Aug 19, 2017

Rakudai Kishi V7 Chapter 10

Chapter 10 - Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival third round - Begins






Part 1
「The time is now 6pm, brought to you by Nippon Telegraph Public Corporation.」

*Pi. Pi. Pi.* A special alarm that rang once at every three seconds.

At the same time that alarm sounded from all the speakers in the dome, the night lights were switched on.


After the long daytime of the summer had passed, they lit up the dome which had begun to be covered in a thin veil of darkness.

And then...

「Everyone, thank you for waiting! I hereby announce that the third round of the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival is about to begin!」

The live broadcast of the cue for the start of the third round had been given.

The audience sitting at their seats raised an earth-trembling cheer.

「The best eight of this event will be pitted against each other in the third round’s battle.

The expectations for the fierce upcoming battles has already made the event venue’s excitement reach the boiling point!

Continuing with the live broadcast, I am Iida! Yaotome-pro will be the commentator!

Then without further ado, let’s welcome the first pair of the third round’s battle!

First, from the blue gate enters Contender Kaga Renji!」

In response to that call, a big shadow appeared from the darkness in the blue gate.

The figure that appeared on the dazzling stage, brightly lit by the spotlights, was that of a huge rock-like man whose height surpassed two meters. That was exactly ──

「Oo! I’m Kaga! Kaga has arrived!」

「As always, he’s so biiig! 」

He was the hero of Hokkaido, Kaga Renji.

「Coming from the land in the North, from Rokuson Academy, the Panzer Grizzly!

What’s more eye-catching than anything is his huge body that doesn’t put shame to the name of a Grizzly!

236 centimeters in height! 370 kilograms in weight!

He uses his Herculean strength with a body no different than that of a brown bear as a weapon to fight, one of the best super power fighters in Japan.

The prominent Contenders have been eliminated one after another in a wave of turbulence, now there is only one left from last year’s best eight who has managed to advance into the third round!

Will he be able to show the spirit of the seniors before the new Contenders, who are riding on this wave!?」

「Contender Kaga is a balanced player with a very high level of offense and defense. His excellent physique allows him to exert bulldozer-level arm strength. And his Blazer ability, Steel Skin, is an original one. He is simply strong, simply hard. As such, regardless of how he uses it, the situation or the compatibility with his opponent’s ability, it will not influence his pure strength. In this event with many unique ability users, such Contenders may be the ones who can display their true value.」

Then, Kaga stepped onto the ring for the third round battle after receiving the cheers from the audience.

──In that instant, he took an action that he had never taken before.

He grabbed his own clothes with his huge hand, and then threw them off after tearing them apart.

「Wooo──aah!? Contender Kaga! He threw off his special size uniform after tearing it apart, leaving him with only one piece of loincloth! What kind of performance is this!?」

The announcer and the audience were confused.

In regards to that, commentator Yaotome cut in.

「Just like 「Ring」, 「Bracelet」and 「Glasses」, a Blazer’s Device does not necessarily need to take on the form of a weapon. And Contender Kaga’s Device Raiden is that loincloth ── Mawashi.[1] It’s usually worn underneath his clothes so it could not be seen, but......he stood onto the stage that made him throw away his clothes, and fight with only his mawashi. He probably considers the outcome of this match to be very important, so he’s displayed his fighting spirit like that.」

Yaotome’s explanation was spot on.

He challenged that important match with only his Device.

That was Kaga’s style of gathering his fighting spirit from praying for his victory.

Then, after undressing, Kaga bent his knees and dropped his waist on the spot.

After that, he raised his left leg up straight facing towards the sky, and slammed it down onto the ring.

Accompanied by a tremor immediately after, the left side of the ring sank into the ground.

Every person in the dome opened their eyes wide in shock.

「A-Amaziiiing! The moment Contender Kaga stepped down from shiko[2], the 100m diameter ring slanted and sank into the grouuuund!!!! And then he raised his right leg on the opposite side straight up ──── dosukooooi![3]

The tremor shook the ring again and the right side also sank into the ground just like the left.

「The slanted ring returned to horizontal level after the second step, but it has clearly sunk into the ground as a whole after being stepped by his shiko, for about 10cm into the ground! What  power!」

「That’s also quite impressive, but take a look at his feet.」

「Feet, is it? Wha, th-this is!」

As Yaotome pointed out, they looked towards Kaga’s feet.

At there was──

「Footprints! On the ring made with special stone material that can withstand a direct impact from napalm missile for Blazer use, as if he had stepped on a muddy beach, a pair of clear footprints with even his toe shape has been carved into it!」

「Even though the shape of his feet has been carved into the ring, there are no cracks around it......It is the evidence that his power has been concentrated without dispersing. Contender Kaga is not just about power, he also possesses the detailed control on the flow of his power. As expected.」

「Uoooo! As expected, incredible! Not just for being big!」

「Kyaa! Kuma-chan so cool~~~~!」

Cheers rose from the audience stand at Kaga’s performance.

Kaga used his tough body as a weapon, taking the unique battle technique of the sumo style; along with a personality not losing out to his well-built body, he had gathered a passionate fan base from all over the country.

There were also many fans chasing after him to that venue.

Kaga would usually return a smile back at them, but he was different at that moment.

“──────”

He did not respond back to them. Instead, Panzer Grizzly looked towards the gate where his opponent would appear from with a serious expression.

「Contender Kaga’s performance imbued with his fighting spirit has stirred up the venue!”

However, Contender Kaga’s eyes are as calm as still water, focusing on a single spot!

That’s right, they are focused on the red gate where his opponent will show up from!

Then, let’s not waste time and introduce the other man of valor who will be fighting in this decisive battle in A-Block!」

In accordance to the announcer’s words, the spotlights focused onto the red gate.

In the midst of the light, a swordsman clad in black kimono walked out.

「Prestigious Kurogane household’s eldest son, the genius who made an impact in the whole country as the Kirin Child in his childhood.

The moment he shone as the world champion in the U-12 (Elementary level) International Tournament, anybody would have thought so!

Great Hero, Ryoma Kurogane’s rightful successor has been born right there!

However! As the surrounding is still indulged in excitement, the genius has gotten sick of it!

He is hopelessly sick of the League’s rule of not allowing real blades in battles!

He has been seeking!

A real battle! A fight with life on the line!

Aiming for a higher goal!

As such, he disappeared from our sights!

Every person grieved over this loss!

But! That genius has returned to Japan!

In his last year of high school, he steps onto the ring of this Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival!

Possessing overwhelming strength to the point of blurring that figure of his within our memories!

Newcomer Akatsuki Academy third year! Contender Sword Emperor of Wind, Ouma Kurogane!」

With his long hair and hem of the kimono swaying, step by step, Ouma shortened the distance between him and Kaga.

The audiences at their seats swallowed their breaths at his appearance.

「......I-Incredible............」

「He hasn’t changed......what pressure......!」

Even though he was just walking, they felt like his sword pressure was splitting their skin from just a touch.

That pressure felt just like an unsheathed katana.

「Yaotome-pro. The last time Contender Sword Emperor of Wind, Ouma Kurogane appeared in official battle was already five years ago, how about it? Contender Ouma seen from a pro’s point of view, that is.」

「He is strong.」

「......I-Is that all?」

「Honestly speaking, I cannot give any further explanation at this point of time.」

「Is that so?」

Yaotome nodded.

「Since in all of the matches until now, he has never once gotten serious.」

Be it the first or second round battles, Ouma won in the same manner.

Against the opponents who challenged him with long distance magic battle, because they knew they were at a disadvantage against the Wind Emperor in sword clashing, he just walked straight towards them and cut them down.

It was just that.

Ouma did not evade nor defend against his opponent’s long distance shooting.

He really just walked straight.

His body just taking on the attacks from his opponent.

Even so, he did not receive a single injury, neither did he stop in his tracks.

It was so one-sided that it could not even be called a match.

There was not a shred of technique. Nor was there any leeway to intervene.

The only thing left was the difference in the level of their performances.

Hence it was understood that he was strong.

However, there was no concrete understanding beyond that.

If it could not be understood, then it could not be explained, was what Yaotome was trying to  say.

「......However, the opponent of Wind Emperor in the third round is Panzer Grizzly, someone who had fought him many times when they were young. He was not the type to play trickeries, not to mention from seeing the performance just now, his extraordinary offensive power could be said to be a threat even to the A-Rank knight Wind Emperor......I believe that we will be able to see the true growth of Contender Ouma from the five years gap.」

「I see! That’s something to look forward to! Oops, and now, the two Contenders have stepped onto the starting line.」

The two people faced each other on the ring.

“Ouma. It’s been six years since the last time I faced you on the ring. So nostalgic!”

“......I’m not that close to you to feel nostalgic upon meeting again.”

“Gahaha. You’re still such an unsociable guy. Well, fine. Regardless of what you think, I am glad! I have always been praying! To have a serious fight against you with our lives on the line! I have always been waiting for this day to pay you back for the time when we were little! I have been training my body for that purpose!”

Kaga beat his muscular chest as he said so.

When they were still elementary students, Kaga had never once won against that genius of the same age.

However, as Kaga grew up, he had obtained a huge, out of the norm body.

He was already different from back then.

Kaga did not know where and what Ouma had been doing in that five years, but he was confident that he had certainly caught up to Ouma.

Hence, he was not intimidated by the A-Rank knight before him, and declared.

“I’m different from your opponents in the first and second match. I won’t run away from your seriousness! So, face me with your seriousness! Ouma!!!!”

To that, Ouma replied with a cold look.

“That depends on you. Renji.”

“Gahaha! That’s true! Then, I will make you serious immediately!”

「The warriors facing each other on the ring are exchanging their friendship. Contender Panzer Grizzly, Renji Kaga has just declared that he won’t run away from the frontal confrontation against the A-Rank knight, Wind Emperor! That would only be recklessness for ordinary Blazers. But Contender Kaga has the actual power to achieve it! Just like Yaotome-pro said, we may be able to witness Contender Ouma’s real strength in this match!

Now. The referee is about to give signal the start of the match──

──Begin!」



Part 2
The instant the referee announced the start of the match, Kaga was the first to move.

“OOOOOOOoOoOooOoOoOOoOoooo!!!!!!”

He roared with a voice that resonated in the whole dome, and boiled up the magic power in his whole body.

At the same time, his body began to change.

Losing the organic skin color, it changed into shiny steel.

That was the reason for the Panzer Grizzly nickname.

Renji Kaga’s Noble Art that changed his whole body into steel ── Steel Skin.

「Contender Kaga made the first move! He literally changed his whole body into steel!」

「It is a process necessary to utilize his ability. That’s only obvious.」

Just like Yaotome said, Kaga had to go through that process for his battle or he wouldn’t be able to begin.

His huge brown bear size body, and the arm strength enhanced by his weight increased several times.

And then the hardness that could repel his opponent’s attacks with his guard.

With the strength of those two parts, the attack-specialized battle style utilizing sumo’s rush power and superior handling technique, he would overwhelm his opponent. That was the battle style of Panzer Grizzly.

However──

“Gahaha! That’s wrong! Commentator-san!”

That’s right, that was only up to that moment.

「Eh......?」

“This is different from the Steel Skin until now. This is my secret trump card for fighting against Ouma!”

As he said so, at the same time Kaga completed transforming his whole body into steel, a different magic power from Steel Skin ran across his whole body. Immediately after──

“GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”

Along with his roar, Renji Kaga’s body began to change in a way never seen before.

On the steeled lump that was Kaga’s shoulders, two new arms on each side, in total four arms grew out from both sides.

「W-What! T-This is! His arms have multiplieeeed!?」

The announcer and audience raised surprised shouts at the strange transformation.

On the other hand, Yaotome in charge of commentary analyzed the situation calmly.

「I see. Not just hardening, that’s also shape-shifting. With this increase in number of arms, it’s obvious that the offensive and defensive power will increase threefold......! He must have thought this through.」

“Gahaha! Just as commentator-san said! My Device Raiden’s ability is steelifying of my body! Thus it is reasonable for me to be able to change the form of said steel freely! This is what I was hiding! Its name is ── Steel Asura Form! Ouma! I have spent five years developing this technique to win against you! Receive it gratefully!!”

After completing his transformation, Kaga sank his huge body down and took a squatting stance.

Then, using the recoil from knocking his tight fist onto the ground to lift his upper half torso, with the leg power that sank the enormous ring into the earth, he propelled his huge body forward.

That figure was just like a cannonball.

「F-Fast! Contender Kaga! He is rushing towards Contender Ouma with a speed one wouldn’t imagine possible with his huge body! How will Contender Ouma handle it!?」

However, Ouma’s response to Kaga’s assault was the same as in the first and second round.

“............”

「──Whaaat!? T-This is!? Contender Ouma! He is neither defending nor dodging! He is walking straight towards Contender Kaga’s assault! He doesn’t seem to be afraid of that arm strength and huge body!」

「That’s some big confidence......However, that’s being reckless.」

As Yaotome said, Ouma’s response was a foolish decision in anyone’s eyes.

