After class, rumors about the fight spread like wildfire.
If I’d know that I’d break my promise to Cain this easily… Joshua grinned and drummed on the table with his fingers. If I hadn’t made it, Cain wouldn’t be so worried about his lousy master.
Joshua had lived half a century, including his past life, but it felt like he was becoming more childish every day. It matched his body.
I’m more annoyed that they’re ignoring the spear than that they’re ignoring me. When he’d become a Master, no one was able to talk shit about the spear. However, he had to deal with their constant criticism and humiliation until then. He’d spent so long ignoring them that it all blurred together.
No… Hearing someone belittle the spear always makes my blood boil, no matter my age.
“Ash… it’s not too late to back out.”
Joshua turned to face Icarus.
“Could you stop saying that, please?”
“I’m sorry, but I’ll be frank.” Icarus’s expression hardened. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you won’t be able to beat Amaru. Even if he doesn’t win the spar, you can’t escape the wrath of the Stens. Please don’t challenge him over the rapier.”
“Don’t worry: I alone am enough to bring them down.”
Icarus eyed Joshua like he’d gone insane.
“Young Master Ash! You ought to worry about yourself first! Can’t you see how worried we are about you? Can’t you see we’re trying to save you?” Icarus knew that he and Amaru were the only people worried about Ash—Ash himself certainly wasn’t concerned about his life.
“Ah…” Agareth gave Joshua the puppy-eyes again. Joshua carefully tucked the memory into a special place in his brain.
“If you’re aiming to change this place, it’s doomed to failure. You can’t change this place on your own!”
“I can’t?” Joshua’s eyes gleamed. “Is that what you think?”
“No, I mean—” Icarus stared at Joshua and then shook his head. “I apologize, that’s irrelevant. The issue at hand is more important, Young Master Ash.”
“You know what?” Joshua pointed at Icarus. “I enjoy betting… a lot.”
“So let’s make a bet. We’ll bet on this… craziness, shall we? If I survive this match without a hitch, or unscathed, or whatever you want to call it, then I win.”
“You really— You want to gamble in this situation!?”
“And the loser owes the other person a request.”
“Um….” Icarus eyed him. “For the record, my goal is to stop you from fighting. Now you’re telling me that you losing is supposed to be a win for me?
“That aside, I already know what I’d ask for if I won the bet—but I’m too afraid to say it.”
“I never considered that.”
Icarus gaped at Joshua. What the hell does his confidence come from?
Icarus wanted to tell Ash that he was about to go down like the Frederick household did, but Icarus knew that Ash wouldn’t take it well.
“Ah, wouldn’t it be fun?”
Icarus whirled around to face the voice coming from the other side of the room.
“Can I join in on this wager?” Agareth has abandoned his serious face and sported a manic, ear-to-ear grin.
“Young Master Agareth!”
“No, hear me out, Icarus. There’s no other way out of this. Ash here couldn’t possibly let it go; even if he got an apology, he’s not nice enough to forgive and forget.”
“I see you’re still unconvinced. Look at it this way: Amaru wouldn’t settle for anything less than a beatdown no matter how far Ash ran.
“Anyways, Instructor Kane will be officiating. Let them break each others’ limbs—maybe we’ll get something good out of our bet.” Agareth turned to face Joshua. “‘Course, I’m betting on Amaru.”
“Whatever floats your boat.” Joshua flashed him a smile.
Swordsmanship practice is typically held at the large gymnasium in the middle of the Academy. At the moment, it was packed with thousands of students eagerly awaiting the fight.
“Was your brain working properly? Or did you lose it after you fled?” Amaru smirked at Joshua.
Amaru’s voice was loud enough for the audience to hear, to their vocal amusement.
“I admire your courage… You actually came back in this state. But what you said about that ‘garbage’ weapon is not good, I must say, not good. If you disappear like this…” Amaru looked towards Kane, standing in the middle of the gymnasium, then looked back at Joshua and laughed. “Don’t be arrogant now; go get a real weapon. You’ll hurt yourself if you use the wrong weapon.”
Joshua tightened his grip on the stick he was holding rather than responding to Amaru’s taunts. No one could see it, but Joshua was going through a transition. He stared down at his hands, pondering the art of spearmanship and the 3rd-grade Magic Spear Arts he’d recently learned.
He knew he could handily overcome anyone’s swordsmanship with his spear alone. Joshua wasn’t being humble—he could beat Amaru with brute force.
Once again, I will show the world how great it is to wield the spear.
Joshua began to review his fundamentals. Every martial arts style was distinct: Duke Agnus’s swordsmanship hinged on the power of his immense bulk, while the Sten’s style carried a flowing elegance and produced endless variations.
Soft beats strong, fast beats soft, heavy beats fast, and strong itself beats strong. Based on this logic, you might think that Count Sten would beat Duke Agnus—but that was nonsense. That battle would be trivial for an Absolute like Duke Agnus.
There were few such exceptions, however. The logic held for the vast majority of people, and it was critical for achieving victory. Thus, how should Joshua approach this fight? What kind of technique would counter his opponent?
Joshua cheerfully hefted his stick. He’d never used it before, but he quite liked the way it looked. It rather resembled his Lugia.
Swords were suited to many people, but spears were robust and heavy and generally difficult to wield in battle. The advantage of the spear, however, was its versatility. Until mana became an established resource in Igrant, the lance was a knight’s primary weapon.
I’ve always been looking towards the next milestone while I run. But when I get over one wall, there’s always another one a thousand times taller. I can’t stop running.
There was no end in sight to this spear. He believed that because he’d mastered the art of magic.
I’ve sprinted all the way to the front, hoping to see the finish line, but it’s all turned into poison.
Joshua, you idiot. There’s nothing more important than basics and initiative. If I’ve forgotten that, then of course I still have a long way to go.
Joshua realized that he’d lost track of the basics after wielding the spear for so long. His memories from his past life were obscuring the path to his future.
“Prepare to fight!” Amaru grit his teeth and stomped forward. “Do your best, you fucking bastard.”
Joshua stood with his eyes closed as if ignoring Amaru.
“If that’s your wish… I’ll crush you like this!” Amaru pushed off the ground, rushing forwards. His thin eyes glimmered with a cold light.
Joshua’s instincts told him that his opponent was approaching fast. The audience might call it a thunderous speed, but Joshua felt otherwise: it felt like time was passing slower as if one second was stretched into a million. There was a long, painful wait while Amaru approached.
Joshua blinked his eyes open expectantly.
“What are you talking abou—”
Amaru’s inquiry was cut short by a bright ray of light striking his abdomen.
The gymnasium was held in a peaceful silence while the audience tried to figure out why Amaru’s violent advance had come to a dead halt.
“Amaru.” Even Kane couldn’t hide his perplexed expression. “What are you do—”
Amaru let out a pained scream and collapsed before the disbelieving eyes of the students.
Only one person looked happy.
Pleasure above pleasure, pleasure beyond pleasure. Making the opponent bleed was a pleasure his opponent couldn’t even understand.
Joshua’s grip tightened, crushing the stick in his hand.
Even in his past life, he’d never attained this skill.
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