The moment the signal was given, they moved simultaneously. Schieber unleashed a sharp thrust, while Ryouma closed the distance and dodged.
Schieber wasn’t about to let that happen, so he swung the butt end of his halberd, forcing Ryouma to distance himself and shoot fire arrows in return.
Schieber seemed to have read through that, however, as he easily avoided them while shooting back with his wind blades.
Magics and weapons clashed, but this was only the prelude, neither side willing to go all out just yet. Were the spectators someone else other than the trio watching them, no one would believe that to be the case.
Traces of their magic could be seen on the ground on which they fought. Metal met metal, as did magic with magic, to produce a symphony of metal and explosions. With such a fierce exchange, no one but the most experienced could see this for what it was: a gauging of skills.
Ryouma and Schieber could tell from the first thrust, but any common soldier or adventurer would have surely been struck with nary a response.
It was amidst such a frenzied exchange that Schieber decided to make his move.
With his halberd charged with mana, he swung straight down for Ryouma’s shoulder.
Ryouma stepped back to dodge, but he could sense the mana behind the attack, so he jumped to the right instead.
In the next moment, a whirlwind rose from Schieber’s halberd, heavily scarring the ground where Ryouma once stood.
“So you noticed that too.” [Schieber]
“The match would have been over if I failed to pick up on the mana in your weapon just now.” [Ryouma]
Schieber’s halberd was a magic weapon imbued with the beginner spell, Wind Cutter, and the intermediate spell, Tornado Cutter. The attack just now had been weakened just enough to not kill Ryouma, but it would have still incapacitated him had it hit.
The ability to perceive mana, the wisdom to judge whether that was a spell or an enchantment, and then the execution of the dodge itself. If any one was lacking, if his judgment had erred, then Ryouma wouldn’t have been able to dodge in time. Yet Ryouma did dodge, and spectacularly too, such that he came out uninjured. Schieber praised Ryouma to himself and renewed his focus.
But that was true for Ryouma as well, and this time, it was his turn to make a move.
“‘Fire Arrow'” [Ryouma]
Ryouma cast a spell and slashed with his sword. It was the same thing he’d been doing until now, but right before he slashed with his sword, he cast Earth Needle without chanting.
Ryouma had cast a spell from right in front and moved to attack where Schieber was about to dodge, yet it turned out that both were distractions, and the stone needle that quietly shot out from his feet was his aim.
Schieber managed to calmly dodge the arrow and the needle, but that created a small opening. With the distance between them closed instantly, Schieber had no choice but to block Ryouma’s katana with the hilt of his ki-clad halberd.
In an attempt to get out of this situation, Schieber immediately cast several Wind Cutters. After stopping Ryouma, he distanced himself and released blades of wind with his halberd.
It was at this point that a question appeared within Schieber.
(Strange… This boy is able to block my spells, but he doesn’t follow up afterwards. No, he does counterattack, but there’s a strange delay. His swordsmanship is excellent, and he can even cast without chanting, but there’s an odd ‘clumsiness’ to his technique. I thought he was just leaving himself open to bait me, but it’s too blatant for that… This boy might be…)
As their exchange continued, Schieber prodded at an opening to sound Ryouma out.
(I see. It probably hasn’t been long since he learned magic. His swordsmanship is amazing, but his magic appears to be self-taught. That’s plenty impressive given his age, but he’s lacking experience!)
From this point on, Ryouma was disadvantaged.
It was commonsense in this world to fight magic with magic, but magic didn’t exist in Earth, and the sword that Ryouma learned did not incorporate magic.
Ryouma has been coming up with his own brand of magic, but it has only been four years since he came to this world. Moreover, he only knew utility spells during his time in the forest. It wasn’t until he left that he started learning attack spells. It hasn’t even been more than 6 months since he started pursuing combat magic seriously.
Compared to him, Schieber has always been a resident of this world. He knew that magic and combat came hand-in-hand and trained as such for decades as a knight. Be it in magic training or combat experience, Schieber was miles ahead of Ryouma.
It was only because Ryouma was so far ahead in ability compared to his opponents until now that his unrefined techniques did not become an impediment, but Schieber was skilled enough at martial arts to contest him and was also better at magic. That made it possible for him to see through his weakness and accurately take advantage of it. As Ryouma struggled, Schieber finally had room to breathe.
That situation did not last for long.
A moment of disadvantage brought about by his inexperience in his own magic, so after their brief exchange, Ryouma decided.
‘If using magic only weakens me, then I can just not use it.’
‘I’ll put everything into the sword I’ve trained and challenge this man.’
The moment Ryouma decided that, the way he fought transformed.
With chi surging throughout his body, the speed and precision of his attacks advanced by a whole level.
Schieber refused to lose and fought back, but he could no longer fight as leisurely as earlier.
From there on, their battle became even fiercer.
Schieber swung his halberd diagonally down to the right for Ryouma’s head, while Ryouma took a diagonal half step to the right and drew a circular stroke to receive it. But he didn’t stop and kept going by taking a huge step with his left leg to close the distance, then drew another stroke to try and reap Schieber’s left leg.
In response, Schieber twisted his body and retreated, then swung his halberd toward Ryouma’s legs to keep him in check. Ryouma dodged and followed up with an attack of his own, so Schieber smashed down with his Tornado Cutter, hollowing the ground and giving rise to clouds of dust.
Ryouma somehow narrowly escaped, but Schieber brushed aside the clouds of dust and started attacking again.
Both warriors clashed with power and technique, and before long, all useless thoughts vanished, and Schieber was able to experience that long-forgotten fulfillment once again.
The body he believed to have withered was surging with power again, and the techniques he believed to have gone were baring their fangs once again. The sensation was so pleasant that Schieber swung his halberd and cast his spells with a pure mind.
Alas, no festival continued forever. Amidst the fierce fighting, both warriors distanced themselves and exchanged an intimidating glare. This was not a choreographed battle, but they thought the same thing nonetheless: the next exchange would be the last.
「「Ha!!」」[Ryouma and Schieber]
With a powerful kiai amidst all the tension, the last exchange began.
Ryouma wielded his katana with the tip pointed toward Schieber, then he concentrated all of his ki to his lower body before bolting out. The leg strength produced was so explosive that he seemed to instantly appear in front of Schieber.
Contrast Ryouma’s speed, Schieber filled his halberd with mana and invoked a second Tornado Cutter with a chantless cast. With both him and the weapon invoking the spell, the whirlwind of blades blew twice as fierce, and Schieber thrust out with all of his strength.
The halberd’s tip thrust out like a gale, but just when it seemed Ryouma had been caught, he dodged by a hair’s breadth. Unfortunately, such a narrow margin couldn’t possibly protect him from the winds of blades. His cheeks, shoulders, and left half of his body were littered in shallow wounds, while the blood dripping were all blown away.
But Ryouma remained undaunted and took another step to prevent further damage, then he redirected the ki in his lower half to the rest of his body and thrust out with his own attack. That attack, that was akin to a ramming attack, took advantage of the opening right after an attack, but Schieber twisted himself as much as he could to get off with just a shallow wound on his left side.
Carried by the momentum of his attack, Ryouma passed Schieber, but he used his ki-reinforced legs and waist to forcefully stop that momentum and turned around. With the katana he’d thrust out now held high, he used the weight on his legs and waist to leap for Schieber.
In turn, Schieber forcefully retrieved his halberd and prepared to receive that attack.
In the next moment, two blades flashed beneath the light of the setting sun and blood sprayed out――