Chapter 44

Author’s note: As I thought, I had to redo the whole chapter…

Vilenne quickly scoured the underground area, finding her target in the nearby tavern. “Here you are Bart!” she said happily.

“Eh?” Bart turned his head with puzzlement. When he saw Vilenne, his expression brightened.

Icicle looked at Bart curiously. It was a tall youth with a lean body. His green eyes shone like a pair of emeralds, accentuating his shoulder length curly brown hair.

Vilenne leaned forward and whispered into Bart’s ear. His eyes lightened up even more. “Sure, I’ll help you out.” he said firmly.

“Come on little bastard, I’ll show you around.” Vilenne said with a cheeky smile.

“Hiring people to beat me up, little brat?” Icicle amusedly followed the two.

***

Stopping next to the ring, Vilenne introduced Bart properly. “This is Bart, an exchange student from the Three Winds Academy. He’s a Water Swordsman at Intermediary realm. I asked him to show you how most of us duke it out here.” Vilenne pointed to the ring.

“Nice to meet you Bart, I’m Icicle, I’ll be in your care.” Icicle shook Bart’s hand with a bright smile.

“Well, let us begin.” Bart hopped onto the ring.

Icicle followed him. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he felt a soft, springy texture.

“How’s the Snow Silk?” Vilenne asked from below.

“Soft and springy.” Icicle stamped his foot to get a better feel.

“Nobles often wear clothing made from Snow Silk during winters because of its lightness and resilience. It’s an excellent material for the ring since it doesn’t favor any element.” Vilenne “guided” Icicle with a bright smile.

“You’re trying to distract me so that this chimp beats me?” Icicle’s expression was filled with amazement as he listened to Vilenne. It seemed as if he really enjoyed those bits and pieces she threw at him.

Seeing her efforts being wasted, Vilenne bit her lip. “I hope you won’t lose too quickly, little bastard.” she said with a helpless smile.

“Why would it matter, it’s just a friendly bout, right?” Icicle shrugged innocently.

“Right, right, just a friendly bout.” as soon as Icicle turned around to face Bart, Vilenne glared fiercely at his opponent.

Bart’s whole body twitched as a cold sensation enveloped him. He nodded towards Vilenne and unsheathed his longsword.

Meanwhile, Ivir waltzed into the underground area with a sullen expression. She noticed Vilenne standing next to the ring area and walked up to her. As she was about to ask what was she doing there, she noticed Icicle and Bart on the ring.

“I see you’re sending your pupil for a beatdown. Weird, I thought you liked him.” she said with a grin.

“Oh, it’s you Ivir.” Vilenne said absentmindedly. “It’s rare to see you here. Could it be that Arie is coming back?”

Ivir’s expression instantly soured. “Yes, mother sent word and dad went apeshit, telling me to train. He even took my entire allowance from me…”

“It’s high time he took good care of you. You’ve been idling for so long I could beat you with my forefinger.” Vilenne chuckled.

“Oh really? You want to try me?” Ivir’s aura surged, releasing tiny sparks.

“And if I do?” Vilenne smiled towards her.

As the two’s gazes met, their opposing auras spread nearby. One was gentle like a still water, the other fierce like a lightningbolt. After a short standoff, Ivir decided to watch Icicle’s predicament first. As long as it could delay her training, it was good.

“Hmph, it’s your lucky day.” she said to Vilenne, playing with her hair.

“Whatever you say.” Vilenne chuckled.

On the ring, Bart guided Icicle with a bright smile. “Let’s start with a few slashes first.”

“Alright.” Icicle lightly nodded.

With a powerful step, Bart shifted his weight and cut downwards at Icicle. As the sword neared him, Icicle instinctively moved his sword horizontally to repel the attack.

Ding! Ding! Thud!

Bart felt the longsword escaping his grasp, making his left brow twitch in embarassment.

Icicle turned towards Vilenne with a frown. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked innocently.

“He’s not a total newbie! Just get on with it!” Vilenne angrily stamped her foot as she looked at Ivir who was at the point of choking with laughter.

“You should’ve told me it was a circus day.” Ivir mumbled out through the smothered laughter.

“Shut up!”

Bart picked his sword up and looked at Icicle resentfully. After stabilizing his breathing, he pounced on Icicle with even more force.

Icicle wielded his sword lightly. He analyzed Bart’s movements with a joyful expression. It looked like he was the one teaching Bart instead.

“From what he lets me see, he can shift his weight properly. His swordsmanship is only average though. He most likely finished the same basic course I did in the past. The game version can’t be that much different.” Icicle thought as he sidestepped a downward slash.

“Only his sword seems somewhat special. It’s not the weapon though. Could it be some kind of enchantment?” Icicle stepped in and struck at Bart’s chest.

Ding!

