I hardly have enough time to even ask myself where she could have pulled such a massive sword from before she begins to free herself by stabbing each of the now glowing red hands still attached to her. She works quickly and efficiently despite the burns that have begun appearing on her. As each of the hands falls away they leave a dark hand-shaped mark on her skin.
As injured as she is I expect to see a look on anguish or anger, but instead, she looks about ready to hum with pleasure.
“What an incredible fight! I have never seen such clever usage of magic before! To think that the surprise victor against the Kolossaal was a mage this whole time! However, will magic be enough to stop Afeuro now that she has drawn her signature weapon? What do you think Yuusha-sama?” The Announcer excitedly breaks down his thoughts about the fight
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don’t be fooled. Mano is actually far more skilled in the art of the sword than magic! Now that Afeuro has drawn her sword the fight is about ready to finally begin!” The moronic Yuusha barks in response
As he says this suddenly I can see anger suddenly wipe across Afeuro’s face. Now free from her bonds, she begins to slowly walk towards me. However, what’s odd is that she isn’t brandishing her sword. Not wanting to let this battle become close-range I begin to panic.
“That is close enough!” I yell out as I prepare another fireball above my head
Not wanting to waste mana on an attack I’m not confident will hit, however, I use the bare minimum to maintain a threatening appearance.
She stops dead in her tracks and begins to stare daggers into me.
“You… why haven’t you… drawn your sword?!” She angrily yells, her voice cracking as she tries to raise its volume to reach between us
“…I’m not nearly the swordsman that idiot claims I am. I just got off a lucky strike in front of him the first time we met.” I answer honestly
Is she insulted? I suppose if you thought I was some great swordsman, then refusing to draw my blade would be as if I wasn’t taking her seriously.
“You’re… lying!” She yells as she begins rushing towards me readying a strike
She’s fast! I can see the attack coming, but there is no time to dodge!
I quickly throw up a small barrier between me and her large sword, with only a moment to cast it however it cracks as it absorbs the blow.
There is hardly enough time to react however as she whips the sword around as if it were weightless and begins a flurry of blows from every direction. I dodge what I can, but I’m forced to block most of the attacks.
I repeatedly cast barriers, each time breaking instantly, but with every strike, the delay between attacks grows faster. I can feel my reaction time begin to slip as my barriers begin to fall behind.
If I don’t do something quick her attacks are going to begin to land!
“Fine, I give up! You want me to use my sword so badly, then here it is!” I say as I quickly draw the sword from my side and lunge towards her
As I do she deftly avoids my strike with a small leap backward.
The anger clears from her face, as she is clearly happy to have gotten her way.
I take up the stance beaten into me be Shishou. He always seemed so indomitable when he took up this stance, as he would toss aside my heavy strikes as if they were nothing. I need that more than anything right now.
Afuero takes up a fighting stance as well. I brace myself for another assault, but instead, there is silence between us. We stand there on guard, reading each other, and waiting for an opportunity to strike.
I want to spend this time setting up traps, but if I get distracted she will pounce for sure.
“…The tension down there is legendary, as possibly the greatest swordsman of our generation size each other up. I fear even commentating for fear of breaking their concentr-” the announcer says in a low voice
“You can do it swordsman lady! Ma? Mano? Right! You can do it Mano!” The reprehensibly Yuusha yells out interrupting him
“You forgot my name?! And stop ruining the mood, you moron!” I yell out, unable to control my rage at his stupidity
For a moment I think my rage has started to blind me, as a darkness sweeps into my field of vision.
“Distracted,” Afeuro says plainly as she brings down a strike towards my off guard self
I jump backward in a desperate attempt to avoid the strike but to little avail. The strike lands across my chest and creates a large gash that instantly starts spewing forth blood. Although landing with such a wound hurts, I jump back again immediately to gain some distance so I can heal.
That’s it, I’ve decided, I will kill that idiot someday. For now, however, I would be delighted if he could shut up before he gets me killed!
I immediately start casting restore on my wounds, but upon seeing my wounds begin to close Afuero rushes towards me yet again.
“I…won’t…let…you!” She says between massive swings of her weapons, that I can barely stop with my barriers at all
As I block her relentless attacks my wounds quickly close, but I can already see her attacks beginning to grow in power and speed. It seems she still isn’t warmed up yet, as her attacks grow more ferocious by the moment.
