The Lord of Staves

by

Richristol

Chapter 23: A test of ability

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“Your basilisk there, how did it come to your service? Did you tame it?”

The old naga asked while looking at Ddraig.

“His name is Ddraig, and no, I didn’t tame him.”

“Oh?”

The old naga raised an eyebrow.

Reinhard then explained how he was able to gain Ddraig as his follower. The old naga and Hebi seemed to be very impressed and engrossed at it while the two guards behind him just gave reactions of smug disbelief.

“Interesting… Anyway, about your proposal.”

“Hm? Ah, yes, how about it?”

“What exactly do you expect of us nagas to do?”

“Before I could decide that, I’ll have to know first what nagas are good at, don't I?”

“True, but unfortunately, I am in no position to know that. All that we’ve been doing is hunt for our food to survive another day, and we’re not even that good at it. Legends say that thousands of years ago, we nagas once stood on equal footing with the humans and other races. We had our own nation and borders. We don’t know the validity of it however, it could be true or it could be just that… a legend.”

“…”

Reinhard was mildly intrigued by this.

“Well it’s not that impossible, as civilizations do rise and fall. What I'm curious about that is how they declined from an entire nation to a mere camp somewhere in this forest.”

Reinhard sat across the old naga while leaning his back on Ddraig, thinking.

“Have you ever fought creatures other than the basilisk and those that you hunt?”

He asked.

“Yes, although rarely. Our hunters would occasionally say that they encountered a group of goblins or orcs. Goblins are utterly no match against us, but orcs could rival us in sheer strength alone. Thankfully, we don’t just rely on sheer strength.”

“Oh? Then what do you rely on?”

“Would you like to see?”

“…”

“Hmmm. This could be good. It’ll allow me to assess their abilities…”

“Yes, I’d like to see how good your guards are, if that’s okay.”

He suddenly said, getting the attention of the two guards behind him.

“Sure, but, are sure you want to fight them?”

“Ah, no, it’s not me that’s fighting.”

Reinhard stood up and pats Ddraig’s resting head.

“He will.”

Hebi and the old naga’s reaction grew wider at Reinhard’s decleration.

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t permit him to use his flame breath and this would only be a test of skill, so Ddraig, don’t bare your fangs, okay? In return I’d like the challenger to remove the tip of his spear.”

“B-but…”

One of the guards started to mutter, but he was interrupted by the sudden laughing of the old naga.

“HA HA HA HA! Interesting. I like your idea. Very well. Anyone of you two would like to show the chief of Garden your skills? This isn’t going to be a fight to death, don’t worry.”

Suddenly, one of the guards from the gate came towards them. It was that same guard that threatened Reinhard earlier.

“I came here to check what’s going on and find out that you’re challenging us? Very well, I shall do it.”

The guard said, calmer than he was previously at the gate.

“There’s your challenger!”

The old naga said, utterly enjoying every second if it.

They were in a somewhat empty part of the nest as there were no thatches laid on the ground. Many nagas surround them though, hoping to take a look at the battle. Some children were questioning why they let a basilisk inside, while others are murmuring amongst themselves on who would win. It turns out that the challenger was one of the strongest guards they have, even before their numbers had been significantly reduced.

“I am called Sawha.”

The challenger said as he remove the tip off of his wooden spear.

“This is Ddraig.”

Reinhard replied as he pats Ddraig’s sides.

“Remember, don’t use your flame breath. If you’re going for a bite, just fold your fangs, alright?”

*Hisss*

Ddraig and Sawha faces off against each other in the middle of the circle of crowd. Reinhard stands by the side of the older naga and Hebi.

“Let the fight… commence!”

Hebi says after a long silence. As soon as she says that, Sawha immediately began to charge towards Ddraig.

“He’s fast!”

Reinhard thought.

Sawha was leaning so much into the ground that his face almost touches the soil while he’s charging. Although Reinhard couldn’t find a reason for this, it made him admire the strength of his lower body nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Ddraig was standing still, waiting for Sawha to come into his range. It was unlike how he fought Reinhard where he went on the offensive and aimed for the lunges.

Reinhard observed every movement and every second of the battle. It was just like with Hebi and the other naga. Sawha’s lower body does not slither but instead move in a straight line. This made him wonder just how in the hell were they moving forwards, and so fast at that?

When Ddraig deemed that Sawha was in range, he immediately lunged towards Sawha with his fangs folded, but Sawha’s leaning was so low that Ddraig just skimmed the air above Sawha. This gave him the opportunity to hit Ddraig’s underside while moving sideways, which he did.

“Hit!”

Hebi shouts as Sawha scores a hit on Ddraig.

What Sawha didn’t realize though is he’s now in the striking range of Ddraig’s tail sweep. When he saw Ddraig’s tail coming at him, it was already too late. He tried to block it with his tip-less spear, but was flung about two meters anyway.

“Hit!”

Hebi shouts once again.

The two combatants have now regained their stances, eyeing each other as they slowly prepare for their attack.

This time, Ddraig dropped the height superiority and instead laid himself into the ground, countering Sawha’s approach.

