Chapter 6: Up the Mountain
I don’t know if he wanted to beat some sense into the kid he thought had a big ego after hearing I was some sort of genius or he was genuinely trying to test me, but by the smug grin he had on his face while looking down at me (even if it was only natural he would physically look down at me, it still p.i.s.sed me off), I a.s.sumed it might be the former reason.
Picking up the wooden sword I got as a present from my parents, I walked to the edge of the camp where Adam was waiting near a small clearing.
“You know how to reinforce your weapon right genius?”
By this time, my father already sensed that Adam was just trying to put a show of dominance into his little boy, but he just watched, knowing he wouldn’t hurt me too much.
Many thanks dear father.
My mother looked a bit more anxious as she kept glancing back and forth between me, Adam and father, keeping a firm hold onto his sleeve.
Well at least mother is here to heal me if I get hurt right?
I focused my gaze on Adam. Images of my past life, dueling other kings with my country and loved ones at stake, popped up in my head. My eyes narrowed. He was the opponent now.
I willed mana into my legs and dashed forward with both my hands gripping the wooden sword on my right…
Keeping his smug look, Adam prepared to block my horizontal swing when I feinted and used a special footwork I developed in my old world that I used for dueling. Almost instantly, I blinked a foot diagonally to his right. Curse this body. I couldn’t perfectly execute the skill because of the height and weight difference compared to my old body. I wasn’t used to this 40 pound, 110cm. body. While I didn’t reach the area I was aiming for, unfortunately for Adam, he already prepared his wooden stick to block my horizontal swing from the other direction so his right side was open.
His smug look all but vanished and was replaced by a look of surprise with his eyes opening wide, realizing what’s about to happen.
Swinging my wooden sword to his open ribcage, I reinforced my wooden sword with mana at the last moment to conserve my mana because I knew I was definitely at a disadvantage against a veteran like him.
The look of surprise on Adam all but lasted a split second before he pivoted his right foot with an almost inhuman speed. I squatted in time to dodge his upward swing and switched my stance from a thrust to a spinning swipe and landed a blow on his left ankle using all my momentum. His ankle gave out at that moment, throwing Adam off balance.
Or so I thought.
He actually did a full on splits and did a roundhouse sweep with his legs as soon as he was on the ground.
This body won’t be able to take a hit like that so I jumped up to dodge his legs when, from my peripheral view, I saw the flash of brown from his wooden stick.
With no time to use the blade to block the swing, I thrust the pommel of my sword, timing it so Adam’s wooden stick and the end of my handle would clash.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion suddenly came into mind.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action
And boy was the opposite re-action painful. While I did block the blow successfully, my 4-year-old body couldn’t withstand the force of the blow and I flew before gracefully skidding on the ground like a flat rock on a lake.
Thankfully, I reinforced my whole body before I took the blow or I would’ve seriously gotten hurt.
Groaning, I sat myself up and rubbed my throbbing head. I look up, only to see seven stupefied faces staring at me.
My mother recovered first, shaking her head. She rushed towards me and immediately mumbled a healing spell around my body.
“Art honey, are you okay? How do you feel?”
“I’m fine Mom, don’t worry.”
Adam’s voice cuts in, “Haven’t taught him how to fight my a.s.s! How the h.e.l.l did you train this little monster?”
“I didn’t teach him that,” my father managed to mutter.
He shook himself out of the stupor and came next to me and asked if I was okay. I just nodded my head.
He picked me up and gently put me back down where I was sitting before and squatted down in front of me so he was eye level.
“Art, where did you learn to fight like that?”
Deciding to feign ignorance, I said, putting on my most innocent face, “I learned by reading books and watching you dad.”
I don’t think saying, “Hey dad, I was the King Duelist representing my country from a world where diplomatic and international issues are settled in battles. I just happened to be reincarnated as your son… Surprise,” would get a great reaction from him.
“Sorry for roughing you up there little buddy. I didn’t expect I would need to use that much strength to get you off me.”
Seeing Adam apologize gave me a better impression of him. I guess he wasn’t a total jerk.
I hear a faint voice from my side. “Your fighting style is… unique. How did you do that step after the feint?”
Wow! Two complete sentences! That was the longest thing Jasmine said this whole trip by far.
I feel so honored.
I reorganized my thoughts before trying to explain in steps what I did.
“It’s a simple technique really. Since I was feinting to Mr. Krensh’s right side, I place my right foot forward as the last step before the feint. There I instantly focus my mana into the right foot, pushing myself back, and at the same time I bring my left leg behind right, aimed towards where I want to go, and focus mana unto my left foot this time, but with more power than when I used mana on my right so that I don’t propel myself backwards instead of the direction I want to actually go to.”
That was a mouthful.
I looked around to see Adam, Helen, and even my father head towards the clearing, trying to test out what I just explained.
When I turned back to face Jasmine, I only saw her back as she rushed to the clearing as well.
