According to the law of nature that even the demon's existence couldn't obstruct, the sun broke the dawn with its brightness, announcing its recurring arrival as the entire squad stationed in the mansion looked at the scorched ground before looking for the culprit. But the said fiend was nowhere to be found for he had left before everyone's awakening, especially, Zenitsu's.
"Puhahahahaha! Did Brian do this! Farting Fire!"
Practically rolling on the ground, tears leaked through Zenitsu's eyes while cackling in a fit of maddened frenzy while the party boi of the group knelt near the scorched ground and kowtowed. Although his body's posture gave off a reverent aura, his expression remained masked beneath the Boar's fur. Only Tanjiro sniffed around and frowned until his crimson gaze filled with astonishment met with Nik's amused one.
"Breath of Fire... could get so wrong?"
Dressed in a yukata shirt, unlike yesterday, Rei's blue-coloured get-up gave her a fresh feeling. Although her brows remained just as straight and stern-looking as yesterday, the fact remained that her curves were more focused in such clothes, attracting Nik's attention more than one time. Of course, currently, Rei could only question the technique she was practicing.
What if she was cultivating and...
Rei shivered at the thought.
"I am not learning any breathing technique."
Saya refused flatly.
If fire could leak out of one's anus, thinking of myriad breathing techniques Mist, War, Fire, Water, Earth, Lightning, Insect, Flower... Saya's bangable body quivered and she took a step back. No, she did not want elements or insects sticking out of her ass.
Thank you, but no.
"Don't worry. It's not what it looks like."
Tanjiro finally spoke and attracted everyone's attention.
"I smell burnt flesh."
His words instantly silenced the cackling Zenitsu, whose expression matched the horrifying looks that Rei, Saya and Aoi gave while Inosuke's reverence only grew to greater heights.
"Did... his ass get a burn?"
Zenitsu asked the question lingering within the mind of everyone save for Nik and Tanjiro as the crimson-haired youth shook his head and replied with a somber expression while gazing at Nik with his eyes flashing a questioning glimmer.
"No, it is the smell of a burnt demon."
As if an invisible hand just choked out every single hint of humour out of Zenitsu, his expression paled while Inosuke's body twitched and he instantly stood up, stomping at the scorched marking while Tanjiro, Rei, Saya and Aoi looked at Nik with a puzzled expression. Finally, Nik, himself, felt that maybe... just maybe, staying back to continue teasing Shinobu wasn't his best move.
Alas, think of the devil and she will appear in all its mystifying beauty.
"Demon?" An amused tone laced with barely concealed threat whispered into the surroundings, "Ara? Wouldn't that mean that you were lying about Brian? And if you were lying about Brian, does that mean he wasn't unconscious?
And if he wasn't conscious... does that mean..."
Shinobu's whisper closed into Nik's back before she took a bold initiative and extended her toes to softly kiss Nik's left earlobe from behind before unsheathing her blade with her usual serene smile and continuing while Nik slowly and cautiously turned his body.
"... doesn't that mean... that I have to silence all the witnesses?"
Shinobu tilted her head sweetly while instantly, aside from Saya, everyone with a single hint of battle experience took a step back, with a glorious look of fear etched over their face, of course.
"Eh? What happened?"
Saya shook her head, moving her twin tails in a lovable manner with every turn of her head, making Rei sigh as she moved quickly and caught Saya by her wrist and pulled her back, leaving a rather large area to just Nik and Shinobu.
The Pillar of War and Insect.
"Ehm," Nik coughed softly before looking at the scorched marks, trying his damn best to conceal the dastardly hint of a smile that struggled to break through his control and appear on his face before continuing, "I am sure I can explain all of this..."
"What? This time you farted fire and accidentally burnt a demon into ashes..."
Nik was momentarily surprised at how close Shinobu was to the truth and finally gave her a warm and encouraging smile.
"Not farted, but yeah... I used Breath of Fire to destroy the demon that got in here."
Playfulness seized from Shinobu's expression as she slowly disgested Nik's statement and the implications his words held. A wave of concern erupted within her as Nik continued, "Last night, Cultivator of Hamon finally returned from her mission. Currently, she is within the headquarters."
Unable to hide her emotions, she looked at the gathered group. She is supposed to teach them. Teach them all. Despite her unruly methods that would give an efficient response, Shinobu took her task seriously. Extremely so.
"But to accurately judge the situation, you have awarded yourself with a day-long spar with me."
Nik smiled playfully and openly winked at Shinobu, whose expression leaked a frown just for a moment before nodding and quickly jumping away and vanishing into thin air.
"How did she do that?"
Saya yelped with her face filled with astonishment and a hint of greed. Greed for power, Nik reckoned.
"Alright, we can remain in awe to the technique that Shinobu just used, or we can train.
Practice hard enough to achieve that technique ourselves."
Nik smiled and clapped his hands, attracting everyone with his fluency and the ease of fitting into the role of teaching. Although, Nik still hadn't started teaching, he at the very least, showed enough confidence in teaching the group when he himself may not be as proficient as a few people in the group.
Very seriously, Nik looked at each one of the guys gathered. Starting from Tanjiro, the only one in the group Nik was the most familiar with. It had been months since Nik had seen him and even if he hadn't observed Tanjiro yesterday to the detail, the physical growth of the youth was already eye-catching.
