Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth
[Translator – Mab ]
[Proofreader – ilafy ]
Chapter 32 - Swordsmanship vs. the Lack of it
I designated the location for our match to be out of the public’s eye.
Radiant-san and her fellow knights didn’t have any reason to refuse, so the duel was easily set up behind the tavern.
We pledged our mutual desire to duel on the Line, then drew our swords. My sword, by the way, was something I had borrowed from one of the knights and not Araith Household’s Treasured Sword. There was no need to use a weapon with such a high ATK for a match that was likely to be cut short.
“—Magic, «Dimension Gladiator», Magic, «Foam»”
I murmured, then felt the magic sensation spreading out. Several magic bubbles also overflowed from my sword.
The first of the magic tactics that I wanted to experiment with—the practice of using «Foam».
In fact, as a result of continually experimenting with «Foam» in the Labyrinth when I had some time to spare, I had found some use for it.
There were many instances of me using «Dimension» and «Foam» together. When that happened, I realized that «Foam» was assisting «Dimension».
On its own, «Foam» didn’t produce much effect. However, when it was used together with another Dimension-attribute magic, it showed its true value.
In other words, the bubble made of magic allowed me to grasp space even more strongly. In terms of magic feel, each bubble managed to store the entirety of «Dimension» within its boundary. That was its general idea.
When combined with «Connection», the magic that normally would take time to create a door within a limited range from me, it was then possible to create a door much farther away without taking much time by containing «Connection» within the bubble.
Of course, in that duel, I used the bubbles to aid «Dimension».
First, I put bubbles containing «Dimension» on my sword. That alone increased my spatial comprehension of my sword, allowing me to understand more precisely how the sword was moving and what vector force was being applied. It was as if the sword had become one of my own organs.
I took the kendo stance with my sword engulfed in bubbles. Seeing that, Radiant-san laughed scornfully.
“Heh, is that supposed to be enhancement magic…? Still, not only is it not the Holy Magic of our Founder, but your stance is also sub-par. Someone so shallow poses no threat to me.”
Saying so, Radiant-san casted her own magic.
A white light illuminated Radiant-san’s body. It was similar to the Holy Magic Dia performed. It probably had the same attribute.
As I watched her, I casually checked on her ‘Constitution’ through the ‘Display’.
Physical Enhancement: 1.00
What an easy-to-understand effect. If anything, I felt sorry for Radiant-san since she had to deal with my Dimensional Magic for the first time.
“Let’s start then.”
“Ready when you are.”
Radiant-san took half a step back, the one-handed sword in her right hand was pointing to the ground. That was a peculiar sword stance. It looked quite disadvantageous from my point of view. However, considering her ‘Swordsmanship Skill’ was quite high, there was no way that it was just an appearance.
I built up strength in my axial leg, trying to increase the internal pressure in my muscles. From the looks of it, the female knight didn’t seem to set up a trick. I could guess that she intended to tank what feeble attack she thought I could muster. I didn’t mind if we continued locking gazes like that, but wasting time was against my beliefs.
I exhaled, released the compressed strength I built up in my legs, and closed the distance at once. My sword, moving in tandem with me, went straight towards her right hand, but she dodged the flash with a wide margin. In the same evading motion, she swung her sword up to my neck.
It was one fluid movement that happened in an instant—a brilliant counterattack that showed a glimpse of tireless effort behind it.
My eyes, however, caught it with no problem. Due to the nature of my magic, it was simply impossible for me to miss it. I quickly pulled my body back and created a distance to evade the blow to my neck.
After a brief exchange of blows, I quickly distanced myself and returned to my previous position. I looked at Radiant-san, and she seemed surprised that I had managed to evade her attack.
“…Hou. You’re not half-bad for a crook.”
She appraised me condescendingly.
I wouldn’t blame her. After all, it was her who pulled her punch earlier.
I replayed our brief exchange in my mind. Then, I realized. I had aimed to open a wound on her hand, but Radiant-san was going to stop exactly before her blade touched my neck—she had the skill to do that.
I gulped. Not because of fear, no.
It was a longing that almost took my breath away.
It was a sensation I didn’t feel when I faced Tida. It was probably because Tida hardly had any technique in his movements. He did wield blades, but there was no technique behind them. He relied on pure strength based on his overwhelming STR and AGI.
That duel was different. The strength was almost a work of art—a thoroughly refined craftsmanship.
How she carried her feet, how she rotated her waist, how she shifted her shoulders, how her elbows became so flexible, how her wrists turned so stiff.
The fact that her perfected swordsmanship stole my gaze gave me a sense of euphoria. That quick exchange with Radiant-san was just that: beautiful.
My dreamy, vidya-freak nature that lay at the root of my identity freaked out with excitement.
And I, for my part, quickly defused that excitement. My goal wasn’t to appreciate Radiant-san’s swordsmanship. There’d be a huge chance for me to lose if I took my time defeating her.
Conversely, I could also say that she wouldn’t be able to defeat me if I put up my guard. My objective was to measure my own strength and drive her and her goons back without fail—not to play around.
I suppressed my desire to continue drawing out Radiant-san’s swordsmanship.
“What’s the matter? Are you not coming?”
“I’m just pondering.”
