I Became the Youngest Disciple of the Martial God
[Translator – Jreaming]
[Proofreader – Gorm]
How had they tracked us?
Arzan and I had made sure not to leave any trace of our passage as we moved.
I’d been sure that they wouldn’t be able to follow us this quickly even with the sun rising. That was why we’d gone into the cave and I’d let Arzan sleep.
But they had come to us so quickly, like they’d known where we were.
...No, now’s not the time to think about it.
This was the worst possible situation, but one saving grace was that the assassins didn’t know where we were specifically.
Do we just hold on for now?
I prayed the assassins wouldn’t notice us and would just walk past, but for some reason, I suspected it wouldn’t end that neatly.
If there was one thing I’d learned in my not-so-long life, it was that feelings of misfortune weren’t unfounded.
Suddenly, one of the assassins surveying the area turned his head and threw a dagger toward me.
The attack was unexpected, but I responded calmly by deflecting it with my Ring Sword.
As the sound of clashing metal rang out, I also heard some noises from behind the assassin who had attacked me.
I couldn’t see them, but it seemed that Arzan was also engaged in combat.
Arzan’s situation could be worse than mine, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the freedom to worry about her right now.
The moment I made to attack the assassin in front of me, I felt a chilling sensation from my side.
I retracted my half-stretched hand and stepped back.
Two assassins appeared, their robes loudly flapping as they pulled out their weird curved blades.
I clicked my tongue.
At my current level, it would be disadvantageous for me to face an opponent in direct sword combat.
In the end, the only method available to me was to avoid their attacks, but their swordsmanship, inlaid with killing intent, was nothing to scoff at.
They were proficient in joint combat as well, I could tell just from looking at their formation. Only three of them were attacking me directly. The rest were supporting them from behind.
They understood that if more than three of them engaged in close combat at once, they would only get in each other’s way because of the terrain.
As I came to the conclusion that dragging out this fight wouldn’t do me any good, I kicked off the ground to create some distance.
Because I used my internal energy, the distance between me and my enemies instantly lengthened.
Of course, the three assassins instantly charged to close the gap, but before they could, I threw my sword away and said, “Good work.”
One of the assassins scoffed. Evidently, he had misunderstood my intent.
I was saying goodbye to a weapon I had become rather familiar with.
A crack appeared in the blade, and then it exploded.
Flames engulfed the shards of broken metal from the shattered sword as they showered my opponents.
I had imbued internal energy into the sword. That fire ki had continued to grow hotter and hotter before finally shattering the blade.
I hadn’t been able to completely control the angle of the attack, so some of the shards were flying toward me as well.
I swung the cape I was wearing around my body to block the fragments. As I looked at the cape afterward, I noticed that its ends had caught fire.
Can I use this?
I couldn’t confirm it yet as I closed the distance between myself and the assassins.
The assassins, who were now covered in blood and shards of broken metal, swung their swords to counterattack me instead of writhing in pain.
I had heard that among cultists, the followers of Hadenaihar were the most resilient, and I was beginning to think that might be true.
I swung my cape as if expecting them.
The flames at the edge of my cape started to roar before becoming a fire demon that swallowed up everything in the surroundings.
Of course, it only looked fierce. A fire of this level would have a hard time burning even strands of cloth.
However, it was enough to block the vision of the assassins assisting them from the back.
The same was true for the assassins near me.
The flames surrounding them cut off their sight lines for just a moment, and in that split second, I struck out with my fist at the one standing in the center.
He belatedly noticed my strike and tried to cross his arms to block it...
Despite his guard, my fist didn’t just punch through his arms but even crushed his nose. As his hood flung back, I could see the white of his eyes.
I’ve knocked out one of them.
I moved my attention away from the unconscious one and put up my guard against the two assassins at my sides.
They swung their curved blades at me at the same time like the attack was coordinated. However, perhaps because they were pressured by the heat around them, the attack felt less precise than their previous strike.
I could definitely use these. I bent at my waist to dodge the blades and then kicked the shin of the assassin to my right.
Crack. The bone broke completely, and the leg bent at an impossible angle.
