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Chapter 5: Lyle’s Fighting Style

 Lyle's Fighting Style

Within the audience chamber.

In it, the humans who had become monster... the fiends swarmed us.

Looking down on us from nearby the throne, it didn't seem Celes would do anything herself. She didn't really care how many allies she lost. To Celes, what was important wasn't her allies' victory. It was her own victory.

Precisely because she was too strong, she held no interest in others. At this point, even the parents who loved her so were entities she thought she could just bring back at a moment's notice.

"... Map Model, Real Spec."

Muttering the names of two Skills, I reproduced the audience chamber in three dimensions within my head. And with Real Speck, I got a detailed reading on all enemies around.

"I won't be stingy... Select... Limit Burst, Up 'n Down."

I used one Skill after the next. The Skills the ancestors left for me, I used them on everyone connected to me.

Everyone had a grasp of the surrounding situation, and they received physical enhancements from the Skills.

"You're in the way."

Aria cut forward. Swiping her spear horizontally to send a shockwave, she sent a few fiends flying as she cut them through. In the red armor she wore, her movements were sharp and extremely powerful.

Running ahead, Miranda had the golem to her side follow along. On the golem's back rode Shannon, and Shannon's sights were shared with everyone.

The flow of Mana I couldn't grasp alone was something she supplemented. Because of that, even the positioning of men long dead were properly picked up as enemies.

"I just have to rip them apart, right?"

Saying that, Miranda made a smile, sending strings from her left hand to apprehend enemies, before going right into tightening them to rip them to shreds.

It was quite a grotesque scene.

"Uwah, how terrible."

Or so I drew back.

As a fiend opened its large mouth, it fired magic off towards us.

We stepped back, and the one who came forward was Novem. Holding up the Forxuz heirloom staff, she deployed a Magic Shield to block it completely.

Right after the shield dissipated, three leapt out.

On support was Eva. As she fired an arrow into the temple of a fiend that came towards us, the arrow raised an explosion.

"That's enough to end them, right?"

As Eva said that, I confirmed it was done for. The ones who leapd out were Ludmilla, Gracia and Elza. Those three... to be blunt, even alone, they were a troublesome force to be reckoned with.

Ludmilla swung her long, red blade to the side.

"I guess I'll answer your expectations."

The red blade looked as if it were glowing. And coming at the fiends with sharp movements, it dismembered them. Could it be what she was holding was actually a whip? Or so it let off a shockwave that gave me such a notion.

"Fly away."

Gracia thrust the spear in her hands towards them, burning them away with pale flames. As fire erupted around, the fiends that leapt at us spread it as they were reduced to cinders.

"Once they're frozen, everyone's the same."

Saying that, Elza gave her staff a strong whack against the floor. As the fiends approached her, their movements suddenly grew duller. There was ice spreading up their feet, and they could no longer stir. The cold gradually enveloped their entirety.

The fiends that tried to force their way through it crumbled from the waist down, leaving them in quite terrible states. Once everything was closed in cold, Elza went around shattering them with her staff, leaving them in small shards.

"How trifling. They're only a little sturdier than humans."

While I did find her scary when she said that, her friend Shannon cheered her on.

"That's the spirit, Elza!"

Elza gave Shannon a light wave.

I confirmed the fiends had been cleanly taken out without me doing a thing as I looked up at the throne.

"Now what, Celes? You're the only one here."

Making a provoking smile, I riled Celes up. With nothing more than a slight twitch of her eyebrow, Celes leisurely took a step forward... right after which, she disappeared.

By the time I noticed it, she was holding the staff-sheath in her left hand, gripping the rapier in her right. She had closed the distance between us in an instant, trying to pierce my chest through with her rapier. The rapier's blade let off a red light. I'm sure it was some Skill Agrissa had prepared.

But I laughed.

"... Shuffle."

The Seventh's Third Stage Skill. It was the swapping of positions.

Celes tried to pierce me, but I swapped my placement with Ludmilla. She understood my intent, and used her own sword to stop Celes' blow.

When it came to swordplay, I fell short of Celes. And I fell short of Ludmilla. Among us, the one with the greatest skill in swordsmanship was Ludmilla.

"My turn. Now bear witness to your punishment, sister-in-law."

Celes opened her eyes a little wider, but she didn't seem very surprised. She simply...

"Queen of Cartaffs, I believe. Looks like you've assembled quite the proficient pieces. But... you've sure learned to run your mouth as you hide in a woman's shadow, trash. Then I'll start by taking this one out."

