Chapter Twenty-three: The Sword Fury
“Where is he?” Onit yelled.
The sword at his feet thrummed in response to its master’s agitation. He had come flying as soon as he heard. Upon arrival at the arena, however, he found no one who was willing to meet his eyes.
“Where is he? Where is the one who hurt my girlfriend?” he screamed.
The wise ones kept their mouths shut and their noses clean. They pretended to mind other business in favour of not getting caught in the middle of what was to come. Conversely, there were others who had been looking forward to this. They grinned and rubbed their hands together in expectation as they stared at Valerian, wondering how he was going to deal with this. It was these gazes that let Onit track down his target.
“YOU!” He yelled at Valerian. “YOU ARE THE ONE RESPONSIBLE!”
To everyone’s surprise, the cobalt armoured youth simply asked. “I’m sorry, may I know what you are accusing me of?”
“You’re the bastard who hurt Bryella!” he screamed flying into Valerian’s personal space. For a moment, it looked like he was going to punch him. His eyes were nearly bloodshot.
Adopting one of Grandfather’s thinking poses, Valerian asked, “I take it she was one of today’s prospective challengers?”
“If so, she knew the risks”, he added.
“Shit!” someone said. “Onit is going to kill him!”
“ShhhHHH!” someone else hissed.
Everyone watched with eyes peeled as the youth on the flying sword trembled with barely contained rage. “That’s all you have to say? You broke four of her ribs, hurt her lungs and damaged her spine and that’s all you have to say?”
Valerian stared at the hovering youth. While he had no idea who this Bryella was, her injuries sounded bad. He made sure not attack anyone who buckled under his blows or showed signs of being wounded but some of them had simply been too weak. As much as he could sympathise with the boyfriend’s feelings, he could not afford to capitulate at this point. It would render all his previous work void.
“I’m confused”, he stated. “What is it you expect from me? Your girlfriend was the one who issued the challenge and confronted someone beyond her capabilities.”
Onit did not bother to answer, he fell lightly to the ground, his sword leaving his feet and slipping into his hand. “Stand up and draw your weapon!” he yelled, pointing his own at Valerian.
Many in the audience already expecting and hoping for this outcome, yelled in triumph. The sword-wielding youth was famous for his quick temper, his sword skills and his sense of justice, in that order. Already, the aura of righteous fury that had become his signature trait was exuding from his body. His previously angry distraught state was gone as if smoothed away. All that could be seen was a cold sharpness and a will to fight.
Valerian turned to his companions. Heidi immediately turned away. Her attitude plainly saying that he brought this mess on himself. She was not going to have anything do with it He was on his own. Sweetrot was similar in that he was already readying himself to follow the coming action, not join. It was only Hue who offered an opinion.
“His sword…” she said softly. “It’s strong! Perhaps this is a battle I should take on.”
“No need!” Valerian said, satisfied that he at least had some support.
“What do you hope to accomplish by this action?” he asked Onit.
“You are a brute who beats up women. Today I will show you your place!” the angry boyfriend promised.
“You wish to challenge me?” Valerian asked for confirmation sake.
Onit sneered. “Don’t flatter yourself. I am here to beat you down and resolve grievances, nothing more.”
“That so?” Valerian smiled. “You may leave then. I am only accepting challenges this week. You may, however, send me a gauntlet when this is done.”
Onit looked like he had been slapped. “You would insult me?” he asked, his sword falling to his side.
In response, Valerian simply stated, “If you have not come with a challenge please leave, we are quite busy here!”
Onit spat in front of him. “Scared? What’s the matter, you can beat women easily but baulk at the site of a man with a sword. To think I was going to dirty my sword with your blood.”
Valerian stared him down, his own voice growing louder, “Just cause you dragged yourself in front of me does not mean I need to waste my time with you. You can say whatever you want, at least your girlfriend, weak as she was, had enough courage to issue a challenge.”
You could hear a pin drop in the silence that followed. Everyone watched with bated breaths to see how things would unfold. They did not have to wait long, Onit was unable to restrain himself for long.
“Your name is Steelborn, correct?” he said in a dark tone. “I am here to challenge you!”
Valerian laughed victoriously, inflaming him further. “You might have forced yourself to grow a pair but I am sorry, only metal cultivators may challenge me.”
Onit did not speak. A clear metallic sound rang out instead as his aura came out in full force. The show only caused his adversary’s smile to widen. Valerian could sense his attribute. He was just twisting the nail further, making use of the opportunity to assert control.
