-sir! My apologies, s-sir!" To his credit, Berthold turned towards me and hid his emotions as best he could in order to appear professional. "A-as I s-said, I h-have nothing to s-say, my l-lord!"
Shrugging towards him, I offered the man no response as I threw an approving nod towards uncle. If anything, his is a stature I can certainly respect. Unlike someone.
Blinking in personal surprise, I threw a look to the left, then to the right and, once I figured out that she hasn't yet arrived, let out a breath of relief. "Looking for Sofia, are you? Don't worry, she'll be joining us as soon as she is done sorting the books back into their place." Quirking an eyebrow at Geoffrey, I let out another sigh. "Yes, because I was definitely done reading all of those..."
Geoffrey let out a cheery laugh, which quickly became bemused chuckling, at the mention of the fact that Auntie Sofia decided to 'clean up after me' in the Library, staying behind to sort the books, as if I wouldn't be returning there anytime soon. Thankfully, I think I can remember most of the titles, but its still kind of annoying.
Having reached the training yard and spending a minute or two to prepare himself, Leon stood in front of a target dummy, wooden sword in hand, barely holding it without shaking due to the weakness of his untrained body.
"... leather handle on a wooden sword?... might as well give them sheaths too at this point." I muttered out as I took a good look at the practice blade in my hand. It's wood was high quality, with the carved-in shapes and polish making it appear as close to an actual sword as possible. To be perfectly honest, it felt like a needless expense to have training weapons of this kind of quality, but perhaps I should have expected as much, given the hedonism of medieval nobility.
"They do! Sheathing practice is very important, you know? An improperly sheathed sword may get stuck inside at the worst time and cost one their life." Harkon helpfully added on with amusement as I quirked an eyebrow at his comment. "On second thought, that does make sense but..." I rose the sword towards him, bathing it in the days light to showcase its shape and form. "Are the carvings really necessary?..."
"No, but they do aid in identifying the ownerships of the training swords. Usually, every practice blade given to the students has their family crest embedded somewhere into the wood." I suppose that's good enough of a reason. And... family crests embedded into the wood? I guess that means all the students of Gelidgate are of noble blood.
Should have expected that. Hmm, maybe I should try to change things a bit in the future? I mean, that feels like such a waste of perfectly good talent, not to mention manpower. "So anyway, what do you even want me to do with this thing?" Getting to the point as I turned my attention towards Harkon, who shrugged in response with a 'I'm-definitely-not-playing-stupid-here' kind of expression, before continuing on to Geoffrey.
"Don't look at me, Leon. I'm not a swordsman." Now that's a lie.
I kept my accusation to myself though, as I continued turning my head lightly around until inevitably landing my gaze on Berthold, who was staring daggers into my backside again. As I turned my head however, he quickly exchanged it for a forceful, yet pleasant-enough, expression. "I've been tasked with gauging your talent for the blade, my lord."
He approached me, nodded and then pointed towards the target dummy in front of me. "If you would, please slash away at that dummy a couple of times while I, and the others, observe."
Shrugging towards the man, I turned myself back around to face the dummy. It was little more than a selection of sticks, with a humanoid-shaped body made out of dried hay and an old, rusted iron breastplate lazily thrown on it, as well as a leather helmet of equivalent quality. "Any specific things you want me to do?"
"Specific things? What do you mean?" Berthold rose a legitimately curious eyebrow before his eyes grew wide. "U-uhm, I m-mean, my lord."
He swallowed down hard. I chose to ignore his antics as I noticed Geoffrey ripping the man a new asshole with his disapproving stare. "Do you want me to attack the dummy in a specific way or does 'slash away' mean that I should do as I please?"
With a blink, Berthold seemed to ponder something for a moment as an evil glint appeared in his eyes, closing them and finally replying with a tone of clearly evil intentions. "Oh, please, do go ahead and strike at the dummy in whichever way is most natural to you, your highness."
A dark atmosphere seemed to form around us, even as the light of day brought down rays of intense sunlight everywhere I looked. The others, seemingly unfazed by his tone, appeared more focused on whatever I'll do next than before. Even Geoffrey seemed to ignore the man's tone this time, offering me a look of pure, unaltered expectation.
