17 Chapter 6. Training. Part 2.

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***

"Stop," the teacher abruptly said, sheathing his sword, "that's enough. You won't become a Sword Master, Akimaru."

"Why?!" I couldn't help but cry out. It was deeply frustrating to have come so far, nearly piqued the teacher's interest, only to be dismissed like that.

"Calm down, I didn't say I wouldn't teach you. It's just that you won't become a sword master, no matter what," the teacher explained, almost apologetically shrugging, "you dodged all the attacks very well, but that's not the right approach for a swordsman. A Sword Master must face each battle as if it's their last. The way of the sword is the way of attack."

"But... how then?" was all I could manage to say.

"We will find you a weapon that suits your style," Piandao smiled, seeing my expression, "and with it, you will become a Master. Of course, I will also teach you to fight with a sword better than any army training. But it will take a lot of time. A lot. Finding the right weapon for you is not a matter of weeks or months, but rather years."

"I ran away from home," I shrugged, "I want to prove to myself that I'm worth something, no matter how long it takes," and I also need to prove to Mai that I'm worth something. It doesn't seem right otherwise. I wonder how she's doing? She's probably upset, but she knows how important freedom of action is to me, "besides, I have nowhere else to live," I widened my lips into a smile.

"You will work for your keep here," the Master clarified, considering the amount of money he saw, and having seen the price tags on his weapons, this would likely be part of the training. He sees me as some spoiled rich kid, complete with all the accompanying arrogance.

"Of course, Master," I bowed traditionally with the hand gesture.

Well, screw it, let's do this!

***

A month later, it's time to draw some conclusions. My teacher is nothing like the sensei from old Asian movies. More precisely, he had me fooled for the first three days until he decided to drink.

Turns out, he's quite the reveler and womanizer, and I really messed up by not asking about Piandao at the bar. He's a regular there. Nothing egregious - he doesn't drink himself into a stupor, skillfully balancing on the edge. But he often causes quite the stir in the local village, without crossing the line.

It also turned out that besides the butler who greeted me, there are other people living here. Maids, to be precise. And when I realized he was sleeping with all of them, and everyone knew about it, I wondered if my great sensei was a transmigrant.

Why not? He's gathered a harem. Mastered some secret art? Certainly, to the extent that any bender would sigh if they were his enemy. Built a luxurious home? Oh, he built one that would make anyone envious.

In short, the man lives an enviably good life, even his hobby - forging - doesn't cost him money but rather brings in a significant income.

I wish I could say the same. Instead, I'm sweating over upcoming challenges. For training, the Master has so far only made me exercise. Yes, physically - I've been running from this all my life, and now it's caught up with me. Squats, push-ups, crunches, running, and so on. The main thing here? Right, not to go bald.

He hasn't stuffed me with any special philosophy yet. Just forced me to work my body, apparently, I was indeed too frail. And he started using me as an assistant in the forge. Fetch this, bring that, don't get in the way. But he explained different steps to me, despite my lack of interest. But I must forge my own weapon, it's tradition.

Ah, just have to find it. Sometimes the Master brought different swords, had me swing them, and watched me. What is he, the local Ollivander? Waiting for visual special effects or what?

By the way, the forge turned out to be quite standard. He worked not with mithril or adamantium, as I'd secretly hoped, but with ordinary metals, starting from steel and iron, ending with various alloys. But, as he confidentially told me, all that's nonsense: a sword shouldn't cost more than a ship - uh-huh, so why then do you put such price tags - it should fulfill the role of a weapon. And all those slightly stronger alloys or fancy guards are nothing more than frivolities.

"What difference does it make if this blade is made from an alloy slightly stronger than normal steel? Tales of long duels between two swordsmen, during which a regular sword would break while a special one endures, are just that - tales. A real fight is quick and fleeting, lasting no more than five to ten minutes, including all talks and breaks. There's no time to worry about the sword's durability.

Sharpening a sword to slice through others like chaff is impossible. No matter the alloy, it's just not feasible.

But fearing to lose your sword in battle is a very bad sign. Of course, a sword is an extension of the arm and all that, but it's still just a weapon. One that can be thrown at someone or used in an unconventional way without fear of breaking it.

At least that's the wisdom the teacher shared with me as he was forging a sword for some outrageously expensive order.

Maybe he grumbles because such swords are harder to make? Hmm.

That's roughly how my first month of training went. Why did I specifically mark this date? Because after this, the master condescended to have a conversation.

Not that he didn't speak to me before, but now he decided to explain things.

