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While Tom was lying on the ground, a muscular, brown haired man approached and reached down his hand to help him up. Like Tom, this man stood at 6ft tall.

"Ha ha ha, down on the ground again" the muscular man chuckled.

It wasn't only the man in front of him that was laughing. There were two other men off to the side who were also snickering at the scene in front of their eyes.

Tom grabbed the man's hand and was pulled up until he was standing again.

"Though I do have to say, you're getting better" said the man with some praise in his voice.

He was truly surprised at Tom's improvement over the last 3 months. When Tom had first started sparring with him he was a complete novice. His movements were slow and terrible and he was completely devoid of skill. But, in these short 3 months Tom had actually turned into a semi-competent swordsman and a decent fighter.

In terms of swordsmanship he was still subpar, with obvious signs of some of his movements being rather jerky and unnatural. This was because Tom still wasn't completely used to his body. He could do all ordinary tasks perfectly well, with no hassle at all, but he still lacked a bit of finesse in his motor control when he did swifter and trickier movements. Thankfully, over the course of the past 3 months he had improved massively in this regard and one benefit of his training was that the longer he practiced, the more control over his own body he gained. In fact, Tom believed that he would shortly have full control over his body and would no longer lack finesse in his movements.

Although Tom's skill with the sword was still subpar, he could hardly be blamed for this. After all, he had only picked up a sword for the first time 3 months ago. Even with this disadvantage he was still picking it up remarkably fast. Furthermore, his sparring partner was shocked at one particular aspect of swordsmanship that Tom was showing adeptness at.

Tom had shown that he was particularly adept at parrying and redirecting the force of the man's blows. In fact, on the whole, Tom's reaction speed, judgement and fighting sense had shocked the man.

In truth, this was all linked to who Tom really was and his past experiences.

His reaction speed could be attributed to the fact that he was actually a god. Regardless of whether or not he had access to his true powers, his ability to think and process sensory information was greater.

Furthermore, his skill at redirecting the enemy's force came from his understandings and insights into the cosmos. Tom had ascended into godhood by gaining deep enough insights into Essence energy, amongst which his deepest insights were into the essence of water and flow. Using his insights into the nature of flow, he was able to better predict his opponent's movements and redirect and resolve the forces of his blows.

Finally, his fighting sense could be attributed to his time a magic beast. As a carnivorous magic beast Tom had to hunt for his food. This was done in a variety of ways, such as; ambushing, stalking, harassing and directly striking and chasing prey. Because of this, Tom's sense of when to strike and when to defend were already honed. So, even though he still lacked a certain degree of skill and technique, which he was quickly improving upon, the man standing in front of Tom thought that he was actually a decent fighter that would be able to fight evenly against people at the same cultivation level.

After standing up, Tom took a second to catch his breath while the man in front of him put his sword away.

The man in front of Tom, who he had just been sparring with, was called Avery.

Avery worked as a guard for Tom's father, Gerald, but he, along with a couple of others, had been assigned to help train Tom in fighting techniques and martial arts.

Gerald saw this training as a necessity for his son, a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw when considering the nature of the world they lived in, however, although Tom assented to his demands, he would have much preferred to spend his time solely on cultivating. Be that as it may, since Tom had never learned to fight in a human body before, it wasn't like this training was useless or a complete waste of time for him either.

"I bet you must be hating me right about now" said Avery cheerfully.

"Oh, on the contrary, I respect your strength" Tom replied to him.

This was no lie. Tom's original form was that of a magic beast. He naturally had a respect for those stronger than himself. Although Tom's real strength was incomparable to Avery's, right now in his current body Avery was undeniably stronger than him. Furthermore, Avery was the one who'd essentially been kicking has arse for the past 3 months while training him. Because of this, Tom had started to respect Avery and develop a rapport with him.

[Still going to kick your arse when I'm strong enough though. Just you wait Avery... just you wait]

Nevertheless, even though Tom had started to respect and become friendly with Avery, this didn't mean he forgot about being knocked on his back day after day during his training sessions.

"What about us, do you respect us too?" came a shout from the side.

Tom looked over to the two other men on the Cardinal clan's training field that were participating in Tom's training. These men, like Avery, were the personal guards of his father.

The one who had shouted was the larger of the two. A man named Pike. He was a tall man, standing at 6'3", and had a very buff and stocky body. He also had very short black hair as well as a beard which could be described as short to medium length stubble.

