Chapter 14:

Volume 2 Chapter 8: Sword Dance Part 3

A Battlefield of Swords and Flowers

Following my duel, three more had been scheduled. Two of the other boys fought next, but I wasn't paying too much attention to them. I was still catching my breath from the last duel, so I sat myself on a bench and tried to calm myself down.

After that, it came time for Lia’s fight. She was fighting that one girl that had been glaring at everyone in the waiting room. But though the girl was definitely older than Lia, and probably more experienced than her, Lia had no trouble taking her on. Her ability and speed are what really impressed me, though. No matter how many times Lia’s opponent tried to hit her, Lia was just too fast and she dodged every one of her swings.

In the end, the duel was over without their sword ever coming into contact. Lia ended her fight even faster than mine. But that was to be expected from a prodigy like her.

The fight I was really looking forward to, though, was Serena's. She was blind, after all, so it naturally made you wonder how so we do. Even though I had my doubts about the whole thing, I tried to keep myself from judging her too much. And well, I shouldn’t have been skeptical.

When Serena’s fight started against the other boy, they both kept still. I'm assuming Serena did so because her strategy was to let her opponent make the first move. But the boy must have felt that something was off because he didn't move either. But once he figured out Serena was blind, he dashed toward her.

I shouldn’t have doubted her, though, because regardless of whether or not she could see, she blocked his sword with ease.

Honestly, the look on the boy's face was hilarious. It was if he had found himself naked in public. Needless to say, he had embarrassed himself and it seemed like Serena had hurt his pride. So he swung at her again, and again, and again. The boy tried to land a blow for at least two minutes, but Serena either blocked them or simply moved out of the way.

It wasn’t until the end of those two minutes that Serena made her first move. She rushed toward her opponent without hesitation and executed two swings, one after another, the boy was barely able to defend against them.

Regardless of her blindness, Serena was much faster than both me and Lia.

With every swing of her sword, her opponent was pushed back one step at a time, until…

With a lightning fast swing from the bottom right to top left, Serena sent the boy's sword flying, pointing the tip of her blade at the boy's face until he surrendered.

Her duel was just unbelievable. Serena on par, if not more skilled than Lia, which made me anticipate their duel even more. I could tell Lia was excited, too, by the way she leaned forward in her chair.

I barely won my second duel a few minutes later. If I hadn't dodge my opponent's blade in time, I would've probably ended up with a few broken ribs.

But now it was time for Lia and Serena’s duel.

"Good luck," I told Lia as I was heading back to sit down.

"I think I'll need more than luck against her," she said quite nervously. I guess even she saw how skillful Serena was.

Though it wasn’t her intention, that comment made me shutter. I was now a finalist in the tournament. I know I can't win against Lia. So if she's saying that she might not win against her, what chance do I have?

But Lia had already come face to face with Serena before I had a chance to freak out. They were given their swords and armor and then walked a distance from one another.

Lia stared Serena down with her sword at the ready. Even before their match had even started, I could feel just how tense Lia was. She had already seen Serena fight, and now she had determined just how formidable of an opponent she could be. I'm sure Lia had paid close attention to Serena’s fight. And with that in mind, she didn’t dare take her eye off her.

The pair were so focused on one another that I doubt they heard Knight Andor give them the signal to begin.

The first thirty seconds of their fight was spent standing idle. Neither of them even took a step forward. It wasn’t until the silence in the arena had reached an uncomfortable lull that Lia decided to take a step. Despite her blindness, Serena seemed to notice her movements because she changed her stance and held her sword at a new angle; yet, she didn’t step forward.

Knowing that they would get nowhere if they continued at this pace, Lia hesitantly stepped to the side. Serena once again shifted to account for Lia's movement.

As if she has figured something out, Lia now more prominently stepped forward, more and more. What had at first been a slow and hesitant approach now turned into a steady stride. Serena tensed up and got herself ready, crouching down a bit and repositioning her sword. But once Lia was maybe four meters from her opponent, she stopped.

Serena didn’t ease up, though, and Lia held her stare. For a moment, both girls stood completely still, waiting for the other to move. But that was when Lia leaped towards Serena.

Even from meters away, Lia was able to jump the distance with ease. As she flew through the air, she brought her sword above her head, reading herself for her first strike.

For just a moment, Serena seemed confused and she let her stance break, taking a step back. But it was just for that one moment. Suddenly, she snapped back into focus and positioned her sword just in time to block Lia’s oncoming attack.

Both girls pushed back on each other's blades, Lia still airborne, and they each repelled the other.

It seemed like a perfect chance for the girls to reposition themselves, but the instant Lia’s feet touched to ground, Serena’s head jerked toward Lia and she dashed toward her. Lia barely had any time to block the income diagonal slash, and the impact made her stumbled backward.