He was different from the opponent in the first and second match. Kaga’s offensive power was at a level that even using Crimson Princess, Stella Vermillion’s overwhelming magic power would not be able to stop. A direct hit would not end well.

Even so, he did not take up any defense.

──Kaga felt a strong fury towards Ouma’s response.

He was belittling him to the point of not even trying to evade. To that extent.

However, that probably could not be helped.

He had never once won against Ouma.

Being looked down upon was obvious.

In that case──

(With this one strike, I will wake you up!)

“UOOoOoOoOOooOOryaaAAA!!!!”

In an instant, Kaga’s opened palm hit Ouma’s face with all of his arm strength and body weight.

At the moment of the impact, the atmosphere shook as if a large truck crashed in a frontal collision

It was undoubtedly a direct hit.

Ouma really did not use any defense or evasion against Kaga’s attack.

However ── He would obviously not come out unscathed after doing that.

Ouma’s body greatly inclined and sank down.

And then, Kaga decided he would not let go of the decisive opening created by that overconfidence!

In that moment, Kaga saw his chance for victory.

Panzer Grizzly executed the prided secret move combining attack and defense in one.

Using hundreds of open palm strikes, while warding off the opponent’s attacks, at the same time, showering him with super heavy continuous strikes,

That was a new sure-kill technique executed against Ouma with his six arms──── the Hundred Lotus Palm.


“Asura Hundred Lotus Palm ────── ooOoOOOOO!!!!”


「Contender Kaga is dealing a decisive blow to Contender Ouma who has broken his posture! Rush Rush Rush! He is using his steel palm to strike continuously at his opponent with speed that our eyes can’t even catch up wiiiith!」

Receiving that earlier strike squarely, Ouma would not be able to evade the rush.

He was completely caught in that storm with the steel palms raining on him.

Kaga trembled from the response that his sure-kill technique had hit in the best way possible.

He could do it.

Ouma’s body was about to collapse on the ring.

He could win if he just continued attacking like that!

The premonition of victory that he continued to seek in the past five years let his strength explode beyond his limit.

However──

(──............!?)

Kaga’s excited expectation was gradually thinning away.

Anxiety welled up to replace that.

Why?

Even though he was attacking so one-sidedly.

Even though all of Kaga’s steel palm strikes had a clean hit on his target.

Why did he feel anxious?

The reason was exactly because of what was happening.

Kaga’s attacks had all hit their target with clear feedbacks.

In spite of that──

(Why won’t he fall!?)

That question was...

“......A technique developed to defeat me............huh.”

Along with the muttering spilled by Ouma, who was taking on his Asura Hundred Lotus Palm, it was resolved.

After Ouma’s body had sank at a certain angle, the response coming from Kaga’s hand changed.

The image projected in his brain was as if his palm strikes were hitting a rock mountain towering above the skies ── a desperate waste of effort.

(He’s completely, not budging even a tiny bit......!)

Ouma did not budge or tremble at all after receiving those steel palm strikes.

That’s right, Ouma’s posture was not broken by Kaga’s palm strikes──

He had lowered his posture in order to swing his sword!


“Those five years were meaningless. Renji.”


“!?!?”

Together with an air-splitting noise, Kaga lost his feeling on the majority of his right half of the body.

Ouma’s diagonal slash from below to above had severed the three right arms executing Asura Hundred Lotus Palm.

Kaga felt a chill at Wind Emperor’s sword arm that treated the hardness of steel as if it was nothing.

However...

“OOoOOOOOOOoOOAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”

Kaga raised a roar to forcefully suppress that chill and continued to attack with his remaining three arms.

He did not retreat.

He was a fighter at his core.

He could only choose to fight.

He did not have a choice of pulling away and attacking.

Hence, he attacked furiously with his life on the line.

However, there was no reason for an opponent who would not be shaken by six arms to be affected by three.

A flash.

The blade that swung up was swung back down, Ouma severed Kaga’s left arms.

The swung down blade immediately changed its trajectory and did a horizontal sweep, severing two legs.

“────”

The attack and defense of steel that he continued to train up to that day was totally useless.

Losing his support, Kaga’s body collapsed.

His pupils only reflected the despair from their cruel difference in battle strength and a trace of question.

──That much, huh?

The difference in battle strength between him and Ouma was probably just that huge.

The answer was no.

They had faced each other many times before. Kaga understood.

Ouma Kurogane was not a knight of that level.

He was certainly a talented knight, but that growth was abnormal.

Be it offensive or defensive power, he was obviously......out of the norm.

It could not be explained with just magic power and magic ability.

There had to be something abnormal involved!

“You......just what────!?”

However, Kaga’s question could not form into words.

“Gafu!?”

In replacement, fresh blood flowed out from his mouth.

After he lost his support from his two legs, it was when he was about to collapse.

Ouma’s off-hand thrusted out at Kaga and pierced through his steel chest out through his back.

And then, in the hand that Ouma pierced through to the back, he was holding a beating heart──

“Sto──”

Before the referee could call for a stop, Ouma crushed it without any hesitation.



Part 3
The moment it was concluded in a way that couldn’t be any worse, sorrowful cries came from the audience stand.

「K-KYAAAAaaa!!!!」

「You’re kidding, right......!? Oi!」

「He k-killed him! That bastard!」

「W-What happened!? The moment we thought that the outcome has been decided when both arms and legs were severed! Wind Emperor made follow-up! T-The heart! Contender Kaga’s heart was gripped and crusheddd! T-This was a dangerous strike with a great killing intent!」

The referee immediately announced the end of the match due to that situation.

The medic team rushed into the ring.

Amongst them was the figure of Hagun Academy’s director, Kurono Shinguuji.

“Clock Lock!”

Kurono leapt over the fence surrounding the audience stand and landed onto the ring just like that.

Then her Device Ennoia ── a white silver handgun manifested, and she shot towards the fallen Kaga.

The bullet that hit Kaga contained the magic of temporarily stopping the time on his whole body.

That would completely prevent the deterioration of his physical body from oxygen deficiency due to blood loss.

After executing the most appropriate first-aid, Kurono ordered the medic team carrying a stretcher.

“Hurry up with the stretcher! Carry him into the capsule before my technique’s effect run out!”

“Y-Yes!”

A mortal injury......no, Kaga received an injury that would probably kill him if not for Kurono, was carried out of the ring by others.

On the other hand, Ouma did not even see him off, and was about to leave the ring.

「Contender Ouma, he did not even spare a glance at Contender Kaga who is being carried away! There is not a shred of feeling towards his rival of the same era! His casually leaving back profile is saying that ‘you are not even reflected in my eyes’!」

「Hii............」

「S-Scary......」

As the victor was leaving, there was no applause for him.

The duels between mature knights were literally about crossing swords.

Bloodshed was only natural. They might even lose their lives, if they were unlucky.

That’s why the schools would not force students to participate in the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival.

Those participating were all warriors who had such resolve.

Hence, there was no reason to criticize Ouma.

Although there wasn’t ──......the feeling of whether it was necessary to go that far could not be dispelled.

The difference in strength between the two was clearly evident.

In that case, would it be going too far to take away the life, something like that.

However, in the frozen atmosphere of the venue from that tragedy...


*Clap clap clap......*


There was one person clapping hands to congratulate him.

「This applause is......ah!」

Who exactly was that person?

The announcer followed to the source of the sound and raised a shocked voice.

The person who applauded for Ouma was......a girl with burning red hair...

「Contender Stella! Only Contender Crimson Princess, Stella Vermillion is applauding for the leaving Contender Ouma!」

The venue was confused by that fact.

However, Stella did not mind any of that, looked downwards at Ouma, and praised him.

“It was quite a good fight. Ouma.”

A one-sided massacre. To a battle that could only be thought of an overkill, Stella praised it as a good fight.

That was because, different from the audiences, she was able to see much deeper into the match.

That’s right. The audiences misunderstood something from seeing Ouma’s overwhelming victory.

It was Panzer Grizzly’s strength.

“Kaga has proficiently used his Noble Art to increase the number of his arms. Against such an opponent, just cutting away his limbs may not be enough to decide the outcome. One must end his life in order to achieve victory with certainty.”

Of course, with Ouma’s strength, he could avoid a fatal injury and use a method to crush Kaga’s spirits.

If Kaga was like the opponents in the first and second match who employed trickeries, Ouma might have taken such measure.

However, he did not do so.

Stella could understand.

That fight, Ouma......although he did not show his true power, he faced it seriously.

Because Kaga would not be afraid of him and run away, challenging him straightforwardly, Ouma saw value in that victory.

That man was a knight that would go that far in order to obtain that valuable victory.

......Putting it negatively, he was a man that would even kill people for victory.

However, even though he was such a man──

“......However, you did not kill me that time.”

That time was obviously referring to the first time Ouma and Stella faced off each other.

Ouma could have killed Stella if he had felt like it.

The two of them had just that much difference at that time.

“You paid a lot of attention to me. Treating me carefully so that I don’t break.”

Towards her, who was above Kaga in rank, the same A-Rank as him.

Stella did not know what intention he had.

However, there wasn’t any 「seriousness」 in that careful treatment.

Regardless of what intention he had, being treated carefully, in other words, winning against Stella at that time, held no value to Ouma.

──There was no greater humiliation than that.

Therefore, Stella stared at Ouma with her burning pupils and declared.

“I feel sorry for my behavior back then. But......I won’t do that anymore. Tomorrow, I will make you get serious. I will draw out all of your strength from your core. And then on top of that............I will kill you.”

She let out a definite killing intent, releasing a pressure that could burn the skin with just a touch.

Although Ouma received it with his whole body...

“What a coincidence. I was also thinking about the same thing.”

Showed a smile revealing his fangs.



Part 4
After the declaration to Ouma, the venue returned to its clamors with the announcement of Kaga’s life being saved.

There were people who were simply relieved. There were people who were excited. There were people who criticized him for going too far.

Despite being amongst those hustling and bustling, Stella looked at the ring that was undergoing cleaning and sighed.

(......What are you doing, Alice.)

Nagi Arisuin, who should have been back before her, could not be seen in the audience stand.

Shizuku had a match so it couldn’t be helped, she believed that Arisuin would come and watch the match, but──

(......Well, Shizuku’s match is more important.)

He probably wanted to stay next to her until the last minute.

As she was thinking about such matter...

“Kukuku! As expected of the woman who’s called 「The Queen who subdued a flame dragon」! There isn’t a second person who could say such caustic words to that man as his opponent.”

A young high-pitched voice filled with arrogance came from behind her.

Stella remembered the owner of that voice.

“......I don’t remember being called by that nickname.”

As she turned back, it was exactly the person she had expected.

A girl wearing a pink dress and an eye patch.

A member of the Akatsuki Academy Stella had eliminated in the first round battle.

It was the Beast Tamer, Rinna Kazamatsuri.

Waiting behind her was, as expected, or rather as usual, the maid with a cold expression, Charlotte Cordé.

“Fuu, I have just arrived! You may rejoice!”

“What do you want? Even if we are acquainted, I don’t think we are close enough to be speaking like this though? Kazamatsuri.”

Stella’s response towards Rinna’s intimate conversation was refusal.

Well, it was be obvious considering their relationship, but──

“Kuku. Hear that, my servant. This woman has beaten us to a pulp, chopped us up, then roasted us whole in the end, and yet she still wants to beat us up more?”

“Yes, I have heard that, my lady. The country with such a violent imperial princess will soon be in ruins.”

“Gu......”

Just as those two said, it was a fact that she had beaten them to a pulp, so Stella felt guilty when she mentioned it.

“It’s not like I haven’t beaten you enough! I’m asking what do you want!”

“Of course it’s to watch the next match. Since Bloody Da Vinci, the one who has formed a contract of blood and soul with me is in the next match!”

“Contract of soul?”

“What my lady said is that because Sara-sama became old master......Kouzou Kazamatsuri-sama’s adopted child, my lady, who is danna-sama’s daughter, became a step-sister to her.”



“That’s how it is!”

“Your words are meaningless and incomprehensible as always......”

“You don’t think about it. You feel it. Do that and you will understand.”

“I don’t really want to understand it......Well, basically, you came to watch the fight, huh.”

“Umu. But watching it alone is boring, and I coincidentally saw the Crimson Princess, so I came to talk with you. You can feel honored.”

“You’re extremely annoying.”

......Something like that, but before that...

“Alone you say, isn’t the maid with you?”

“M-Me and Charl are one in heart and body, so it doesn’t count.”

“Aah......my lady, it’s a waste to say such words to a useless bitch like me......”

Charlotte’s cheeks were dyed red at Rinna’s words.

However, on the other hand, Rinna’s expression twitched.

Rinna got near to Stella’s ear and whispered the reason.

“......To tell you the truth. Ever since losing to you, Charl has felt responsible for failing to protect me......When the two of us are alone, she holds things that can only be seen as torture tools and asks me to punish the useless her, so I’m troubled over it. So please stay with me!”

“Y-You also have it hard......”

“Umu......I said that I don’t mind it though. Being too loyal is also troubling......”

(No, I think this is not about being too loyal.)

Stella could only smile bitterly as she had seen a similar case before.

