Chapter 20: Standards

I stared long and hard into Nigeman’s face.  Mainly because that’s what you do in a stand off.  You maintain eye contact, you wait for that micro twitch of aggression people show just before they attack.  In the process I got a good long look at Nigeman’s emotionless grey eyes, and his mouth that was permanently affixed with a slight snarl because of the scar.  The guy’s face was boring as all hell.  I was completely bored.

Very few people understand what a stand off in a one on one fight is, really.  People think it’s some kind of dramatic pause before things hit the fan in splashy and explosive ways.  Nope.  It’s just a pause where both sides are wholly comfortable in the defensive stance they have and feel that going on the attack just isn’t worth it.  Nigeman had his sword point extended forward in a two handed guard stance, and even though the edge of the blade no longer glowed red, the tip threatened a thrust or a parry.  I had my staff point low, ready for any of a half dozen movements.  So we were both really happy with our defensive positions.  So it just became a question of who got tired first; either from the depletion of physical stamina, or from the wearing of patience in the unending tension one had to maintain in such a position.  I was betting Nigeman would make the first move, letting me go with one of a few favorite counters.  Hence the waiting.  And the boredom.

Hey, let’s do something to alleviate the boredom.

“Hey,” I called out to the peanut gallery of soldiers I had making sure the bedroom’s door was blockaded.  “If anyone has something to say about Nigeman’s sword, I’d like to hear it.”

There were a few mumbles from the audience before one voice cut out from the crowd in that tone that only arises from first hand knowledge.

“It’s a Magic Blade,” called the voice I was able to place as belonging to Tobias Hateen, the soldier I had knocked out cold in the morgue when I woke from my coma.  “It seems like it was made with quartz enchanted with fire magic.  They’re really hard to make and pretty hard to come by.  Mostly, they’re weapons for nobles and their most important retainers.  Only fighting men use them since maintenance is a bitch, and they’re not worth keeping for decoration.”

“Interesting,” I said without moving more than an eyebrow.  “What powers them?  Are they battery operated?”

“How do you not know about Noblesse Blades, Demon Blood,” asked Nigeman with a bit of annoyance in his voice.

“Shush, you,” I corrected Nigeman like a misbehaving dog.  “C’mon, Tobias, don’t leave me hangin’.”

“Oh, uh, magic weapons are powered by the people wielding them,” answered Tobias back.

“Wait, you’re saying he can use physical reinforcement and regu-oh!”

Crap! I turned my head slightly, I was so surprised.  Nigeman didn’t miss that opportunity to take a long step in and lunge for my throat.  Thankfully, one of the greatest benefits of the horse stance is that it grants the fastest backstep movement of any known standing or combat stance… that I know of.  So as Nigeman was taking his long, manly, step forward, I put my power into my thighs to, kinda, sideways skip backwards.  Hey, it works, alright!

As my feet left the carpeting, I took a sideways swipe intended to catch Nigeman on the knuckles of his right hand, but the man had turned the cross guard of his sword in his thrust and my staff bounced off ineffectually.  Thankfully, Nigeman’s sword point didn’t quite reach my throat, but the man wasn’t about to give up on the advantage of attack.  The momentum of his thrust turned up and a little sideways, to be turned into a downwards cross slash, one that I barely dodged.  That cross slash turned into a sideways cut like what had nearly eviscerated Callic that I slapped away with my staff before it could build any momentum, and counter thrust into the momentary opening of Nigeman’s defense.  Nigeman wasn’t able to dodge it as the tip of my- aw, crap.  I just used the staff as though it were a spear.

The thunk of my wooden staff as it struck Nigeman’s breastplate seemed farcical to me as the armor completely cancelled out the force of my strike, and the wood bowed a bit under the power of the hit.  Nigeman smiled that smile that seemed to say, “thanks for doing the work for me,” and brought his sword down in a cleaving swing.  My staff end was in the hollow between Nigeman’s arms and I swung sideways to catch Nigeman’s left elbow with a pathetically underpowered strike, but it was just enough to turn the sword’s course to dodge clear of the swing.

I used the hard earned lesson of just now, and decided that I was not going for the mid-body again.  Metal armor beat the wooden staff like scissors beat paper.  So it was just the head and limbs for this fight.

