「Alrighty then, Slava, Shido, are you two ready?」
An early afternoon at the Arufareia academy.
It had been a few days since Alma came here to teach.
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In the sturdily built auditorium, my classmate and I were facing each other.
It was for the newly established martial art class. As part of the lesson, we carried out practice match-ups.
Although I did question the choice of selecting the auditorium as the place for practice–but since they chose it, it can only mean that they have confidence in having nothing be broken by our activities.
Fumu. Even though it was for practice, I got to face off against someone whom I haven’t seen in a long time. The young boy’s name was Shido Oldham.
Many times he declared he would leave the Elf country to become an adventurer and make a name for himself. He was someone who harbored huge ambition.
He had short green hair, sharp eyes, and very aggressive looks.
I won’t say that he behaved well everyday, but I did not dislike him.
「Hehe, I’m not going to lose to a loner who only reads books!」
He sure did lack many things. His foul mouth and sleeping during lessons were two of his bad points.
Both of us each had our own goal to strive for and we put all of our effort into realizing it, especially in martial art class. We were both happy and eager to get started.
Not to get ahead of myself by saying that but this practice match was meant to help us strengthen our bodies, and it will definitely help us get closer to our goals.
For better or worse, his desire was what true from the bottom of his heart.
「Okay! Remember what I just taught you, always keep your guard up and fight fairly!
Get into your fighting stances!」
Do not strike with full power.
Aiming for vital organs is prohibited.
Stop attacking immediately if you feel that either of you is in danger.
These were the three rules Alma set in place to avoid accidents.
Though I’m not sure if the twelve-year-old could comprehend what the rules were, but if things were to get out of hand, Alma would instantly interfere.
If she has to, Alma will intervene. But if not, she will observe without disrupting the fight.
「Here I go, Slava!」
「Alright… Just give me your best shot.」
A troublemaker—but unexpectedly entertaining. I just love his personality.
I got into my stance. Although it was not nearly as solid as I wanted it to be, it was still a solid one.
I’ve practiced stances tens of thousands of times. Since Alma was teaching just now, I didn’t think that it would be a big deal, thus I picked the Shijima style’s most basic stance.
This stance was in fact the most well-rounded stance my great master, Iwao Shijima, thought out.
When I was studying under my great master, he taught me the forms of the Shijima martial arts which branched into numerous forms from this one stance. The stance I picked was essentially the most basic stance of all martial arts.
Taking this stance brings back a lot of memories within me. I really wished that I could meet my old friends again, and smiled.
As for Shido, he picked the same stance I did. However, since he could not grasp the full concept of the stance and was just copying my stance, he could not bring out its ‘true form’.
It was the same with each of my disciples copying me. Those were pleasant memories. My playmate was someone who did not understand even a little bit of martial arts, thus this match up would prove to be beneficial to him if he learned something.
Well, Alma only gave the ready signal and never said start…
I waited for the starting signal, but Alma never did say it.
When I turned to her, about to ask questions, I saw her frozen still with her lower jaw dropped.
「Oi Sensei~ What’s the hold up? Can we start already?」
「Eh, ah, ah, excuse me. Both of you can get back into your positions again.」
It wasn’t just me who was wondering, Sid was equally puzzled as he asked. Alma’s posture returned to normal and she replied.
「That stance, it can’t be but…that was no less from being perfect?」
I got back into my stance while Shido…posture, full of mistakes in many ways, and Alma was mumbling about something on the side. Unfortunately I did not hear what she was mumbling about.
「Okay, both of you good to go?
Worrying about it is useless now.
…Tsk tsk, my first opponent after so many years is a young lad. I sounded secretly to myself.
Don’t misunderstand me. It is only by observing a great martial arts master can the disciple grow. It is my utmost pleasure as a martial arts master to have the opportunity to give this young lad a chance to sprout. ⌈1⌋
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Shido quickly closed the distance by charging straight at me, which was a naive mistake. What was the point of trying so hard to stay in your stance just so you can drop it all at once? He had no guard whatsoever, but it didn’t matter since he abandoned any kind of orthodox fighting stance.
–It’s fine, it’s fine. It isn’t unusual for kids to be carefree.
Since I couldn’t blame him for being simple-minded, I just let out a smile.
Even if he managed to hit me, he can’t injure me if he’s like this.
At the moment, I could probably take ten thousand of the punches he throws out, but Shido’s physical endurance would give out long before that.
