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154 Kengyoku

 The look on the city watch captain's face did not change much, but the delight was palpable in his eyes. Without regard if it was an ambush, he energized his qi, drew his sword and swung it down at Mufasa!

A bright red 'Danger'[1] character that only Mufasa himself could sense appeared over his head.

That blow couldn't be blocked!

Nonetheless, Mufasa's heart stirred-clenching his mercurial blade, he rattled it, directly repelling Bolt's blow instead of trying to parry it!

His move should have sent Bolt flinching and staggered him enough to leave him defenseless, thereby creating an opening for a flurry of strikes. Bolt, however, did not so much as shake as he easily nullified the reflected blow, denying Mufasa his opening.

Mufasa could not help being stunned.

But unbeknownst to him, Bolt was even more stunned despite keeping a poker face.

His qi strike was stopped by someone not using qi? How could this be?!

Qi was the divine grace of the God of War Kratos' given form, and fundamentally a supernatural strength just like magic. Moreover, the source of all the magic in this world was Magic Violet, and since both him and Kratos were two of the seven Divine Fathers, there was no distinct inequality between them-in the eyes of mortals, at least.

Hence, that attribute from the deity was supposed to be fatal, with normal people being unable to stop it at all no matter how good their way of the sword was.

That is, unless the person in question had left the restraint of rules and obtained a miracle of their own to become a legendary champion.

And Bolt would never believe that the youth before him was one such legendary champion. If he really were legendary, he would have gone out in force at the previous insult, blowing Bolt and the others up along with Lancaster itself.

Likewise, it should not be magic because Mufasa had not made any signs.

Hence, the only possibility left was divine art. There is a huge chance that Mufasa was buffed with some divine arts to hold himself against his qi!

Regardless if Bolt the city watch captain had made his conclusion, he withdrew the disdain he had been showing. The fact that Mufasa could stop a qi-powered strike made it evident that he was more than a mortal and had ventured into the domain of supernatural-not some existence to be harvested but one worthy of respect.

"I am Bolt Marbil, captain of Lancaster's city watch, heir of the great swordsman Elton Cobb and a mark-bearer of the Temple of Glory!" He declared loudly at Mufasa. "Name yourself, special one!"

Such a long title, so cool.

Mufasa could not help feeling envious.

Hence, after a moment of silence, he imitated Bolt in return. "I am a witness of Rotten Bones' fall, he who light torches in the land of tragic deaths, treasure seeker in the depths of the Grey Fjord and a warrior who repelled the fishmen's invasion: your typical bystander, Mufasa!"

What typical bystander?! Both Bolt and the young noble were cursing inwardly.

Knowing that Mufasa was just making up some titles and reluctant to reveal himself, Bolt did not say another word and attacked Mufasa again.

However, instead of the opening and direct exchange of blows, the city watch captain had adopted a ruthless but unusual fighting style. With qi aiding him, his speed and strength far surpassed anyone else's, and any other Player might have been distinctly disadvantaged and fallen right there and then. After all, the abandoned house was too small and too narrow: Mages and Rangers would never have the space to cast their skills, Shadow Rogues had never been good at direct fights, Clerics would get tongue-tied in their chanting while Spirit Swordsmen would have killed themselves in the process...

Even so, Mufasa was the one exception: he was the only Swordmaster who had trodden the route of Kengyoku.

***

As a Kengyoku, Mufasa basically had no other ability apart from sword skills-no sword beam, no HP-trading buffs, no dirty tricks like throwing dirt or bricks.

All he could rely on was his sword skill and himself.

It had actually been perfectly normal for him to be defeated by monsters of the same level back when he first decided to change class to Kengyoku after he had been drawn to a sample video. As a matter of fact, he would be in dire straits if he was surrounded by two or three monsters, even if they were six levels beneath him-his ability to fight simply pales when compared to other Players, just as he often dragged other Players of his party to full-team wipeouts.

Eventually, he decided to attempt challenging dungeons alone, giving up on partying.

One should note then that the Player level average then was different then that it was now, and dungeons were extremely difficult and dangerous even for a full party.

Naturally, Mufasa would die in every way possible. He could even have dropped below Level 15 if he had not been careful and be prevented from using any of his sword skills.

But at some unknown point in time, he started to realize that the minions in the dungeons had become infinitely vulnerable. He could now see their every action, seeing the trail of where their attacks would end up and where they were going to easy parry or deflect. None of them could reach him, and he could in fact cut off the two-thirds of a Rotten Bones High Priest's HP without getting so much as a scratch, before being instakilled by its inescapable AOE strike...

That naturally left Mufasa with the illusion that he could have killed even the Rotten Bones High Priest alone, if only he had trustworthy party members to buff him with shields and heal him...

Be that as it may, he had already earned the infamy of causing party wipeouts. Even Players who never heard of him would say things like 'our party is full', 'spare us, bro' or 'here's twenty bucks, buy yourself some smoked meat' after learning that he was a Swordmaster who had assumed the path of Kengyoku.

As such, after having given up on the permanent quest [The Lord's Light Illuminates the Land] for some time, Mufasa decided to recruit some new Players to party with and began preaching in Lancaster.

And that was why right now, he appeared to be holding back even with Captain Bolt raining blows down upon him... he could keep up with Bolt's rhythm, and see through his skills even before he casted them!

Therefore, Bolt who had been planning to use his flurry of blows to leave Mufasa flustered and take him out with one decisive strike was pulled into a vicious battle of attrition instead!

Unlike Mufasa who could stay at his peak condition as long as he did not empty his stamina bar, Bolt was only human-his will to fight would fall along with the reduction of his stamina, and just after half a minute of fighting, he could not react in time and had his fingers struck by Mufasa with his hilt, his blade coming loose and sent flying.

But it was not over!

Roaring inwardly, Bolt let loose all his qi in one big burst!

There was no rule claiming that the power from the God of War could only be used with weapons! With a sinister smile, Bolt began focusing his qi into bullets that he fired at Mufasa!

As a matter of fact, Bolt was good with a sword but still lacking compared to the finest, even losing often with other swordsmen of the same level. Even so, he would always get the last laugh because every swordsman would unwittingly let down their guard-even if it was just a little-when they knocked his sword loose.

However, the reality was that the Qi Shots he was letting loose now was his strongest skill!

But his smile immediately stiffened in the very next instant.

The Qi Shots he had fired with every last bit of strength he had was deflected!

'How's that possible?! Qi Shots are not sword skills but a condensation of pure energy. How could it have been blocked by that parrying? That is not very qi!'

Mufasa might be sneering if he could hear Bolt's thoughts: it was just a Qi Shot after all. He had only seen too many of its usage in Player PK-as long as no 'Danger' was showing up over his head, he could parry fireballs, frost bullets, tentacles, dust, bricks, seafood, and Shoryuken!

Nonetheless, Bolt the city watch captain could no longer ask any questions-immediately after parrying the Qi Shot, Mufasa gave him no chance to surrender as he swiftly leapt behind him in a somersault and cleanly sliced his head off!

[1] The 'Danger' () character that appears over the player's head is a reference to a gameplay mechanism in Sekiro: Shadow Dies Twice.