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What first came into view was her shadow, cast by the light onto the floor.
As she absentmindedly raised her head, she noticed lamp-like lights put here and there in the dimly lit room. It seemed certain that it was indoors and was quite wide. Although both the floor and wall’s building materials were exposed, it did not seem that the building was too old.
“ーDon’t make noise.”
To that dark, cold voice which resounded from the bottom of the earth, Flora felt a shiver as if a lump of ice had been pushed against her back.
An inhuman, cold voice unlike any she had heard until now.
When she reflexively curled herself up, she noticed, for the first time, her hands and feet were bound. A gag had been forced into her mouth and she was sitting with her back leaned against the wall.
When she helplessly moved only her head raised her gaze, she noticed a tall man standing in the shadow of a pillar a short distance away.
Pitch black clothes covered his whole body as if clinging to it, and his head was also completely covered except the skin around his eyes. At first glance, he was skinny and did not seem to carry anything like a weapon, but his atmosphere was so quiet that it could be called eerie; he showed no openings.
“Behave yourself there.”
After saying that, the man sank back into silence.
Even with just those words, there was a compelling and absolute sense of intimidation.
Flora could do nothing but attempt to understand the situation, even if only a little.
(Errr, if I remember correctly, when I was watching the semifinal match, I was called out to by someone…)
Although she could only recall up to there, she believed that voice was the same as this man's.
If so, did that mean this man had splendidly abducted a girl from the stands that were crammed with people?
She thought it was quite an audacious criminal act, but certainly, after carefully thinking about it, there would not be many people who would pay attention to others in all that excitement.
(Anyhow, it means… that this is a kidnapping, indeed.)
Flora was used to dealing with people who make their living through illegal means to some extent, but as expected, this was the first time she had been kidnapped. Even so, it was because of her composed personality that she could stay calm in this situation.
It was not likely for a ransom to be given for a child from a poor orphanage, so she did not think profit was the goal of the kidnapping.
If Flora herself was the target, it might be another issue. However, judging from the man’s indifferent att.i.tude, it could not be that either.
That said, she would not be chosen accidentally. After all, though still a child, Flora was of the Starpulse Generation. If anyone was alright, there would have been no need to specially choose a high risk target.
(In that case, does this have something to do with the princess after all...?)
If Flora herself was not the goal, then the only remaining possibility was a person related to her.
In other words, he would use Flora to make a demand — was the most likely of all the possibilities.
As Flora came up with that surmise, she quietly stole a glance of the man.
After coming all this way, it was illogical to be a hindrance to Julis, for whom she came to cheer on.
(I have to look for an opening and escape, or if I could somehow contact the princess…)
Immediately after Flora thought that and tried to secretly move her bodyー
Flora’s head was suddenly grabbed from behind and was pushed to the floor with a tremendous force.
At the same time, something cold and sharp was pressed against the nape of her neck.
“I thought that I told to behave yourself…”
The man had not moved even one step from the shadow of the pillar.
Was there any other comrade with him?
No, before that, there should have been a wall immediately behind Flora’s back.
At that moment, Flora finally noticed a rhythm of Mana.
“ーThere won’t be a next time.”
At the moment the man said that, the thing which had held Flora down with disappeared.
Flora, still lying on the floor, breathed a sigh of relief.
Though it was frustrating, it was not an opponent whom she could possibly outwit. It looked like the only thing she could do was stay put.
At least, for now.
- ψ -
『"Well, well, everyone, sorry to have kept you waiting! Finally, there are only two matches remaining in this Phoenix! Only this, the second semifinal match, and tomorrow’s final are remaining! Will it be Seidokan, which has won its way up to here, that will confront Allekant for the championship, or will it be Garrardsworth?"』
While ignoring the announcement of the announcer, Yanase, who was excited, Julis walked to the center of the stage with a gloomy expression.
“…Whew, it’s the match at last, huh.”
