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At the crack of dawn, Anfey pushed himself off of his bed and took a few deep breaths. Yesterday's quarrel was behind him; his eyes were made to look forward, not back. If he didn't let go, it would only be harder on himself. To live was to let go, he told himself. Niya was Saul's only daughter, he couldn't do anything to her. It was in his best interest to simply let it go.

When he pushed open the window, he spotted Ernest practicing his sword below. In truth, it was more a warm up than serious practice. For someone to be as skilled as Ernest, practice was not merely enough.

Anfey grabbed a towel and left his room. He descended the stairs and entered the courtyard. "Ernest, sir," he called as he threw the towel to the man. "Please take a break."

"Anfey, morning," Ernest said as he walked over with the towel, wiping his neck. "You're up early," he added as he handed the towel to Anfey.

As Anfey extended his hand to grab the towel, Ernest frowned. "Your hands…"



"My hands?" Anfey blinked, feigning ignorance.

Ernest held out his hands. Their hands were of similar sizes, their fingers long and powerful. The only differences were his rough skin and the tendons sticking out on the back of Ernest's hand. Ernest grabbed Anfey's hand and turned it over, finding a thin layer of calluses on his palm, where the thumb met the hand. Ernest had never paid attention to Anfey's hands before, so he was only now discovering the unusualness of the young man.

"You have experience with swords?"

"A little, a long time ago."

"With whom? I can't feel any fighting intent from you."

"With a strange old man in my village. Not for long, though. I was only ten when Yagor took me to the island."

"Still don't remember where you lived?"

"No," Anfey said, scratching his head. "I didn't have a father and my mother raised me. I can only remember her name and the village head's name. Everything else is blurred."

"Don't worry. All in due time," Ernest said. "What was the village head's name?"

"Bin Laden. Do you know him?"

"No," Ernest said, shaking his head.

"Like you would know," Anfey thought, displaying his disappointment for Ernest to see.

"Come, boy, let me see your skill with the sword," Ernest said, suddenly interested.

"Me? With you?" Anfey asked, widening his eyes.

"Come, don't be afraid. I will not harm you," Ernest said, smiling, as he handed Anfey the magic sword from yesterday.

Anfey took the sword reluctantly, clearly regretting his decision of ever leaving his room.

"Watch out!" Ernest said as he drove his sword forwards. He didn't intend to actually fight Anfey, so although the sword was fast he didn't use much strength.

Anfey blocked the sword, pushing Ernest away from himself. Then he flicked his wrist, brushing Ernest's wrist with the tip of his sword. Ernest blocked Anfey's attack, shocked.

Like the way mages focused on the strength of their magic and their senses, the swordmasters of this world focused on their qi. Their actual skills with the swords were in fact very easily learned. In Jin Yong's world, there was the conflict between the Qi Zong and the Jian Zong[1]; in this world, all the warriors belonged in the Qi Zong. Their skill level was determined by qi as well.

Even though Anfey only used the simplest form of Tai Chi Sword, Ernest could still tell just how effective it was. What was even more shocking was that Anfey was taken away by Yagor at ten, meaning his skills were simple and crude at best. But even so, his skills with the sword were mesmerizing. Just how skillful was that old man from his village?

"Anfey, what was the name of the man that taught you this sword art?"

"I don't know. He was a strange man, and no one wanted anything to do with him."

"Can you remember what he looked like?"

"Of course. He had white hair and beard. He wasn't tall, and always wore loose-fitting clothes. Oh, on his clothes there was an embroidery."

"What?" Ernest thought he was onto something, and his expression became somber.

"A circle, half white, half black. In the white half there was a black dot, and in the black half there was a white dot." Anfey said, drawing a yin-yang symbol on the ground with his sword. "Do you not know what this is?"

"No." Ernest said. "Come, let's spar another round."

"As you wish."

The two men set up again, facing each other. Anfey was using very little strength, weak enough that if Ernest used any more power Anfey's sword would have flown out of his fingers. However, Ernest's frown was only deepening.

