༺ Rock Sword (3) ༻
Gwyn returned to the Opal Black dormitory after the combat training class.
Marian and other students were worried and tried to talk to her, whose expression was stiff, but Gwyn refused all their kindness and locked herself in the training room.
And she had been swinging her sword for hours without eating.
Woong! Thud! Thud! Thud-thud!
The Rock sword is a swordsmanship that focuses on counterattacking by blocking the opponent’s attacks. Naturally, she couldn’t practice the Rock sword against a mere straw dummy.
So Gwyn was unfolding the Rock sword in her mind against imaginary enemies.
Until now, her opponent had mostly been her master, the sword saint Jun Chek. As her master was the strongest and most familiar person she knew, she could easily imagine him.
But today was different.
Today, the opponent she imagined was Instructor Eon.
Thud! Thud! Thud-thud!
The imaginary Instructor Eon attacked with an emotionless face.
His expression was as blunt as his attacks, making it impossible to read any signs. He didn’t show any unnecessary tension, didn’t take deep breaths, and delivered deadly blows between casual breaths.
She slightly bent her knees and applied force to the tip of her feet. She imagined it. The heavy rock deeply embedded in the ground. She thought of herself as the rock and blocked Instructor Eon’s attacks.
The imaginary Instructor Eon kicked her side faster than she could defend. The imaginary Gwyn was staggered by the impact, and Instructor Eon mercilessly drove his knee into her empty abdomen.
Of course, there was no actual damage to Gwyn in reality. However, she unknowingly dropped her sword to the floor. The shock of being hit by Eon vividly came back to her.
It didn’t work. No matter how many times she tried, she couldn’t block that attack. Instructor Eon’s attack was much faster than her defensive stance. Even if she succeeded in taking the stance, the unstable defense would have been shattered like a guard.
Gwyn picked up the practice sword that had fallen to the floor.
Having swung the sword non-stop for hours, her breath was already up to her chin, her whole body was trembling, and there wasn’t a single healthy muscle left, but Gwyn swung her sword again.
If she let go of her sword like this, it would feel like giving up.
She hated giving up more than dying.
“That swordsmanship doesn’t suit you.”
‘You don’t know anything…!’
Thud! Thud! Thwack! Crack! Crack! Groan!
“Do you have a reason to insist on the Rock sword?”
‘You don’t know anything about me…!!’
Crack! Thwack! Smash! Smash! Groan!
Unable to contain her anger, she swung her sword and the straw dummy’s neck broke and floated in midair.
The broken neck rolled weakly on the floor of the training room.
Gwyn’s pupils slowly lost focus and darkened.
Her eyes were no longer looking at the training room, but at the distant past.
In the far east of the empire, there is a place called the ‘Sanctuary of the Sword.’
People who lived in the Sanctuary of the Sword were called the ‘Tribe of the Sword,’ and every member of the tribe was an exceptional swordsman.
The Tris family was a branch of the Tribe of the Sword. To be precise, the Tris family’s origin dates back to when an ancestor of the Tris family, who was once part of the Tribe of the Sword, married an imperial citizen and had a child, thus forming the family.
The Tribe of the Sword was exclusive to outsiders. Naturally, they didn’t like it when their members left the sanctuary to start families outside.
If they wanted to marry an outsider, they had to bring their spouse and children to the Sanctuary of the Sword. However, the ancestor of the Tris family wanted to live in the empire with his family.
After a long conflict and dispute, the Tribe of the Sword set two conditions for the Tris family, instead of bringing them to the Sanctuary of the Sword.
First, the Tris family’s ancestor’s knowledge of the Rock sword must be passed down in a one-to-one transmission, meaning that they should not teach swordsmanship to just anyone and risk leaking the Tribe of the Sword’s techniques.
The second condition was that the Tris family must maintain the lineage of the swordsmen. If, for any reason, the one inheriting the Rock sword disappears, and the Tris family loses their identity as swordsmen, they must leave the empire and be absorbed by the Tribe of the Sword.
Gwyn’s father was the head of the Tris family at the time and the only successor to the Rock sword.
Gwyn enjoyed learning the sword from her father. Not because she liked learning the sword, but because it was the only time she could spend with her busy, yet thoughtful, father.
But happy times are always too short.
“Father, don’t go!”
“Gwyn, I’m truly sorry. I have to…”
“I don’t want to hear that you’re sorry or that you love me! Just stay by my side instead! You promised to be with me on my birthday this year! Why do you keep trying to leave? Do you find it bothersome to be with me?”
“That’s not it. My daughter, I’m sorry. I promise to come back.”
“Father is a liar! You always say that, but you never keep your promise! I hate you the most in the world! If that’s the case, don’t ever come back!”
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… Gwyn.”
Later, Gwyn learned that her father had left to protect the people in the war against the demons.
She didn’t fully understand what war was in her childhood, but she knew that her father had left for a difficult and arduous task.
She thought she should apologize.
When her father returned, she wanted to apologize for being harsh. She would say that she didn’t really mean it when she told him not to come back, and that she lied about hating him the most. She loved him, and she said those words because she didn’t want him to leave her side.
That’s what she planned to say.
Three years after the war began, Gwyn’s father returned.
It was said that his body was so horribly mutilated that only his head was barely intact. His death was so gruesome that they couldn’t even show his young daughter the body.
Gwyn always regretted it.
If she had known that was her last meeting with her father, she would never have said those words.