The two swords collided, sending ripples throughout Icicle’s thin mana film. The energy it contained was the same as the one exuded by Bart’s body.

“Interesting. He’s using his own mana to sharpen the sword and the small area around it. I figured out the vibration attacks while Bart has the additional sharpness. This will be fun.” Icicle continued his hit and run tactic to conserve his strength. He lost both in physique and mana control, so he had to stall for time. As long as he could deplete his opponent’s strength little by little, he could have a proper fight with Bart in the long run..

“Hm, your pupil is doing quite well.” Ivir twirled her silver hair. “Is that Bart guy you have chosen someone new? I haven’t seen him before.”

“He’s a student of Three Winds Academy. From what I know, he reached the middle stage of Intermediary realm recently.”

“Why does he seem so weak then?” Ivir frowned. The difference between someone at Intermediary realm and Beginner realm was clear as day. One could handle his mana better than the other. As long as their fighting ability didn’t differ too much, the end result was obvious.

“He’s a greenhouse seedling. No experience whatsoever.” Vilenne sighed. She felt like she had chosen to bet on a wrong person. Bart came to the underground area over two months ago yet he basically had no battle record. The two losses he suffered in the beginning dealt a heavy blow to his confidence.

“Why is Icicle at such leisure then?” Ivir had seen a lot of adventurers duke it off with lizardmen, but no one really entered her eye. It was like watching kids build a sand castle. Sure, there was a chance that it would be a magnificent one, but the likelyhood of it? Next to zero.

“His swordsmanship and movements aren’t refined, but he has a knack for reading people. If you fought him and didn’t kill him in the first 2 seconds, you’d be the one to lose.” Vilenne said helplessly. She clearly remembered how strong of a killing intent Icicle released during their spar. It made her resort to her secret technique to protect her life, only to realize it was an illusion.

***

At the ring, Bart felt his arms go number and number. Every time he clashed with Icicle, he felt a vibrating energy enter his limbs, interrupting his mana flow. He had to spend additional energy to counteract this wanton vibration. He wasn’t without gains though. Icicle’s body resembled swiss cheese with all the small cuts littering his body.

“I’ve played with him long enough. Winning in an endurance battle against a beginner is not something I want.” Bart’s aura violently surged. Streaks of blue mana connected, forming into a beautiful figure resembling a siren floating right behind him. The figure held a trident and an ancient jar full of water.

Glowing blue eyes gazed at Icicle frostily, making him shiver. Goosebumps spread all around his skin, making him jittery. “Fear, huh? We haven’t had the chance to meet recently, my friend.”

With a joyful expression, Icicle balled his fists a few times to regain the feeling in them. After a few stretches, he was ready to go.

Bart looked at Icicle with astonishment. He was all cut up, yet he was laughing. Fortunately, Vilenne warned him that Icicle is one of the adventurers. Thus, deviating from normal was nothing surprising.

The Aquarius behind Bart spilled some water from her jar. It turned into a smooth mana streak that carried her forward. Icicle slashed with his sword to counter the trident stab.

Ding!

The two weapons connected, making Icicle realize that the illusory figure of the Aquarius could attack him physically. “No wonder Warriors don’t lose out to Mages. With such a powerful aura, Bart can stand away from me while mercilessly depleting my mana.”

“Sadly for you, I never planned on becoming just a Mage.” Icicle covered himself with a new film of mana and rushed in.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

The two figures duked it out in the middle of the ring. Icicle felt invisible needles graze his body every time he clashed with the Aquarius. If it wasn’t for his [Sense presence] detecting the deadly weapons made of mana in time, he would have been long done for.

Licking his cheek, Icicle felt the blood entering his mouth. “What a familiar feeling. Was adrenaline also implemented in Loiterous?” his whole body shook. There was no longer fear, only the excitement from living on the edge.

Bart observed Icicle carefully. Although his opponent was much weaker, he had traits Bart lacked. One was enough experience! He didn’t panic even though he was wounded. Fighting so valiantly despite the odds required great courage.

Thanks to that, Bart started enjoying the fight they had. He wanted to dig out Icicle’s potential so that he could learn more as well.

“Are you done?” Bart asked with a provocative smile.

“I don’t know if you’re able to handle me going all out.” Icicle answered with a light shrug.

“Try me.” Bart’s aura surged, making the Aquarius appear even less illusory.

“Don’t you dare complain later.” Icicle grinned from ear to ear.

Liquid membrane instantaneously formed around Vilenne. She balled her fists as she braced for the impact.

“What are you doing?” Ivir asked with puzzlement.

Vilenne didn’t have time to answer as a potent killing intent spread from the center of the ring. On an instinct, Ivir used her [Lightning rush] to retreat.

“Holy shit! What was that?” she mumbled feeling her heart pounding. She looked at her trembling hand with amazement.

