༺ Lunia Arden (3)༻
The ‘Arden’ name held considerable value in this world.
They nurtured countless guardians, and their group sword formations and strategies were so articulate and systematic that even the militaries of several nations would invite them to become their instructor.
The one reigning over that household with his absolute charisma was Garrand Arden, but his successor had yet to be decided.
It was because he hadn’t acknowledged anyone in his son’s generation. Even though he had left all the matters of the household to the current family head, his true ‘successor’ hadn’t been decided for over 30 years.
And in this current generation, the Sword Emperor had finally acknowledged someone as his true successor – two of them at that.
That stubborn Sword Emperor had finally chosen his successors but the Arden household was nonetheless in an uproar.
Even a group of beasts needed a clear hierarchy and a boss so it was obvious that a family of humans – especially one that pursued martial arts – would need a clear leader.
There could not be two successors of the enormous family of Ardens. Whether it be the main family or the branch families, it was great to have many arms and legs but there had to be no more than one head.
The Sword Emperor who had an absolute position in the household had chosen two people as his successor candidates so a strife was inevitable.
At that point, it wouldn’t just be a competition of which side was stronger – it was bound to lead to internal divisions in the family due to personal profits and wants.
There was no such strife in the Arden household. Who the next family head will be wasn’t even a topic for discussion.
It was simple.
Even if the head of a group of beasts was to choose two candidates to be the next leader, it was impossible for there to be a conflict if one of them was overwhelmingly stronger than the other.
Anyone could tell just by seeing how one of the most representative elites of the Arden family – the Five Swords of the 1st Sword Squad – were following Lunia without a sliver of doubt.
No-one in the family and those with authority were skeptical about Lunia being the next in line. Even the competitor Alicia Arden wasn’t an exception.
That was how powerful Lunia Arden was.
“Think of this as a fight against a Unique-Grade.”
It took about 3 seconds for the students of Team B to process Lunia Arden’s words.
Why was she talking about a Unique-Grade all of a sudden?
What exactly were Unique-Grades? Simply put, they were those whose strength was immeasurable. Unlike Grade 1, there was no clear standard that could be used to measure those beings so all of them were just referred to as Unique-Grade.
Marie Dunareff after awakening into a vampire and the unsealed Heavenly Yaksha Hua Ran were such examples.
They were like natural disasters that could stand toe to toe against an entire legion and dozens of guardians might not even be able to defeat them together.
Unique Grades were true monsters that most guardians would not come across in their entire life.
And Lunia Arden was a monster among monsters that could compete against those monsters.
Explosions constantly echoed from all sides. The flat grounds of the stadium were destroyed and were turned upside down as the screams of my peers occasionally reached all the way from the other side of the debris that had been created from Lunia’s attacks.
Ahh… I swear the original stadium was a neat square carved from stone but not a trace of its previous appearance remained on the shattered grounds.
“I, I wasn’t expecting to have two Unique-Grade fights in my life. This is hard to get used to…”
I whole-heartedly agreed with Jaeger’s words. Even though I had experienced it several times, everyone that had ‘Unique’ in their name were all monsters that I just couldn’t get used to.
“Huh? Of course it’s Lark… who the heck is this?”
Hearing my question, Jaeger turned to his right hand at the one he was carrying. He was the peer Jaeger had grabbed by the collar to bring all the way here before the incoming disaster, thinking that it was Lark.
“Where’s Lark… Oh.”
Lark had foams in his mouth and was lying unconscious at the center of the broken stadium. Ahh… What an unlucky guy.
“Isn’t Senior Lunia being too mean? Why is she so serious against students…”
“She is holding back. If she was serious, half of us would have evaporated in less than 10 seconds.”
Turning my head from the stone ground that was poking up like a strange statue, I looked at the center of the thunderous roars. At the epicenter was the personification of violence that was indiscriminately sending students of Team B off into the air.
“You’re too tense. If you’re not certain, always be prepared to change your path.”
“Do not shout the name of your skill. Are you trying to explain your skill to your enemy?”
“Practice working together before trying a pincer attack. That is why you are running into each other on repeat.”
As expected of a swordsmanship instructor, she was a proficient teacher. She was instructing the students on what they should improve on during those short bouts.
Unlike Alicia who couldn’t even take care of herself, Lunia was a complete veteran swordsman. She was a finished genius who did not need to be trained unlike the other named characters that could enter the party.
‘How close am I to her now?’
In the last iteration, I had the chance to fight together with Lunia who had joined the party after Alicia’s death.
She even taught me and helped me train. My master was the one who taught me the spear, but it wasn’t an overstatement to say that Lunia was the one who taught me how to fight.
Until the very end of the last iteration, I had been unable to reach her toes. If not for that damn Mr. Park’s preference for males, she probably would have taken my position in the party.
