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KENS Interlude 6

Interlude 6

(Souichi POV)

As Aya climbed up the arena, loud cheering, incomparable to the ones Francesca-senpai got, rose in the audience.

We were currently at 1 win and 2 losses.

If Aya lost here, the match will be decided. And for a hero to fight at such a time, it’s only normal for the audience to get so excited.

Looking up towards guest seats, I saw Yui-chan watching the match from the balcony.

I couldn’t hear her from here but by the looks of it she seemed to be cheering Aya on.

“Will Aya-san be able to win?”

“I doubt she’d have any problem to be honest.”(souichi)

The one who asked me that was the only one in our team except me and Aya who had won all her fights, Francesca-senpai.

It seems her travelling with Renji-niichan wasn’t just for show as she definitely seemed to be levels above normal students. Even in the first and second round, though she must have been underestimated, she still did win against pro adventurers so her ability was the real deal.

Well, even if Aya and I won, if noone else had won their fights, we would be able to advance so honestly, I’m relieved that she had such skill.

And currently, it seems like the damage she took from her previous battle was still left as she walked slightly unsteadily. No matter how I looked at her, it seemed dangerous.

“That aside, are you sure you should be walking already? I think you should sit down for a bit more.”(souichi)

“uu……..is it that easy to tell?”(fran)

“Well, yeah.”

After all, her steps are not firm at all.

Even if Francesca-senpai’s magical energy wasn’t that high, exploding the air so close was still overdoing it. In the worst case, she could have blown her own eardrums as well.

In fact, it should be said that she was lucky to have just taken some damage and fainted for a while after that. Nobody at the magic academy teaches such a way of fighting. Where the hell did she learn that?

“Aya’ll be fine. She’ll definitely win.”(souichi)

“Eh?”

I held not a sliver of doubt when I said that.

Certainly, Aya is one of the summoned like us and even strong enough to be called as the Grand Magus, having reached the peak of magic.

But above all, I know that a word like [definitely] doesn’t exist.

No matter how advantageous of a situation there is, even a mall mistake could overturn it all. Despair was always there, right by our side.

But, even then.

We are supposed to be [Heroes].

A human known as a [Hero] is simply not allowed to lose. That, is a definite fact.

{Heroes] who are meant to be the hope of the people must win no matter what.

There is no such thing as ‘definite’ in this world, yet, we must definitely win.

……..that’s the kind of existences we are.

Though there are times when we were told that we simply think too much about it but I believe that that is what being a [Hero] is all about.

Well, the definition of a Hero varies from person to person though.

“Rather than that, watch her carefully.”(souichi)

Saying that, I turned back to look at the arena.

In Aya’s hands was just a staff made of oak wood that could easily be mistaken for a normal stick.

Her opponent had, though blunted, a splendid long sword. Judging by the way he seemed adept with an unfamiliar sword provided by the tournament administration, the guy must be a very adept fighter.

Even his expression seemed to hold confidence. Even if his opponent was Aya, she was a magician. He must be thinking that if he could push this fight into a close quarters, he’ll be able to defeat her with a flurry of sword swings.

His expression is clearly showing that.

“I think, this’ll be a good learning experience for you as well.”(souichi)

Inside my head, the magic [voice] resounded. The opponent and Aya’s introductions began.

It seems the opponent fighter was pretty well known in his school. He was a year older than us, and also seemed to have experience as an adventurer like Francesca-senpai.

It seems he’s not a noble born which is why he seems to have some pride in his sword skills.

Against him was Aya, a top student of the Magic Academy and the Grand Magus. One of the [Heroes] that subjugated the Demon God and also the world’s greatest magician.

Both of them faced each other on the arena. One held a blunt long sword while the other held a wooden staff that looked like a stick.

I think Francesca-senpai was also worried due to the difference in their weapons as well. Since she was unable to deal with the large sword used by her opponent with her short sword, she must be worried for Aya who just had a staff.

“It’s starting.”

When I said that, the magic [voice] declared match start and at the same time, the swordsman, like common sense would dictate, instantly moved to reduce the distance between them. To stop Aya from activating magic.

