The Consequence of Saving the World
Noticing our presence, Melyeze jogged towards us. The weight of her plate mail was made even more obvious by the rhythmic clanking it produced with every step she took.
It was an appearance that looked surreal. Her face was that of a young girl, yet her armour made her body seem twice as large. I couldn’t even imagine breathing in such unwieldy attire and yet, she as if it weighed nothing at all.
As she stood before us, Melyeze gave a firm nod to the knight who escorted us. He replied with a nod of his own, before disappearing into the darkness from where we came.
“Lady Sereya, I know it’s unbecoming of me as a knight, but,” her head drooped as her eyes stared on the floor, “only in my full gear do I think I have a chance of beating you.”
Sereya shook her head, “It’s fine. I understand. I only fear that you’ll find sparring with me at my current state to be a disappointment.”
The difference between the two combatants was as clear as day and night. Sereya only had cloth and leather to serve as protection. However, the biggest handicap of all was that she had only one arm. If I didn’t know that this person was one of the Seven Heroes, I would have reprimanded her for being suicidal.
Shifting my gaze to Melyeze, and her armour seemed even more impressive up close. Unlike the knight before, her armour had unique markings and engravings all throughout, which probably improved the defensive capabilities of the armour via magic. Even without this feature, the sheer defence that her armour provided already turned her into a walking fortress.
“Alright then,” Melyeze looked up towards the night sky,“ as per tradition, since this duel is happening outside of the Goddess’ gaze at night, it cannot be considered official. Instead of tournament rules, we’ll just keep it to last man standing, alright?”
“Melyeze,” Sereya smiled, “you need to loosen up. I was the one who requested for this fight to happen at night outside of prying eyes. Win or lose, no honour or glory is to be found or lost in this bout, so we can rest easy and focus on the fight.”
Listening to the two warriors discuss rules and all that felt weird to me. Who knew that there were such practices for duelling?
Sereya continued, “Since this is the case, I’ll be having Evan here serve as referee, would that be fine?”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Melyeze nodded.
“Wait wait wait, I can’t referee! I don’t even know the rules! Why can’t we just have one of the knights act as referee?”
“The referee has to be of a neutral party,” Melyeze addressed me with a more formal tone, “It’s unfair to Lady Sereya for one of my men to serve as arbiter.”
“Also,” Sereya added, “I found both of you in the forest about the same time, so that should be a sufficient case for your neutrality.”
Huh? To be completely honest, I was far more biased towards Sereya. I couldn’t help it! This sly fox kissed me out of nowhere!
Then again, I understood Sereya’s line of thought. Since we were putting up the act of me not being the hero, I was a lot more neutral to both parties in that sense. Still, that doesn’t solve the issue of:
“I can’t fight!”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry!” Sereya broke into a broad, relaxed grin, “We’re not using any specific ruleset. As long as you see one of us no longer able to continue fighting, you can announce the victor.”
“That’s right. Your role is more for formality’s sake and to bear witness to our match.”
These two girls were far too in sync to be fighting one another!
I sighed in defeat. I was the one who was curious and wanted to spectate this fight. I mean, who wouldn’t get excited from watching two extremely powerful warriors duke it out?! I guessed there was no such thing as free viewership, huh.
“Alright then, since all that’s settled, let’s take to the arena.”
At Melyeze’s behest, we gathered at the centre of the arena, before the two duellists took their respective sides.
It was a bizarre, yet eerie atmosphere.
On this large square platform were two skilled fighters, one of whom was considered a living legend who helped put an end to the demonic invasion. Yet, there was not a single soul who laid on the upcoming battle from outside the arena.
I made my way towards the edge of the platform. They didn’t need to tell me to leave the centre. I would be dead if I didn’t. However, before I gave the signal for the duel, I noticed something horribly off.
“Hold on, you’re using real swords?!”
I immediately regretted asking that. Melyeze’s expression was dark and full of anger.
“Don’t you dare look down on my duel with Lady Sereya!”
My blood ran cold. I have never seen her lose her temper like that. Even though I stood far away from her, my survival instincts told me that she could easily end my life if she so desired.