Meanwhile, as she was whispering with Rinna like that...

*Garigarigarigarigari......*

She heard a sound of teeth-grinding.

As she looked towards the source of that sound, she saw Charlotte with bloodshot eyes staring at her while biting her fingernails.

“Getting so close to my lady......at a distance where they can feel each other’s breaths............if she doesn’t go into a bath later............that woman’s smell will stain my lady......!”

(Scary!)

Stella immediately took distance from Rinna.

She should not get involved with such kind of people.

However......well, if it was just watching the match together, it would probably be fine.

“It’s not like I have a reservation here. My friends are also not here.”

“Umu! A festival has to be lively!”

Getting Stella’s approval, Rinna’s voice bounced with happiness.

Then she took her seat next to her, and received some popcorn and cola from Charlotte.

(......I wonder where she took those out from.)

“But I was surprised during the second round. To think that he would use the once-a-day trump card on the first opponentー”

Ignoring Stella’s curiosity, Rinna threw popcorns into her mouth and chatted with Stella.

The topic was of course about the next match.

It was about the opening surprise attack Ikki had used in the second round.

“Ikki probably thought that Byakuya was just that strong of an opponent. That ability is definitely troublesome if they actually faced each other.”

“But my Sister on paper」 is also the same, right?”

“Isn’t that way of saying too much!?”

Stella retorted without thinking, but Rinna continued, not minding it.

“It’s true that Eye of Heaven is a troublesome power. However, speaking of troublesome, wouldn’t Bloody Da Vinci be more troublesome after all? Since she can use Purple Caricature to recreate Blazers’ Noble Arts. If she wanted, she could possibly use Eye of Heaven’s power, and even if can’t, she can use Ittou Shura like in her second round. Losing his trump card against that kind of opponent, isn’t it disadvantageous no matter how you think about it? Another One’s advancement would end here, wouldn’t it?”

Rinna spoke about her concerns to Stella in a way that purposely fanned up her anxiety.

Paying her back......she did not go that far, but probably a little bit of teasing.

However, Stella’s expression did not falter at all.

Instead...

“If you are talking about advantage and disadvantage, the fact that Ikki is F-Rank is already a disadvantage against any opponent......But Ikki didn’t lose. He didn’t give up. That’s why he is in this place now. In this quarter final that will decide the best four at the knights’ summit nationwide in Japan. Hence, he will win. Even today, for sure.”

In Stella’s eyes that looked at the ring, there was trust to the point of having surplus to spare.

However, that was only obvious.

Because Worst One had always overcome that level of pinch.

(Not to mention, it seems that he has settled a major trouble of his......Fufu.)

Before arriving there, she saw Ikki’s refreshed expression as if he had taken a load off his chest. Stella smiled.

And then, she replied to Rinna.

“Akatsuki Academy is the side that should resolve itself. The Ikki now is......definitely impossibly strong.”



Part 5
At the same time when Stella and Rinna were having such a conversation.

In order to prepare for the upcoming match, Ikki Kurogane was in the waiting room──

Not there, he was standing in the hallway connected to the VIP audience stand.

And then, he raised his head when the person he was waiting for arrived, and spoke up.

“Father. I have been waiting for you.”

Itsuki Kurogane’s beast-like sharp gaze responded to the voice and he replied briefly.

“......What are you doing here? Isn’t it about time for the match?”

“I was waiting for you. It’s about the matter we talked about earlier today. I want to give you my response.”

The matter in the day was, of course, the suggestion about cutting ties with Itsuki.

Regarding that, Ikki stated his final answer.

“About that, I refuse.”

“......!”

Itsuki opened his eyes wide, somewhat surprised by Ikki’s answer.

The cutting of ties was tantamount to exiling Ikki, who could not be handled by the Kurogane, so that they could save face.

Although it would’ve been terrible, there was still merit for Ikki as well.

Cutting their ties would mean that there would be no more interferences from the Kurogane household.

Hence, Itsuki probably did not think that Ikki would refuse.

However, Ikki’s answer was a no.

“I did not live according to Father’s will. Instead, I have just caused trouble for you. That will not change from now on. There won’t be any changes. Because I can only take this path......Therefore, cutting our ties would have worked out. That way it would’ve been better. That’s right, I also thought that way. However............even so, I am Ikki Kurogane.”

It was not anyone’s, but his own wish to do so.

“That’s why I won’t cut our ties. At least I won’t consent to it.”

Why couldn’t he hate such a father?

That reason, honestly speaking, Ikki could not understand it either.

It’s just that, even after that, he understood that he would be sad if he were to completely lose the bond he had with his father.

In that case, there was no reason for him to suppress himself and follow the opinion of the Kurogane household.

That was Ikki’s final answer.

Receiving it, Itsuki...

“Is that really fine?”

Showed an obviously confused expression.

It was a rare expression for Itsuki, who usually didn’t let his face reveal his emotions.

However, Ikki’s answer did not change.

Since he decided to be willful, he would not withdraw himself.

“Well......From Father’s perspective, such a rebellious and prodigal son would only be in your way.”

However──


“It’s not about me. Are you really fine with it?”


“............Eh?”

Being asked such an unexpected question, Ikki’s thoughts froze for a moment.

──’You’...

Certainly, his father said that just then.

That Itsuki......asked about Ikki’s opinion.

Why? Ikki lost his words due to the confusion.

Itsuki continued to speak.

“I am the head of the Kurogane household. That, in other words, is the discipline of the knights in this country. It was decided from the moment of my birth. I have been educated for this sake, and so I have been walking down this path.”

Regardless of who, towards anyone ── strictness.

The responsibility passed down by generations of Kurogane household was carved in his name.

“Therefore I don’t know anything beyond this. I’m a man who cannot choose to live in any other way than this. You have disobeyed the Kurogane’s discipline. Supporting you for pushing yourself forward on a thorny path you chose yourself, congratulating you for climbing up despite spilling blood on that thorny path and reaching the height of being the best eight in the whole country......I can’t do any of it. And it won’t change from now on either.


I am such a man. Are you fine with calling such a man your father?”


“..................”

In that instant, Ikki imagined the life of his father, Itsuki Kurogane, as a person.

Itsuki, as the son of Ikki’s grandfather, Genma Kurogane, was born.

Although Genma was the son of the Great Hero, Ryoma Kurogane, he felt contempt towards Ryoma, who held different opinion and behavior from the traditional ways of the Kurogane household, so he had formed an alliance with the elders who held the same opinion as him. He was someone who had half exiled his father, Ryoma, from the Kurogane household, and snatched the position of the head of Kurogane household, a person known as the rightmost wing of the moderate faction.

Born under such a man......Itsuki had no brothers.

Hence, Genma and the elders pushed all of their ideals onto the next head of the family, which was him.

Before he could think for himself, and while his ego was just budding, he received such a thorough education.

The soft......mentality of a child that could be hurt even with a gentle touch, was toppled by them, who had even carved their ideals into the name of the child.

The result born from that ── Iron Blood.

Showing no compromise, no mercy, the 「Discipline」 of living only for the sake of the country.

Ikki’s father, Itsuki Kurogane was such a man.

Hence, he would talk about cutting their ties when he could no longer handle his own son.

......He thought that way.

However...

(That’s, I was mistaken......)

It was a strange thing, if he thought about it a little.

If he wanted to cut their ties for such a reason, then there would not be a need to be bothered with Ikki’s opinion.

There was only one reason to hear his opinion.

Ikki comprehended.

That was......the mission and ideal he had imposed on himself. The responsibility towards the country, the obligation towards the Blazers belonging to the country. The man who was burdened with all kinds of responsibilities, the man who did not know anything other than that, reached such a conclusion after trying his best to think about it.

More than anything, the eyes that stared straight at Ikki explained it.

Seeing those eyes......Ikki smiled bitterly without thinking.

He noticed.

That’s how it was, they were indeed father and son. ──Because...

(My clumsiness in words were inherited from my father.)

In that case, his answer was obvious.

“It’s fine. That kind of father is fine.”

Ikki looked back at Itsuki, and gave a big nod.

“Parent and child do not really need to be intimate.

There are fathers who force their sons to take the paths of their own ideals.

There are also sons who go against that and take the opposite path.

Opposing opinions. Two opposing sides. At the end of the parallel arguments, they will eventually hit each other.

──Isn’t it a common story? Something like that.”

“............”

Ikki said that everything that had happened was just at such a level.

What could the son saying those words be thinking about?

Itsuki......closed his eyes for a moment...

“I see. This is certainly a quarrel between parent and child that can be seen anywhere......Talking about cutting ties for such matters is indeed over-exaggerating it.”

He sighed and said those words.

The corners of his mouth curved up slightly into a smile.

Just at that moment...

「The clean-up of the ring has been completed. The second match of the third round will begin in five minutes.」

The announcement informing about the start of the next match echoed.

Since it would start in five minutes, it was about time for him to go to the waiting room.

Hence, Ikki turned on his heels.

“Then, I’m going.”

“Ikki.”

Itsuki said from the back of Ikki.

Everything that happened until then.

Towards Ikki, who had treated everything that he had done to him, everything that should not be forgiven, as a quarrel between parent and child...

“You have become a big hearted person.”

He praised him frankly.

Hearing those words with his back facing him, Ikki...

“Hehe.”

Smiled embarrassingly, and walked out.

And on the way......he finally understood why he could not come to hate Itsuki. He understood the reason.

「You can’t do anything, so don’t try.」

He probably felt that those words were not Itsuki’s real feelings coming from his heart.

Because, wouldn’t that be so?

(My name is, Ikki Kurogane......!)


「Just one thing is fine. Become a person who shines brighter than anyone.」


He received the name with such a wish contained within from him──

(In that case, I will show you.)

He would show his father.

Carrying himself, repelling everything, shining brightly in the world he chose with his own will, with his own heart and body!

(Let’s go. ──Only three more to reach the top!)



Part 6
「Ah, it’s a relief that Contender Kaga is safe. I was wondering what’s going to happen for a moment there.」

「It may look shocking, but it’s only at the level of one internal organ being damaged, so it’s not a big deal. Entering the capsule for an hour will completely heal it.」

「We can really feel the benefits of modern medical technology right now.」

「On top of that, the entire staff line-up this time is excellent. Especially Shinguuji-san’s perfect emergency first-aid. As expected of the world’s former number three.」

「You can say that only because of the cooperation between modern medical technology and excellent mage-knights, that we can organize the Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival.」

As the announcer Iida and Yaotome were giving their opinions about the earlier match, the buzzer indicating the end of the break rang.

In accordance to that, Iida cleared his throat on the side and...

「Now then, since it’s time, we will begin the second match of the third round battle!」

Announced towards the audience.

That information caused the venue to erupt in cheers.

That cheer was even louder than the first match.

That just showed how much attention the second match had garnered.

「Then, let’s welcome the two Contenders for the second match who are entering the field!」

At the same time as those words were said, the night lights shone onto the stage, showing the figures of the Contenders.

「Appearing from the green gate, Akatsuki Academy first year! Contender Sara Bloodlily!

Even with just the power to manipulate the concept of colors, that colorfulness makes her the Kaleidoscope!

However, that is just a tip of her true strength!

She can replicate various kinds of weapons and troops. Above all, she is even able to replicate Blazers and their Noble Arts, the balance-breaking and versatile Noble Art Purple Caricature! That is her true strength!

Murata-pro had evaluated her to be on par with A-Rank, the so-called dark horse!

What kind of battle will she show us in the third round!?」

「Oya? Did Contender Bloodlily have a change of heart?」

Yaotome voiced out her doubt.

And Iida followed up.

「Speaking of which, she is wearing a different outfit from this morning. She is properly wearing clothes. It is a disappointing development for some of the audiences, but it’s a great help for the TV station!」

「No, well, there’s also that, but......her expression is quite different.」

「Expression, is it?」

「Yes. Until now, whenever Contender Bloodlily stood on the ring, should I say that her attention was dispersed, or that there was no ambition......she wasn’t really focused, but......I can feel a strong concentration and motivation from her now.」

As she mentioned it, the audience also felt the same.

Certainly, when Sara was facing off against her opponents up until the second round, her eyes were sleepy.

However, the current Sara was different.

Her eyes were as sharp as those of a predator targeting its prey, staring at the red gate.

「It’s exactly as Yaotome-pro said, that’s a good expression, Contender Bloodlily! It can be said that after unleashing her true power, there would be no need to act anymore! We are looking forward to her third round battle more and more! And! Now, the knight who will be her opponent in the third round will make his entrance!」

The announcer’s voice caused the gazes of the audience to focus on the red gate.

Receiving the gazes from tens of thousands of spectators, the black-haired knight made his appearance.

「Born with the weakest magic power and the strongest sword technique, mowing down many strong opponents from the bottom, finally! This youth has appeared on the stage of the quarter finals for the country’s best four! The anomalous F-Rank everyone knows! Hagun Academy first year! Contender Ikki Kurogane!」

「Kyaa! Kurogane-kun! Do your best!」

「Don’t lose! Go at it with guts!」

Seeing the figure of Ikki, cheers of support came from the venue.