The beastfolk knight seemed to be wondering why I fell into silence. I quickly made an excuse to make her think I was devising plans to attack her.
“Hohou… Looking at your movement, I can say that you’re no ordinary fool. It seems that you’ve seen through my strength with that brief exchange alone. No wonder, for someone who kidnapped our lady.”
She took the liberty of giving me credit, fully believing her own words.
“No, no, that’s a false accusation. Really.”
“Fufu, I haven’t had such an amusing foe in a while. Right. Why don’t I be the one on the offense next.”
She didn’t even lend an ear to my denial. However, it didn’t seem like her ears were clouded by anger that time since they were clouded because I struck a new interest in her.
I could feel her zeal tingle on my skin. Her intimidation made me feel numb. She was one of humanity’s best swordsmen, and she was coming at me.
—Radiant-san’s whole body shook.
That was a body-movement art that spared no useless movements. If I hadn’t foreseen it, I wouldn’t have been able to catch up with her speed. That being said, I knew in advance that she was a knight who specialized in AGI, and that made all the difference.
I followed her steps with my eyes. I had also seen that she struck with her sword from below.
I received the strike with the center of my sword, producing a high-pitched metallic sound as both swords met.
My sword bounced up from the collision while Radiant-san’s was swatted down. At that instant, I put her sword as another object to cling the dimensional bubbles of my magic «Foam» onto.
The speed at which I obtained information about my opponent spiked up. I switched from environmental awareness to a spatial understanding that focused solely on the movements of both my sword and hers. «Dimension Gladiator» was sharpened by orders of magnitude, telling me the most minute movements of our swords down to the millimeter increments.
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Translator - Mab
Proofreader - ilafy
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* * *
The experiment was a success. I had learned how effective the magic was against a sword-user once applied.
There was nothing else to experiment with. What I had to do next was cut the battle as short as possible while concealing my own true ability as much as possible.
I momentarily enhanced «Dimension» with enormous magic power.
Then, as I etched every movement of the swords into my brain, I calculated the most optimal course for my body to move.
On our third exchange of blows, both of our swords missed each other by paper-thin margins. On the fourth exchange of blows, our swords grazed each other, sending sparks flying. And the fifth exchange of blows was the final one, as her sword cut through empty air while mine rested at her throat.
Radiant-san stared at the sword, disbelief in her eyes.
“I guess I won.”
Ultimately, I came out with an overwhelming victory. However, had we taken account in terms of simple competence in swordsmanship, then I would have been significantly inferior to her.
The critical point was the difference in the amount of information each of us possessed. I knew the detailed, numerical values of Radiant-san’s ‘Status’, while Radiant-san had no idea what kind of abilities I had in store.
Negligence and mental fortitude might have also played a part, but the sheer disparity in the amount of information between the two of us gave me a huge leg up against her. And the most important factor was that Radiant-san wasn’t even aware that there was such a disparity.
The Celestial Knight was one tempo too late behind my top speed when she executed her art. Had it been a real fight, her head would have been flying off.
Ironically, the ‘Display’ showed its true value in an interpersonal fight instead of a battle against monsters.
The other knights all groaned in unison once they understood the outcome of the duel. Some of them even rested their hands on their swords.
Seeing them, I slowly backed my sword away from Radiant-san. I remained silent, waiting for my opponent to speak first.
“…Kgh, I lost indeed. A knight does not struggle in vain. Boys, don’t ever draw your swords!”
She noticed animosity of the knights and warned them.
“…phew. Thank you.”
I took a breath of relief since she had owned her defeat in earnest. With the remaining amount of MP I had left, being surrounded by that many people made me anxious. Even if I tried to escape, I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t suffer some wounds fighting my way out.
“How humiliating… to be defeated by a crook…”
“Please keep your words and get out of here. Preferably, right now.”
“Kgh, ggrrrrh…! Argh, the oath of a duel is absolute for a knight. I shall do as you say.”
I wasn’t very familiar with knights and their business, but she seemed averse to going back on her words. I hoped the rest of the Celestial Knights would be as easy to deal with. Then again, Palinchron came to my mind, and I realized just how exceptionally earnest Radiant-san was in comparison.
“H-however!! What we promised was for me not to show myself before you again! Isn’t that right?!!”
“Which means the other Celestial Knights may still appear before you! Don’t you get carried away just because you bested me!”
Isn’t that what you’d call a struggle in vain…?
“I shall leave it at that for today!”
Leaving those words behind, Radiant-san turned her back and left the vicinity of the tavern, and the other knights followed suit. Thus, the boisterous group took their leave.
Looking at her back, not that I wanted to jinx it, but should there be a next time, I thought to myself that I wouldn’t put my faith in the duel system ever again.
Should I have phrased it that their group was never to get involved with me again next time? If there was a next, I should work out my conditions more carefully before laying it out. Yup, I made up my mind.
I then extinguished «Foam». The experiment was a great success. The last three blows of the exchange wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without it. Being able to minutely grasp the movements of the swords was too OP. I couldn’t think of a bigger advantage for a sword duel.
I took a satisfied breath and wiped the sweat from my forehead—then I heard an applause.
“As expected of you, Kanami.”
It came from the roof of the tavern—a girl with golden hair fluttering in the moonlit night with her smile so bewitching.
The root of this commotion, Lastiara, was there.
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