437 p2. Noble Faction and New School Year 
I released my Seigan stance and let out a long breath.
Seeing that, Shin tilted his head curiously.
「Hmm, what’s wrong? Have you given up already?」
「No, I’m just thinking it’s about time I get serious.」
「Puh… Ahhahahaha… Interesting, interesting, Allen! I was wondering what you were gonna say, but you’re telling me that you’re only going to “get serious” this late into the match? Were you taking it easy while fighting against me? Kuku, this is a masterpiece! You’re the only one who has such a good sense of comedy!」
「Well, I have various circumstances on my side too.」
It’s not like I was holding back, nor did I underestimate Shin.
It’s just that I dislike “that state”.
「Haahah…then show me your seriousness!」
With a fearless smile, Shin closed the gap in a single breath and unleashed an overhead slash with enormous spiritual power.
As the white blade approached me, and as Ria’s screams echoed, I plunged my consciousness to the depths of my soul – the world where the spirit core resides.
That time… when I was on the brink of death after being inflicted with Deal’s deadly poison.
The power that I grasped at the brink of death.
The method Zeon taught me on how to draw out the power of darkness.
(…Follow the path to the root…!)
And it was there for sure. In the depths of my soul.
The same darkish mass of evil power as back then.
The next moment,
A surprised voice leaked out of Shin’s mouth.
He must have never dreamed that the slash he unleashed with all his might would be grabbed hold of.
「W”ell then, let’s continue, shall w”e?」
I pulled the blade closer and gathered darkness on my right fist.
「Haha”ha, you’re gon”na fly!」
As a result of the jet-black straight right piercing deep into his abdomen, Shin flew through the air like a ball and crashed into the inner wall of the venue.
Air and bloody phlegm was spat out while his body was still half buried in the wall.
I leapt straight towards him and unleashed a great amount of jet-black spiritual energy.
「Y”o, you were proud of your spiritual power, weren’t you?」
As our spiritual powers collided with each other, a deafening roar resounded.
Unable to endure, Shin released a large amount of his spiritual power and somehow managed to escape from the spot.
Having escaped the predicament, he murmured with a look of disbelief.
「…Who, are who…?」
「Your hair is pure white, and you have a strange black pattern on your face. Above all, your atmosphere is completely different from the one you just had… Could it be that you have a split personality?」
「A”hh… My bad, just a little mixed up.」
My thoughts and Zeon’s thoughts got mixed up, and I became somewhat belligerent.
However, even with this, I was still in control, so there was no danger of going out of control and rampaging.
「Hmm, I see… You certainly seem to be a special existence.」
Shin looked at me with a somewhat convinced expression.
「You can be proud of yourself, Allen Rodore. You are certainly strong. ―Second to me, that is.」
This atmosphere… It seems that Shin has become serious as well.
「Engrave -〈Emperor Rule〉.」
The next moment, a high-pitched sound echoed.
But that was all.
The sword gripped in Shin’s hand was just a normal sword.
There was no change to the shape, nor did his spiritual power increase.
If there was one difference – his eyes.
The conviction of victory was clearly visible in Shin’s eyes.
「Allen Rodore, this is the end!」
「Ha! I don’t know what kind of ability it is, but victory goes to the one who makes the first move!」
I concentrated my spiritual power on my legs and tried to close the gap between us.
Against opponents with unknown abilities, just attack resolutely.
Attack, attack, attack, attack, and force the opponent to use his ability to defend himself.
「That simple-mindedness is the same as Maddy. That’s why you guys lose.」
While saying so, Shin stabbed a stone at his feet with his sword and flung it towards me.
「W”hat are you playing at?」
This doesn’t even serve as a distraction.
I lightly waved my left arm and tried to brush away the stone coming at me.
But the next moment,
「–Stone penetrates all creation.」
My left arm was destroyed.
My left arm, which was clad in the spiritual power of darkness, was pulverized by a simple stone.
A phenomenon that would normally never occur. Without a doubt, he must have used some kind of ability.
I immediately took a step back and completely healed my crushed left arm with darkness.
「…Bastard, what did you do…?」
「How rude.. Won’t the match get boring if I reveal that? The battle between soul dress users are interesting because you don’t know the opponent’s ability… isn’t it!」
While saying that, Shin rushed forward with explosive momentum and unleashed a storm of attacks.
