Chapter 7:

Blade waltz

Dive into the Night

Leon closed his eyes and thought for a second. He flashed back to the night before he entered the Dream, the friend he could not remember; and the promise they shared. He remembered the day when he spoke with Kelvin, finding out that all of this friends had already moved on. He looked back at Kaz.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to decline. I don’t work well in groups,” Leon said as he turned to walk away.Bookmark here

“Ah, please wait a mo-…”Bookmark here

As Leon turned to walk away, Hayate angrily stormed towards him.Bookmark here

“OI! You don’t just walk away when someone’s talking to you!”Bookmark here

Hayate grabbed Leon’s shoulder and turned him around. Leon swung with his spear’s handle as he turned, knocking Hayate back.Bookmark here

“Listen, I don’t have anything against all of you. Groups just aren’t my thing.”Bookmark here

Recovering from the strike, Hayate glared at Leon.Bookmark here

“Now you’re just asking for it. If it’s a fight you want, that’s what you’re getting!”Bookmark here

Hayate drew his katana and got into a combat stance. Leon switched to a combat stance in response.Bookmark here

“Stop your provocations, Hayate! We should be on the same side!” Kaz yelled. Bookmark here

“Oh yeah? And why would you want this guy on our team? Not like he does anything special or anything? Everything he does, we can do better!” Hayate angrily replied.Bookmark here

“Well, one. Compared to you, he can actually fight,” May replied in a deadpan tone. Bookmark here

Touma coughed while Saya struggled to hold back a laugh. The reply just made Hayate angrier. Bookmark here

“You want to fight too?! I’ll take both of you on if you’re ready to die!” Hayate shouted.Bookmark here

“May, please refrain from doing that,” said Kaz. “Your provocations will only agitate Hayate further.”Bookmark here

May shrugged.Bookmark here

“It’s true.”Bookmark here

Leon stayed in his combat stance as he watched the three argue.Bookmark here

“Hey, if that was everything I’m just going to go…”Bookmark here

Hayate turned his attention back at Leon.Bookmark here

“Oh no, you’re not going anywhere until I give you a good beating!”Bookmark here

Hayate dashed forward and engaged Leon, swinging and thrusting his katana. Having paid attention to the various members of the group during the Nightmare fight, Leon knew how to respond to Hayate’s attack. Leon swung and thrusted his spear in response to Hayate’s rush, using the length of his weapon to keep distance as he parried every single one of Hayate's strikes.Bookmark here

“Stop blocking and fight me like a man!”Bookmark here

Leon’s defensive fighting baited Hayate into further aggression. Hayate pulled back and attempted to perform an overhand slash. Leon followed by stepping forward and performed his own upward sweep, striking Hayate’s hands and knocking the sword out of his hand. Leon immediately stepped forward again and side kicked Hayate, sending him a couple of metres back. As Hayate recovered from the hit, he looked up and saw Leon leaping towards him; spear in hand. Hayate raised his hands and attempted to materialize his sword again to block, but it would not appear in time to stop Leon’s attack.Bookmark here

CLANGBookmark here

Hayate opened his eyes to see Kaz standing in front of him, having blocked Leon’s attack with his own greatsword.Bookmark here

“That’s enough,” Kaz said calmly.Bookmark here

“That was some impressive spear work,” Saya said as she clapped.Bookmark here

Leon jumped back and planted his spear into the ground. Kaz placed his greatsword at his side as he looked back on Hayate, turning back after making sure he was unharmed. Bookmark here

“Aw, just when it was getting good,” May chimed in from the back.Bookmark here

Kaz shot an irritated look at May before turning back to Leon.Bookmark here

“Leon, I apologize if we got off on the wrong foot because of my teammate’s actions. However, I truly am serious when I say that we will need your strength. I believe as we continue to explore this Dream, the enemies we face will also continue to grow in strength. If we wish to discover the secrets that Oire speaks of, we need every bit of help we can get.”Bookmark here

“Look I get that and all, but I just- “Bookmark here

“Please, just hear out my request before you leave. If you are adamant about leaving, I will not stop you. Just know that when our paths cross again, I will continue to ask you until you accept.”Bookmark here

“Alright fine, let’s hear it,” Leon sighed.Bookmark here

Kaz raised his greatsword and pointed it in Leon’s direction.Bookmark here

“I challenge you to a one-on-one duel. Winner shall be the one to break their opponent’s armour first. You are to use any weapon in your arsenal to accomplish this task. Should you win, I shall never pester you again. Regardless of how many times we may encounter each other, the topic will never arise again. However, should you happen to lose, I will once again request you join us in fighting the Nightmares. You are still free to walk away if you wish.”Bookmark here

Leon remembered the last part of his conversation to Kelvin at the café.Bookmark here

Sure everyone’s busy right now, but I’m sure it’s something we can worry about some other day.”Bookmark here

When will that someday be? Even if a day comes when we can all talk together like normal, will any of the guys even remember what we promised back then? This is the one chance I will have at this. Even so, can I trust them?Bookmark here

Leon looked over at the group in front of him, everyone had eyes full of determination. He took a deep breath.Bookmark here

“Alright, I accept your challenge.”Bookmark here

“Thank you Leon, truly. Now, heal your Mana barrier and let me know when you are ready to commence.”Bookmark here

Leon placed his hand on his chest and closed his eyes as he began to concentrate, feeling his barrier solidify around him. He opened his eyes and looked at Kaz, who was performing the same action. Kaz opened his eyes and looked up at Leon, their eyes locked briefly. Bookmark here

“I take it you are ready?” Kaz asked.Bookmark here

“Whenever you are,” Leon replied.Bookmark here

“Then let us begin.”Bookmark here

Leon and Kaz both assumed a combat stance, but they did not move. Both combatants stared at each other with their weapons raised.Bookmark here

