Chapter 14 – Talent without Strength
Ashen’s Age: 10 Years Old
“Ahh! Wait, ah.”
I watch as my daughter, who went in for the attack, finds herself off guard and on the ground again. It is always the same with this girl. And Chesney doesn’t make it any better.
“Stop whining and complaining,” says Chesney, “It’s the obvious result, right?”
“I don’t get it. Don’t get it. DON’T GET IT!” yells Ashen. “Why can’t I even get in one hit! Seriously! Even when it was obvious you were going to use a side swipe from the left. Cheater. Hacker. Give me back my hit!”
“What are you talking about? It’s like this every time because you simply don’t have the skill.” says Chesney, rather arrogantly I might add.
If you looked at the two standing there, it is the picture of a handsome and gallant youth, with golden blond hair, green eyes, and a tanned complexion together with an adorable girl, her wavy dirty blonde hair tied up in a pony tail, and thee boy reflected in her blue eyes.
That is if it was just a painting. Or if you were deaf and couldn’t hear the two bickering.
In reality, Chesney is a teenager entering his rebellion years rather early. He’s only a year or two away from starting primary school at the Central Academy in the capital. Though I will say he is very talented, he is somewhat full of himself, and most of his bark at Ashen comes from his insecurities about her.
Yes, my dear Ashen, she is a genius. A genius with the sword, or maybe fighting in general. She fully picked up on the philosophy of Shipboard Combat, the style I developed during my sea faring days, and excels at it. She is instantly able to make judgments and attack the weak point of her enemy. She is not fixated on any one style or approach, and that makes her a difficult sparing partner. She refuses to let you get into any sort of rhythm of approach, as she constantly changes in relation to how you are attacking her.
It’s almost as if she was a Human. That is what the Humans are known for, after all. A Tigren will stalk you and pounce. A dwarf will bash you with a hammer or axe from the front. An Ursine will beat you down with his bear strength. But a Human? A human could come at you from fifty different ways, and you’ll never know what hit you. That is why they are so scary, despite being so weak on their own.
And like those Humans, Ashen shares the same weakness that has kept her down.
She is weak.
Even after training for over two years, since she was eight, she has not built up any constitution or strength. She has dexterity and can move quickly, but not not nearly enough. Her sword blows are like being hit with a feather. Her speed is like a jogger in a relay race.
Simply put, she is like the world’s greatest chef in a desert. All that skill won’t do you any good if there’s nothing to cook in the first place.
These two. I am worried for both of them.
Chesney is threatened by Ashen’s obvious skill. I think he fears the day that Ashen acquires strength to challenge him. He’s very good himself, but it’s at the level of very good versus genius. But it is clear he has some resentment against Ashen for daring to be better than him. I also think he is jealous because he thinks she is taking my time away from him.
Oh, I don’t think he seems me in that way. It is more that the master that he fought so hard (not really) to get taught under took another weaker pupil under their wing at the same time instead of fully committing to him.
I hope he will grow out of it. The chip on his shoulder is the only thing holding him back. I was hoping he’d see Ashen as more of a friendly rival, but instead he treats her as the enemy.
Well, if that lets him grow, I guess.
Ashen sees Chesney as an older brother. She seems to write off Chesney’s abrasive remarks. I wonder if she had a similar relationship with someone in her past life?
Ashen is different from most children. She is a reincarnator, and a famous one at that. The legends of her line go back to the founding of the kingdom. What sets her apart from her past is that now she remembers her previous life, while the others only had vague notions.
That, and the others were super strong and formidable warriors, while Ashen is all brains and no brawn.
Even though I say all that, she is still very childish at heart. It would be strange to think of her as an adult.
“That’s enough for today.” I say to stop their bickering. “Let’s pack up and go inside for our meal.”
This has become our daily routine. Lessons in the morning, followed by sparring and then lunch. Afterwards, I will continue to train with Chesney, and Ashen will take a packed meal from the kitchen, and run off on her own. She says she needs time to think about things as well as practicing her magic.
Well, I can agree with that. Maybe it is that time of reflection that gives her the edge over Chesney? After all, I don’t think he has much self reflecting. No, wait, perhaps it is that he self reflects too much? Except he only sees threats rather than opportunities.
As for Ashen, I think it may be time for her to give up the sword. She is exceptionally talented at magic. She has even created her own magic system from what Sander says. He says that this is why he did not want to get her a magic teacher; her knowledge and skill are so much that her system is better than the one taught at the academy. Likewise, it goes both ways he says; if she is left to her own devices, others won’t be able to learn her system and we can avoid a magical arms race.
As for a governess, since she has more knowledge than most from her past life in another world, the most the governess could teach her would be etiquette and history. She has good manners, but then again, who am I to tell? I barely was a noble, if you can call it that, and that was only for the scant years before I ran away from home.
“All said, I am a little jealous about her a bit.” I say as I watch Ashen, clothed in a tan canvas shirt and black pants, says ‘see ya later, mom, I’m off to the forest!’, skips over the low stone wall onto the road. She seems like she is almost skipping away towards the forest to play. Did she hate sword training that badly?
