Chapter 45
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Lock watched with a bored expression as Harald's wrung out and almost naked body heaved on the ground, laid out as it was next to their small camp fire next to the Trydan lake. A place that they had required the assistance of fishing uncle to reach. A cut off little clearing, on which one needed supplies being brought to one if one wanted to survive. Perfect for some training.

Training of which they'd just completed the first day of.

Well it had been more a day of measurement rather than a day of progress. Evaluating Harald's base stats. Seeing if there was any chance to drastically improve them by the end of their little training escapade.

Lock's respect for the swordsman grew once he'd determined that there would be no great progress made in the realm of simple physical fitness. Harald had already eked out most of what his body was capable of.

This however, naturally represented a problem. Lock considered himself an expert on physicality, first and foremost, and a fighter second. Improving his base stats through sheer force of will had after all consumed almost all of his efforts in the last several years, while he'd only been an actual combatant for about a month now.

There were things that he could teach the boy, yes, but it was bothersome that the task was not simply solvable by applying one of his greatest strengths. Taking a body to its limit was something he was good at. Teaching... His knowledge on the matter was a work in progress.

He didn't have a lot of time either, less than a month. There weren't many skills that could be taught during that time. Therefore, the things taught would largely need to be constrained to shifts of mentality that would make Harald a better combatant.

Teaching him how to use the tools he already had, instead of giving him access to new ones.

The question now naturally became. What tools did Harald already have?

A well-trained body. Swordsmanship The shades living within that special sword of his could be very helpful. Exploring the depths of their expertise could be a valid training method. Ingrain the skill in the body, rather than the sword. Harald wouldn't be allowed to take it into the arena with him anyway.

The boy had the makings of a good enough physical fighter, but what about his mentality?

Lock scratched his chin, watching the boy come to himself, slowly, the drills that Lock had made him go through had been quite arduous.

If the level cap for the tournament was level ten, it would also be helpful to take Harald to level nine. The only problem naturally being that they didn't have that much time and opportunity to slay monsters.

So he had three things that he could work on. The usage of the tools already at Harald's disposal, his mentality during a fight and levelling him up, if possible.

The first two possibilities were something that could be worked on fairly easily, Lock would simply spar with the boy, beat him, let him regain his breath, beat him again, and repeat ad infinitum. Maybe he could make him meditate with that fancy sword of his? See if simply focusing on the task let him take on more of the skill of the shades. This could be done whenever the body needed to recuperate, a good idea.

Even if the skill acquisition failed, meditation, the attainment of true focus, was a useful skill for a Swordsman to have.

Levelling, as mentioned earlier, was an unlikely possibility.

Lock tilted his head. So, those were the things he could work on with Harald.

He was however only one part of the tournament, the competition, was the other. Was there anything he could teach that would be useful against a bunch of pre-level ten iron adventurers?

What were the greatest weaknesses of Irons anyway? Inexperience and incompetence mostly, all other problems being a subset of the two. The incompetence was not something he could deal with that easily. It was a too varied flavour. Incompetence was quite frightening really. The best swordsman in the world did not fear fighting the number two, but rather the worst in the world. Because the worst was dangerously unpredictable.

Inexperience however. It would manifest in not being able to deal with unexpected situations, not being able to deal with certain aspects of battle that they'd not yet confronted. Like death.

“Have you ever killed anyone?” Lock asked, filling the silence at the lake clearing for what must have been the first time in several hours.

Harald shook his head from his position on the floor. An expected answer.

“Do you think you could?”

Hesitation. “Why are you asking these questions?” Harald shot back.

“Answer.”

“I feel as if I could. Depends on the situation.”

“Good answer. You see, most people aren't inherently good people, they simply lack the opportunity and the incentive to be bad. This is what society is all about, creating a place and a situation where crime is unrewarded. Your answer is basically that if you were confronted by the right person, at the right time, and at the right place, you could kill them. Like for example the murderer of your father, at midnight, on an abandoned clearing, where nobody would know that you were the culprit.” Lock paused. “This answer is however something that you will have to learn to rise above.”

Harald laboriously turned his head in Lock's direction with a questioning look.

