I soon found myself back on the defensive side of sparring, and with my new learning I… parried a few attacks. Not many of them, but I actually managed parries from different hand arm positions. I was pretty sure Khyrmin could have still hit me half of the time I parried, but she didn’t. Maybe the point was that I was performing what was intended.
The second day was much the same, but when I was on offense there was one significant change. I thrust my rapier towards Khyrmin, which she would inevitably parry perfectly… and then I found myself with a sword in my chest. Not very far, as usual… but I hadn’t been ready to be attacked. Soon enough I realized I was meant to actually act something like I would in a real fight… though we were focusing on parrying and ripostes.
After two full exhausting days of that- after which I was happy for calorie dense bear stew- I found myself a bit better at parrying people I had no real business fighting… and not an ounce closer to learning Return Weapon. I didn’t really mind the training, but at some point Kantrilla and I would have to move on with our quest even if I couldn’t learn the skill I came here for. Kantrilla also didn’t have much chance to advance herself… though she did have numerous tiny wounds to treat. It wasn’t anything new, but pure repetition did help build proficiency to some extent.
The third day, I was handed an arming sword, and Khyrmin used one as well. It was your standard one handed straight sword with nothing special about it. We went through the same sort of process as with the rapier- defense, offense, defense again. That pattern repeated even if the lines were blurred when one considered parrying and ripostes and parrying again and riposting again all in one exchange. The point got across, however, that the best reason to defend would be to get a chance to attack. Likewise, if an attack didn’t succeed you needed to be able to defend. I already understood that, though I traditionally leaned more towards armor and dodging as my defenses. Heavy weapons weren’t so good for parrying, and some monsters like hydras weren’t suited for parrying at all.
Within two weeks I found myself covered in tiny to just small scars from my inevitable loss in every back-and-forth exchange, which sometimes resulted in my own disarmament. I noticed that Khyrmin wasn’t as good with heavier weapons, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t good… just not as good. She was still fast, and she wasn’t low on Strength either. She was maybe around 500… which was high, but significantly below me. However, her skill and Dexterity made up for the fifty or sixty percent difference in Strength, not letting me use my Strength to the fullest. There were a few times when I was using a halberd that she had to dodge backwards instead of parrying, when I did a wide sweep. Unfortunately, about half of the times in that situation I was just a little bit too close or too slow and she moved forward instead, ducking down and attacking.
I learned to use a spear in a one-on-one duel situation, and a tiny movement in the haft caused a much larger quicker movement at the spearhead. That made it harder to parry… but of course not enough harder that Khyrmin couldn’t do it.
Soon enough, we’d gone through Khyrmin’s entire gigantic weapon collection. Not that we’d used every weapon, because some of them were pieces of junk, but we’d used every type of weapon. That meant I’d been attacked with every type of weapon in every type of stance… and also been hit by every type of weapon and had it disarmed from me at least once. On the other hand, I had learned to use the Disarm skill, which had both a passive and active component. First was just actually using a weapon to disarm. That was the passive version, but the active version involved using mana. I supposed all active skills used mana, and it was just that Analyze Strength took only negligible amounts.
I wondered if we were going to do something with all of that armor she had… but instead I found we were back to rapiers. However, instead of sparring Khyrmin loosely gripped her sword. “Watch,” she said. Then she dropped her sword… but instead of hitting the ground, it bounced like a yo-yo back into her hand. Though there was no spinning involved, there was string. There was just the slightest twinkle of mana attached to the hilt. “Now do it.”
Khyrmin’s skill use was casual, unlike with Ruslan. When Ruslan used Piercing Spear, I felt the world move around the spear. I suppose his use of Return Weapon, however, was just as casual and subtle. I hadn’t even seen any trace of a connection bringing it back. Though I didn’t have any real idea how to do it… I could try.
I concentrated on the idea of attaching a string of mana to the hilt of the rapier. I could feel I had actually done something, and I twisted my hand slightly to take a peek. There was indeed a slight shimmer like a string there. Then I dropped my rapier.
Khyrmin’s eye twitched. She didn’t say anything, but that was par for the course. In fact, she rarely ever said anything besides “attack” or “defend” or “lunch”. Even when I repeatedly failed to perform she hadn’t really seemed upset about it, or like she cared one way or the other. Now, she looked like she was trying to seem like she didn’t care, but she wasn’t exactly adept at hiding it. “Watch… again.”
I probably would have preferred an explanation. Words were very useful, after all… but that wasn’t Khyrmin’s method of teaching. So, I watched as she did the same thing. I didn’t really see anything particularly different, but I used Martial Trance to extend the action longer in my view.
Even if I didn’t get anything from that, I still had some idea of how to improve my technique. Or rather, make my technique work at all. I’d made a mana string, but it hadn’t really… attached. I tried again, and achieved different results. The second time, instead of just the weapon falling away, I felt the string of mana snap. Khyrmin’s eye twitched again as the sword hit the ground.
“Watch,” she said. So I watched. The third time, I saw something else. It was so faint, but the string did more than just stick to the hilt, it sort of covered the whole weapon.
So I tried again… and the point of the rapier fell to the ground. Well, at least I’d managed to hold onto it… but I hadn’t really supported the whole of the weapon. Even so, I got the general idea. By the end of the day, I was exhausted… but I had barely managed to use Return Weapon. Except what I was capable of wasn’t really better than just strapping the weapon to my wrist.