“I felt, somewhat, like it was quite a long time…”
Ayato and Julis, who saw off Saya and company, returned to their waiting room and stood by. The time spent there was neared torturous as their impatience grew little by little.
“I intended to get used to the powerlessness of not being able to do anything, but… it’s no use, it won’t be so easy this time, either, I guess.”
After saying that, Julis laughed at herself.
“Anyway, we have to believe in Saya and Kirin-chan and should concentrate on the match.”
“Yeah… I understand.”
As Julis slightly shook her head as if enlivening her mood, she looked towards the two people who came out from the entrance gate in the opposite side.
The two young men dressed in the uniform of St. Garrardsworth Academy ー no, one of them could be said to be still a young boy. He was either the same age as Kirin or slightly older than her. His childlike innocence had not yet faded from his lovely features and fluffy blond hair.
Elliot Forster, the rank #12 of Garrardsworth. He was a young genius with the nickname of Claimh SolaisBright Sword. Since duels were severely limited in Garrardsworth, it was said that it was difficult to climb up the ranks compared to the other academies. It was extremely exceptional that a middle school student became a Top Twelve in such an environment.
And the young man with bald head who firmly stood beside him was Doroteo Remus, also known as the BrightwenArmored Magician. Rank #11. In contrast to Elliot, he was a stalwart veteran and his age was also over 20 years old. This should be his third Festa partic.i.p.ation.
She looked over the match data of the two men, but as expected, when in front of them like this, she could understand their abilities quite well. Either of them alone was a fairly formidable.
“I really want to end the match quickly and go looking for Flora, but that won’t be so easy if we have the True Knights of Garrardsworth as opponents. They aren’t people against whom we can win while being preoccupied with another matter.”
Said Julis, as she turned her gaze towards Ayato and shrugged her shoulders.
“To make matters worse, it came at a time when you can’t use Ser-Versta.”
“Well, I will somehow manage.”
Replied Ayato, while he activated a blade type Lux.
“Hou, aren’t you reliable? Then, I will leave Elliot Forster to you. I’ll deal with Doroteo Remus.”
As Ayato nodded, Julis turned towards him and said.
“ーIf the people who kidnapped Flora are watching, then we will show them, Fair and square, with all of our might.”
“Phoenix, semifinal second match, battle start!”
After the school badges made that declaration Ayato instantly released his seal.
Up to now, it was an image of tearing off chains, but it was different now. He just had to imagine inserting a key in the lock and collect the chains together in his head. It was something like a switch. With that alone, power overflowed.
“Bloom proudly ー AmaryllisSix-Petal Burst Firebloom!”
At that same moment, the Mana around Julis condensed to one point and heat swirled around it.
The huge fireb.a.l.l.s rushed from her hand, sizzling as they approached Doroteo ー A direct hit.
As the flames explosively expanded, a scorching flower with six petals opened its bud.
“Hahaha! A greeting all of a sudden, eh. Petalblaze Witch.”
Responding in a m.u.f.fled voice, a black silhouette slowly appeared, floating in the center of that flame flower.
The figure of a knight clad in western-style plate armor appeared as if shaking off the flames.
Of course, it was not just ordinary armor. It would be impossible to defend against Julis’ flames otherwise.
“That’s a fairly fast change of clothes. I guess that the nickname of BrightwenArmored Magician isn’t just for show.”
Said Julis, while she activated Aspera Spina and took a stance. It was apparently within her range of expectations that he would successfully defend against her attack.
The BrightwenArmored Magician.
As the name suggested, Doroteo’s ability created an armor which boasted of a high defense power. That armor, which covered his whole body, was solid and could repel any ordinary attacks.
That said, judging only from defense power, it did not seem to be as strong as Ardi’s defensive barrier; and armor getting destroyed by meteor arts was not rare, either.
The only troublesome thing was, the armor is the product of an ability, it would be immediately restored even if broken, and returned to its original form. In addition, since the school badge was attached to the chest of the uniform, there would be no meaning to attack, except if it was an attack which reached even the inside the armor (In the Stella Carta, if the school badge was exposed at a predetermined position at the time that the match start was announced, it was admitted that one could protect it by his ability afterwards).
