The Consequence of Saving the World
The stone pillar which protruded off the surface of the arena elevated Sereya to a perilous position. In an attempt to regain her balance, she lowered her stance, but her body was still aligned at an unnatural angle.
Melyeze pounced at her target, both eyes shimmering with different colours. Adding to her freakish expression was her smile, raw and unfiltered from the opportunity which she created for herself.
My entire body tensed up. I wanted to yell, ‘dodge!’ but I knew my input would be pointless.
Terror and dread latched onto me. Yet, no matter how much I feared for what was to happen next, my eyes were glued towards the action unfolding before me.
All of a sudden, Melyeze forced herself to a halt, hopping backwards as the smile that was previously painted across her face was replaced with that of frustration. As a result, Sereya safely fell off the stone pillar, landing elegantly on the arena’s surface.
What. Just. Happened?
As if on queue, the stone pillar which shot out of nowhere disintegrated into tiny pieces of rock.
“You did your homework well, Melyeze. If you took another step further, it wouldn’t have ended well.”
That’s when I realised—Melyeze’s cheek was bleeding. It seemed like she hadn't even noticed it herself.
“Were you able to see it? Or was it instincts that told you to back off?” Sereya prodded further.
“All I saw were flashes of light. Even with one hand, you could still use Invisible Blade.”
Flashes of light? No, it was invisible for sure! Her hand never even moved!
“So you saw flashes, huh? Kinda wish I was right-handed.”
I gulped down the saliva building in my throat. If Melyeze wasn’t aware of her skills, she was dead meat. Sereya the Merciful Blade—I wasn’t sure whether being unable to see incoming death was mercy…
“But still,” Sereya continued, “being able to cast chantless magic while simultaneously maintaining a physical offence—the only human capable of pulling that off is the Hero, Evansmith.
Was it a Blessing? Did you set up traps beforehand?”
Hearing my name caused my hairs to stand on end.
“No, Lady Sereya. Just like you, I was unable to use magic. My eyes—these are the results of Augmentation. Both of these eyes belonged to powerful mages who died during the demonic invasion.”
As she explained, the energy around her eyes flickered. Her burning right eye and glowing left eye—both seemed to relax as she further elaborated.
“No matter how hard I trained, I was unable to step into the realm of heroes. I was unable to catch up to you. By the time I was old enough to join the military, the Demon Lord was already slain.
I trained so hard. I let the researchers carry out Augmentation experiments on me. Now in this time of peace, the only consolation that I can get is from comparing my strength to you, Lady Sereya.
But yet, even with one hand and a cheap sword. I’m still nowhere near you.
That’s why I, that’s why I—
I’ll close this huge gap between us right now!”
As she put her resolve into words, her eyes resonated with intense magical energy. I wasn’t able to sense it, but it was so thick that I could see it swirling in the air. A burning blue flame and a glowing yellow iris—she was summoning all of her power to put an end to the fight.
“Lady Sereya, I demand to see your true strength!”
The arena quaked uncontrollably as stone bullets formed all around in the air. Even after taking a few steps back, I was feeling nauseous from all the tremors. What terrifying magic power—so this was the effect of Augmenting one’s body with another’s parts?
“Melyeze,” Sereya’s voice remained steady even though the ground she stood on was not, “you know, I received some helpful advice today. I was told to keep a trick up my sleeve. I’m sure you studied my strengths and abilities religiously, but I’m afraid I’ll be using a trick on you instead of meeting you at my fullest.”
A trick? What kind of trick will get you out of this 360-degree rain of stone?
“Let’s see you try!”
Instead of firing the stone projectiles that numbered probably in the hundreds, Melyeze summoned stalactites from under Sereya. These sharp spikes extended from the ground at incredible speeds and would have turned her into a skewer, if it wasn’t because of her immaculate footwork.
Despite their cone-like shapes, she used them as footholds!
Understandably, Melyeze grew upset, seeing that her attack barely had any effect. She called down the stone bullets forming in the air above all at once. So large was the area that it covered that I hid by the stands. There simply wasn’t any room for Sereya to avoid her magic.
