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    Chapter 43: Repetition

    Sunny was on his feet even before fully waking up. Somehow, Azure Blade was already in his hand. His shadow was hovering beside him, ready to either wrap itself around the sword in case he needed to attack or around his body, in case it was already too late for that.

    He tried to understand what was going on. Nephis was nearby, her longsword raised in a defensive stance. Cassie…

    'Where's Cassie?'

    Fearing what he might see — giant tentacles reaching for them from the darkness — he looked around. The eastern horizon was just beginning to show the first hints of dawn, adding a tiny shade of grey to the blackness of the world. In that blackness, there were no signs of danger.

    Finally, he saw Cassie.

    The blind girl was stumbling at the edge of the platform with a horrified expression on her face. With her blond hair in a mess, she was stretching her hands out, clearly lost in space. Of course, there were no walls for her to find. The platform was opened to the elements, and the only thing waiting for Cassie was a plunge into the dark, tumultuous waters…

    Before Sunny knew what he was doing, he was already running. That wasn't a very smart thing to do — after all, he did not know what had caused Cassia to scream and if there was some hidden danger nearby. Plus, it was still too dark for Nephis to see. His sudden lunge could have caused her to lash out with the sword before asking questions…

    All of these were good reasons to wait and observe first, but in an uncharacteristic and completely irrational manner, Sunny acted before thinking.

    He caught Cassie moments before she took a step off the platform and, holding her tightly in his arms, dragged the blind girl back.

    "I got her!" Sunny yelled, letting Changing Star know that there was no need to stab him with a sword.

    And then, in a quiet voice, he said to Cassie:

    "I got you. It's alright. Everything is fine. Calm down…"

    He felt the girl's body trembling and looked around again, trying to understand what had scared her so much. But there was nothing.

    Nephis was listening to the sea for the same reason. After a few seconds, she asked:

    "Do you see anything?"

    Sunny helplessly shook his head.


    He helped Cassie sit down in the center of the platform. While Nephis stood guard above them, he looked the blind girl over to make sure that there were no wounds on her body. Everything seemed to be fine.

    "She's not hurt anywhere."

    Changing Star looked down. Although her face remained indifferent, he could tell that she was a bit flustered. After a second or two, she asked in something that might have been her version of a calming tone. It sounded pretty much exactly the same as usual:

    "Cassie? What happened?"

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    Magically, that did seem to calm the blind girl down a little. At least enough for her to speak in a quivering voice.

    Cassie extended one hand and pointed down.

    "Th—the head… I saw… oh gods!"

    Sunny frowned and looked at Nephis.

    "Did she see a vision? The past?"

    The tall girl was silent for a moment.

    "I don't know. It never happened before."

    Both of them turned to Cassie, not sure what to do.

    Since there was no apparent danger around, they took turns trying to calm the horrified girl down. However, after that one sentence, she fell quiet and refused to speak again. Nothing seemed to help.

    After a while, Nephis sighed.

    "Let's… leave her be, for now. Maybe she needs time."

    Sunny was about to retort, but, truth be told, he didn't have any ideas either. In the end, he just nodded.

    "Okay. I'll keep an eye on her."

    Changing Star, however, had other ideas.


    As the sun was rising and the surging sea was receding, Nephis chose to give Cassie some space and led Sunny to the edge of the platform. However, she made sure to always have the blind girl in the periphery of her vision.

    Cassia sat hugging her knees. Her eyes were closed, but small tremors that periodically ran through her body betrayed that she was awake.

    Sunny's eye twitched.

    "Are you sure it's okay to leave her like this?"

    Nephis gave him a complicated look.


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    Then, after some thought, she added:

    "Cassie is strong."

    Sunny wasn't sure how to answer. If Changing Star considered someone to be strong, then they most likely were. However, "strong" was the last word that came to his mind when he thought about the delicate, beautiful, blind girl. Wasn't she someone who constantly needed their help?

    But then again, there were different kinds of strength. Cassia was still alive and sane despite her debilitating Flaw. How many people could have done the same?

    "If you say so."

    Then, Nephis made him summon the Azure Blade. After studying it for a while, she nodded and took her longsword out of the air.

    Despite its size, it was an elegant weapon. The narrow, double-edged blade was much longer than that of the Azure Blade, with an incredibly sharp, symmetrical tip. The whole blade, as well as the simple cross-shaped guard and the pommel, seemed to be made out of silver and reflected the pale morning light. The handle was tightly wrapped in black leather.

    Putting the two swords side by side, Nephis spoke:

    "Your sword can be used with one hand, but its true potential can only be revealed when held in both. It is created primarily for cutting and severing, hence the higher center of gravity. However, it can thrust as well."

    Then she gestured to hers:

    "My sword is a bit more versatile. It is created for both cutting and thrusting, and it has a double edge. However, the principle of wielding these two swords is effectively is the same."

    She took the sword in both hands, placing one near the guard and another near the pommel. Then, she performed a downward slash.

    "They are both leverage-based weapons. When held with two hands, one hand pushes," she pushed the sword down with the hand near the guard. "While the other hand pulls."

    The hand near the pommel simultaneously pulled the handle up, giving the blade a tremendous boost in speed.

    "This is how you generate force and perform powerful strikes. Now, your turn."

    Sunny looked at his sword and gripped it with both hands, mimicking Nephis's pose. Then, he raised it and slashed down, making sure to enhance the force of the strike with his lower hand.

    Changing Star observed him.

    "You need to understand that a strike doesn't come from the hands. It comes from your whole body. Power comes from your feet, your hips, your core, your shoulders, and is only then transmitted to your hands. Like this."

    She demonstrated the downward slash again. This time, Sunny paid attention to the overall stance and movements of every part of Changing Star's body, as opposed to only the sword.

    He wasn't a novice to fighting: instinctively, he already knew how to deliver a proper punch… even if, before, there wasn't a lot of strength in his body. The principles of striking with a sword were largely the same, so Sunny quickly understood the overall concept.

    He performed the simple downward slash a few more times. After each time, Nephis gave him pointers and corrected his mistakes. Some time later, she was finally satisfied with his form.

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    Sunny smiled, proud of his achievements.

    Nephis looked at him thoughtfully and nodded.

    "Now, do it a thousand more times."

    The smile froze on Sunny's face.

    'A… thousand? Did she say a thousand?!'

    He blinked.

    "Uh… sorry. How many times?"

    Changing Star tilted her head and thought for some time.

    "Well… we don't have much time today. So, yes. Only a thousand."

    'Ha. Ha-ha. "Only" a thousand, eh?'

    Sunny forced himself to sound polite.

    "I see. Alright."

    As Nephis walked back to sit with Cassie, he turned to the sea and raised his sword.


    The Azure Blade whistled as it cut the air. He raised it again.


    Push and pull. This is how you generate force.


    Strike with your whole body, not just your hands.


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    As Sunny raised his sword and slashed down, over and over again, only one thought eventually remained in his mind:

    'Repetition, experience, clarity. Repetition…'

    By the time he was done performing a thousand strikes, Cassie was finally ready to speak.

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