After getting back to my optimal range, I planted a foot and swung for Nigeman’s right elbow.  Nigeman blocked with his sword, hard, cutting into the quarterstaff and leaving a deep nick in the wood.  With the force Nigeman had put into the block, my swing was stopped cold, so I followed through on my plan to utilize the staff’s most useful aspect, the fact that it had two ends.

I shuffled the foot I had not put weight on behind my planted foot and performed a backwards spin, the back end of my quarterstaff gaining speed as I aimed for Nigeman’s unprotected left side of his head.  The impact was jarring, and my hands slightly numbed as the back end of my staff struck the ornate bedpost of Nigeman’s bed instead of his head, and my grip on the staff slipped.  The staff bent and recoiled right out of my grip, much to the amusement of Nigeman, who was confused for a moment before releasing as single loud belly laugh.

Yeah.  I forgot that quarterstaffs are not exactly indoors friendly.  If I survived this, I might just die of embarrassment.

Before I could recover from the numbness of my hands, Nigeman took a step to get his bed behind me, block my avenues of escape.  Didn’t really matter if he did or not, the impact with the bedpost broke my stance for dodging, so I did something a little bit reckless and struck out with a side kick to Nigeman’s body.  My left foot impacted against Nigeman’s breastplate with a heavier sound of impact than the quarterstaff had elicited.  I’d kicked out while off balance, so the kick wasn’t going to do much damage, but it did do what I wanted and it helped propel me backwards.  Unfortunately, it did little to ward off Nigeman’s horizontal swing.  I brought up my left arm to protect my face as I was falling backwards.

I felt the impact of the sword across my arm.  From the bicep to the forearm, I felt the sword as it dragged across my flesh.  My back struck the surface of the bed and I flung my legs up into the air to simultaneously ward off Nigeman and build the momentum to roll backwards from the bed and land on my feet on the other side of the mattress.  As I looked up, I saw Nigeman getting ready to bound over the bed to perform a finishing cleave on me, and I reflexively flicked out my hands to send a shockwave into the leaping Nigeman, catching him mid-bound and throwing him to the other side of the room where he crashed into some furniture, including a dresser with a mirror attached to the wall above it.  The impact unseated the framed mirror and it dropped with a loud crack, as a fissure formed from one corner of the glass to the other.  Unfortunately, the mirror did not fall on top of Nigeman, but instead ended up resting against the wall.  Pity, that.

Oh, yeah.

I used the brief moment of space I had bought to inspect my arm.  It felt like it handled pretty well for the magic, but I would definitely need to stop the bleeding.

…There’s no bleeding?

There was a low chuckling from Nigeman as he stood back up.  I noticed that somehow my kick had left a bootprint shaped dent in his breastplate, but he didn’t seem to care about that.  Instead, Nigeman said, amused, “To have Noblesse Armor when you don’t even know about Noblesse Blades?  I’d suspected before, Demon Blood, but now I know.  You’re not actually military at all, are you?”

Noblesse Armor?  The jacket, I guess?  Okay, gift horse, mouth, not bleeding.  Roll with it.

I tilted one of my hands to wrap some solidified air around the haft of my quarterstaff and flung it up into the air.  The other hand I flicked a little to have some more solidified air fling the staff towards me.  I grabbed it from the air and did a little pirouette while spinning the staff in vertical trajectories so as not to get caught on the furniture again.  I planted my feet facing the end of my staff at Nigeman across the bed.

“Well, Nigeman.  Looks like your sword, fancy as it is, is useless against me,” for whatever reason.  “I suggest you give it up and come along quietly.”

“Listen up, you Demon Blooded twit,” said Nigeman as he slowly paced to the head of his bed.

“Now you’re reduced to name calling,” I remarked smugly.

“What else should I call a mage that jumps into close combat?”

“Your better?”

“‘Better’ nothing,” said Nigeman, with nothing but menace in his voice.  He obviously hadn’t given up.  “Open your fool ears and listen well, because you have no idea what your reckless idiocy has brought upon you this day.  Come dawn, I will bring death down upon you and your people.  No one attacks me and lives to tell about it.”

Nigeman then lashed out his hand and pulled a thick cord hanging down from the wall next to the head of his bed.  The sound of an explosion rang out, and the room was filled with an impenetrable smoke.