That were many times more of them compared to the second round.

「Whew! That’s some impressive cheering! Thunderous applause came from the audience stand, welcoming Contender Kurogane!」

「Due to the location, there are many spectators from Osaka. The strength of Contender Ikki, who has won against the two powerhouses from Osaka, the former Seven Stars Sword King, Contender Yuudai Moroboshi and Contender Eye of Heaven, Byakuya Jougasaki, is recognized by them more than anyone else. Not to mention......」

「Not to mention?」

「The unbalance from his gentle face and manly strength is well-received by the females. That’s to say even I am a fan of his......」

「I-I see! But please be impartial in your explanations?」

「I know that even if you don’t tell me.」

Yaotome replied with a slight angry tone, then lifted her glasses, and commented after seeing the expression of Ikki who had just entered.

「But similar to Contender Bloodlily, Contender Ikki also seems to have had a change of heart.」

「Is that so?」

「Yes. Contender Ikki is someone who was branded with F-Rank, a Contender with extremely low magic capacity. I believe that most of us know that his Noble Arts, Ittou Shura and Ittou Rasetsu, are limited to once a day usage due to his small amount of magic power. In other words, because he used Ittou Rasetsu in the battle against Eye of Heaven today, he does not have any trump cards left for this match. Regardless of being in such a disadvantageous situation, his expression is very relaxed. There’s no trace of forcing himself or desperation......As expected of the knight who has climbed up to this stage despite being F-Rank. His physical strength, and of course mental strength as well, are just at an abnormal level.」

Support from the audience. Praise from the announcers.

Ikki walked straight towards the ring while receiving them, and stood at the starting line.

Before his eyes was Sara, who had already finished her preparations, staring straight at him with an intense gaze.

Ikki struck up a conversation with Sara.

“Before I came here, I had a talk with my father.”

He wanted to inform her.

“It may be strange to say that we made up, but I believe that we have a better relationship than before......It’s thanks to Sara-san. Thank you very much.”

In contrast with Ikki’s words of gratitude in a refreshing expression, Sara’s expression remained stiff.

“I have said it before. I don’t need your gratitude......Rather than that, you must absolutely keep your promise.”

That’s right. Those words held no value to her.

What was important was to carry out the promise, just that.

Hence, Ikki deeply nodded and replied Sara’s words.

“Of course. I won’t do something like breaking my own promise.”

He could guarantee that. However──

“However......Because of that, I can’t lose. I have made a promise to fight against Stella in the final battle. Not to mention, this is a path I have decided to walk even if I have to beat my father down if he had interfered.”

He would not be half-hearted. That would not be allowed.

“That’s why I will win. I will defeat you and become the Seven Stars Sword King. That’s the perseverance of my willfulness!”

After that declaration, Ikki manifested his Device, Intetsu.

Then he pointed the tip of his katana, along with his sharp gaze, even sharper than his weapon, towards Sara.

Sara also returned an intense gaze not losing to his...

“......I also have a promise. I decided selfishly, a selfish promise. But that......the only thread of bond connecting me and my father............I won’t back down.”

Manifesting her Device, Brush of the Demiurge and palette on her hands, she said.

“I will show you your defeat. Definitely──!”

“That’s good. Sara-san and me, whose promise......soul is stronger? Let’s compete on that!”

Boiling with fighting spirit, the two of them waited for the signal to start.

The air between them carried a tense feeling as if it was going to burn their skins off.

As the tension was reaching critical point second by second...

「The two are ready at the starting line! Then without further ado, Seven Stars Sword-Art Festival third round second match begin!

Let’s GO AHEAD────!!!!」

The flame of battle was lit.



Part 7
Let’s GO AHEAD.

The first to move at the same time as the cue was given was Sara Bloodlily.

She was using a speed that even the speed-focused Ikki could not capture clearly to scoop up the paint on her palette.

And then...

“Color of Magic ── Bright Yellow of Flashー”

She swung her arm and scattered the paint into the air.

In an instant, an explosion of light burst out from the scattered yellow paint.

It instantly encompassed everything in the dome, burning everyone’s field of sight pure white.

“......!”

「Kyaa!」

「Uwa, so bright!」

「The moment the match began, Contender Bloodlily’s Color of Magic exploded! A strong flash that doesn’t allow people to keep their eyes open has burst out! Just like a flash grenade! She just used a technique that will make the announcers cry![4]

The announcer covered his eyes as the flash that seemed to cause stinging pain burned his eyes.

On the other hand, Yaotome at the side had been expecting it.

The instant the flash exploded, she immediately changed to sunglasses to avoid the damage to the retinas.

However, their field of sight was only hindered for a few seconds. The color of the scene recovered soon after.

And Iida was...

「Aah, my eyesight has finally returned......wooooah!? T-This is~~~~!」

At the same time as his eyesight returned, he was shocked by the scene he saw.

The audiences probably had the same reaction.

On the ring that finally regained its color, there were hundreds of skeleton soldiers holding assault rifles lined up in formation.

「This is the Necro Battalion of the Purple Caricature that appeared in the second round battle! Contender Bloodlily used it immediately in the third round!」

「It’s a technique that has already been seen once before. It probably means that she doesn’t have to be reserved anymore.」

“Hou? That’s quite a haughty start for someone like her.”

Rinna, who was watching the battle from the audience stand, exclaimed emotionally at Sara’s initiative filled with fighting spirit.

Because they were relatives, Rinna probably thought that it was rare for her to be so serious in a battle.

“That’s unlike her personality or motivation, huh. Did she have a quarrel with Worst One?”

“It seems that they have made a bet. If she wins this match, Ikki will become her model. If she loses, then she would not ask Ikki to be her model again, something like that.”

Stella conveyed what she had heard from Ikki, Rinna was dumbfounded for a moment, then giggled.

She had witnessed the scandal caused by Sara at the party.

That’s why she was able to comprehend the issue.

“I see. Well, it is unbearable for someone like her to keep bothering him......However.”

Rinna took off her eye patch, narrowed her heterochromic eyes and smiled evilly.

“That condition might have been foolish. He lit the flame of motivation in an unmotivated person. Worst One has quite the skillful techniques, but it’s all martial arts. It’s all physical techniques. That power is just the extension of a single person. And then, how is he going to overcome the organizational power of modern weapons with only his own strength?”

Rinna’s words had accurately captured the heart of the situation.

Bringing out an organization against a single person. Bringing out guns against sword.

Although it was just a simple concept, the disparity between the two was just that difficult to overcome.

Especially against Ikki, a knight who did not possess any area of effect attacks or long distance option, it was very effective.

The first move that Sara made had definitely pinpointed the weakness of the Blazer known as the Worst One.

(A good judgement. As expected, she has observed me quite well.)

A hundred muzzles pointed at him. Seeing that, Ikki on the ring smiled bitterly.

That Necro Battalion was once defeated in the second round.

By Sword Eater, Kuraudo Kurashiki’s Ten’i Muhou.

And Ikki could use the exact same technique.

However......it was only that. He could use the same technique, but he could not do the same thing.

The feat of diverting away the storm of lead from a hundred muzzles was due to Kuraudo’s special physique.

Ikki could not do it.

(What I can do, and what I cannot do, huh. Sara has properly observed me.)

Ikki felt it deeply. However...

“However......that’s only if all of them hit!”

Ikki’s lips curled slightly upwards.

The expression he showed was......confidence.

And in the next instant, he took an action that shocked everyone in the venue.

「W-What! Contender Kurogane, instead of evading the hundred muzzles, he actually walked forward!?」

That’s right. Not evading, not defending, he just leisurely walked towards the muzzles of the skeleton formation.

Slowly, casually, he was relaxing his body as if he was taking a stroll.

Of course, the army of skeletons would not let such a foolish prey escape.

All of them in the formation pulled the trigger of their assault rifles together.

「Simultaneous fireeee────! The merciless gunshots have rushed towards the defenseless Contender Kuroganee!」

The surface of the ring was struck with a storm of lead.

The scrapped off stone blew white dust up.

The dust that raised up devoured Ikki’s figure immediately.

「D-Don’t tell me, it is decided so easily like that!?」

The anxiety of the announcer was probably shared by all the audiences.

However ── they all knew immediately.

That worry was unnecessary!

「W-Whaaat!?」

「Unbelievable!?」

Voices of surprise came from the audience stand.

The announcer also witnessed it a moment later.

From within the raised white dust, showing up leisurely without a single injury, the figure of Ikki continuing his advance.

「They are not hitting!? Despite being showered in that number of gunshots, Contender Kurogane did not lose a single drop of blood! W-What kind of magic is this!?」

To the words of the announcer, Yaotome shook her head in denial.

「This is not magic.」

「Could it be, this is the Ten’i Muhou that we have seen from Contender Kurashiki in the second round!?」

Yaotome denied that as well.

「No. That’s also wrong. In the first place, Ten’i Muhou is an anti-personnel technique. It cannot divert that amount of gunshots. What Contender Kurashiki had done was relying on his superhuman reflexes, Marginal Counter, which he is blessed with from birth. It’s a feat that nobody else can imitate......Just now, what Contender Ikki has used is a completely different technique. It’s not a technique that receives the gunshot and diverts it away, but not letting it hit in the first place. Does Iida-san remember the second match of second round in D-Block?」

「Of course! It’s the match between Contender Momiji Asagi and Contender Shizuku Kurogane! Ah.」

Iida raised a voice as he noticed.

「It’s Trackless Step!?」

Yaotome nodded.

「Yes. He used normal steps and Trackless Step intermittently just now to disorientate his presence, making the skeletons’ aim go haywire. If they target a spot that’s different from where he is, of course they won’t hit. Even if it is an assault rifle with a low bullet-concentration property, the bullet path will still slightly stray.」

「T-That’s how it was! As expected of the body technique of the God of War, Torajirou Nangou!」

「Well, that’s obvious, but the most incredible thing is Contender Ikki’s sense for body technique and being able to use the Trackless Step, which was originally used against a person, against an army. The only other knights who can use it like this are probably just God of War and Yaksha Princess.」

As Yaotome leaked a voice of admiration ── a change occurred right after that.

「A-Aah! T-This is! Hearing the explanation just now, the formation of the Necro army has changed!」

Instead of focusing on one spot, the formation switched to firing horizontally together.

「This will make Contender Kurogane’s disorientation meaningless!」

A desperate situation.

Before Iida could comment that, Yaotome muttered.

「It’s a really foolish judgement.」

The reason for that mutter was understood in the next moment.

In accordance to the Necro Battalion switching from concentrated fire to horizontal fire, Ikki, who was mixing Trackless Step in a casual manner lowered his center of gravity deep down.

And then he leapt from the ground in that posture and dashed towards the formation with a soaring speed.

The skeletons faced against him with guns in a matter of course ── but their previous judgement was already mistaken.

Ikki used Trackless Step because the density of bullets was beyond the limit of what his body could handle.

When they switched to a large area horizontal shooting attack, the most important factor, the density, thinned out!

(If it’s this level of barrage, my Ten’i Muhou can also divert them away!)

There was no need to misguide them anymore!

「Uproar! Contender Kurogane! He broke through the barrage and cut into the formation from the front!」

Ikki had rushed into the middle of the formation and swung his blade to mow down his sides, shredding the skeleton soldiers to countless pieces of paper.

The Necro Battalion shot back in response, but could not capture Ikki’s quick movement at point blank distance.

That’s obvious. Regardless of how strong the gun was, it was a point attack.

That advantage would not be useful if it was not used at a long distance.

Once the distance was shrunk, the sword would be stronger and faster!

「I-Incredible......!」

The figure of Ikki cutting down the army of skeleton one after another.

With a single blade, not even using magic, that figure trampling down the modern weapons caused the audience to tremble.

「A person......can actually do something like this without using magic......!」

「C-Cool............」

And it was the same for the mage-knights, feeling touched by Ikki’s sword handling.

The Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Thunder of Judgement, Yuuzou Kaieda, while watching the match, talked to Itsuki, who was sitting at the adjacent sofa.

“Goodness gracious, your son is really something. With just his body technique alone, he has reached up to this point, there probably aren’t even five people in Japan at his level.”

“......Because he’s a guy that doesn’t have anything else.”

The voice of Itsuki’s reply did not contain any emotion as usual.

However, Kaieda also understood his position.

He was not expecting a reply in the first place.

He returned his gaze to the venue below soon after.

(But it’s really impressive......His movement is just like seeing The Last Samurai in his prime. And he is just a youth in the first year of reaching his adulthood[5], how fearsome.)

And at the same time, he felt a bit of pity.

......The 「F-Rank」 of Ikki meant he was 「out of evaluation」.

For example, if he had the power at the level of E-Rank, the Blazer would only get a bruise from receiving gunshots.

That was because the magic power would mobilize to project the flesh.

However......F-Rank could not do that.

And half of Mage-Knights’ jobs were close-combat types.

In other words, for an F-Rank to become a Mage-Knight was a very dangerous job.

Hence 「out of evaluation」.

It was the same for the Blazers that were obliged to enroll into the mage-knight academies in countries that joined the League.

