Bell stumbled, struggling to regain a sense of footing before Guts smacked him down to the ground again.
It was insane, practicing with the man. What was even more insane was the knowledge that he wasn't even taking it seriously. Even without a blade or his metal arm, even with him purposely slowing down his strike and rushes so that they could have time to react, even with Isidro, Schierke and himself all going against him at once, Guts was unstoppable. The weight behind his attacks was simply too much for them to block and the percussion and length of his strikes was simply too much.
Guts was so confident in his abilities that he told them to use their real weapons and for Schierke to use whatever magic she could manage to get off against him in their sparring. None of it mattered, not one bit. Not only did Guts still fend them all off, he did so while not even using enough of his strength to even hurt them, pulling back at each attack in order to make it a shove instead of a solid blow.
Guts told them not to try to fully block his attacks. That when they deal with monsters that were larger than them, you needed to give a little, redirecting the force and shift your own body rather than stopping it. Bell could only wonder if this was what it was like to fight a Minotaur.
Bell started to wonder if the Minotaur was even that scary when compared to the Black Swordsman. Even out of his dark armor and into a much more casual short sleeved black tunic and trousers he still moved about with a visible, unstoppable strength, his black cloak billowing behind him. His huge muscles and numerous scars on his arms were on display for the world to see.
Guts didn't just use his practice sword to attack them, he used his entire body, pressing up against them to stagger them if they weren't prepared to move out of his way, or knocking their attacks aside with his cloak. More then once he flattened Isidro with the stubbed arm when the boy tried to attack him from his weak side and left himself open.
"Pincree Zes..." Schierke started before having to try to get out of the way of one of Guts' moves, tripping on his practice sword and falling to the ground.
"You can't stand still so close. Get distance before casting." Guts instructed even as he moved on to deal with Isidro who was rapidly hopping backwards to lure Guts out from the other two.
"You alright?" Bell asked Schierke as she helped the little witch back to her feet. She didn't waste her breath with an answer, she lifted up a handful of leafs that she had grabbed from the ground in front of her.
She took a breath, closed her eyes and blew onto the dried leafs, causing them to leap from her hand and catch fire.
Hearing the crackle of the flames, Guts twisted his cloak around his stumped arm and swung it out as he spun around, batting away the fire before turning his attention back to Bell and Schierke.
Isidro tried to regain Guts' focus with an attack to his back but the Black Swordsman swung out his cloak again, knocking Isidro's sword aside and tangling him up in the fabric as Guts pulled on the metal buckle on Dragonslayer's harness. The cape slipped free and Isidro was left on the ground in a mess as Guts moved towards Bell and Schierke.
Bell gulped but did as he was supposed to, moving forward and a bit to the side before preparing his footing, ready for the charging bull.
Guts' swing was aimed low, forcing Bell to give a half step backwards, then he caught the upswing of the practice sword which knocked him off his feet and physically pushed him through the air.
He somehow managed to land on his feet, but his footing wasn't as good as before, and Guts' was still coming. He couldn't be able to absorb the hit. He was going to get knocked over again.
Seeing the practice sword coming towards him, Bell did the only thing he could do at the moment, he swung his own long dagger with all the strength his current footing would allow.
The steel caught Guts' wooden sword and to Bell's surprise, the practice sword was ripped into splinters. Only then did Guts pull back in his attack.
Bell blinked at the man, surprised to see a grin on his face. Not a condescending grin or one of some battle crazed person, but a look of pride. "Good work." He said, tossing the broken practice sword to the side. "Remember, your opponents are monsters. Even the claws and fangs they attack you with are going to be weak spots. Don't be afraid to take advantage of them."
Seeing Bell just staring at him seemingly unable to move and panting for breath, Guts shrugged. "You've all had enough for today. Your trainings over." The mountain of a man said moving over to Isidro and retrieving his cloak before continuing towards where he had left Dragonslayer. Though it seemed that while the children's training had ended, Guts' hadn't as he then started to swing the sword about with his single arm.