“Evan, I appreciate the concern, but,” Sereya’s face was calm, but the tone of her voice was stern, “we are not beginners. Just relax and enjoy the show, okay?”
Still, to my untrained eyes, I could tell the huge difference in weapon quality between the two of them. Sereya wielded a simple sword, one that the common footsoldier used. Melyeze on the other hand, held a custom-ordered broadsword. Both edges were serrated—if getting stabbed by that was bad, I didn’t want to imagine how it felt like when she pulled it out.
All I could do was grit my teeth and hope the fight ends without serious injury.
“I’m not sure how this goes, but are both fighters ready?”
Their weapons were drawn and their gazes were locked. To honour their enthusiasm, I placed my index finger and thumb into my mouth, whistling as hard as I could!
Without any sign of nervousness, Sereya walked to the centre of the arena. Melyeze responded by cautiously circling her opponent, the tip of her blade facing straight towards its target.
Before long, Melyeze dashed forwards in a burst of speed. Her sword came down hard like a falling pillar, the reverberation of clashing steel informed me of its power. Yet, Sereya casually blocked the strike, her feet not budging even a single bit.
Unfazed, Melyeze followed up with another slash, and then another. Each new attack came at a different direction, a different speed, and a different angle. Sereya remained rooted, meeting each thunderous blow with graceful parries.
I could tell that both sides were testing each other, getting a feel for each other's movements. The gap in strength was apparent, though. Melyeze swung with both hands and with effort into her strikes, constantly moving and looking for an opening. Sereya hasn’t moved one bit. Her defence was absolute.
It was then, in the midst of this exchange, a flash of blue light momentarily blinded me. As I adjusted my eyes, Sereya leapt backwards from her previously grounded position.
Melyeze’s single blue eye ignited with an unnatural blue lick of flame!
“I see, so your heterochromia isn’t just for show. I never expected body enhancement magic, though,” commented Sereya.
“Yet, you still saw through my attack, Lady Sereya. As expected of one of the Seven Heroes.”
Sweat was dripping down the side of my face. The heat generated from Melyeze’s burning eye was intense, yet it didn’t harm her. Rather, it was the opposite. Veins were popping around her neck and face as she brimmed with renewed strength.
“Let’s see if you can keep up!”
At the sound of Melyeze’s words, she leapt forward once more. What shocked me was her speed. Just from the use of magic, she was moving several times faster than before! Not only that, the force of her attacks were far more vicious
Despite that, Sereya continued to put up a solid defence. Combined with skillful blocks and masterful dodging, she was able to keep up with the empowered Melyeze.
However, she didn’t remain passive. Occasionally, Sereya would counter by swinging her blade with lightning speed, causing the knight to drop her assault and pour all her strength into her guard.
Goosebumps travelled down my spine. Sereya was merely matching Melyeze’s pace. She wasn’t even trying.
Probably coming to the same conclusion, Melyeze switched her approach. She charged even more aggressively at Sereya, using quick stabs instead of powerful slashes. The melee happened at an uncomfortably close distance and for the first time, the flow of the fight shifted to one that I didn’t expect.
A tremendous roundhouse kick flew into Sereya. Yet, instead of blocking with her sword, she blocked with her arm, pushing her back a fair distance.
It surprised me at first. Why did she decide to take the blow?
“Unfortunately, Lady Sereya, if you had faced me with Sinfall or Humilis, you wouldn’t need to take that blow with your arm.”
“It’s fine. If my weapon couldn’t survive the impact, then the responsibility falls to my body.”
It was the first clean hit of the match. In that suit of armour combined with her enhanced strength, Melyeze’s kick was supposedly capable of shattering steel. Despite that, Sereya bore the full brunt of the collision, displaying no signs of discomfort whatsoever.
“Well, Lady Sereya, if you’re not going to come at me seriously, then I’m going to have to force it out of you.”
Once more, Melyeze sprinted towards Sereya, her left eye burning brighter than ever. As Sereya adjusted her stance to meet the assault, a pillar of earth shot out under her, throwing her off balance!
These turn of events—I could only chalk it up to Melyeze’s right eye, which now glowed an ominous yellow.