* * * * *

Daphne had only just finished the initial treatment of Callic when the explosion occurred.  Aase, Daphne, Callic, Gina, Iyleen, and Essea all lifted their heads in unison to see large clouts of smoke blasting through the windows of one of the rooms of Nigeman’s mansion.  As the shattered glass began tinkling against the ground, shattering further, Gina said in an attempt at an offhand manner, “Don’t think that was a part of the mission plan.”

Half numbed and half panicked, Aase asked, “Is everyone okay?  You think Xander needs our help?”

“I’m more concerned about my men,” grunted Callic over the pain of his flesh being mended by magic.

“That was Wind Magic,” said Essea, unable to keep a tone of wonder out of her voice.

“You’re sure,” asked Iyleen, who had sensed something but couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

“I might not be very strong,” said Essea, nodding her head, “But I definitely know my own magic attribute when I feel it, and that definitely felt like Mr. Xander’s Wind Magic.  Whatever just happened, Mr. Xander is definitely on top of things.”

* * * * *

“What the hell did you just do, Demon Blood,” demanded Nigeman.

“Hey, Asshat,” I replied back.  “I don’t have any demon in me, and I’m frankly getting a little sick of you and your punk ass mouth.”

As for what I did in response to Nigeman blasting a smoke bomb and filling the entire room with a smokescreen, I just threw my power out to create a back-draft effect from the lower floor of the house and the open doors to pour into this room, super charging the air pressure, and blasting all the smoke through the windows as they shattered from the difference in air pressure; since I sincerely doubted this world had hurricane proofing for anything they built.  Hmm.  Maybe that field trip my college took my class to in that window factory was more helpful than I thought it was.

“But you know, Punk Ass, you were right about one thing. I should have been using my magic from the start.”

Like a frikkin’ Jedi, I tucked my quarterstaff into the crook of my right armpit and pushed my left palm towards Nigeman, firing a shock wave into Nigeman’s face that was intended to knock some teeth loose, at the very least.

“STOKE,” shouted Nigeman.  The edge of his sword lit up as red as a heating element for a moment as Nigeman brought his sword down in a chop, bisecting my shockwave.  The magic was severed and dispersed into energy I couldn’t use any more.

“Okay,” I said, failing to mask my utter amazement. “Apparently, that’s a thing that can be done.  But, I still have Mage Armor, so-”

“Sir,” called Tobias from the sidelines.

“Yeah, Tobias,” I verbally snapped at the intrusion.

“Fire Magic Blades can easily cut through Mage Armors when their element is active, sir.”

Fuck.

Nigeman gave a cocky tilt of his head and an eyebrow at that news as well.

“Anything else you’d like to share while we have a moment, Tobias?”

“Uh, yes, sir.  Magic Blades are powered by collecting your physical reinforcement magic into the hand holding them, activating the quartz receptors in the grip.  The power consumption isn’t that good, since the sword is turning one kind of magic into another.  It’s why Nigeman’s only been using his sword’s ability sparingly, he doesn’t want his magic reservoir to run dry.”

Finally, Nigeman made a face like he was sucking on a lemon and said, “How the hell do you know all this?”

“My dad’s a blacksmith, man.  A good one.  For all I know, he made that sword you’re using right now.”

“Well, that is interesting, Tobias.  Thanks,” I said exaggeratedly, just to rub Nigeman’s nose in it.  “So, I guess it’s just a fight of attrition here, Nigeman.  And I’m not about to let you run away.”

“Balls to that,” said Nigeman with renewed aggression.  “That just means I have to stop dragging my feet and go straight through you.  Stoke the forge and light the furnace of my soul!”

Nigeman’s sword flared to life as he leapt clear over his king sized bed to bring his sword down at me in a blur of motion.  I spun out of the way and tried to bring the back end of my staff up into him, but he blocked the strike with his sword.  I rebounded and struck out a few more times as I backpedaled away from Nigeman, and I heard something like a hiss of steam each time the wood touched the blade.  I soon saw that the surface of my quarterstaff was filling with black sear marks and large nicks were showing along its length.  Nigeman was almost literally chewing through my weapon with his sword.