Next, his gaze fell on Inosuke, his torso bare with his tipped body already garnished by a few scars and soon, Nik's calm gaze observed everyone in the group. And finally, Nik thanked his lucky stars for his vanity remained intact as he was the tallest one of the group present in the backyard.
It was a stupid, childish conclusion. Nik admitted and relished in the fact.
With a pleased smile lingering on his face, Nik finally spoke up.
"Alright, Zenitsu and Inosuke, you two can do whatever you want or spar against me till you get tired." His words instantly pulled all the blood from Zenitsu's face while steam rushed out of the nose of the boar's mask.
"Rei and Aoi will start jogging around the mansion with their breathing technique activated and finally, Saya will train with me in rotation with Tanjiro."
"But... I don't know any breathing technique..."
Aoi instantly spoke up while Nik smiled lightly.
"I am the teacher, aren't I? We will start with the breath of water for you."
Aoi could barely maintain her breath and this wasn't even a large percentage of the breathing technique Nik taught her and even as she jogged alongside an equally huffing and tired Rei, Aoi simply couldn't understand how could she so easily get accustomed to the breath of water without having learnt it even once.
Meanwhile, as she passed by the familiar backyard with scorched marks, she observed Nik patiently tutoring Saya with her sword stance. Even to her eyes, Nik's technique wasn't special. There was simply nothing redeemable to his techniques. Each of his strikes was measured, yes, but to Aoi, and even Rei, who observed Nik and Saya, his style looked a little incomplete.
If Nik wasn't an actual Pillar, in her assumptiouos nature, Aoi would have title Nik as a con artist. Which wasn't far from the truth.
Nik particularly excelled in the breathing techniques. But his sword felt a bit lacking. Experience.
But never did this fact bug Nik at all. Experience takes time to acc.u.mulate and what better way to gain even more experience while teaching someone else and observing the similar patters as an outsider's point of view.
Even though Zenitsu and Inosuke pulled Tanjiro out when they learnt that the Crimson-haired youth was already halfway through to accomplish the Continuous Focus Breathing Technique, Nik kept focusing on Saya, slowly lacing his words with his skill to evoke the desire for power that the bespectacled pinkette had been hiding.
The greed for power was merely a flicker in Nik's eyes that seemed to be hiding a torrent of emotions, particularly, grief.
"Slow down. The shift of the blade could have injured your own wrist from the recoil."
Nik whispered and observed Saya's disgruntled expression as the pinkette gazed at the passing Rei and Aoi.
With a shift of his waist, Nik tapped his wooden sword against her waist and continued whispering.
"Do you want to learn a breathing technique?"
Nik whispered a question as his voice seemed to be one with nature himself. This was a little trick he picked after his battle last night. Well, it wasn't as much of a battle as a slaughter, but it the idea that counts.
Yesterday, his opponent was clearly below him when it came to mind manipulation. But strictly manipulating the mind can be exposed and countered one way or the other. Through mind control, memories can be altered, forgotten and even create emotions for the target. But it is a method described as forced control.
Hypnosis, on the other hand, presents simple and effective suggestions to one's conscious and subconscious. Through a makeshift hypnosis of using his Pheromones as the trigger, Nik easily passed on the first half of the breathing technique to Aoi and now, he did the same with Saya.
Each of her moves was subconsciously guided by Nik. Even her errors. After all, if Nik simply guided all the correct moves, it wouldn't have helped Saya's control. But, if he kept on rotating his guidance to her subconscious and conscious whenever he pointed out a few, nondescript errors, her body could also get accustomed to the technique rather easily.
Of course, this was merely a kickstart.
And a probe. Her greed from power stemmed from the sad ending Saya thought her family faced, suppressing all her emotions besides greed itself. Greed for power and vengeance.
And Nik was perfectly insensitive to trigger those emotions to bring an even greater drive from within Saya.
"I wish to learn it..." Saya nodded as her pupils remained a bit dazed. A look of longing gradually submerged once again as she snapped out of her stupor and looked back at Nik.
"Ah, I am sorry. I can't just focus"
Nik cut her in between and instantly, his sword slithered to the left of her body. And well, Saya will be damned if she had thought she could stop it. But that was what truly happened.
Nik struck and Saya's arms moved unconsciously, blocking the move with a resounding sound of success as the noise of the block filled the empty hall.
"You are progressing well. For a beginner, of course. But we will start for real after you grow a bit stronger.
You should join Aoi and please, send Rei into the hall."
Nik smiled and casually sat on the floor, waiting for the dazed and excited Saya to leave the hall and join Aoi.
'Instead of fussing over gravity, maybe, I should truly start investing my time in Mind Control...'
Nik mused internally. His training had been a progressive one but that was it. It wasn't at the level where he could use both, Mind Control and Gravity, as his trump cards. A decision was needed to be made. While Breathing Techniques were a good source of strength, these weren't what Nik sought. Had he not gained the ambition to complete his Breath of Gravity, he would have never committed himself to learn all the techniques he could.
Right now, Nik continuously scourged for answers and methods to integrate his training of Mind Control with his gravity manipulation and while there was a way, Nik reckoned that he did not have the required proficiency in the two techniques to truly achieve that ambition.
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