Chapter Twenty-five: Spear Force
She attacked, lunging so fast that he barely caught it. He spun on his right heel, expecting her to go past but she simply transitioned into a smooth side swing that threatened to bifurcate him. Valerian met that slash with the shaft of his spear, guarding hastily whilst attempting to make space. The two weapons met with a slight clang. Meeting some unexpected resistance, Valerian pushed at the spear shaft with left palm hoping to overpower her with his superior strength only to have her sword’s edge sink into the metal.
He did not think twice, pushing with his legs and beating his wings like a startled swan, he was off, flying backwards. Examining his spear, he was unsurprised to find that indeed, a notch had been cut into it. Two centimetres deeper and it would have cut clean through his spear shaft.
“Good sword!” he said in praise. It had to be a noble tiered artefact at least. One with a very keen edge. His mercurial orb might be fluid but when given solid form it was many times stronger and denser than refined steel.
Hue sighed and sheathed her sword. “You’re still not getting it!” she proclaimed. “It is the wielder, not the sword!”
The two of them were sparring, trying to get Valerian into the right mental state. Partly because Valerian did not know how to tell her that cultivating a state where his spear was ‘like a dragon’ was probably impossible for dragon eaters like himself. That notwithstanding, her rationale was correct. Bridging the gap between man and spear would solve many of his problems. Not to mention, finding a way to become [One with the Spear] would give him the spear force he so desired.
“Always!” she stressed. “To think otherwise is to abandon the right path. Like that swordsman you fought today. I’m sure you noticed how frazzled and unstable he initially was. The moment his sword was in his hand, however, he changed.”
“I did”, Valerian admitted. Onit had had a touch of insanity about him. “I am guessing there was something peculiar about that.”
“There was!” she stated. “He has cultivated wrongly. If he is not dissuaded from his current path, he will cease to be a sword cultivator and instead become a sword demon. I cannot be certain but I believe his sword is the damaged relic of a much more powerful cultivator. That cultivator’s sword will is already imprinted on the weapon and regrettably, its current wielder has lost control of it. He is not the one refining the sword. The sword is refining him into a facsimile of its original master.”
Valerian was taken aback by this. Swords could do that?
“You want to get better with your weapon?” the swordswoman asked. He nodded.
“Then remember, you wield the weapon and not the other way around. it is the instrument and you, the player. Your skill is not determined by your weapon but magnified by it. Their purpose is to help you display your insight into the dao but it is your insight and not the ability of the sword. For example, many initiates to the sword path focus on the sword’s ability to cut. They gain insight into what makes this possible; the sharpness of the blade, the force of the swing and such and enhance them. That is why their sword force always feels …’sharp’ for lack of a better word. That is what it does, enhance sharpness. It is that insight that allows them to slice and dice so well and not the blade itself.
Resting on his spear, he considered this for a few moments. “I think I understand!”
“You do?” Hue asked.
“YOU DO?” Wynna asked in shock.
Glancing at their faces, Valerian sighed. “I understand that I will never attain spear force or sword force or any other weapon force in particular. This is something I have suspected for quite some time but now I am certain.”
He took a long look at his spear and dispersed it, watching it flow back into his orb. “I cannot do it!”
Hue looked at Valerian keenly before opening her mouth. “Do you mind if I ask why?”
“You were right. I have practised with weapons for… it seems like forever now. I learned the forms, performed the drills and even had an affinity for some of the weapons; the mace and spear especially. I went through all the basics but was never able to progress further because to reach the advanced stages require you to attain [Union], [One with the Weapon] or whatever it is supposed to be called.
“‘All you need is a spark of insight, Valerian!’ my uncle would tell me. I believed him, for a time. But eventually, like most things I am not good at, I ignored it. That is until I went to Strapping’s. There I was put in charge of a team and there I had not one but three people each with some sort of weapon force; sword qi, lance qi, and knife qi. I was immediately convinced that the reason I never attained the state was because qi was more suited to it than arcane energy. My childhood, being characterised by issues with my qi, was the reason for my early failures so I tried again.
“You can already guess how that went?” he said with a laugh.