"You see, Aki, I had to see how serious you were," he began, as we sat in his office while he painted something, "teenage rebellions are quite common, and you sounded determined enough for me to take you in, but I wanted to be sure. There's plenty of time ahead, and an extra check at the start doesn't hurt. Anyway, I've sent out orders through my connections, and within the next year, samples of weapons from absolutely different tribes and peoples will be coming to me. We'll find something for you.

"Ah," I said thoughtfully, but decided to thank him just in case, "thank you, teacher."

"No need," he chuckled, "I also needed to get you in better physical shape. The description 'pale as a moth' was precisely about you. Before swinging a sword, you needed to build some muscle."

Not that the results are visibly drastic. I remained tall and slender, though my muscles became slightly more defined. But I definitely became stronger; maybe swinging a sword will indeed be easier now.

"Come here, let's start with something simple," he called me over, and I obediently approached, "a warrior practices many arts to train their mind as well. You will learn calligraphy."

With those words, he spread out all the writing supplies, including a brush and paper. Quick and precise movements. The paper and brush weren't standard for making a large number of entries, like mine - almost harder than writing with a pen, but the large ones - that's what they use to learn writing on.

"I already know calligraphy," I blinked, "how will this help?"

"Write your name," the master ignored my question, handing me the brush, "you must learn to leave your own mark. It doesn't matter whether with a brush or a sword, these marks cannot be erased. You can't change your mind after you've left a mark."

So, the philosophy begins. Well, I guess I'll have to embrace it and try to understand, especially considering that there's bending here, so this might not be for nothing.

"I understand, teacher," I nodded, trying not to fall out of the serious atmosphere. Within a few seconds, my name was neatly and clearly written.

"Hm," Piandao hummed, looking at the inscription and stroking his chin, "why didn't you say straight away that you were already trained in calligraphy? Good thing I won't have to invent more of this quasi-philosophical nonsense to get you to learn some literacy."

"I did tell you!" I protested righteously, beginning to see through the situation and understand what all this fuss was about.

"Everyone says they know," Piandao waved his hand, "but it turns out they barely learned anything a long time ago. Developing fine motor skills is necessary. As is literacy. Did you attend school?"

"I actually graduated from the men's academy in the capital," I raised an eyebrow in the style of Mai, "with honors and several years ahead of my peers."

"And why didn't you mention this when you asked to be my apprentice?" If the master was surprised, his face didn't show it.

"How would that help me in fencing?" I was the one surprised now.

"Intellect is important for a swordsman," the teacher went back to his philosophical musings, lacking only traditional Chinese music from some wind instrument in the background, "the sword is a simple weapon, but in the hands of a master, it becomes the most dangerous. Just as boundless as your imagination, so are the possibilities of the sword..."

"Yes, I get that you're teaching more than just mindless swinging, and that something needs to be in the head," I decoded, "but still, it's an average achievement. They teach you what there? Complete nonsense, even in higher grades. For example, I mastered calligraphy by begging my parents for a teacher at the age of five."

"Hm," the Master looked at me with a different gaze, "you understand very precisely what I'm trying to say."

"I understand why you're engaging in these philosophical debates - to tune the student to the right mindset, to make them not only mindlessly swing a sword but also have some principles and views, so I have nothing against it and listen to your wisdom," I decoded his expansive statement again, not resisting a slight sarcasm at the end. That's all Mai's influence.

"You know... I recently heard rumors that there was a real scandal in the capital," the master switched to a simpler tone, "a bunch of graduates were found at one of their houses with numerous empty bottles and in compromising positions. The first pregnancies and weddings have already begun."

"Oops," I smiled awkwardly. I warned the homeowner to clean everything up in the morning. But who listens to me.

"So, it was you who organized that," the teacher stated without changing his expression.

"I knew I'd likely have to run away soon and decided to make the graduation memorable for the guys," I shrugged, "I warned them, and there were responsible girls and boys to avoid mishaps, but apparently, I left the party too early, and responsibility is a relative concept after two cups of sake."

"It's a pity the sword isn't your thing," the master unexpectedly smiled, "you could have made an excellent Sword Master. But you'll be no less a master of another weapon."

"They won't sell me alcohol, I won't run to the city to fetch it for you!" Maybe this time I didn't quite get the decoding right, but I definitely wanted to distance myself from that business. So far, if the master himself doesn't go down the "mountain," then Fat - the butler who greeted me - runs for the local spirits.

"Hm," Piandao smiled even more, finally shedding the wise teacher's mask and revealing the inner prankster, "we'll see. We have many years ahead. And you have a lot to learn. So, you'll be running mostly for yourself. Come on, it's time for you to start learning at least the basics of the sword."

That's where I really felt uneasy. Better he keeps pretending to be a sensei than this.

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