Chapter 143 – Learning from loss
‘She wants me to attack!!’ he instantly understood. His mind reeled but he’d already known that there was no possible way that she could reach her level and have so many openings! It was a dare on her part. A heavy force pressed down on him as his nerves were tested as he realized ‘She wants me to attack so she can counterattack like she did with Daichi!’
In the next moment Lydia was already upon him again with another attack bearing down him, her seemingly nonchalant attack held a terrifying force this time!
Leo realized that if he blocked this attack he’d all but certainly lose, so without hesitation he chose to gamble and for the first time. He’d already thought about his previous strategy and came to the conclusion that fighting without attacking wouldn’t allow him to show any of his skills. Although this opportunity was clearly a trap, Lydia wasn’t aiming to kill. It was perhaps the only opportunity he had to take the offensive.
So without hesitating he parried the majority of the blow using the momentum to spin himself around and counterattack all in one movement but Lydia had already begin to duck and easily evaded his the slash he produced!
Leo hadn’t hesitated for even a moment even though he knew that if the slightest thing went wrong on Lydia’s end he could have ended up cutting through her waist in half. He’d done everything with perfect timing and used all his strength but all that was waiting for him was an uppercut. It took him a few moments to realize what had happened as he stared at the lifted arm right in front of his face.
Damien and Daichi were watching from the side as Leo pulled off what seemed like a flawless counter. It seemed perfect until they realized that Lydia had anticipated it from the start and had already been ready to evade his blow, at that moment after his blade had missed her they both knew that she could have killed him in any number of ways. Instead she threw an uppercut and what surprised them the most was that she missed!
“She missed?!” Damien even said it aloud as he stared.
“The fight is over, she was just proving that attack could have ended the fight…” Daichi said with some assurance, but unlike Damien he’s perception was notches above and he could tell that her attack hadn’t quite missed…
Leo stood there in front of Lydia as his mind suddenly felt rattled and his knees buckled as he fell backwards on his behind. He couldn’t quite understand what happened but as he unconsciously began trying to stand back up even though he knew the fight was over he fell forward! His entire lower body felt out of his control and he felt a trickle of blood sliding down his neck as it trickled down his Adam’s apple.
Leo and Daichi came to the same conclusion at almost the same time but only Leo instantly realized what Lydia had aimed for. Lydia’s attack hadn’t missed, she’d aimed for hitting the top of his chin which was just enough to rattle his brain and make him lose control of lose control of his body temporarily. He was conscious but as vulnerable as if she’d knocked him out!
In Lydia’s eyes Daichi was an incomparable but unpolished diamond. His potential and value immeasurable, but he needed to be broken down and rebuilt. Leo was different. Unlike Daichi he didn’t seem to show the same potential, but his foundations were solid, and he even reminded her a little of herself in the past. Out of all of the four people she’d recently taken under her wing he was the only one that seemed to be walking down the same path as her.
In fact, she was a little proud of Leo at this moment, because while he may not have seemed to have the same potential as perhaps Haeru or Daichi. He showed a far more important characteristic to her: self-awareness. He’d been aware of his own shortcomings, inability to win and had therefore aimed to make the best use of his skills. Far too often this was the characteristic that allowed one to survive in a battle field or in a dangerous situation and it was something that recently Daichi seemed to have forgotten, Damien never had, and Haeru had never developed.
Instead of trying to get back up, Leo spoke without facing Lydia. “I lost. I value my swordsmanship above everything else, but against a brute force and speed that far surpasses mine, swordsmanship can’t make up the gap. Thinking that it could is only a fanciful thought. I need to improve my physical body.”
Lydia’s smile returned to her face as she nodded unconsciously while even taking a quick unconscious glance at Daichi. Leo came to the realization of his biggest weakness within his own strength. In her eyes, he’d already chosen a path but he’d only taken a few baby steps.
While both Leo and Daichi were lost in their own thoughts about their weaknesses and their most recent brushes with failure. Damien could only stare at them with wide eyes and annoyance as his fists trembled by his side. He was amazed by Daichi’s potential and how easily he was defeated by Lydia, but he was just as amazed at how easily Lydia dealt with Leo who he’d come to acknowledge as being at his level. He didn’t even have to look in Lydia’s direction to feel her gaze bearing down on him as he considered the events that had just transpired and that would occur in the next few minutes.