The springiness of a staff was one of the things that allowed it to go against metal weapons, because when a sharp blade struck it, the pliable wood would absorb and disperse some of the kinetic force behind the attack.  But here, Nigeman had a sword that burned its way through objects instead of splitting them with force and a blunted cutting edge.  So I was stuck with an inferior weapon, in a confined space where I couldn’t use any horizontal attacks without risking getting caught on the furniture, and here Nigeman was using a-

Wait a tic.

It took a few seconds, a few swings of the staff, and a rather ungainly backstep to get a bit of room, but I got the distance I needed, choked down on my grip to put a little more length into the staff I was about to swing, and went for a diagonal strike towards Nigeman’s collarbone.  A very obvious attack, with a lot of commitment behind it.  Nigeman couldn’t resist it, he’d been smiling so smugly every time he took a chip out of my staff.  Nigeman took the bait, and chopped my quarterstaff hard, cutting clean through and taking about a foot and a half off it’s length.

Nigeman smiled at me for having dealt serious damage to my staff.  But the thing is, a quarterstaff is just a bit of wood that was always meant to be trimmed to the length the user needed.  So I smiled back, with an even broader smirk, and said, “Thank you, Punk Ass.”

I immediately went back on the offensive.  Now that the length of my staff was shorter, I didn’t have to worry about things like getting blocked by furniture, or getting snagged on the ceiling.  I was spinning about like a top, jabbing and stabbing every time I was facing Nigeman’s way, and sending back swings whenever I wasn’t.  I twirled the staff around my neck after a feint at Nigeman’s left shoulder, and planted a hard strike to the right one.

With the reduced length of the staff, I was getting right up in Nigeman’s grill, swinging my attacks faster than before and getting my legs in on the action.  I very nearly was able to stomp on Nigeman’s outstretched left foot, but his shuffling back to avoid it was a panicky movement that threw him off balance enough for me to get a shot in at his head.  My mini-staff cracked Nigeman’s left temple, but his helmet took enough of the blow that it only rattled his cage a little, and Nigeman started his own counterattack.

Nigeman’s movements changed.  He started shuffling side to side and advancing with his guard up solid instead of going for killing blows.  He was advancing, but not attacking.  It took a few seconds, but I understood what he was doing.  Thanks to the years of training at the dojo, I’ve been exposed to a lot of sparring and tournament  matches.  Nigeman’s movements reminded me of this one brown belt at the school, who was fairly slow on his feet, but could corner anyone that was faster than him.  The way he did it was to trap them in the corner, and his opponents would either fall out of the ring in disgrace or take a finishing blow.

Nigeman was herding me in order to trap me in a corner.

But noticing that was not much of an improvement in my situation.  The room was already tight enough that I had to cut down on the length of my staff just to get some licks in on Nigeman, and the force of a quarterstaff wasn’t doing much against his armor combined with whatever physical reinforcement the guy had going on.  The only way I was going to keep from getting pinned against a wall was if I kept doing crazy Jackie Chan style stunts with Nigeman’s furniture.  And speaking of.

I made a break and took a jump to my side.  Nigeman slashed at me, but narrowly missed because I dove low, and he swung at about chest height.  I crashed onto some tiny sort of breakfast table, sending a small vase with a flower in it flying into the ground as I rolled my shoulder blades over the table’s surface.  I landed with my feet under me and tossed out a magic shock wave at Nigeman to cover my withdrawal.  Nigeman once again cut through it with his sword, scattering the magic.  Which is totally something he shouldn’t be able to do considering it’s an invisible magic blast of vibrating air!  It should be traveling faster than reflexes can react, so how the heck was he intercepting my magic?

While having this thought, I turned my palm upwards to look at it in vexation.  Then I had the thought.

Crap.  I was hamming it up too much.

If I’m flinging my hands around every time I use magic, then of course Nigeman is gonna know what I’m doing and when.  My stage acting experience ended up getting me in trouble, because I don’t need to use my hands to use magic.  When I did the backdraft effect just a little while ago, I just poured out a bunch of magic from my own body all at once to power the spell.  Which means I can cast magic without using my hands.