Magic was manifested from the imagination of the caster. Then first, so that the magician becomes unable to freely imagine, to obstruct their thought process, it is considered basic to put as much pressure by closing in on the magician as possible.

Certainly, against a normal magician that is a very viable tactic.

In this world, the job of magicians was the same as artillery. To use long ranged attacks with wide area of effect to destroy the groups of enemies. That’s the first and foremost expectation of a magician on the battlefield.

After that, by working together with a knight or other similar warriors, they use magic to destroy single enemies one by one while the knight holds the enemy back.

In either case, the image of [magicians are to be protected by close range fighters] was strong.

In that sense, the definition of magician was not applicable to Aya. She’d be a new type of magician. That’s exactly why she’s called the [Grand Magus].

Well, it was Koutarou-san who gave her that name at first and he was also the one who made it popular with the public though.

I’m pretty sure the main reason for him was probably – ‘since we’re in a different world, it’d be cooler to have aliases and nicknames!’ or something like that. As a matter of fact he is the only one in this whole world who possess the title of [The Wizard] as well. In easier words, he just wants ‘something’ that sets us apart from normal people……..at least that’s what others said.

In Aya’s case, out of embarrassment or something of being given such a nickname she really dislikes Koutarou-san.

……….Even I think it’s pretty cool though.

But if I say that, she’ll really angry so I won’t.

While I was wondering about such things, the match had already begun.

Even though he wasn’t much older than us, his sword looked sharp as he attacked Aya. His sword swing’s speed and power probably surpasses the one who fought against Francesca-senpai.

But Aya didn’t run away from it, instead she faced it head on.

Receiving the sword swung towards her with her staff with full confidence, she parried it away turning the attack powerless. I wonder how magicians are there in this world that can deflect a sword with a wooden staff?

Her fighting style was actually quite similar to what Francesca-senpai uses. Or rather should I say, Francesca-senpai’s fighting style resembles Aya’s.

Chasing after the same person and looking at the same person’s fighting style, I guess it was normal for both of them to end up with the same fighting style. While thinking that, I observed Aya’s fight closely.

Maybe it was obvious but Aya’s movements were incomparably polished than Francesca-senpai’s. With just the minimum required movement, while negating the opponents attacks, she kept herself with lots of room to act. Just like a swordsman is supposed to put pressure on a magician by closing in, instead she was putting pressure on him by constantly parrying his attacks.

And all this was being done by her without the help of any boost to physical abilities through magic. And also because she’d get scolded by the tournament and arena managers, she wasn’t even allowed to use her trap and pitfall magic. Those ones would completely destroy the arena after all and it’ll take too much time to repair it all again apparently.

Meanwhile, the opponent’s swings started becoming rougher and sloppier. He must be really confident of his close combat skill as he didn’t seem to want to admit that he was being defeated by a magician in it and didn’t fall back. And that gap in his mind would result in mistakes in his fighting style.

No matter what the situation, no matter who the opponent was, you must maintain your cool. It’s very difficult, I know, but it’s still very important.

As he swung another side slash, it lacked it’s speed and power and Aya was in no way going to let go of that opening as she struck his hand with her staff ending his attack. It must have been a perfectly done counter hit as that one attack made him drop his sword.

Holding his hand that as struck, he kneeled down without even trying to pick his sword again. It seemed like his hand hurt a bit too much, maybe even his bones had been hurt.

And that was the end. In my head, the [voice] declaring Aya as winner resounded. Even though this was supposed to be the 3rd round’s vice-leader match, it ended so quickly.

“See, she won.”(souichi)

“……..haa. As expected, she, Aya-san, really is strong”(fran)

The audience made excited noises as the match had ended in the same time as we spent talking.

Most of the crowd was shouting Aya’s name. Probably because Aya’s pretty cute, she was pretty popular with men as well. As her childhood friend, it’s pretty complicated to be honest.

In the meantime, Aya came down from the arena. As if it was normal, she was neither sweating nor even out of breath.

“Good job.”(souichi)

“Good job, Aya-san.”(fran)

As me and Francesca-senpai spoke to her, she silently but while giving us a smile, stood alongside us. The remaining teammates got the same reaction.

