༺ The Lord Is With Us (4) ༻
A phenomenon in which one’s concentration reached its peak, heightening all the senses to the point time seemed to slow down. Even the slightest change in the air felt strangely palpable.
It was also known as the “Swordsman’s Time” by the elites who enjoyed close combat while surpassing the fine line between life and death. Just by the name, it was clear that many of those who have experienced this phenomenon were swordsmen.
Yuren, who was among those elites, began to feel the world around him slowing down.
A haunting glow flashed from his sword as it left a silver line from its sheath and straight towards Ian. It was a swift attack that shouldn’t have been possible to react to even if one were to divide the time into fractions of a second.
However, Yuren knew.
He had been spotted.
Before he knew it, Ian’s golden eyes were trained on his sword, and within the frozen time, only those eyes seemed to be moving.
Ian’s mood completely shifted from the leisurely calm he had while drinking tea. Flinging the teacup into the air, he struck back violently.
The silver flash was met with another blade, sending sparks through the air.
The resulting impact caused Yuren’s sword to bounce back.
Yuren’s eyes widened in shock.
Even though he had struck first, the man had been able to react. It should have been impossible with the level of skill Ian normally showed.
However, Ian hadn’t just deflected his sword with ease, he had also drawn his hatchet in that short timeframe.
Yuren, having no idea what Ian’s next action might be, struggled to formulate a plan.
But Ian’s intentions were quickly revealed.
Without a hint of hesitation, Ian’s hatchet decisively cleaved through the table.
The remains of the wooden table collapsed into rubble as splinters of wood flew everywhere, causing Yuren to instinctively maneuvered away to avoid the debris.
It was a mistake.
Like a beast that had spotted its prey, Ian ferociously rushed forward. In that instant, Ian had sheathed his sword, keeping only his hatchet in hand.
Using a short-range weapon in combat was normally suicidal as having longer reach was almost always advantageous in any fight.
There was just one exception to that rule.
That was, if the distance between the combatants was too narrow.
Yuren immediately tried to increase the distance between them, but it was too late.
The hatchet was a weapon that exchanged range for speed.
Ian sliced through the air like a seasoned conductor, creating a melody from the dissonant sounds of clashing metal.
And within that melody, Yuren was forced to only parry.
It felt as though he was fighting an unnatural force. They had only clashed twice, but it was clear that he was at a disadvantage.
Unless something changed, he would be quickly defeated as it was already becoming increasingly difficult to block Ian’s attacks.
He hesitated, wondering if he should give up his sword.
At that moment, the Saintess’ voice rang out, and a pure white radiance wrapped around his body while simultaneously augmenting his physical strength.
A glimmer of delight flashed in his eyes. This was precisely what he needed.
With his enhanced specs and increased perception, he was able to see openings in-between Ian’s rhythmic strikes.
Yuren started moving with incomparable agility.
He dodged backwards to gain distance, and once he was sufficiently far away, he braced his foot against the ground.
A flash of silver flew in a straight line as his blade tore through space with terrifying speed.
It was a strike made possible by sudden acceleration.
He thought Ian wouldn’t be able to react to the strike, not when it was almost twice as fast as usual.
‘This will hit.’
Yuren stepped forward with certainty.
However, his sword only sliced through empty air.
Ian had twisted sideways, dodging as the sword breezed past.
Yuren was unable to comprehend what had just happened. The sword had already reached Ian by the time Ian took his stance. It should have been too late for Ian to evade. However, it was as if space itself had distorted, causing the sword to miss.
Although he was confused, there was little time for him to ponder over the missed strike.
He grit his teeth and raised his sword diagonally while simultaneously pivoting off his foot in his unstable position.
Sparkle flew and the sound of clashing blades resounded once more.
Ian’s eyes remained calm without a speck of nervousness while swinging his hatchet. It was almost as if he were merely striking down a helpless animal.
However, Yuren wasn’t such an easy opponent. The moment their weapons clashed, he used his momentum to spin his body around.
And from that exchange, he was certain—He was physically stronger than Ian. Even when he struck from an unstable position, he wasn’t pushed back by Ian’s sword. Needless to say, that meant Ian wouldn’t be able to endure a proper blow.
Yuren’s eyes glowed fiercely.
After regaining his footing, Yuren attempted to slash horizontally.
Or so he would have, if not for Ian’s hatchet barreling towards him from the side. If he didn’t block the hatchet, his head was sure to be split apart.
Defending came first.