“How’s that? Can you handle it?” Icicle asked with a smile.

Bart was completely shaken. His Aquarius projection started disintegrating under his fear, but it quickly became whole again.

“I can deal with this much.” he flashed a crooked smile. His legs were still trembling.

“Good. Let’s see if you can draw out more from me.” Icicle grinned.

After lessening Bart’s combat power by a bit, Icicle was able to cope with the Aquarius projection. He was still cut all over, but the extra endurance from the lizardman heart’s essence took care of the scratches.

After releasing his killing intent, curious eyes glanced at the ring from the shadows. It wasn’t often that someone could control their intention to kill to that degree.

“He’s at least at the peak of the 2nd level.” the guild members discussed.

Meanwhile, Vilenne stood in place, somewhat disappointed.

“Why are you sighing?” Ivir looked at her and asked. Releasing this much was already an accomplishment, could there be some more?

“If that little bastard went all out, I’m afraid this wouldn’t be a fight. His killing intent is like a cheat against inexperienced people.” Vilenne shook her head.

“Don’t joke around. He can’t have much more than that.” Ivir forced out a smile.

“Watch and learn then.” Vilenne smiled mysteriously.

***

The aura around Aquarius was filled with water mana particles. It created a subtle hum, like the sea caressed by a gentle breeze.

Icicle listened with rapt attention. It was a very similar sensation to the one he had in the underwater cave. At that time, he was able to unleash a terrifying move, killing the black catfish in one strike.

Splash!

Icicle’s sword went straight through the Aquarius’s trident. His pupils constricted as he realized he was tricked into attacking.

Splatter!

A bloody diagonal gush appeared on his chest as the Aquarius swiped its trident down with incomparable sharpness. Bart’s sword strikes were a childplay complayed to this display of skill.

A murky cloud formed around Icicle, letting off a light drizzle. The wound closed after a few seconds, making him look good as new. This process however, drained a lot of strength from him. If this kept up, Bart would be the ultimate victor.

“Did you get used yet?” Icicle asked, wiping the sweat forming on his brows.

“Does he have more?” Bart gripped the longsword in front of him. He had thought that Icicle was merely joking. How could this be a beginner? Even the assassins he knew of rarely displayed such a stifling intention to kill.

“Warm-up is over, let’s raise it up a notch.” Icicle grinned widely.

Shoooooooooo!

Bart saw black streaks of smoke encroaching his position in rapid pace. “Am I having delusions?” he thought, trying to clear his mind.

Unfortunately, even though he realized the problem, it wasn’t so easy to get rid of it. When a monster bares its teeth at you, you don’t get the time to adapt to the situation.

Ivir balled her fists below the ring. She had to take a deep breath before calming down. “This feels like mother.” she shivered at the thought.

Glancing at Vilenne, Ivir realized her rival wasn’t surprised at all. “Why are you so unfazed? There’s no way he can release more, right? That would be Cindy’s level…”

“When it comes to this, Cindy can’t compare. That’s why she accepted Icicle into the guild so easily.” Vilenne smiled wryly. During the course of the fight, she felt torn inside. On one hand, she wanted little bastard to be beaten up for what he did, on the other, she wanted him to win as her student. These ambiguous feelings made her anxious.

“I don’t know if you realize, but if what you’re saying is true, then Icicle can profit off this.” Ivir quickly collected herself. She was in a bind because of lack of funds! Smelling money in the air instantly brought her clarity back.

“Profit?” Vilenne turned pensive. “You mean sparring against others?”

“Exactly! How many of us ventured into the wild to get used to the killing intent monsters intimidate us with? Would you bother if you could spare some contribution points on a newbie and learn everything in one place? I think Icicle is well qualified to teach them.” Ivir grinned widely looking at the nearby people. This could be the most prospering business in the underground area! Even the people from other towns would gather to experience such a thing.

“I think you’re a bit overambitious.” Vilenne extinguished Ivir’s excitement with just one sentence.

“What, why?” Ivir fiercely countered.

“Little bastard is a sly beast. He can actually take advantage of Cindy, if he can do that, do you think you can profit off him?”

“There’s definitely a way.” Ivir nodded firmly.

“You’re just saying this because you lost your allowance.” Vilenne sighed.

“Don’t underestimate a girl without money!”

***

Duking it off with Icicle made Bart realized his hidden potential. He felt as if he used his full strength for the first time. The unconspicuous duel piqued the crowd’s attention. Many Intermediary and a dozen of Advanced level people quit what they were doing to watch.

They weren’t interested in the two’s abilities, of course. Just as Ivir thought, a simple way to practice resistance towards killing intent was something that was highly desirable. It’s just that there wasn’t anyone who could satisfy that market need. Cindy flatly refused whenever someone asked her. Magent and the Warrior Guild’s leader declined as well.

