28 The Sentinels 1
After being nagged by Felicia for the whole evening, Drake was given healing herbs and stuff to recover faster. Although his wounds would have normally taken days to be healed, his heart had mutated and granted him a 200% boost in recovery speed. Adding to the healing herbs provided by Felicia, a night rest was sufficient to close most of the external wounds.
Although he had some lasting injuries which should take a few more days to be healed, Drake decided to ignore them since they were mostly superficial.
At the Sentinel Camp, everyone looked at him with respect. After all, Rey, the sentinel Captain, was one of the few peak knights. Rey had been acknowledged by the Head of the Sentinels, the Sword Saint Sillius, a Grand Knight with impressive abilities.
There were only twelve sentinel captains. And yet, Rey didn't manage to win against Drake. It was a complete stalemate that other sentinels had to put an end to in order to avoid heavy injurie and material damages in the casern.
"You're up pretty early in the morning, heh?", Rey suddenly exclaimed upon seeing Drake rushing in the casern.
"I could say the same about you!", Drake replied
"I am afraid I won't be able to spar with you like yesterday. I am not sure whether you are aware of that or not, but you somehow dislocated my shoulder yesterday!"
"My apologies, I was caught up in the moment. I was wondering though…could you teach me this fist technique you've attacked me with yesterday?", Drake suddenly asked.
Although he could probably 'steal' the technique based on observation and simulation, his biochip was unfortunately busy with analysing the Wind Bindings spell handed out by Magus Kayle. Furthermore, the stolen version of the skill would never be as good as the one he would learn if Rey was willing to hand it to him wilfully, carefully explaining the steps. Hence, he could only resort to ask Rey for a favour.
"Mm, I am afraid I cannot. It was a knight killing technique of my temple back in the days."
���Temple?", Drake suddenly asked.
"Yes, the Porfield Kingdom is in the centre of the continent, and probably the most powerful out of the thirteen great kingdoms. There are two neighbouring kingdoms at the east, which us eastern folks call provinces. Although there are officials overseeing the provinces and 'royalties', the true powers of these provinces are temples, who have the support of the people and strength to defend against enemies. I come from the Liu Province, and I lived 30 years in the Sky Clear Temple, in which I learned many things, including the knight killing technique you seek."
Drake understood Rey's reluctance to teach this art. After all, these arts were restricted techniques that weren't supposed to be spread. In History, a northern kingdom had tried to spread Grand-knight level techniques and Grand-knight level spearmanship to every single inhabitant so that the populace would get stronger and able to defend themselves against raiders. For years, the kingdom entered a golden age, and they were able to repel the raiders.
However, a harsh winter descended and famine broke out. The angry population gathered and led a revolution that destroyed the kingdom. Although techniques and strength were useful, they were also very dangerous. This is why ever since this kingdom's fall, nobles monopolized these techniques and swore to hunt down any attempt at spreading the techniques.
Rey was no exception. He wouldn't commit such a crime. Even if he was in Helios, he wouldn't betray his hometown.
"Yeah…I figured so. However, I guess you can give me some insights on how you managed to attack me through my heavy armour. I have never seen something like that", Drake asked sincerely.
Rey smiled and thought in horror: 'To be able to grasp my fist technique's secret by experiencing it just once…He truly is a monster'
"I am not asking you to give me this intel for free. In exchange, I can give you an advice on your Great Sword Art. I might not be a master of Great Swords, but I know you are lacking in a few areas. If I point out, you may become much stronger than you currently are."
Rey pondered for a while, before accepting. The two of them walked together to a secluded room. It was a personal training room, a privilege that was unique to sentinel captains. There were several dummies, weights to lift, sculptures to meditate and naturally, plenty of weapons to train with.
Rey suddenly put a sturdy plank in front of dummy, and used his knight killing technique once again, yet this time, he controlled his strength as not to destroy the plank. However, the dummy behind broke, as if it was pierced by Rey's punch.
Drake could not comprehend what was happening.
It was too overwhelming…as if Rey was using magic!
"It's not magic", Rey corrected, "I trained my fist technique for three decades. This is the result of my training: I can freely control the internal energy in my fist, and releasing it can pierce through defence layers and deal nasty internal damage. Honestly, I went soft on you yesterday."
Drake was shocked…To be able to control internal energy so proficiently…It was indeed worthy of being the result of decades of training. Usually, only Grand knights could do it, but nothing was absolute. Rey was a living proof of that.
