If he was a normal man, being submerged in water for so long would cause his skin to puff and wrinkle, because the semipermeability of the cell membranes caused large amounts of water to flow into the cells. This would cause a normal body to swell up.
Anfey, however, had practiced letting his body breathe while underwater. In the beginning, he would swell up as well. After a few months of practice, he could manage to control his body and let it breathe. Now it didn’t matter how much time he spent in the water, his body would rarely swell up.
He had a grass straw in his mouth as well. Whenever his air began to thin, he would discreetly approach the surface to get some fresh air. When everything returned to normal, he would go back to his previous hiding place.
The first time they were intercepted by the Sacred Flame Legion, three strangers had intervened to help them. Anfey had found a piece of cloth there that smelled faintly of perfume. He deduced that since it was black, it could not have belonged to the Sacred Flame Legion, and that it had belonged to a woman.
Women tend to do a better job keeping themselves clean. If those people had followed his group, they should be camping somewhere around here as well. This was the only pond he found. He wanted to bathe here, and he imagined whoever was following him would want to bathe here too. Of course, they didn’t have to come here that day, or at all, for that matter. Even though he had set a few alarms along the way, the people following them could have discovered his track.
Even though the possibility of seeing their pursuers was slim, Anfey wanted to wait there and see. Plus, he wanted to practice his skill holding his breath.
After forty-nine cycles, Anfey felt he was approaching his limit. He was disappointed that he did not see who he was expecting. When he surfaced to take his last breath, however, he felt the pond ripple, and spotted a shadow at the shore.
Anfey allowed his body to enter a more alert state. He took the straw and hid it at the bottom of the pond. Then he sank down to the bottom.
The reflection of the moon was disturbed, the broken pieces danced happily across the water. In situations like this, it was very hard to see what was happening at the bottom of the pond. Anfey let himself float through the water, pushing himself forward with a finger, and moved slowly towards the place where he spotted the ripples.
When he was closer, he spotted something whitish in color that appeared to be a person’s legs. Anfey stopped carefully. He sank to the bottom and waited for a chance.
Time ticked by slowly. Anfey estimated it had already been around three minutes. The person had moved deeper into the water, meaning that whoever it was, they hadn’t discovered him yet. He had only ten minutes, and after that he would be powerless.
After two more minutes, Anfey was merely feet away from the legs. He lifted a piece of rope from the bottom of the pond and slowly approached the person. The glow from the moon was still shattered, indicating that the person was still bathing.
Anfey slowly retreated, and when he was about ten feet away, he yanked the rope. However, the person had lifted a foot just then, and he had only caught the left foot.
Anfey needed to think quickly. He jerked the rope back with all his might and yanked the person underwater.
He swam towards the bottom of the pond while he drew the rope in. The person’s blurry form was approaching fast. They were surrounded by a ball of white light, and even underwater, Anfey could tell this person was at least an intermediate swordsman.
However, she was dragged into the deep water, and even though she was struggling hard, she couldn’t really find a solid place to use her power. Anfey had kept his feet solidly on the bottom of the pond to keep himself steady.
The woman stopped struggling and starting sinking towards him. Anfey was yanking on the rope, and the distance between them was suddenly shortened. Suddenly the woman swept towards him with her leg. Her leg slashed through the water with a dull thud, and Anfey could see it making a foamy arc.
Anfey ducked his head at the very last moment, and her leg missed. As her leg passed his ear, he heard a strange ringing and felt a sharp pain. Anfey knew the water must have ripped out some of his hair.
He could tell how powerful the person was just from that one single kick. He swam backwards to put some distance between himself and the person. Then with a few twists, he wrapped the rope around his right arm.
Clearly his opponent now understood that she needed to defeat him in order to get out of the pond, because she came right at him, swinging her fist. Again, Anfey heard the dull thud in the water.
Fighting in water had given Anfey some great advantages. It was a familiar environment for him, where he had practiced many of his skills. He cocked his head to avoid the punch, and did not try to fight back. He twisted his body and used her momentum to grab her. He pushed his opponent to the bottom of the pond and pressed her head against the muddy bottom. His other hand kept hitting her head.
Moving around like this in water was very difficult because of the resistance, but Anfey had experience. All of his punches were linear at first, and had only become a fist when he was about to come into contact with his target.
Where he was hitting his opponent was significant as well. For a swordsman protected by combat power, attacking any other place would leave no more than a scratch. Attacking the head, however, could potentially affect the person’s brain. If his opponent accidentally choked on water, it would be all over.
His opponent suddenly pushed herself off of the bottom of the pond with her hands. She was stronger than Anfey had expected and he felt he couldn’t restrain her any longer. So he changed his strategy and began restraining her instead of hitting. His left arm wrapped around her neck and his right around her chest. This way he restrained the usage of her arms. Whenever he was attacking from behind, the worst thing to deal with was elbow attacks. His legs wrapped around hers, and effectively prevented her from using her legs. Now, unless she could wave her legs like ropes, she could not attack Anfey.
However, Anfey was shocked to discover how stubborn she was. Even in a disadvantageous state, she was struggling hard. She tried to hit him with her head, but it was ineffective because Anfey had laid his head against her shoulders. Then she tried to use her hands, and Anfey felt sharp pains in his arms, but didn’t dared to loosen his grip. The situation would turn against him if she managed to bite him.
Slowly, Anfey found himself at a disadvantage. She was slowly prying his arms apart. Anfey lowered his head and bit her in the shoulders.
"Argh…" Even under water, Anfey could hear a grunt from his opponent. Then he felt the struggling stop for a bit. He took advantage of this and wrapped a hand around her neck.
Soon, the struggling stopped and the tension in her body softened. Anfey waited for a few moments before releasing her. Just then, he saw her face and her lips, pressed together so tight they were almost like a line, and felt something was off. He swam backwards, then saw a punch straight to his face. He avoided the punch, but the water made his eyes too painful to keep open. He couldn’t afford to close his eyes, though. He saw her leg sweeping towards him again, and raised his arms to his chest to defend himself.
Anfey’s arms slammed against his chest. He felt a strong pain in his right arm, and knew that it was probably broken.
His opponent did not try any further attacks. She struggled towards the surface of the pond. Clearly she was about to lose all of her air supply.
Anfey couldn’t let her go that easily, of course. He jerked on the rope and easily dragged her back down.
This time he didn’t try and approach her. He kept at a distance and watched her paddle through the water. It achieved nothing, however, and finally she sank to the bottom and became still.
Anfey waited for a few moments before approaching her. He kicked her a few times to make sure that she had really passed out, then grabbed her and began swimming towards the surface. Even he was at his limit, let alone someone he dragged into the pond with no warning. His kicks were to prove that she was really unconscious.
He walked to the shallow part of the pond and left her on the ground. Anfey sat down on the bank and took a deep breath. It was a difficult fight, and the pain from his right arm told him that if she had really kicked him in the chest, he might be dead or dying now.
Anfey had fought many difficult opponents, but a woman as difficult as this was a first. When they were underwater, he had felt the strange softness of her chest and was certain that it was a woman.
Remembering that, he turned around and froze in his place.