It isn’t long before the barriers cease to even stop the blows, instead only managing to slow them down on impact. I am forced to dodge the remainder of each strike.
Not wanting to be backed into a corner again, I repeat my previous strategy of lunging at her with my sword whenever I find an opening. Much to my surprise, however, she simply lets me do so. Unless the blow is aimed at a vital location, Afuero simply takes the blow without so much as flinching and continues her assault.
Even a blow that she is forced to dodge does little to slow her, as she always dodges with the minimal amount of movement prioritizing keeping me under pressure.
This won’t work for long… I can hardly keep up with the mental load of trying to find gaps in her defenses whilst continually casting magic to defend myself. It’s like trying to move four hands at once, and worse… it’s becoming less effective by the second. If I don’t start setting up a finishing move then I’m toast. I don’t even know if I can cast multiple spells at once while keeping up with close combat, but it’s the only plan I can think of.
with that decision made I begin to push myself even further as I begin pouring every ounce of the mana I have left into my final gamble.
The world begins to fade away, as all I can afford to think about is “Attack, defend, refine”
I repeat it like a mantra in my head to help me focus.
Attack, defend, refine.
Attack, defend, refine.
Attack, defend, refine.
As the blows grow faster, and my dodges become more narrow, I can see death growing nearer and nearer with every strike. My mantra turns into a single word. A plea to myself to ignore my fear.
A surprise attack from Afeuro ends my mantra. Unbeknownst to myself, in my hyper-focused state, she had sneakily turned her blade sideways and opted to instead smash through the barrier… and several of my ribs.
My thoughts come to a halt as I am sent tumbling away, desperately trying to breathe with the air knocked out of me. When I finally stop rolling I am left gasping pathetically on the ground as I nurse my ribs.
Afeuro, now well aware of my ability to recover, begins walking towards me to finish this. The look on her face is not one of joy or victory, but one of disappointment.
In one last hail mary attempt, I drag myself to my feet, still fighting to fill my lungs with air, and use earth manipulation to create a long stone spear. I turn it into iron using transmutation before picking it up and throwing it with all of my remaining strength.
Afeuro doesn’t so much as slow her approach, and simply lifts her blade gingerly in front of her face to block the incoming spear… However, the clash of metal she was obviously expecting never came. As she lowers her massive weapon that obscured her vision she sees the spear suspended there in front of her, in a thick barrier that wraps around her.
She immediately attempts to swing her sword to break it, but her weapon is too massive for the small barrier cast around her. There is no space to swing it. She drops the sword and immediately starts beating on the walls of the barrier, cracks forming with each attack.
Thankfully she focused on the wrong part of my trap.
I thrust my sword towards her and yell out with all my might
“Ai-Fa-Aer Stun!” and as I do a stream of lightning shoots out from my blade and into the iron spear
Although I can not hear a peep through the thick barrier I created, as the lightning passes through the rod into Afeuro she looks as if she begins to writhe and scream in pain.
For a moment I think I’ve won, and she stops beating on the barrier, but with the lightning coursing through her and a new anger on her face, she resumes her assault on her prison.
What is she?!
I attempt to raise the power of my lightning, but my mana has already reached the bottom of the well. Desperate I try still, hoping that she goes down before I fall from mana-loss.
As I feel my consciousness begin to fade there is a change in the lightning. It begins to shift from a bright purple to an ominous black color. As it does Afeuro reals back in pain once more.
More desperate than before she begins to punch the barrier with all of her might, but just as it looks like she is about to escape her strikes begin to slow until finally… she falls to the ground.
Unable to keep them going any longer I release both spells, and as the harsh crackling of the lightning stops, silence sweeps the arena.
“…It’s… IT’S OVER! The upset of the century has happened, and Mano was progressed to the final round!”
Hearing the official words my strengths seeps out from me. I fall to the ground, wincing at the pain in my ribs. My mana is gone in its entirety, there is none left to heal myself.
“That was an absolutely incredible match! If I didn’t know any better, I would actually say she could give you some trouble in tomorrows match Yuusha-sama!” The announcer excitedly continues, ignoring my collapse
That’s fine. I don’t need help or anything. I only have several broken ribs and can’t move due to my lack of mana.
“Hard to say… She was clearly hiding her true strength. She hardly used her sword in the match at all after all. I’m sure she will pull out an even more surprising move during our match.
No? Nobody is going to acknowledge the fact that I’m not moving? I could be dead you know? Also, stop focusing on my sword skills so much!