In other words, the 「F-Rank」 that was the international standard would not be treated as a Blazer in the first place.

It was just that......weak. It was too fragile to survive in the world of mage-knights.

......In a sense, Itsuki stubbornly opposing Ikki’s path of knighthood was probably an obvious action for a father.

At the same time, he was also a supervisor troubling over the appearance of a reckless pursuer.

Despite being an F-Rank, he was a match against an A-Rank. That kind of a miracle was not something anyone could display.

Kaieda understood that.

Because he understood ── he couldn't help but feel pity.

(If only he had the strength of an E-Rank, he could have chased after the summit more easily.)

And on the ring, Ikki had finally cut down the last member of the Necro Battalion.

「Contender Kurogane! He has annihilated the Necro Battalion without leaving a single one! S-Strong! Despite losing his trump card, Ittou Rasetsu, Contender Bloodlily’s Purple Caricature could not do anything to him!」

Another One had overcome Sara’s first move without a scratch.

Standing alone on the ring, anyone could cheer for his calm yet ferocious figure.

However──......receiving those cheers, Ikki’s expression was grim.

「Contender Bloodlily, how will she handle this monster ──── eh, h-huh!?」

The announcer noticed the reason soon after.

「What is this about!? Contender Bloodlily’s figure disappeared from the ring!」

That’s right. She disappeared.

The circular ring with a diameter of 100m.

Bloody Da Vinci, Sara Bloodlily was nowhere to be found!

The spectators were confused about that fact.

Did she escape? Out of the field? Then what about the counting, etc.

However......

(No, she’s here.)

Ikki noticed.

She would not escape.

That was without a doubt......Sara’s Color of Magic.

It was a magic to deceive the eyes of the surrounding people.

Able to cause people to see her like a stone on the roadside, stone gray.

(We were still able to see her at that time, but......this time, I cannot see her at all.)

She probably used that much power in her technique.

It was difficult even for Ikki to capture her figure with his naked eyes. However...

(But if it’s just at that degree, you won’t escape from me.)

Even if he could no longer see her with his eyes, there was another method.

It was not complete stealth like Hunter.

At best, she could not be perceived by sight only.

In that case ── he just needed to hear her.

The field was circular. From the bowl-shaped audience stand, the usual cheers roared.

The wave of that sound had a void............a human-shaped void!

“Over thereee!!!!”

The time taken for the search was just a few splits of a second.

Ikki quickly switched from searching by sight to searching by sound, locating Sara’s figure, and cutting towards that direction.

The effect of stone gray would be lost once she was locked on.

Sara could not escape anymore. No──

“But it’s fine......I bought enough time to draw.”

──She did not need to escape anymore.


*Giiiin!!!!*


And the blade of Ikki that swung down at the defenseless Sara was......received and stopped by another blade.

A silhouette appeared between Ikki and Sara, and used the blade it held to protect her.

However, it only defended against the first strike.

Ikki did not think that he could defeat Sara with just one strike.

Since the battle in the second round, he had expected such development.

Sara was at a level that could use Purple Caricature to materialize the image of a Blazer.

However, he did not intend to retreat no matter who his opponent would be.

Attack with his all, overwhelming the other side. If one strike did not work, then he just had to add a second and third strike.

That determination was...

(......Don’t tell...me............!?)

Blown away by the reality that had taken shape before his eyes.

What was reflected in Ikki’s vision was ── a pure white without a speck of impurity.

He could not have mistaken it for anyone else.

The image of a faintly glowing body like the sun at dawn, and a pair of pure white swords like a pair of wings was...


“Purple Caricature ── Twin-Wings, Edelweiss.”


The world’s strongest swordsman he had once crossed swords with in the past stood before him.



Part 8
「「「──────────!!!!」」」

Twin-Wings, Edelweiss.

A woman whose name probably everyone knew, even if they were not knights.

Her appearance caused so much shock that everyone in the venue fell silent.

Amongst the heavy and tangible silence created by tens of thousands of people...

Fake Edelweiss leisurely raised her pair of wing-like swords horizontally, putting up a stance.

“A-ha-a──!?”

In that instant, Stella, who was watching over the match in the audience stand, hugged her body and squealed.

She felt it.

Just by getting into a battle mode, Twin-Wings released a demonic sword pressure that made her very soul resisted looking directly at her.

(S-Scary......!)

That sword pressure was not pointed at her.

What Stella felt was just the side effect.

Even so, her whole body trembled uncontrollably, cold sweat pouring out non-stop.

(Even though she’s so far away, it feels like having a sword pointed at my throat! )

She could clearly feel the icy coldness of a blade.

It was that much of a dominating pressure.

Just from seeing her figure, she could tell the absolute difference in ability without even thinking!

(This is the world’s strongest swordsman......)

「W-What has happeeened! The world’s most infamous criminal, standing on the highest summit of the swords’ world, Twin-Wings, Edelweiss! Contender Sara Bloodlily, unbelievable, she has just materialized a super powerhouse!」

「I-I’m shocked......she can even bring something like that out......!」

「S-Serious-ly............!」

「This is......foul play......!」

Stella was not the only one shaken by the materialization of the pure white swordsman on the ring.

The announcer, commentator, everyone in the audience stand, voices of shock trembled everywhere.

It couldn’t be helped. The Edelweiss on the ring was a fake born from Sara’s ability, but the majestic aura she carried was not any weaker than the real deal.

And that was painfully felt by Ikki, who had actually experienced it, more than anyone!

“~~~~~~~~!!!!”

That’s why Ikki escaped.

He retreated with everything he had, as far as possible.

He received her sword pressure from close range, causing his heart to be at the verge of bursting, even though he tried to suppress it.

──And then, more than the materialized image of Edelweiss, he was more wary of Sara’s strength as an artist to be able to portray the existence of the world’s strongest swordsman without a millimeter of an error.

“......I had made a variety of assumptions. Even if Stella or older brother Ouma were to come out, I had resolved myself not to be surprised............But............to draw such a thing, how fearful......! Bloody Da Vinci!”

“This is the only swordsman that you didn’t win against. There is no reason not to draw her here......I have spent almost all of my magic power to draw it, the strongest image amongst all the knights I have ever known, to defeat you without a room for doubt!”

Sara declared her victory in a tone mixed with her strong determination. And then ── In that instant, the figure of Twin-Wings swinging down her blade appeared before Ikki’s eyes without any sound.

“!!!!”

「Fas────」

A speed that even the broadcast could not follow.

The pure white blade was swung down with a speed similar to a white thunder.

Edelweiss’s actions, from stepping in to attacking, all of it was soundless.

Her movements that were honed to the limit wasted no energy.

All of it was spent only on movement.

Due to that, the atmosphere would not vibrate at all, and sound would not be transmitted.

In addition, with an instant acceleration from 0 to 100%, such exchange between stillness and quickness made the swords of Twin-Wings difficult to be captured using sight.

A high speed and soundless slash that could not be detected by sight and hearing.

If he was a normal person, his life would have been ended without even noticing the slash.

The fake created from Sara’s image also had such a trait.

However...

“Zuah!”

Ikki had already experienced that fact with his body.

Hence, he was able to defend against the white thunder-like first strike from the fake Edelweiss.

However, he did not have any room for relief after defending against it.

The instant Twin Wing’s left wing was blocked by Intetsu, her right wing had already reached Ikki’s nose tip!

“────Fuu!”

However, Ikki had already seen through the thrust from the right.

Although his cheek was grazed, he calmly tilted his head to evade.

He even swung his Intetsu and intercepted fake Edelweiss within his sword range.

In response, she also spread her two swords ── and delivered her attack!

“UoOOOOaAAAAA────!!!!!!”

The sword flash of pure white and darkness intersected.

They collided, and sparks immediately scattered as the gales of steel clashed.

That’s right. Ikki clashed with her.

He had to rely on Ittou Shura in the past, but he could finally keep up with Twin-Wings’s swords!

──That was because of the performance of the fake was lower after all.

Wrong.

Ikki could tell as he clashed swords with her.

At least, fake Edelweiss could not be weaker than the time he fought against her at Akatsuki Academy in the past.

The clarity of her swords, power, presence, they were all the same.

Even so, to be able to match up without Ittou Shura...

(That’s just how much stronger I have become!)

He had obtained Edelweiss’s sword technique from Blade Steal.

And the brain signals for battle that he switched in order to execute it.

He obtained a large amount of experience from that one fight.

Thanks to that, Ikki’s basic battle strength had increased tremendously compared to that time.

Even without relying on Ittou Shura, he could already keep up with the battle in that territory!

(With this, I can at least endure through!)

“Haaa!!!!”

And finally, fake Edelweiss stepped back from the clash of swords with Ikki.

「UoOOOO! I-Incredible! Twin-Wings’s swords, he has pushed back the world’s strongest swords!」

「GOOO! Another One!」

「Ikki-kuuun! Wiiiin it!」

Although Ikki did not respond to the cheers, he intended to do just that.

No matter how close that image was to the real deal, Ikki had to defeat her since he faced her on the ring.

In that case, it wouldn’t begin if he kept running away.

Therefore, Ikki powerfully kicked off with his legs, and chased after the faltered fake Edelweiss. However...


(No, not good──!)


He should not have done that.

“────Gah!?!?”

The moment Ikki stepped in, his field of vision dyed red.

His whole body felt hot as if on fire, and large amount of fresh blood sprayed out.

Ikki Kurogane was cut.

And it was not a single stroke, but countless.

(This...is............!)

「Contender Kurogane’s body suddenly started to bleed as soon as he stepped forward! What exactly caused that!?」

「This is...a gap in air!」

「Yaotome-pro!?」

「I have heard about this before......! Twin-Wings’s slash is, in other words, the world’s strongest slash. That speed, sharpness, everything is out of the norm! Due to that, the places her slash passed through will constantly leave a vacuum gap! Because of that sharpness, even the atmosphere cannot detect that it has been cut apart......!」

The truth was just as Yaotome said.

The area that Ikki had rushed into after chasing the fake Edelweiss had vacuum slash scars from the crossing of swords before, like wind blades stalling in air.

It was exactly like Ayase Ayatsuji’s Noble Art, Mark of the Wind.

Fake Edelweiss only had to swing her swords to create that phenomenon.

In other words, in the previous crossing of swords, fake Edelweiss was not pushed back by Ikki, she was retreating with such intention in mind.

And Ikki rushed into it.

Although Ikki felt something wrong right before it happened and stopped, it was not easy to come to a halt once he moved using Edelweiss’s movements from Blade Steal.

He could not completely evade it, leaving countless slash wounds on his whole body.

However...

“~~~~~~~~~~!!!!”

Be it the regret of his own shallow thinking for stepping in so easily, or fainting from the pain, Ikki knew that he didn’t have  room for such thoughts when fighting against the world’s strongest swordsman.

He abandoned all of his thoughts, and released all of his precious magic power he had recovered into his legs.

Just like how Stella and other normal knights did it, Ikki added strength to his feet by releasing magic power and kicked off, and escaped from fake Edelweiss’s range with the highest speed he could achieve at that point of time.

That judgement was correct.

Not even a millisecond after, a flash of white silver ran past horizontally through the space where Ikki’s head was positioned at.

Fake Edelweiss’s dual swords scraped through the air with a speed that the eyes couldn’t follow, leaving a trail of light.

If Ikki had delayed his judgement for even an instant longer, his head would probably be dancing in the air.

He truly escaped it by a hair’s breadth.

However...

“Ha! Ha............! Ah!”

The price was Ikki losing all his precious magic power.

Just stepping into her zone once took him everything he had.

And then, despite using it all up, it was a fact that he could not even land a single hit on her.

Because he had used everything he had, he was currently still hanging on to his life.

Due to those reasons, Ikki was convinced.

(She’s not inferior compared to the real deal in our previous battle............it’s not just that!)

The fake Edelweiss before his eyes was much stronger than the one he had fought against before.

The Edelweiss back then was never serious until the last strike.

She was just fending off Ikki, and not seriously aiming for his life.

However, the woman before his eyes was different.

It was clear that the speed and sharpness was different, and more than anything, she was merciless.

She would even use techniques she had not used before to actively aim for victory!

“......!?”

As Ikki took a certain distance away and thought about it, fake Edelweiss took a strange action.

She did not chase after Ikki, instead, she lightly turned the sword on her right hand and stabbed it into the ground.

*Katsun.*

And right after that.

“Ah ──── Gah!?”

20 meters away from fake Edelweiss, blood sprayed out from Ikki’s entire body again.

A pain as if his every part of his body was pierced by lighting at the same time.

It could’ve be some sort of magic attack.

That wasn’t the case, though.

Ikki, who had received the attack, immediately remembered what it was.

(This...is...Dokuga-no-tachi............!)

In the past, the real Edelweiss had shown him the same technique as Ikki’s sixth secret sword.

Using the blade to transmit vibration into the opponent’s body, causing a wave within his body to destroy it from the inside, a penetration technique using the sword.

Ikki’s Dokuga-no-tachi transmitted the vibration by connecting with the opponent’s Device.