I evaded all of them.
I was forced to dodge the attacks which should have originally been defended or parried with the black sword.
At present, the ability of〈Emperor Rule〉was still unknown, and I hesitated to touch its blade.
「Ahaha, did you suddenly chicken out!」
With a provocative smile, Shin gouged out the stone stage and unleashed an upward slash.
A large amount of stone fragments flew towards me together with a sharp slash.
(Damn, “stone” is bad…)
I jumped far back and secured a safe distance.
Immediately after that,
「–Stone stage becomes a swamp.」
The place where I landed, started sinking into the ground.
When I looked down at my feet, the stone stage was as muddy as a swamp.
「–Wind becomes a blade.」
When Shin swung his sword as if it were a conductor’s stick, a sharp slash of wind rushed towards me.
With my mobility deprived, I had no choice but to defend myself with the Dark Robe, but…
「–Wind penetrates darkness.」
The blade of wind easily broke through the defense of darkness.
(…This is bad. I’m completely caught up in Shin’s pace. I have to reset it…)
In order to cut off this flow of events, I put strength into my fists.
「First Sword – Flying Shadow!」
I aimed it at the ground with all my might, and used the shock wave to rise into the air. I then landed on an improvised foothold of darkness.
「Ahaha, what a great way to escape. But it’s okay. You don’t have to run into the sky, the stage won’t sink anymore. Now, don’t be afraid and come down.」
A gentle tone as if comforting a small child.
(Usually, it’s a cheap provocation that I can easily ignore, but…)
Perhaps because I was mixed with Zeon’s short-tempered and irritable nature, an itchy, irritated feeling welled up inside me.
(Fuu… Calm down, calm down, grab the reins of your emotions.)
I took a deep breath to cool my head and emotions.
When I regained my composure, I extended the darkness to the stone stage and lightly poked it several times.
(…It’s certainly hard.)
As Shin said, the stone stage seems to have regained its original hardness.
(But I don’t know when it will sink like a swamp again…. Just in case, I should cover the soles of my shoes with a membrane of darkness.)
By doing this, even if the stage suddenly becomes muddy, I can use the darkness as a foothold.
After taking the minimum precautions, I landed on the stone stage and looked back on the battle thus far.
(I am somewhat starting to understand.)
〈Emperor Rule〉’s ability is – “Granting Rules”.
(For the first attack, the stone was granted “penetrate”. For the attack that took away my mobility, the stage was granted “swamp”. For the last long-distance slash, “blade” and “penetration” to the wind. He is granting unique rules to every object. And now, judging by how quickly the stone stage reverted to its original state, that rule isn’t permanent. Either because Shin himself wanted to or because there are conditions to lift it.)
As I kept silent and analyzed the opponent’s abilities, Shin burst out laughing.
「Fufu, were you able to analyze it? My perfect and ultimate soul dress -〈Emperor Rule〉.」
「Well… it’s not bad.」
It can certainly grant the conviction of being the strongest.
(However, there is no such thing as a perfect ability. Any and every ability must have a “weakness”!)
In order to defeat Shin, I have to know more about the capabilities of〈Emperor Rule〉.
For that, I need to attack.
Boldly, violently, radically, attack without rest, forcing the opponent to reveal his hand.
I take a short, shallow breath and start attacking.
Tentacles of darkness stretched high into the sky, drawing closer to Shin.
「Oh my, another great move. But it’s no use—Dark Shadow disperses.」
The sharp tentacles of darkness turned into fog and disappeared as soon as they touched Shin’s sword.
And that’s not all.
Even when I tried to deploy a new Dark shadow, it would not manifest well.
To be more precise, it disperses as soon as it manifests.
(I see… Once a rule has been set, it will be subject to the same restrictions until the rule is lifted, huh.)
Once I got one piece of information, I unleashed the next attack to reveal more information.
「Sixth Sword – Dark Roar!」
As the huge jet-black slash approached, Shin kept his calm demeanor.
「Like I said, no matter what attack, it is useless—Dark Roar will disappear.」
At the same time as Dark Roar disappeared without a sound, a voice of surprise leaked from Shin’s mouth.
What appeared before him was a highly lethal Flying Shadow which was infused with a large amount of spiritual power.
I secretly unleashed it using the giant Dark Roar as a cover.
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