Aya wasn’t really cold to others. She was shy/anxious around strangers but she was already pretty open to all our teammates.

But, somehow…….her dignified, or should I say, her personality  of creating walls around herself felt really confusing. It was the same for everyone else.

Thinking till that, I looked up once more. This time, not just Yui-chan but even Renji-niichan was watching from the balcony. Probably he came to see Aya’s match. And also Aya’s reaction. Even though normally she’d give a high five at such situations, right now she was acting as if it was normal for her to win.

I’m sure he must be making a teasing face right now while seeing Aya…thinking that, I realized I was smiling as well.

“Looks like you were able to show your coolness in front of Renji-niichan, eh?”(souichi)

“———-”

“Ack!?!”

My foot was crushed in silence.

I wasn’t in full armament like Masaki-chan so I was only wearing some thin leather boots. That’s why…….it really hurt. While becoming silent myself, I grit my teeth to avoid screaming in pain.

As expected, it’d be too uncool to squat down from the pain so I endured it.

But, Francesca-senpai who noticed it seemed surprised, or rather was making a pained face in my place.

“Shut up.”(aya)

“…..yes.”

In my opinion, rather than acting all mature like that I think Renji-niichan would enjoy her happily celebrating her victory more though.

Well, I’ll get my foot crushed again so I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

I’m worried that he’d actually think that Aya had a dry personality who’d act like it was obvious for her to win instead since she looks pretty mature as well. That said, if it’s Renji-niichan, he probably understands Aya’s personality pretty well already so it should be fine.

In truth, she’s actually pretty emotional and also has a very childish side as well. Even then, she’d always try to act tough and would always act like she’s angry when she’s actually embarrassed.

Well, I’m pretty sure there are guys out there who find that nice but for those who know her true personality……..well, it’s not like I know everything about her either though. But still, I feel like it’d be fine if she’d act a bit more sweet and childish than now. At least when Renji-niichan is watching.

I’m pretty sure she’d seem much cuter then.

“Souichi-san, calling a girl ‘cool’ isn’t really a compliment.”(fran)

“Wha”(souichi)

“Guh…….that’s not it!”(aya)

What the hell——-how should I say this, but hearing Francesca-senpai’s stupid words, I could also only answer looking stupid.

After that, I got scolded by Aya in a low voice. Why me?? Well, it’s the usual so I don’t really care anymore.

But, maybe she got a bit embarrassed, her cheeks were a bit red so she didn’t feel scary at all.

Instead, I ended up smiling when she looked at me like that.

There’s nothing more amusing than seeing your childhood friend’s state in love.

But, I still get my foot crushed though.

……….. There’s nothing more physically painful than seeing your childhood friend’s state in love as well it seems.

“Just go and quickly win the next round as well.”(aya)

“Yeah, sure.”

“You need to show your cool form to Renji-sama as well right?”(fran)

“Please, enough of that!”

Francesca-senpai teased us a bit at that.

Why is it that I get my foot crushed but Francesca-senpai only get an embarrassed reaction from her? I can’t get over this bias. Is it because I’m a guy?

In front of this unreasonable absurdity, and while tilting my head in confusion while looking at my childhood friend hiding her embarrassment, I climbed into the arena as told by the [voice].

On the other side, Masaki-san climbed up while giving a wide smile.

“As usual, you guys are so lively. It makes me a bit jealous Souichi-kun.”(masaki)

“Want to switch places with me?”

“I’ll have to decline you on that offer.”

Saying that, Masaki-san hid her mouth with her hand as she laughed. How elegant looking, or should I say graceful way of laughing she has.

Yet, she’s dressed in such dangerous looking equipment. After all, that’s the same outfit she had when fighting during the Demon God’s subjugation. That’s not what one would wear for just a fighting tournament.

Maybe my thoughts showed on my face as the playful atmosphere disappeared from around Masaki-san.

“I told you that I’ll fight seriously, didn’t I?”

“And I am sure I refused you as well.”

“Yes. That’s why, I alone will get serious.”

