Half a year of time had passed since Ardis started teaching Minerva about sword magic.
Minerva is now immensely different than when she had troubles holding a sword for the first time because of the weight. Her swordsmanship only grew sharper as the day progressed.
The sound of the two wooden swords crashing into each other reverberated in the training grounds. It was Minerva continuously trying to slash at Ardis from left and right.
「It’s too simple! Put more mind into your attacks! 」
While deflecting away Minerva’s sword without even moving, Ardis pointed out loudly.
Minerva replied shortly along with a slash with her whole body. And Ardis just continued redirecting the force behind her wooden sword.
Minerva would’ve been out of breath in just a few minutes when she first started can now continue at the same pace even after five minutes of intense slashing.
Of course, it’s still lacking somewhat compared to an ordinary swordsman’s standard, nonetheless, she is exceptional considering that she is a noble.
「It’s about time I switch on the attack! 」
Ardis who had defended against her attacks so far had switched into attack seeing a gap.
Of course, it’s not his serious sword at all. He had tuned the speed of his sword to just be barely perceptible by Minerva’s reflex, and a force that can be barely redirected.
If Ardis was teaching any normal person, he would’ve made them taste pain without any hesitation, but since it’s a young noble lady that he’s teaching now, Ardis’s method had to change too.
To not even graze her skin, Ardis had a higher concentration than he would when he fights against demonic beings.
Minerva who had failed to receive Ardis’s attack smoothly was now being pushed back.
「Don’t receive it head on! Keep it in mind that you will lose if it’s a battle of strength! 」
Minerva answered while taking a step back and readjusting her posture.
It was an action that could cause nothing but make the opponent increase their onslaught and start pushing herself back more. But since Ardis was fighting while standing still, Minerva probably chose so on that premise.
「Don’t back off! 」
Of course, Ardis won’t let that slide.
The iris-colored pupils that never expected Ardis to move was dyed in a color of surprise.
Her natural reflex was to retreat another step but, of course she couldn’t escape from Ardis with his heavy steps. With a heavy blow swung, the wooden sword that was in Minerva’s hands blew off and drew an arc behind her.
「That’s cheating, Shishou―」
Minerva was complaining.
「You wouldn’t move, wasn’t that what you said before. 」
「I wouldn’t move normally but, you will catch a bad habit if I let that slide. 」
After all, it isn’t a good choice to continue retreating when the opponent has the initiative.
「I won’t say that it’s entirely wrong to step back. It’ll be right if it was to bait the opponent, or to link attacks with people you’re fighting with. But retreating when you’re being pushed back is a no. You’ll be cornered in no time if you keep doing that. 」
It was a demand that would be thought cruel originally for someone of noble birth like her.
If it’s to just learn self-defense, then withstanding a few strikes would suffice.
After all, being a duke’s daughter would mean that she wouldn’t be by herself in the first place, even if an enemy went past her escorts and came at her, if she can fend off a few strikes on her own, her survivability would increase exponentially.
But what Minerva wanted to learn is sword magic. If she was to be satisfied with just self-defense, then she can stop here. Minerva is now only standing at the starting line.
Minerva asked weakly while her shoulders were down.
「Can I really become strong? 」
She probably felt anxious every time she swung a sword for the past half a year.
After all, her opponent was Ardis. Although it’s plainly just a bad match up, the fact that she was treated like a child cannot be denied.
Ardis replied with a little joke.
「You will. At the very least, I don’t think any noble lady in the Kingdom can match you right now. How about just holding a swordsmanship performance banquet for all the ladies in the duke house? 」
「I don’t think anyone would participate though. 」
In the first place, it’s likely only Minerva among all the young noble ladies is learning swordsmanship. Although there’re sure to be some among the nobles who likes stuff like that, but as expected, young ladies that would actually practice it can be counted with one hand.
And probably, none of them tell others they have. If there was, Minerva would need to actively seek them out.
「Well, that’s true. 」
Ardis shrugged at Minerva that had a condemning gaze at him.
「When will lesson about sword magic actually start? 」
Perhaps questioning the teaching capability of his, Minerva’s brows were raised as she asked Ardis.
