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Chapter 6: The Protagonist

Despite my earnest attempts, both Lucifer and Cecilia inevitably joined our casual gathering. Ren and Ian treated Lucifer like a living catastrophe, Rachel was absorbed in her thoughts, and Jin remained nonchalant, displaying indifference.

As we strolled toward a cozy café within our building, I couldn't help but glance up at Lucifer, standing at an impressive height of over 190 cm. Deciding to indulge ourselves, we effortlessly flashed our I.D. cards upon entering the café and settled in to order drinks.

Robotic waiters carried our drinks over, and I had to control myself from being too excited.

Thanks to Count Chase's generous sponsorship, I was financially at ease.

"What a day it's been, right?" Cecilia remarked, her composed exterior concealing mysteries beneath.

I nodded, turning to Lucifer. "Your strength genuinely caught me off guard."

Lucifer chuckled, scratching his head. His demeanor, especially after the way he confidently outclassed Ian, could be deceiving. Yet, beyond the battlefield, Lucifer revealed a kind and amiable nature. It seemed his entire demeanor underwent a transformation only during combat.

Seraphina continued to gaze at me, stirring her coffee with a straw, an unspoken tension lingering.

Choosing to ignore her silent scrutiny, I diverted my attention to contemplating the upcoming main arc – the inter-year VR battle.

The Class A strength this year was so formidable that the Headmaster introduced a new challenge – VR battles across different years. In simple terms, Class 1 would clash with Class 2 in a virtual reality setting where, though the sensation of death was felt at 70%, the stakes were high.

Second-year students typically held a mana core rank level or two above the first-year students. However, in Class A, the power balance was more even.

Kali, the strongest in Class 2-A, boasted a formidable dark mage Gift, second only to Jin. Already a <White>-rank, she rivaled Ren in strength. To secure victory in the VR battle, Lucifer would unveil the true might of [Yin-Yang Body], the supreme Gift for martial arts.

The primary challenge stemmed from a leadership vacuum. Each member of Class 1-A possessed significant individual prowess but lacked effective leadership skills. Jin had some experience, but his closed-off nature hindered his ability to lead.

Lucifer's voice pulled me back from my thoughts. "So, Arthur, you never learned a weapon art before?"

I nodded. "Yep, focused solely on the basics."

"Interesting," he mused, emerald eyes scrutinizing me. "And you don't have a Gift either?"

I affirmed with another nod.

"You're going to get really strong, then," he concluded, his tone thoughtful. "Reaching Class A without a weapon art or Gift – if you add those to the mix, you could become quite formidable."

He wasn't wrong. However, I wasn't banking on luck to receive a Gift. There was a surefire way – the will of magic beasts. And by the end of the first year, I had a specific will in mind.

I chuckled and agreed, "Maybe if I'm lucky."

"By the way, clubs are opening soon!" I interjected. "Any of you planning to join?"

Everyone, including Seraphina, nodded in agreement.

The club structure varied between lower and upper years, functioning as simple gatherings for students who shared similar interests. It provided an excellent platform for finding sparring partners or potential mentors.

This also marked a significant moment where Lucifer, unbeknownst to his status, would go on to become the captain of the swordsmanship club by defeating the previous captain on recruitment day, eventually catching the attention of Kali, the strongest in the lower years.

As our group prepared to disperse, Cecilia suggested, "Hey, why don't we create a group chat for Class 1-A?"

Lucifer grinned, "Sounds good. It'll help us get closer."

Seraphina simply nodded, and I joined in with a smile, sharing my smartwatch number.

As Lucifer and Cecilia exited, Seraphina turned to me and said, "Hey."

I met her gaze, finding her eyes cool and impassive. We locked eyes for a moment before I awkwardly asked, "Um, what's up?"

'Way to go, Arthur,' I scolded myself internally, 'No wonder you've had no luck with the ladies.'

She shook her head and turned away, walking off.

Well, that was... peculiar.

"Hey!" Lucifer called out, rushing back, "Wanna have a duel, Arthur?"

A gulp caught in my throat at the proposition.

Fortunately, it wasn't a serious challenge; he wanted to gauge my skill in swordsmanship without relying on any specific arts. The rules were clear—he restricted his mana to <Low Silver>-rank and refrained from utilizing his Grade 5 or 6 art.

Facing each other, Lucifer drew the elite-grade sword he obtained from Mythos Academy. Despite his seemingly relaxed stance, a spark of excitement gleamed in his eyes. I mirrored his enthusiasm, drawing my own sword, crouching down, and then lunging toward him.

