I’m not entirely sure how long it took me to train. I was determined to reach the goal that I had set for myself when I started. After all, it was no exaggeration to say that this was a matter of life and death for me. I had been looking for the chance to get a good trainer so that I could have proper lessons all this time, and I never even knew that I could simply buy the techniques I wanted.
However, I was unlikely to do that unless it was absolutely needed. There might be an achievement for learning an art from an inhabitant. If I had to choose between paying a lot of points to get the knowledge now, or wait a while, and be paid points for learning it later? Of course I’ll choose to wait.
The training was difficult, to say the least. After I reached the Five Threads level, I had to leave the bedroom, instead making a wide empty area to train in. The confined space offered in the room was not enough for me to continue practicing at that point.
In all honesty, controlling a single thread was incredibly easy. Even controlling two was not that hard. But, with each thread that you wanted to control, you had to split your focus an additional time. It might sound easy, but it is actually incredibly difficult to focus on so many things at once.
Or at least… it should be. From what I understand, it should be almost impossible for anyone with what I would consider to be a normal human mind to be able to track ten thousand threads at once. Especially if they were also focusing on a fight.
Which led me to think about something. The gods and goddesses split their minds on a regular basis, and in a far more complete degree than this… Maybe this martial art was created by Keepers for Keepers. After considering it, that was the only thing I could come up with. The Thousand Arms, Ten Thousand Threads was not just a martial art to train chakra, but also a way to train a Keeper to possess an ability closer to that of a companion.
After I considered it from that angle, I was able to slow down and re-examine my training. By that point, I had managed to reach Ten Threads, Three Arms. If I fully utilized both at the same time, it was the equivalent of focusing on thirteen different things at once, already beyond the realm of ‘normal’.
Knowing this, I continued my training, finding that simply being aware of the nature of the art actually helped me. I was able to place myself in the shoes of the gods and goddesses I interacted with, feeling how they would regularly divide their attention. Even little Aurivy had to do that, so why couldn’t I? Terra said that our minds were just different… But that’s not necessarily true, right?
In the Admin Room, it was similar to the Underworld. Everything was a construct of focus and woven energies, including my own body. I could not be truly injured here, I did not need to eat or sleep, because I did not have a real physical form. If that is the case, then why would my brain be unable to process the things that it couldn’t process before?
That’s where this art came in, a way to bridge that gap. The barriers that existed only within my mind were gradually broken through, one by one. Although it wasn’t something as overwhelming as suddenly being able to dual wield perfectly because of parallel thoughts or anything like that, it remained that I was able to focus my mind on multiple things at once.
Like this, I eventually reached my goal of Twenty Threads, Four Arms. Excited, I summoned my little communication paper and wrote a message to Keliope, asking her to meet me for a sparring match. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, so I began preparing the weapons I would use for the spar.
Because the Four Arms only meant having two remote controlled weapons, I only created two chakrams, though I dulled the bladed edge. It’s not like we could really hurt each other anyways. And for my own hands, I created two matching scimitars. These were the suggested held weapons for the Thousand Arms, as they went well with the general slashing theme that the art’s attacks possessed.
By the time I was done, I saw that Keliope had managed to wander into the territory I had created. She glanced around at the empty landscape, before looking back to me. “You sure you wanna spar?” She asked curiously, stretching her muscular arms out to prepare. “I know that Terra said you got your hands on some new techniques, but…”
I nodded my head to her question. “I don’t really expect to win, since you’ve had more time to practice. I just want a chance to test out my abilities in an active environment, before I go down to the world to do so.”
She seemed to understand what I wanted with that, nodding in satisfaction. “Alright, if you say so. Any special rules for this match?” As she asked that, she looked towards the two swords stabbed into the ground beside me, and the metal discs beside them.
“These are part of the art I learned.” I explained quickly. “We can use any of our powers we want, but no tampering with the Admin Room or anything like that. I only made these because I didn’t feel like waiting to have Tubrock make me something for the spar.”
“Ahh, alright.” She nodded again. “Well, then we can start whenever you are ready.” As she said that, she moved into a battle stance, one I recognized from the ursa that had previously fought Fenric.
I lifted my hands, causing the two swords to fly into them. I still was not properly trained in how to wield a sword, but there were some techniques listed in the manual I purchased. But first, I began spreading out the translucent blue threads along the surroundings.
Due to the nature of this place, Keliope was able to see the chakra threads, and raised a curious eyebrow as she did so. However, she did not comment on it. Instead, she waited for me to make the first move.
Seeing that she was waiting on me, I took a step forward. Using the woven steps, I appeared just a short distance away from her, off to the side. My arms were already in motion as I turned, bringing the swords across in a double horizontal slash. She appeared surprised by the sudden movement, but not so much that she was unable to react.
