༺ Alicia Arden (5) ༻
My older sister was my aspiration.
Back when I still had passion for the sword, Sister used to be my idol.
“Lady Lunia has defeated the Grade 1 demonic beast, Minotaur!”
“She is still only 15. That is remarkable!”
“Lord Garrand is also keeping a close eye on Lady Lunia!”
Sister was like a hero from a fairy tale; like a legendary knight who defeated evil monsters. She was a hero like grandpa Garrand, whose tales I had been hearing from a young age.
I knew what my position was inside the household. A daughter of a concubine – mother passed away during my birth and father considered me a disgrace that was made from his mistake.
The only value I had in his family was that I had the blood of the great Sword Emperor, Garrand Arden, flowing in my veins.
“Y, you’re back! Congratulations Sister!”
“You’ve grown quite a lot.”
My sister from another mother who was 9 years older than me patted my head a lot more than my biological father.
That made me so happy, so rather than my mother whom I had never met and the step-mother who considered me non-existent, Sister was…
Everything changed on the day I first cut a person.
There was a thing called ‘Sword Challenge’ among the rules of the household.
It was a sort of test to elect captains of the 5 sword squads, who would be taking care of the important matters of the household. However, I now knew that this was just a way to trample on potential competitors as a group. That was why Mr. Korin said he would change this.
That was to issue a ‘Dojo Challenge’.
By opening an official dojo and challenging the 1st Sword Squad as a newly founded group, we defeated the Five Sword one at a time and led to a 1 on 1 battle against my sister.
Mr. Korin told me defeating them here and announcing that to the public would make it difficult for Sister and her forces to touch me for the time being.
The money that went to the registry of the dojo, the purchase of an abandoned dojo and the employment of Mr. Dorron the mercenary all came from Senior Marie’s wallet.
I should be able to repay her as soon as I received the bounty money from defeating John Doe.
Two days after the official registry as a dojo, we simultaneously attacked the five senior sisters of the 1st Sword Squad.
And as Mr. Korin expected—
“That’s quite an interesting thing you’ve thought of.”
My older sister came to the dojo I opened.
Lunia Arden – the step-sister, who I admire, glared at me with an icy gaze. I remembered how I used to feel timid all the time from how scary that gaze was.
‘Can I really… defeat Sister?’
Mr. Korin said that defeating the Five Swords was just a skirmish before the real battle, and that the real deal was defeating the contemporary Sword Master, Lunia Arden.
But could someone like me really defeat Sister, who was already a semi-Unique Grade knight when she was my age?
Should I apologize here and run away?
My hands carrying the demon-slaying sword trembled and I felt like it would drop any time soon so I tried my best to hold onto it.
“You fool. Half-assed judgements are the worst ones to make. If you were going to run, you should have run immediately after seeing me and if not, then stand tall and be firm like a boulder.”
Her sharp gaze pierced through me. It was like this every time – Sister knew everything about me all the time.
“There is no way a cheeky idea like Dojo Challenge would have come out of your head. As I suspected, was it you, Korin Lork?”
I carefully turned my gaze over to the side and found Mr. Korin shrugging his shoulders. Even though he was pretty much picking a fight against the Ardens, he was still calm.
In fact, he even told me off.
“Alicia. Isn’t there something you need to tell her?”
Do I really have to say it?
I sent him a desperate gaze but he nonchalantly glossed over it.
“A, as an instructor of a newly founded Arden-style dojo… I request the Captain of the 1st Sword Squad, Lunia Arden, for a practice duel.”
“Hmph. Did you register as an official dojo and buy a building just for this stuff?”
“I, it’s an official request.”
“Yes. A direct child of the Arden does have the free right to establish a dojo. To think you would make use of that rule like this, even though it was supposed to limit the branch families from gaining too much power.”
Plus, the instructors of newly founded dojos had the right to request swordsmen of the household for friendly duels. Although it was possible for the swordsmen to turn them down, Mr. Korin assured me that that won’t happen.
It was because a sect of swordsmen was composed of people whose pride had to stand firmer and taller than anything else in the world.
“Good. A friendly duel it is,” said Lunia, “But you should know yourself, that we won’t be casting non-lethal spells or using practice swords.”
“I am… prepared.”
Mr. Korin told me to use the ‘demon-slaying sword’ at all cost, while saying that relying on the sword was the only way for me to win.
“Arden-style, Head Disciple of Singular Sword, Lunia Arden.”
“Arden-style, Grade 2 Swordsman of Singular Sword, Alicia Arden.”
It was time to end this war between siblings.
“Is this really okay?”
Looking at the serious battle between Alicia and Lunia, Marie asked in concern.
“I believe in her. Alicia will do a good job.”
Marie was puzzled by Korin’s ungrounded confidence.
Objectively speaking, Alicia stood no chance against Lunia. She had just become a Grade 2 knight, whereas the opponent was the strongest swordsman of this generation and was at a Semi-Unique Grade.