My blade sliced through the air, aimed at his neck. With our equal mana levels, he couldn't effortlessly deflect my attack without employing an equivalent amount of force.

Raising his sword high, Lucifer brought it down to intercept my strike.

Equal.

His larger stature meant he didn't need to rely as heavily on speed.

Lucifer swiftly regained his balance, countering with a backward kick aimed at me. His Gift, the one that seemingly made his every move flawless, was a constant challenge.

Yet, I wasn't about to give up easily. Springing upward, I dodged his kick and thrust my sword toward his chest, leaving little room for evasion.

He defended with his own blade, our auras clashing. Despite our equal mana, the force pushed him back.

Upon landing, I aimed a sweeping attack at his legs while he struggled to find his footing.

Executing [4-circle spell: Lightning Emergence], Lucifer summoned a lightning spell at his feet, deflecting my sword strike. Undeterred, I charged at him, attempting a shoulder barge.

His robust physique prevented him from being taken down.

Simultaneously, I unleashed [4-circle spell: Flame Burst] while he released [4-circle spell: Ice Burst]. The clash of our spells forced both of us to retreat, but I ended up worse off.

Seizing the opportunity, he charged at me with full momentum. I parried his strike, leveraging it for my own downward diagonal attack.

However, he anticipated my move.

With uncanny timing, he kneed me in the stomach, nearly making me drop my sword.

Almost.

My sword continued its trajectory toward his face, compelling him to block with his own blade.

BOOM!

The impact pushed me back as Lucifer unleashed his <White>-rank power.

"Hey, you okay?" he asked urgently as he approached.

"I'm fine," I replied with a cough, accepting his extended hand to get back on my feet.

Lucifer had only used his power to block my attack, not aiming to hurt me, and that's why I didn't end up too battered.

"You win this spar, Arthur," he conceded, rubbing the back of his head.

Wait, what? I won against the most overpowered MC ever? Sure, he held back on his full mana power, Gift's active ability, and his weapon art, but still, I managed to outdo the protagonist.

"Thanks, Lucifer," I grinned at him, trying to downplay my excitement.

"Holding back much?" a cold voice cut through the air. Lucifer and I turned to see Jin, arms folded, staring at us.

Jin Ashbluff, a crucial character in <<Saga of the Divine Swordsman>> and one of the key figures I needed in the VR drill against the second years.

Lucifer and Jin had their differences. Heirs to influential families, they were well aware of each other's existence but never got along. Jin, the apathetic soldier, clashed with Lucifer, the kind-hearted soul.

"What's your problem, Jin?" Lucifer shot back, narrowing his eyes. The tension between them was palpable.

"You have all the power but no will," Jin stated, shaking his head before turning away.

"Ignore him, Arthur," Lucifer advised, placing a hand on my shoulder. I turned to him and offered a reassuring smile.

Sorry, Lucifer, but I can't just brush off someone like Jin.

After the brief spar with Lucifer, I decided to dedicate some time to honing my sword skills. Making my way to the private gym allocated to Class A students, despite my position at the lower end of the class hierarchy, I found a haven for training.

The gym boasted an array of combat dolls, training weapons, and even a gravity room equipped with inscribed gravity runes – an ideal setup for comprehensive training.

Ensuring that no familiar faces were around, I retrieved my elite-grade sword. Moving toward a practice dummy, I began my practice routine. Unlike many conventional weapon arts, [Tempest Dance Technique] leaned toward formlessness. It emphasized executing a variety of subtly distinct forms at opportune moments.

It was an adaptable style that seamlessly aligned with my approach to swordsmanship. What's more, it wasn't constricted by specific mana elements.

Recalling the stance illustrated in the manual, I commenced practicing my sword swings. The fluidity and versatility of the [Tempest Dance Technique] allowed me to explore various forms, adapting them to suit my preferences and the flow of combat.

Continuing my training, I focused on refining the transitions between forms, ensuring a seamless and unpredictable execution. The private gym provided a conducive environment, allowing me to lose myself in the rhythmic dance of the blade.

As I practiced, the sound of steel slicing through the air resonated in the gym, echoing the ongoing refinement of my sword art. The adaptability of [Tempest Dance Technique] became evident as I seamlessly shifted between offensive and defensive maneuvers.

In the solitude of the gym, I found solace in the art of the sword, seeking to elevate my skills to new heights.

As the practice session progressed, I delved deeper into the intricacies of the [Tempest Dance Technique] by connecting the next moves better.

Lost in the meditative rhythm of my swordplay, I became aware of a subtle energy resonating within the gym. Glancing around, I noticed Seraphina observing from a distance, her eyes focused on the dance of the blade.

