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A note from Belgianfri

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Discord: https://discord.gg/YHZFB4HMHD

Another wave came in, slamming into my defences. I cut it apart as best I could, but a large part still got through my maelstrom. Unfortunately, my shield wasn't waterproof.

The part of the attack that got through tore into me and left some cuts on my face. My dark form healed a moment later, only for another attack to reach me and repeat the process.

Frustrated, I released my concentration on my shield and charged forward. I raised my sword and engaged in a duel with my opponent.

Cerion smiled at my antics and went blow for blow with me.

His swordsmanship was more elegant and accurate, but as our clash went on my movements became faster and faster. [Berserker swordsmanship] was kicking in, putting the blue-haired tier 2 on the back foot.

Unfortunately, he made some distance when he realised his growing disadvantage, instead he returned to his repertoire of ranged attacks. He sent several waves at me, which I dodged by apparating, and followed them up with an extended slash. Water magically formed around his sword and shot out in a torrent as he slashed down. It flew in an arc and cut through the stone floor on its path to me, as if it was a raging river.

I was tired of the same thing happening at the end of our spars. We would go back and forth for a while, until eventually, Cerion would use his extended slash and cut through whatever defence I had.

Frustrated by this recurring development, I decided that enough was enough.

I raised my sword and enveloped it in my own overloaded mana, slashing it down a moment later. It required a lot of my concentration to funnel and direct the mana in a certain way continuously, but this time I got the movement just right.

My own arc of black mana rushed to meet the incoming river of water. The two made contact, water mana clashing against dark mana. Cerion's attack was more practiced and precise, but my overloaded mana was unstable. That made it harder to shape for me, but also made it hard to overwhelm with other attacks.

Right as I thought I would win this battle, both attacks collapsed in on themselves due to a lack of mana. Cerion and I were splattered by the now uncontrolled water, while my dark mana dissipated.

 

After a moment, both of us started laughing.

"That was a good fight, Arthur! You nearly got me that time! To think you can match my [Raindrop slash] with an unspecialised skill."

"Don't call my skills 'unspecialised'. You make it sound like my [Overload Aura] is subpar." I quipped back.

I sheathed my sword, only to be greeted with a system notification a moment later.

 

[Overloaded sword](0%)

Tier 2 skill.

Extend the length of your sword by directing overloaded mana in an arc.

Skill is dependent on the parent skill [Overload aura].

Use this skill in battle to increase proficiency.

 

I pumped my fist up in happiness.

"Yes! I did it!"

Cerion almost looked as excited as me, jumping up and down like a kid near a meat-skewer stall.

"Did you get it? Did you get the sword skill?"

I smiled back. "Yup! Took long enough..."

He put his hands on his hips. "Well, I think you got it reasonably fast! The only reason I got it at tier 1 is because my dad taught me."

I clapped him on the shoulder good-naturedly.

"That still takes talent, Cerion. Don't let people tell you you only have your current strength because of your dad."

He rubbed the back of his neck, looking slightly embarrassed.

"Thanks, Arthur."

 

Cerion and I had become fast friends over the past few days. The duke had informed him of my status page, after I had assented, and thankfully the future Duke didn't discriminate.

I was happy he didn't fit the stereotype of a young, inheriting noble. The fact that he was willing to treat a commoner like me as an equal spoke volumes of his character. Either that, or the Duke wasn't much interested in status either, and hadn't introduced this arrogance to his son.

The Duke had been a commoner before receiving his title. That was probably why he wasn't as high-strung as you would expect of a noble.

Living here in the middle of nowhere must have been quite lonely for Cerion too, maybe he was overcompensating a little now that he had met someone his age. To be fair, I hadn't exactly had much contact with others my age either, due to my training taking up most of my time.

It was surprisingly easy to form a connection with a person the same age as yourself. I had become friends with Garrett's party, but I still felt a little bit like a hanger-on, possibly due to the age gap. As a result, I too was hoping Cerion and I could form a friendship, despite our differences in status.

 

It had been four days since my first meeting with the Duke. He had retired to his office with Oscar's sword after our meeting, and I hadn't seen him since. Cerion had been more than happy to accompany me and show me around the palace, though.

It turned out that he was a tier 2 [Tidal swordsman], the same class his dad had had when he was his age. He was already level 10, but he had awakened a month before me, and I wasn't exactly thinking of this as a race. Everyone advanced at their own pace. It was all about gathering enough strength so that you wouldn't get stuck on any bottlenecks.

The giant spire was actually rather empty. There were a few dozen servants and a hundred or so guards, which seemed like a very small amount to me. The witch hunter's guild in Reito alone had a thousand guards stationed throughout its massive fortress, so much so that they even had their own facilities and training ground, set apart from the active hunters.

I had asked Cerion about this.

"Well, dad is tier 6, so he doesn't need much protection. The guards and servants are mostly here to serve him and do menial tasks around the palace."