They weren’t even on the same page. Even Marie herself wasn’t confident in defeating Lunia even if she were to use her full potential as a vampire.
‘But… Korin won even when he was in a similar position.’
She saw him defeating the familiar that had been born from her blood. Even though he was outclassed in physical abilities, mana and everything, he still came out on top.
“Nn. It should be okay since you’re the one saying it, Korin.”
Right now, the credit Marie Bank had for Korin had reached beyond the maximum limit and was breaking through the roof.
That was when Lunia threw a purse at Korin. Judging from the clink of clashing metal, it seemed to be money.
“Is this for repairing the dojo?”
“No. It’s for building a new one.”
After saying that, Lunia vanished from where she was in the blink of an eye.
Following a Flash Step was a sword slash. Alicia somehow managed to block the attack but the building was destroyed behind her back.
– Kajik! Kajijik!
A sharp sword cut was carved on the wall of the dojo but Lunia didn’t stop there.
A sword wrestle immediately began with their blades touching each other. It was a fearsome battle between two swords where one mistake could end up with a cut on either the face or the shoulder.
『For the first attack, take a step back and push her sword to the side.』
Lunia’s sword fell to the side like it was flowing down a current of water. Lunia was slightly confused by her attack being casually nullified as if it had been predicted, but immediately swung the sword sideways but it was blocked again by the scabbard of the demon-slaying sword.
‘…Blocking with the scabbard?’
『Lunia likes sticking to the textbook. Even though she is proficient at everything that goes by the book, she won’t be expecting a trick like blocking with the scabbard.』
A silver flash burst forth.
Alicia attacked for the first time ever since the start of their battle. That marked the beginning of a fiercer battle between the two swordsmen.
Parrying the attack with the sword and retaliating with an immediate slash – Lunia was a master at it. Alicia threw her body back in an exaggerated manner to dodge the attack.
“Your footwork is still terrible.”
Alicia retreated easily because she was scared of being cut, and was frightened about being hit. It was the way of cowards and because she knew that, Lunia’s attacks in retaliation were always a step forward.
A sharp silver flash traveled past the side of her head. The skin got ripped as blood dripped from the lacerated wound.
Alicia retreated greatly to the back. Lunia was either relaxed or was trying to maintain her posture, but she did not chase after her.
『Make use of your speed. Block her vision and stab as fast as you can.』
The ground of the dojo was being covered with footsteps like the cartridges of a minigun – Alicia was circling around the unmoving Lunia as fast as she could. Her feet would soon come to a stop, and that would be the prelude to her charge.
❰Forward March, 3rd Move: Lightning❱
Alicia jumped in while trampling on the tiles of the arena of the dojo. In response to that destructive linear attack, Lunia curled the corners of her lips up and lowered her sword and readied herself for an upward slash.
❰Upward Slash: Falling Books❱
Lunia’s sword parried Alicia’s trump card. If she followed this through with a stab, it would certainly pierce through Alicia’s chest.
Even though her sword had been parried away, Alicia wasn’t flustered in the slightest and in fact, she even dashed faster to pounce at Lunia.
The two swordsmen rolled on the ground of the dojo. Lunia was the first to stand up.
“This stupid fool…!”
Lunia kicked Alicia’s head up with her boot. Due to being both weaker and slower, Alicia was kicked away while spurting blood with her mouth.
Alicia couldn’t disguise the pain and frowned. It was an unsightly thing to do for a swordsman.
“Did you think you could win with such petty tricks!?”
As if she was discontent with the fact that Alicia pounced at her body without using the sword, Lunia heavily swung her sword down.
Alicia managed to block the attack but was being pressed down due to the sheer difference in strength. At last, the sword dug into her shoulder and allowed blood to ooze out but Alicia’s mind was clearer than ever before.
Suddenly, Lunia’s sword slid down the side. Alicia had gently altered the path of the sword to the side like what Lunia had done with Alicia’s attack.
‘Block the sword, let it fall to the side with Falling Books and after that…’
The fearsome stab straight after the block grazed past Lunia’s body.
That set of consecutive attacks was relatively fluent. It was remarkable that Alicia had been able to pull off such moves even though she was almost pushed onto her knees with a stab in her shoulder.
‘But it’s still not perfect…’
Lunia drove in an unexpected strike with her elbow at Alicia’s chin right when she was about to carry the momentum through. Her following kick powered through Alicia’s calf and brought her down onto the ground as Lunia continued like a lightning strike.
Lunia’s sword came striking down from the heavens and Alicia parried it horizontally, but Lunia immediately kicked her chest with her foot and made Alicia roll across the ground.
Instead of fighting against the momentum, Alicia let her body constantly roll and used that momentum and inertia to quickly raise her body back up while putting a gap between them.
『Sister! I learned how to draw today!』
The child who had been treated coldly ever since a young age only had one person to talk to, and that was her older step-sister.