As that assassin collapsed to his knee, the sword he was swinging changed trajectory to strike at his ally on the opposite side.
The assassin to my left was surprised and moved to block the sword.
It was the wrong decision.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as they say.
I approached the assassin and put my hand on his chest.
As a look of confusion crossed the assassin’s face, flames erupted from my palm.
The assassin was flung into the air as if he’d been hit by a boulder, then plummeted back down to the ground.
Judging by how his neck snapped, he died instantly.
The second technique of the White Sun Form could be used like this as well, in very close proximity to the target.
As this happened, the flame I’d used as a smoke screen faded away completely, and those assisting from the back noticed the situation and sent three more assassins toward me.
I went to face them head-on, then changed my mind and began retreating instead.
Daggers and needles struck where I had been standing.
The assassins had started to support from the rear once more.
I wouldn’t be able to use the same cape-flinging method I’d used before...
And the assassins that had gotten close to me were continuously sticking to me.
...This isn’t good.
Of course, this fight had been the worst from the start, but the situation was continuing to worsen even now.
I had some opportunities, but my internal energy reserves weren’t sufficient yet.
The White Sun Form’s basic techniques were very powerful, but they also consumed that much more internal energy.
How long would I be able to fight while keeping up this tempo? Five minutes? Ten minutes?
I need something else.
I continued the exchange as I started to think rapidly.
What could I do in this situation?
* * * * *
[Translator – Jreaming]
[Proofreader – Gorm]
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* * * * *
Suddenly, I thought about Kayan.
That weird movement the old collector had shown me, hidden steps.
That movement technique showed extreme effectiveness in a duel, and it would be even more effective against assassin bastards like these guys.
The one problem was that I had only used that movement technique once before.
I should have practiced it beforehand, but there was nothing else I could do.
I dodged the blades that were starting to slice the air in front of my nose and kicked the assassins closest to me, and when there was a bit of distance between us, I took my stance.
My body moved with an odd rhythm.
It might have looked like I’d forgotten how to walk altogether, but they were sure to be on guard since I was suddenly moving weirdly after having fought quite well.
There was a high chance they would think this way because, for an assassin, caution was of the utmost importance.
As expected, the ones closest paused to observe me, and I took that opening to step forward.
My steps were light, and they felt good as well. I was certain that I had succeeded in copying Kayan’s movements.
I continued to step forward, closing the distance between myself and the assassins, but they failed to notice due to a misjudgment of their senses.
Killing them would be as easy as just slashing their necks.
I dodged the dagger and quickly stepped back.
I didn’t dodge enough, though. A dagger was embedded in my left shoulder.
Funnily enough, it was the same place Osel’s dagger had stabbed me before.
Should I have done emergency treatment on it like Arzan said?
Thankfully, I could still move my left arm without issue, but I realized then the fatal weakness of hidden steps.
This only works against targets who are directly in front of me.
It might work in a one-on-one fight, but in a one-on-many fight, and more so in a situation where I was nearly surrounded, I couldn’t use this skill.
How did I not realize this? It was obvious when I thought about it.
I’d thought my condition was normal, but I might be doing worse than I’d expected.
Clench. I bit down hard on my lips, and I swallowed the metallic blood that flowed out as I glared at my targets.
The weakness of hidden steps was fatal.
However, the only way for me to get out of this situation was with hidden steps.
The answer, then, was simple: If it has a weakness, I just need to adjust it.
The fact that I needed to do so now made this task multiple times more difficult, but my life depended on it, so I had to do what I had to do.
I stepped forward once more.
Steps that I would normally take.
Of course, that wasn’t the only change to my steps.
Flames ignited from below the soles of my feet.
Like with the cape before, it was to disturb their vision, but the goal wasn’t to inefficiently spread the fire to all sides like before.
I was imagining the shaking waves under a hot sun. A mirage.
With that, I ran.
My steps, imbued with fire ki, were now completely different from the hidden steps I’d initially taken.
I stepped hard, as if to crush the earth below, and footprints made of flames were left in my wake.
Although the steps were no longer dark, they still had an element of concealment.
I renamed this technique “sun shadow steps.”