At this rate, it would take around 30 seconds for Team B to be annihilated. Honestly, I had been waiting for her to show a gap in her defense but then…
Our eyes met. Her eyes that were as deep as the abyss had been staring at only me ever since the start of the test.
I was completely being marked.
She wasn’t even giving me the chance to use other guys as bait.
“There’s a sword aura flying our way. Bend your back.”
“What do you… Kuheeek!”
Despite my warning, Jaeger was too late to react. He was hit by the small ball of sword aura that came through the obstacle and flew all the way out of the arena.
“I would have loved to give a bit of guidance but that is way below the mark.”
At last, my greatest fear had come to reality. It was a 1 on 1 fight against Lunia Arden.
14 knights and mages were unable to hold off against the generous lectures of Lunia and were all one-shotted.
Against monsters like Lunia, it was pointless to have a crowd of guys that had a little bit of skill. Evey powerhouse that had the word ‘unique’ next to their name were beings that could control the flow of a battle by themselves.
“Can I surrender?”
“You may if you want to get the lowest mark.”
“But you won’t, will you? I doubt you are willing to let go of such an opportunity either.”
Right. It was as she said.
As someone without any special eyes or abilities, the goal I had to aspire for was ‘Lunia Arden’. Fighting her 1 on 1 was a lesson in itself which was why I didn’t even bother creating a party on the spot.
If I was going to replace the player, I would eventually have to overcome her with my own strength at one point.
We silently gazed at each other.
Now, there was only Lunia and me on the stage.
The appearance of big-shots like Lunia Arden and the Five Swords made the crowd go fanatic.
Lunia Arden was pretty much the next head of the renowned Arden family. She was the Sword Master; a heroine that was built different – she was the representative icon of this era that was admired by everyone who aspired to become a guardian.
The might she displayed against the students of Team B was one-sided and impressive.
It made the students realize that it was possible for a human to be that strong.
“There’s only one guy left. Who is that guy?”
“I saw him at the training rooms. He’s a Grade 5.”
“It’s gonna be over in an instant. I bet he’ll last 3 seconds.”
“Let’s hurry up and move on to the next team!”
“Is it going to be Ms. Lunia again?”
“I can’t believe I’m seeing her fight with my own eyes…”
“It would’ve been better if the last one was either Dorron or Alicia though.”
The muffled mutters of the crowd reached the partially destroyed arena but the two knights on the stage did not move a single inch. It was as if the torrent of words that were being sent by the hundreds of audience were unable to create any ripples on their tranquil hearts.
Lunia’s sword slashed through the ground. The stone floors were destroyed and a layer of dust rose up that concealed her feet and her posture.
Was she going to dash in? Or was she going to slash down? They were about 15 meters apart. How would that be any meaningful–
Lunia kicked with her foot. The broken fragments of stone were shot out like bullets and at the same time, her body vanished in the air. Soon, her body reappeared in front of Korin Lork who had calmly received the stone bullets.
It was an ambush without any signals. It was normal for there to be no starting signals in a real battle, but it was evidently clear that Lunia was showing a completely different attitude to the one she showed against other students.
– Kang! Kakang!
Their weapons intertwined and clinked. Without stopping with a block, Korin retaliated with his spear. Their weapons clashed 3 times in that short instant.
Taking half a step back, Lunia took a high-level posture and slashed her sword down.
Furious Tiger, Golden Pheasant, Horizontal Slash, Pure Light.
It was beautiful.
Her sword flowed elegantly and naturally like that of flowing water. Each of her stances continued in a perfect sequence that made her elegantly pressure the opponent.
The spear rose up in a counterattack. Allowing the attack that was aiming at her neck to graze past it, she fought back against her enemy who was trying to sneak into her territory.
It was a picturesque example of how not to over-dodge the opponent’s attack and retaliate at the same time. She was in full control of their distance with a precise awareness of space without allowing even a single millimeter of miscalculation.
By reading the opponent’s movement, she avoided in the best and shortest manner possible and slashed at the speed of sound. She was incomparably more skilled than most first-rate knights.
It was to be expected of the Sword Master. They could understand it by considering her form as the pinnacle of knights, but that was why it was all the more difficult for them to believe what they were seeing with their own eyes.
“… How is that a freshman?”
Instant Slash, Advancing Fang, Reverse Kill, Soaring Heavens, Lightning.
Trap and Stab, Ominous Snake: Secret Arts, Breaking Heavens, Reversed Heaven, Tiger’s Gust.
Lunia’s consecutive attacks that had been constantly raging from the start were being offset by similar attacks.
The crowd was deathly silent.
They could understand Lunia because she was a semi-Unique Grade Knight. She was the pride of the Arden family and was the captain of the 1st Sword Squad.