In a way, Drake's Arclight chop was similar, except that he required a medium: his sword with which he always fought with. He embedded his sword with internal energy, producing a blue light which increased his sword's sharpness and power. If he could learn how to release internal energy at the same time…the knight killing technique would be considerably enhanced!
"Can you do it once more?", Drake asked
And thus Rey performed.
"Once more?", Drake asked once again, with a sorry face.
After practicing the technique over a dozen times, Rey ran out of internal energy and collapsed on the floor while massaging his shoulder which Drake injured the previous day.
"I cannot do it anymore, sorry", Rey said.
"Don't worry, it's already impressive you did it twelve times in a row", Drake said while thinking about what he had witnessed, "it's time to uphold my part of the bargain"
Drake picked up Rey's great sword, and imitated Rey's sword art: "When you swing your great sword this way, you expose you right flank. If I used all of my strength yesterday, you would have broken ribs by now and not just a dislocated shoulder. Furthermore, although you mastered your sword art, you lack adaptability. You always strike the same way, and move the same way. If anything, your charge was by far your best move, since you studied it."
Rey nodded, as he was well aware of these shortcomings of his. The Head of the Sentinels had said the exact same things to him.
Drake wasn't just inventing the stuff he was saying. His father, Viscount Allan, was an adept of Great Swords. The Moonlight Sword art was very strong, and well suited for two-handed swords.
"This is why you need to think while fighting. I've seen your eyes, constantly staring at my next move. However, you only think of what your opponent is going to do. You never think about what you have to do. And while it grants you better reaction time, it also cripples your adaptability", Drake said.
By the time the two of them finished exchanging pointers, it was evening. Mostly, they spoke about techniques, breathing methods and ways to get stronger. After this long session, the two of them seemed like they had gone through some advancement. The next day, Drake secluded himself in Rey's training room for hours.
[Beep! Arclight Chop landed on target! 15 degrees of damage dealt. 1 point of internal damage dealt! Practice the move 112 more times to increase your proficiency in releasing internal energy to enhance the Arclight Chop technique!]
'112 times to go, huh. I should be able to do it in a few weeks, aye.'
And thus, going in the sentinel casern and going for knight training became an every-day routine. Drake would spend the morning his Arclight chop technique and spar with knights eager to test themselves against him. As he gathered more data and pointers with peak knights, his proficiency in both his sword art was improving by leaps and bounds.
The Sentinels were far from being a homogeneous group. While some joined the Sentinels for honour and opportunities to access markets that would enable them to get even stronger, it was also a place where knight-level criminals were sent to, as a way to redeem themselves.
Some of the people Drake talked to used to be bandits, mercenaries or even murderers. After decades of belonging to the sentinel, with constant training and fighting, these men and women no longer thought of committing atrocities. They focused on one thing: becoming stronger, since strength was the only thing that would keep them alive.
In the afternoon and the evening, Drake would usually focus on his magical studies, as well as meditation. He would also practice his grand-knight level technique occasionally, as to improve his attributes, if only slightly.
At some point however, the Captain and Drake's relationship became that of close friends, to the point that Drake was offered to join the Sentinels. It was a crazy offer, because the Sentinels were probably one of the strongest factions within Helios, considering the number of knights they had. Besides the arcane order which was known to be pacifist, the Sentinels had enough men to utterly outnumber other factions. Artefacts, spells and enchanted armours didn't matter if dozens of knights unleashed their strongest techniques on you.
Drake considered the offer.
He walked the path of a body refinement acolyte. No matter how he looked at it, the most knowledgeable people when it came to body refinement were not acolytes, but the Sentinels. Furthermore, the data Drake could gather by staying with them would be priceless. Perhaps with his biochip's help and the data gathered, he would be able to improve his swordsmanship to Grand-knight level!
Other factions proved to be quite lacking in benefits. He had no need for guidance from higher-rank acolytes with the wealth of knowledge in his mind, most of which was acquired in the first floor of the library. He had no need either for immediate backing, since he had no enemies to speak of.
As for the truly good conditions, the factions involved in Helios didn't like the thought of investments. After all, even if you possess high talent, it didn't mean that you would become a strong acolyte. Becoming one required talent, for sure, but it also required luck, resources and will. If any of these four factors was lacking, then becoming truly strong would be either exceptionally long, or filled with difficulty.
Hence, before Drake could be truly someone worth investing, the factions which reached out to him were not really worth joining. They were either desperate or unappealing, whereas the Sentinels were strong, honest and straightforward.
Furthermore, there was no better protection than that of a Grand Knight.
After a deadly silence, Drake suddenly spoke the words with firm confidence: "Alright, I will join you"