However, just then, the fake Edelweiss used the ground of the ring as the medium, beating the vibration into Ikki’s body from far away.

Then, she pursued the frightened Ikki to decide the outcome.

Crushing away the distance between the two with a flash-like speed, she swung down her twin swords with all of her strength.

“............!”

Despite having spasms all over his body, Ikki reacted to it.

Holding Intetsu above his head horizontally, it defended against the falling pair of white lightning.

However ── the strikes he desperately defended against did not contain even the strength used when stroking someone.

Seeing that the slashes from above would not hit, fake Edelweiss controlled the muscles of her body diligently as she swung down her swords, and all that energy ── was transferred to her feet!

“Guh! Ha!”

As Ikki shifted his guard towards above, she kneed his defenseless body.

A step from the world’s strongest swordsman. The kick that gathered the intensity and all the energy, which had an impact that could pierce through the stomach, sank into Ikki’s solar plexus, sending his body flying backwards.

Ikki’s body that was blown away as if he was hit by a large truck slid past the lawn outside the ring, crashing into the fence separating the audience stand and the ring. However, it didn’t stop at there, the fence was bent from the root and launched towards the audience stand, crashing onto the steps in between the audience stand, climbing up with that intensity, eventually stopped at the top row.

「「「........................」」」

The impact from the scene that looked like a fatal traffic accident had just occurred caused the nearby audience to not even be able to raise a scream.

They were just staring blankly at the broken staircase, and the trail of blood looking like a red carpet, swallowing their breaths.

The fallen Worst One facing the night sky was......lying immobile.



Part 9
「I-I-Inteeeeense────!!!!

A human body weighing around seventy kilo was blown away like a cannonballll!

Contender Kurogane is out of field! Right now, the main referee has begun the count for out of field! Will he be able to return within 10 counts!? Nevermind that, is he still even alive!?

However, despite that, despite that......! Too strong!!!!

Seven Stars Sword King! Eye of Heaven! Raikiri! The prided sword fight Contender Another One, Ikki Kurogane used to defeat famous braves one after another that continued to support his victory, at this distance, has been completely shut out! This power! There’s no doubt about it!

Everyone in this place, including me, can understand it!

Before our eyes is the world’s strongest swordsman! It’s Twin-Wings, Edelweiss herself!」

In that case ── he could never win.

The knight at the level of competing over the summit of students would not even be her opponent.

That was......the despair shared by all of the people in that venue.

That’s right, even Stella, who had given all of her trust to Ikki.

As she watched Ikki getting beaten one-sidedly by Twin-Wings, then blown out of the field, she held her breath.

“Ikki......!”

(Can’t win............!)

No matter how much she tried to imagine it, she could not see any vision of Ikki winning against that image.

Because she was powerful, she inevitably felt it.

Like a cat challenging a tiger......such a stupidly large difference in battle strength.

However, the real horror was probably the drawing ability of Bloody Da Vinci, for being able to draw the tiger who saw that Ikki as a cat.

(Who could have thought that she has this kind of unreasonable power......!)

「Five! Six! Seven!」

“~~~~~~”

Stella bit her lip in frustration,

The count continued in the meantime.

The support for the fallen Ikki was......none.

The spectators who had been cheering for Ikki just a moment ago were all silent with pained expressions.

Seeing the one-sided battle from a moment ago, even amateurs like them probably also felt it.

Worst One and Bloody Da Vinci.

The difference in power that existed between those two was blatant.

They noticed it. There was no meaning in continuing the battle anymore.

As an F-Rank, Ikki had fought well, but in the end, the world of mage-knights was determined by magic. Anyone would think that such an ending was inevitable.

And because of that──............Not a single person had noticed.

The man that should be in the greatest despair was...

The man who had lost all of his strength and was facing the sky was...

Showing a confident smile from his mouth────



Part 10
「Eigh────!?」

The main referee’s voice clogged as he was about to count eight.

That was because, standing up with a voice as if he was just getting up from his bed, Ikki leapt out from the top row of audience stand, past the bent fence, then continued until the top of the ring and landed back on it.

「W-What! Contender Kurogane! He stand up on the eighth count as if nothing had happened, and just jumped back into the ring like that! And what a light movement! Even after taking on that kind of an attack, it’s as if there was no damage!? How is this happening!?」

The announcer Iida could not believe it and was confused.

On the other hand, the commentator Yaotome had properly understood the situation.

「In fact, he is more or less not damaged.」

「Eh, even though the intensity of his flight dug a path in concrete!?」

Yaotome nodded.

「That’s the reason why he’s fine. A normal knight would’ve probably crashed into the audience stand with the fence and received fatal damage. However, Contender Ikki purposely rolled grandly like that, and dispersed the energy that normally should’ve destroyed his body into the ground.」

It was exactly as she explained.

All of the energy that had bent the fence and destroyed the staircase along the audience stand was originally something that would’ve affected Ikki’s body.

However, Ikki cleverly shifted his body weight to escape to the off-side of that energy, making the surroundings shoulder the damage.

「Hence, the damage from the attack just now was lower than what it seemed.」

「That kind of thing, is it even possible......!」

「In theory, it is closer to judo’s receiving technique than sword technique. It is a basic body technique that non-Blazers also can use. Of course, it was a super difficult feat to avoid all of that damage. Only Contender Ikki, who is well-versed in martial arts in order to reach the extreme of his sword technique, has such innovation.」

And after completely escaping from that damage, Ikki fixed his breathing until the count of eight.

Hence, he was able to recover for a bit longer than if he had returned right after being blown away.

「I-Incredible......!」

What flowed out from Iida’s mouth was not the relay of broadcast anymore, it was a voice of admiration.

And that admiration was not towards Ikki’s techniques.

It was towards his fighting spirit that did not wither a tiny bit despite being forced into such a situation.

「What a fighting spirit! When everyone believed that the match has been decided by the overwhelming strength of Purple Caricature, Contender Kurogane, who should be feeling the greatest despair himself, has not given up at all! Facing the world’s number one sword technique, using up all of his abilities, he is somehow keeping up!」

Iida felt respect towards that youth who was at an age that could be his son.

However──

(But, that’s all.)

Next to Iida, who was passionately praising Ikki, Yaotome analyzed the situation calmly.

Regardless of how well he could handle his body, how strong his heart was, what would it matter?

If he still had his trump card, Ittou Shura, it would be another matter, but Ikki, who did not have it, and the world’s strongest swordsman reproduced by Sara Bloodlily, the gap between the two of them would not be filled by just bringing out his guts or willpower. He would not get closer to victory.

In fact, Ikki had expended his precious magic power from just confronting his opponent once, and he was beaten back because of that.

On the other hand, Sara hadn’t been hurt once since the start of the match.

No, rather than that, it was Ikki who failed to even deal any damage to the fake Edelweiss that Sara had created.

Speaking frankly, the difference was too great.

It could not even be called a fair game.

(I don’t think there is any meaning in continuing this.)

And Yaotome was not the only one who thought so.

The main referee overseeing the match also thought the same.

Therefore...

“Contender Kurogane......Are you...continuing?”

Before announcing for the battle to resume after Ikki had returned from outside of the field, he asked.

Would he continue, or would he not.

Ikki laughed bitterly at those words.

He noticed how much they had worried about him because of those words.

The hidden meaning in the referee’s words was as such.

Forfeiting against such an out of norm opponent would not damage his reputation.

Nobody would criticize him.

Retreating was also a form of courage.

However, even though he felt that, Ikki answered.

“Yeah, of course I will continue.”

He did not back down. As such.

Was it his obstinacy?

──No.

In fact, Ikki had no reason to retreat.

As for why──

“I have seen through the limit of that fake.”



Part 11
「C-Contender Kurogane! With a very strong tone, he has shown his intention to continue!

Although the main referee looks troubled, he has allowed it! The match resumes!

Contender Kurogane, despite saying that he has ‘seen through the limit’, will we really be able to see him overturn this hopeless situation!?」

「He’s probably putting up a front, after all?」

「T-That’s the case, isn’t it? He was being done in one-sidedly just now.」

「B-But, I don’t feel that Ikki-kun is putting up a front like that......」

The venue became rowdy from Ikki’s declaration after he had returned to the field.

However, most of them weren’t even trying to half-believe him.

Well, it wasn’t unreasonable.

Ikki had not been able to do anything against fake Edelweiss after facing her all that time.

And the person who did not believe in Ikki’s words the most was his opponent Sara.

“Purple Caricature is indeed not the real thing. But it is able to reproduce the exact same potential as the real thing. Stop with the useless bluffing.”

She knew the performance of her Purple Caricature.

Therefore, she could assert that there was no opening for Ikki to take advantage of.

The reason was that the sword technique Ikki was using had been stolen from Edelweiss.

That would never win against her Purple Caricature which had equivalent performance as the original.

There was a relationship of absolute superiority-inferiority between them.

That’s why Sara had drawn Edelweiss.

She should not lose. Sara had absolute confidence in it.

However...

“......Sure, at first, I was surprised by the strength of this fake, which can even be said to be stronger than the time I fought with the real Twin-Wings. But I can peel off that kind of facade made only for show after crossing swords several times. No matter how fresh an apple is drawn, it doesn’t contain a single drop of juice. No matter how beautiful the blooming flowers are drawn, they don’t have any fragrance. Your image is......just that kind of thing.”

Ikki did not cower, and declared in a strong tone while he lifted the tip of Intetsu up.

“Come at me......With me at my weakest, I will defeat that fake of yours.”



Part 12
“......!?”

Ikki’s abnormal confidence confused Sara.

However, no matter how much she thought about it, she could only see him as putting up a front.

Although he had been keeping up for a while earlier, in the end he was still overwhelmed by Sara’s image.

Ikki did not fare well at all and it ended with him being kicked out of the field.

(There’s not a single fragment of doubt that my image will win!)

As if responding to her heart’s voice, the fake Edelweiss kicked off the ground.

And as expected, she reached Ikki without a single sound and launched consecutive strikes with her twin swords.

“Haaa!”

Ikki retaliated.

Black steel dealt with the falling white flash.

However, there was a difference of one sword and two swords. And more than anything, there was a difference between their fundamental specs.

As the number of rounds they crossed swords increased, Ikki was being constantly pushed back.

And finally, with a high pitch of metal clashing, Intetsu, along with Ikki’s right hand, were repelled back in a big arc.

Ikki was defenseless before fake Edelweiss.

Despite being an image, such a fatal opening would not escape Edelweiss!

The right sword was about to split Ikki from his head to his bottom.

(It’s settled──)

Sara was sure of her victory, but──

Ikki lightly swayed sideways and evaded that strike which would’ve split him into two.

With tranquility, without any signs of panic.

And with his deflected right hand, he slashed back horizontally with a great momentum, forcing Edelweiss, who guarded against it, out of the sword range with his strength.

(Eh............)

Sara was dumbfounded at the unnatural ease with which he had dodged the decisive strike.

「Oi, just now......」

「He overcame it? Really?」

「It’s probably on purpose like before, to make him chase after her?」

The audience probably did not believe that Ikki had overcome Edelweiss either.

Their reaction was completely skeptical.

It couldn’t be helped. He couldn’t fight back at all until a while ago.

However, that was only until the first retaliation.

Fake Edelweiss released a light speed thrust between Ikki’s brows as she closed in again.

In response to that, Ikki leaned back as he lightly dodged it, and in that posture, he returned the same strong slash in retaliation, forcing Edelweiss back again.

「「「~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!」」」

Anyone would have noticed up to that point.

The one who was superior in the match currently.

The confused chattering received confirmation one after another......and changed into a storm of cheers!

「S-Surpassed! We thought that the fake Edelweiss retreated on purpose at first, but there’s no mistake on the second time! There’s no doubt that, currently, Contender Kurogane has pushed back against fake Edelweiss at close range!」

「Incredibleee! That was not even a millimeter away from his nose tip just now!?」

「He really saw through it......! He wasn’t putting up a front!」

The unexpected attacks from Ikki had caused the slightly chilling atmosphere in the venue to rapidly rise in temperature.

However, those cheers could not be heard by Sara’s ears.

Because the confusion in her head had already caused her to be unable to recognize them.

(Why, all of a sudden......!)

Until a while ago, her image’s speed and sharpness had suppressed him. Why!?

Thinking about that, Sara had suddenly reached a conclusion.

She had heard about it.

Ikki Kurogane was able to read his opponent’s thinking pattern to a scarily accurate degree.

“Don’t tell me, this is Perfect Vision......!?”

“There’s no need to use that.”

The person who denied Sara’s thoughts was......Ikki himself.

That’s right, in fact, he did not need to reach such a deep level of thinking at the moment.

Rather than that......there was no need to think at all.

“Even if I don’t think that deeply about it, I will realize after thinking about it a little. Blazer’s ability is unique for each individual. That’s absolute. No matter how versatile the power seems to be, Sara-san’s power is only the ability to ‘materialize your own image’ if you trace it back to its origin.”

Color of Magic was a Noble Art that materialized the image Sara connected the color to.

Purple Caricature was a Noble Art that directly materialized the image she drew as it was.

In other words, her ability was not the power to create a fake exactly like the original.