Wow.  That’s really gonna open up a lot of options…

I couldn’t help but feel a smile spread across my face and my eyes narrowed from the extreme upturning of my lips.  Honestly, it’d been awhile since I’d felt that kind of smile cross my face.  It was the one that would always creep up when I felt like I could release all of my restraint, and lose myself in violence.  And this was probably the first time I’d grinned like this when I wasn’t playing a video game.

I began circulating all the magic in my body and releasing it from every square inch of my flesh.  My senses of the world around me seemed to become sharper, more aware and more sensitive.  It was an odd feeling, like shifting from being in a first person shooter to third person.  But I wasn’t seeing anything new.  I was just able to feel what was around and behind me.  I very nearly released a Keanu Reeves “Wow” from the sensation.

But the most important point in my releasing and dispersing my magic in the air… was that I was still able to control it.

Nigeman took a step forward, and while his foot was still moving I lunged in hard.  Nigeman parried my staff thrust to the side as he completed his step, until a rod I’d made with my ambient magical power struck him behind his knee.  Nigeman lost his balance as I pushed in further and twisted my staff to force Nigeman’s sword away from me.  Using the side of Nigeman’s sword as a pivot point, I lifted and swung an end of the staff to strike Nigeman’s cheek.  Nigeman’s head bounced, but without even confirming my location he retaliated with a shoulder check that bounced me away from him.  With Nigeman’s sword free, he advanced again with the intent to attack while I was off balance.

Instead of dodging reflexively, I started making spheres out of my ambient magical power in the air and throwing them at Nigeman, specifically for him to cut through with his sword.  These attacks were not meant to inflict harm, but to distract Nigeman and drain his magic reservoir.  While he was busy dealing with the spheres, I formed and fired a much smaller cone into Nigeman’s foot at point blank range.  Coming to a sharp point, the cone was able to penetrate Nigeman’s foot easily enough, though it didn’t have enough force to nail through the foot entirely and secure Nigeman to the floor.  It was, however, extremely painful.  I sort of tied down the magic power of the cone and left it there in the foot in order to cause as much pain as possible through the pressure it was putting on the bones and joints.

Nigeman began obviously favoring a foot, and his powerful fighting stance had been broken.  I pushed in again, swinging my shortened staff to aim for the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knuckles.  Nigeman’s combat stance had been broken, but he had enough physical strength in his arms to swing his sword accurately, if not powerfully, and most of my attacks were blocked.  Eventually, Nigeman was able to get a parry in that caused my staff to slide down the surface of his magic sword.  The wood near the edge of the blade hissed and lit on fire from the proximity to the active fire element.  If it was just that, I wouldn’t have cared.  I could use wind to snuff out a fire anytime I wanted.  No.  Nigeman used that brief moment of stillness in my weapon to grab the haft in his offhand to hold me in place.  He pulled back his sword which was still in his right hand to swing down at me at extreme close range, probably depending on the vaporizing abilities of the magically empowered cutting edge instead of strength to deal a deathblow.

I grunted out a laugh at Nigeman’s thinking process.  It wasn’t stupid, but it showed a clear misunderstanding on his part, and a lack of observation skills.  I’d already showed Nigeman that I didn’t mind adjusting the length of my staff, after all.

I fired a short range shock wave into Nigeman’s sword hand from directly below, sending the descending sword right back up as I focused some physical reinforcement into my right hand, which I then struck the haft of my own staff with.  Since my shortened quarterstaff was now being held solidly by myself and Nigeman, two definite points of contact, the part of the staff between those two points could not bend, rendering it rigid.  My reinforced palm shattered the wood, releasing my remaining staff length from Nigeman’s grasp, and then I pushed that same palm directly into Nigeman’s chest, pushing him back with dull impact force.

Nigeman stumbled back and I used that chance to use my magic to float and then toss the previously cut span of my staff into my free right hand.  I caught the flying span of wood while doing a retreating spin step to end up resting on my right foot, with my left foot raised and resting, toes pointed downward, at about the height of my knee.  Each of my hands held a length of what had previously been a staff, but were now twin batons, up and pointed towards Nigeman.  One close to my eyes like a drawn arrow, the other pointed forward like a pistol.  It’d been a while, but I think it was called the Crane Stance.  It looked fairly ridiculous and imposing at the same time.  And Nigeman obviously had no idea what to make of it.

“C’mon, Punk Ass,” I taunted.  “Let’s finish this.”

