Ever since arriving at the southern pass, I’ve learned quite a lot: scavenger crows taste like chicken, shadow panthers taste sour and icky, moonlight wolves taste absolutely amazing. I just wish I brought more spices along to eat them properly. Maybe I should get an interspacial ring; then I can stop worrying about space while lugging around a huge bag—though I make Snow carry it. But I heard those rings were super expensive and only available to nobility—I learned that from Snow, by the way. Snow’s really too knowledgeable when it comes to survival and money. I suspect he’s a quarter crow.
“You’re thinking strange things about me, aren’t you?” Quit reading my expressions and pay attention to the food, Snow! What if you burn it? “It’s all over your face. …Are you thinking I’m part crow, perhaps?”
“Durandal.” Durandal opened his eyes and stared at me. He always meditated while we ate. Maybe he was thinking of cultivation methods and martial arts he could teach me. “Are there any spells that allow you to read minds?”
Durandal shrugged. “That bastard left all the spellbooks with Vera and all the martial arts with me.” He scratched his head. “I can’t remember anyone reading minds. But who would dare read Roland’s mind? Ask Snow.”
“I’m asking you because Snow wouldn’t tell me the truth if there was.” Why would he? I know I’d firmly deny it if I could read minds. Just like Snow denies the fact that he’s a girl, but he actually is since I checked underneath his pants at night. …Good. No reaction from Snow. That was a test! I didn’t actually take off his clothes at night—I’m not a pervert … mostly. Only when it comes to Durandal, okay!?
“Oh.” Snow was staring at the bloody mess in his hands. “There was a beast core in this moonlight wolf. It must have been close to evolving to a spirit beast.”
Huh? “A what?”
“…I thought you two wanted to come to the southern pass to make money.” Snow’s forehead wrinkled as he glanced at Durandal. Hey! I’m the one talking to you; don’t look at him. He’s mine.
“And training,” Durandal said. “Give the beast core to Lucia to absorb.”
“Uack!?” A solid object smacked against my forehead. The heck? I picked it up and rolled it around in my palm. It was solid and heavy like a chunk of metal. And Snow threw this at me? I raised my head to glare at him, but he had already disappeared and reappeared in the branches of a tree. “This is a beast core? What do I do with it?”
“Squeeze it and send your qi into it.” Durandal walked over and grasped my hand, folding my fingers over the core. It looks like I wasn’t being given a choice in the matter. Then again, I didn’t mind. Durandal didn’t hold my hand very often. His hand was surprisingly smooth considering he was a master of swords. And spears apparently. “…Are you listening, Lucia?”
“Squeeze it and send my qi into it!” Ah. It’s hot.
Durandal sighed. “Yes. And then send the energy inside of the core into your dantian.”
That weird word again. He totally means my womb, right? What else is beneath my belly but above my squirrely bits? Anyways, focus this heat into my womb, got it. That tingles.
“Make the energy swirl and condense it into a sphere. Locate the boundaries of your dantian and fill it with the beast’s energy.”
At least Durandal’s instructions are always easy to listen to. Is this the boundary? The heck? My womb’s not supposed to be spherical, right? Maybe there really is another organ down there. Now what? Were there no more instructions? “And then?”
“And now we spar.”
What!? How is that the logical next step? “W-wait. What did that even do?” And where did the beast core go? It disappeared? “The core’s gone?”
“You absorbed it and all the energy inside of it. You’ll see the changes in your body once you spar with me.” Durandal placed mini-DalDal in my hands and picked up his spear. “As you absorb more and more cores, the quality of your qi will increase. With higher quality qi, you’ll be able to perform more difficult martial arts. Right now, you’re at the lowest level of qi mastery.”
“Is that good? I’m as strong as a general in the Ravenwood army.”
“You’re on the level of cannon fodder. You would’ve been amongst the first to fight and die during the warring era. If you really are on the level of a general, then the martial abilities of the world have deteriorated.”
“Didn’t I tell you? The era of weapon spirits and martial arts is over.” Bouncykins peered over Snow’s head and spoke down on us from the tree. “It’s the era of spells and magic. All martial artists are cannon fodder in the eyes of a master mage. No matter how strong or fast you make Lucia, she will never travel faster than lightning. She will never be able to stop an ocean’s worth of water. She will never have the destructive power of an exploding volcano.”
Hey. Don’t look down on me even if all of those are probably true. You’ll make Durandal sad again, you stupid bunny.
“You say it as if those are possible for a mage.” Durandal’s face was expressionless, but I know that’s the worst kind of expression he could have.
“They are. Cain Thunderfire. He’s currently the strongest mage in existence, surpassing the Godking, but that makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s been 80 years since Roland’s died; new powers will grow.” Bouncykins sighed. “With a flick of his wrist, he can call upon thunder. With a point of his finger, he can make lava spew out of the ground. By shouting really loudly, he can cause the oceans to stir and slam tsunamis all the way to the mainland. There’s rumors of him inheriting the magical portion of the Godking’s legacy.”
“I’ve heard of Cain.” He’s the hero of the demons. I remember the people in the army thanking the Godking for bringing peace to the three factions because if they had to fight Cain, the humans would lose. “But how come I didn’t know he inherited the Godking’s legacy?”
“Vera’s not as famous as Durandal. And Roland used an alias for his magical deeds.”
Really? Then what was the legendary mage of the Godking’s generation called? “The Voidwalker?”
“Yeah. That’s the one.” Bouncykins nodded while Durandal made a sour expression.
“…How many aliases did the Godking have?” I already know about Golden Rat and Voidwalker. Don’t tell me there’s more.
“Over a hundred.” Durandal shook his head. “But the three you know are the most famous. Anyways, don’t you think you’re forgetting something, Lucia?”
I forget a lot of things, but what specific thing did I forget this time? “What?” A spear flew at my face, and I almost didn’t react.