“I assessed you today, and determined two things that we would work on. There won't be any purely physical training involved, you did a good enough job on your own. However what we can work on, is on how comfortable you are in fighting a human opponent, this means sparring, against me, a lot. The other thing that you can work on, and that the sparring already addresses, is how much of the skills that you can access through the shades, you retain without access to the sword.” Lock started explaining.

“What you will basically be doing is, sparring with me, and then meditating on the sword while regaining your breath. It's not going to be fun, and the improvement will be slow and gruelling, but noticeable. This is how skill always is. There is no magic potion that will turn you into a monster on the battlefield. There is however one sort of improvement that you can always make, an improvement that may as well be instantaneous. An improvement of mentality.” Lock paused, a pause that Harald used to interject a question.

“What do you mean?”

“It's quite obvious really. While we're sparring, I am going to help you develop a mentality, that will make it impossible for you to lose against some Irons. Observe.”

Lock stood up from sitting on a tree stump and drew his sword. Half-heartedly standing there he held it in his hand, looking at Harald, not thinking about anything in particular. Harald looked puzzled.

Then Lock changed gears, started forming thoughts of how to efficiently, quickly, and most of all, brutally, murder the boy lying on the ground. He let his thoughts control his body, subconsciously shifting in a more threatening position. Harald tensed up and stumbled onto his feet, taking a few steps backwards.

“See the difference?” Lock asked, relaxing, and received a hesitant nod.

“You looked like you wanted to, attack me.” Harald said.

“The word you're looking for is perhaps kill.” Lock corrected, and got another nod.

“You see, while there is no use of magic or a skill, your body subconsciously radiates a certain atmosphere depending on your intentions. If you don't like somebody, your face turns into a frown, informing the other of this. The same is true for killing. If you really want to kill somebody, your body language will reflect this.” Lock said.

“But I don't want to kill in the tournament.” Harald shot back, sounding almost incredulous.

Lock rolled his eyes. “You're not going to, don't worry. Not only would the presiding referee prevent you from doing so, I don't actually want you to try and kill anyone. I just want you to learn how to act like you do. Look, most of the people who are going to participate in the tournament have likely never been confronted with anything capable of killing them, even if the particular monster did have the intent. They're going to be pretty shaken up, like everybody is, if the body genuinely feels like its in a life or death battle..”

“Wouldn't it make them fight even better, if they think that their life is on the line.”

“Not as well as you, because by the time we're done, you're going to have a lot more practice.” Lock retorted as he sheathed his sword and pulled out two sword-like branches that he'd found in the surrounding area. He threw one of them at Harald, who barely caught it.

“Now, come at me with the intent to kill, because I assure you, I shall be doing the same.” Lock said in a conversational tone, before attacking.

A jump forward brought him into Harald's range, and a downswing of the sword was barely parried.

“That doesn't make any sense.” Harald sputtered as he back-pedalled downwards.

Lock answered casually as he pursued. “Of course it does, just because I intend to do something doesn't mean I actually have to do it.” Another downwards slash transitioned into circling Harald's branch with his own, disarming the boy. A kick brought him onto the ground.

“Do try to keep up.” Lock said as he walked over to Harald's actual sword, and hurled it at the boy. It landed on the ground next to his groaning form.

“Meditate with the sword, try to feel the skill of the shades flow out of it and into you. Do it until you feel the need to go to sleep, at which point, do so. We will continue tomorrow.” Lock said, leaving the small clearing that they were camping on towards where he knew to be a cave that had once housed a bear.

This he knew because he'd been the one to kill the bear, then requisition its domicile for Lemmings. If Lemmings and Harald spent any significant amount of time together, the latter would eventually notice that the former did not eat, or sleep, or breathe.

A discussion that Lock was uninterested in pursuing.

Once he'd reached the cave he started undressing, leaving himself in simple trousers, everything else carefully laid out on the ground outside the cave.

He brought up his arms in what would best be referred to as a highly amateurish boxing stance. Throwing out a few simple punches, trying to perfect his form. He pumped himself up for confronting Lemmings.

Getting beaten up was not something that was usually very high on his agenda, but learning the skill unarmed combat so as to gain the Class pugilist, and after a few monsters the few easy stat points that came with it, was enough of an incentive to enter the cave and to call out his golem.

After the first few hits Lock also started comforting himself with the fact that this was good training for Earth's embrace.


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