Nigeman advanced on me, probably feeling a sense of urgency now that I’ve been doing real damage to him.  He didn’t go for any big sweeping attacks, but for a small and contained slash at my right side.  I used my upraised leg to perform an extremely long forward step, swung the baton in my left hand to strike Nigeman’s right knuckles, diverting the sword away from me, and brought the baton in my right hand over Nigeman’s arm to give a love tap to his forehead.

I slipped around behind Nigeman with that movement as well, and gave his back a solid kick from behind to push him forward to impact against the edge of the bed.  Striking the bedside didn’t do any damage, but it caused him to lean forward.  Nigeman instinctively took his left hand off the hilt of his sword to brace himself against the cushy bed’s surface and push off to turn around.  I don’t really know if I could say I had planned this out, but I took advantage of the moment.

I fired another cone of magical power into the back of Nigeman’s right hand, the tip digging into the flesh while I pounced on Nigeman’s back, pushing him face first onto the bed.  With the man sprawling on the bed’s surface, I slammed my strengthened right fist into the flat top surface of the cone in Nigeman’s hand, hammering it through and potentially breaking ligaments and bone.  Whatever the damage, it caused Nigeman to let go of his sword.  The sword instantly lost it’s red light and harmlessly flopped onto the bed’s surface.  Nigeman braced with his left arm and threw an elbow with his right, catching me in the ribs.  But I was not about to give NIgeman a chance to grab his sword again, and I hooked my left baton across Nigeman’s neck and my right baton into the crook of his elbow.  With those points of control established, I hauled my weight upwards and brought Nigeman with me, turning him to face away from the bed.  After that, it became something of a grappling match, with Nigeman’s left hand pulling at the baton around his neck to keep his airway clear, and his right arm maneuvering to get free of my restraint.

I’m not much for grappling.  My body is long and I’ve always had a fear that that made my bones less sturdy than a stout man’s because of it.  That’s why I always preferred striking over wrestling.  So to get out of the grappling match, I stomped down hard with my foot onto the cone that was still protruding from Nigeman’s foot.  With my full body weight behind the stomp, the cone pierced all the way through Nigeman’s foot and stapled him to the floor.  As Nigeman howled in pain, I dropped my knee into the back of Nigeman’s uninjured leg, knocking him onto the floor.  With that advantage in height, I uncoiled my right baton from his elbow and while pulling up with the left around the neck to point Nigeman’s face upward, I struck my right baton into Nigeman’s face three or four times.

I put my knee into Nigeman’s back, and forced him face first onto the floor.  I dropped my right baton and used my magic to lift and toss Callic’s dropped short sword into my grip.  My left hand released my other baton and grabbed Nigeman’s forehead over the helmet and lifted, exposing a good amount of throat.  I brought up the short sword and said, “Say Goodnight, Gracie.”

“WAIT,” shouted Nigeman in a voice hoarse from the strain of speaking through an extended windpipe.  “You, you can’t kill me!  Alright!”

“I can easily kill you, Nigeman.  I have a sword and everything.”

“No, that’s- that’s not-” I pulled on Nigeman’s head a little harder.  And then Nigeman spilled out his secret in a voice drenched with desperation.  “Okay, look!  The truth is- I’m in service to Lord Bahwell.”

“You work for Lord Bowel,” I said at nearly the same time.

“Wha-? You knew?”

“No,” I explained emotionlessly, as though I was recounting the points in a stale plot line.  “I surmised.  First there was obviously some relation between you and Bowel, since you’ve been sending him gifts, ostensibly payment from your protection racket.  The military stationed in the city would do nothing to reign you in, meaning the Lord of the city, their superior, ordered them not to, further proving you have a connection to Bowel.”

“Bah-Well.”

“Second, you called the Magic Blade you used a Noblesse Blade.  That’s a pretty damn highfalutin term for the thing, coming from a criminal.  One that even the blacksmiths who make the weapons don’t use.  Third, you have a fucking smoke bomb built into your bedroom!  That’s some spy quality shit, there.  Fourth, the instant you realized we weren’t military, you went all smug, like that fact changed everything, even though we’d crushed all the men defending your home.  So that said to me that you could call on Lord Bowel and use the military in the city to come after us. Legitimately.  For impersonating military officers.”

