Difference between revisions of "Rakudai Kishi no Eiyuutan:Volume2 Chapter 3"

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==Chapter 3 - Ayatsuji Ayase==
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=Chapter 3 - Ayatsuji Ayase=
   
 
===Part 1===
 
===Part 1===

Revision as of 06:34, 23 October 2014

Chapter 3 - Ayatsuji Ayase

Part 1

The morning, before the battle with Ikki.

Around 9 am, Ayatsuji Ayase woke up, lazily.

She was napping in her own room after parting ways with Ikki at midnight.

She was tired because of all the match preparations, and equally because of the negotiations with Ikki.

After crawling out of the neatly arranged double bed, she saw a letter from her roommate on top of the table.

“I will not be coming to see the match, because I was told not to yesterday. However, I want you to consult with me if there is something troubling you. I am very worried whenever I see Ayase who has become gloomy nowadays."

“………Truly, what a worthless woman I am.”

Betraying a benefactor, and troubling my roommate this much-

“Sullying our pride, and even throwing aside your own. Can you still remain proud even if you manage to regain that ‘something’ with such means!?”

“…….ku”

The question, which was thrown at her with a sorrowful tone, was still echoing deep within her ears.

It was not a very good condition to be in.

Even though there was a match she just can’t lose today.

This has to be corrected immediately.

She has to change the mood and lighten it up.

Having thought that, Ayase decided to use the time in the morning to go to a certain place.

About 15 minutes by train, from Hagun Academy’s nearest train station, Ayase had arrived at the intended facility.

A large white building soaring into the cloudless summer sky.

This was “Shishido General Hospital.”

It was the nearest big hospital from the Hagun Academy.

The hospital’s room number 515 was Ayase’s destination.

She familiarly directed herself, smoothly arriving at her destination, and opened the sliding door.

Inside the room there was just a single lonely bed.

This was a private room.

And, by the bedside there was a beautiful middle-aged woman sitting on a pipe chair.

The middle-aged woman let out a sound in surprise when she looked at Ayase who had just opened the door.

“Oh my, isn’t it Ayase-chan!”

“Hello, Suzuka oba-chan.”

“Hi~ What’s up at this time of the day? What happened to school?”

“Today I am free to attend or not. Students who have representative selection matches are exempt from taking classes on the day of their match. That’s why I made some time to come visit.”

“I see. Be it the selection matches, or the thing with roommates. The new principal sure does interesting things.”

When she explained the policies of Kurono, her aunt gave her consent.

Her aunt stood up from the pipe chair and went towards the bed, and-

“Big brother, your cute daughter came to meet you-“

-called out to the man lying on the bed.

Cheeks that had been hollowed, and disfigured into the shape of cheekbones; skin with cracks like those of dried up land, and hands, slim like twigs from winter.

That man, who had withered like a mummy, was the father of Ayase. He was Ayatsuji Kaito.

“Good morning, father.”

Following her aunt, Ayase, too, called out to him.

But, Kaito didn’t return anything.

Without responding anything, he just continued to sleep.

That is right…. He continued to sleep for two years.

“Well then, it’d be bad if a stranger disturbs father and daughter. So I’ll be at the coffee shop. Till what time are you gonna be here Ayase-chan?”

“I have the match in the afternoon, so I’ll leave at noon.”

“Okay~ Then, I’ll return somewhere around that time. See ya~”

Her aunt left the room while waving her hand bye-bye.

She is such cheerful person whenever I see her. I wish she would share a little bit of that liveliness with her brother.

(…………No, even father was---)

At that moment

“………………………Ku……………………n..”

Kaito, who was on the bed, moved his withered lips just a tiny little bit with trembling weakness.

“Father……”

It was the usual thing.

He was whispering the habitual words.

She couldn’t hear his voice. It was not in a voice which could be heard.

But, Ayase remembers the movements of those lips.

I am sorry.

“…………tsk!”

Krrr. Ayase’s teeth grind.

Upon the feelings of sorrow and vexation, almost enough to make her shout, Ayase bears it by grinding her teeth.

From that day Kaito has always continued to apologize to Ayase. That he was not able to protect. That he was not able to entrust. All alone, eternally within that rainy season.

Listen well, Ayase. Never lose your pride no matter what.

Our ‘sword’ is the power to kill people. You people’s ‘gifts’ are the power to surpass other people.

That is why you cannot lose your pride.

If you lose it, your actions will just turn into mere violence.

Always be polite, help the weak, and hate the wicked.

Never ever let yourself be tied by your own power, and no matter what kind of opponent, always face them fair and square.

Become a knight that won’t be a shame to others, and to your own self.

Those were the words Ayase’s father, the Last WarriorFinal Samurai, Ayatsuji Kaito always told her.

The responsibility of those who have power.

Because Kaito understood it so well that he imparted the sword and its morals into Ayase who was born as a blazer.

To make sure that she won't become a cheap and arrogant human drunk on her own power.

Kaito’s training, even if she had say it as flattery, was not a gentle one.

Harsh.

One could very well say that it was harsh.

But, even so…Ayase loved the strength that Kaito talked about.

She loved the gallant back of her father when he was swinging his sword.

She loved Kaito’s big and rough hand that used to caress her head whenever she showed growth.

A small dojo, about ten disciples, her father, and herself.

By no means was it a luxurious lifestyle, but there was warmth in that flow of time.

It was a time filled with happiness.

Ayase wished from the bottom of her heart that such a time would always continue.

But, that wish of her's was cruelly crushed.

On that rainy day, two years back……

By a single man who barged in on her daily life.

Part 2

Two months after Ayase enrolled in Hagun Academy.

The rainy season had just arrived.

The season where the sky was covered by heavy rain clouds and even the wind felt damp and humid.

After class had finished, without returning to the dorm, Ayase holding an umbrella within the rain, was moving towards her house’s dojo.

Her purpose was of course, to learn kenjutsu[1] that she, no matter what, just won’t be able to learn at school.

When Ayase was in the first year of her middle school, Kaito was diagnosed with a heart disease that was impossible to cure even with cutting-edge medical treatment, and now he was barely able to swing a sword.

The last time Kaito held the sword was when Ayase’s admission into Hagun was decided. It was to entrust her with the「secret technique」that he himself had developed.

To be blunt, his body was no longer in the condition to swing a sword.

But, in the dojo there were disciples who learned the 「Ayatsuji single sword style」from Kaito.

Even if they were few in numbers, they were still warriors, like Ayase who from a young age had learned the sword under <The Last Samurai>.

Among them Sugawara from cram school, although a far cry from Kaito, but he was way stronger than Ayase.

That is why, to receive training from him, Ayase traveled to her home three times a week.

Because she quickly wanted to become strong enough to be able to use the <secret technique> that her father had entrusted her with.

Thus, traveling (to her home) had, more or less, become a routine.

But, on that day, after passing through the left opened gate for disciples, she met with the variant that was not supposed to exist with her daily life.

“Eh?”

The one she encountered was a tall youth who was holding an umbrella.

His hair was dyed in a light color, and there was a cigarette in his mouth. His gaze was sharp like a hungry wolf, and a tattoo of a skull could be seen from inside the untidy uniform of Donrou academy.

A youth with an atrocious yet brutal appearance who was probably worlds apart from the appreciative world of dojos or martial arts.

Ayase, who was normally no good with the opposite sex, stepped back without thinking upon seeing the overbearing appearance of his.

“……huhu”

The boy, Kurashiki Kuraudo laughed at that as if to tease her.

“See ya.”

And disappeared into the gray town covered with clouds.

“Who was that person……?”

Why did someone with such a suspicious appearance come out of her house?

To boot, someone who was wearing Donrou Academy’s uniform. In other words he was a Blazer.

He should have no business with a kenjutsu dojo. Did he stop by to get directions or something? While thinking that, Ayase started walking towards the dojo inside the house.

And,

“Shit! I won’t forgive that bastard!”

Sugawara’s, who could be said to be Ayase's childhood friend, voice resounded within the dojo.

Wondering what happened, Ayase hurriedly entered the dojo after sliding the door open.

Inside the dojo the usual energetic sounds of swords could not be heard.

Rather, including Sugawara, about seven disciples were standing still, doing their best to hold back their rage and shock. Their instructor, Kaito, too, was sitting in seiza posture[2] while keeping his eyes closed with a difficult expression on his face.

“What is going on? Did something happen?”

Ayase asked Sugawara.

“Just now, some strange punk just suddenly intruded on us, and asked for a match with the title of this dojo at stake.”

"School ChallengeDojoyaburi is it?”

“Yea, but Sensei’s body is already worn-out, and above all <Ayatsuji single sword style> forbids such gamble-like matches.

Ayase also knew of that.

The sword of Ayatsuji exists to protect.

Kaito always talked about it.

It was a sword meant not to cause useless scuffles, or to show off one’s strength.

Under that notion, Ayatsuji single sword style had forbidden any and all fights except for official matches.