“Putting my pride aside, I approached a subordinate, James, the best weapon user in our squad, for advice. He told that becoming one with the sword required you to surrender yourself to your sword and to dedicate yourself to it. Those words stuck with me and that was when I began to have misgivings.
“James was a talented tellurian. His attribute was wind and in combat, he was capable of great things. He could attack with the wind, cut people up from afar, come and go like the breeze, float lightly on his feet, the works. That notwithstanding, he was incredibly restricted. He could do nothing without his sword. All his skills required one. Take away his sword and he would be left scrambling for a new weapon, anything he could use in place of a sword. Sure, he would talk big about sword cultivators that could fight with nothing but cut branches or even their fingers but in the end, those implements were just sword substitutes.”
“You are worried that cultivating a weapon would lock you into that path and that fear limits you!” Hue said accusingly.
Valerian did not deny this.
“I am an arcanist!” he said loudly for emphasis. “A good one. I am the greatest array master of my generation and I have never failed to master any spell or skill given to me. My perception and control of essence are recognised as top tier by everyone I have met. Sword and spears are good, no disrespect to you and others like you, but the things I can do…”
He waved his hand dismissively and a smattering of glyphs drawn directly from his mind appeared in the air like faerie lights.
“The wonders I can create! That I will learn to create…”
He raised his hand skyward and the wind responded, screaming as a vortex of wind touched down around them. Wynna ‘eeped’ and rushed to Hue’s side, staring outwards at the rushing winds. With a simple pulse of his arcane energy, Valerian seized control of the maelstrom. Calming it, he had it surround them harmlessly, doing little except whipping at their clothes.
“The powers at my disposal…
The hand that had been raised was shoved towards the ground, palm first and then wrenched away slowly and deliberately. Bright metallic essence erupted from the ground in a geyser of golden light. Only a timely application of essence prevented Hue’s jewellery from following suit. Controlling its rise, Valerian shaped this golden eruption into the form of a massive golden skeleton fifteen metres tall before letting the captive storm follow. The maelstrom rose over the skeleton transforming into a shroud of wind and then into the flesh of the giant so that a giant image of Valerian stood over the two girls as if looking down on the entire world.
A second eruption of golden essence came from the ground, this one rising into the air before clothing the giant in gold armour and forming enormous feathered wings on its back. Only then did Valerian release the array he had been preparing. The glyphs flew at the giant in formation and embedded themselves in his armour imbuing it with strength and power.
“My power is my own; innate, fostered, mastered and with it…
The giant’s aura changed, Valerian’s monarch intent blaring out from it. It came to life. No longer a mere sculpture but seemingly a living giant. Its gaze became more focused and its muscles twitched in anticipation. It was The King Who Conquered, possessed of might unstoppable and boundless power imposing a forceful will on the world; Fall in line or fall before me!
“…with it there is nothing… NOTHING, I cannot do!”
Hue stared unblinkingly at the youth in front of her. Her eyes flickered upwards to the giant that loomed over him before falling back on him. She had never seen anything like it. He did not even look winded. The amount of essence it took should have been beyond most first tiers, enough that he should be passed out on the floor. She had thought only people like Wynna could do things like this and even she lacked the control and artistic grace that it would require. The display of power was stunning, to say the least. She doubted he had set out to intimidate her but… even he should know how this could be interpreted. Nevertheless, when next her mouth opened, the only words to tumble out were,
“And yet you cannot become [One with the Spear]!”
To her surprise, he replied, “Yes! But do I need to?”
The question threw her for a loop at first, until she realised that it was directed at himself.
“You cannot bear the thought that there is something beyond your grasp!” she realised.
“Yes”, came the simple answer.
“Had I been the one to abandon the path of a spear cultivator it would be different. Different because I chose not to. Being declared inept is another thing altogether. Why can others do it and I, not? No one is better than me. The very idea is something I reject on the fundamental level. I have no betters!” Valerian groundout.
“But?” she asked. “There is a but, isn’t there?”