Another shrug was all the answer they got from me as I turned back around for the final time and steeled myself. I observed the dummy, its construction, its age, where its weaknesses were, where a strike would be fatal; the fruits of a former life as a serial killer.
I took in a breath.
Red magic surged within my heart as the breath combined itself with the power I held over my blood.
Surging energies and potent, clear-minded focus was granted to me as a result.
And felt the rush of adrenaline synch itself with the beating of my heart, the boiling blood nigh bursting out of my veins as I threw my right arm, sword in hand, to the right of myself, before catching the leathery handle with my left and roughly using the momentum to finally perform a singular swing at he midst of the dummy's stick, imagining myself as if landing a blow against its knees, letting go of the blade with my left hand in order to minimize the recoil of the strike.
My strike went through, damaging the stick itself somewhat as my blade flowed to my left. As the wooden sword came close to my midsection, I once again took hold of it with both hands, redirecting the blow back to the same spot that I'd struck before, but from the left side. Another strangely gruesome sound echoed as I envisioned myself striking the dummy's opposing knee.
The man in my vision began to fall as his underside was fatally wounded. Next, I drew the wooden longsword closer to myself, grasped it somewhat awkwardly as I focused my next blow into a thrust directed straight at the dummy's left shoulder. The recoil of the dummy being flung backwards caused me, as well as my weapon, to be pushed to the point where I nearly fell on my back, yet as I was left with only a single foot on the ground, sword in the air, I took in another breath and focused myself.
My blood surged through me with adrenaline-fueled fury, allowing me to regain my senses as I grasped the longsword as if it were a claymore and swung down hard, redirecting the entire force of the recoil, as well as adding my own strength to the equation, as I felt the bones of my right hand practically scream in protest, the thumb already starting to swell from the exertion.
But I was not yet done, as the wooden sword struck against the right side of the dummy, the blow landing on and being subsequently reflected by the iron chest-plate, its course redirected itself to the dummy's arm, cleanly severing the stick-made appendage in half and causing the piece of wood to ricochet out of my sight.
With a final breath and even as my body continued to scream in protest, I readied another thrust, dragging the suddenly even heavier wooden longsword upwards before sending it spiraling towards the head of the dummy, subsequently impaling it cleanly as the thing's shaking form brought it directly into the tip of my blade.
And then, all the pain and exertion finally caught up to me as I left the sword stuck in the dummy's head and promptly fell on my ass, breathing heavily as I tried to calm myself.
"D-demon..." Berthold's hushed tone echoed behind me as the man seemed to take a few steps back in fear.
"No. He is not." Surprisingly, Harkon was quick to speak in my defense as I continued trying to catch my breath.
"Are you sure, Inquisitor? Even one of my lackluster skill could tell..." Geoffrey began as he turned to look at Harkon with a quirked eyebrow. "Every single one of those blows was performed with the intent to kill."
Harkon threw an incredulous look at uncle. "Lackluster skill? Pardon my language, but you are -..." He sighed, deciding not to finish his sentence for whatever reason. "Anyways, its exactly because the boy swung with so much bestial instinct that I'm willing to believe that he is free of corruption."
"E-excuse me?! Inquisitor, you've got to be joking! Such warrior madness... it cannot be anything but pure devilry!" Berthold screamed in protest, seemingly unwilling to even remotely hide his personal views at this point. "Enough, Berthold! Your ignorance shall not be tolerated any further. Speak only when spoken to!" Geoffrey, enraged and annoyed at the same time, exclaimed towards the peasant, whom went quiet and promptly excused himself, his frame betraying a sense of shock and horror.
Then my uncle turned one eye towards Harkon, while the other was carefully observing me. "With that said, I must agree with Berthold." He continued with some confusion seeping into his tone as I finally managed to stand back up on my feet, my right hand swelling from the blows and recoil it was forced to take.
"How could this be anything but a devils fighting style?" Harkon closed his eyes and seemed to be encapsulated in thoughtful pondering for a brief moment before continuing. "Because the devils are nowhere this 'honest'. Should the boy have been possessed by a demon, he would have shown us something akin to mastery of the blade whilst pretending that its just pure talent, not grant us a savage display that would arouse suspicion, such as this."
