Mentor: Keeper fighting training — teams of three. Group number five, start!
As one of the Keeper trainees, Uriel conjured a fireball in her left hand as a feint, trying to distract her enemies while she thrust her spear toward the anticipated direction her opponent was going to dodge. The trainee could only defend himself by channeling the last bits of his power before he collapsed from exhaustion.
As the last individual on the rival team struck out, Uriel’s team was victorious on the last category of the Keeper training. Although it was a fight between teams of three, Uriel took care of all the opponents by herself.
Uriel: Humph. You’re thinking of becoming a Keeper with those skills of yours? You need way more practice!
Keeper Trainee: Don’t boast yourself! No matter how great you think you are, there’s no way you can win Metatron!
Metatron — a name of whom everyone knew was the most powerful Keeper of the new generation. He easily passed the Keeper training with flying colors and was naturally selected as a Keeper. His outstanding combat skills often enabled him to participate in various military matters. Whenever he was on break between missions, he would accept challenges from the juniors and offer them his guidance and suggestions.
The Keeper trainee’s words hit Uriel’s sore point; being the top of her class, Uriel did not believe there was someone out there who could defeat her. However, if it was Metatron, Uriel thought he could be a worthy opponent.
Uriel: Interesting. I’ll fight him!
It turned out that in only less than fifteen minutes, Uriel had lost to Metatron. He skillfully dodged Uriel’s fire attack, grabbed her by the forearm and pushed her from behind. Failing to maintain her balance from the momentum of her own attack, Uriel fell to the ground. When she wanted to get back up, Metatron had pointed his hand at her neck...
Metatron: You’re not bad, but there’s still room for improvement.
Metatron said while reaching out his hand to help Uriel up, but Uriel merely shoved away the polite gesture in disdain:
Uriel: I know how to get up by myself!
The arrogant Uriel could not accept the fact that she had just lost. She was unable to hide her frustration and discontent.^ ^ The attacks which had easily defeated her fellow trainees had no effect on Metatron at all. Uriel immediately realized she had met her archenemy, and issued a declaration of challenge.
Uriel: I’ll defeat you next time!
Metatron had come across many prideful individuals, but every one of them would merely grumble after their failure. Uriel was the first individual who was daring enough to challenge him for a second time.
Since she was defeated by Metatron, Uriel often looked back at their fight. Metatron was fast; he seemed to have long anticipated Uriel’s every attack. Even before she started moving, Metatron was already prepared to block or dodge her attacks and was even able to exploit her momentum to cause injury to herself.
Metatron’s attacks were also quick and precise. Uriel did not even have enough time to dodge the numerous attacks. She could only block them, but the force of every attack always made her lose her balance.
Uriel arranged a series of training exercises for herself to improve her speed and strength. In one of the exercises, Uriel tied weights to her body and limbs while she had to dodge balls that were shot from twelve different directions. She wanted to heighten her abilities and defeat Metatron as soon as possible.
Every time she finished a training exercise, Uriel would duel Metatron, but was defeated every time.^ ^ One day, Uriel went to duel with Metatron again. She wielded her spear so quickly that her linear attacks resembled a rain of arrows, attacking all of Metatron’s weak points!
However, such a simple attack pattern could never escape Metatron’ s sight. He actually managed to block or parry every single one of her attacks. Only focusing on launching attacks, Uriel completely forgot to defend her back. Metatron swiftly stepped behind her and knocked her down with one strike.
Though with difficulty, Uriel was able to thrust her spear downward to steady herself, and in a split second, she leaped toward Metatron and launched another wave of attack. She incessantly increased the speed of her attacks, in hopes that Metatron would fail to dodge them. To her surprise, Metatron still had ample time to dodge, and was even able to step to the side to hurl an elemental sphere at her.
Uriel launched consecutive attacks while Metatron dodged and seized opportunities to retaliate. Uriel then continued steadying herself and launching attacks. This cycle repeated a few times before Uriel eventually collapsed.
Metatron: What’s with all the hurrying? How come you gave up defending yourself and only focused on attacking?
Metatron: If I didn’t hold back, you’d have been long dead!
Uriel: This is called successive attack! My aim was to increase the range and speed of my attacks. If I was a bit faster, I would have hit you!
Metatron: That’s reckless! If you don’t think on the battlefield, what you’re actually increasing is only the speed of your own death!
Flames Keeper: I know that! And I don’t need you to tell me!