“That is why, Instructor had refused the match, and then……”

“That bastard insulted instructor by calling him a coward, fiasco, and failure, and then he even spat on his face!!”

“Even though he was just a mere punk! Acting high and mighty just because he can use some ability……kuh”

Disciples started raising their angry voices one after another.

From the time of their childhood they have visited the dojo frequently, and they respected Kaito as if he were their own father.

That’s why they probably cannot forgive that Kaito was made fun of.

Ayase shared that feeling.

Someone had spat on her father’s face. Just by hearing that alone her body’s temperature had risen two times.

“Damn it, his footsteps are still there. To think he came to a sacred dojo with his shoes on…tch. Only if Master’s body was in perfect condition that brat would have gotten his ass handed to him….”

“That is incorrect, Nitta.”

Kaito responded in a sharp voice upon the words that one of his pupils said.

“I couldn't have accepted even if my body was in a perfect condition, because the Ayatsuji’s sword exists to protect people. It is not a sword that should be swung for useless scuffles. This is not an era to protect people with the sword, but that purpose should not be forsaken or abandoned.”

“Y-yes! I am sorry! I will reflect on this with all of my spirit.”

Nitta bowed to the reprimand, which was filled with a peaceful yet sharp tone, of Kaito.

“Good. Others too, all of you have stopped their hand. As a punishment practice swing a thousand times!”

After explaining the kendo of Ayatsuji, Kaito swiftly changed the atmosphere of the place.

The disciples replied with “Osu!!” and followed the order. With that the usual liveliness returned to the dojo.

“Well then, Ayase-chan, hurry up and change into dojo clothes. After all, I can’t let Ayase-chan turn into a blazer like that who's drunk by his own power. I’ll train you properly today, too.”

“Yes, please take care of me!”

Ayase finally relaxed after seeing that the dojo had regained its energy, and hurried to the locker room.

But, on her way…….she smelled a scent that she never smelled inside the dojo.

That was the smell of tobacco left behind by him.

That lingering scent would always, always coil around Ayase’s beloved daily life like a snake with its menacing tongue out.

And for the worse, that premonition was right on.


Part 3

The next day. Just like yesterday, Ayase came to the dojo within the annoying rain.

“Hello~ ………………huh?”

After greeting and opening the door of the dojo, she found Kaito, who was sitting on a cushion.

“It’s only you, father? It’s unusual for the others to be later than me.”

“That’s right, it’s a first for all of them to be late at the same time.”

Kaito tilts his head, puzzled.

Although all of them were never late together, but there were times where one or two of them would come late.

It was probably a coincidence that all of them were late together.

“Well, they’ll come around sooner or later. Now, since we’re finally alone together after a long time I’ll personally see to your sword practice.”

“I am happy that you will see it, but……..you’re not allowed to swing the sword yourself, got it? Since Father is sick.”

“Ayase is such a worrywart. Don’t worry, I’ll just look it over, because my body isn’t in good condition because of the continuous rain these past few days.”

Ayase decided to show Kaito the stances before firing the <secret technique>, which she learned from him when she enrolled into Hagun Academy, while waiting for the other disciples.

Ayase aimed her wooden sword, and opened her stance a tiny little bit.

She lowered her waist a bit and released strength from her shoulders.

She traced the movements of Kaito from within her memory of that day.

One by one, carefully.

But,

“No”

Kaito immediately rebuked.

“Don’t loosen your hand when you release strength from the shoulders. Tighten your wrists more, but don’t put too much force. All while keeping the stances in mind.”

“Th, that is difficult.”

“If you can’t do it, then you won’t be able to master the <secret technique> I’ll show you how it’s done one more time.”

After saying that Kaito reached for the wooden sword that was setup on the wall, but-

‘stares--’

“…………………”

‘stares--------------’

“…………………………………….I get it, I get it. I won’t swing it, okay.”

Kaito surrenders by raising both of his hands up to Ayase, who was looking at him from the back with a look of reproach in her eyes.

“For God’s sake, you really resemble your late mother in that regard. Your mother, too, reproached me by sending glares like those rather than saying it with her own mouth.”

“It’s only natural, because Mother taught me that if Father ever tried to do something stupid I can stop him by doing that.”

“It’s not funny to be dominated by both generations of mother and daughter.”

Kaito sighed once, and moved towards Ayase’s back.

He hugged her from behind and held on to her hands, which were gripping the wooden sword.

“Listen well; keep your wrists at this angle. The vital point behind this secret technique is not to disturb the stances by inserting too much power.”

While explaining the vital point of the secret technique, which he entrusted her with when she was gonna go to Hagun, Kaito was helping Ayase with her posture.

Feeling the sensation of rough and stiff palms that were wrapped around her hands.

(……they are big, Father’s hands.)

Ayase loved that sensation which cannot be referred to as gentle.

(Now that I think about it…… It’s been a long time since the last time he taught me this way.)

“……fufu.”

When she became conscious of that, for some reason she became extremely happy. Ayase squeaked out a smile.

“What happened? Laughing all of a sudden.”

“It’s nothing. I just thought it’s been long time since Father taught me various things in this manner. I was somewhat happy about it.”

Ayase suddenly leaned on Kaito’s thick chest and brought her face closer.

Ba bump Ba bump

While listening to her beloved father’s heartbeat-

“…………It would be nice if such a gentle time continues forever.”

She whispered to herself.

“……”

Words from Kaito didn’t follow. Of course, because Kaito knew that wish couldn’t come true.

Of course, Ayase, too, knew that.

Kaito no longer had very long to live.

The time when this heartbeat, which she was listening to right now, would stop was steadily approaching.

That is why, Kaito had taught the immature Ayase the secret technique which she could not handle right now.

(For how many more years would Father be able to live?)

She had already made her resolve to part with him.

But that is why Ayase wishes, that the last day to be as tender as this moment.


-And, that wish was betrayed in the cruelest of forms.



In that moment, the sliding door of the dojo suddenly opened.

Ayase and Kaito turn their eyes over to the entrance, thinking that finally the disciples had come.

Certainly, there was one of the disciples there. It was Sugawara.

But,

“Su, Sugawara-san-----!”

Ayase’s face turned pale in an instant.

Because Sugawara was there in a form that was painful to look at with bandages and gauze all over his body and face.

“Those injuries, just what happened?”

Kaito, who was shocked too, rushed to Sugawara’s side.

Upon seeing his instructor run up to him, Sugawara for an instant almost bursts into tears, and

“Instructor………………… I, I am so sorry!!!”

Just like that prostrated, almost like hitting his head on the floor of the dojo.

Although his face couldn’t be seen, his sobbing voice could be heard.

Kaito immediately understood that it wasn’t something trivial.

“Raise your head. These injuries……it seems you didn’t get these by falling down or something. Just what happened?”

“Th, that is, we were done in by that man who came by yesterday……….”

“What……!?”

“Yesterday night, when we were on our way back from dojo, he was waiting to ambush us seven………Then, all of sudden he attacked us with a stick! That guy is insane!! Without any hesitation he tried to smash other people’s heads. He is insane, mad I tell you…… That’s why, with no other way out, all of us fought back, but……”

Sugawara sobbed heavily once at that point, and,

“We were helpless!! All seven of us together weren't even able to touch him when he wasn’t using his ability, nor was he even covering his body with mana.”

“…………!”

Ayase gulped, shocked upon hearing those words.

Including Sugawara, other disciples too, like Ayase, had been learning the sword of Ayatsuji since their childhood, and for them to be that helpless against someone.

(That guy, he was that strong………)

“Even though we were trained by the Instructor for so many years……… we were played around with by that delinquent! I am very sorry!!!!”

“You don’t have to apologize anymore! More importantly, are the other all right!?”

“……Nitta was beaten to a pulp and that’s why she was treated with a capsule, but all of the others were hospitalized. “

Capsule could only be used by claiming health insurance; otherwise it would be very costly.

Therefore, it seems within the seven of them, with Sugawara and Nitta out, five of them were still confined to bed. The ones with severe injuries were diagnosed with injuries such as their arm would never return to normal, and et cetera.

After confessing all of that, at last Sugawara raised his head.

“Sensei… we were able to come this far because we admired you. We wanted become proud men like Sensei, but……I really don’t want to say this but just what were we doing for so many years………!?”

He asked Kaito while weeping.

“……”

Upon seeing her elder-pupil’s miserable figure, Ayase was at a loss for words.

The head coach, Sugawara who taught Ayase the sword couldn’t be seen anywhere.

Those eyes were stained with fear and despair.

His heart had been twisted so much that he won’t be able to return to his usual self anymore.

Wrong, it was not just Sugawara-

“I am sorry. We won’t touch the sword from now on…………”

While crying heavily, Sugawara pulled resignation letters for seven people from his pocket.

Yes, just like Sugawara here, the other six, who were not present, also had their hearts broken.

“Cruel….”

Why did he do something like this?

How can someone do something like this?

Even though everyone gave their best since childhood and walked straight down the path of the sword. How can someone play around with peoples’ hearts and break them?