“Jealous? Of her? What of?” Chesney says with a snide remark. “With her skills, there is no way she can be a swordsman.”
Ah, focusing on the skill part. He’s showing his own jealousy there.
“I mean, here we are, training all morning, drenched with sweat, and her with not a drop on her.”
“Oh, that. Well, whats wrong with a little sweat?”
“Nothing’s wrong, I just wish I had her talent for magic. When I asked her about it, she said off hand that she just created an ‘air conditioner’ effect around her that made the air nice and cool. I’m jealous. She doesn’t even realize that other people cannot do that, doesn’t she?”
We continue to banter on aimlessly. Despite his coarse tongue when it comes to Ashen, he talks quite charmingly to me when we are alone. He’ll definitely be a lady killer when he grows up.
I wouldn’t want him to court me, though. He’s the type who gets an inferiority complex when others around him are superior to himself. At least those whom he thinks he cannot use.
Yeah, I don’t want Ashen to marry such a boy.
“You’re always in high praise of her, and I know she is your daughter, but does she really think she can be a swordsman with how she is? She has not able to land one hit on me the entire time we have been training together.”
“But she has almost done it quite a few times.”
“Almost doesn’t keep you alive on the battlefield.”
“Like you have ever been on a battlefield.”
“And I have. Almost may not be good enough for yourself, but for your opponent, almost throws them off balance and opens them up for your allies to get a hit in. But we’re not on a battlefield, and when learning anything, almost is a good predicate for being able to do it in the future. Besides, she knows how to think. She has grasped concepts that you still are working on, you know?”
“How to think? Hey! Like what? What don’t I know?”
“That you have to ask… no, asking questions is good. I mean, you know… Listen, when in a fight, the most important thing is to sustain your active concentration. Always be aware and concentrating at all times, even when nothing is happening around you-because something could happen at any time.”
“Just concentrate? That’s easy. I am concentrating!”
“No, you don’t I am not talking about in the heat of the moment. I am talking about at every moment of every day. It is exhausting at first, but a huge advantage once you master it. It is very taxing, though.”
“Alright, what else then?”
“Always assume that your enemy is around every corner, in every hiding place. Assume they are there.”
“So you just swing at every hiding place?”
“No, because it could be your ally is there, or maybe someone not involved. So you must assume they are there, act as if they are there, but not to react until you confirm it.”
“That’s impossible. You should just swing.”
“That’s how you become a Criminal, Chesney.”
“Well, as long as you are with the knight order, it will be-”
“If you say that its fine as long as you have authority, I’m gonna seriously beat you down you little twerp.”
Ah, I accidentally let my temper get the best of me. I really hope he doesn’t actually believe that crap, that as a knight you can do anything.
Or I may have to kill the boy.
“You must anticipate your opponent’s action, even if they are not there, while having the control to react regardless of being wrong or right.”
“What other oh-so-important words of wisdom will thou supply to me?” said Chesney in a mocking voice. “As Ashen has already applied those techniques, I should be able to easily, right?”
He really is infuriating.
“Ashen actually understands these precepts, unlike you.”
“What? Of course I understand-”
“And can put them into practice.”
“I can put them into-”
“Huhuhu…. Then let’s try it. I have an idea for you and Ashen. Ashen may even be able to land a blow if we do it this way.”
“I don’t know if I like the sound of that… no, wait, I mean, no way Ashen could land a blow. I wouldn’t allow it!”
Allow it, shmallow it, it will happen.
“Let’s see, to give you some time to practice, how about next week? For an entire day, You and Ashen will be in a game of tag. The last person tagged at the end of the day loses.”
“Fine, I’ll do it, I can do it. What do I get when I win?”
“Hmm… that is a secret.”
I haven’t thought of a reward yet. I’ll look in the treasury and see if I can find a fitting magic tool or armor. Maybe a sword?
“There are other precepts I have not talked about yet, you know.”
Now that there was a competition and a reward to be had, he was really paying attention, huh.
“What are the fundamentals of Shipboard combat.”
“To out maneuver your opponent.”
“That is one, but it is more basic than that.”
“To out think your opponent.”
“That is just a rephrasing…”
“To always put your opponent on their back foot-”
“Again, thats the same thing.”
“To be ready to fight anywhere, with anything, at anytime, on any terrain, be it favorable or unfavorable. With or without your weapon of choice. You mitigate your weakness by being ready to turn any situation into your strength. Be that on a burning, rocking boat with a cutlass, or a forest path and armed with nothing but your fists. You must be ready.”
“Okay then, show me!” yelled Chesney.
“Okay, I’ll show you!”
We continued to spar, practicing the precepts, for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. He is dedicated when he feels he can gain from it, eh…
Ashen will be back soon, so I’ll have to tell her about the competition, and pick a day.
It’s getting dark. Isn’t she a bit late?