But Serena didn't let up. She stepped to her right and time slashed from below. When Lia went to block that strike, Serena just angled her blade for a horizontal slash. And again, Lia barely managed to defend against it. The three slashes in quick succession from Serena broke Lia’s stance and the last slash had left her open for an attack. With that chance, Serena quickly stepped back and bolted with her arm and sword almost completely extended, aiming directly for Lia’s chest.

There must have been a hair's distance between the edge of the and Lia's body. Lia just barely managed to bring her sword down, supporting the flat of her blade against her palm as Serena’s sword scrapped by, releasing crimson sparks in its wake.

The momentum of the strike carried Serena until she was behind Lia. Not wanting to be an easy target, Lia side stepped whilst turning as fast as she could to face her opponent. She seemed ready for an attack, but when she focused her eyes on Serena, all she found was her blade flying toward her, parallel to the ground. Serena wasn't even facing her. It seemed like she was just swinging randomly.

But her blade didn't hit Lia. Serena’s momentum had carried her too far away and she was just barely out of range. It seemed she was only trying to execute a preemptive attack.

For just three seconds, both girls stopped for a moment to rest, both facing one another again. Even from where I was, I could see beads of sweat forming on Serena’s forehead. As for Lia, she was sweating a lot more and her breathing was labored, so much so that you could see her chest bob up and down through her armor. Lia was never the athletic type but they hadn't even been fighting that long. Lia’s exhaustion only served to prove just how skilled Serena was.

Lia was still panting hard, but Serena gave her no time to catch her breath, and in the next moment she had closed the distance between them.

For the next two minutes or so, Serena relentlessly slashed at Lia, not letting her rest and constantly pushing back. Through the course of Serena’s attacks, Lia didn’t once have the chance to counter. The entire time she had been blocking attacks just trying to find an opening.

Just when Lia was about to collapse from exhaustion, she pushed back on one of Serena’s strikes just enough to make her stagger backward. But even though Serena was open for an attack, Lia didn’t follow through and instead put some distance between the two.

She was exhausted, and I'm sure Serena could tell without even looking at her. Her breathing was heavy and her stance was strained, her arms barely keeping her sword up.

Lia was going to have to end the fight now if she wanted to win or else she would pass out from exhaustion.

Probably coming to the same conclusion as me, Lia firmed up her stance, gaze centered on her opponent. Serena must have felt the tension created by Lia because even she tenses up even though she wasn’t at all tired.

Lia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The moment she opened them, Serena was already on the move. Regardless, Lia stayed where she was as she slowly raised her sword over her head waiting for Serena to get closer. But when she did, Serena hesitated to get within range. Lia didn't change her stance, though, and studied her opponent.

Serena kept her sword at the ready. She had to be careful since she was blind and had no way of seeing what Lia was up to.

As if both girls couldn't stand the silence, they both dashed toward each other, Lia with her sword up high, and Serena’s trailing at her side. They were both determined to end the fight here.

Lia’s sword plunged down with a speed that was hard for my eyes to track. I was sure that her sword would land a clean hit, but her blade didn't stop. All that she hit was the air in front of her.

By the time Lia realized what had happened, Serena was already behind her.

Like if a cold sweat had come over her, Lia jerked her head around and gazed on with wide open eyes in shock. Serena’s slash was already underway, just half a meter's distance from striking Lia.

Lia couldn’t get away and she awaited the hit with both a resigned and relieved expression. But Serena’s sword never hit Lia and instead stopped just short of her chest.

Even from where I was sitting, I could still see Serena’s jovial smile as she said "I win."

Lia smirked, turned away from her and said "Fine, Fine. You got me." With that she dropped to her knees, panting as if she were about to pass out.

I sat stunned. I couldn’t explain how Serena had managed to dodge Lia's attack so easily. Both Serena and Lia were extremely talented, but now there was no doubt that Serena was just that much better than Lia.

But what didn't that mean for me? I'll tell you what it means. It means that I won’t be getting that cool sword promised to the winner. I might as well resign now.

And as if she had sensed my distress, Liena appeared at my side.

"Mina had always bragged about how skilled Serena was. Obviously, I had to speak high of my own apprentice and I got a little carried away."

"How so," I asked. The way she smiled made me think she had done something awful.

"We made bets on you both. We both said that our own apprentice would win the tournament."

"And what would the winner get?"

"Whoever won we get to make the other person do whatever they wanted."

"What a stupid bet," I pointed out. "It's not like you're going to win." Putting me up against Serena gave you an immediate idea of who would win. Anyone could see that I was severely outmatched.

"Well, who knows how it will end," was all she said before she walked off.

I guess we'll see then.