It was only the power that materialized the imagination sketched out from her image.

“But how accurate can your image be? The outer appearance is the same. That’s probably not a problem. Physical ability as well, from Sara-san, the world’s number one artist’s observant eyes, you can draw it out without any error. However......after that?”

Be it Ikki’s sword or Edelweiss’s sword, one strike after another, they were swinging their swords at a super high speed that normal humans could not even recognize with their sights.

In addition to that, the instant their swords met in attack and defense, there were feints with their gazes and presence. They were vying for control with their presences.

As they executed their strikes, there was a process of exchanging a battle of wits back and forth, that had been repeated many times.

That way of thinking, the sequence of thinking ── could Sara’s image achieve all that?

“There’s no way you can do it.”

Ikki declared.

It was not a territory that a person, who had never held a sword before, could imagine.

It was a world of instinct reserved only for those who actually shed blood and tread along the line between life and death.

In other words, that fake Edelweiss did not have it in her body.

Only her specs were reproduced

Since she couldn’t imagine the inner contents, they couldn’t have been reproduced.

“However, there is a question in that case. There is no content inside, then why is she moving? Why is she fighting? I have one hypothesis regarding that. And then I have confirmed my hypothesis in the midst of fighting. When I received the attack from above, I purposely left my body’s guard open.”

“Purposely......?”

“That’s right. And then......thanks to that, I have confirmed it.”

In response to Ikki’s action, fake Edelweiss chose to kick him out of the field.

Dealing damage to the opponent, and expecting a countdown for out of field, it was a pretty good move.

──However, in the case when used against an opponent at Ikki’s level of body techniques, it was hard to say if it was really a move with certainty.

Even though he would be blown out of field, he would not continue to take hits, rather, there was the risk of him taking the chance to adjust his breathing due to the interruption for out of field countdown. In fact, Ikki had done just that.

Based on the result, the loss from that confrontation was on fake Edelweiss’s side.

If she was the real deal, she would not have made such a naive mistake.

Instead of the victory before her eyes, she would’ve probably prioritized defeating her opponent with certainty.

However, the fake made her move. She priotized the possible victory from out of field countdown that she saw before her eyes.

──From that behavior, Ikki confirmed that his hypothesis was correct.

“What you have projected is ‘Edelweiss who will win against Ikki Kurogane’. That’s why she seeks victory recklessly. She will bite onto the slimmest opening she sees.”

“............!”

“And then......it’s been easy once I understood that. I just have to purposefully create the shortest route towards victory. I just have to purposefully attack and create an opening to show her a glimpse of victory.”

If he did that, she would stupidly rush in straightforwardly just like then.

Time and time again.

She wasn’t a living creature that could think in the first place. She was just an image seeking victory.

She couldn’t even learn from experience, and couldn’t stop herself once she saw a glimpse of victory.

“Such an easy and naive attack, no matter how fast, how sharp, or how many times she performs it, it doesn’t matter. ──It’s not scary anymore.”

“Kuh!”

At Ikki’s confident smile, Sara could not hide her overflowing agitation.

The reason was obviously because Ikki’s deduction was right on the mark, seeing through the true colors of fake Edelweiss made from Purple Caricature.

Like he said, Sara did not have the ability to draw the detailed offense, defense and thinking pattern.

What she could draw was the information of the model she had observed, and the concept of ‘victory’.

Hence, when the opponent took on defense which was further from victory, the image of Blazers she had created from Purple Caricature would break through that defense for ‘victory’, taking tactical actions in accordance to the fake’s specs, it was still considered as passive. If the other side showed a glimpse of ‘victory’ defenselessly like what Ikki had done......she would advance straight towards it. She wouldn’t be able to not advance.

Because fake Edelweiss was not a living person, just an image for the sake of winning against him.

However──

“So what......”

Sara glared at Ikki with a strong gaze and responded.

“Even if you understand it, you cannot win against this image! The sword techniques you are using are just an imitation of hers......! Another One and Twin-Wings have a relationship of absolute superiority-inferiority! Then it doesn’t matter whether there is inner content or not. Reproducing the specs is more than enough to win......!”

As if she said it to convince herself, Sara spoke with a loud voice unbefitting her.

At the same time, fake Edelweiss moved.

She flew straight towards Ikki.

She planned to materialize the victory in the next round. Her strengthened steps were just like a reflection of Sara’s spirit.

A pure white killing intent closed in soundlessly

In response to that, Ikki...

“......I see, that’s reasonable.”

Did not show any intention of running away, and just intercepted the closing in fake Edelweiss straight on.

It was a stance to settle it in a frontal confrontation.

That could be described as a reckless action.

The reason was because, just like what he had said, Sara’s words were reasonable.

Despite not having the inner content, the specs itself were undoubtedly the world’s strongest.

Facing such high specs in a straightforward manner itself was very dangerous.

In addition to that, the sword techniques Ikki was currently using were an imitation of hers.

The difference of proficiency in the technique and magic power between the two were evident.

Just seeing through the flaw of Purple Caricature would not shake the superior-inferior relationship.

Those were facts. Sara did not say anything wrong.

That’s right. She did not make any mistakes.

──Just that...

“But Sara-san. You have made a serious misunderstanding.”

She had made a fundamentally fatal misunderstanding.

Ikki had noticed.

Sara was mistaken about ‘the knowledge about battle itself’.

She considered that the outcome of a battle depended on who was stronger.

However, that was a big misunderstanding.

A battle was not simply something that the one with greater power would win.

It was not a competition between numbers.

An instant, a round, just seizing the chance of victory in that moment was what a battle meant, seizing that moment was what a victory meant.

(Then......there’s no need to win in everything.)

One hit was fine.

Just once, it would fine to win in one round.

In that case, it would be a different story.

No matter how big the difference between them was...

Even if the gap between them was so ridiculously huge...


(If it’s just neutralizing the first strike, when I know where it will be coming from, then it’s not impossible!)


“──────!”

It was the instant fake Edelweiss swung down on the crown of Ikki’s head in order to seal the victory.

Ikki moved all of his muscles at the same time using the technique stolen from Blade Steal.

Using the highest instant speed, the fastest strike Raikou from the secret swords he possessed, he swung horizontally at the pure white killing intent, aiming to cut her into two.

──With both his hands.

That’s right, that was Ikki’s chance of victory.

Certainly, like what Sara had said, they had a superior-inferior relationship in their sword techniques. The difference in perfection between the two was unshakable.

However......it was wrong to say that they were both using the exact same sword techniques.

That’s obvious. Edelweiss’s Device was two swords. Ikki’s was a single sword. In the first place, their battle styles were different.

And then if their styles were different, then of course there was a difference in ease of use.

Edelweiss’s twin sword style was a super attack type sword technique that shut out her opponent with an overwhelming number of strikes.

Once the opponent was captured by that circle of storm, it would be uncontrollable, but as she could only swing her swords with a single arm, each strike’s power and speed would be lesser.

On the other hand, Ikki used single sword style.

He fell short in number of strikes, but each strike’s power and speed would be above hers.

In other words, before Edelweiss’s consecutive strikes started, if he had just limited it to the first strike...

(I have the upper hand────!)


“HAaAAaAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”


And then, both sides swung their magic swords at a speed that was impossible for eyes to follow and cut through the night, crossing in a brief instant.

The pure white blade split Ikki’s scalp, and the moment it was about to cut through his skull...


The pure black blade split a horizontal line across the body of the fake of the world’s strongest knight, reducing that image into paper scraps.


「C-C-Cut apaaaaaart!!!! Contender Kurogane! Although it’s a fake, he has cut that Twin-Wings, Edelweiss into two! He has retaliated against that hopeless difference in battle power with one strikeee!!!!」

「O-Oi oi, seriously!」

「He really won......!」

「His opponent is already defenseless! Finish it in one go like that!」

“No...way............”

In the midst of the echoing cheers from the excited audiences after seeing a reversal, Sara leaked out words of astonishment.

To an amateur of sword techniques, she could not understand why fake Edelweiss had just lost.

Hence she could not comprehend the situation, only felt confused.

However, that result was obvious to Ikki.

“Even if she’s the world’s strongest, she was imagined by an artist who had never held a sword before after all. But my Intetsu is different. This is my soul. The moment I decided to advance on the path of knighthood, my life shares its fate with this sword instead of my heart. This sword holds my everything.”

His sword might not be comparable to the world’s strongest Twin-Wings.

However, despite so, that sword was the real thing filled with the inner content.

His dream of wanting to be a man like Ryoma Kurogane someday.

Not yielding the path he was advancing, and drawing a line against his father who obstructed him.

The responsibility towards the dreams of knights that reached up to the current place.

──And then, the inviolable promise with his important girl.

They were all within it.

Therefore, he could not lose.

“Heart, technique, body, these are the important things that cannot exist without the others, yet that fake was missing two of them......how could I have lost against that!”

Saying so, Ikki lowered his stance...


“This match, is my win............!”


And dashed towards Sara who had lost her strongest trump card.

In order to reach a conclusion of that showdown.

「Contender Kurugane has rushed iiiin! S-So fast!」

“~~~~~!”

On the other hand, against the incoming Ikki’s attack, Sara could only panic after losing her strongest hand that was the fake Edelweiss made with most of her magic power.

However, that probably couldn’t be helped.

The paint that was her magic power used to draw Purple Caricature only had bits remaining.

Although she still had some of her magic power left, Sara did not have a model that could win against an opponent who could defeat Twin-Wings, even if she was a fake.

She could not think of anyone that could fight against Ikki’s assault.

(There’s nothing............! I can’t come up with anything, anything............!)

She would lose at that rate.

However, if she lost there──

「In the upcoming third round, if Sara-san wins, I will be your model like you said. But if you lose instead, please give up on making me your model completely.」

──She would not be able to make Ikki her model again.

If he couldn’t become her model, it was the same as saying that she would not be able to complete her father’s relic forever.

After wandering around the whole world, Ikki was the one she had finally found.

She could not easily change her mind and find another model.

Sara clearly understood that Ikki would never fade away from her mind.

If that was the case......she would probably never be able to draw on that painting forever.

It was a premonition of an absolute defeat.

Sara felt a chill that froze the blood circulating throughout her whole body as she imagined such a future.

(That kind of thing......d-don’t want it.)

The promise to complete that painting was the only bond between her father and her.

She didn’t want to lose it.

......At first, she definitely felt like that.

However, as Sara learned about painting, she came to know about the joy of drawing, her emotion expanded.

That was ── jealousy.

Sara had spent half of her life working hard in order to fill the blank space in the painting left by her father.

Along the way, she had obviously tried to draw on it many times.

However, each time ── she lost to it.

Originally, the painting of the Messiah burning away the devils spreading around was drawn with amateurish skill, a drawing style that seemed to be more or less self-taught, and a usage of color that made one doubt his sense......from the not successful painting of a man who ended as a nameless artist, she could feel his burning passion even after his death.

Sara was already a world-recognized artist.

Her fame of course, as well as her skill, sense, everything was above her father.

Even so, she could not win.

She was frustrated. And at the same time, she admired him.

Someday, someday......she wanted to draw a painting that would not look inferior when put in the center of that painting.

She wanted to become an artist that could draw it.

She came to think like that.

Hence, it was not just a condolence to complete the painting left behind by her father.

Sara Bloodlily’s ── an artist’s pride was on the line for that challenge.

To let go of such an opportunity......she could not accept it.

There’s no way she could accept it.

Like Ikki betting his life on the path of knighthood, Sara also betted her life on the path of an artist.

(Cannot lose......I am also......!)

──In that case...

“Purple Caricature, Another One!!!!”

With a drawing speed that could be even faster than Ikki or Edelweiss’s swords, she created a fake Ikki.

What’s more ── four of them.

Ikki opened his eyes wide in surprise.

After defeating her strongest hand, he stepped in because Sara had no more means of opposing.

Such a counterattack was completely out of his expectation.

However, he wavered only for an instant.

“Seiyaa!!!!”

Ikki immediately recollected his confused mind from seeing the fakes, and decapitated one of the four fakes that challenged him with Ittou Shura, rendering it to paper scraps.

On his second breath, he easily cut down another one.

However, that’s also obvious. Since his opponents were none other than Ikki himself.

What he was good at. What he was poor at. What would be coming from that posture.

His advantages and disadvantages. His habits and tendencies ── he knew them all better than anyone.

Those half-heartedly made fakes would not be a match even if there were four of them at the same time, no matter how close to perfection they were.

However ── Sara already acknowledged such that.

The man that her strongest model, Twin-Wings, could not win against, would not be suppressed by that level.

She could never win with such an empty image.

However, just one thing.

There was just one thing that she believed that she would not lose against Ikki.

That was, the passion towards the painting, towards the path she had decided to advance.

(Just that, I definitely won’t lose to you............!)

Then ── she could draw it.

Nothing anyone else, she would materialize her own soul.

She would inject her own passion and soul into the canvas.

There’s no way it wouldn’t come out. ─In the first place, painting, creation, was just that kind of thing!

“────......”

