A swift spear stabbed through the air hoping to meet its mark. Although it was a lower quality spear meant for training, it was no less threatening, having been enhanced by a layer of hard mana.
Prior to the sparring session, I had stopped and warned Wen Zhi to choose a different weapon if he valued his current one.
“Why would I need to do that? You’re not scared of my Divine Might Fiery Spear, are you?” He looked at me strangely. I inwardly chuckled at the peculiar name.
“Not at all. But I don’t want you regretting it later.” I looked over at Ludmila, who went to grab a random weapon nearby.
Hurtling a sword towards me, I swung my knife at the rotating weapon in the air as it flew by. Moments later, the sword clattered to the ground before neatly splitting into two. My cut had been so sharp that it had barely shifted the trajectory of the flying sword.
Taking note of that, Wen Zhi played it safe and grabbed a spear on the wall. That hardly affected his performance though. In fact, I had been struggling to keep up with his attacks even with the subpar weapon. My opponent also felt that something was off as we continued to exchange light blows.
“Hey, what gives? You were a lot better last time. I’m not feeling any pressure from you at all!”
Wen Lu watched the battle from the side carefully. “It’s true. Your attacks on us from before were heavy and thick with mana. Why are you holding back?”
“It’s not that he’s holding back. It’s that he’s not burning himself out,” Lau interjected.
Wen Zhi and I paused for a moment. I thought about what the difference was. Recalling that fight, I had felt a strong rush of mana coursing through me after I had tapped a point to reverse my paralysis. My hand hovered over the pressure point that I had tapped, hoping that it wasn’t a fluke. As soon as my index finger jabbed into it with a pulse of mana, I once again felt that rush of power flowing through me. My mana flared to the tips of my appendages, and I could feel my senses sharpening.
“The ‘Divine Mana Gate’! How do you know about that!” Wen Zhi’s jaw dropped in surprise. All eyes in the room drifted to Lau, who waved off their suspicions.
“Not me. I have no clue what you are talking about.” He had a blank look on his face.
“Then how?! That mana point is a secret held by the Mitsubishi holy family! A normal person shouldn’t be able to activate it so easily!”
“Wen Zhi! Watch your words. We do not know who may be listening,” Kaguya interrupted him. “However, it has already been revealed to those in this room. But refrain yourself next time.”
With a look of glee, Wen Zhi made a similar motion as me and poked himself in the abdomen. Just like for me, the mana around him flared up as well. He beckoned me to continue the spar once again.
I rushed in, my senses feeling clearer and sharper than before. However, Wen Zhi’s movements had become faster as well. As our weapons clashed with each other, our high-paced dance of swinging and dodging had become quite the sight to behold.
Several strikes nicked at our bodies, but the thick aura of mana blunted their blows. It looked like a match where neither side could gain an advantage, as our attacks failed to cause each other to budge. Yet, several of the onlookers could tell that there was a distinct difference between our capabilities.
Wen Zhi was naturally faster and stronger, likely having trained in this world for much longer. The expertise that he held his spear made it difficult to land a solid blow on him. His movements were deliberate and focused, following a rhythm of his own design.
In contrast, I felt like an amateur in martial arts. Despite that, several of my strikes were able to throw off Wen Zhi’s rhythm on occasion. Part of this was because he couldn’t predict an amateur’s attack pattern as well. As for the other reason, each one of my blows carried a scary edge to them.
Since Wen Zhi was no longer using his Heaven Aura Protection, which relied on his massive Def stat, the clash of auras came down to the strength of one’s mana. However, even mana had weak points in its flow, something that was normally compensated to a certain extent by the user’s control. Yet, my attacks were tearing away Wen Zhi’s mana shield much easier than he expected. It appeared that my normal method of seeking weak points had extended to that of penetrating the weaker mana flow.
As a result, Wen Zhi’s approach required more caution compared to mine. A stray blow from me held much more influence than his own. A direct attack could even greatly injure him.
At least…That is what he was led to believe. I had conveniently left out the fact that I refused to cut people normally, even if it tore through his mana shield and slashed his weapon and armor.
‘There was no way that I’d let him know a weakness as exploitable as that!’
Instead, I had focused on blowing away his defenses before reaching in for a follow-up attack that struck his pressure points. Whether it was another swing of the knife or a touch of the finger, I just needed to send a pulse of mana to incapacitate him.
Despite the possibility of a one-hit-KO in my toolbox, Wen Zhi wasn’t giving me any chance to pull it off. As if understanding my intentions, he kept his guard fluid and continued to strike with blows that tested my movements.
Many minutes passed since we started this clash of mana-enhanced combat. Off to the side, Wen Lu breathed a sigh of relief and looked to his master. “Looks like it has been decided. Mr. Claude may need some help afterwards.”
With a smile, Kaguya left the room. Wen Lu turned his attention back to the fight. The others in the room, not understanding why the outcome had been determined, watched the two fighters more closely. Neiya was the first to widen her eyes, having figured it out.
In the meantime, my eyes were still searching intently for some opening to exploit. Though I could cleave his mana shield away, Wen Zhi would force his mana to flow quickly back, filling in the void that I had created. I was quite frustrating to see the mana shield ebb away only for it to come roaring back in a blink of the eye. This was a stark difference from the mana shields magicians of SIstina wielded that crumbled after a strong impact. The speed of this regeneration was on another level.