But as he firmly held his sword to defend against the incoming hatchet, a loud, audible crack echoed through the air.
Yuren’s eyes widened in astonishment, seeing Ian’s hatchet embedded in his shoulder.
It was an impossible feat.
The hatchet that was slicing horizontally had somehow vertically cleaved through his shoulder.
It was a move that defied conventional physics.
At that moment, a name flashed through Yuren’s mind.
He had a vested interest in swordsmanship, and as such, had familiarized himself with the continent’s various sword techniques.
He attempted to utter its name as he groaned.
“Sword Cir- Argh!”
But before he could, the hatchet soared through the air and cut into his other shoulder. Unable to endure the pain, Yuren screamed and collapsed onto the ground.
Blood gushed from both his shoulders. With both shoulders shattered, he was rendered unable to fight.
The battle should have ended there in Ian’s victory.
If it weren’t for the sudden attack from behind. A fist wrapped in holy power shot forth with unbelievable speed.
The Saintess had launched a surprise attack.
Though it was kept a secret, the Saintess was versed in the Church’s martial arts. Just by augmenting her body with holy power, she had enough strength to overwhelm most swordsmen. And by integrating her holy techniques into her martial arts, her anti-personnel skills were elevated to the next level, unable to be underestimated by anyone.
Yet, Ian, as if already aware of her surprise attack, tilted his head and easily evaded the enhanced fist.
The Saintess followed up with consecutive attacks, but Ian stood still, not even bothering to dodge.
An object was aimed at her back.
It was the teacup that Ian had tossed into the air at the start of the battle. It had taken a peculiar trajectory, flying towards the Saintess’ head.
Before she could land any hits, surprise flashed through her eyes at the new variable, causing her to make a foolish decision stemming from her lack of practical experience.
With a crash, the teacup burst in mid-air, splashing tea everywhere.
The Saintess had absentmindedly knocked the teacup away with her fist.
She immediately readjusted her stance to continue her assault, but in the next moment, her world flipped upside down.
Ian had taken that small window to yank her by the arm before throwing her over his shoulder.
Of all the martial arts on the continent, there was only one that could allow its user to instantaneously dig deep into the opponent’s space.
‘Moon Reversal’, a secret technique of the Church.
The Saintess’ body collided with the marble floor, causing a shockwave to spread out.
A pained groan involuntarily escaped her lips, but Ian’s offensive didn’t stop there.
He smoothly twisted her arm, flipping her around before pinning her against the ground. With her arm bent behind her back, the Saintess was powerless to resist.
Although there were many martial arts specialized in subduing the opponent, this particular set of movements seemed all too familiar. Like the previous technique, it was a part of the Church’s secret martial arts.
However, the fact that outsiders should have been unable to learn these techniques caused her to glare at her subduer incredulously.
“W-Who… are you?”
The Saintess asked as she struggled to catch her breath.
Faced with her question, Ian briefly pondered silently, his eyes still calm and unwavering.
Then, his impassive eyes darted to the side, then back to the Saintess—Unwavering gold faced the trembling pink.
In the next moment, a crack echoed through the air as a pained scream quickly followed.
He’d dislocated her arm.
The Saintess, with her shoulder joint completely obliterated, groaned and writhed on the ground.
Then, she glared at him while biting down on her lips to endure the pain.
Witnessing the brutality, bloodlust welled in Yuren’s eyes.
“Sister! Ian, you damned bastard……!”
“Shut up if you don’t want me to break her legs.”
Faced with Ian’s threat, he could only grit his teeth in silence while enduring the surging anger.
Ian walked back to the chair he had originally sat in, and as he sat down, he callously looked down at the Saintess.
A subtle fear took root in her eyes.
There was no hesitation in the man’s actions.
Severe punishment was unavoidable for those who committed violence – especially against a woman, and even more so against an influential member of the Church.
However, the man didn’t seem to care. He had immediately snapped her arm the moment without a second thought.
For the girl who had become accustomed to her position as the “Saintess”, an emotion she hadn’t felt in a long time started to pervade her entire being.
However, even as she fearfully turned her shocked gaze to him, the man’s expression remained stoic.
He simply spoke with weary eyes.
After a brief moment of contemplation, she recalled the question she had asked him.
It was his response to her “Who are you?”
Although it was technically a correct response, it was simultaneously so tactless that she couldn’t help but stifle a bitter laugh.
She didn’t dare to say it out loud and only cursed him in her mind.
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