Celes immediately took distance from Ludmilla, letting out attacks with her enhanced rapier. But Ludmilla laughed.

"She's definitely strong. But... not at a level where I can't win."

When it came to swordplay alone, Ludmilla didn't lose to Celes. There was also the influence of the Skills raising her abilities a few times over, allowing her to put up a fight.

Celes accelerated and circled around to Ludmilla's back.

"Don't let it get to your head!"

But now with clear aim, Eva fired an arrow. Celes parried it with her rapier, but the arrow exploded, causing her to jump back.

As Ludmilla closed the difference, Celes directed her left hand that held the staff towards her.

I watched that action, and gaining information from Shannon's eyes, I could anticipate she was about to fire something off.

"Shuffle... Elza, make a wall."

I swapped Ludmilla and Elza's positions, and Elza swung her staff to the side. A large wall of ice manifested, lowering the temperature of the room in an instant.

And on the other side of the ice, I could see fire breaking out.

Elza was a little surprised.

"That's amazing. Her output's close to Gracia's flames."

Meaning her firepower was less than Gracia's. Understanding she wouldn't be able to melt the wall of ice, Celes forcefully broke it down.

As she cut it to shreds with her rapier, I held up my left hand, and lowered it.

"Everyone attack at once."

With my right hand, I pulled my gun from the holster behind my hip, and fired a shot towards Celes as she leapt towards me.

Novem, Miranda, Gracia and Elza used their magics.

Aria and Ludmilla their shockwaves.

Eva and Clara used arrows and the firearms loaded onto Porter.

All concentrated on one point. We had our aims set with the Skill Select, so we wouldn't be missing. But Celes put up her Magic Shield and blocked it.

While she blocked it, the impact still sent her flying.

Shot back, she slammed into the wall. Sliding down the wall to her landing, and once she was on her feet, she glared towards me.

"... Hiding behind women, and that's quite the grand attitude you have. Could it be you think you can win just because you have so many comrades around you?"

Disregarding the fear I felt at her flare, I put the gun away in its holster.

"And here we are: winning. It's not like it's embarrassing or anything. It's a fact that I lost to you, but I just couldn't win one-on-one. More than that, it's your fault for surrounding yourself with nothing but small fries. Did you think this would come down to one-on-one or something?"

I riled her. I riled Celes. It was for the best.

Celes gripped her weapon and glared at me. A yellow Mana let off a glow to cover her and heighten her abilities.

"Damn trash. Just because you can't win, don't think you'll get off just by hiding in the background!"

Celes put out a speed even greater than before as she approached me. I parried her blow with the Katana.

Celes made a surprised expression.

"Sorry. I've grown some from before. And..."

While Celes had leapt at me, Aria was following her from behind. Poised with her spear, she swung it horizontally, and noticing her approached, Celes used her staff to block the attack. But as her stance crumbled, I kicked her away.

My kick hit right into her stomach, blowing her some distance.

"She's way too hard. It felt as if I kicked solid stone there."

Feeling in a pain in my kicking foot, I complained as I looked at Celes in the air. She corrected her posture mid-air, expressionless as she landed. Her eyes moved to rest on Shannon.

"... So it's you."

It looks like Celes noticed. She moved to crush our second eye that was Shannon.

"I don't think so. Shuffle."

The one who I switched out with Shannon to go before Celes was Gracia. She produced flames right in the way of Celes' advance. Giving up on a frontal assault, Celes stopped in her tracks, only for Eva to fire an arrow there.

Wary of an explosion, Celes jumped out of the way, only for Ludmilla to circle around.

Even if we kept silent, we shared a skillful coordination. That was the power of Connection.

"It's true my chances fall considerably in one-on-one. But we can all endure your charm, and everyone's a big shot. It's not like there's any need for me to fixate on making it my own victory. That's the answer I came out with, Celes."

It's true Novem was the one who originally started the preparations, but now it was my answer as well. It was idiotic to injure myself trying to do the impossible.

I'm sure a true hero would take on Celes alone here and grasp victory. But that wasn't my way.

Celes was enraged.

"Your trash. As I thought, I hate you. Even with everything taken from you, you still dare to stand against me. As I thought, I should have just erased you!"

Saying that, Celes plainly headed for our ranged support Eva, so I snapped my fingers.

"Shuffle... Novem."

As I switched Eva and Novem's positions, Novem caught the rapier with her staff.