Jasik was a Hunter, although he had a wild feeling about him, he and the other Hunters weren’t that much better than other guilds’ members. As for the Assassins’ Guild’s leader… No one dared to ask that crazy old man. If they did, they would most likely end up as a shriveled corpse.

A group of dozen or so people with sharp auras entered the underground area, hollering “Shift change you lazy bums!”

Entering the barrier, they realized what took their replacements so long. Two people fought in the middle of the ring, there was nothing to their skills, but the killing intent one of them emitted was strong enough to make them wary.

“Just tell the others to stay a bit longer, we’ll pay them back!” a couple of Advanced level people grumbled around the stage.

“Oi, little bastard.” Vilenne called out, making her mind.

“What is it Teach?” Icicle turned with a grin.

“Go all out.” Vilenne said firmly.

“Are you sure? If I do, no one will want to fight me again.” Icicle blinked innocently.

“Hmph.” Vilenne cutely snorted. “Just do as I say.”

“Alright, alright. If no one wants to spar with me later, you’ll be the one to pay for my resources…” Icicle grumbled. He looked at Bart apolegitically, “Sorry you had to wait.”

“You should back up.” Vilenne turned to Ivir and said.

“No, I’m fine.” as Ivir said that, she felt a strong reek of blood enter her nostrils. Her legs shivered uncontrollably as she looked at the figure of the youth in the ring.

“Contain it to the ring only, you idiot!” Vilenne berated from her [Liquid membrane]. Since it was the second time she felt the sensation, she didn’t let it capture her mind so easily.

“Stop being so noisy, I haven’t used that in a long time, alright? I am a bit rusty.” Icicle took a deep breath and decreased the range of the effect.

The Advanced level people below the ring had goosebumps. Their hair stood on end under the powerful aura being released. Only when Icicle made the aura recede did they calm down. As for the Intermediary level people, they sat limply on the ground, shivering.

The discussions quickly arose. Some of the shameless individuals decided to ingratiate themselves to Vilenne in hope of better treatment.

“See, I told you we can profit off this devil!” Ivir said with a grin.

“Good luck negotiating with him.”

“Sorry about that, I got a bit out of touch.” Icicle bowed a little seeing Bart clutch the ropes weakly. He reduced the killing intent to the second level and slowly approached him.

“Hmph, at least he knew how to keep his value.” Vilenne grumbled with a gentle smile. “Huh, where is she?”

Vilenne looked for Ivir who was right next to her just a second ago. She spotted her after a while, negotiating something with the Advanced and Intermediary level people.

“Was she serious about profiting off Icicle? Sigh, that girl doesn’t know what she got into.”

***

The fight ended with a draw. Icicle could continue for a bit, but he learned a lot from Bart, so he gave him the tie result.

“Hey, can we fight again sometime?” Bart asked with unconcealed excitement.

“Sure, I would like to learn more about your “sharp” concept.” Icicle said with a laugh.

“Then you’ll teach me about the vibrations you use.” Bart nodded.

“Fair enough.” they shook each others’ hands and parted.

Icicle walked down the ring to see a crowd before him. “Is it a welcoming party or something?” he thought.

“Hey man, I’ll give you 300 CP to spar with me for 30 minutes!”

“I’ll give you 200 for 15 minutes!”

“Woah, woah, woah! Stop right there!” Ivir appeared before Icicle in a flash. “All request to our new guild member will be processed by me, Ivir! We’ll discuss the price in detail and I’ll get back to you shortly!”

“Ivir, I talked with you earlier, get me in front!”

“No, get me!”

“Come on, don’t just try to get ahead of others! It should be fair, right everyone?”

Vilenne grabbed Icicle’s forearm and dragged him away from the noisy crowd.

“Did I become a celebrity or something?” Icicle asked with confusion. He looked back at the noisy crowd with confusion. Showing your killing intent shouldn’t have that much of an effect, right?

“You can say so. All those people want to spar with you now! What’s more, they’re even willing to pay you for it…” Vilenne sighed helplessly. Little bastard seemed to have the devil’s luck. It’s as if he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, letting everything come to him naturally.

“And Ivir? What was she doing?” Icicle didn’t quite get the whole situation.

“She’s taking requests for you! Her daddy, Lord Vilen, took her allowance away so she’s trying to milk you.” Vilenne said casually. She didn’t feel the need to hold anything.

“Oh.” Icicle nodded. “Well, that’s good. I couldn’t be bothered to deal with those people.” if others could do the work for him, then paying a small price was only right.

“Do you think I can extort Cindy for the rest of my stones now?” Icicle caressed a blue oval rock in his hand.

“I knew this guy would be trouble.” Vilenne sighed inwardly. “Let’s go, we’ll check if you can.”

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