Saying that, she extended her hand towards the [katana] fixed to her waist.

Katana. A japanese sword. It shouldn’t exist in this world, it’s a sword from our world.

But, I didn’t feel the magical energy that comes with it usually. And the colour of that sheath was……it didn’t have a colour that would indicate that it was one of her demonic swords. It was not Ruby(red), Sapphire(blue), emerald(green), Topaz(yellow) or Silver.

The shape of the black sheath showed that it was definitely a katana but I don’t recall seeing that one before.

“This one, I had Rin-san forge this for me just for this tournament.”(masaki)

Realizing my gaze, she told me so.

Ah, I see. I could also understand that.

Rin-san who was an [Item Creator] could definitely create a katana as well. Back when we were travelling together as well, when we had not yet gotten holy swords and demonic swords, Rin-san was the one who made weapons for us.

“………isn’t that unfair?”(souichi)

“If you think it is, you can draw your holy sword, you know?”

“I think I’ll pass on that.”

The way of using western swords and japanese katana was completely different. In fact you could say that it’s equal for her to use a katana and me to use a western sword.

But, I was using a dull sword provided by the coliseum and she was using a katana forged by a hero. It might not be equal after all. Of course, meaning that I was at a disadvantage.

While we were talking like this, the magic [voice] resounded in my head and the introduction for me and Masaki-san began. Even after so many times it really still feels weird to hear someone talk about you in front of so many people. A bit embarrassing.

“fufu.”

Maybe she realized my inner thoughts as she gave a small laugh.

And she began to move out a bit just where we were out of each other’s swords’ reach. I as well, to match her placed myself on the arena.

The introductions finally ended.

I drew my sword from the sheath and threw the sheath away.

Masaki-san remained just like the way she was, with her katana still inside the sheath.

“Fuu.”

I took a breath.

I am a bit nervous. I felt I was gripping my sword slightly stronger than I should.

How many times has it been when I’ve held the sword like this facing against Masaki-san?

I felt a bit nostalgic.

Both me and Masaki-san were swordsmen/women.

We were not warriors like Renji-niichan, Itou-san or Enomiya-san.

And neither were we knights like Kuuki-san.

We have clashed our swords and fought each other countless times to test our skills.

Sword and Katana. Even with the difference in those two.

“Let’s do this!!”

“Come!!”

——at least in a sword fight, I don’t want to lose to anyone.

That alone, we won’t let each other have.

We were both on the opposite ends of the arena. Normal people might take a few seconds to get to each other but for us, we covered that distance in an instant. Kicking the floor with my leg, we moved while destroying the floor with our momentum.

“Waah!!”

“Zeeyaah!!”

I swung down my sword and Masaki-san cut at it with her katana.

She used Battoujutsu. (T/N:The art of drawing the katana from the sheath and striking very fast.)

Using the momentum of drawing the katana from its sheath, the swing possessed far more speed than a normal slash of the katana.

And Masaki-san also had the divine protection of the goddess on her that gave her superhuman physical ability and above that, her katana was something created by Rin-san, a Hero as well.

Unable to withstand such a slash, my sword was cut in half.

“tchh!”

With the momentum of having cut through my sword, the katana swung towards my neck.

Following the katana coming towards me with my eyes in that instant, I killed my momentum and jumped backwards. My chest was slashed slightly and a prickling pain came to me. If Masaki-san had taken one more step further, it would have been a fatal attack. Or rather, if I hadn’t dodged I would’ve definitely died.

Did she swing confident that I’d dodge or was she unable to simply stop herself in time?……..It’s probably the latter. But yet, for some reason, I felt happy inside.

If it’s me, I can react to it. If it’s me I can dodge it. If it’s me, I will not die. That was acknowledgement and trust from the battle junkie Masaki-san and also a proof that she was serious. And being faced with that I only felt happy………maybe deep inside I’m also a battle junkie.

Even though this test of strength was closer to an actual battle to the death; I’m sure Yayoi would call me imprudent and scold me.

In my hands was a sword cut from the middle. And Masaki-san once again, sheathed her katana.

