The Only Thing I Can Upgrade is Strength chapter 107

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In the morning I found myself outside with a rapier in my hand. There were probably more steps involved, but I didn’t have time to think about them.

“Defend yourself,” Khyrmin said. Then she sprang forward, stabbing her own rapier into my chest.

I looked down to see a bloody hole in my shirt. My chest hurt… but as Khyrmin pulled away I saw only the very tip of her rapier was bloodied… maybe a quarter of an inch. I almost wasn’t ready for the second attack.

Khyrmin returned to her stance, the right side of her body forward, both knees bent slightly. Then she sprang forward once more. I barely had time to activate Martial Trance, giving me a moment to think. I dodged to the side, barely avoiding her attack.

There was a slapping sound as the side of her rapier flicked into me as she returned to her proper stance. I knew she could have turned it to cut into me if she wished to. Since we were training, I figured I would try to do things the proper way… as much as I could. I stepped into the proper stance- or as close as I could with my limited training in that type of weapon.

Khyrmin’s attacks were sharp and quick. There was only the slightest movement before she sprang forward explosively… though she always managed to stop her attack while causing me only slight damage.

With Martial Trance I could just barely manage to react to her attacks. I was supposed to parry, but even if I could capture just the right moment, my parrys didn’t always succeed. How was I supposed to parry if her attack went below my hand? I knew there must be a way. Just being faster was one way, but it was rather impossible to be faster than myself. Sometimes I could dodge but that just changed the sort of injury I got.

I was completely out of mana to use Martial Trance and bleeding from dozens of tiny little stab wounds when Khyrmin returned to a normal standing position. “Breakfast.” She flicked her rapier toward Kantrilla who was watching nervously nearby, “Fix him.”

Kantrilla nodded and rushed over to me. “Are you okay Llyr? How bad is it?”

“It hurts.” I didn’t really have much more to say than that. I looked down at my shirt to find it mostly a collection of holes and blood. The whole thing seemed to be soaked in blood, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Since the shirt was ruined anyway, I just tore it off so Kantrilla could bind my wounds.

Kantrilla washed the blood off with a wet cloth, then bit her lip in concentration as she went over every little wound with healing magic. Then she wrapped my whole torso in bandages. “None of the wounds are deep. You should be okay…” Kantrilla sighed, “Did you learn anything?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know.” Had I improved at all? It was just one morning of work. “I guess I learned a bit more about a proper fencing stance and such, but I don’t really see how this might lead toward learning Return Weapon.” With my kind of Strength using a rapier wasn’t the best option anyway, so it didn’t really matter how much I learned. On the other hand, it would be pointless to spend this time and not try to learn.

Inside- after climbing many sets of stairs to the top floor of the cabin- I found a bowl of breakfast waiting for me. It was a brown mush of some sort. I was a bit nervous to try it but I had to eat something and this is what was offered.

I tried to keep my expression neutral because of my trepidation as I took my first spoonful. I was glad I did that, because it was bitter. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was kind of… nutty? There were little flakes of something and I didn’t really like it… but it was filling enough.

Soon enough I found myself outside again. Khyrmin took her stance and gestured at me with her free left hand. “This time, you attack.”

I was tempted to ask why, or what I was supposed to be learning… but I doubted the stoic woman would provide an answer. In this case, the obvious answer could just be I was learning to attack. I took my stance, facing her with an angled body. That I could understand- a reduced profile against the enemy while keeping your attack options available. The leg placements allowed for quick forward and backwards movements, as well as lunges.

Khyrmin wasn’t wearing any armor, so if I actually hit her she could die. However, having seen what she could do, I doubted I would succeed on a deadly attack. If I did… well, I doubted I would have much to learn from someone who didn’t know their own limits. That said, I wasn’t very comfortable fighting with a rapier so my first attack was a bit conservative.

I had seen her lunge long distances but I didn’t think I could go so far without losing my balance, not without practice. I edged forward, but she also edged backwards. Based on the distance she was keeping, I imagined I would need to be a bit closer to have a chance. There was no point in me just continuously chasing her around in a foot shuffling match, so I found the best chance I could and lunged forward.

My whole body made a straight line, just like hers did. I sprang forward, my rapier heading for her sternum. In my vision, it got closer and closer… and she hadn’t moved. I was worried she might actually not react, but I couldn’t react at that point, nor could I have stopped my momentum. Then there was a flash and my rapier was no longer going toward her chest but off into the distance… and the tip of her rapier was pressed into my chest instead, though her arm was held back.

I looked over at my rapier, and back at Khyrmin. Was I just supposed to go pick it up? I hadn’t had any sudden insight into how to use Return Weapon. I went over to do so… and then the process repeated again and again. No matter where I attacked or how strongly I gripped my rapier my weapon was flung to the side and I received yet another wound on my torso.

Was I learning anything? I don’t know if I was getting better at attacking… but I did learn about defense. There were a number of different positions she held her rapier to start with, and she moved it in different ways depending on where I attacked. I started with the torso, but then tried for arms, legs, and even the head once. She didn’t seem fazed by any of that. I even remembered that rapiers had an edge and tried slicing, but didn’t get any closer.

I may not have gotten closer to hitting her, but I saw dozens of ways to defend, depending on the attack. I wasn’t sure I could pull them off, but I tried my best to pick out the little subtleties of sword position and movement. I would try them out later to see if I’d actually learned anything.

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