“Why aren’t they moving?” Saya asked.Bookmark here

“They are,” Touma answered. “They’re already fighting each other in their minds, trying to figure out a way to outplay the other. They both know that whoever makes a wrong move could risk instantly losing.”Bookmark here

Saya looked over at Touma and May, they continued to watch Leon and Kaz stare each other down with undivided attention. Bookmark here

“Hard to believe you got all that from just them standing there.”Bookmark here

Leon and Kaz continued to stare at each other, before Leon finally dashed forward.Bookmark here

“Ah, they moved,” said May.Bookmark here

Leon pulled back his spear as he approached Kaz, feinting a forward thrust. Kaz kept his greatsword in a blocking stance as he watched Leon. Right as he reached Kaz, Leon switched to an upward sweep. Kaz quickly turned his greatsword and blocked the attack, before countering with his own swing and knocking Leon back. Kaz continued to push forward, forcing Leon to fight defensively. Bookmark here

This isn’t right, this guy’s swinging his greatsword around like its nothing!Bookmark here

Leon had to put all of his strength into his swings just so he could match Kaz’s attacks.Bookmark here

What’s worse is that every single one of his swings are at full power. If I let up for one moment, that could be the end.Bookmark here

Leon turned his spear to the side during one of Kaz’s strikes, guiding Kaz’s sword to the side which caused him to over shoot. Kaz’s greatsword slammed into the ground as Leon dodged behind him, Leon flipped his spear around as he prepared for a backstab. Kaz dragged his greatsword through the ground and swung it back up towards Leon. The greatsword struck Leon’s spear, but the force of the impact sent him flying back several metres. As Leon landed he quickly rotated his body to recover faster. As he regained his composure, he looked up to Kaz leaping towards him, greatsword in tow. Leon hopped backwards to create more distance as Kaz landed at Leon’s previous spot. However, instead of striking, Kaz dashed forward again and tackled Leon. Stunned from the sudden impact, Leon barely had time to notice Kaz bring his greatsword down for an overhand swing. Leon raised his spear straight up to block the swing. Holding his guard, Leon countered by front kicking Kaz away; causing him to lose his grip on his greatsword. Leon dashed forward and continued the assault, slashing away at Kaz. Kaz dodged several slashes before having to block the rest with his arms. Seeing him block, Leon twirled his weapon around and jabbed Kaz in the stomach with the back of his spear; breaking his guard and creating audible cracking sounds. Leon continued his momentum and swung his weapon downward at Kaz, who caught the weapon right before it struck his head. Kaz countered with his own front kick, knocking Leon back and producing more cracking sounds. Leon summoned his spear and dug it into the ground to stop his momentum, but as he looked up he was struck in the face by Kaz’s greatsword. Leon landed face up, his spear now several metres away from him. Before he could summon it back to his side, Kaz had already walked over to him. Kaz tapped his greatsword on Leon’s chest as Leon summoned his spear pointed at Kaz’s neck, the tap caused Leon’s Mana barrier to shatter.Bookmark here

“That was a good fight, Leon. Truly you are skilled,” said Kaz as he pulled his greatsword away.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately not skilled enough, I get it,” Leon calmly replied.Bookmark here

He relaxed his arm and let it fall onto the ground at his side, his spear along with it. Bookmark here

“Seem like that’s the end of it,” said Touma.Bookmark here

“Wow. Even with how strong that Leon guy is, he’s still no match for Kaz, huh?” Saya replied.Bookmark here

The four spectators began to walk towards the two combatants, Touma looked closer as they approached.Bookmark here

“No, not quite.”Bookmark here

Touma watched as Kaz turned away from Leon and lightly tapped his chest, shattering his Mana barrier. A slight smile appeared on his face before he turned back to help Leon up.Bookmark here

“I do hope you are unharmed from our duel,” Kaz asked.Bookmark here

“I’ll admit; it was a pretty good workout. You really didn’t hold back when it came to your attacks, you even threw your greatsword at me,” Leon said as he got up.Bookmark here

“How would I say it,” Kaz pondered for a second. “I guess I was just taking a page out of your book."Bookmark here

Leon quickly remembered the multiple times that he threw his spear during the Nightmare fight.Bookmark here

"Now then, about my request..." Kaz continued.
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"Don't worry, I don't need you to ask me twice."Bookmark here

The other members also reached Kaz and Leon’s position at this point. Kaz turned to the group.Bookmark here

“My friends, I would like to welcome the newest member of our team. May we all stand together as we uncover the secrets of this world."Bookmark here

“You might even be stronger than May! I hope we can get along!” Saya exclaimed enthusiastically. Bookmark here

Hayate crossed his arms.Bookmark here

“Well, if the leader wants you in; nothing I say is gunna change that. Just don’t hold us back.”Bookmark here

“How can he hold us back if he’s stronger than you?” May replied.Bookmark here

Saya could not hold her laugh back at May’s nonchalant reply, Touma simply shook his head. Hayate turned to May and began to yell angrily. Bookmark here

“Just cause you beat me once don’t mean you can just run your mouth whenever you want! You want a rematch?! Cause I’ll give you a rematch!”Bookmark here

Kaz walked in between Hayate and May in an attempt to break up their argument. Leon looked at the group argue and bicker as he reminisced about his group of friends and the interactions they had when they were children. He remembered someone’s smile, a person from his childhood he still cannot remember.Bookmark here

“Leon, are you alright? You are looking somewhat melancholic.”Bookmark here

Kaz had walked back over after breaking up the fight and was stood in front of Leon.Bookmark here

“No, it’s nothing. Just thinking about some things.”Bookmark here

Kaz nodded and turned back to the group.Bookmark here

“Alright everyone, let us return to the village to plan for our next night.” Bookmark here

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