She’s not sure of her victory or anything. Even now, her waist was still lowered, fully prepared to react against anything I might do next.

While seeing her reaction, I also lowered my waist and took stance with my still broken sword.

The magic [voice] had yet not declared who was the winner. Normally, the fact that my sword gut cut to two would decide the winner but I have not given up yet!

“Fuu………”

I took a long, deep breath.

I focused all of my nerves. I turned all my vision towards Masaki-san. Even the cheers that could make the air tremble and the shouts of encouragement were now out not audible to me.

Just, only——next, I will cut Masaki-san.

I thought of just that.

Only a moment had passed.

Or maybe it was a few seconds.

Maybe even more than that.

Once more, both us moved at the same time.

Almost foolhardily from the front, as if to recreate the previous time where my sword got cut, I rushed to attack.

The only difference was that I only had half of my sword now.

But even so, Masaki-san showed neither negligence nor overconfidence. Maintaining her katana drawing stance, she jumped in towards me.

What she released was a slash that could tear through even steel.

As my reply to that, I took one step even further towards her. Since half of my blade was gone, my sword won’t reach even where hers could.

Then, all I had to do was take another step, and use the lower remaining portion of my sword to block it. No matter how sharp the katana was, only a portion of the wielder’s physical strength is carried inside the slash.

If I could block her where the strength in her sword was the lowest, even this dull sword of mine will be able to block it.

We were close enough that our faces could hit each other. I moved faster. I used my other hand to grab her by her collar.

In such cases, a katana which is long becomes disadvantageous. She will become unable to both swing or thrust the katana. Even if I don’t have a big body, I am still a guy who has received the [Divine Protection of the Goddess] as well. I won’t lose in terms of brute strength. While still holding her collar, I slammed her down on the stone floor. Since we’re still in the middle of the match, I was unable to control my power properly when smashing her down on the floor.

And then, I pushed the broken sword to her neck.

“That……. hurt!”(masaki)

“Do you, surrender?”

Masaki-san groaned in pain and my breathing had become rough as well.

If she didn’t have her breastplate, I would’ve looked completely like a pervert pushing a girl down while groping her breasts.

“……………”

“……………”

Just like that, a few moments pass.

As I waited for Masaki-san’s pain to fade away…

“Pervert.”

While slightly blushing, she said that.

At the same time, the magic [voice]——-informed that I had lost due to foul play and Masaki-san had won.

“Eh!?!?”

Surprised, I jumped up from Masaki-san.

No matter how you look at it, this was my win right?!

Thinking that I looked towards Aya only to see her give a wide smile. That, is the smile she gives when she’s really angry. This isn’t the smile she shows towards Renji-niichan. While feeling confused as to what happened, I saw silver hair that shouldn’t come in my view normally.

There, in a panic I brought my own bangs/forelocks in front of me to see them.

My hair that are supposed to be black had turned silver.

Finally, I understood what happened. Before taking part in the tournament, I recalled what Yuuko-san had told me.

“”You are not allowed to use either holy sword or demonic swords, and are also supposed to hold back your abilities when fighting.””

She had told me so.

“fufu. That last one……….Souichi-kun’s serious strength, was really great.”(masaki)

Hearing her, I finally realized.

I, at the final moment——-when I felt happy seeing Masaki-san’s serious mode, I ended up suing my full strength.

I was using not just the magical energy given to me by Astraera-sama, but even the supply from the Spirit God Zwenelia-sama; the fact that I was in my form when I prepare to draw the [Holy Sword] was proof of that.

As I dropped my shoulders, the audience gave a huge cheer again.

They must have gotten all excited seeing this form of mine.  Apparently, when in this form, I resemble the Goddess quite a lot or so they say. Even though I’m a guy.

Also, could you please not make such a pleased expression with a red face while saying things like ‘my serious strength’. You’ll definitely make me imagine weird things. Or rather, I’ll end up imagining them. I’m also a guy in puberty you know?

But that rude delusions also lasted for a moment. 2 to 3, the [voice] declared that our team had lost.

As for me, I’m more scared about the scolding I’m surely about to get from my dear old childhood friend though.

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