(Outer Regions- Kingdom of Lockmare)
(Two Months Later…)
The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon and a soft orange glow lit up the dark forest.
Claire stood silently in the middle of a clearing and held her longsword in both hands. She took a deep breath and then began her morning exercises.
Forward thrust, horizontal slash, cross cuts…
Claire's body moved in a familiar pattern as she continued her workout.
There was not a hint of hesitation in her movements as these exercises had been carved into her body's memory.
Many were under the impression that paladins drew their strength directly from Lord Varion and hence did not need to train.
In fact, there were some in the church who believed this falsehood and focused on bolstering their faith in the Lord of Light instead of physical exercise.
They were mistaken.
Power without the ability to wield it was useless.
Claire narrowed her eyes and focused on her breathing. She needed strength to protect the safety of this world.
The original Claire's only request was for her to become a paladin worthy of serving the Lord of Light and Sui Li intended to fulfil her ambition.
Golden light surrounded Claire's longsword and holy runes floated in the air above her body.
The holy knight closed her eyes and felt the spiritual energy flow into her body from a place beyond this mortal world.
Claire's eyes opened and now her pupils were completely golden.
She swung her sword in a lazy arc and a beam of golden light burst out from the tip of her blade.
Several trees were instantly bisected in half as the destructive beam of light travelled for around five hundred meters before dissipating.
Claire knelt down as she felt a sudden weakness in her legs. This ability was an advanced technique that only tier one knights could perform.
She was clearly too weak to use it properly without backlash.
Claire rested for a moment and then got up from the ground.
Her muscles were aching, and her body screamed for rest, but she still continued to train for two more hours.
The 'system' that had sent her to this plane did not provide her with any gold fingers or cheats, so Claire was forced to rely on the only source of strength that she possessed.
There was no shortcut to hard work. Labours of preservation and determination would always bear fruits of success.
Eventually Claire stopped swinging her blade and placed her longsword back in its sheath.
The birds began to chirp merrily as the sun was now inching ever so closer to the middle of the sky.
It was time to return to the base camp.
Claire took a handkerchief out of her pocket and wiped the beads of sweat on her brow.
She headed towards the direction of the camp while keeping a close eye on the immediate surroundings.
The outer region was a hostile place where monsters roamed freely, and the last survivors of the foreign races hid in the shadows.
Suddenly the sounds of fighting could be heard somewhere in the distance
It was coming from where Elisa was!
A sense of panic gripped Claire's heart and she silently cursed herself for being so careless.
The mercenaries had done a good job protecting the former saintess so far, so Claire had subconsciously relaxed.
If anything happened to her…
Claire's eyes narrowed and she rushed forward towards the sound. The bead of mana inside her heart began to rotate as she felt the light of grace enter her body.
The holy knight's figure blurred and then vanished from the spot as she channeled spiritual energy into her legs.
Claire unsheathed her blade and quickly arrived at the riverbank where the convoy was resting.
She could now hear loud voices coming from the mercenaries and it was clear that they were fighting something monstrous.
"Men ready your bows and fire!"
"Shields up! Don't let that bastard come near the dark elves!"
"Move! Move! Watch out for the claws!"
An enormous eight-foot-tall beast stood on its hindlegs and mercilessly tore a female mercenary apart using its claws.
It was unlike anything that Claire had ever seen before.
It bore a striking resemblance to a grizzly bear, but its fur was a midnight black colour and there was an enormous bone-like horn jutting out of its forehead.
The beast opened its mouth and roared angrily.
Captain Brian ordered his men to stand firm and created a human wall between the monster and the dark elves.
Elisa was standing protectively in front of the shivering dark elves and her eyes were trained on the monster.
There was a serious look on her face as she chanted a silent prayer to the Lord of Light.
A barrier rose up from the ground and slammed into the monster's soft underbelly.
The bear growled hoarsely as it directed its attention to the annoying human that casted the spell.
Elisa stared back with no fear in her eyes and Claire could see her hands moving to form a strange pattern.
Claire rushed forward and used her longsword to sever a tendon in the beast's right foot.
The monster cried out in pain and turned to face her.
"Now! Now! Fire at him!" Captain Brian roared furiously. Five archers standing a fair distance away nocked their arrows and fired.
The arrows penetrated the monster's body, but its thick hide prevented them from sinking in further and causing any real damage.
Claire gripped her longsword and gently exhaled.
Her surroundings faded away to darkness and the only object in her eyes was the foe standing before her.
She could vaguely hear Elisa's quiet prayers and the commands of the mercenary captain but eventually the noise fully disappeared.
Claire's eyes were completely golden and shining with a harsh glint of righteousness and purity.
Faint translucent wings sprouted out from behind her back and at that moment she resembled an angel of vengeance.
This was not the state of a tier one knight.
Claire did not know what was happening but allowed the familiar and yet unknown power to flow through her body.
The sounds of trumpets blared out from an unknown location and for a brief second Claire had a vision of a massive ball of fire floating above a golden throne.
She shook her head and returned to the present.
The monster swung its claws down at her with an overwhelming might but in Claire's eyes it was as though the beast was moving in slow motion.
Claire's body moved automatically, and she dodged slightly to the left which caused the attack to miss her neck by a few inches.
The beast tried to kill her by lowering its head and preparing to slam its horn into her body, but Claire had already read its movements.
The holy knight gently thrust her blade forward with minimal movements. There was not a hint of danger in her attack, so the monster ignored it.
It would prove to be a fatal mistake.
Claire's longsword entered its forehead and tore through its sturdy hide like a hot knife passing through butter.
The monster's eyes widened in shock as it dropped to the ground with a dull thump. It could not believe that such a tiny human had managed to slay it.
The translucent wings on Claire's back disappeared and the holy knight's body swayed gently from side to side.
She tried to move towards Elisa to see if she was okay, but her body soon collapsed, and she joined the monster on the ground.
The last image that Claire saw before everything turned black was Elisa running towards her with a worried look on her face.
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