"Doesn't he need to station more guards to keep an eye out, at least? No matter how strong he is, he's just one man, right?"

Cerion answered with his typical jovial tone. "Well, my dad has sensory skills, so nobody gets in or out of this keep without his knowledge. On top of that many parts of the palace are enchanted."

My eyes went wide at that. Enchantments were ludicrously expensive, because of the amount of time needed to be invested to make even the simplest of runes, by even the greatest of enchanters.

I knew the Duke had gotten a lot of money for his efforts in the war, but this was ridiculous.

 

Cerion had shown me the various halls and chambers of the spire, most of which were fairly similar to one another. The truly special places that the Duke used to store high-tier equipment weren't really accessible to me, or Cerion, for that matter.

I had met up with the hunter group a few times during my stay so far, though most of my training had been done with Cerion so far.

Doran, Emer and Cara were staying in well-decorated rooms on the higher floors, as befit their status as tier 4 warriors, while the rest of the hunters were situated a floor below. Their rooms were also quite high-class, just not quite as luxurious as the ones further up. I was impressed with the servants and their ability to maintain so many rooms and chambers around the spire, despite their low number. Well, they were probably getting paid quite a bit to do so.

I myself stayed in a room near Cerion's. Apparently, the Duke trusted he would be able to defend himself if I turned rogue, because the guards kept mostly to themselves.

Our spars had been educational to me. Cerion knew a lot about the system, skills and swordsmanship, and I drank up all the knowledge he gave me greedily.

Apparently, practicing a move or attack continuously wasn't enough on its own to get a skill for it. You needed to use a set movement and path each time you used the attack. Getting too creative while trying to create a skill would make it so that the system wouldn't acknowledge it. 'Creativity comes after receiving a skill', he had said.

With his guidance I had finally made another skill. The last one I had gained like this had been [Meditation], which was now an essential part of my core skill.

 

Because of all this, the days were flowing by quickly.

 


 

Two days later, Cerion and I were summoned by the Duke. He had a study that overlooked the plateau from high up, which had an incredible view. At least, that's what I noticed as Cerion and I were sitting across from the Duke's desk as he read some papers.

He didn't react to our presence at all, which forced Cerion to cough out loud to draw his attention.

The Duke looked up in surprise at our presence.

"My apologies. I had forgotten you were here."

I looked at Cerion worriedly. Was the Duke already turning senile? The Duke noticed my questioning gaze and answered himself.

"You must be confused at my habit to ignore the presence of others. Rest assured it has nothing to do with you. It is the nature of water to adapt to its surroundings and search for passivity. As a result, my affinity sometimes makes me seem rather standoffish."

 

I nodded in reply. I hadn't thought of the fact that the Duke also had a strong affinity, which no doubt affected his behaviour. I didn't quite understand that 'search for passivity' he was talking about, but I understood the gist of it.

"I have called you two here because I have deliberated your situation and made some arrangements."

"What do you mean, father?"

"You are both talented tier 2 warriors of roughly the same age. It is time for you to step out into the wider world and gain experience. I have been informed that you have gotten along quite well over the past few days and feel that sending you out together would be safer than alone."

I wanted to get a word in, but couldn't, because Cerion beat me to it.

"Does that mean I'll finally be able to leave the palace?"

"You know I have only kept you here for your own safety. I have too many enemies to allow a tier 1 or unawakened child to leave my sight. Now that you have some strength of your own, I feel that you can take care of yourself. I will, of course, be giving you some high-tier defensive and life-saving equipment, just in case."

I was starting to see the Duke's plan by now. He wanted to send his son out into the wider world, but didn't want his sheltered child to travel alone. With my appearance, this was the perfect opportunity. Furthermore, his son's presence symbolised that he had taken me under his wing, which meant that I would be able to move as I wanted from now on. With a smile, I finally equipped my title for all to see.

From the perspective of the Duke and Cerion, a black title could be seen above my head. [Dark Prodigy].

"I see you finally have the confidence to equip your title. I recommend you do so before heading off into battle. Keeping a title equipped permanently is considered rude when among equally tiered people."

Rubbing the back of my head in embarrassment, I unequipped the title. Cerion tried to cheer me up.

"Now we can match titles! I have one too, but I didn't want to use it because I didn't think you had one! Look, it's almost exactly the same one!"

He looked at empty air, supposedly going to his status screen. A moment later a dark blue title hovered above his head. [Water Prodigy].

It was almost the same as mine. Did that mean Cerion had had a high affinity before awakening as well? It wouldn't surprise me if the Duke got his hands on an affinity crystal, at least. I wondered what Cerion's childhood had been like, having a high water affinity while living here alone, with nobody his age around. There hadn't even been a girl with pigtails to distract him, as there had been for me.

Still, journeying with Cerion, huh. He seemed like a good person, but in reality, I didn't know him that well yet. It would take some time to get used to questing with another person. Hopefully, Revan would like him.

 

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About the author

Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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