'What was his endurance stat like?' Bell wondered only to remember who he was dealing with. None of the normal logic fit when considering Guts.
"Bell!" The boy didn't even have time to react to his goddess's happy shout before the tackle came, knocking him off his already unsteady feet and pinning him to the ground in a powerful hug. "You all did so well! I'm so proud of you!" She cheered as she squeezed the life out of the weakened adventurer.
"Goddess, you're... hurting me..." Bell said between gasps for air.
"Teacher, how do you feel?" Farnese asked Schierke who had fallen to the ground.
"I... am fine. I'm just... using the power of the Earth to regain my strength..." Schierke lied as she closed her eyes. "I think... I am beginning to understand why adventurers... would prefer clothes like these. It's harder... to tell when it is covered in dirt and grass."
When Farnese had asked for clothes often worn by magic users, the shop keeper had sold her traditional elven clothes. Schierke's new outfit was a tunic and trousers both with leaf like designs made by a swirl of green and brown colors and a short of hood made to look like a large leaf curled around her head.
Farnese, Ivalera, and Hestia had assured her that the clothes looked cute on her. However, one off handed comment made by Isidro about how the tight shirt and pants made her look like a little boy, and Schierke went on a war path. This led to him being hypnotized into believing that he was really a girl for a few minutes as punishment. While Puck, Ivalera, and Hestia laughed, many of the other people around paled at the sight of Isidro crying like a little girl about how the witch 'took away my breasts' and 'there's a weird snake thing between my legs'. She only returned his mind to normal at the request of Guts so that they could start training.
It was a reminder to all, Schierke was a witch, and was best not messed with. However the reminders never seemed to stick with Isidro.
"You can't even stand up." Isidro said still walking around just fine, even if he was breathing heavily. He was more used to training with Guts and his endurance stat was higher from a few days of grinding against weaker monsters. "You didn't even more around that much."
"Shut up... Monkey." Schierke grumbled weakly.
"You all did well, far better than I would have expected, though your group coordination is still lacking." Azan told them scratching at his mustache.
"'Did well'? But, Guts beat all of us. We didn't even get a single hit on him, even with us all attacking at once." Bell said, a little dejected. "He wasn't even really trying. If he was holding back so he wouldn't hurt us."
"Yes. He was." Azan admitted with a nod. "I think you underestimate how well you did. Or perhaps you have underestimated just how strong he is." Bell looked surprise at the statement. He was underestimating Guts? "Let me tell you a little story. It will probably help you understand. The first time I ever set eyes on Guts, the two of us fought against each other."
"What? Why?" Bell asked. While Guts couldn't be said to be overly friendly with anyone other than Richert, he and Azan didn't seem to have any problems with each other. People don't normally fight each other when they had first met.
"I'm afraid that there had been misunderstandings, or should I say, we had accused Guts of crimes that he was, for the most part, innocent of." Azan admitted guiltily, Farnese sharing the look.
"In our defense, there was a lot of things going on, and all the evidence pointed towards Guts being guilty." The blond woman said.
"He also just looks like the type." Serpico said with a chuckle, earning himself a glare.
"Anyways. On that day, I fought Guts. I remember being surprised how well he held up against me, the two of us were on about equal footing." Azan said before giving a pitiful laugh and shaking his head. "I only found out afterwards that Guts had been walking for over fifteen miles while sporting what should have been a fatal stab wound. It was incredible that he was even conscious, let alone fighting. Even so, I still couldn't overwhelm him, someone who was half dead. The fight only ended when he collapsed from blood lose."
"He had also not eaten anything or slept in over two days, and had spent the previous night fighting alone against an army of skeletons." Puck said, deciding to pitch in his own two cents.
Azan continued to laugh at himself. "I was supposed to be the famed Knight of the Bridge, someone who had fought an entire Company of horsemen by himself, one of the finest knights in the land, and I failed to overcome a opponent with that kind of handy cap." Azan said. "Listen here. Even if Serpico and I both tried to fight Guts at once, I doubt we could overcome him. We might not even be able to lay a hand on him without dirty tricks or some kind of magical advantage."