Instant Slash, Advancing Fang, Reverse Kill, Soaring Heavens, Lightning.
Falling Books, Three Paths of One Sword, Reverse Heavens, Crushing Steel.
The sun cast a spotlight on the two as the constant dazzling flash of silver threatened to blind everyone.
『Sister! I learned how to use a sword for the first time today! One day I will become an awesome knight like you!』
The dojo continued crumbling down throughout the bout of the two swordsmen. The walls and the floor became more rugged than ever as Alicia likewise accumulated similar injuries on her body.
Currently, it looked like Lunia was forcing Alicia into a corner all the time and in fact, that wasn’t too far from the truth.
Lunia gazed deeply at her step-sister.
『Uahh… I, it hurts! Please be more gentle!』
Her face that usually would have been in tears while grumbling about the pain was turning stiff in real time as if it was sitting under a wintery blizzard.
No – actually, the corners of her lips were sneaking up.
Even though Alicia was the only one who shed blood during the brief exchange, she smiled like a fiend as if she was bewitched by her own blood.
This was the heavenly gift of Alicia:
The talent of a ghost bewitched by the sword.
The most fiendish talent in the contemporary times that Alicia had been concealing due to fear was about to wake up.
“Good. That’s what you’re supposed to be like.”
That was the true Alicia that Lunia had been wanting to see. Lunia had been eager to see her real nature and that shocking talent which Alicia had been turning away from!
This was a matter of pride as a swordsman. This was not the hierarchical fight between beasts but one that concerned honor and pride as fighters.
Lunia had been dying to fight her rival when she was in her best condition.
“Are you seeing the Domain already?”
Alicia didn’t reply and instead, she drooled from her lips and widened her eyes into circles. The reason she had been wholeheartedly focused on blocking and dodging was to see that one tiny dot – it was to take a step forward in the most extreme level of concentration.
『You can’t beat her in a frontal fight. Block and dodge. You just need one moment to decide the battle anyway.』
Alicia had been receiving a constant set of advice from the boy over the past few days. As if he had experienced fighting Lunia Arden dozens of times already, he talked about her habits, forms and postures and told her to focus on ‘dodging at the last second’.
The key here was to not die;
To find the one deciding moment during the battle.
『A transcendent level of concentration allows knights to enter the Domain and collide once when put in an extreme situation. But your eyes will always allow you to see it. That is one of the two advantages you have over Lunia Arden. The other is ———』
It was pretty much like a gamble but Alicia agreed that that was the only way for her to win. She also noticed countless times during the fight that she was nowhere near Lunia’s league. In a normal fight, her body would have been cut into two in a matter of a few strikes but here, she was extending that to 30 strikes at the cost of gaining injuries on her body.
That was all to take that one step forward.
A screeching sound of metal reached her ears. Alicia was feeling the numbing sense in her hands but that was when Lunia flashed her eyes.
It was coming.
Alicia’s tremendously sensitive senses warned her of the upcoming death. She was about to sheathe her sword in a hurry but realized something before she could.
Lunia was half a step – half a second earlier than her. At this rate, she would be too late.
❰Arden First Sword Style: False Domain Severance❱
Her Eyes of the Boundary flickered open. The black ocean that she had been seeing for a while appeared vividly. She ignored the burning pain in her eyes and glared daggers at the dimension.
But Alicia wasn’t prepared enough.
One of the conditions of Alicia’s Domain Severance was the Eyes of the Boundary that allowed its user to perceive the Domain, and the other was the sheathed demon-slaying sword.
The attack was fast because of the circulation of aura inside the scabbard pushing the sword for an instant acceleration, but it was too late for Alicia to sheathe the sword now. It was also too late to swing now – no matter what she did, Alicia realized that she would be cut first before she could cut her sister.
If so, then all she had to do was have better control over the Domain.
It didn’t matter if she was late, or if she wasn’t in the right posture.
There was no need to defeat her. Alicia’s goal wasn’t to beat her as a swordsman in the first place – what she needed was a win. She had to win even if it may be pathetic and disgraceful.
Thus, she didn’t need to be faster than Lunia. As long as she could land a strike on her sword–
『Demon-slaying sword. It’s a masterpiece that can withstand all risk inside the Domain. Don’t forget the ridiculous sword you’re holding onto.』
Against the opponent who was half a step and half a second earlier than her, she took a full step forward and came out even. Their two swords collided inside the Domain.
The swords screamed as Lunia widened her eyes.
It was natural for her to be shocked because the opponent who was trying to sheathe the sword suddenly raised the sword into the sky and swung it down in time. Even though Lunia was aware of her talents, seeing it unravel before her eyes was still annoying.
Her screaming sword got shredded like paper along with a clear ding. The bisected sword flew through the air and pierced through the walls of the dojo.
Remaining behind through the Domain was the lofty demon-slaying blade giving off a dark steam and a brilliant luster.
Was hereby defeated.
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