He slowly slithered towards Sawha who’s on a defensive position, waiting for Ddraig’s move.

Instead of fully committing to a full lunge, Ddraig, as soon as he entered into striking range, instead attempted multiple bites at Sawha by doing a “mid-lunge” and quickly retracting himself for another attack. To Reinhard, it looked like a fencer trusting his rapier, then backing away only to thrust it again repeatedly.

Yet what really caught his attention is how nimble Sawha’s dodging is. It’s almost as if he could dodge at any direction except for upwards.

“I didn’t really expect this much mobility on him, especially someone who lacks legs…”

Sawha was twisting and turning around and under every attack of Ddraig. He was unable to counterattack though as Ddraig was also equally fast at retracting his bites.

Seeing as nothing is really happening with the present situation, Ddraig, on his final bite, retreated his entire body sideways and attempted to slam Sawha with his tail once again, this time while Sawha is still in the process of recovering from the dodge.

Ddraig’s tail kicked up the dirt towards the audience as it explosively accelerates towards Sawha who’s about to prone to the ground to avoid it. Just like last time, he didn’t manage to dodge it, but unlike last time, he didn’t manage to block it either. His right arm took the blunt of Ddraig’s tail, cushioning it using his biceps. Once again, he was flung away, rolling into the ground as he lands.

“Hit!”

That wasn’t the end of it though, as while Sawha was prone on the ground, Ddraig immediately followed up with a bite downwards him. Sawha managed to dodge it this time by rolling sideways, putting Ddraig in a vulnerable position as his head is now on the ground.

Sawha immediately took the opportunity and swept his stick with all his might horizontally towards Ddraig. The force of it hitting Ddraig’s scales was so strong that the sound it gave off was like that of hitting a drum full of water. The stick, on the other hand, instantly splintered and snapped. A testament to the hardness of Ddraig’s scales and Sawha’s strength.

“Hit!”

The other half of the stick flew towards the audience. That was the signal that the battle has ended with a tie.

Ddraig and Sawha looked at each other. It was impressive enough that Sawha was able to score melee hits on Ddraig, as Reinhard knew full well how difficult that was even when he was using staves, but to also be able to withstand the force of Ddraig’s blows made Reinhard even more impressed.

The two combatants then stood side-by-side in front of Reinhard and the old naga.

“Excellent moves!”

Reinhard commended. As Reinhard was in no way a fighter, it was the only thing that he could say in response to the fight itself. However, he can see the incredible and numerous applications of individuals like the naga in actual battle.

“Yes, both sides fought with incredible skill. I’m not going into any details, but if all naga moves and fights the same way that you do, or at least, has the potential to be, then you’re certainly going to be excellent shock troops!”

“Shock troops?”

Hebi questioned under her breath.

“I would like you all to come live in Garden. There, you would be provided with food and protection, but in return, you would enter its workforce as hunters and, if the situation calls for it, conscripted soldiers.”

“I don’t really understand some of those, but you’re saying that in return for giving us protection, we would hunt food for Garden?”

Hebi finally asked what everyone might have wanting to ask but could not step forward to do so.

“Yes! Essentially, it wouldn’t be any different from what you’re doing now. Those who cannot hunt can help with other things that contribute to Garden. How’s it?”

The audience surrounding them looked and discussed amongst each other.

“It shouldn’t be a problem if at least five of them hunt regularly and continuously to replenish the food reserves. It would be the only thing they do though, so I hope they don’t get bored of that.”

The old naga was about to stand up and say something to the crowd as well when a sudden shout permeated throughout the silent murmuring of the discussing audience.

“BASILISKS! THEY’RE HERE!”

Everyone instinctively looked towards the source of the sound and found that one naga had emerged from the trees to the north-east.

Sawha immediately bursts into action. He dropped the broken stick he was holding and took another one near the old naga’s nest before finally hurrying towards the entrance. Hebi, Reinhard, and Ddraig went too, while the rest of the naga huddled together like they did earlier.

They met the naga that shouted at the gate. At first he let out a “hiiih” when he saw Ddraig but was calmed down by the guards. Apparently, he was overlooking the basilisk’s nest from a treetop and saw that they’ve all began to move towards this direction. Every single basilisk there left the nest and decided to attack here. Unlike humans or most animals, newborn basilisks only need two to three days after hatching to be able to hunt by themselves.

“Shouldn’t we evacuate everyone then?”

Reinhard told the guards who were questioning the one that just arrived.

“…”

“Hebi! Tell everyone to get out of here and head towards the hut. You go with them too to protect them!”

Sawha ordered to Hebi. She immediately left without question after hearing this and went to the rest of the naga, but it was too late.

One by one, silhouettes began to appear from within the trees. Not long after, the basilisks emerged.

The sight was chilling to Reinhard. Not because of the way the basilisks slowly crept into the light, but because of the sheer number of them. There were about ten to fifteen basilisks, some have shiny black scales while others have dark-purple ones. They all lined up at the edge of the clearing, looking around at the seven individuals standing at the entrance.

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About the author

Richristol

Bio: Heya there! (`∀´)ノ

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