Ayase could not comprehend.

And, the man who did such incomprehensible things,


“Haha! I came around at an interesting time.”

“”!?””

Appeared in the dojo as though he was aiming for such a timing.

“To think everyone quit, maybe I bullied them a bit too much.”

“Hihihihihihihihihihihihihin!!”

The moment Sugawara saw his figure, he screamed like a girl flapping his four limbs to hurry inside the dojo.

“Hey, hey, don’t run away like that. You’ll hurt my feelings.”

Kuraudo stepped inside the dojo while laughing in a vulgar manner.

“D-don’t come, please don’t come insideee, hii hiiiiii!”

“St-stop! He's getting scared!”

Not being able to see the pathetic figure of her comrade who had always walked down the path of the sword with her, Ayase stepped forward to protect Sugawara.

But, her shoulder was grabbed by a rough hand.

It was Kaito.

“What business do you have here?”

“The same business as yesterday.”

“I thought I had refused.”

“I just thought if I drop by today I’ll get a different answer. Hahaha!”

“I see. So, just to drag me out you did such things to my disciples?”

“Ya. But, yesterday I wasn’t able to get my hands on that woman there.”

“……………………Why?”

“Huh?”

“Why do you do such things? Aren’t you a blazer? Be it school or the Seven Star Sword-Art Festival, you should not be lacking in opponents wherever you run wild. In spite of that why do you obsess with me so much?”

“Don’t ask me something weird again, old man. Does the blade in your heart rust too when you retire?”[3]

“……!”

At those words, Kaito slightly widened his eyes.

“Haha……Well, it’s all good. The reason is simple, it’s because I want show off my strength, my power. It does not matter if they are blazers or normal people. I want to show it to every single one who catches my interest!”

Ayase burned with anger at Kuraudo’s motives, which he had just spoken about as though he was snarling at Kaito.

“For something so worthless……you did such cruel things!”

“Worthless? Ha! What is? I just want to get on it with someone strong, I want to crush strong people. Aren’t feelings like that natural?”

“Don’t mess with me!!”

"I won’t stand around as this guy does whatever he wants"

“It doesn’t matter how many times you come, the answer will still be no! This is not a place where someone like you can just barge in on, because we don’t swing our swords around just to show off our strength! Father, let’s call the police immediately!”

But, Kaito whispered “No, I can’t let it go like this.”

“The Ayatsuji Single Sword style Dojo accepts your challenge. Whoever gets the first two strikes in wins the match. We will only use wooden swords. Real swords are not allowed, got it?”

Of all things he went ahead and accepted Kuraudo’s challenge.

“wha, wh, Father!!!”

“Se,Sensei!”

The moment they heard of his motive to accept Kuraudo’s challenge, the two disciples, whose faces had turned blue, tried to stop Kaito.

“Please stop it, Instructor! You shouldn’t fight with someone like this!! Above all, your heart…………!”

“That’s right, Father! You won’t be able to fight with that kind of body!! If you want to do it that bad, then I will fight in your stead!!!”

Kaito’s daughter, Ayase, and even Sugawara, who had curled up with fear of Kuraudo, tried to stop Kaito desperately.

But, Kaito smiled slightly at that.

“Thank you, you two. I take pride in the kindness of you two, who worry about me, but that is precisely why-“

The words that were spoken before had been burned into Kaito’s mind.

“”Just what were we doing for so many years………!?””

“There is no way I can forgive this guy who hurt you guys!!!”

He couldn’t leave this to others. He had to defeat this man with his own two hands.

Kaito stared at Kuraudo like an ogre, and in his eyes there resided resolve and determination.

Upon seeing that expression, Ayase was at a loss for words.

She had already understood it, that now he would not be stopped with her words.

“…………I understand. I won’t stop Father if he is willing to go that far. I, too, will see this through as the judge.”

“Yes, I will leave it to you.”

“Win at all cost…Father.”

A violent voice called out to Ayase, who was wishing as though praying, from the side.

“Hey, if you’re done talking then let’s get started already. I’ve got tired of waiting.”

“………I know.”

Ayase frowned at the voice she didn’t want to hear, then hit the ground with her heel and threw a wooden sword at the demanding Kuraudo.

“Haha, what a violent woman.”

“Rules are, like Father said, the first one to get two strikes on his opponent wins. The weapons of this match are wooden swords. The use of mana is forbidden. Is that clear?”

“Yeah, it wouldn’t have any meaning if it’s not a match on equal grounds.”

Kuraudo’s eyetooth[4] shined when he smiled.

His eyes are, now, looking at Kaito only.

On the other hand.

Was he concentrating? Kaito’s was just standing there with the wooden sword in his right hand, and with his eyes closed.

It seems that both had completed their preparations. That’s why, Ayase as the judge,

“Then, both of you stand in front of each other. Start!”

The match of those two had started.

“Haha! Here I come!”

The moment when ‘start’ was shouted, Kuraudo ran towards Kaito, covered in winds.

He obliterated the distance by pure leg strength, and swung his sword down on Kaito’s head.

There wasn’t even a trace of technique in that single stroke, which ripped the atmosphere.

He had not transmitted power from his legs, nor used lats by closing his armpit; he didn’t do any of those.

It was a wild swing with just the power of his arm behind it.

Obviously, it was a sword play belonging to an amateur.

(Fast!)

Even from the eyes of Kaito, who was a master, that swing seemed abnormal.

He concluded that it would be dangerous to receive it upfront.

Kaito quickly escaped the trajectory of the slash by sliding his feet to the side.

In that moment, Kuraudo’s wooden sword grazed the tip of Kaito’s nose, and split the floor of dojo.

“What monstrous strength………!”

The judge Ayase raised her voice, feeling awe.

It couldn’t be helped because a slash, capable of splitting the floor, grazed her father’s face.

But, Kaito was different.

He purposefully let it graze him.

Adjusting the distance by sliding your feet was a basic skill of swordsmen.

He did so, because it was to keep the opened distance short for him to counter.

A full swing enough to split the floor; of course, the opponent wouldn't be able to take defensive stances soon enough to block the counter.

That single moment becomes the deciding factor in a match with a master as an opponent!

And, Go no Sencountering is <Ayatsuji Single Sword Style’s> forte.

The moment when the tip of Kuraudo’s sword plunged into the floor, Kaito slide his foot forward shortening the distance by half a step.

That was Kaito’s attack range.

“---!”

Kaito let out a small sigh and, this time, he was the one who attacked.

Aiming for the same as Kuraudo, the head, he brought down his sword.

But, Kaito’s swing was beautiful, and incomparable with Kuraudo’s barbaric swing, and it was faster.

That speed was the same as light's. Even if he was sick, he was still called <The Last Samurai> in the past. The extraordinary genius.

The very idea of comparing his sword play with an amateur’s was foolish.

Kuraudo, who had missed on his very first attack, could not escape the fate of being hit by that swing.

Or so it was supposed to be.

“Hahaha!”

*Thump*

Kaito’s hands became numb after receiving the recoil of his own attack.

It was not the head of Kuraudo that he felt he had hit. It was the wooden sword of Kuraudo that was launched at Kaito’s attack.

He repelled it with his own sword. Kaito’s bone cracked because of that impact.

“You seem to be surprised, old man. Did you think you would be able to wrap it up like that?”

“………Yes. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think you would repel it.”

That was truly a surprise. One could say it was completely unexpected.

But, Kaito isn’t just some inexperienced swordsman to be shocked by every move of his opponent.

(That’s some instincts he’s got there.)

It seems he had predicted Kaito’s counter.

That reaction speed could not be explained any other way. It was beyond the speed of humans.

However, it was not a problem even if he stopped a move.

Kaito still had tricks up his sleeves.

“Here! I’ll return the favor!!”

Again, he swung down his sword just like before without any beauty, with the same speed and at the same place.

‘I see, that power is truly dreadful.’

There was no doubt that his wooden sword would get crushed if he received it upfront.

Even so, Kaito received it with his wooden sword.

Was he not able to escape? No, this was the plan of Kaito.

If his counters were not going to work, then he didn’t need to dodge the attacks.

The moment the two wooden swords clashed, before his wooden sword could break, Kaito moved his wrist, and changed the angle of the wooden blade with which he received the attack, and let the impact of the attack out.

Because of that, Kuraudo’s wooden sword slid out and he lost his posture.

Dodge and receiving are just a part primitive defense mechanism.

Martial arts exist on a higher level. It creates groundbreaking defensive techniques.

In other words, that was a <Ukenagashideflecting an attack>.

It involves receiving the opponent's attack and then using that same attack’s power to parry it off.

With it the opponent floats; loses his balance and a decisive opening is forcibly created.

And, this time for certain, Kaito seized that opening.

“Ha……….ha……”

The moment when the judge, Ayase, confirmed the state of affairs

(This feeling)

After feeling the resistance from the strike, Kaito felt his heart throb.

(………What is this feeling?)