But Korin Lork wasn’t. He was a freshman, and he was a Grade 5 Knight. How could such a person fight on equal grounds with Lunia Arden?
How was that even possible?
After a surprising clash of consecutive attacks, they came to a little stalemate as the swordsman and the spear-bearer stopped on top of the stage.
“Out of stamina, huh. What a shame.”
Korin Lork was the first to get tired from the fierce battle that made its onlookers turn breathless.
Lunia sheathed her sword. It wasn’t a show of praise that he had done well for a freshman student.
The Arden’s sword draw art wasn’t just used for ambush.
It was a killing move that was perfected with the aura within the scabbard accelerating the blade to show the might of sword draw art.
Sheathing the sword was a warning sign of the Sword Emperor Garrand, that he will be using the strongest killing move of the Arden family.
“Try defending this. Show me a response that befits your spearmanship.”
Her voice reached only him and not the audience as Korin immediately lowered his body like a leopard.
“What? What is she trying to do?”
A flustered gasp left from the crowd.
A flood of aura was being emanated into the air with Lunia at the center. Some of the students and professors that were more sensitive to auras felt like they were being surrounded by sharp swords all around.
It was coming.
The unstoppable wave of death was coming.
“Wait! Are you trying to kill the student!?”
“Stop the test right now!”
The professors shot out of their seats with the first being Old Man Haman. As soon as he was about to rush into the arena…
It was a suspended world that the audience could not perceive.
Fatigue was no longer relevant and the physical abilities of both parties were also meaningless.
She took half a step forward. Lunia Arden placed a step onto the suspended world.
The world stopped.
A short-term battle without any plans on prolonging the fight. After forcing out everything I could, my body was now perfectly warmed up.
False Domain Severance.
Inside the suspended world, the blade moved slowly like a video in slow motion. I thrusted my fastest spear at her sword.
My spear did not move. I could clearly tell this time because I could compare it with a move that was in the same Domain.
I could not move in the suspended world. I could only perceive it.
Was it a coincidence when I thought I did it against Marie? Was I still unable to make use of the Domain?
It was just one step that I needed but I couldn’t take that step forward.
According to the setting, that should be the same for Lunia. And… that meant that even her current attack… was just a ‘fake’ version of the real Domain Severance.
The time it took for the blade to slowly approach me wasn’t even as long as the time it would take for me to blink my eyes. My hypersensitive senses were perceiving every millimeter of the approaching blade. I could see it but my body ——
In the suspended world, I heard an echo that shouldn’t even be audible… it was the screeching sound of metal.
Lunia widened her eyes. Surprise and fluster… I could see her expression going through a massive change in the blink of an eye.
I… managed to move the spear by a tiny bit.
It wasn’t a mastered technique nor the original Rearing Head of the Venomous Dragon but a normal stab. Right when the spearhead collided with Lunia’s sword,
Her sword slashed through my spear like a bamboo stick and barely stopped right in front of my nose.
“Looks like there is a long way to go for both you and myself.”
I felt stifled like I was hyperventilating. It was only for a split second but my arm was sore as if I had been stabbing the spear tens of thousands of times.
There was a time when I had a similar feeling to this – it was during the fight against Marie… I was also suddenly fatigued like this when I was landing the last strike on her.
At the same time, a sense of omnipotence filled my body. It felt like the surrounding aura was connected to my skin; as if they were a part of my body like my arms and my legs…
“Congratulations. You have reached the level of being able to intervene into the Domain. Can you feel it?”
“This is the Domain. It’s something you understand with your instincts not your brain. A sense of omnipotence as if you are the center of the world.”
“What is next?”
Even this was nothing but a ‘False’ Domain Severance to Lunia… What was she aiming for that she was looking down on herself so much?
In the game, the martial arts of this world had only been expressed with killing moves and powerful abilities with cool names, but how far can they go in this real world?
I was feeling this omnipotent from just barely interfering with the Domain.
“I do not know.”
“There definitely is something beyond this. That senile old man proved it with his life, but I could not reach it myself.”
The realm beyond. In the previous generation, only the Sword Emperor and my master were able to reach that realm. If so, then what about Alicia who the company had officially announced as someone that could do so?
“More importantly, you need a better spear. Your weapon is too weak compared to your abilities.”
That wasn’t something Lunia should say. Even though my spear was completely broken, Lunia’s sword also had a crack from that collision despite being an expensive sword.
Just a slight intervention into the Domain had caused our weapons to become like this, and that was enough to explain why special swords like the demon-slaying sword were a must.
I sneaked a glance at Alicia. Her eyes were wide-open and were contracted into a diamond-shape and her dropped chin showed no signs of closing back up.