“The more I learn of this path the more I realise what it entails. The dedication, practice, insight, dangers. To become a true spear cultivator, I must be willing to live with the spear. I will have to abandon other weapons and focus on it. I will need to search constantly for insight into the path. Worse, I will need to think in terms of the spear. My aura, essence and body will bear the mark and way of the spear. In practice, I virtually need to become a spear myself but of course, not too much like a spear or I will fall off the path and become a demon.”
“I don’t understand!” Hue said in confusion.
“I do!” Wynna said, speaking up. “You both want and fear to become a spear cultivator!”
Nodding, Valerian told them, “My power is grounded in versatility. Forget my speed, strength and essence reserves. It is my mastery of my essence that gives me my edge. As mentioned earlier, I can wield spells of incredible power, create marvels and possess insight in half a dozen fields. Reaching this far was … hard-won to say the least. I would never give it up to master a weapon. No weapon is worth that much.”
“There are cultivators who do both. Many famous sword cultivators are also masters of alchemy or artificing”, Hue tried to point out.
“Please”, Valerian spat. “Spare me the jokes. Few among them can be considered preeminent in their fields. Do you not think it telling that to succeed at anything else they have to remove themselves from all disciplines that require the direct manipulation of essence? Even worse their combat and spiritual potential remain restricted to their weapons of choice.”
“I am not saying that their path is wrong or that it is inferior”, Valerian told the swordswoman. “Far from it! They are powerhouses, are they not? Their chosen path suits them. However, it does not suit me. I willing to concede this now.”
There was silence for a few minutes as everyone digested these words. Valerian was not exempt. The impact of what he had just said was slowly dawning on him. He was giving up on having mainstay weapons. The idea of him giving up something because of the challenge involved would have been inconceivable to him a few months ago and yet here he was doing so of his own volition.
“Thank you!” he said to Hue with gratitude. Her lips quivered but nothing came forth. She was unsure what to say in response. She was not even sure what she was being thanked for.
“What now?” Wynna asked in her place, her eyes unexpectedly curious. Hue glanced at her friend. The fire attributed arcanist was never very comfortable around others. There was not much to go on but she was able to sense a distinct change in how her friend addressed their new colleague.
“Now…?” Valerian began, puzzling it out before he spoke. “Now, I return to what I was doing before you came. I will not cultivate my weapon but I will continue to use it. My power springs from my spells and that is the purpose my spear will serve. Spells are my weapons. The spear is just an implement and if I fail to integrate it into my modus I will toss it aside.”
Realisation dawn on his face and caused him to laugh. “It is funny. I once had a mace shaped focus. It was good. I will hark back to those days.”
“Meaning?” Hue asked.
“Simple, I will bombard my enemies with spells and anyone who gets too close gets a good bone-breaking smack or a spear in the gut”, he said with a smile. “Brute force for the win.”
Smiles went all around. Hue could even picture it in her head, Valerian swinging his spear like a bat and sending his opponents flying.
“You know”, she began. “I think I can help with that. Are you averse to changing weapons?”
Curiosity peaked, Valerian asked, “What do you have in mind?”
“The spear is not very suited to someone of your strength. I’m thinking a halberd or poleaxe will be better. The anti-armour potential alone and the force of the strikes you can do…”
There are going to be some people upset with about Valerian’s path. Ever since the debut of his old mace, I have had people suggesting weapons and sword daos. Truth be told, I never had such a thing in mind for Valerian. The mace and mercurial orb, in particular, should have made that clear. They are all arcane foci.
Combat wise, Valerian is a battle mage. He rains spells down on his enemies, choosing sheer damage potential and AOE effects. His qi is there for mobility, defence, more offence ([Cascading Fists] anyone) and of course, monolithic and peng techniques. I aim to preserve his power and versatility but let it be known that Valerian is not out to master or learn any weapon dao. If he uses one it is because he wants an amplifier or something to knock someone over the head with, not to perform super ultra mega sword moves.
The boy’s got super strength, super speed, divine lineage, magic, genuis IQ, an alternate ghostly daemonic self, more blood magic. Valerian is plenty super and SUPERMAN DON’T NEED NO SWORD! (Yes I know there was a sword of superman in the 70s. It was a bad idea)