“As expected of the Instructor! Your movements didn’t seem like a sick person!”

“Father…amazing…….! As expected, Father is amazing!”

The disciples raised their voices in delight after seeing him score the first point. To that, Kaito smiled at them concealing the inexplicable bad feeling that was welling up inside his heart, and then moved his gaze back towards the enemy.

Kuraudo was standing up while holding his side.

“Hahaha… As one would expect of the <Last Samurai>, this is the first time I’ve received such sharp blow. However…………. is this all you’ve got? --------If so, you’ll die, old man.”

Even after receiving the first strike, Kuraudo still did not lose his fighting spirit.

The light in his eyes that was still burning, and carving (for him), pierced Kaito.

“As if. It starts from here on, brat.”

“Good……then, I’ll be coming at you seriously, too!!!!”

While smiling like a brute, Kuraudo once again closed the distance by charging in with pure leg strength, and for the third time, swung his sword downwards.

(He doesn’t learn..! Such an amateurish move.)

‘Certainly he predicted, and parried my counter. Those moves were something.’

‘But, he just swings his attacks around with emotions and brute strength.’

That kind of sword play, with just power behind it, didn’t pose any threat to an excellent swordsman.

(I’ll end it with this……!)

Kaito, once again, took the stance of Ukenagashi[5].

He’ll deflect the attack, and finish it.

Kaito, Ayase, who was watching from the side, and Sugawara, too, believed that.

At that moment, Kuraudo’s wooden sword disappeared like mist.

(Wha…!?)

In that instant, the sound of Kaito’s ribs breaking echoed inside the dojo.

Kaito fell down after being hit in the torso by Kuraudo’s wooden sword.

He violently convulsed, but he(Kuraudo) got a fair point in, to which no one could complain about.

However, Ayase didn’t have the composure to calmly announce the point.

Because, on the floor, Kaito was suffering from lung hemorrhage while holding his side.

The amount of blood being lost was excessive.

It was obvious from one look that his internal organ(s) had ruptured.

Realizing that, Ayase ran over to Kaito with a pale face.

“Father! Are you all right!?”

“Don’t come!”

But, Kaito, while still spewing blood, stopped Ayase who was approaching him with a loud and strong voice.

“The match has not ended yet…………! If you can’t judge fairly then step back!”

“This is not the time to be saying such things!!”

“AYASEE!!!”

Kaito, who was still spewing blood, shouted at Ayase who was still coming towards him, having ignored his words.

Ayase was scolded and shouted at multiple times in the past, but this time it was entirely different.

She felt fear, as though her heart was directly attacked. His shout was like a wild animal’s roar.

“This is my battle! Don’t interfere!!”

“A….a…Fa…ther!?”

Ayase lost her standing at Kaito’s serious shout that she had never heard before.

“Don’t worry! ……I’ll definitely win!”

Kaito stood up while spilling blood from his mouth.

His red eyes were fixated at just one point, towards Kuraudo.

His burning fighting spirit seething.

“Here I come! Boyyyy!!!!!”

Kaito dashed.

“Haha! The result will be the same no matter how many times you try.”

Kuraudo takes him head on.

For the third time their swords clashed.

However, it was just one-sided now.

Kaito had already suffered a fatal wound.

With his offense and defense it was becoming clear that he had rusted due to not having held the sword for several years.

He was being pushed back.

He was being pushed back mercilessly by random swings, which didn’t contain even an ounce of beauty or technique and were only swung with pure, brute force.

Now, he could not even attack, and he was just barely parrying the random attacks.

And, to deliver the ending blow to Kaito, now, whose entire body was covered in wounds, Kuraudo once again released the same attack that took one point from Kaito before.

Aiming for the torso.

Kaito quickly took a defensive stance to that.

A stance intending to receive the attack. However, just before clashing with Kaito’s wooden sword, Kuraudo’s wooden sword once again disappears like mist and hits Kaito’s body.

This time it was swung down on his skull.

It was incomprehensible.

How did a sword, swung towards the torso, come from above the head.

That conduct (action) had probably surpassed the abilities of humans.

Was it some kind of trick? They could not understand it. No one could tell what it was.

However, the wooden sword, which swung down, certainly existed above Kaito’s head and mercilessly crushed his skull.

Or so it was supposed to be.

“What!!!?”

That strike which was supposed to be the decisive blow didn’t strike Kaito’s skull and ended up falling towards his nape.

The attack broke his collarbone.

Kaito barely avoided it so that it won’t become a pointer.

“Kuh….You can’t call this a point……Boy!”

“Haha, you’re just someone who failed to die!! Don’t struggle around!”

After kicking Kaito in the stomach, and widening the distance between them, Kuraudo once again resumed his violent barrage of attacks.

Even if an attack on the collarbone didn’t count as a point, it doesn’t change the fact that it drained Kaito’s stamina.

Kaito’s movements were now dulled to the point they were incomparable from before, and they lacked their usual brilliance, and then uncountable blows were delivered to Kaito.

The sharp attacks of the wooden sword broke his bones, cut his skin, and splashed his blood all over the dojo.

Even then…………even then, Kaito didn’t let him hit the places that would give away the point.

Even when his whole body was covered in blood, he still stood on his two legs and continued to fight.

(………Why!?)

Ayase could not comprehend Kaito’s actions.

It was obvious who was gonna win.

Even so, why don't they stop fighting? Why doesn’t he surrender?

“Stop……stop already!”

Sounds of flesh being smashed echoed.

And every time they echoed, Kurauso’s red dyed wooden sword splattered blood around.

“Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!”

Kuraudo, who was covered in blood, laughed. His laughter resounded.

Now, Kaito was just being hit around.

It was no longer about victory or defeat, it was no longer about the match.

Ayase broke into tears, and could no longer see what kind of expression Kaito was making or if he was even conscious at all.

I have to stop him.

I have to stop him.

I have to stop him.

I have to stop him, or else Father is gonna die!

Ayase understood that, but, even so she could not move.

Even when Kaito’s blood spoiled her clothes, and even when Kaito’s teeth broke and got stuck to his cheek.

She was not able to gather power in her waist because of Kaito’s roar from before.

“Stop, please stop it! I don’t need this dojo! Just please stop hitting Father!!”

Ayase could only scream.

But, Ayase’s scream……………didn’t reach the two who were standing on the verge of death.

Kaito still didn’t surrender, and Kuraudo didn’t stop swinging his sword.

“------------“

In an instant, Kaito, whose entire body was covered in blood, unleashed a final strike.

He aimed his wooden sword from between his eyes towards Kuraudo, and advanced.

“Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

“!”

Did he sense something from the dying prey who could only defend pointer blows? Kuraudo’s expression stiffened.

But, Kuraudo didn’t retreat rather he swung his wooden sword down with all his might.

He aimed for Kaito’s head who was advancing towards him.

Even towards the nearing wooden swords that was tearing the air Kaito didn’t stop his advances.

No, rather he did not even move his wooden sword that was held between his eyes, and he didn’t take precaution towards the lighting like slash that's coming down from above.

It was suicidal attack. The meaning of that seemingly reckless conduct,

(That stance is--------!)

Ayase knew it.

That was the result of <Last Samurai> Ayatsuji Kaito’s entire life, the secret technique of Ayatsuji’s Sword.

The only hidden technique capable of breaking this situation.

But……there is no way Kaito, who had become weak due to illness and injured in the battle, would be able to use it.

“Stopppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp!!!!!!!!!”

The merciless attack broke Kaito’s skull and consciousness.

“Ah……………”

That was second point being taken.

The moment that was settled, Kaito’s body fell to the floor.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!”

Ayase ran towards Kaito, half crazed.

She called out to him numerous times, but Kaito didn’t respond.

Kaito’s mouth was just spilling out fresh blood.

“No, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!”

“…hmm, this is boring. This got settled pretty quickly.”

Kuraudo threw the wooden sword he was using in front of Ayase.

It was dyed dark from blood, and there were a few cracks here and there due to having broken so many bones.

Upon seeing the state of the wooden sword, Ayase’s consciousness got covered in red because of the amount of killing intent she was emitting.

That hard wooden sword had continued to hit her father until it became like this.

“You fienddddddddd!!!!!!”

Having lost all reason, Ayase charged towards Kuraudo after materializing <Hizume>.

But the arm that was about to swing <Hizume> was caught by Kuraudo and he easily lifted Ayase's body up.

“Don’t temper around like that, I have no interest in weaklings.”

“Let me go! Let me goooooooooooooooo!”

“First of all, this isn’t the time for you to go at it with me, am I right?”

After saying that, Kuraudo threw Ayase on top on Kaito’s body.

“tch!”

With that Ayase, too, remembered what she needed to prioritize and do.

“Sugawara-san! Ambulance! Call an Ambulance! Hurry!!”

“O-okay!”

Ayase gave out orders to Sugawara who was standing in a corner of the dojo.

Meanwhile Ayase franticallly tried to wake Kaito by calling out to him.