Even if I was just a mere martial artist, there was no doubt that I was the ‘strongest’ in my age group.
I moved my hand, caught Shido by the arm, and redirected the power in his punch away from me.
There was some power to his punch, and an inkling of magic behind it. As my hand gripped his arm, I moved on to break his balance.
It was hardly a surprise attack on his part. He had sufficient power but the way he utilized it was shallow.
I swept his leg to take away his balance and then swung him over my shoulder. Since he roughly had the same build as me, my action caused him to flip over in mid-air.
Alma along with most of other kids were speechless. Someone was cheering and yelling something about a person flying in the air.
The idiotic Shido on the other hand wasn’t afraid one bit. Suddenly being swung in the air probably didn’t give him enough time to think of anything. ⌈2⌋
This was the difference between martial arts and a brawl. After showing off my power, I stop the attack and instead tighten my grip to brake Sid’s descent as gently as I could.
「Eh? What….did I—just lose?」
「Hehe. Shido, didn’t Alma-sama say that martial arts wasn’t just about how much power you have but how you use it?」
While I was supporting his head to avoid head injury, Shido came to understand that he was on the ground, looking up. Looking at me, instead of feeling depressed, he just showed his usual arrogant expression and muttered.
「Unbelievable….as one would expect from an Oji-san!」
Meanwhile, some of the other kids were still cheering happily.
That was just the start of it as everyone was applauding me.
Although I treated them as noisy annoyances in the earlier years, the cheers coming from the little children was surprisingly heartwarming.
Suddenly, I felt that it was entirely correct.
When I called them little children, am I not in the same age as them?
I let out a sigh when I realized my mistake.
Right after that, I froze.
Hang on a second, what did I just do?
If I’m not mistaken, I swung Shido over my shoulder.
I recalled my actions one by one.
Redirecting Shido’s punch and sweeping his foot—
As soon I finished comprehending what just happened, my face turned pale.
…I’m such an idiot!
My original plan was like this: avoid getting hit and then wait for an opportunity to trip Shido over. ⌈3⌋
But that wasn’t what had happened.
I went ahead and used the technique called 「Tree Leaf Throw」 from the Shijima martial arts.
The idea is that the opponent was similar to the weightlessness of a tree’s leaves. Using what’s called as the centripetal force of the opponent added with your own power, you can slam the opponent’s head onto the ground. This was the basic and essential concept that every Shijima technique applied.
My body felt as if it was frozen solid. After a few awkward moments, I turned my head and looked at Alma.
「Slava….the technique you just used, where…?
No, it doesn’t matter where you learned it.
At your age, how were you able to perform it to such a degree—?」
….I’ve done it now.
What a fool I was. Even though I told myself to be careful, my eager self just came bursting out.
There were thousands of other ways I could have done it, but I just couldn’t help but do what I did—here of all places.
I did what my great master taught me. This technique was meant to be absorbed into the body so that using it was as natural as breathing and vice versa. ⌈4⌋
It had certainly become as natural as breathing for me. Doing something so stupid instinctively, I really wanted to knock myself in the head.
I refrained from doing so, however.
It was no other than Slava Shijima, whom Alma was most familiar with, using the technique.
It was difficult to keep a straight face but I just need to get through somehow.
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「Ahh, erm…my…father practice the Shijima style and…erm…
Most of the concept of ‘Tree Leaf Throw’ was taught to me since I was little…
If, if it was something a beginner at martial arts wasn’t supposed to know for this lesson, I’ll reflect on it…」
Darn, did I say too much?
I think it came out smoothly. All I did was making it ‘seems’ like I made a mistake and that I would reflect on it. ⌈5⌋
It was fortunate that no one from my village was present. My childhood friend wasn’t here also because that kid was two years older than me, I’m the sole person from the village in this class.
It was downright a lie telling her my father did Shijima martial arts, but I needed to make it sound like I was a disciple of someone experienced with the Shijima style—-and I figured that since Shijima martial arts had been made common throughout the world, I could just…
…Well, I’ll try my best to talk my way out of Alma’s questions.
「Taught since an early age….you say?
…how old were you when you started?」
「I started when I was five. But except for being taught its concept, the technique itself was never demonstrated to me.」
「So you’re saying that you perfected it on your own…?」
….Oh dear, I think my acting skill had become quite splendid. I praised myself a little.