"Have you checked the time?" she eventually inquired, her clear blue eyes meeting mine. I activated my smartwatch to check.

It was 8:37 PM.

Six hours had elapsed since I commenced my training. The realization weighed on me, and suddenly, my muscles felt the strain.

Despite dedicating six hours to my sword art, progress was incremental, as expected for a Grade 5 technique.

"I got absorbed in training," I admitted, swiping away the sweat with the sleeve of my training attire.

She regarded me with an intrigued expression, continuing to observe for a moment before turning away and departing.

What is going on with her?

On my way back to the dorm, I glanced at my holographic smartwatch, discovering an influx of notifications on the messaging app.

Tapping into it, I noticed I'd been added to a new group.

'Class 1-A: The Best Ever'

"How cliché," I muttered, scrolling through the messages.

Lucifer: Yo, the trainhead is finally here!

Cecilia: OMG, it took forever. We were waiting forever!

Ian: Seriously, his dedication is next level. I wish I could train that long effortlessly.

Ren: You're only saying that because you lost to Lucifer.

Ian: S-shut up, you lost too!

Ren:

Rachel: Boys, cut it out! Seriously!

Ian: You're not my mom, Rachel!

Ren: Who'd want to be a crybaby's mom anyway?

I chuckled before responding.

Arthur: Why were you guys waiting for me?

Rachel: You know, clubs are opening! We wanted to see if you'd join a leisure club too!

Cecilia: Not everything is about training, you see.

Cecilia's words were far from the typical princess talk. It wasn't surprising, considering how hard she tried to conceal her sociopathic tendencies. I could already sense the challenges Lucifer might face in the future.

Lucifer: True, but let's keep up the Class A image.

Ren: Exactly. We should all go and assert our dominance as the leaders in our martial/magic clubs.

Ian: How cocky can you get? There are plenty of third years who could take you down, Ren! Although, if we're talking about Lucifer, maybe he could.

Having knowledge about the skills of the second and third years from the novel, I knew they weren't particularly impressive. Ren could likely defeat all of them, except for Kali.

Lucifer: I'll handle it.

A momentary silence followed Lucifer's bold declaration.

Lucifer: The swordsmanship club captain is Class 3-A, Rank 2, right? I'll take him down. Will that satisfy you, Ren?

A chuckle escaped me as I read Lucifer's message. Closing the app on my smartwatch, I headed toward the door. The ongoing vibrations hinted at the flurry of responses.

I wasn't the least bit concerned about Lucifer's announcement. While the Third seat was formidable, Lucifer had the capability to triumph without unveiling his true strength. The guy was practically a monster.

Curiosity piqued, I reopened the smartwatch to check the ongoing conversation.

Ian: WHAT?! ARE YOU INSANE??

Cecilia: Lucifer, don't be reckless. We should discuss this together.

Ren: Lucifer, you don't have to prove anything to me. Be reasonable.

Lucifer: Relax, guys. I've got this. It's just a little demonstration. Plus, it'll be fun.

Ren: Fun? Lucifer, you've got a twisted sense of enjoyment.

Lucifer: Call it what you want, Ren. Get ready for the show.

Jin: Finally deciding to make a move.

Rachel: You're joining in now, Jin?

While Lucifer did eventually face off against the Third seat, the rationale behind the clash remained undisclosed to the readers. It turned out to be a rather trivial matter that fueled the conflict.

The collective anxiety among the group was understandable. Though they were a confident bunch, the true extent of their strength wasn't entirely clear to them. The assumption that Mythos Academy harbored formidable opponents like themselves led them to believe that defeating someone two years older and of similar rank would be a considerable challenge for Lucifer. However, reality was quite different.

In fact, Lucifer's duel will play a pivotal role in boosting the main cast's confidence, proving instrumental in their success in the VR battle against the second years.

It didn't, however, mean that there were no formidable individuals beyond their group at Mythos Academy. Kali's talent rivaled, if not surpassed, Cecilia's.

Yet, the true monsters, so to speak, were primarily found in the upper years, not the lower ones. In their class, Lucifer stood as the pinnacle of strength.

Changing my display name, I chimed in on the group chat.

Arthur: Lucifer won't lose.

Lucifer: I knew I could count on you!

Rachel: You've got my support too. I just prefer keeping a low profile.

Ren: Well, Lucifer did manage to beat me. It'd be a shame for him to lose now.

Cecilia: I might have overreacted a bit. Hard to imagine Lucifer losing to someone just two years older, right?


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