This defeat caused Uriel to realize that there was something wrong with the way she fought, so she was only receiving injuries instead of inflicting them. However, the fact that she did not figure out her weakness by herself and was instead revealed by Metatron stirred her anger. Hence, though knowing she was being mean for no reason, she still wanted to let out a little steam by retaliating verbally.
With that said, what angered her was not only Metatron’s ability to instruct her and being able to fight her with ease, but also the unsatisfying results from her wholehearted trainings. Metatron rivalled her in the sense of power and speed, and fighting tactics.
After numerous trainings in speed and strength, Uriel also started to practice fighting tactics to handle Metatron’s attack patterns. During a fight between two powerful individuals, the first few attacks are usually observed to probe into the opponent’ s power.
Through the first attack, one could already predict the opponent’s second and third attack — the second is used to prepare for the third, while the third attack is capable of both offense and defense depending on the situation...Instead of following this practise, Uriel planned to fake her third attack and lure Metatron into a trap and then retaliate.
She imagined various fighting scenes and designed numerous fake attacks. To ensure that she could put those actions into real use, she found herself a mentor...
After practicing with the mentor, Uriel’s moves were swifter. Her ideas turned into practical tactics and she was able to execute them with ease. Gaining confidence from her hard work, Uriel challenged Metatron to a duel again...
Uriel: ‘No. I need to wait before I use that!’
During their fight, Uriel always waited for a better chance to use her techniques. When she fully comprehended Metatron’s speed, she was able to predict his next moves and the routes of his attacks. She found opportunities to launch her designed fake attacks, but whenever she actually used them, Metatron did not fall for them. As a result, she had lost once more...
Uriel: That’s impossible! Why can’t I win? You used some kind of secret power, didn’t you?
Metatron: Secret power? You should have been able to see my actions and the way I fought. Did you notice any secret power?
Uriel: Then why do I lose all the time?
Uriel could not help but fill with anger and at that moment, perhaps the only moment, Uriel acted more ladylike. However, Metatron knew it was the kind of anger that only powerful individuals had. The anger did not originate from the opponent’s overwhelming power; it was from the individual’s realization of not being powerful enough. Hence, Metatron did not mind Uriel’s temperament and instead, nicely offered his opinion:
Metatron: I only focused on the fight, and I did not think about anything else.
Metatron: You, on the other hand, was obviously thinking of other things when you launched your attacks.
Metatron: Such contemplation offered me more than enough time to see what you were preparing to do.
After each duel, Metatron would talk about Uriel’s shortcomings. At first, Uriel only felt exasperation to listen to them, but now, she realized that he was actually helping her learn. In all of their fights, Metatron never held back knowing that his opponent could grow stronger afterward; that was how he showed respect toward his opponents.
Since that fight, Uriel still challenged Metatron from time to time and gradually welcomed his suggestions, hence becoming stronger.
Uriel kept training while she continued to duel Metatron from time to time. She incessantly polished her skills to become a Keeper and as expected, she passed the final test and officially became one of the Keepers.^ ^ With exceptional grades, Uriel was soon assigned with a long-term mission at another world where she would carry out her responsibilities as a Keeper of Worlds.
Before her departure, Uriel went to see Metatron again. It was most likely their last duel, because a Keeper cannot arbitrarily leave the garrison world during a long-term mission. If she decided to not go visit him, she would have to wait until Metatron passed by her garrison world to duel him again.
Their fight lasted for almost thirty minutes and as usual, Metatron was able to control the rhythm of the entire fight. Although Uriel did not lose this time, she could not defeat Metatron. At the end of the prolonged duel, Uriel sought a breakthrough. She channeled all her power into her spear and charged to launch her last attack.
Just as the spear was about to hit its target, Metatron skillfully parried her attack, somersaulted behind her and shot an elemental strike at her. Uriel was able to block the attack, but the impact shoved her a few meters away.
Uriel: Sigh...I still can’t defeat you.
Metatron: But you truly have improved a lot since the first time you challenged me.
While Metatron said that, he reached out his hand to help her up, just like the first time they dueled—
Metatron: Congratulations on passing the Keeper test.
This time, Uriel did not push his hand away. She stood up with Metatron’s help and her lips naturally curled into a smile:
Uriel: Then for once, lose to me. Think of it as a congratulation gift!
Metatron: I wouldn’t mind pretending, if that’s how you want to win...
Uriel: No! Never hold back during our duels!
Metatron: Then I hope you can hang in there for more than forty-five minutes the next time we fight.
Uriel: Are you being sarcastic?
Uriel continued to improve, so she would not disappoint herself or Metatron.