After looking at those two with a cold and bored look, Kuraudo left the place.

“Pack up all of your luggage and leave. This place doesn’t belong to you guys anymore.”

Leaving those words behind while departing.

Due to bitterness Ayase gritted her teeth.

At that moment, Kaito let a sound resembling a moan from his chest.

“So……r……ry”

“Father!”

She looked at Kaito, but he was still unconscious.

He was just letting out words of apology like weak sighs.


Part 4

Two years ago, on that day, Ayase had lost everything.

The Dojo’s board, its land, and everything else was stolen by Kuraudo…… and she had not met with the other disciples ever since.

And, Kaito, too, having been cruelly beaten had fallen into a coma.

He had still not woken up.

Kaito is still inside that nightmarish day, and………he still continues to apologize till this day.

‘Sorry, sorry.’

To his disciples that he was not able to protect.

And, to Ayase because he let everything of <Ayatsuji Single Sword Style> get stolen.

(….Father might not able hold on until this winter)

That was the diagnosis the doctor gave out.

She had already made up her resolve when his illness was diagnosed. She already understood it.

But, she just couldn’t allow herself to leave her father in that nightmare for eternity.

That alone she can never allow.

That’s why in these past two years Ayase had challenged Kuraudo, who had become the new master of the dojo, numerous times.

To reclaim the dojo that her father risked his life to protect.

However, there was no way that Ayase would be able to win against Kuraudo, whom even Kaito couldn’t beat.

Ayase was put down numerous times by Kuraudo who was treating her like a kitten that was trying to play with a lion.

At first, he was having fun showing his comrades the sight of a pitiful woman who was desperately trying to defeat him, maybe he got bored of it, but recently she was being turned down without being given a chance to face him.

Now, the only way to fight him was for her to appear in the Seven Star Sword Art Festival, and beat Kuraudo who will appear there, too.

Ayase and Kuraudo are both third years now. The limit of Kaito’s life was approaching. The coming Seven Star Sword Art Festival will be her last chance.

If she loses, her father’s soul would forever be caught in the darkness of despair. She can't forgive that.

Then, the only choice left was to use any means necessary to win.

To get the results. She would prioritize that above anything else. The means does not matter.

She didn’t think it was the right thing to do, but by no means was she wrong either.

If the weak wanted to win against the strong, then he or she did not have the luxury to choose his or her ways. That was the reality.

“I will reclaim the dojo at all costs. Even if Kurogane-kun doesn’t forgive me forever,”

………Then, finally, she could say to her father, who was wandering deep inside the despair, that it was fine now, you don’t have to apologize anymore.

Once more, Ayase recalled everything and settled her feelings.

She would no longer waver.

She would no longer hesitate.

Even if she couldn't boast to anyone.

She would win at any cost, and get the dojo back, because that was everything to Ayatsuji Ayase.


Part 5

“Thank you for waiting! It's time, so we will be starting the first match in the sixth training arena!! I, Isogai of the Broadcasting Club along with Oreki Yuuri, the homeroom teacher of the first year, will be your commentators for this match! Oreki-sensei, you seem to be in a good condition today!”

“It’s because it’s still the first match~ I will become the same ol’ Yuri that everyone loves when we get to around the third or so match~ ♪ But, it’s still good. I’ve got about a liter of blood in reserve~”

“I see! It seems there will be a rain of blood in the broadcasting corner again! Well then, everyone, we will carry out the awaited introductions of participants!”

The female student of the Broadcasting Club begins introducing the first player.

“First, from the blue corner, with his perfect games; having won ten out of ten matches, and the one who is now the center of attention, the F rank knight, Kurogane Ikki!

The audience bursts into cheers the moment Ikki showed up in the stadium.

The fans who came to cheer <The Failure Knight> on were female students.

“The stadium got filled with shouts the moment he showed up! He has amazing popularity!”

“Kurogane-kun has lots of female fans-“

“Even though he is so strong with being a F rank, it feels like he isn't being rewarded!”

“Does Sensei understand this feeling?”

“A little while ago no one took notice of him, and he was just a nobody who had repeated the same year, but after the changes in Hagun’s system, he stood out after displaying his ability in actual combat and weaponry. Now, <The Failure Knight> is considered to be one possible candidate for the Seven Star Sword Art Festival! What kind of fight will he show us today!? And, today the one facing him has appeared from the red corner! With the same splendid record of ten wins out of ten matches, and wishing for her eleventh victory, the D rank third year knight, Ayatsuji Ayase!”

After Ikki, Ayase appeared, her black hair fluttering.

“For some strange reason she is also from a <house that practices the art of the sword>, which is very rare these days, like the competitor Kurogane. They both had won their every match with sword techniques. From the information provided by Kagami-san from the <Wall Newspaper club>it seems that she is actually a disciple of competitor Kurogane who had been giving her lectures! In other words, today’s match is between a master and his disciple! Will the disciple be able to overcome her strong master!?”

“’cough’ This will become a critical moment for Ayatsuji-san.”

“Yes. Unlike competitor Kurogane who had fought off competitors like <Hunter> and <Runner’s High>, competitor Ayatsuji had won over lower E rank knights. Realistically speaking she was extremely lucky to have continually won ten matches.”

“What kind of Blazer is she~?”

“We have little to no information regarding competitor Ayatsuji. We don’t have any data because she didn’t participate in last year’s competitive matches even once, and like I said before, she had won her matches with sword skills alone this year. That is why we don’t know what kind of ability she is hiding up her sleeves! The existence of the trump card that competitor Ayatsuji is hiding will increase the excitement of this match! Well then, both of them are now on the starting line!”

The two of them faced each other with a distance of twenty meters between them in the middle of the ring that was about a hundred meters long.

Like it had been announced a little while ago, both of them were comrades who had practiced the sword and had spent time together.

But, at present, there was no longer such a relationship between them.

(……Such a scary face.)

Ayase thought, looking at Ikki’s expression.

She had never seen such a strict and grim expression on Ikki’s face before.

He was mad.

At Ayase who had dirtied herself with a conduct called foul play that a martial artist should never lay his hands on.

But, Ayase didn’t feel sorry.

Because she had already decided to walk down this path.

(Rather……this is more convenient.)

Ikki’s mana had not completely recovered because of Ayase “preparations.”

He should not be able to use <Ittou Shura> anymore.

On top of that, Ikki was clearly straining himself. That was not his usual posture, she could easily see that.

Anger robbed his composure, and lack of composure always connects to the decline of potential.

Since the difference between them was obvious, she had to remove whatever was removable of Ikki’s fighting power. That is why, this can be said to be a pleasant byproduct of her actions.

Furthermore……Ayase had a trap that could very well be called a <trump card.>

She had already prepared it at dawn before the face off with Ikki.

(Now that he has lost his composure, he might just jump into that trap.)

“Now then, Everyone, repeat after me! LET’S GO AHEAD!! !! !! !!”


The moment buzzer to start the match was hit,

“------------!”

With the reaction speed of a sprinter, the swordsman with the black katana rushed towards Ayase.

Bending his body low, a sprint like a gale that used his entire body’s springs and not just leg strength.


A complete surprise attack, raising the curtains of the match.


Ayase, who hadn’t yet taken a good hold on the red Japanese sword <Hizume>, would not be able to counter it.

But, that was only if they were just swordsmen.

The two of them were <Blazers>!

“You fell for it!!”

Along with her voice, Ayase’s device <Hizume> released a red light, resembling fresh blood, from the blade of her sword.

“Guhh, ahhhhh!!”

Ikki fell while shouting in pain.

Upon examining, Ikki’s entire body was covered in wounds made by long slashes.

“Wh, wha wha wha wha what was that just nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!? Suddenly competitor Kurogane’s body has been hacked up! Just what the heck happened!!!!!?”

“What!? What happened!? There is blood coming out of the <Failure Knight>!”

The audience was stirred by the sudden turn of events.

No one understood what happened in that moment.

However, only a blazer can do something like slice and dice an opponent who was far away.

That was the ability of Ayatsuji Ayase’s device <Hizume.>

(My ability is to open the wounds given by the <blade of Hizume>)

By manipulating the wounds given by her sword at will, her ability allowed her to make any kind of small wound into a fatal one. In other words it was an ability to <fatalize> wounds.

However, this was only when it was used on humans.

Her ability can also be used on the atmosphere.

By manipulating the parts of the atmosphere that were cut by the blade of <Hizume> she could instantly, or after a certain time, create blades of vacuum Kamaitachi[6].

That was the noble art <Mark of the Wind>.

Part 6

Ayase, before dawn, and before she went to meet with Ikki, had come to this sixth training arena, which was to become the stage for her match, and laid down the land mines of slashes by cutting up the entire ring with <Hizume>.

(I’ve laid out more than a hundred of these marks all over the ring. Even if Kurogane-kun is a master in seeing through things, there is no way even he can defend against attacks that can't be seen! In reality, he just easily fell for one of my traps.)