"I won't let you, Celes-sama."

"NOVVEEEEMMM!!"

Celes' face warped greatly. That I could see hatred, and conflicted emotions whirling around was thanks to Shannon's eyes.

And Celes' air changed.

"Each and every one of you is a damn pest!"

What Celes let out were masses of Mana in the shape of beasts. Once they manifested, they started a charge on every one of us

Shannon cried out.

"Those ones explode!"

They were bombs of condensed Mana. Was it a magic Agrissa had produced? I put the Katana away, gripping the Jewel to prepare the bow. When I fired arrows of light, Celes sprung up to the ceiling of the audience chamber.

"As if I'd let you, fool!"

Saying that, she swung her rapier, raining beads of flames to destroy the arrows, preventing the destruction of the beasts.

"Kuh! Everyone intercept individually!"

Everyone tried to destroy the beasts, but they dodged attacks and magics as they approached their targets. A few of them exploded, showing quite a considerable output.

And Miranda cried out.

"Shannon!"

"... Eh?"

A monster of Mana who leapt through the blast tried to take Shannon with its fangs. I hurriedly reached out my hand, but the distance was considerable.

I tried to use Shuffle, but there was a monster coming towards me as well, and I was firing arrows with my bow. Celes remained plastered to the ceiling as she raised a laugh.

"Ahahaha... see that, that's the first one down!"

As Miranda cried out, the magic beast's sharp fangs pierced deeply into Shannon.

-

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... The city of Centralle.

Ragged as she became, Marina slammed her fist into Rummel again and again. Her fists were covered in blood, and her metal gauntlets had been destroyed.

"Drop... dead already, dammit!!"

Even taking Marina's blows powerful enough to rock the surrounding air, Rummel instantly regenerated, swiping her large hand to the side to brush Marina away.

Marina broke through the wall of a building, even barreling inside. Rummel regenerated the parts beaten and crushed, and where the flesh had been blown away.

"Gfu, gufufufu."

With the continued regenerations, there were subtle changes branching from her initial form. For each place that swelled strangely, there were places where thorns protruded out.

Within all of that, with her forehead cut, and one eye unable to open from the blood, May stood before Rummel.

She was out of breath as the quilin faced one another.

Around them, there were fewer buildings left standing. May's right arm let off a faint light.

"I had Marina buy some time, but I finally have the preparations in order. Good grief, you're way too tough. Because of that, you've forced me to use my trump card."

Saying that, May made a fist.

Both of Rummel's much-too-large eyes focused on May's fist.

"You curious? Wanna know? I see... then I'll teach you!"

As she tread into the ground, the ground was gouged out below her. Both Rummel and May leapt forward to meet, the black quilin opening her large mouth to swallow May down. As there were fewer dead soldiers around, she was trying to eat May to recover.

But that was most favorable.

"So there was some worth in going around and crushing soldiers. Good grief, and I hate pain here."

As she thought that, May stuck her right arm into Rummel's mouth. As she grabbed onto the black quilin's ominous tongue, her mouth closed with good momentum.

May's right arm had been severed at the elbow.

Holding her shoulder, May endured the pain.

"... Now die from the inside."

She put up a false front as she laughed. As she jumped back, Rummel who couldn't understand a word she said swallowed the arm down. She swallowed it whole.

And May held onto her open wound with her left hand.

"If only you were just a little smarter. But perhaps you're only so strong because you don't have the head to think."

Right after, Rummel's upper body was blown apart. Blood spouted out, and the chunks of flesh splattered across the remaining buildings.

Both May's and Rummels bodies were dyed red in blood, but May instantly produced some water with magic to wash herself off.

And slowly hobbling out of a building, Marina breathed heavily with her mouth as she pummeled Rummel's remaining lower body into the ground.

Both women were panting heavily.

As they sat down on the spot, May looked in the direction of the palace. She could still hear the sound of guns and cannons, and she had felt the tremors a number of times.

Seeing a portion of the palace blown away, May muttered.

"... Shannon."

Opening her eyes wide, May unsteadily stood. She slowly walked forward towards the royal palace.

Marina hurriedly stood and grasped May's shoulders.

"Idiot, you've got to seal that wound at once. It's dangerous if you just leave it because you're a quilin!"

May stared at Marina's face absentmindedly.

"You're right. But I have to go..."

Since May was going to go even so, Marina offered her a shoulder, and for now, chose to set out for a place she knew they'd find allies...