What I was trying to get at was that ‘children are able to learn martial arts through some form of discipline.’
「Hah, I’ll instruct you more from now on. As for your previous display of skill….my my, I’m impressed. This is just a normal practice so no harm done.
As for your opponent, considering that you executed your technique brilliantly, there was nothing he could have done. Don’t stop what you’re doing and keep working hard from now on.」
「In that case…」
「Ah yes, performed a flawless ‘Tree Leaf Throw.’ You’re really something.」
Alma was smiling and spoke awkwardly.
…Haaa, I avoided it, somehow.
Let this serve as a lesson to remind me to be more careful from now on.
But really, I have to find a way to adjust and hold myself back. It seems that the path to my goal has yet another obstacle. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t bring up the cover unless absolutely necessary.
I was just relieved that this crisis was over.
As Shido was finally getting a hold of himself, Alma told us to step down from the stage.
He and I gave each other a bow before stepping down. Once we did, Alma signaled the next pair to go up.
Haaa, that was really close. I have to be super careful when using martial art skills in front of that child.
I wiped my sweat thinking about the potential disaster that could happen in martial arts class.
Then, Shido, who was covered in sweat, made his way over and sat down next to me.
「Hey, I was wondering if…」
His eyes were looking down, almost as if talking to me was talking to a senior.
Although I stopped my technique just before he hit the floor, Shijima techniques were very intimidating. Holding fear after tasting one such technique wasn’t so uncommon.
「Slava, you’re incredible. What did you do to become so strong?」
The look on his face was the complete opposite to his normal self, it was so respectful that I did not expect it at all.
Fumu, what did I do to become strong, he asks.
Well I learned from memories, was what I wanted to tell him but—-even if I tell him, he was missing something more important.
「It’s simple, devote myself to train diligently everyday.
It may take a long time but with enough perseverance, you will be able to come to where I’m standing sooner or later, Shido.」
「Diligent…? Yes! I’ll start working hard everyday from now on!
Yosh, I will definitely beat you one day! Hehe. Just you wait!」
After all that happened, he was still burning with confidence. This must be youth.
Of course, being a youth myself, I let out a smile.
–Elven school, Mirafia National and General Academy Arufareia.
In the academy where elven children from all corners of the country gathered, the room where only adults were present—-the faculty office, a peerless beauty was sitting at her desk letting out a groan as she investigates. ⌈6⌋
She was 106 years old, in spite of that, her body was that of a young elf. It was none other than the legendary martial artist whose name was a legend—Alma Shijima.
In order to find suitable candidates, boys or girls, to succeed the Shijima name, she put great amounts of effort into nurturing the young one’s potentials.
Every ten years, she would travel from school to school, and at the beginning of the next ten years interval, she had found a suitable young lad but was feeling anxious.
The list of everyone’s names was on her desk, and she opened the first page of Slava Marshall’s documents. The boy’s first name on it was the same as her master.
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「…I don’t know how to take this. His look’s are basically identical to master’s.」
Master’s race was human, yet this boy, who’s an elf, has too much resemblance to my deceased master.
Beside the racial differences, lots of resemblance could be seen from this boy, Slava Marshall’s: eyes, nose, ears, and even physique.
He’s a polite boy was Alma’s first impression of Slava. But now that she had finished her first class with him, her impression of the boy had changed.
「He really resembles master but there’s no way that that’s him…why am I over thinking this?」
Alma already had the answer to her question but for some reason, she was not fully convinced.
The flawless execution of 「Tree Leaf Throw」, a skill that only mastery of the style could pull off. And that Shijima stance, everything was natural for him. He gave out the impression of master Slava.
「So many strange coincidences at once…Master, won’t you show me guidance-desu?」
Alma spoke out toward her master who was in heaven. But, an answer never returned.
However, she was determined on one thing.
There were lots of disciples. The number of talented probably numbered the stars.
However, to pass on the skills and convey her feeling for her most beloved, only one person shall receive it.
At last….I finally found the one.
Her determination blazed in her eyes. In the world where it had lost its colour, the colour now had reappeared.
「Master…I, I’ve finally found someone worthy of entrusting the future of Shijima’s masteries to-desu.」
Toward the heavens, Alma once again spoke.
Except that her master, who was supposed to be in heaven, was in fact the young boy, was without her knowledge.
As for the boy whose regards were sent towards, he sneezed and moved on with his activities at that time.