And, another thingー
“Well then, next is my turn, I guess.”
Doroteo thrust out his left hand. In front of him countless small thin plates appeared and combined one after another.
They built up a layer before one’s eyes; soon a huge warhorse clad in armor ー no, a horse-shaped piece of armor appeared there. The horse trembled as if alive, and Doroteo, whose whole body was covered in armor, mounted it with experienced hands. After that, Doroteo activated his Lux; a very long equestrian spear manifested.
His appearance was that of a knight, out of an old story.
“Hou, you’re going all out from the start.” Julis noted.
“It’s natural since I’m up against the Petalblaze Witch.”
While replying, equestrian spear in hand, Doroteo lightly kicked the horse’s belly. The horse, directed at Julis, and ran off at a fierce speed. Even though its movements were not comparable to that of a living horse, it was much faster than the real thing.
“Let’s go, Petalblaze Witch!” Doroteo, equestrian spear in his right hand, fiercely attacked Julis perfectly as a horse and rider unit.
“Julis…!” Ayato unintentionally raised his voice…
“ーYour opponent is me, right?” Elliot declared.
Ayato, had a sharp sword slash struck out to his side.
He reflexively moved his body and retreated to a safer distance.
Elliot, who took up a half-body posture in the Garrardsworth style, floated a light smile. The Lux, which was grasped in his hand, was a one-handed claymore.
“Amagiri Ayato-san. I have been looking forward to fighting against you. Don’t keep me waiting too long.”
“…Sorry for that.”
Elliot’s tone was calm; but even though the sword slash which was released made Ayato take a stance, it was fraught with enough bloodl.u.s.t.
“By the way, what happened to Ser-Versta? Don’t tell me you’re stingy to pay.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t use it now due to some circ.u.mstances. It isn’t as if I underestimate you, so please don’t misunderstand.”
“Hmm… circ.u.mstances, eh. Well, it’s fine.”
Though Elliot seemed to be somewhat dissatisfied, a strong light shone in his eyes as he immediately pulled himself together.
“That sword skill which our president praised highly, show me how strong it is…!”
The next moment, a thrust was let out; Ayato followed the approaching strike with his eyes.
It was fast. It came at a speed which was not inferior, even, to Kirin’s.
ーBut, it was slightly light.
As Ayato barely flipped the point of the sword, he brandished his sword as if shifting his bodyー
Just before he swung downward, he noticed it.
He promptly leaped back as a sword strike grazed his flank.
If Ayato’s reaction was late, even a little, Elliot’s sword would have definitely gouged out his flank.
It was a counter of that much perfect timing.
“Huh? So it was dodged… Now that’s odd.”
Elliot muttered wonderingly.
“That just now, I haven’t showed it yet in this tournament.”
Certainly, within Elliot’s data, there was no such situation where he used a counter like he did now.
Actually, Ayato’s impression of Elliot was that his body was soft; even still, he was a genius fencer of versatile style which incorporates diversified attacks. Attacks not bound by any style while still conforming to basics.
It looked like he had to revise that opinion.
“I see… So you’re good at counterattacking (counter are your forte). I didn’t think that you would launch a counter from that posture.”
In other words, the first blow was probably a decoy.
“Well, it’s certainly so.”
While once again returning to his stance, Elliot pouted; he seemed slightly dissatisfied.
“Counter isn’t my only weapon after all…!”
While saying that, Elliot shortened the distance between them.
A lower stance where the tip of the sword skimmed the ground ー it suddenly jumped up, drawing an arc to evade Ayato’s sword, which now was positioned to defend.
Sword slashes which form an arc by turning the wrist, and thrust techniques with extension were peculiarities of the one-handed fencing of the Garrardsworth style. It was the polar opposite of the Amagiri Bright Dragon Style fencing which built up weight and sharpness by conveying the movement of the whole body. Although it was inferior in power to Amagiri Bright Dragon Style by just that much, each blow was quick.