Mother sat next to me, patting my head with a gentle smile on her face that seemed to say, “you did well.” Angela came up to me too, burying my face, or rather my whole head, in her bosom cheerfully exclaiming, “Cute AND talented aren’t you? Why couldn’t you have been born earlier so that this sister could s.n.a.t.c.h you up herself!”
Blushing, I willed myself away from those b.r.e.a.s.t.s that I suspected to have their own gravitational pull. Those…weapons are dangerous.
My guardian angel, Durden, was a lot calmer about all of this and just gave me a thumbs up. He’s so cool.
The night pa.s.sed as the four idiots spent most of the time trying to master the feint step while I slept in the tent with mother.
A couple of days pa.s.sed as we finally managed to make it to the foot of the Grand Mountains, which sure lived up to its name.
Along the way, only Helen managed to lay down her pride as she asked me for some clarification on the feint step. I went over it slowly, explaining what the timing of the interval between the last right foot and the left foot should be and how to properly balance the output of mana into both feet so you can go the way you’re aiming. The whole time, I could almost see the ears of the other three idiots getting bigger as they tried to suck in the information that I gave her, nodding while taking mental notes.
The first one to succeed was Jasmine. She seemed like the cold, genius type. I guess it was true.
She pulled me aside one day, blushing, while I was taking reading and writing lessons on the back of the carriage with mother and asked me to watch.
We had to take a small stop so the carriages wouldn’t leave us behind. After successfully demonstrating the feint step to me, I applauded saying “Amazing! You learned it so quickly!”
It’s one of the most basic techniques I developed, but I’m not going to tell her that.
She responded curtly saying, “It was nothing” but the upward curvature of her lips and the slight, proud twitch of her nose showed otherwise.
Haha, she’s happy.
By the time we arrived at the foot of the Grand Mountains, all four of the idiots managed to learn the technique, changing it slightly to fit their own fighting style.
The next step of the journey was going up the mountains. Luckily, there was a path that was around two carriages wide that circled around the mountain, eventually leading to the teleportation gate at the top.
The front carriage included Durden, holding the reigns in the front, with father besides him keeping him company. This carriage carried most of our luggage. Helen was currently seated on the top of the second carriage, the one I was riding in, scouting for any abnormalities. Angela sat in the back carriage with my mom and me, Adam walking at the back, keeping guard. While Jasmine was steering the carriage, I keep noticing how she turns back her head and stares at me in, almost making *jiii* sounds. Is she expecting me to show her other techniques or something? Every time I match her gaze, she quickly turns her head back to the front.
Kukuku…is she five?
Speaking of age, I turned 4 on the front leg of our journey to the foot of the Grand Mountains. I don’t know when Mother prepared a cake or where she even put it (or if it’s even edible!), but I didn’t complain, put on a big smile and thanked her and everyone else. While everyone gave me a hug or a pat on the back, Jasmine surprised me then when she handed me a short knife, simply saying, “present.”
Aww she cares! I’m tearing up.
Our journey up the mountain was pretty uneventful. I spent a lot of my time reading my book on mana manipulation, trying to find any discrepancies between mana and ki. So far, it seemed pretty similar except that, in rare cases, an Augmenter’s mana usage can take on the property of elements. Reading on, I noticed that for beginners able to dabble in this, it wasn’t as distinct as what you may see Conjurers casting but more like the quality of each distinct element.
For example, an Augmenter, a.s.suming he has an innate compatibility with fire, would have mana that showed an explosive quality when used. Water would have a smooth, flexible quality. Earth would have a firm and rigid quality. Finally, Wind would have the quality of a sharp blade.
That’s strange. Back in my old world, these kinds of qualities in ki had nothing to do with elements but how you utilized your ki. Shaping the ki into points and edges will give it the so called “wind element,” while storing up your mana into a single point and bursting it at the last moment would give it the “fire element” and so on. Sure, pract.i.tioners had preferences and were better at practicing one style more than the other but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was rare. Only the most basic use of ki involved reinforcing the body and weapons.
I’ll have to test this with mana in the future. Being stuck in a 4 year old body with constant supervision by suspicious adults made practicing really hard.
I kept reading on when suddenly I hear Helen’s voice.
“BANDITS! PREPARE TO ENGAGE!” she shouted, followed by a rumble of footsteps coming from to our right and our back.
“Submit, O wind and follow my will. I command and gather you around in protection. Wind Barrier!” Instantly I feel a gust of wind forming a tornado around mother, Angela and I. Then the gust shapes into a sphere around us.
Angela is holding out her wand and was concentrating on keeping the barrier active while arrows constantly hit the barrier, only to get redirected into a different direction.
My mother pulls me in close, trying to shield me using her body from whatever might get through. The barrier seems to be holding strong thanks to Angela.
In a matter of seconds, the tarp covering the carriage is torn to shreds and I get a better view of what’s going on.
We were surrounded.