The assassins’ thrown weapons passed by me. The more precise their aim, the harder it was for them to hit me.
Because it was still just a subtle trick of the eyes, a few attacks managed to scratch me, but they weren’t life-threatening injuries.
During that time, I succeeded in arriving right in front of the assassins’ faces. One by one, I crushed their jaws, shattered their ribs, and snapped their necks.
Support again? I clicked my tongue, but an unexpected individual revealed themselves.
It was Arzan.
Arzan was letting out heated breaths.
She was covered in blood, so much so that her face was nearly completely covered, but judging by her stance, the blood wasn’t hers.
Just how many people did she kill?
I’d assumed she was fighting a similar number as me or that she would be just hanging on by a thread at the end.
And there was something off about how she looked right now. Her eyes were flashing like those of a beast.
Still, as if to confirm that she was still the Arzan I knew, a muted voice flowed out from her.
Without even giving me time to respond, she grabbed my wrist and started to run.
The moment the assassins tried to stop us, Arzan swung widely with her right arm.
An explosion echoed out as all the assassins around us were flung back.
I became speechless upon seeing this spectacular display of power.
It was as if a high-ranking wizard had just cast a spell. The destructive power was enormous.
Just what is this girl’s identity?
My initial suspicion about Arzan’s identity had fallen into chaos once more. Of course, this wasn’t the time to ask her, so I just quietly followed after her.
Like this, Arzan and I ran away from the battlefield as fast as we could.
It was a relief the cave was so big. If this were a normal cave, we wouldn’t have been able to evade our enemies.
As stated before, there was a single huge passageway that went straight through the cave, but there were many side spaces in between.
Arzan and I were using one of those side spaces to hide.
Arzan was panting aloud like she was choking.
“Butler, are you okay?”
She seemed to find it hard to answer because she just nodded slightly in reply.
I looked through the gaps to watch our surroundings while I waited for Arzan to recover.
Some time passed, and Arzan recovered a bit of her strength.
“I’m fine now.”
I took a moment to look at her face.
I could no longer feel the overwhelming martial prowess or the explosive energy she’d exuded before. Her eyes had returned to normal as well.
I was curious to know how Arzan had been able to use that much power... but I decided to stay quiet for now.
I had a feeling that she wouldn’t give me a straight answer even if I asked, and we already had a few questions we’d decided not to ask each other anyway.
“This is a problem. Their numbers have been reduced, but this much won’t...”
At that moment, I felt a gaze on me. As I quickly turned my head to look, I noticed a black silhouette between the cracks.
When did they catch up to us?
He seemed to realize that he had no chance against us alone and tried to turn around to run.
He intended to call for his allies. I could throw something at him, but there was nothing suitable around, so I gritted my teeth and decided to chase after him.
At that moment...
A sword appeared from nowhere and pierced the assassin’s head, and the assassin collapsed on the spot.
I closed my mouth once again.
This wasn’t Arzan’s work. She was already so tired that she hadn’t even noticed the assassin’s presence.
More than that, what had pierced the assassin’s skull was a sword. A longsword, a weapon that neither of us had.
On top of that, the attack’s skill, its speed...
An incredibly skilled person just threw that.
I felt a chill go down my spine.
I became much more nervous than I’d been when I faced Osel, the assassins, and even Kayan.
Then, a voice called out to me.
“You there. Go pick up my sword for me.”
I wondered where the voice was coming from, but then I noticed a crack in the cave wall.
There was a very narrow crack that could just barely fit one person, and the voice was coming from inside there.
“Who are you?” I asked, my voice full of nervousness.
The voice from beyond the crack let out a puff of laughter.
“Hoh. You can come in if you’re curious. It looks like you’re not a part of the cult. I’m also curious as to your identities.”
The voice stopped there. It seemed to have no intention of saying any more than that unless I entered.
“Young master, it’s dangerous.”
It was a very Arzan thing to say, but this time, I found I agreed with her.
If I had a bomb on hand, I would’ve thrown it into the crack already.
However, there was a very simple reason I was hesitating right now.
...I think I’ve heard that voice somewhere before.
But who was it?
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