“Show me! Show me your Invisible Blade!”
Melyeze taunted Sereya, who did not respond in any way. With no room to run and with seemingly countless missiles raining down on her, she blitzed right towards Melyeze!
It was a burst of speed that I had not seen before. Throughout this fight, Melyeze stayed on the offensive, charging tirelessly at her opponent. Sereya’s speed was on a whole different level.
With Sereya just in front of her face, the velocity of her magical barrage decreased immensely. It was simply far too big of a risk to use projectiles at this distance. Sereya went for a large, overhead cut, instead of Invisible Blade.
Reflexively, Melyeze rotated the guard of her broadsword upwards in an attempt to parry.
“I did it!”
The two blades clash, but the serrated edges on Melyeze’s superior weapon locked Sereya’s sword in place. Melyeze couldn't hide her surprise, despite how intimidating she looked with her magical eyes.
But Sereya didn’t stop.
Her sword may have been restricted, but the swinging motion of her arm continued its arc. Even as her hand left the grip, it continued to travel towards Melyeze’s left shoulder.
Like a meteor, the two fighters crashed into the arena with tremendous force. I couldn’t tell who fell first. The answer only reached me by the time the dust settled.
Melyeze’s back was on the floor. The slam must have rattled her, considering Sereya’s insane natural strength and the weight of her armour naturally working against her. However, she wasn’t about to give up.
The innumerable stone projectiles were about to come crashing down on Sereya, who was directly above her!
Before it could happen, the clanging of a metal object reached my ears. A simple metallic table knife landed right beside Melyeze’s right eye as it stuck out from the arena floor.
Looking at the knife’s reflection of her burning blue eye, it seemed like she came to some form of realisation.
The stone bullets, which were previously aimed at Sereya, suddenly lost momentum. They fell to the arena floor like raindrops.
“Like I said, I had a trick up my sleeve.”
The last ‘raindrop’ was not that of stone, but the falling of steel. The swords of both duellists fell to the ground, still interlocked with one another. Melyeze’s blade caught that of Sereya’s. Likewise, the owners of both blades were also intertwined, but it was Melyeze who was caught under Sereya.
While I wasn’t sure where she got that table knife from (hopefully not from the bar earlier), it decided the match. If she so wanted, she could have dropped that knife into Melyeze’s head. With the result apparent, I took a deep breath.
“The winner is Sereya!”
Sereya extended her hand towards Melyeze. Having already accepted her defeat, the flame and glow in her eyes died down, reverting back to their original state. She held onto Sereya’s hand, who helped her up.
“You know, Hero Evansmith’s greatest weapon wasn’t his sword or his magic.”
Sereya’s words not only caused Melyeze’s ears to perk up, but mine as well.
“He fought so many enemies bigger, stronger and deadlier than him. His greatest weapon was using his own human ingenuity and resourcefulness.
You were too absorbed into shutting down my Invisible Blade. And by the time you pried it off the blade off my hands—”
“You had another one up your sleeve,” Melyeze finished the answer for her.
“I’m impressed, Melyeze. You put up a much better fight than I initially thought.”
The knight shook her head, “No, Lady Sereya, you simply wanted to see the full extent of my strength. If you fought seriously, even with just one hand and poor gear, you could’ve finished me off at the start.”
Sereya placed her hand on Melyeze’s shoulder.
“Maybe, but in a few years time, I don’t think that will be the case. Keep on training, but don’t forget to enjoy the peace once in a while, you hear? I don’t want my effort in fighting against the demons to go to waste.”
Melyeze quietly nodded.
“Well, I appreciate this duel and all your help, Melyeze. Evan and I will be making a move now.”
I was partly still processing the final moments of the fight when Sereya said that we’d be leaving.
“Oh, and I know this may sound mean,” Sereya added, “but I honestly wished you were fighting with me on the frontlines. If you were there, I’m sure a lot more lives could be saved.”
As she uttered those words, I could see tears starting to form around Melyeze’s eyes.
“Then, I hope that one day in the future, I will have a chance to do just that.”