When Onit finally opened his mouth to speak “I am going to take pleasure in cutting you to pieces!” was all he said.
The arena was in chaos, people were rushing over from classes and dormitories. The news had gone out. Onit ‘Sword Fury’ was going to fight Valerian Steelborn. At first, not many knew who Valerian was but they learned. He was Lady Bloodworth’s first apprentice. Earlier, he had grown sick of being forced to fight weaklings he wiped out all the challengers with a single attack and called out the big names among the first and second years. As if this was not enough, he severely injured Onit’s girlfriend. Now, the Sword Fury was out for vengeance.
“Draw your weapon!” Onit demanded.
Humouring him, Valerian reached behind him and pulled a spear from his mercurial orb. That was all his opponent needed to start. There was a flash of grey as an arc of sword qi flew towards him. Stepping forward, he met it with his spear dispersing it harmlessly with a single swing. It was a distraction, Onit had already circled behind him. His sword stabbed through a surprised Valerian, its point coming out his chest. A few in the audience screamed at the brutal deathblow only to look foolish when ‘Valerian’ faded away revealing itself to be an afterimage.
The real Valerian fell out of the sky, spearpoint first and fully transformed. He stabbed through Onit with such force that he cracked the ground where the swordsman had stood. As the after image faded, several arcs of sword qi flew at Valerian. He ignored them, flying past them and attacking Onit himself. The swordsman was quite skilled, he was fast, capable of moving at speeds that made him a blur to many in the crowd. His sword was even faster, constantly shooting arcs of sword qi that impeded valerian or tried to cut him to pieces. Nevertheless, Valerian was faster. Streaks of gold would be left in the air where he dodged the other’s sword attacks and his spear unerringly found his opponent no matter how fast he ran or how he tried to conceal himself.
Soon it was clear that Onit was the one on the defensive. Despite starting in the strong position, the swordsman was now on the ropes trying to get away unfortunately for him, it was not that simple. Valerian and spear were simply everywhere. So he tried switching things up. Rushing towards Valerian, he twisted out of the way of the next spear thrust and struck it with his sword hoping to deflect it. He nearly sprained his wrist from the jarring impact. The spear was all but unbendable and the hands holding it did not shift in the slightest. With a simple side sweep, valerian drove the shaft into his midsection both bowling him over and send him flying like a ragdoll.
A wave went through the crowd when they saw Onit get knocked away. Coughing up blood, he forced himself to his feet wincing as he did so. Valerian had not chosen to press his advantage. Feeling his opponent’s eyes on him only made him feel more humiliated.
“I was right!” Onit proclaimed as he shook his sore hand. “You are no more than a brute!”
Valerian simply raised an eyebrow saying nothing but a simple, “Oh!” in response.
When a cultivator takes up a weapon, he has two choices; to carry it or to learn to truly wield it. Those who pick the former themselves fall into two categories; the first are untalented. It is not a lack of trying but a lack of aptitude that prevents them from wielding their weapons. The second, on the other hand, are brutes and hooligans who while talented can never tame their base natures. They lack not talent but refinement”, he explained.
“Care to guess which you are?” he asked Valerian.
“No!” Valerian said, leaning on his spear. “I think I’ll just sit back and listen to you blabber on some more.”
Onit’s face coloured. He raised his sword and with it his arcane energy, causing it to sing so loudly it set the teeth of their audience on edge. Mustering himself, he took a purposeful step forward his voice ringing out once more.
“You are a brute, nothing more!” he declared. “Cloak yourself in a facade of civility all you want but I know what you are and I can prove it.”
The audience leaned in. Onit was one of the best sword cultivators among the second years. His word on the way of the sword was as good as gold among the junior cultivators.
“You can tell a lot about a man from his weapon. Any person capable of wielding a weapon is someone who has engaged in self-tempering. They become one with their weapons to the point that their armaments become just that, arms. In my case, it is a sword. From the moment, I began wielding it, I began refining it. I refine my sword and my sword refines me. When I reached the state of being one with it, it became one with me.”
Onit’s eyes traced his raised arm, locking onto his sword with a fervent gaze. Grasping on to the end of its hilt with the other hand he shifted into an attacking stance, drawing the blade inside and placing his right foot forward as he readied for a lunge. His aura changed to match. To onlookers, he transformed from a man holding a sword to a sword himself. He looked like a blade that could pierce everything before him. It was like distance had instantly become irrelevant and the point of his sword was already resting on your chest waiting for that final push.