Although he saw an opportunity and tried to counterattack while somehow eluding Elliot’s fierce attacks head-on, a sharper counter attacked him at that moment. There was nothing more troublesome than this.
“As expected, I’m not surprised if I say so myself…!”
When the Luxes violently clashed, peculiar sparks scattered, and the weapons continuously resounded from each strike.
Not only sword techniques, but also combinations of attacks, maintaining distance, instant tactics, however you look at them, there was no room to doubt Elliot’s wisdom. Above all else, his timing to make a counter was an innate disposition.
If it was only talent, he might be equal to Kirin.
“However, as expected, your sword ー is still light.”
Not in power, but in resolution.
As Ayato forcibly shortened the distance and repelled Elliot’s sword, he let out a thrust aiming at the school badge on his chest.
“Fufufu! You’re good!”
Elliot, as if waiting for it, twisted his body, readjusted his stance, and released a thrust timed to Ayato’s thrust. At the same time, he twisted his wrist, circling Ayato’s sword, as if to entrap it.
Before that, Ayato had pulled back the arm which he had stretched out.
In that moment, he raised the point of his sword and knocked up Elliot’s sword.
“Amagiri Bright Dragon Style Sword Intermediate Technique ー "Twin Ghost Bee"”
After weaving his way through the opening which was made, Ayato’s thrust flashed again.
“Elliot Forster, badge broken.”
The school badge on his chest was destroyed; Elliot widened his eyes with an aghast expression.
To Elliot, who feebly sank to the ground, Ayato secretly smiled wryly.
This young boy would probably become a terrifying swordsman in several years.
That said, it would depend on how much he could put into his swordsmanship.
Ayato took a small breath and turned his gaze towards Julis.
And, the fight over there was also just about to conclude.
- ψ -
“Let’s go, Petalblaze Witch!”
Julis, while rolling over, just barely evaded the blow from Doroteo, who charged in while riding the horse. If she was. .h.i.t by the point of the equestrian spear, which was sharp enough to tear through the wind, as they pa.s.sed by each other, it would probably be the end for her.
(It’s much faster than I imagined…! Besides, what power…!)
Julis immediately stood up, and repositioning Aspera Spina as she did.
Doroteo had a good lance charge, and Julis should have also seen some video images of his matches, butー
“When actually confronting it, I didn’t think it would be so terrifying…”
The attack, in itself, was simple.
However, that’s why dealing with it was difficult.
“…As expected, there’s no other way but to hold him down with power. Huh.”
Doroteo, who charged through, made a U-turn. Once again, he turned the horse towards Julis.
Julis unintentionally felt admiration for his fluid movements.
The image serving as the basis controlled everything about the Ability of Strega and Dante.
As for this attack, when thinking logically, there was no need to expressly create a horse. It just took time; he should be able to create plenty of simpler things.
But, depending on how well one can build that image within oneself, the precision greatly fluctuated. For Doroteo, this was probably the most suitable form.
“Ooooooooh!” Doroteo raised a roar and charged again.
“ーBloom proudly, PrimroseDancing nine-spirering-flower!”
As Julis instantly activated her ability, she threw all nine fireb.a.l.l.s at Doroteo who was coming from the front.
But, even when hit directly, Doroteo paid it no mind it and his momentum did not decrease at all. Although the parts of the armor that were directly hit were slightly destroyed, they restored instantly.
The equestrian spear went through the air beside Julis, who had evaded it.
It was more accurate than a while ago. He had read Julis’ movement and adjusted his tactics accordingly.
(As this rate, I will be done for…)
Julis imagined that, floated a wry smile and shivered.
Of course, she did not intend to wait for it quietly.
“Come out ー LoropetalumRed Wall of Shearing Flame Petals!”
Julis swung Aspera Spina once; she activated one at a time the setting type abilities which had been set.
