To Be a Power in the Shadows! - Chapter 49[Updated at: 2021-01-11 09:21:44]
How long has it been since I’ve been able to enjoy this feeling.
I face off against this woman with violet eyes, and smile underneath my mask.
She is also smiling. Most likely, she is also feeling what I’m feeling right now.
I like to think of fighting as a conversation.
The quiver of a sword tip, the direction of the eyes, the positioning of the feet; every tiny detail has meaning, and to read that meaning and respond appropriately is what fighting is all about.
The power to read meaning from the smallest of actions, and the power to provide the better response. It would not be an exaggeration to say that these two are the biggest strengths when it comes to fighting.
And that’s why fighting is a conversation.
The higher both sides’ conversational strength is, the further they can read and respond, and then read the other’s response and respond to that, continuing the conversation in that manner ad infinitum.
But if their conversational strength is low, or if there is a large difference in their conversational strengths, then the conversation won’t even take place.
One side, or perhaps both sides, would just do what they want to do, and then that would be that.
There would be no conversation in there, no process, and only the result. I actually think that people who don’t intend to converse in the first place would be better off just competing with rock-paper-scissors. Delta, I’m talking about you.
She would probably just keep on thrusting out ‘rock’ to send ‘scissors’ and ‘paper’ flying her entire life. It’s a ridiculous rock-paper-scissors that she plays.
But I’m not exactly in a position to say this of others. It’s been so long since I’ve had a real, proper conversation.
The only way I’m different from Delta is that I do make the offer to initiate conversation. But it’s just that it always ends up being ‘rock.’
And this is why I am now so happy to meet this violet-eyed lady. She is actually looking at me. At my sword, at my eyes, at my feet. Though she looks like she’s just casually smiling, she is properly paying attention to all my movements.
Let’s just call her Violet-san. My dear Violet-san.
For a while, we converse while simply looking at each other. In that way, we gradually get to know the other. She is the type to fight from a distance, and I’m the type who changes fighting style according to my opponent. I am definitely not the type to only go with ‘rock’ every time.
Go on ahead.
I offer her the first move.
The next instant, I jerk my foot back.
Immediately afterwards, something that looks like a red spear pierces up from where my foot had just been.
How logical to aim for the foot.
I retreat half a step in the same motion. To think that her first move would come from under the ground.
The red spear splits into two, then chases me from the left and right in an effort to trap me.
My first move is wait-and-see.
I carefully observe the red spears’ speed, power, and mobility.
To that end, I dodge the right spear and use my sword to deflect the left one. The feedback on my hand is quite heavy. This is strong enough to kill me with one hit.
The evaded spear explodes with branches. The red, glinting needle-like lines may number even a thousand.
Then all of them rush towards me from all directions.
I clad my sword in magic and sever all the red spears with one swing.
“No matter the size of a scourge of mosquitoes, they cannot kill a lion.”
Violet-san smiles gracefully. We look at each other again for a brief while.
Higher conversational strength means evaluating the opponent’s strength in that short a time. And it also means understanding the opponent’s situation to some degree.
That is true for me, and most likely for Violet-san too. We both already know how this fight is going to end.
Spears the width of logs sprout from the ground all at once, pulverizing the silence.
Their total number is 9.
I can evade the thick spears, but they are deforming into tentacles that are chasing after me.
Stabbing like a spear, entangling like string, snapping like a jaw.
This is her fighting style. These tentacles that she can manipulate freely would only one-sidedly torment her prey.
But I’m still in wait-and-see. I look at the tentacles, and optimise my actions.
I gradually decrease the amount that I have to move to evade. One step becomes half a step. Two moves become one.
I can’t win by only evading. Evading is merely the preparation for counterattack.
And the tighter the evasion, the quicker it can chain into a counterattack.
Evade, then counterattack in the same instant.
With a single step, I am standing right before her.
Since who knows when, she is holding a huge scythe in her hands. She swings it in a mowing attack.
I deflect that single strike with my sword. At the same time, I kick her leg.