“Do you feel this brute?” he yelled at Valerian. “This is my sword force. The mark of someone who has become one with his sword. This is what it means to wield a weapon. Tell me, where is your spear force?”
With those words, it was like the eyes of the audience were opened. The looks they shot Valerian changed as well. Sword force, sword qi to tellurians and sword energy to arcanists was, like Onit said, the make of a true sword cultivator. Correspondingly, a spear cultivator should have spear force and yet Valerian did not. The reason was obvious. He was not a spear cultivator. While many in the stands did not understand the particulars, they trusted Onit’s judgement. He was one the best swordsmen among Marrbissi’s junior cultivators. Beyond that, he was one of them. Unlike Valerian who came from elsewhere who they knew little about, Onit was a colleague. He lived with the same dormitory, studied under the same teachers and conditions. They were already liable to take his side. yet, Valerian seemed nonplused. In fact, he actually laughed for the first time since coming to Marrbissi.
“A pathetic sword cultivator. What a surprise”, he said with a laugh. “Come on then. Why not prove your point? Try and beat this brute”, he taunted.
“You think sword cultivators are pathetic?” Onit asked.
“No!” Valerian conceded. “Just you for the moment! Whatever delusion you are living in has already reached a stage where there is no point in arguing with you. I will just have to show you.”
Pointing his spear downwards, he cut a small furrow in the ground in the shape of a semicircle. Then, taking his lead hand off the shaft, he made an insulting come hither motion he learnt from Pugio. It served its purpose, Onit shot towards him, seeing his opponent rushing towards him drew a smile out of Valerian. He made no indication of moving.
‘What is he planning?’ the swordsman thought. All he could think about was wiping the smug smile off Valerian’s face. This fight was supposed easy, with him running roughshod over his opponent. However, he had been tossed aside like a sack of flour instead. It was his opponent who had shown pity on him instead. The thought drew his anger to surface. Giving way to it, he went all in letting his energy flow throughout his whole body as he prepared his attack.
‘All I have to do is avoid clashing with the spear’, he told himself. His adversary might be strong and fast but with no spear force, his attacks are limited to the spear itself. He, on the other hand, could extend his strikes and even launch ranged attacks with his sword qi. First, he would crowd him. taking away the speed advantage. Then, he would cut him down from afar.
The audience watched as not one but three swordsmen attacked Valerian from three different directions. The first came from the front, his sword qi rushing forward as he completed his stab. Valerian’s spear was doing the same, thrusting at his throat. He smiled welcoming the thrust. Then, Valerian vanished.
Valerian was rightly pissed. This was the first proper fight he had had since coming to Marrbissi and so he had tried to enjoy it. The others had been too weak. Conversely, Onit was both powerful and skilled. Thus, he had committed the mistake of trying to prolong it. What had that gotten him? Insults and wasted time. He reminded himself of his mission, what he was here for. The promises he had made his clan, his uncles, his grandfather, grandmother and himself.
‘Any not me or mine!’ he repeated to himself. Then, he went on a hunt.
When he reappeared, he was swinging his spear. A beam of golden arcane energy issued from it, cutting through all of Onit’s clones revealing them to be swords in disguise. The real Onit was revealed to be the shadow of the first clone. He backtracked quickly only to have Valerian on his tail at every step.
Getting desperate, he surged his power and started slashing at everything in sight with a frenzied look in his eye. [Onslaught of a thousand swords]
That was when the spectators were treated to a special sight; Valerian’s spear blurring meeting each arc of sword qi with bright arcs of golden light.
All over the arena, people were standing up in amazement.
“That is not spear force!” someone pointed out. “That is the [Scything Blades] spell. How is he doing that? He is casting spells with spear moves!”
As if this was not enough, a number of golden bolts appeared around the head of the spear. With a thrust they flew at Onit, stabbing straight through his protective essence.
“I know that spell!” another person yelled. “That was [Heart Seeking bolts]”
Bleeding heavily and losing a lot of blood, Onit tripped and fell. He tried to get up only to find Valerian’s spear at his throat. His eyes were wild with disbelief but he was not stupid.
“I concede defeat!”
The crowd went into a frenzy. Onit the Sword Fury had been defeated!