Of course, this was against the rules.

It wouldn’t be a problem if she marked around during the match, but it was completely against the rules to set up traps on the stage before the match had even begin.

But, because the kamaitachi couldn’t be seen, it was hard to notice the trick. She was worried that Oreki, who was a mage knight, might be able to see through it but since up until now Oreki still hadn’t called off the match due to foul play.

Then,

(I can do this!)

She had outwitted Oreki. Ayase certainly felt the attack hit.

The kamaitachi created by <Mark of the Wind> was a byproduct of concept magic.

Honestly, it lacked the power to kill the opponent, and thus was not a decisive move.

But, a slash of <Hizume> was a different story.

With Ayase’s ability, the match would be decided if Ikki receives even a scratch from the blade of <Hizume>.

Because, she could make any kind of wound, no matter how small it is, open up and tear the flesh until the bone to make it fatal.

In other words, Ayase’s goal was to corner Ikki with <Mark of the Wind> and then slash him once with <Hizume>.

(If I can do that, then I will be able to win.)

The problem was, when could she charge in to deliver the wound?

Ikki wasn’t just your average swordsman. Ayase understood it the best due to directly taking classes from him.

If she made one wrong move, she’ll get done in, instead.

She had given him some damage with that surprise attack, but that didn’t make him fall down, it only stopped his charge.

He still had his guard up to at least fend off attacks even while he was wounded.

(………that’s why, it’s too early. It can’t be helped, and his actions would mean only one thing if Kurogane-kun doesn’t charge at me now.)

His charge had been stopped, and in return it ended up with him receiving heavy wounds.

There was a breather for a while to reconfirm his emotions and posture. Then,

“Oh, competitor Kurogane took a back-step! Has he decided to step back and reconfirm the situation before the unknown slash!?”

(I’ll aim for that!!)

“Gahhhh!!?”

“Ahh!? How could this be? Competitor Kurogane was slashed from behind this time!! What is going on in that ring!?”

Ayase had created a prison out of slashes.

There was nowhere to run.

Ikki finally fell to his knees after suddenly being slashed from behind.

A complete opening, and that was for Ayase,

(Once in a life time chance!!!)

She’ll end it here, with that in mind Ayase rushed forth towards Ikki.

“Competitor Ayatsuji took the offense the moment competitor Kurogane fell to his knees!!! This is bad! He won’t be able to demonstrate his prized sword technique in that position!”

Ayase had the choice to drag out the battle since she had created the prison of slashes, but she was afraid.

(Kurogane-kun was able to beat even that <Hunter>)

And he didn’t just beat him.

The important thing here was the fact that he managed to beat <Hunter> after receiving all of his attacks and even broke that famous <Area Invisible>.

In that fight Ikki was not able to see the <Hunter> until the very end.

Regardless of that <Worst OneFailure Knight> still caught <Hunter> and defeated him.

He had frightening insight. With that it wouldn’t be odd for him traces Ayase’s thoughts back and see through the places that had <Marks of the Wind>.

She wouldn’t think about it if it was someone ordinary, but Kurogane Ikki just might do it.


Even if she dragged out the match and chipped his stamina off little by little, it’d be bad if he managed to recover mentally during that.

The frightening part about <Worst OneFailure Knight> wasn’t his physical strength but his mental power that supported his insight.

(That’s why- I’ll charge in now! It’d be fine if I just hurt him a bit! The match would be decided with just that!)

“Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!”

“And competitor Ayatsuji fiercely attacks!! Rush, rush, rush!!!!!!!!!!! She is raining down slashes by the scarlet blade at the competitor Kurogane, who is on his knees!! Is blocking the attacks in that unstable position the best competitor Kurogane can do!? Will he get sliced by the rain of slashes just like that!? …………No!? Wh-what a thing! Competitor Kurogane is completely defending against the rain of red slashes despite being at a disadvantage and in an unstable position with the blade of <Intetsu>! He is not letting even a single slash from the blade which keeps falling down on him from above pass!”

(……kuh…….!)

She couldn’t reach him.

Even though, all she needed to do was scratch him a little bit, but that little bit seems so far away.

Ayase was astonished at Ikki who was, despite being in a disadvantaged position, blocking all of her attacks by using techniques that relied on the wrists alone.

As expected…………of the knight who was even called the <Another OneUncrowned Sword King> by some.

He won’t let her win easily.

Moreover, Ikki stood up while blocking the rain of slashes.

“Haa!!!”

“Competitor Kurogane, while blocking the sword strikes from his opponent in that position, stands up and finally counter attacks!”

He launched a wide and big slash to her head.

It wasn’t Ikki’s style to strike with power alone, but that was all a part of his plan.


This was not a <counterattack> like the commentator had said.

Even if he was able to make a comeback, the rhythm that was lost because of receiving the attacks in that disadvantages position won’t come back so simply.

Ikki wished to create some distance, thus the wide swing.

If his opponent dodged it’ll obviously increase the distance between them, and even if the opponent received the attack it’ll still shake her off because of the power of the strike and distance would be created between them.

It’ll be advantageous for Ikki no matter which of the two she chooses. It was an attack with a plan behind it. However, Ayase had read that plan of his!

(Here!!!)

She read his movements and understood that this was a chance to win.

Ayase’s <Ayatsuji Single Sword Style> was a school that specialized in the counter of Ukenagashi.

(It is normally impossible for someone of my level to actually counter a strike from a serious Kurogane-kun)

Ikki’s swordsmanship was too agile. If she recklessly tried to make a move, she’ll be the one getting burned.

(But this strike from above was a different matter altogether)

This intimidating strike was just to gain some distance from a glued opponent.

Though it was violent and rough it didn’t have that agility and sharpness.

(If it was this strike, then even I can counter it)

She decided it in an instant. Ayase readied <Hizume> and slid the hammer-like strike outside.

Simultaneously, Ayase put strength into her leg and moved her body forward.

Aiming for a counter.

She passed by Ikki whose upper body was afloat and swung <Hizume> aiming for the torso.

(I got him!)

Ayase gained definite confidence in her judgment.

But, rather than getting the sensation of cutting abdominal flesh, what she felt was the resistance of having hit something hard.

(He was able to guard it! Why!)

Even though she had slid his blade to the side, how was he able to guard in that timing?

That answers lied in Ikki’s hand.

He blocked Ayase’s counter strike with <Intetsu>’s hilt.

“Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! The moment when we thought he was countered, competitor Kurogane blocked the counter with the hilt of his sword!!! What an amazing trick play!!!”

“Kurogane-kun used the same guard in his mock battle with Stella-chan. Guarding attacks, which couldn’t be guarded with the blade, with the hilt. A defense that uses both the blade and the hilt, as always the cross range is impregnable.”

(………Kuh!! Now that I think about it, Kurogane-kun was able to guard in this strange manner, too……………!)

Upon Oreki’s explanation Ayase clicked her tongue. What amazing power of concentration.

But, why is he able to maintain such concentration?

Even though, He had lost his composure-----

“----!?”

Thinking about it, Ayase, who looked at Ikki’s expression, was stunned.

His expression didn’t contain even an atom of anger or impatience that he showed before.

Ikki had regained his composure. He was looking over at Ayase with eyes so tranquil that it reminded one of a fountain that doesn’t create even a single ripple.

(It can’t be……I was lured in………!?)

Ayase reacted immediately to chills she felt on her back.

Ayase kicked off the ground and gained a considerable amount of distance from Ikki’s attack zone.

She was on standby thinking an attack from him would follow but Ikki didn’t chase her.

Ayase was just standing still in one place but there were no attacks that followed her.

She thought, she was either under a misunderstanding or maybe she was being excessively cautious.

(Either way, it’s back to square one)

There were still many traps left. She didn’t wish for a prolonged battle but it’ll be meaningless if she went for a decisive battle only to get bitten herself.

As she had thought, she had to be more careful next---

“………I am glad.”

In that moment, the samurai with the black katana, who was her opponent, sighed as though he was relieved at something.

“Eh?”

You’re glad? About what?

That I opened up distance between us?

Ayase was trying to think hard about the meaning of those words.

“As I expected, Ayatsuji-san was a person just like how I imagined you to be.”

Her thoughts froze before Ikki’s smile that was filled with gladness.

Part 7

There was a woman who wore a gentle smile upon hearing Ikki’s words.

She was his homeroom teacher, and she was one of the commentators and supervisors of this match. It was Oreki Yuri.

This morning she was listening to Ikki for his reasons for damaging school property as his homeroom teacher.

“Sensei, in my match today, which sensei will be supervising, my opponent will foul play with certainty.”

“BU-------------!!!!!”

Oreki spurt out coffee and her nose started bleeding upon the sudden revelation.

“wh, eh!? I’ll stop my nosebleed meanwhile please explain yourself!”

There, Oreki heard all about the incident between Ayase and Ikki, which occurred last night.

That Ayase called Ikki out.

After calling him out, how she jumped down from the roof to reduce Ikki’s strength.