However, that just meant that I had to be faster. Seeing a particularly strong slash create a larger opening in his mana shield, I dropped the knife that I had in my hand midswing and quickly reached forward. There was no time to follow up with the other hand as I had tried before.
With a look of panic, Wen Zhi shifted the handle of his spear to block my hand. My fingers traced across the surface of the wood, instinctively feeling a dip in resistance along its length. With a slight flick, my mana tore through a Mana Grain, snapping the handle in his hands.
His hasty reaction had interrupted the regeneration of his mana shield. Therefore, I had just enough time to bring that same hand downward towards his chest. As soon as my hand met his body, he would already be…
My vision went black suddenly. Like someone had flipped a switch that controlled my body, I could barely feel myself as I hit the ground.
‘What had happened?’
“Mana burnout. Or in short, the mana in your body has been completely expended.” Kaguya returned at that moment, holding a vial in her hand. “Typically, one’s body gives off warning signs when running low on mana. You become weakened and groggy, having to force yourself to continue. However, activation of the ‘Divine Mana Gate’ bypasses that. The mana in your body is forced out and expended. I’m surprised that you are using it without the proper training.”
Kaguya gently lifted my head and poured a liquid into my mouth. If I could move at that moment, I would’ve coughed as a sudden taste of woody spice hit my tongue. Yet, I was helpless as the mysterious, but somehow familiar, liquid flowed down my throat and chills ran down my spine from the taste.
After about a minute, a strange sensation could be felt around me. As if pores in my body opened up, I felt like a sponge that was sucking up something in the air around me.
“Good. Your complexion is improving already. You should be fine after absorbing the ambient mana in the surroundings.” Kaguya’s gentle voice caressed my ear.
My eyes popped open, and the feeling of my muscles started responding once again. Slowly, I shifted into a sitting position while my eyes remained plastered on her form.
“Thanks. Was that a recovery potion that you gave me?”
“It was a personal brew of mine, infused to give you a boost in mana recovery.”
“You made this? It has an interesting flavor to it, almost like… cinnamon?”
“You seem to have a good tongue, essential for a chef, no doubt. Yes, the main ingredient is indeed cinnamon. By enhancing it with mana, a potion can be created to counteract the effects of mana burnout.”
I had tried enhancing some of the herbal remedies I bought before, but it had turned out tasting awful. However, most of those had tasted like disgusting medicine in the first place. Why had I not thought of using the spices that I had been familiar with? Even the commonplace additives in the typical household held some medicinal properties when used properly. I smacked myself in the head for this oversight.
“Hey, Lady Kaguya. You wouldn’t happen to be a skilled alchemist or apothecary, would you?”
“I know a few things since it is my hobby, but I was taught by some of the best teachers in the country. Why do you ask?”
I dramatically kowtowed in front of her, drawing some looks of surprise. “Lady Kaguya, this humble chef requests that you impart some knowledge of your abilities. I need your help to take my cooking to the next level!”
“You certainly are a strange one, Knight Claude Evers. To prioritize such a thing as a summoned Electi over fighting prowess. Though, who am I to judge the success of others? Very well, if it would help your abilities, then I would not mind. However, I am more intrigued to know how you learned of the Divine Mana Gate activation point. No one outside of the Mitsubishi family and its retainers should know about this.”
I wasn’t sure where to begin with that. It seemed strange to tell her that I had happened upon that effect by chance, simply because I struck a pressure point of healing that I recalled from my mother’s teachings.
“My mother in the previous world is a doctor that specializes in natural healing and herbal remedies, things like acupuncture and Yuan Shi Dian1.” That seemed like the best way to phrase it.
Wen Lu and Wen Zhi raised their eyebrows at that. It seemed like they understood what I was talking about. The others, though, had no clue about the terms that I had thrown out. I continued my explanation with the fact that I had tried the pressure points based on this knowledge and coincidentally got more than I bargained for.
“Let me get this straight. You used modern knowledge of Eastern medicine on yourself, and by a stroke of luck, you managed to activate one of the most difficult ‘Gates’?” Wen Lu gave me a strange look as I nonchalantly nodded ‘yes.’
“The same ‘Gate’ that took us years to master? What kind of farce is this?” Wen Lu looked flustered. And here, I had believed that he was the calm, collected one. I didn’t know it until later, but he had the tendency to get heated up when things outside of reason were presented to him.
“If you would allow me to interject, I do believe that many of the understandings in our previous worlds do translate to this one in some shape or form. The intended results though may vary. Not to mention, Claude-boy’s Crit skill seems to allow for the maximum effect to happen.” Lau spoke up in my defense.
“A truly worthwhile science to understand,” added Katsys.
“If that is true, then I shall gladly offer Wen Zhi as a guinea pig.” Wen Lu smirked.
“You’ll do what now?!” Wen Zhi tried to jab his brother with the butt of his spear, but it was dodged.
“It appears that we have much to learn from each other. I will approve.” Kaguya covered her grinning mouth. Wen Zhi was left speechless at his master’s willingness to sacrifice him.
“Come on. It’ll be for a good cause.” I placed a hand on his shoulder. A strange glint appeared in my eye. He turned to me with a look of panic.
“AWWW HELLLLL NO!”
1 Yuan Shi Dian, also known as Origin Point Medicine, is a Chinese medical technique that traces meridian points along the body from the injury location. It is believed that massaging and healing those meridian points branching to the injury will promote natural accelerated healing.