He took in a breath as he stared at me with a quirked eyebrow. "Alas, I must say, young lord, your actions here do not make me think that you are a demon, nor one that had been possesed."
I tilted my head in confusion. "W-what?" My voice stammered due to my heavily beating heart, still rising up and down in a rampant manner.
"A child, who has been accused, such as you, would definitely try to excuse their behavior in a panic." The duo looked at me with further suspicion. I just rolled my eyes at them both. "And what good would that do? If you decide that I am a devil in disguise, there's nothing I can do either way. Panicking about it won't do me any good and besides..." I offered them a scowl of finality as I turned around to rip the wooden longsword out of the dummy. "Ugh!- making up -hnng! excuses, is -argh! beneath me!"
"... beneath you, you say..." Harkon seemed to smirk and nod to himself for a moment, seemingly coming to some sort of revelation due to my response. "I see. Yes, now things are clear."
Both uncle and I blinked in confusion. "Have you come to a conclusion, Inquisitor?" Geoffrey seemed to steel himself for whatever was the mans answer as I just slung the wooden sword on my shoulder, managing to smack it and wincing in the process, causing the adults to chuckle. "No, I wouldn't call it that. Just that it finally makes sense as to why and how the demon came to attempt possessing the young lord."
He seemed to chuckle before continuing. "Pardon my wording, but the young lord's pride was definitely the sin that the devil latched itself upon. From my observations for the past few days, I've noticed the young lords seeming appetite for bluntness, complete lack of patience and sureness of his own desires. He will lay claim to anything he prefers, even if considerably outlandish, completely uncaring and unaffected by the fact that he is talking to an inquisitor. I thought it a show of fake confidence, something inexperienced demons sometimes employ in an attempt to avoid suspicion, yet I can for certain that the young lords ego is not fake in the slightest."
Then he turned to look at me and nodded in self-approval. "That pride must be why the demon was attracted to the young lord, but it is also likely the one weapon a child could potentially use against such a terrible foe." He approached me and took the longsword out of my hands, causing me to wince as another surge of pain enveloped my hand. "In that mental battlefield, the young lord must have given everything up to his instincts, striking against an enemy infinitely more powerful than himself, even as his own blows sundered the child's body. Such a level of willpower makes what I previously considered foolishly improbable into a possibility."
Geoffrey nodded sagely towards Harkon and me. "I see. Pride, is it? Certainly a double-edged sword at the best of times, but if it was the weapon Leon used to defend himself from the demons influence, I shan't complain."
An onset of loud yells broke the overly-dramatic atmosphere formed by Harkon and Geoffrey's incessant nodding towards one another, as aunt Sofia finally made her appearance, seemingly running down the stairs of the mansion to the outside and leaping into the courtyard in some form of panic. "Leon! Geoffrey! Inquisitor! What the hell is going on?!"
Then, as she arrived closer and realized that were all just standing around, staring at her with raised eyebrows, the woman quickly adopted a shade of crimson on her cheeks, clearly embarrassed, though she recovered easily enough. "Seriously, you send a horrified, harrowed man to tell me of how Leon has shown his 'true demon self', to get me and then I rush here just to see-"
Before she ended her sentence, Sofia seemed to notice my heavily bruised-blue hand. "Leon!" She rushed over to me, motherly instinct taking hold of her as she grasped my wounded hand, causing me to wince again before what looked-to-be magical light gathered at the tips of her fingers. "[Simple Heal]" She chanted with practiced efficiency, as those pure energies entered the wounded area on my hand, instantly relieving my pain and seemingly removing the bruise.
I tested by grip, even swung the sword a few times before giving her a nod. "Thanks, auntie! It does not hurt anymore!"
My instant change in tone and mood seemed to cause the men behind her to blink in surprise, but before either of them could comment on it, Sofia turned around to face them. "Geoffrey! You're coming with me! Harkon! You have just been temporarily promoted to Leon's personal bodyguard. If there's even a single hair missing on his head by the time I'm back, not even the gods will save you!"
Then she grasped uncle by his blonde locks, dragging the man behind her in a very amusing fashion. "H-hey!" He exclaimed in protest, but only gave a sigh of defeat, his expression turning into one that clearly revealed just how 'used' he is to this. Poor uncle. This is why siblings are-
"Why do you change your tune whenever Lady Sofia is around, but not for anyone else, your highness?" Harkon broke me out of my thoughts as I turned to look at the man, who was offering me a rather confused, if still taken-aback, expression.
