Chapter 81: The Blade Law

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The Eight have developed a set of specialized skills, while still retaining a general proficiency with their other skills. Ishta'ana is a master manipulator, for example, but her skills in combat are also incredibly advanced. Rigorous discipline is necessary to even survive them, let alone best them.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Albus Collection, Vol. 2, Page 33

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Eight Years Ago

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He had grown so much.

Dai Lan was with his son in the forest again, fighting again, but this time, his son was winning.

Their wooden practice blades clacked against each other as they fought. Dai Lan wore no armor, nor did his son; every blow that landed hurt, and that pain reinforced the importance of blocking. Laidu's arms had several dark bruises from when he had blocked his father's blows, rather than take a body shot. He was supposed to use the blade, but instead he used an arm.

Dai Lan didn't blame him, though. He had just finished nursing a cracked rib, and had watched his son spar with Jian. Ironic, sparring with a man who's shortened name meant "sword," but that was the way it went, it seemed. And while the practice swords weren't lethal, they could do damage.

Laidu ducked his blow and backstepped. Even at his age, in his mid-teens, he was as tall as his father, but surprisingly quick and agile. Whatever his son was, he was strong. Dai Lan pursued him, ducking under a tree branch.

He noticed something as he followed his son. One of his feet was glowing. Why? Why in the world was he using his power?

He turned his back on Dai Lan and ran. "Son! What are you doing?"

Laidu didn't answer. He just ran.

Dai Lan followed him, but Laidu was faster, and he had much more endurance. The thin mountain air tired them easier when they were high above the forest. But now, underneath, deep in the canopy of the forest, they were able to run longer. They were able to seem stronger, and every breath seemed like it gave more life and vigor than it should have. But even with this, Laidu was younger than Dai Lan; his father didn't have the strength nor the speed of his former days. 

Still, that wasn't to say that Dai Lan wasn't fast or agile. He leaped through the forest, over the rock, under that fallen log, and past the small brook. All he had was that flash of reddish-gold, a reflection of sunlight that shone off his son's head. That was all he had to find Laidu. 

He turned after passing a rock and stopped. There was his son, waiting, wading midshin in the creek. "What are you doing?" he asked. 

"Nothing," Laidu said, not even trying to hide the fact that it wasn't true. "Are we going to spar or not?"

"You want to spar in the creek?" Dai Lan asked. He knew his son got some crazy ideas, sure, but most of those tended to be pranks with Po Shun. Maybe he wanted it to be a bit slippery, their battleground, so he could somehow have an advantage? Dai Lan had been trying to teach Laidu to be aware of his environment while he fought. Maybe he had finally drilled that message into his son's head.

"You know, you're a strange kid," Dai Lan told his son as he hiked up his trousers and stepped into the brook. He was only dimly aware of the almost-frozen water sluicing through his sandals. The mountain they lived on had a natural spring at the top, and any river had plenty of time in the chilled air. But he was a denizen of that chill air too, and it was nothing.

"I'm fifteen, Dad," Laidu said. Or rather, he assumed he was fifteen. From their best guesses, they had found him when he was eight years old. An educated guess, based off of his proportions (height, unfortunately, wouldn't have given them a good answer. He was freakishly tall, and in a crowd of his peers, he stood a head above them), but a guess nonetheless. "I'm practically a man."

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