Bah-Well.”

“And finally, you fight way to well with a sword far too above your station if you were a criminal.  So, I surmised that you’re a vassal knight in service to Lord Bowel that he has running his protection racket for him.”

Bah.  Well.”

“I don’t care what his name is!” I shouted and slapped the side of Nigeman’s head with the flat of the blade.  “So, with that out of the way, time for me to slit your throat.”

“WAIT!  Wait, wait, wait!”

“What now,” I asked Nigeman testily.

“You said it yourself.  Ugh.  I’m Lord Bahwell’s retainer.  You think he’ll stay quiet if you kill me?”

“Of course he will.  You’re a disposable source of income to him.  And even if he did hold a grudge, I’m splitting this taco stand before he has the chance to retaliate.  Now if that’s all…”

“I’ll serve you!”

“Pardon?”

“I’ll, grah, I’ll serve you instead of Bahwell.  You experienced it yourself, right?  How strong I am?  I’d make a good, uh, bodyguard, or warrior, or- ngg- whatever you need.  Just think about it, alright?”

Well, thinking wasn’t gonna cost me anything but time.  And Nigeman wasn’t going anywhere.  So…

There were definitely advantages.  Nigeman had shown he was strong in combat, was a leader of men, and good at following someone else’s plan.  He was intelligent, skillful, capable, and strong.  On further reflection, he’d make an excellent subordinate.  And even if he was planning to leave me the first chance he got and return to Lord Bowel’s side, I could use an Enslavement Collar on him to make sure he couldn’t.  There’s no way that Nigeman could have planned for me having Enslavement Collars.

I slammed the blade of the short sword directly into the artery on the side of Nigeman’s neck, let go of his forehead, and put my full weight into the knee on Nigeman’s back.  The hand that had been holding Nigeman’s head up, I started using it to pin his head down to keep the arterial spray of blood from splashing around too much.

“Sorry Nigeman, but I have standards in who I choose to be my subordinates.  You never should have threatened to kill the people I care about.”

Nigeman thrashed around on the ground, furiously trying to staunch the flow from his neck, buck me off his back, and stand up from his prone position on the floor.  The trouble is, he was trying to do all those things at once, and none of them worked because of it.  After a little bit, Nigeman stopped moving, and I removed my hand from his head to check the pulse in his neck.  Nothing.

I slowly stood up and looked myself over.  There was only a little blood on my right sleeve from when I’d slashed Nigeman’s throat.  I could get it off easily enough with some water and a towel.  For the rest of me, no apparent damage.  I looked up from my self check and looked around a little at the devastated bedroom.  The damage was pretty bad, the only furniture that wasn’t ruined to some degree was the bed.  While checking the damage to the room, my eyes came into direct contact with the mirror that had fallen off the wall.  Staring directly back at me was my own reflection.

I stared long and hard into my own face, split into two halves by the crack.  I maintained eye contact, waiting for any sign of emotion on that cold and determined visage I saw in the mirror, but saw only my emotionless red eyes, and a mouth that was affixed with a disgruntled frown.  I maintained that gaze as though I were waiting for the other guy to blink for a while before breaking off to look at the soldiers standing at the entrance to the room.

I unconsciously sized them up for a few seconds, trying to figure out what they were thinking, what they were feeling, to just stand around and do nothing while I was looking in the mirror.  I gave up thinking about it and tersely gave out some orders.

“Tobias, collect the Magic Blade and whatever you need to perform maintenance on it.  I want a volunteer to go alert Aase’s group that it’s clear to come in.  Everyone else, start tearing the place apart.  I’m gonna find a bathroom and clean this shit off me.”

I walked past the soldiers as they saluted and affirmed their orders with a “Yes, Sir.”  On my way to a room that seemed likely to be a toilet, one thought rattled around my head that I expressed alongside a sigh.

“Haaa.  This world brings out the worst in me.”

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13 thoughts on “Chapter 20: Standards

  1. That was a great fight scene.

    It’s nice to see a protagonist that’s strong from the start but not to the point where the fights are boring.

    It’s also nice seeing a protagonist who actually has a backbone. I can’t stress this enough.

    Anyway thanks for the chapter.