About how he broke the school building using his ability to save her.

“Su, such a thing happened…………?”

If this story was true then it will be a red card. Expulsion would be bit farfetched, but this act will definitely remove her from matches.

“Bu, but how do you know that she will use foul play in the match?”

“………When I severed the fence she was not doing anything. But, I definitely heard the sound of a long sword in that moment. By deducing from that, though I don’t know the exact mechanism behind it, I think Ayatsuji-san’s ability is ‘positioning slashes at various places, which can be fired off randomly.’ If she has that kind of ability then it won’t be a mistake to assume that she has probably placed traps all over the sixth training ground where the match is going to take place today. After all she tried to fake a suicide to kill my trump card, and, for sure, she will use any means necessary to defeat me in the match.”

“Well of course, for someone who did such a thing, I don’t think she will use fair play in the essential match……Mu Mu Mu~ but attempted suicide and obstruction……those are, in fact, big problems you know.”

“But, with just my testimony it won’t count as proof, right?”

“Yeah. Sensei trusts Kurogane-kun, but due to my own circumstances I won’t be able to move with just a testimony. But, I got the big picture. Sensei will be on the lookout, too. If I find any signs of foul play I’ll stop the match immediately. So you can relax now, Kurogane-kun.”

“No, please don’t call off the match for foul play.”

Blood gushes out from Oreki’s nose again.

Oreki, while feeling anemic and extremely dizzy, blocked her nose with tissue and asked Ikki.

“Eh? What, what do you mean? I completely don’t understand what you’re saying!? Then, why did you tell me about this here and now?”

“If you asked me about the reason why I broke the school building, then I’ll have no choice but to tell you. Furthermore, even if Oreki-sensei didn’t hear this from me you would have probably noticed Ayatsuji-san’s foul play, and when you do, you will stop the match immediately. But…………I don’t want you to stop the match.”

“Why!? If foul play really does occur, then Kurogane-kun will win by default due to Ayatsuji-san’s forfeit. You do understand how much important it is to win just a single match in this representative selection contest, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. Probably if I don’t remain undefeated, I won’t be selected as the representative.”

“Yes, to be blunt, from your current development if you don’t attain a complete victory you won’t be selected as the representative. You understand that, and yet you wish for me not to call off the match for foul play?”

“Yes, please don’t, Sensei.”

Oreki couldn’t comprehend.

Because Ikki should be craving for victory more than anyone.

Oreki knew Ikki from the time when he took his entrance exam, since she was the one responsible for his entrance exam.

She had never seen any student with such a strong determination and sense of purpose as Ikki.

Oreki was greatly saddened because someone like him had wasted an entire year because of the irrationality of world of adults.

The school system had changed and he had finally gotten an equal chance this year. He should want to win even if he had to use underhanded methods.

Despite that why is he lowering his head for someone who broke the ultimate taboo as the knight against him?

“………Won’t you tell me the reason?”

“Because I want to believe.”

“………You want to believe?”

“Yes……… I had always been thinking from the time I met her during midnight. As Alice/friend had said if I cut my ties with her here and now, I’ll win the match without any doubt due to her foul play. But would that really be alright? I thought again and again but I couldn’t find an answer………but I understood one thing clearly.”

“What is it?”

“My feelings that I don’t want to cut ties with her……that is why, I thought I will believe until the very end that Ayatsuji-san has been cornered by something and due to that she has lost sight of herself.”

Ikki knew.

Whenever she got close to her father’s sword by a slight margin she would merry around happily like a small child. Ikki knew that smile of Ayase.

Ayase’s words that she said she loved his hands which had roughed up because of holding shinai[7].

He could not believe all of that was a lie.

“That’s why I’ve decide. I would believe the usual Ayatsuji-san not the one I saw last night.”

When people are desperate they become blinder than they think.

To the point where they lose sight of themselves. Ikki knew that because he had experienced it himself.

And that the only thing that could save someone like that are the words from someone he/she holds dear to him/her.

That is why, if Ayase was like him who, at the time, was not able to hear the cries of his own heart due to being too desperate, then,

“I want to help her. That’s why, Sensei, please allow me the last chance to confirm her true intentions.”

(………………Good grief, there is no knight who will be able to refuse after hearing something like that.)

Always be with justice. Be honest even against your enemy.

An ideal self that everyone aiming to be knights dream about.

Oreki was the same. That is why she accepted Ikki’s request.

Of course she saw through Ayase’s foul play in first glance but she didn’t call off the match.

Because she had decided to leave the match and the heart of the lone girl to him.

She will not interfere. Oreki silently watched over Ikki.

(Do help her, your precious friend--)


Part 8

To be frank, everything was in the palm of Ikki’s hand from the start.

He already knew there were traps set all over the ring.

He had already seen through that she did not want to drag this battle long.

That’s the reason Ikki jumped towards the slashes of his own free will to make her go on the offensive aiming for a decisive battle.

All of that…….was to talk with Ayase through clashing their swords.

(I should have done this from the start.)

Ikki smiled bitterly at his own foolishness.

Ah yes, that’s right, there is no way a man like me, who couldn’t even recognize the feelings of the one closest to me, my lover, for an entire month, can ever understand Ayase with words alone.

In the end, I only have the sword.

I can only understand the true feelings of other people through the sword.

But, now, with certainty, Ikki saw Ayase’s true feelings.

“I am glad……… As I expected, Ayatsuji-san was a person just like how I imagined you to be.”

“………………What do you mean?”

“I meant, Ayatsuji-san was not someone who could act like nothing happened after doing something wrong.”

“………I was wondering what you say…ahahaha. After being beaten to a pulp, you sure have some nerve to say such nonsense. Isn’t this a bit too much? No matter what, aren’t you being too much of nice guy?”

Ayase glared into Ikki’s eyes talking and scorning in the same manner as she did last night on the rooftop. But-

“It’s not nonsense.”

Ikki won’t be deceived by that false expression anymore.

Because swords don’t lie.

“Your sword play, steps, rhythm, breathing, every single thing is messed up. Forget about what I taught you, you are not even able to perform what you already knew from before. Even the execution of counter, which is your specialty, is shaky. That’s why it was parried with such ease. You can’t deceive your soul no matter how much you try to make yourself look bad in your head. Kenjutsu is made up of heart, technique, and body. There won’t be any real power in a sword if your heart wavers…… Ayatsuji-san, you’re a proud person more so than you think yourself.”

“I, it’s nothing like that—“

Upon Ikki’s deduction Ayase suddenly raised the voltage in her voice.

“I am not wavering! I’ve experienced it two years back! It doesn’t matter how proudly you fight. If you lose everything will be over! There is no meaning in mere pretty words that won’t bring any results! Because you can’t protect if you don’t win! That’s why I’ll use any means necessary to win! No matter what methods I have to use I’ll win, and take everything back!”

Rather than being a rebuttal against Ikki, those were words meant to persuade herself.

Ikki understood that. By becoming that desperate she was closing her ears to the scream of her heart.

Just like his past self.

“…………Then, there is only one thing left for me to do.”

That was to let her hear the scream of her own heart.

That was the only thing to do now.

That’s why Ikki pointed the tip of <Intetsu> towards Ayase.

“With my weakest I’ll make you regain your pride.”

He declared.

“Ooh! Competitor Kurogane lowered his upper body! Just like in the beginning, it’s the attack stance! Even after receiving those mysterious slashes there is no sign of nervousness on his face!!! <Failure Knight/Worst One> plans on attacking! It can’t be that he already saw through the mysterious slashes!?"

Ayase immediately reacted to that action. She stepped back to further the distance.

Her reaction had composure, but her mind was greatly discomposed.

(I am in the wrong!!? Scream of my heart!!?)

What kind of blabber is that? There is no way such a thing is possible.

(No matter what I have to do, I just have to take back the dojo to relief Father!)

I am not wavering. I am not deceiving myself.

Ikki is just trying to lead me astray.

Ayase strongly convinced herself with that and tried to avoid thinking deeply.

(-If you say that much, then very well, I’ll end this match with the same mistake you talked about!)

The distance she had created with back-step was thirty meters.

And in between was the minefield of slashes.

She completely memorized the speed of Ikki’s charge in the beginning.

Next time she will be able to activate <Mark of the Wind> with more lethal timing!!!!

“Here I come, Ayatsuji-san.”

In that instant, Ikki raised his upper body and ran forward!

(Here!!!)

Upon that action, Ayase opened the wounds of <Mark of the Wind> that were in front of Ikki.

The gap in atmosphere that suddenly opened was the guillotine of vacuum that cuts everything it touches.

He won’t come out unscratched if it touches him. But-

“Wh!!!!!!!!!!!!!?”

Kurogane Ikki’s body rushed forward like a bullet, incomparable to the speed he showed in the beginning, and left Ayase’s blade behind before the vacuum opened.


That super-speed was the same as <Ittou Shura>!!

“What Speed!!!! Competitor Kurogane finally uses his trump card <Ittou Shura>!!!!”