The slime sword protruding from the tip of my toes stabs her foot. Lately, this sword has been reduced to a mere prop for performances, but it is originally a surprise weapon that can enable me to break the equilibrium when fighting against a strong opponent.
Her movements stop for the briefest of moments, but that’s more than enough for me.
Violet-san smiles in acceptance of the outcome.
“I would have loved to fight you at your full strength.”
So I say in a voice that only Violet-san can hear, amidst the scattering blood.
“As I had said, it seems that Shadow is already on the ropes.”
So says Nelson triumphantly, which Alexia ignores.
In this fight between Shadow and Aurora, it had been Aurora’s incessant onslaught from the very first move. Alexia watches on with shock at the red lines dancing at terrific speeds.
No matter how she looks at it, there’s no way that that is a forged weapon. It is clear to see that its shape is freely changeable, and Aurora is controlling it as if it’s a part of her body. Most likely, it is capable of spreading in a much larger range to pierce a large number of targets all at once.
Someone restricted to a single sword is no opponent.
This is a fighting technique of old. Alexia is well aware that this is definitely not something that she can even dream of standing against.
“He’s clinging on longer than expected. But the difference in strength is all too obvious.”
That’s not it.
Alexia refutes Nelson’s assessment in her heart.
It may look like Shadow is being pressed by Aurora’s fierce attacks, but that’s only because he hasn’t initiated a single attack yet. He is still only observing this fighting technique that he is seeing for the first time.
Aurora is indeed strong. Since she can fight with Shadow in the truest meaning of the word.
However, it’s just that the red spears have yet to graze Shadow even once.
“No matter the size of a scourge of mosquitoes, they cannot kill a lion.”
So says Shadow as he blows away those spears that number more than a thousand with a single swing.
Then the red spears become as thick as logs, assaulting him from all directions.
They raise high-pitched screams as if to assert that they possess enough strength to kill lions, at times splitting, at times snapping like jaws, chasing and chasing and chasing Shadow.
But none of them land.
Instead, after every single pass, Shadow’s evasion becomes more refined.
What seems to be the smallest possible movement is eclipsed the next moment by one even smaller.
What Alexia thinks the ultimate exchange of offense and defense is overwritten again and again.
Alexia’s and Natsume’s murmurs overlap.
The truly strong can drive the opponent to the ropes through defense alone. That is something that her swordsmanship teacher had previously told her.
The very illustration of that is being played out before her eyes.
“What is that damned witch doing. Just finish him off already!”
Irritation can be heard in Nelson’s voice.
But, no longer.
No longer can Aurora stop Shadow.
The decisive moment is but a flash.
All Alexia can see is a fraction of the exchange.
Shadow steps in, Aurora swings her huge scythe, then there’s already blood fountaining into the air.
Blood from Aurora, that is.
That seemingly effortless and instantaneous ending is exactly like a lion wringing the neck of a lamb.
What did Shadow do exactly? What had happened in the exchange? No one knows.
That’s why there was no suspense.
It is as if the furious fight spread out before them mere moments ago was but a dream. The entire venue is as still as death.
“She…… lost? That’s impossible! It was Aurora who was on the offense the whole time!”
So shouts Nelson.
Most likely, in his eyes, Aurora had been winning to the very end.
His head is not capable of processing what he perceives to be an abrupt upset. But Nelson is not the only one. Almost everyone in the audience had probably been mistaking the winner and loser while watching.
“Exactly what had happened…… there’s no way Aurora can lose! That woman is……!”
Shadow flutters his jet black longcoat and soars into the night sky.
“W-, wait! Give chase! Don’t let him get away!”
So shouts Nelson immediately after regaining his senses.
The Holy Knights all spring into motion, chasing after Shadow in a fluster.
Alexia releases the breath that she had been holding in since who knows when, then ruminates over Shadow’s sword in her head so that she won’t forget it.
“What a terrific sword as always……”
So sighs Rose.
Right when Alexia is about to voice her agreement, the venue is once again filled with dazzling white light.