He took his time before begrudgingly turning around after finding the energy to calm himself. He knew that winning would be an impossibility after what he’d seen, and he was even more downcast than Leo had been.
Lydia and Damien took their positions but unlike before, there was no one spectating his match as the others were too preoccupied with their own thoughts to bother watching Damien’s match.
While Daichi and Leo completely ignored Damien’s turn and thought about what methods to use to improve themselves, Damien began his assault on Lydia. Unlike Leo he didn’t have the heart to believe he couldn’t do better than Leo. He wasn’t a realist and held expectations for himself that would slowly get him to a higher level bit by bit. With his upbringing he’d been raised and taught to believe that only those who believed themselves strong and aimed high could achieve worth while accomplishments. He began the process of entering the same state as he’d been before he almost died out in Bull-Wind Forest and began hurling fireballs one after another towards Lydia.
There was no strategy or plan, he merely didn’t believe he could land a single shot on her body. He began creating them almost as quickly as he could throw them, it was something he hadn’t been able to do before but after slowly familiarizing himself with his new found ability in the past few days, he’d become far more adept at sensing the the fire element in the mana around him. Much to his dismay, Lydia dodged dodged every single fireball while seemingly standing still. Her body slightly blurring just as a fireball would come into contact with her body.
Damien didn’t realize how he could throw so many fireballs without a single one landed with her image staying stock still, but as his mind started to get hazy and his vision began to blur due to his over-drafting the mana within his body without even realizing it, he barely noticed the marks on the ground. It was only as he passed out that realization struck him that Lydia was dodging at the last possible second, minimizing her movements to the extreme at a speed he couldn’t keep up with his eyes.
Lydia didn’t move from start to finish and merely watched Damien overexert himself with minor disappointment. On one hand she was disappointed at his lack of strategy, from her perspective it was almost as if he didn’t take the match seriously. On second consideration though, he’d managed to drastically improve his familiarity with his new skill which he’d only created days ago. Moreover, after watching Leo and Daichi compete against her, Lydia was sure he assumed he wasn’t in any real danger which wasn’t untrue.
She could ignore his efforts and chalk it up to youthful exuberance as she began to ignore them with a slightly dismayed expression.
After giving it serious thought, Daichi finally came to the conclusion that there was far too much he himself didn’t know. His eyes were filled with desire as he looked towards Lydia’s gate. She’d already left and his greatest desire was to leave and enter the library. In his mind that would be the key to gaining strength. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do to leave if she wouldn’t let him, he felt like a caged bird.
After leaving the area Lydia turned back to stare through her gate at the three kids within her sight, but the only one she was truly focusing on was Daichi.
‘Father told me to be extremely careful and to watch him like a hawk… But I have a feeling he’s not the one.’
Except… Lydia didn’t feel naturally weary of Daichi. She was the type of person who followed her instincts because they’d never steered her wrongly. Instead, something about Daichi made her feel optimistic. Almost as if he was possibly someone she should get as close too as possible.
When Daichi left the study after meeting the Vice-Headmaster, Stanislas had called her back in to have a conversation about Daichi. Only then had she found out how much more complicated the situation was. He’d left Daichi in the dark not that he or anyone would have told him the reason for their current concern. Lydia loved her father and trusted him completely, more than that she respected him. After finding out what he’d told her, she was even more certain that had someone else been in his position they would have tried to kill Daichi the moment he entered the city. Stanislas had done no such thing, he hadn’t even treated Daichi poorly despite his very presence possibly being the catalyst for the end of the city and everyone in it.
That conversation had clarified quite a lot for her. Even before leaving for Bull-Wind Forest she’d been starting to have an ominous feeling. During the exam when things started to get out of hand she’d been expecting the worst. Then when her group made it out safely, she’d come to the conclusion that perhaps she’d been imagining things but she hadn’t let down her guard. When they arrived back in Lumea and she’d been informed of the extent of the possible losses she’d begun to feel that ominous feeling again.
Even now, that sense of dread and impending danger hadn’t lessened and so Lydia’s gaze didn’t waver as she looked on at Daichi and the others with a sense of hope even if she herself couldn’t quite understand why.