Without time to mourn her father’s death, the Tris family, which had lost its only successor to the Rock sword, was plunged into chaos.
The Rock sword is passed down only through one-to-one transmission. Since the successor died without properly training a new one, according to the pact made with the Tribe of the Sword, the Tris family should have disbanded and been absorbed by the Tribe.
Breaking the pact was impossible. If they did, they would face the wrath of the Tribe of the Sword, who considered the pact sacred and would exact a bloody price for any violation.
There were various opinions, such as finding a new successor from a branch family, or negotiating with the Tribe of the Sword. But no viable solution emerged, primarily because no one in the family could teach the Rock sword.
It was then that she found out. Her father had been under great pressure from relatives to have a male heir, but he had always refused to remarry, both because he missed his deceased wife and because he worried about his daughter getting hurt. He had loved and cherished her as his one and only child.
She found out too late.
It seemed certain that the Tris family would soon disappear.
That’s when Gwyn stepped forward.
“I’ll be the successor.”
“You? But you’re… a girl.”
“Girls can’t master the Rock sword! Stop talking nonsense!”
“My father taught me the Rock sword. I didn’t have much time to learn, but I remember everything he taught me. So, whether you all acknowledge it or not, I’m already the successor of the Rock sword.”
If she could walk the path of the sword, there would be no need for her father’s family to disappear.
And, separate from the family, Gwyn could not give up the Rock sword, the only relic her father left behind.
From then on, she endured rigorous training. No one taught her the Rock sword, but she studied diligently based on the faint memories of the swordsmanship her father had taught her while he was alive.
Not only the basic techniques her father taught her but also the posture she learned by imitating her father’s figure, who used to swing the sword alone in the training ground, even though he never taught her directly.
For the first time in her life, Gwyn was grateful to be a genius. Thanks to her talent for learning ten things when taught one, she managed to restore most of the Rock sword without anyone’s help.
However, the more she learned, the more she realized.
She could never truly master the Rock sword.
No matter how much she trained her muscles and strengthened her body, the physical limitations of being a woman were clear. Even with the same effort, men’s muscles were much stronger, thicker, and firmer than women’s. And that was the most important thing in the Rock sword.
Her relatives spoke with pity as they looked at Gwyn.
‘What a shame. She has such talent, but she’s a girl.’
‘If she were born a man, she would have definitely mastered the Rock sword.’
‘Is this the end of the Tris family? No. If she has a son, who knows.’
Because she was a woman.
If only she hadn’t been born a woman.
Gwyn was fed up with being a woman. Her body that never gained muscles despite the constant training, her relatives who pinned their hopes on a yet unborn male child, and herself, who couldn’t fully master her father’s swordsmanship, were all tiresome and disappointing.
She wanted to show them somehow. To her relatives, to herself, and to her father, who would be watching from the heavens.
That she could do it too. That she would master the Rock sword and become a proper successor to her father. She wanted to say it confidently.
Around the time she felt her self-study had reached its limits, a man who had learned the Rock sword from the sword tribe after the war visited the Tris family.
He claimed to have come to check if the Tris family was fulfilling their oath, but in truth, he had met Gwyn’s father during the war and wanted to see how his daughter was doing.
Gwyn later found out that this man was known as the ‘Sword Saint’ to the world.
Gwyn knelt before the Sword Saint and pleaded with all her heart.
To teach her so that she could complete the Rock sword.
At first, the Sword Saint refused Gwyn’s request, but eventually accepted her as his disciple, having seen something in her.
Gwyn was here at the Philion Royal Academy, as her master had commanded.
With only the resolve to complete the Rock sword.
Gwyn gripped her training sword and stood in front of the new straw dummy.
As expected, the Rock sword was all she had. No matter what anyone said, she couldn’t give it up. With renewed determination, she swung her sword at the straw dummy.
Let this frustration be a new beginning. Although still insufficient, with relentless and diligent training, she would surely improve.
Gwyn was a genius, but ironically, because she was a genius, she knew the limits of her talent all too well.
That’s why she put in the effort.
Because there was nothing else she could do.
If she had no talent at all, it might have been different. But she had already climbed to the highest point she could reach with her exceptional talent. There was no room left to climb further with her talent alone.
Now, all she had left was effort.
So today, Gwyn gritted her teeth and swung her sword once again.
At that moment, Gwyn sensed the presence of someone else in the training hall, which had been empty except for her. The person didn’t try to hide their footsteps, so Gwyn knew immediately that someone was approaching.
Gwyn took a deep breath and lowered her sword. Who could it be at this late hour?
The person who entered the training hall was Eon.
Gwyn’s shoulders tensed up.
Eon looked at the broken practice dummy and Gwyn, soaked in sweat, and assessed the situation.
“You were training until this late?”
“Yes. Why are you in the training hall, Instructor?”
“I came to talk to you.”
Talk. Gwyn’s expression subtly cringed at the word.
It was probably going to be another discussion about giving up the Rock sword like during the class. She didn’t really want to have that conversation.
Gwyn still harbored resentment towards Eon. Although she was showing a respectful attitude because he was an Instructor, she felt very uncomfortable inside.
Just as she was about to refuse the conversation using the late hour as an excuse, she saw Eon take a sword out from a corner of the training hall.
Gwyn suddenly felt a chill down her spine.
“…Instructor? Why the sword all of a sudden?”
“Take your stance.”
“But… didn’t you say we were going to talk?”
Eon pointed the practice sword at her and calmly replied.
“This is the conversation.”
Gwyn’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
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