I guess I had achieved the intended goal.
“Seems that you knew about Alicia’s talents as well.”
The reason Lunia pretty much pin-pointed me was because she wanted to show this to Alicia. And likewise for me, this was about… half of my intended objective.
Both Lunia and I knew about Alicia’s trauma… or rather, her uniqueness.
“I will be staying in this city for a while. There is a business to take care of but in the meantime…”
– I will crush Alicia Arden.
She declared to me with a cold smile.
“Aren’t you her sister?”
“Yes. Because I am her older sister, I have the right to trample on Alicia. It is a rightful power given to me, her sister.”
What a gruesome fight between siblings.
It wasn’t a good turn of events for me.
Even if Alicia’s heart was to be crushed because of Lunia, Lunia wouldn’t join as a party member. She would only join if Alicia died.
If Lunia came out on top of the fight between siblings, both Alicia and Lunia would be eliminated from the main scenario with zero benefits. In other words, what I had to do was…
‘I have to complete Alicia’s Domain Severance.’
I had to trigger the trauma and her true nature that Alicia was in denial of, and awaken the True Alicia mode.
Naturally, there was no need to be in a hurry. In fact, it was a bad call to be in a hurry.
As soon as Alicia Arden completely acquired Domain Severance, that would lead to the concluding scenario between Alicia and Lunia. Lunia would immediately issue a fight between herself and Alicia using her power as the squad captain.
A fight with the Five Swords and a boss fight against Lunia Arden.
There was no way the current untrained Alicia without enough practice time would ever be able to defeat such illogically tough opponents.
It used to be a forced event back in the game, but there probably had to be a trigger now that this was the real world.
I could come up with two conditions.
- Alicia learning Domain Severance.
- Lunia hearing the news about Alicia successfully using Domain Severance.
Acquiring the killing move of Arden’s symbol of absolute power, Sword Emperor Garrand, would signify that Alicia had become a full-fledged successor candidate that could threaten Lunia’s position.
“Korin Lork. Full marks. You will also get some extra marks.”
I walked out of the arena. On the way, I found Alicia who was still drooling with her mouth still open.
Her concentration was at an absurdly unimaginable level.
She looked as if she was possessed by a ghost.
The professors of the Knight Department as well as the instructors that were invited from the outside were all dumbfounded from the scene before their eyes.
Even though Lunia Arden had gone up the stage as the instructor, they weren’t thinking of this as a chance to look at her real skills, because the students were far below where she was. However, what they saw went completely against their expectations.
The entire arena was in tatters. There was not a single place to stand on and there were craters everywhere.
They were awed by the half-demolished arena before their eyes.
As expected of the contemporary Sword Master that was said to be the next Sword Emperor in line; as expected of the ‘heroine’, her skills were far above the norm.
But what was more surprising was that her true skills had been forced out by a random Grade 5 student.
Their last attack was a horrifying scene for everyone that was walking down the path of martial arts.
It was something they could barely perceive, and upon seeing it, everyone realized that it was in a realm that they would never be able to reach even if they were to spend their entire life training.
They despaired at the face of overwhelming talent.
Although they were dumbstruck after seeing that outrageous battle, one of the knights soon came to himself and raised a doubt.
“Professor Fermack. Is that student really a Grade 5 Knight?”
“How is that possible! He fought on equal grounds with Lunia Arden!”
They were in a panic. Usually, the strength of a knight was determined by their Aura Rank and their aura capacity. A Grade 5 Knight should be below average on both aspects but if so, then what in the world was the thing that just happened in front of their very own eyes?
Unlike the professors and the invited instructors that were still in a panic, Old Man Haman quietly gazed at Korin who was walking down the stage.
‘He’s that student that was trying to touch the elemental body…’
Old Man Haman could still remember the reckless student who challenged what he couldn’t achieve. He was fond of that relentless spirit and had even given him meal tickets.
He never looked for him so Old Man Haman was under the impression that he had failed and definitely wasn’t expecting him to demonstrate something like this today.
That was already beyond the level of students. How many students in Merkarva Academy would be able to be compared to the Grade 5 Knight, Korin Lork?
The names Beazeker and Marie Dunareff appeared in his mind but Old Man Haman shook his head. Unlike them, Korin Lork and his talents were rather… different.
He felt like he had caught a glimpse into an extraordinary talent that couldn’t be explained with the likes of strength or aura. His talents were in the fathomable realm of the unknown.
Professor Fermack glared daggers at Korin Lork behind his sunglasses.
The afro-haired professor who was always carefree was flustered unlike his usual self. If not for his sunglasses, someone would have already noticed that something was wrong with him.
“How… is he using that person’s skills?”
His words failed to reach anyone’s ears and were buried under the deafening cheers of the crowd.
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