Next to him was a shorter and leaner man called Lance who stood at 5'11". He had medium length light brown hair and a handsome looking face. Although none of the group were bad looking per se, Lance was still the one who could claim the best looks. He was also the youngest of the group, being only 21 years old, and the second weakest, being at the 7th level of body strengthening. However, since he was younger and wasn't that far behind Pike and Avery, it suggested that he had more cultivating talent and potential.

"You're not as strong as Avery" Tom replied to Pike.

"Damn, what do you mean not as strong? He only advanced yesterday, that's bullshit" Pike said quite annoyed.

Out of those present, Avery was at 9th level of body strengthening, having only just stepped into that level, Pike was at the 8th level and Lance was at the 7th. Pike was understandably upset at Tom's words because until the previous day, he and Avery had been on equal footing. In fact, Pike was slightly stronger and would be unlikely to lose in a one on one fight against him. However, in the span of a day, that had all changed.

Despite this, that wasn't actually the real reason Tom had said what he said. Although both Avery and Pike were involved in training him, Avery was the one in charge of this process and sparred with him the most. Furthermore, despite his appearance, Pike was a lot more lenient in the training he conducted and never went full force against Tom. Therefore, because of Avery's rather harsh treatment of him during practice sessions, Tom's opinion of the two had become more skewed in Avery's favour.

Another thing to consider was that the nature of their training differed. Pike was mainly teaching unarmed combat, Lance was teaching the spear and Avery was teaching swordsmanship, with general fighting techniques mixed into it. Because of this, a lot of the training that Pike and Lance were conducting tended to be visual in nature, showing Tom different stances and movements, whereas Avery was a lot more hands on in his approach.

Hearing Tom and Pike's conversation, Lance, who was originally laughing in schadenfreude at Tom, instead began deriving pleasure from Pike's situation.

"What are you laughing at, he doesn't respect you either" Pike said after turning towards Lance, quickly killing his laughter.

Lance stopped laughing less because of what Pike had said and more out of fear that pike would wring him over the head. By now all three of them had gotten to know Tom a bit and the mood between them was rather jovial and friendly. They knew that there was no ill will behind what Tom had said and that it was said half-jokingly.

"Well then, that should be it for the day, training over. Oh yeah, you guys coming with me to Benny's tonight?" Avery asked.

Since he had broken through to 9th level of body strengthening the previous night, Avery was planning to go out celebrating at his favourite drinking haunt with the guys. His question was directed at Tom as well as Pike and Lance.

"Sure" Lance replied

"Of course! I'd be there anyway" said Pike.

"I'm sure you would" Lance said jokingly.

After his one liner, Pike turned and stared at Lance. Lance, looking up at Pike, stopped his smiling and decided to take a step back for good measure. Inside his heart he was scolding himself. He'd already tempted fate once and now he'd done it again. He figured that even though they were all just joking around, the longer he stayed, the higher the chance would be that Pike would hit him over the head for something he said or did. That being the case, he decided to excuse himself.

"Well. Training's over and I've still got work to do. See you at Benny's tonight" Lance said before starting to walk away.

Seeing him walk off no one could keep in their laughter anymore.

"Pfft, if you pull a straight face like that again you might scare him half to death" Avery said as he began laughing.

Tom chuckled lightly at this and Pike who had had on a blank and serious look started guffawing in laughter.

"I couldn't... hah hah... help... hah hah... it... ha" Pike said with laughter interspersed.

"He just sets himself up for it. How am I not supposed to mess with him?"

The three continued standing there for a few more minutes until the laughter died down.

"So, Tom. You coming too?" Avery asked.

"Yeah, why not. Might as well." Tom replied.

In truth Tom wasn't that bothered about the drinking or celebrating aspect of this outing but he had quite a favourable opinion of Avery. Even when they weren't training, Tom would sometimes talk with him and found that they got along quite well, so he figured he might as well take the night off and go with him to Benny's. Besides, since he'd entered his home on the first night that he'd arrived here, he hadn't been out of the Cardinal clan's estate even once. Even the martial practice was conducted on the Cardinal clan's training field.

Thinking about this, Tom became quite resolute. He'd already looked through all of the old Tom Cardinal's memories and knew many things about the city but looking through another's memories and actually going out to see and experience the world for himself was completely different. He'd decided. Even if he was working towards winning his bet with Methis, that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy his time down here. He'd spent enough time alone on his home world and he didn't feel like just sitting in a room for 20 years all by himself.

"I'll be there" Tom said to Avery, once again confirming that he'd participate.

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jmj1011995

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