His question caught me off-guard as I lamely rubbed the back of my head. "I-.. I guess its because I don't know what the rest of you guys expect of me yet, so I just act myself. I know for sure that she wants be to 'act my age', though. Like a child, I mean."
"... and so you do." He muttered to himself, seemingly resigned in defeat, then muttering to himself in a quiet tone. "Demon, my holy arse. This child is just generally wrong in the skull. I'll have to employ a mind-healer just to be sure..."
Uncaring for his accusatory whisperings, I turned myself back around to face the ravaged target dummy. With another look thrown at my training sword, I winced as I felt a surge of phantom pain from my hand and promptly let the sword fall to the ground with a thud. Harkon, having caught the sword's fall in the corner of his eyes, re-focused his gaze on me, causing me to feel his eyes boring into my back, much like the crowd did upon my arrival here.
Using the sword hurt me.
Its nothing like a dagger or a kitchen knife.
Heavy, difficult to maneuver, with basically no damage worth going for other than a lethal strike.
A single blow landing against this rusted piece of metal on the dummy nearly broke my hand.
Screw swords... hell, screw weapons in general!
There's got to be a way for me to fight without them...
Yes! Magic is key!
... just uh, what magic do I use?
I can't exactly showcase my blood magic openly. Harkon would kill me in an instant, even if I'm not a demon.
But maybe I don't need to use my blood...
Summoning a portion of my crimson mana to the surface, I watched it gather and 'pool' into the palm of my formerly-wounded hand, observed as it shaped and reshaped itself at a moments notice, taking upon whichever form I had in mind. Then, an idea came to me.
I gathered as much of the red plasma as I could before starting to feel woozy, then made it coat the front of my fist and pulled my arm back, drawing as much strength as I could from the bottom of my shoulder to the tip of my hand and punched the dummy with my makeshift glove of boiling, red mana. The rusted iron seemed to sizzle and creak, the metal itself screaming against the onslaught as my magic struck against its surface, even as I felt nothing of the physical sense reach my skin.
What I could feel however, was that my mana was being rapidly spent, so I pulled my arm back, allowing me a good look at the aftereffects of the blow. The fist-shaped hole I made in the rusted iron was sizzling, almost steaming from the blow, with the material itself seeming almost as if it wasn't changed or harmed, in spite of being clearly dented.
Blinking with revelation rushing through my head as I realized that my own mana must have come into conflict with the natural magic contained within the breast-plate, and more importantly, that it won the struggle. If it could do this to a piece of rusted iron, then it would surely prove a potent weapon against flesh, but using my fists to fight would nearly always put me at an intense combat disadvantage against any form of medieval weaponry.
Focusing myself, I recalled what little mana I had left and re-imagined it as a hand blade, a curved, scythe-like protrusion, perhaps even a sort-of claw, to erupt from the upper side of my right hand. Keeping this 'weapon' stable took visible effort, as it would begin to disperse the second that the image wasn't clear in my mind. This would take a lot of training to perfect, but before I can even think of starting that, I need to find out if its viable.
Looking around for a suitable target, as I didn't want to strike at the dummy again, I walked over to a nearby oak tree, took a stance and struck against the bark of the wood. An almost errant sound erupted from the area I struck as my mana was nigh instantly depleted, the natural magic of a tree proving to be far greater than that of a piece of rusted iron, as my scythe blade quickly dispersed itself and I stumbled over my own feet in an attempt to regain composure.
Yet, a smile formed itself on my expression as I turned to observe the results of my actions; it was a successful cut!
A singular line was rent deeply into the bark, as if something had sliced it with an energy blade. The corners of the tree looked burned, cauterized even, with char-black coloration taking over every edge of the 'wound'. "Good... enough..." I managed to mutter out as my exhaustion, combined with a special headache which I can only attribute to having spent all of my mana, finally caught up to me.
With a resounding thud, not that different from the dummy's own arm, I firmly planted myself face first into the soil, with the final thing I saw being an old man trying and failing to catch me in time.
Poor Harkon... Sofia is going to kill him... I should explain myself to her when I wake up...