"He... he's really that strong?" Bell said looking at Guts with wide eyes. Bell hadn't even been able to lay a single hand on Azan, but the old man confessed that Guts was simply behind him.
"Perhaps if I was a younger man, I would be swearing up and down that I would someday be as strong as he is, but I am simply too old." Azan said before giving Bell a look. "But you are not as old as I am. Perhaps someday it will but Guts turn to look at you and wonder when he had been surpassed. Never stop trying."
"Right." Bell said, not even realizing he had admitted his ambition.
"Good, now the sun is going down. How about we all head out and find a place that serves a fine meal. Food is nearly as important as training if you want to get any stronger." Azan said with a loud laugh, slapping Bell on the back and making the boy stumble falling to the ground. "It will also help you get your strength back."
"The Benevolent Mistress? You sure it is a place that sells food and not... other things." Serpico said, raising an eyebrow at the name.
"Other things?" Bell said, not immediately catching onto what the blond knight was implying, but once he did he flushed. "No!.. At least I don't think so. You don't get that kind of things on this side of the city. All that stuff is in the Entertainment District on the south east side of the city."
"Bell, why do you know that?" Hestia said suspiciously, narrowing her eyes.
"Well, um, Eina told me to avoid that place. Said it wasn't very safe." Bell explained, confused as to why the goddess was acting upset.
"And who is Eina?" Hestia pressed.
"Eina? She's our adviser at the Guild. She's a really nice person." Bell said cheerfully, not noticing that it made Hestia upset to hear him complementing another girl.
"Still, with a name like the Benevolent Mistress, I would usually expect either prostitutes or assassins. Perhaps both." Serpico said, scratching his chin.
"It's an attention grabbing name, good for getting more customers." Guts said, nodding in agreement. "But if you give yourself a name like that, you are either putting out or you are sure enough that you can crack the skulls of anyone who came around with the wrong impression that it doesn't matter."
"No way, all the girls there are all really nice." Bell said, still not noticing his goddess's reactions to his words.
"Doesn't matter, most brothels serve pretty good food anyways, its just a bit more expensive." Isidro said as he walked along with his hands behind his head.
"And how would you know that?" Farnese asked giving the red head a glare.
"Brothels are the best places to pickpocket nobles at. They're all usually too drunk to see or have their eyes distracted by tits." Isidro admitted. "Plus, the girls will usually help you do it if the bastard is unpopular enough."
"So you claim you didn't go to them to serve your own base instincts." Schierke scoffed, giving Isidro a glare.
"Wait, did he just admit he was a thief?" Bell said, though no one seemed to care.
"As if I need to go to a place like that. I'm going to become greatest man of all time, a real hero, and then women will just throw themselves at me. I don't need a who..." Isidro started only to be given a hard smack to the back of his head.
"Dammit boy, I need to beat some sense of Chivalry into you! Saying such things in the middle of the streets!" Azan snapped at Isidro as they all continued on, ignoring the red hair who was bitching about his bit tongue.
Bell was still staring at Isidro, surprised about the open admission about being a thief but even more surprised by the comment about women throwing themselves at a hero. It sounded like something Bell's grandfather would have said.
Before Bell could say anything, Isidro stopped complaining and shut his mouth, his ears pricking a bit and his eyes widened as he looked down a side alley, then without a word, he broke into a run.
"Hey, where are you going!" Bell shouted after him before starting to give chase.
Going to be mixing up the order of events a bit. Lili is going to be introduced now, and the Hestia Knife is going to be introduced later.
First an mini arc for Lili, followed by the introduction of the principle antagonist, The Idea of Evil, recast to be Avenger from the Fate universe.
Schierke is rather vindictive towards people who call her a little boy, and uses hypnosis to get her revenge. Because of the way she is dressed and her magic, people are going to start assuming she is part elf.