「I said so in the beginning right? Sword magic lies on the long path of swordsmanship. Did you properly do your homework? 」
「……Yes. Just as you said, every night before sleep. 」
Her voice became softer rapidly.
It wasn’t Ardis’s bad intention to only teach swordsmanship to Minerva so far. Sword magic is something that can’t be learned no matter what if one cannot manipulate mana.
And that concept is radically different from what is generally recognized as magic in this world. Since it wasn’t 『Magic that appears along with a chant』, but 『Arts built with the laws of mana』, it’s natural that the basic acquiring requirements is to 『Properly tell apart the presence of mana』.
The homework that Ardis gave to Minerva was to properly perceive mana.
「If there’s no result from that, then there’s no meaning for me to teach. Rather, you wouldn’t understand even if I explained. 」
「Then shouldn’t we focus on that topic first rather than practicing swords? 」
「It’s not something that can be learn with just time. Rather than training, it needs 『Perception』. Whether you can perceive 『That』 or not, it’ll be something plain if you can perceive it. It’s just that simple. It’s important to concentrate even for a short period and repeat that every day. 」
The biggest hurdle in learning sword magic is to perceive mana. If she manages to perceive mana properly, then learning sword magic from thereon is nothing special. For someone who learns quickly, they probably wouldn’t need more than half a year.
On the other hand, skills such as how to adjust swords, how to assemble an attack, how to exchange blows and perform feints are not something that can be learned in half a year.
The root of sword magic lies within swordsmanship. If so, learning swordsmanship earlier would mean learning sword magic will be quicker overall.
Above all, if she learnt nothing even after many months of training, then it’ll be just too pitiful for Minerva. Even if Minerva couldn’t learn sword magic in the end, it won’t be a waste of time as she would have something more concrete that is swordsmanship.
「No need to rush it. You might not notice it but, you’re certainly becoming stronger. I’m not saying this to console you. This I can guarantee. 」
That night. Minerva was in her room making an attempt at the homework Ardis gave.
「Today I will……」
It was a small piece of pebble that Ardis gave her three months ago. It’s about three centimeters in diameter, though it’s a little rounded, it’s a very ordinary pebble that anyone can find on roadside.
It wasn’t shining like any jewel, not particularly heavy nor light, touching it would reveal it’s nothing but an ordinary piece of pebble.
Placing that on a table, Minerva who sat on the chair focused her consciousness. Fixing her gaze on the small pebble, she stared intently to not let anything pass by her sight.
It was a small pebble that is nothing special, but Ardis said, 「It should be really different than its surroundings」.
What is the small pebble, what is the meaning behind this homework, what she needs to achieve, Ardis hadn’t revealed any of them. Five minutes is fine, just look at it every day, believing in such words from Ardis, Minerva had continued this unknown action every night.
「It still looks like an ordinary pebble no matter what……」
Minerva who felt her eyes getting blurry from staring too much at the pebble massaged her eyes with her fingers.
Since her concentration broke, she thought it would be up to here for today, and held the small pebble up, looking at it with the light shining through. She thought something would change if it is illuminated with a magical light, but it seems like it was irrelevant after all. There wasn’t any change.
She felt the center of her vision was being hazy. The fatigue on her eyes probably didn’t wear off.
It was a pebble that looked nothing more than a pebble, Minerva had no idea what role it would serve for her to learn sword magic. Every month, Ardis would take a look at the small pebble but, in the end, he would poke at it lightly every time and nothing changed especially.
「If this goes on, I will become a swordsman rather than a magician. 」
Minerva sighed grandly without hiding.
It is really an unladylike action but, luckily, it’s her own room, and no one was around because it was just before she would sleep. Her own time, even a duke’s daughter has the right to relax then.
Minerva put away the small pebble in her glove drawer, and entered the bed after extinguishing the light.
Although she would suffer from muscle pain when she first started learning swordsmanship, now that half a year had passed, only fatigue was left, it wasn’t anything painful. While wrapped in a light feeling of fatigue, Minerva’s consciousness easily submerged.