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    1. I worked hard for the fight to be great. And yeah. This is a character that people are going to be mistaking for a Demon King. He needs backbone. Amongst other things.

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    1. Mistakes are what makes a character. 🙂 The hard part is for them to be making the right mistakes, and not the “The Plot Demands You Be Retarded” mistakes.

      It’s especially nice when a character grows from those mistakes that they’ve made.

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  2. I thought he would be smarter now since he almost died because he was careless, yet he still fights without using his full power… Why is he even fighting with a frikin staff? I don’t get it… Is he really an idiot who just wants to show off after nearly being killed? I can only call him a moron if he just keeps doing the same mistakes over and over… It’s a fact that you need to give your all in fights and finish it as quickly as possible to avoid any accidents instead of playing an action flick… One careless move and his head will roll but he still won’t use his magic because why? I just can’t find a reason other than him being an incurable imbecile… If you don’t give your all in fights then one day you will pay the price one way or another… Hell, he almost did pay the price in the worst way possible just a day before but i can’t see him getting any smarter…

    Author please don’t turn the character into an idiot just to add a martial arts scene… It could be understandable if he was doing it to gain experience for future if somehow his magic won’t work on an opponent, but you made it seem like he was fighting for dear life and dodging fatal wounds with hair’s breadth… Why would he take such risks while he could subdue someone with a flick of his hand?! Does he have a death wish or something?

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    1. You’re talking as though Xander doesn’t have years of training in the use of a pole weapon. Xander jumped into combat because he’s had far more experience in melee battles than in using magic. When your blood goes to your head, you perform the acts that you know. Xander knew he was damn good with a pole arm. That, and the bedroom is the size of a bedroom. The dimensions of the room would place Xander at medium distance from his opponent at all times, far closer than he was to the soldiers in the cafeteria, meaning that it’s possible to close a gap between Nigeman and Xander before magic could be properly used. It’s like the Knife vs Gun rules of combat. If your enemy has a knife and in less than 15 feet away from you, he’ll stab you before you can get a shot off.

      Xander wasn’t being stupid. He just did what he judged to be the right move to fight Nigeman. If he made mistakes, then hey, he made mistakes. He’s not a perfect Marty Stew, after all. (And yes, he DID make mistakes. Xander didn’t take the furniture into his calculations before he fought, and so he got hung up on it.)

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      1. Well that could be it but still. I just expected him to be smarter after getting sacked from behind just a day before. It proves that no matter how much power he has he is still vulnerable and needs to end fights rapidly. If i remember right, the first use of his power was to create a solid air bullet that passed the sound speed which made a dent on the wall and he could rapidly fire these bullets. If he just used those the fight would be over in seconds. Even if Nigeman’s reflexes and physical abilities were to be 10 times faster than a normal human through the use of magic reinforcement he still wouldn’t be able to dodge or use his sword to destroy a bullet at point blank range. Also Xander can fire multiple of these bullets rapidly if i remember right. I’m not talking about the bean bag bullets if that wasn’t clear. Talking about the first bullet he tried which looked quite lethal and made me think he could even destroy a platoon with ease. It could be possible for Nigeman to dodge or destroy a sniper magic bullet fired half a km away if he is ready to recieve it but not for a bullet at point blank range. Besides why even face against Nigeman? Couple of these bullets would be enough to kill or subdue Nigeman while he was distracted by Callic. But he just watched the spectacle like it was amusing just to be plunged into a life and death fight right after… Just shoot his legs if you don’t want him to die quick and be done with it instead of putting yourself in such danger that Nigeman’s blade almost cut his arm and even his head. He was literally lucky that the coat was actually an armor. If he had this much of a hard time killing a single old knight i don’t even want to think what will happen when that army of knights from before catch up to them. I’m asuming each and every one of those elite brutes must be even more powerfull than Nigeman who’s an old retired knight.

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        1. Every singe thing you said just now was very intelligent, intuitive, and accurate to the situation. As for the bullet, Xander only used that ability once. He’s forgotten he could do it. Very stupid, yes. …But if Xander just used air bullets from beginning to end, wouldn’t the story be worse off for it? Especially since I have something sooooo much better planned out? MWA-hahahahaha!

          And as for the knights, I say only this: MWA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!

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