She used the wall of flames that she had used before when she fought against the pair of Word Dragon. However instead of a continuous wall this time, it blew up as several pieces that stood one in front of each other.
The lance charge, on top of its excellent quality, need a certain run-up distance to display it’s real power. If he was to make a detour to evade such an obstacle, he would inevitably have to sacrifice the speed and power.
However, Doroteo completely crushed Julis’ expectation.
Of all things, Doroteo charged head on through the wall of flames.
The horse which jumped high appeared as it broke through the wall of flames, and Doroteo on horseback set up the spear.
“Bloom proudly ー Great Crimson Heart Blazing Shield (Anthurium)!”
Julis manifested a shield of flames, but probably because it was instantaneous, the concentration of prana was incomplete, and she could not gather up Mana. Even then it barely took a shape and Doroteo’s equestrian spear easily smashed it.
Collected Mana scattered and Julis’ body was blown off in that impact.
Fortunately thanks to that, she avoided being skewered (becoming a human shish-kabob); but while Julis raised her body, Doroteo had already prepared for the fourth charge.
He probably intended to settle the match soon. She could tell it with the atmosphere which became tense.
“…All right, just what I want. Bloom proudly ー LongiflorumWhite Firebloom of the Sharp Spear!”
After Julis stood up, she cancelled the LoropetalumRed Wall of Shearing Flame Petals and manifested the spear of flames.
Raising a conspicuously big roar, Doroteo charged.
Even the spear of flames shot by Julis, which collided with Doroteo’s equestrian spear, still did not stop Doroteo.
While receiving a direct hit on his chest, which he ignored, he let out a thrust using his whole body, butー
It just slightly grazed the edge of Julis’ clothes and did not hit her body.
“Hmm… It looked like my spear have reached first apparently.”
As Julis smiled as she was relieved, she slowly turned around.
There Doroteo, who had charged by Julis’ side, fell off of the horse’s back.
『"O-Oooh! What on earth happened? Player Remus fell down! Most of the attacks of the Riessfeld player did not seem to be effective, but…"』
While listening to the voice of live reporter, who sounded slightly perplexed, Julis walked up to Doroteo.
As he could no longer maintain his ability, the armor and horse disintegrated.
“Geez, you’re an unreasonable man.”
As Julis spoke so to him, Doroteo, who looked upward, spat out a rough breath and floated a smile on his face which had become bright red.
“…I wanted to settle the match quickly. After all, I had no chance of winning even if it was drawn out anyway.”
Right. No matter how much Doroteo defended himself from Julis’ flames with his armor, he could not defend against its heat. If he was struck by that much flame, the inside of the armor must have been a high temperature, so high that he could no longer endure.
That was Julis’ aim from the beginning, and Doroteo knew her aim.
It was precisely because he knew it that he wanted to settle the match before that.
“Even if you wanted to end it quickly, plunging into the wall of flames was going too far. If not for that, you would have held on a little longer.”
“…I simply lost the bet. It can’t be helped.”
As Doroteo replied with a somewhat refreshed expression, he pointed at his chest.
“Now, do it quickly.”
Julis nodded and broke his school badge with Aspera Spina.
“Doroteo Remus, badge broken.”
There was dissonance in their abilities and this time, by chance, it was advantageous to Julis. That said, victory was still a victory.
As Julis took a small breath, she turned her gaze towards Ayato.
And, the fight on his side had also just reached the conclusion.
“Winner, Amagiri Ayato & Julis-Alexia van Riessfeld!”
The mechanical voice which resounded in the hall was drowned out by the loud cheers of the spectators.
After exchanging a small smile to each other, Ayato and Julis, however, immediately left the stage with serious expressions.
References Jump up↑ http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs50/f/2009/288/3/e/Scottish_Claymore_by_Terrorking96.jpg”. Not sure if claymore is the right translation because it is two-handed sword, but it could be that people in this LN are strong enough to use a two-handed sword with one hand Jump up↑ he asks Ayato here that whether he was unwilling to pay the price to use the Ser-Versta (ogre Lux)