Anfey had a strange way of using his sword. He barely moved his upper arms, relying solely on his wrist to control the movement of the blade. Despite that, his movements were persistent and precise. Ernest could feel that Anfey had at least the skill of a mid- to upper-level swordmaster; enough to be a threat to him.

After a few moments, Ernest stopped his hands. He gripped his sword and stared at the sky, reveling in his thoughts.

Anfey placed his sword down quietly. Yes, he did what he just did on purpose. Ernest carried hatred in his heart, waiting for an opportunity. All the while, the object of his hatred had become the general of a powerful army. Saul had said Jerrofick was surrounded by the strongest and the best, and that Ernest's chance of revenge was getting slimmer.

Ernest did not fear death, but that did not mean he was actively placing himself in situations that could lead to his death. If Ernest appeared in front of Jerrofick, he would surely be attacked by those 'best of the best,' leaving him no chance for his revenge.

Anfey had purposefully shown him a few of his moves, hoping to give Ernest a hint or two.

"Mr. Ernest? Breakfast is ready," Niya's voice said. Of course, these things could be left to the servants, but Niya knew she had angered Ernest yesterday. She was hoping that her actions could make up for her mistakes since she still wanted Ernest's instruction on her sword skills.

Ernest, as if awoken from a dream, looked at Anfey. "I'll pass on breakfast," he said. "Go right ahead, Anfey. You are going to the Academy today, so do be careful. If anything happens, try sticking through it. But remember to tell me when you get back."

"It's okay, Mr. Ernest," Anfey said, smiling. "Who's going to do anything?"

Ernest glanced at Niya and snorted, but did not say anything.

"Then I'll be off to breakfast," Anfey said. "I don't want to leave a bad impression by being late on the first day."

Ernest nodded, "Go right ahead."

Niya, seeing that Ernest didn't want breakfast, wanted to saying something more. But, ultimately, she silenced herself and led Anfey towards the dining hall.

Inside the hall, Saul was already at the tableside, and the food was ready. He had not touched it, as if he was waiting for something. Seeing Anfey entering the hall, he smiled. "Morning, Anfey. How was your night?"

"I was very comfortable, Master," Anfey said. "I could hardly remember where I was when I woke up."

Saul, of course, did not know what happened yesterday. Niya was in the wrong and did not dare tell her father about it. Anfey wasn't one for snitching. Ever since he was a child, he had never told anyone when he suffered an injustice. Ernest was used to freedom; when he encountered problems, he was used to dealing with them alone. He would almost never talk to Saul about his problems. So, to Saul, everyone was still friendly with each other.

The youngsters sitting around the table glanced at each other without saying a word. Even the youngest of them had followed Saul for a few years now, but Saul cared only for their magical abilities, not their personal lives. Only Niya could make Saul worry about her personal life. Now there was one more person that could make Saul worry—Anfey.

"Morning, everyone," Anfey said, smiling as he sat down. Only two people returned the courtesy, the rest treated him as if he didn't exist.

Anfey let out a sigh of relief. It seemed like it was only a minor problem. Yesterday, Niya was talked into starting trouble with him, and he thought that they were a group of sly people. Judging by their reaction today, he had overestimated them.

Of course, all of this was because of the unusually good treatment by Saul. It caused hostility among his colleagues, but those feelings could be eliminated over time. He could earn their respect by proving himself useful. If it didn't come to that, Anfey didn't want to make enemies with any of these people. As far as Anfey cared, friendships were much more useful to a man than enmity. It was better to be friends with these people than to fight and conspire against each other right under Saul's nose. It was obvious the first path was easier for him and his future. He had always considered himself to be easygoing, never holding grudges where grudges weren't needed.

"Niya," Saul said. "Take Anfey to the academy later. Tell Steger that he is my student and should be offered the best care."

"Of course, father," Niya said, smiling sweetly.

Translator's Thoughts Nyoi-Bo Studio

[1] Jin Yong is a novelist specializing in Wuxia novels. Qi Zong is a group of martial artists specialized in breathing techniques, whereas Jian Zong is a group of martial artists specializing in sword skills.

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