At the same time Ikki had slain the third one, Sara took a deep breath, then infused the last of her magic power into the Brush of the Demiurge.

Then she began to imagine.

The passion within herself. An incarnation of it.

(──First, the gender should be male.)

A feminine man would not do.

Even if it was to beat the opponent before her, her own wish should be prioritized.

If she wanted to sketch out that kind of wild passion, a man big like a rock would be good.

Arms like logs that could sweep away all obstacles.

Legs like huge pillars that could trample over all reason.

And then, a huge diamond sword that would cut apart all those that stood against her will.

The flesh would be as hard as welded steel, the blood flowing through the whole body would be as hot as magma, the bravery from the blood-soaked outfit would be like of the gladiators of ancient──

......Like flowing water, Sara was creating the incarnation of her passion on the empty canvas.

Even though she wasn’t really thinking, the image overflowed without stopping.

Sara infused those overflowing inspirations and passions in a trance.

And after sketching out most of the image, when she was about to image the color of that incarnation in the end......

That, happened.

“Eh......................”

She was so shocked that she lost her voice.

Before she was even thinking, her brush was already dancing on the canvas.

And she drew it.

A painting that was the incarnation of Sara’s passion. That man’s face.

Sara gazed at the face of the incarnation she unconsciously drew ── and smiled bitterly.

“......What. I properly remembered it......”

She was convinced.

That’s how it was......there was no other appearance better than that to illustrate her passion.

She could say that she was certain right then and there.

That was, that was exactly ── the shape of her soul!


“Purple Caricature ── Mario Rosso......!”


Magic power passed through the painting that was drawn on the empty canvas, materializing it.

Appearing on the ring was a bloody gladiator in his prime with a height of three meter.

At the side of the image she drew after wringing the last of her magic power, Sara shouted.

“Ikki......it’s showdown............!”

The voice she raised did not contain an ounce of anxiety.

That voice caused Ikki’s lips to curve upwards after he slaughtered the last fake.

He understood from a single glance.

The fakes before were incomparable to it, which contained a heat seemingly to sting his skin──

That image was......the real thing.

Similar to his Intetsu, a materialization of her soul.

That was exactly──

“Just what I have hoped for......!”

Ikki took an assault stance by sinking his center of gravity down.

However, even faster than Ikki could inject power into his legs to kick off, with a speed that was not any worse than fake Edelweiss, Mario Rosso closed in and swung the huge sword in its hand at Ikki’s head.

The slash produced from that overwhelming arm strength contained power that could split the ring in two with only a single strike.

However, it could not reach Ikki.

In response to the incoming powerful strike, Ikki kicked off the ring with all his strength and leapt.

Then he used his extraordinary eyesight to evade with a hair’s breadth...

“Saigeki────ii!!!!”

A secret sword that concentrated all his momentum onto a single point, Ikki stabbed towards the center between the bloody gladiator’s eyebrows.

A clean hit with no room for complaint.

Even so...

“────!?”

The rock-like body of Mario Rosso did not budge even the slightest.

On the contrary, Ikki’s sword could not even pierce into a single layer of its skin.

Mario Rosso twisted its head to shake off Intetsu, then mow down its huge sword towards the airborne Ikki.

Even Ikki could not mobilize his body in mid air, he hurriedly used Intetsu as a shield. However──

“Gah!?!?”

The instant its diamond huge sword came into contact with Intetsu, Ikki’s whole body was trampled by an unprecedented impact, blowing him away like a ball hit by toss batting[6].

He slid over the ring for tens of meters, then rolled until the edge of the ring.

Ikki had mitigated some degree of damage like the time he was thrown out of field, and stood up immediately, but...

“Guh............!”

──Just receiving one strike had crushed both of his arms.

The bones from the tips of his hands to his shoulders were completely shattered.

It had that much of an impact. Of course, he could not hold Intetsu anymore, it spun in the air above the ring after his hands let go and fell down.

And before it fell onto the ground ── Mario Rosso chased after Ikki to deliver the finishing strike.

Its huge body dashed forward with an unbelievable speed while its powerful strike was swung down onto the ring.

It was swung with all its strength, cutting apart anything that stood in its way.

Against that, Ikki already lost his weapon and even his arms...

“I win────!”

In the next instant after Sara believed so, fresh red blood spilled onto the ring.

The blood was......boiling like magma.

“!?”

Sara opened her eyes wide in shock.

The body that was cut apart was not of Ikki, but her passion.

However, how was it done?

Even though Ikki did not have a weapon anymore.

Thinking until that far, Sara noticed.

Ikki’s movement while he was rolling, the positions the two of them were standing were──

(Oh...no............!)

Over there was the vacuum distortion that, though a fake, the world’s strongest swordsman had carved with her slashes.

That’s right. After knowing that his own slash could not pass through, Ikki had intentionally lured Mario Rosso towards that location.

And at the same time the magma-like blood of Mario Rosso spilled out, Ikki moved.

That was the moment to decide the outcome.

He maintained his low posture, dived below the vacuum distortion like the time when he rolled pass there, and passed under the side of Mario Rosso. He dashed like an arrow on the ring just like that, and bit the handle of Intetsu that was falling down with his teeth to stop its fall.

And then..

He stabbed Intetsu into the abdomen of Sara, who was still in shock, with his body as if colliding into her.



Part 13
“Ka...fu............”

Blood flowed out from Sara’s mouth as her body was stabbed, and she fell onto her knees.

At the same time, the incarnation of her passion was also blown away by the wind after becoming paper scraps.

The outcome between the two was decided at that moment.

“It’s my win.”

“..................Un.”

Sara stayed silent for a while after Ikki’s words, then acknowledged the reality in a quiet voice.

She had already exhausted all of her techniques and willpower.

Even so......the reality was that she did not win.

And then, because he accepted it──


“But......I can’t keep that promise.”


She spoke those selfish words.

Ikki’s eyes turned round in surprise.



However, Sara did not care.

It was fine even if she was ridiculed as a coward. It was fine even if she was reproached as a liar. It didn’t matter even if she was treated as a bitch.

Because...

“I am the daughter of a bastard that died falling on his canvas. This passion......I won’t give it up.”

Ikki was surprised at Sara’s selfish declaration, but he sighed as he gave up......and smiled.

“What a hopeless person you are.”

He felt troubled. However, he somehow felt glad as well.

She saw Ikki’s smiling face as he accepted her selfishness when she was losing her consciousness...... For the first time, Sara felt jealous of Stella.

And she thought.

Someday......if she were to fall in love......she wanted to love someone like that.



Part 14
Bloody Da Vinci collapsed onto the ring like a puppet with its strings cut.

At the same time, the main referee announced the end of the match.

He informed everyone that Ikki was the victor.

「We have reached the conclusion──! Another One vs Bloody Da Vinci! A fierce fight with quite a few reversals! Contender Bloodlily has shown her will at the last moment in the end, but the last one standing on the ring is Contender Kuroganeee!」

「H-He won, he won it!」

「He really won against an opponent with that kind of cheat ability!?」

「Kya! Ikki-kun is the best!!」

Applauses showered onto the winner of that fierce fight without any reserve.

Amongst the applauses, Akatsuki Academy’s Rinna Kazamatsuri sighed in disappointment.

“Hmpf. To think that even Sara lost. Even my demon eye could not have foreseen this result......With this, I can’t keep my head up in front of Tsukikage oji-sama.”

“Please don’t feel down, my lady. There are still Ouma-sama and Amane-sama left.”

“Well, that’s true......But I don’t understand. Even though there’s the weakness of only being able to take action according to its 「drawn concept」, Sara’s Purple Caricature should have undoubtedly reproduced the power of White Summit[7]. As Sara was there during the 「Big Cleanup」 by White Summit in Middle East, she definitely witnessed it directly......Even so, why did she lose in the fight? It’s not like Another One is in the same league as White Summit.”

“It might be true in regards to their total specs, but if he knew where his opponent’s first strike would come from, it’s not impossible for him to win the fight. Kurogane-sama has an advantage in terms of the difference in their battle style.”

“Difference in battle style?”

“Yes. The sword technique that fake Edelweiss and Kurogane-sama used was to bring out the highest speed and greatest power in an instant, which was its main concept, by moving all the related muscles at the same time. However, the main concept may be the same, their Devices are different. Compared to fake Edelweiss’s twin sword style, Kurogane-sama is one sword style. In that case──”

“Ah! Another One holding the sword with both his hands will have an advantage in a single hit!”

“Exactly. The total amount of muscles mobilized in that instant is double through a simple calculation. The kinetic energy generated by utilizing all that will make several times the difference. By breaking through with that advantage and the weakness of Purple Caricature only being able to take action according to its 「drawn concept」, Kurogane-sama seized the victory in that moment.”

“I see......there’s such a principle behind it.”

“However, this principle is possible obviously because of Kurogane-sama’s high level of sword technique. Normal people probably won’t be able to reach Sara-sama’s Purple Caricature even if they knew the principle......As expected of the knight called Another One despite being F-Rank, he lives up to that nickname.”

Originally, those two were not from the side that should be happy about Ikki’s victory, but they honestly felt admiration towards Ikki’s strength for defeating Bloody Da Vinci without his trump card Ittou Shura.

However, besides the two of them, Stella, who should have been the most happy for Ikki’s victory was...

Trembling.

Was it due to Ikki’s victory?

No.

She was............able to comprehend it because she had that level of power.

The real reason for the victory of that battle.

Certainly, it was a fact that Ikki used the advantage of one sword style.

However ── the reason of his victory was not that. It was also not the difference in battle style.

As for the reason why......aiming at the weakness of Purple Caricature, even after using the advantage between their battle style ── in the instant they crossed each other, the side that touched the opponent first with the blade was none other than fake Edelweiss.

That’s right. Heart, technique, body, despite missing two out of the three, the world’s strongest sword still did not allow the young samurai to take initiative.

Stella definitely witnessed that instant.

Hence, she resolved herself for Ikki’s loss.

However......the result was as it was shown.

Ikki’s blade severed his opponent’s life first.

Why exactly was that the case?

Stella was confused, and after that............shivered.

She noticed.

At the instant of that contact, Ikki took a devil-like tactic.

(Ikki has probably realized it too............)

It would be impossible for Ikki Kurogane to misjudge the difference in strength between him and his opponent. He knew it.

Even if it was a fake without inner contents, even if he used the advantage of the first strike, his opponent’s slash would reach him first.

That’s why he covered up for that delay......by using the characteristic of Purple Caricature.

He lured the slash towards his head, taking it with his skull, which was the hardest bone in the human body!

Of course, no matter how hard it was in terms of human bone, Edelweiss’s sword could easily split it in half.

However, its speed would drop regardless compared to cutting flesh.

That was probably a fraction of instant not even reaching 0.1 second, but──

Both of them had a slashing speed that normal people couldn’t even see.

Just filling up that......the outcome was reversed.

And he grasped it.

From the opponent even Stella could not see any hope of winning, he won in just one round.

(......Geez, what a guy............)

Against the white blade, the world’s number one slash, the idea to use his own head as a shield......was not normal.

The moment he thought of it already meant that he was abnormal.

To actually carry it out, he was already at the level of being doubted about his sanity.

However ── being able to do that was exactly the knight that was Ikki Kurogane.

A failure with F-Rank that could not even be treated as a Blazer by the country.

His opponents were always above him.

He had fought his way through with only those kinds of battles.

He was constantly giving his all and putting his life on the line.

He would pour in every effort he could think of and moved in to fight...... and continued to obtain victories.

──And from there, he had cultivated his extraordinary strength.

That was already beyond the range that Stella and the others could imagine.

And with such dimensionally different tactics and tenacity, in the face of a difference in battle power that did not contain a fragment of a chance of victory through others’ eyes, a disadvantage without a chance of reversal ── he completely overturned it.

That was the real horror of Worst One, Ikki Kurogane, who had refined himself through countless disadvantageous battles.

Stella shivered at the horror of that Ikki...

(Seriously, only against you alone, I don’t feel that it would be easy to win......Ikki!)

She trembled from the joy that overwhelmed her fear.

No matter how overwhelming the difference between their power was, she would not be at an advantage.

To the strong ones, there was no opponent more troublesome than him.

Because Ikki was like that, she couldn’t stop herself from loving him.

If it was him, he could probably take her on at her full strength.

Power, technique, heart......he could probably take on everything she had and stop it.

(After that......just one more thing!)

The moment of bliss with her most beloved rival.

The time she dreamt of had already come so close to the point where she felt like her hand could almost reach out to it.



1 Mawashi - The loincloth sumo wrestlers wear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawashi  
2 Shiko - An exercise sumo wrestlers use. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iPX7GQZjQM  
3 Dosukoi - A sumo exclamation used to tell the opponent to come, also can be used as provocation.  
4 If the announcer cannot see the situation, then the announcer will not be able to report the battle, that is interfering with the announcer’s job.  
5 元服して一年 - It’s a Japanese coming-of-age ceremony, signifying that the child has attained adulthood by wearing the Genpuku.  
6 Toss batting - A batting technique for softball.  
7 White Summit - 《白き頂》 Another nickname for Edelweiss.  

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