Chapter 140 - Unusual Passenger Ship (3)
As he answered, Theodore's legs spread to the proper interval, balancing his center of gravity so that he could move from side to side as he wanted. The expression in Randolph's eyes became serious as he looked at Theodore's reaction, one which only a skilled person could show.
He had noticed it during the chase, but Randolph once again realized that Theodore was completely different from one year ago. In the tense atmosphere, Randolph took the first step.
His fist stretched out as his voice faded away. Even if he didn't use aura, the physical abilities of an aura user was a weapon in itself, allowing him to break bones if his fist made contact. An ordinary person couldn't even see the afterimage, but fortunately, Theodore wasn't an ordinary person.
Theo's arm formed a semicircle as his fist also stretched out. It was a high level Shift Energy technique found in the eastern continent which emphasized 'firmness' and 'domination.'
'...I couldn't get rid of everything. He's faster than I expected.'
Theodore shook his palms and prepared for the next attack. It was twice as fast as he'd expected. He wanted to raise his palm to defend, but Randolph's next fist came before he could do so.
The dual wielding swordsman, Randolph Clovis, was as fast and sharp as his swords. He punched and prodded at any gaps.
Bang! Pit! Paang! Bang!
The fist and palm hit each other, causing the air between them to explode. As Theo's palm moved away, his fingers swelled, and a few drops of blood fell, causing a spot on the floor to turn red.
Understandably, it was Randolph who was superior in this confrontation, while Theo was just sufficiently maintaining a defense. A swordsman wasn't just about using swords. Rather, the body needed to be trained as much as possible to handle aura. A body which had been trained for decades was truly terrifying.
Randolph wasn't an opponent that a year's worth of training could beat.
'No, what is this shameful situation?'
However, it was Randolph who was bewildered by the situation, not Theodore.
In fact, he was going to teach the dangers of melee combat by suppressing Theodore with his first attack. A magician who had learned a little bit of martial arts naturally couldn't compare to someone who had been professionally trained in close combat.
However, he hadn't expected for his first attack to be blocked and to then exchange a few blows. Randolph looked at his employer with a frightened expression. 'Where did he pick this up?'
There was no explanation for it. The human body rarely improved rapidly, even if it went through systematic and rigorous training. Some of those who had a hereditary lineage would occasionally inherit their ancestor's superior abilities, but this wasn't the case with Theodore.
There must've been an extraordinary opportunity for Theodore's poor body from last year to grow like this. However, that wasn't the only reason Theodore was difficult to deal with.
His palm moved at the correct timing to deflect Randolph's fists. Theodore's moves were never wrong, as if he had done this more than a hundred times. Additionally, He didn't get caught by Randolph's feints.
Randolph tried all types of feints, but Theodore filtered out the real and the fakes, defending against the real one. Randolph didn't know, but it was because Theodore's sensory perception was so sensitive.
'Amazing. There is no chance of winning in a close combat match.'
However, like Randolph, Theodore was also shocked. Despite Lee Yoonsung's physical abilities, his martial arts, and Alfred's super sensory perceptions, Theo was only able to maintain his defense without counterattacking.
Of course, it would be different if Theo used Umbra and other means, but Randolph hadn't even used his aura yet. At this moment, Theo realized that a close combat match with a master class was reckless.
Randolph had achieved his goal, but he continued to swing his fist unconsciously. He predicted that this confrontation wouldn't end so easily.
Then at the next moment, Randolph retreated three steps and formed a fist. It wasn't impossible for Theodore to anticipate the retreat, but the retreating movements were too quick. This was the strength of a person who dominated 'speed.' Randolph could fight at any time and withdraw a any time.
"It is admirable. You are a magician. Becoming like this in a year... you truly are a genius. I grew up hearing that I was a genius, but I'm nothing compared to Young Master."
"...You are just complimenting me."
"No, this isn't enough. If you were born in the Andras Empire, isn't it possible for you to become the youngest of the Seven Swords?"
Randolph didn't know about the grimoire, Gluttony, so the only reason for the incomprehensible achievement was Theodore's talent. Of course, Theodore smiled bitterly because he wasn't actually a genius and yet Randolph just thought he was being humble.
Randolph blamed the unfair world with a few words before forming two fists. His right fist was raised to his shoulder, while his left fist moved down to his waist.
Jjirak. Theodore felt an extreme sense of caution. It was impossible to understand the meaning of it, but his senses were giving him the maximum level of a warning.
"Fortunately, I still have something to teach you." Randolph smiled when he saw Theodore's stiff response.
Then Randolph moved.
The sound was one beat late. By the time the sound was heard, Randolph's fists had already reached in front of Theo's eyes, and there was no time for Theodore to react to the attack. If Randolph had intended to kill Theodore, Theo definitely would've stopped breathing right then.
Theodore couldn't move his feet. Pure physical power against trained martial arts... the winner and loser were decided in a moment.
"Good work, Young Master."
It was a phenomenon which couldn't be understood, but Theodore didn't forget his courtesies at the end, and Randolph accepted it. However, the question wasn't resolved. Theodore's eyes looked like those of a beast demanding an explanation, causing Randolph to stutter.
"W-Well, I had a thought. It was truly correct." Randolph's cryptic words scratched at Theodore's nerves.
"What did you think? And why were you right?"