Bringing her own arms up, she slapped the side of my lower blade, causing it to hit the upper one and throw me off balance. Yet, she did not follow through, instead taking a step back to avoid the pair of chakram that I had sent flying from their positions on the ground.
When the metal rings missed their target, they floated in a circular motion around me. I wasn’t sure if it was out of consideration or caution, but she gave me the time to regain my balance. “Interesting…” I could hear her voice muttering quietly.
With my next step, I appeared on both the left and right sides of her. This was the ‘Split Thread’ method in the Thousand Threads. Only one of these images was real, while the other was a simple illusion created from an after-image given form. This was not a true cloning, as that required one to reach the Hundred Thread level first, but it would do for a confusing tactic like this.
Unable to tell at a glance which of us was real, Keliope bent her knees to squat down. Clapping her hands together powerfully, she then extended them to either side of her, accurately striking at both me and the illusion. This time, it was my turn to jump back in a hurry to dodge the attack, while the after-image dissipated like smoke.
Originally, I had the chakram flying at her from the front again, but because of my hurried dodge, I briefly lost control of them. This caused them to fall to the ground just short of her position. Seeing that, she smiled, slowly standing up. “I gotta say, if I couldn’t see these threads, I might not be able to fight you very well. Now that I know what they are, it’s easier to handle.”
I could feel her energy rising as she spoke, so I decided to kick things up a notch as well. All twenty of my threads moved, touching at various points surrounding Keliope. This way, she wouldn’t be able to tell which direction my next attack could come from.
Or at least, that was the plan. I saw her closing her eyes, and determined that was the best moment to strike. Before taking that step, I had already begun slashing my swords across once again, so that I would still be in that motion when I arrived behind her.
Yet, what met me was a powerful palm to the chest the instant I appeared. I could feel the ki in it as it propelled me back along the blank terrain. When I landed, I had to stab my swords into the ground to help bring me to a stop, and when I looked up I saw that her eyes were still closed.
“You aren’t the only one that knows how to use energy, Dale.” She teased, her toned body turning towards me. “This is something that one of my people found, a way to make up for sneaky targets like you. He called it the Blind Man’s Eye. A ki field extends from my body, alerting me to any disturbance around it. When you moved behind me, I could already feel your presence.”
“That’s… Okay, I can’t say it’s cheating after what I’ve done. Still, pretty overpowered, though.” I couldn’t help but shake my head as I retorted.
“Now, is there anything else you want to try?” She had a smile on her face as she asked that, once again assuming her battle stance.
“Just one…” As I spoke, I slowly stood upright, my swords held at my sides, facing outwards. “After this, it’ll be over, whoever wins.” She nodded to my statement, clearly preparing for an attack.
Once more, I sent the threads out to surround her, and she furrowed her brow as she felt that. Her body tensed up, preparing to unleash another strike as soon as I appeared. So, I took that step forward, right into her approaching fist.
And once again, I was sent tumbling back, this time unable to break myself so easily. Yet, I couldn’t help but laughing when I finally came to a stop, and she sighed in frustration. “So… a draw then?” She asked in a voice filled with complaint. Although there was no doubt she could have killed me with that attack if we weren’t in the Admin Room, there were still two sword pressed against her neck.
The Split Thread requires two nearly simultaneous woven steps, the first one to create the after-image, and the second for the real destination. Unlike most of the other abilities these arts teach, the Split Thread can only create one after-image. After all, you only have two feet.
When I stepped towards her this time, I had used the Split Thread again, and I am guessing that she could feel that brief difference in the timing, since she instantly struck my true body. But that was fine, because I had released my swords when I created the after image, causing them to appear behind her with it. Although she could have killed me with that punch, it’s unquestionable that I could also have killed her with the swords at the same time.
“Really, that kind of self-sacrificing tactic isn’t going to get you anywhere later, you know?” She complained again, walking forward and extending a hand to help me up. “If you die because of a stupid move like that, it’s all over.”
“True… but most people wouldn’t be able to see those threads and force me to make that kind of move just to land a hit.” I couldn’t help but throw that back at her, smiling slightly.
“Okay… so you got me there.” She chuckled, shaking her head. “In terms of surprise, you can probably assassinate most people without them ever knowing where the hit came from. But if you give people time to adjust like you did me… and they aren’t weaker than you, it will turn in their favor.”
I couldn’t help but nod at that. “True enough. Now I just need Tubrock to make the real weapons, and I can give this a proper test run.” And I intended to do just that, too. There should be plenty of powerful monsters for me to practice against, and I might even gain a few levels in the process.