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Na-Swan-se could no longer take the torture. She leapt high in the air, somersaulting around her outstretched, and bound, hands. At the same time she jerked with her hands on the rope.

The Shinse are carefully trained in the 7 schools to make the most of an advantage in a fight. Sensing hers had arrived, Na-Swan-se withdrew the knife and jumped for the back of the serpent’s head. The head bucked and writhed, trying to withdraw its horns. When Na-Swan-se’s wiry legs wrapped around its neck, the creature only intensified these movements.

Na-Swan-se acted quickly—with vicious movements she stabbed the creature’s neck.

And with that, the Old Man drew his wakat, thin as a piece of wire, but strong and sharp. He whirled it at Lu Mīn’s arched back as he attempted to avoid the Gokhan’s swinging blade.

The blade sliced through where Lu Mīn ought to have been, and in fact was, but it did not stop, nor did it draw blood. As the blade carried on through the air, the Old Man’s paused, looking with visible astonishment and concern at the Gokhan, Lu Mīn’s mouth gently curving into a smile.

Lu Mīn nodded, taking the two short Wakat that were offered, and bent into the position of defence as the log hurtled towards him, the attendents bearing it shouting fiercely.

—This is something new.—said one of the students near Dun fi.—I have seen the Test before, and the Test of Strength only had two against one, not six!—

But it was too late for Dun fi to act. The log struck Lu Mīn’s crossed Wakat with a cracking sound. Lu Mīn slid back, the force of the impact sending him to the edge of the circle. However all eyes of the crowd were watching the log as it too hurtled backwards, one end catching the floor and flipping, sending attendants sprawling.

—Begin!—the Gokhan reached into the basket and tossed the first fruit, it went high into the air before falling straight above Lu Mīn. Lu Mīn swiped at it in his clumsy way, lucky to catch it with the edge of his Wakat blade, sending juice splattering all over his hair and coverings.

The crowd laughed and jeered, but quickly returned to a disciplined silence as soon as the attendants began tossing Lai-se into the air.

The fruit fell fast, Lu Mīn struggling to keep up with them as they rained down from all sides.

As Lu Mīn’s movements began to attain rhythm, fruit that he did not touch that was nevertheless along the path of his blade divided neatly as if cut. Lu Mīn strained from the effort, slicing from side to side, turning quickly to catch each attendant’s movement.

Ginse set up the attack with accurate and deadly speed, lunging high for a downwards slash. Lu Mīn crossed his two Wakat, but the force of the blow sent them down, deep into his shoulder.

Lu Mīn gasped in shock.

—First you strike there,—Ginse mocked Lu Mīn’s pain.—Then here, and then…—

Ginse finished the move, having pushed Lu Mīn off balance and turned to swiftly undercut him by sweeping the Wakat at the lower limbs.

However, Ginse’s blade cut through empty air. Lu Mīn had vanished.

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