(Wh, why!? That trump card should have been sealed…………..!)

Oreki’s voice reached a baffled Ayase.

“Well, that is not <Ittou Shura>--“

“Eh? Is that true, Oreki-sensei?”

“That is just like everyone, he is only speeding mana emission.”

(Mana emission!)

Ayase realized her mistake at those words.

Mana emission was to release one’s mana to accelerate and enhance oneself. It was an enhancement technique that many other blazers used unconsciously. Of course Ayase used it, too.

“Kurogane-kun doesn’t have much mana unlike others, so if he uses it like this he will run out of mana after using it one or two times. That is why he doesn’t use it normally. But, ‘does not use it’ is different from ‘not being able to use it’. He probably, for some reason, can’t use <Ittou Shura> this time. That’s why, I think he using this as a replacement.”

As Oreki had said ‘does not use it’ is different from ‘not being able to use it’. Normally Ikki ‘does not use it’ because he doesn’t have much mana. But, now since the amount of mana required to use <Ittou Shura> will not recover in time, he doesn’t have a reason not to use mana emission to enhance himself. That’s why he used it. By releasing all of his existing mana, although only for once but, he was able to produce speed that is not inferior to <Ittou Shura>!


(I was too concerned about <Ittou Shura>!)

What a fatal mistake.

Ikki had already stepped into a range where his sword can cut her by using just a single super-speed step.

<Mark of the Wind> won’t make it time.

She was completely outwitted mentally.

(However, this isn’t the end!)

He had broken into her range.

She could not avoid a clash of swords.

But, only for once. She had to endure this clash with all she has and open the distance between them once more!

Then, Ikki’s mana would have run out.

He won’t be able to perform a bullet like start then.

(My chance of winning exists there! I have to overcome this clash at all costs!!!)

Ayase swung <Hizume> while screaming intensely, and slashed at Ikki who was before her eyes-

That blade slashed through empty air.

“---------------Eh….”

Ikki was, for sure, before her eyes-

Ayase’s slash that was swung with all her might only scratched the tip of Ikki’s nose who was running towards her. It didn’t reach him.

Had she miscalculated the distance between them?

No. Certainly Ikki was within the range of her sword.

But, that Ikki disappeared like a mirage, and another Ikki from behind him was running towards her.

Ayase blanked out. She could no longer understand what was going on.

But, that confusion was not meaningless.

This was one of original techniques Kurogane Ikki possessed, a technique rivaling <The Seventh Secret Sword - Raikou>.

With radical footwork he creates an afterimage before himself while running to confuse the distance between him and his opponent.

“The Fourth Secret Sword – Mirage”

At that moment, the slash of <Intetsu> swung with all of his might slashed through air and Ayase.

“It’s overrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! Competitor Kurogane’s attack was a clean hit!!!!!”

Upon the voice, which dislodged from the accumulation of scenes, the audience, too, raised loud cheers.

“Competitor Ayase fell to the ground! However she is not bleeding……! What is going on…?”

“*cough, cough*……yes, that is because he changed the device into <Illusionary Form> the moment before slashing her.”

“Then, does that mean she only got exhausted and not necessarily that she received a fatal blow?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“But why did he do such a thing? Does it mean that he does not want to hurt women?”

“That’s not true. I was slashed by him in the past. Probably, from the start he was just aiming to tire her out………because this time around, wining is not the only goal of Kurogane-kun.”

Oreki whispered to herself, and looked down upon the ring.

The fallen Ayase was trying to get up by putting strength into her limbs.

Ayase, while trembling, raised her head and glared at Ikki who was standing before her.

“…………What are you….trying to do here…………?”

“About what?”

“Don’t play dumb…………why are you not cutting me down…….!?”

“I don’t have to. Ayatsuji-san can’t fight anymore.”

(Making fun of me………..!)

She was made light of.

Thinking of that action as insult Ayase flexed her limbs.

One does not receive any physical damage if he/she is cut by an illusionary form of devise.

Only your stamina gets depleted.

Ayase had confidence in her stamina.

To the point where she can easily keep up with Ikki and Stella on their morning runs.

A fatigue of this level does not mean anything to her.

“…………hun?”

Or that’s how it should have been…… She could not feel any power in her body.

“…………Why………?”

She had to stand up, she had to win this fight, or else everything will be over.

She can’t save her father….Why, why?

(My heart……was it this cold?)

Her heart doesn’t simulate.

She can’t feel her fighting spirit to stand up once more by mustering the last of her strength.

Ayase realized upon feeling that fact.

That her soul was rejecting such a fight which didn’t have pride in it.

(I see…….this is the scream of my heart…………….)

When people are cornered they are only able to stand back up because they have pride within their hearts.

I can still do it. I should do it. Don’t give up. Like that they encourage themselves.

Ayase, too, had been doing so all along.

No matter how hard the training was, no matter how much her hands got blistered, she was able to endure it all because she had pride in herself who wielded <the Sword of Ayatsuji>.

But………………to Ayase who rejected that same pride……………

“………It’s just as Kurogane-kun said.”

She no longer had the power to stand up.

“…………It’s my loss.”


Part 9

“Wow, there is the give up sign from competitor Ayatsuji! The match ends with this~~~~~~~!!!! As expected, it was the <Worst OneFailure Knight> competitor Kurogane who won!!!!!! With this, competitor Kurogane has eleven consecutive wins!!!! The eleven consecutive wins he earned by defeating famous people like <Hunter> and <Runner’s High>! We can now say it with confidence that he will be a representative for the Seven Star Sword Art Festival!!”

Glancing over the excited cheers of the audience, Ayase let out a dry laugh.

“So uncool…………forget about abandoning it, I couldn’t even maintain it………”

The words that came out of her mouth were meant as a sneer at her own half-assed self.

But, to that sneer,

“You are not uncool.”

Ikki rejected strongly.

“Eh………?”

“You wandered, were mistaken, and in the end lost sight of yourself, but you had not thrown it away yet, and that is Ayatsuji-san’s strength.”

And, Ikki asked while extending his hand to the fallen Ayase.

“Ayatsuji-san, please tell me………what was taken away from you by that <Sword Eater>? What was it that pushed you so far?”

“What do you plan to do after hearing something like that…………”

“I’ll get it back.”

There was not even a bit of hesitation or falsehood in those words.

If Ayase relied on him, Ikki will fight for her without any hesitation.

She understood that, and precisely because she understood it that she,

“……………I cannot tell you, because it doesn’t have anything to do with Kurogane-kun after all.”

She can’t let him fight against such a monster.

She can’t let such a kind man get hurt because of someone half-assed like herself.

(Father is enough; I can’t let such a thing happen to him too.

That’s why Ayase concealed everything. But,

“Then, I’ll just investigate the matter.”

“Eh?”

“I’ll investigate everything by following you around and researching about you.”

“Wha, what are you saying………”

“I’ll inquire everything, and get everything back for you. Ayatsuji-san, too, stalked me before, so we’ll be equal with this. Thus, I have no reason to listen to your complaints, do I?”

Incomprehensible.

What ‘we’ll be equal with this’……….this is not balancing debt, it’s just increasing it.

“…………Why……..?”

Ayase couldn’t stop the trembling in her voice nor could she stop the miserable tears.

“Even though I betrayed Kurogane-kun………’sob’ even though I did such horrible things………….’sob’ Why……………’sob’ are you trying to help me?”

Ayase asked with a trembling voice. Ikki’s answer was filled with clarity.

“I don’t need a reason to wipe the tears of my friend.”

“………………………!!”

For a moment Ikki’s figure overlapped with Kaito’s in Ayase’s eyes.

The figure of her father that climbed the stage of battle for the sake of his apprentice.

Ikki was the same as him.

Even if he is spit on, or jeered on he won’t take out his sword for things trivial like those.

But, if his precious comrades are hurt, he will not hesitate in the slightest to draw his sword.

(Ah…….yea, that is how it was……………)

Since when had I lost sight of it?

This, right here, was the figure I had been chasing so badly after in that dojo.

Ayase looked at her own hands.

They were blistered hands that couldn’t be said to be pretty even as a flattery.

Just like her father and Ikki, they were the hands of a swordsman(woman).

(That’s right, I just wanted to be a cool swordsman(woman) like father that’s why I wielded the sword.)

At one time she was afflicted with violent strength of Kuraudo, lost the sight of herself in the impatience of trying get the dojo back.

The whereabouts of her pride.

Ayase had finally remembered that and griped her hands, strongly.

At that moment, Ayase’s heart finally decided.

“………………Kurogane-kun………please help me………………!”

The thing she should do now was not to go against the teachings of her father, and betray her own pride and bask in narcissism like a damsel in distress.

It was to ask this gentle yet strong boy for his help, and believe in his victory.

That’s why Ayase took Ikki’s extended hand.

“I just wanted to hear those words.”

Upon those words, Ikki smiled like he was really happy and strongly gripped Ayase’s hand.


References

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