"I found out what Young Master is lacking."
Theodore listened quietly. He had absorbed Lee Yoonsung's experience, but it wasn't perfect. Randolph was close to being a master, so his advice would definitely be helpful. As Theodore calmed, Randolph's expression turned serious.
"The basics are good. You know how to distinguish real attacks from fakes, meaning your discerning eye is better than that of ordinary knights. You won't be easily caught by a surprise attack in a melee."
"The problem is what comes next. Since you only know the basics, you don't have an answer when a technique like the one I used at the end shows up."
Theodore silently accepted it. Randolph's last technique was literally ridiculous. It was a technique using an aura user's massive physical abilities and couldn't be easily understood. Randolph called it 'Hidden Meaning.'
"Well, the name varies. Whether it is 'Hidden Meaning', 'Vision', 'Secret Technique', or 'Mystic Arts'... the important thing is its nature, not the name. It's a decisive martial arts blow that can only be demonstrated after faithfully accumulating the basics."
Randolph drew his swords and took on a posture to deal a deadly blow that didn't show any errors.
The blow couldn't be seen. The acceleration wasn't even shown as Randolph's blow broke a ball of dust in the air into two pieces. This was the swordsmanship of the Clovis family, at one time a member of the prestigious Seven Swords of the Empire.
Randolph put the swords away without any boasting and said, "I don't know who taught you martial arts, but if you have time, you should learn the rest. Otherwise, you won't be able to beat 'real' people in close combat. Of course, Young Master is a magician, so there is no reason to do that."
"...Thank you." Theodore bowed respectfully.
The knight's and magician's paths were different, but advice to reach the next level was always useful. After thanking Randolph, Theodore was left to ponder about something he had forgotten about-Transmission.
To put it bluntly, eating the book 'Battle Song' was getting in the way of Theodore's Battle Song. The synchro rate was high, but his physical abilities were low, which meant he failed to reproduce even half of Lee Yoonsung's skills. It would take a few more years if he wanted to search his memories and pursue those afterimages.
However, the story was different if he could fully absorb the soul with Transmission. It would be like with Alfred, where Theodore could use all of his abilities. The words Gluttony had spoken also proved the possibility.
-Transmission isn't normally used in that way.
In the past, when Alfred's soul had been absorbed, Theodore had almost died. However, according to Gluttony, there seemed to be a more modest way of using Transmission. Anyway, it was necessary for Theo to keep in mind the expansion of his 'vessel' as he started thinking about new possibilities for Transmission.
Then at that moment...
[Deo!] The childlike voice ringing through Theo's head got rid of his thoughts. The refreshing voice belonged to the ancient elemental Mitra, who was contracted with him.
'Mitra? What's going on?'
'Huh?' Theodore turned his head and found the party involved.
"...Mitra, don't bother Hugin."
The girl with light brown skin and hair like ripe wheat stood on the head of the crow.
Of course, the girl was Mitra and the crow flapping his wings was Hugin. She was an independent entity, but Mitra's essence was still an 'earth elemental.' Her range of action was limited on a ship crossing the sea.
Therefore, Mitra made a new friend with wings.
...Of course, it was unknown if her friend was thinking the same thing.
'I'm sorry. I'll feed you well later.'
Theodore looked at Hugin with sad eyes before turning to Mitra, who had called him. She might've called him to play as usual, but it felt like that wasn't the case today.
Mitra's eyes flashed as she spoke again, [Deo! Here baba!]
"Huh? Aren't I looking at it now?"
[Eung? No! Not see it!]
'What is she saying?' Theodore was perplexed by her words, and Mitra suddenly banged against Hugin's head.
[Bwack sail! Bwack sail!]
It might not seem like it, but Mitra had the power of an intermediate level spirit. Not long after, the flying Hugin let out a cry, and 'Clairvoyance' was invoked. Simultaneously, the horizon appeared before Theodore's eyes. Theodore was confused by the sudden sight but he had already experienced this several times, so he focused his senses calmly.
There had to be a reason Mitra was showing him this landscape. Unsurprisingly, Theodore peered out with a pinched face.
Those who didn't know the sea might say that the colour of the sails didn't matter. However, the sailors would scoff at them.
The color of the sails revealed the purpose of the ship. White represented passenger ships and domestic trade vessels, blue represented international trade vessels and ships carrying delegations, while other colours symbolized the military vessels of various countries.
However, there was a colour that didn't belong, and it was the black sail symbolizing 'sin.' There was only one type of ship which flew a black flag-a pirate ship.
There weren't just one or two but five. A passenger ship which had abandoned mobility and combat power in order to raise its size wouldn't be able to go against them.
"Randolph, arm yourself right now."
"I already am."
As a veteran mercenary, his movements were truly fast. He armed himself the moment the words 'black sails' came out. The two equipped men left the room instantly. Theodore continued using Clairvoyance while walking to the deck with Randolph. As the faint smell of seawater and perfume entered his nose, there was a sense of discomfort.
'...Why didn't I get a warning?'
His senses detected all 'enemies', including things like 'evil' and 'spirits', so why hadn't it noticed the existence of the pirate ship? No, it still didn't give off any discomfort despite Theodore realizing the situation. This was a first for Theodore who had gone through many difficulties.
However, his question would disappear in the near future.