320 – Sparring with Captain Serena
Editor: Thor’s Stone
The shop had a basement, or rather, an underground floor specialized for collecting motion data, and I and Col. Serena were set to engage in a spar in it.
“I’ve been curious about your skills for a while. We’ve already fought side-by-side after all.”
On her part, Col. Serena just took off her military coat. I still wore my usual mercenary outfit, and both of us picked up practice swords made out of reinforced resin. The room itself functioned as a large motion scanner, and it seemed it was already recording Col. Serena and my every move, including the act of choosing practice swords for ourselves. In other words, recording our natural movements and habits apart from our motion data during combat would allow them to further reduce the sense of discomfort when wearing the custom-made armor.
“You don’t seem to be that interested in this spar?”
“I think anyone wouldn’t like getting hurt you know……”
I chose two practice swords of just the right length and weight. I then turned my attention to Col. Serena. Ah, mm. She’s definitely raring to go. Does she really find it fun to push me around with a practice sword?
“If you’re already displaying an attitude like that before a match, you’d end up losing something perfectly winnable you know. You have to put more spirit into it–”
“And I’m also reluctant to beat up a beautiful woman like you, Colonel Serena.”
“–Excuse me? You? Beating me up?”
“I’m sure it’ll turn out like that.”
“……That’s some nerve you have. Now I’m even more interested.”
Col. Serena’s lips curled into a smile. Mm, it was a pretty aggressive smile. Oh, how scary.
Well, Col. Serena was really looking forward to kicking me around, so this match probably won’t go so smoothly. I definitely have no intention of going easy on her, and I don’t intend to lose either. Unless Col. Serena turns out to be a lot more skilled than Mei, my win was basically assured.
“Well then, shall we begin?”
“Ok. Please go easy on–”
Col. Serena made her move before I even finished talking. Or rather, she’d already closed the distance between us and was already brandishing her practice sword above her shoulder with both hands.
I blocked Col. Serena’s swing by crossing my swords and used the force of the blow to jump back and gain some distance again. It’s dangerous to clash head-on with an opponent who trumps you both in power and speed. If you take a series of powerful slashes that you can’t parry that well, you won’t be able to escape the onslaught, and eventually, your defenses will crumble, and you’d end up spitting blood.
“Are you not going to attack?”
Col. Serena gave me a sharp glare while holding her sword aloft.
“It’s because I’m actually a pacifist.”
“What an amusing joke.”
The moment after she said those words, Col. Serena’s appearance suddenly turned into a blur for an instant. No, that’s not it. She merely stepped in at a tremendous speed. We should have been separated by a distance of more than 10 meters, but she was already right in front of me. Yeah, that’s not a speed that can be attained by a regular human, right? Enhanced nobles really are scary.
I held my breath and activated slow-motion perception, allowing me to avoid Col. Serena’s slash by a hair’s breadth. I then quickly slashed her abdomen and right knee with my two swords. If this were a real battle, my attacks would have hacked her stomach open and severed her right leg below the knee.
“I see. How troublesome.”
Col. Serena jumped forward to take distance, turned around, and stroked her abdomen with her left hand.
“Do you still wanna go?”
“Of course. I’ll have you accompany me until I’m satisfied.”
Col. Serena smiled ferociously and brandished her sword again. Apparently, I really needed to accompany her until she’s had enough.
“Here I go!”
Col. Serena closed the gap at a speed that made her entire body seem blurry again, but this time around, she didn’t carelessly get too close and attacked from out of my range. Her earlier attacks were that of an aggressive style that aimed to blow away the opponent’s defense, but this time, her attacks were a flurry of blows that lacked the earlier power, but made up for it with sheer frequency. It was swordsmanship of finesse mixed with devious feints.
However, the more the attacks, the more gaps I can exploit. Normally, the sheer frequency of attacks would be enough to cover those gaps, but for me who can slow down my perception of time, piercing those gaps was all too easy.
“Kuh, just why–!?”
It was just a slight gap between the rapid shower of attacks. But the moment I accurately pierced that gap, the colonel’s attacks lost their earlier momentum, and the tempo of attack and defense was eventually reversed. Once you focus more on defense to make up for the gap that was struck, you won’t be able to follow up with the next attack, and your rhythm will eventually get disrupted. Once that happens, the number of exploitable gaps will increase even further.
“There, it’s over.”
I lightly poked the middle of Col. Serena’s chest with the tip of my practice sword. If done for real, it would be a fatal blow that goes straight through the heart. No matter how powerful nobles have become through enhancements, if their heart, which is the center of the circulatory system, gets destroyed, their deaths would be inevitable. But it seems some nobles actually go so far as to transplant a second heart into their bodies.
Hm? Col. Serena’s state was……?
“One more match! I don’t accept this!”
“Uwaah! Is this really something to cry about!?”
Col. Serena, who was quivering with a bright red face, kinda looked cute. But with the practice sword in her hand, the resulting image was a lot more violent than cute. Our swords were made of blunt reinforced resin, so it’s not like they’re able to cut, but they still hurt like heck when you get hit by them. That’s why I didn’t hold back at all. Absolutely.
“Isn’t it strange!? There’s definitely something wrong with you, right!? Why did I lose to such a slow sword!?”
“Now, now. Don’t say that, Colonel. I personally think the results speak for themselves.”
When asked whether I was cheating or not, I couldn’t actually deny it, so I just ignored the question. It’s not like I’m lying y’know. I’m just not telling her the truth.
“I’m not convinced! One more match! One more match!”
Col. Serena stomped her feet and swung her sword in a tantrum. She’s just like a child!
“You’re gonna end up crying again y’know? You’re gonna owe me one, okay?”
“Gununu…… Understood! I’ll be in your debt! En garde!”
In the end, I just gave up after about five more matches. I won every match, but my stamina wasn’t gonna hold out much longer.
“Running away after winning is unfair! I think it’s very unfair!”
“As if I’d go along with your whims any longer than this! We’ve fought seven matches already dammit! It’s enough, right?”
After saying so, I held my swords in a reverse grip. It was a sign that I wasn’t willing to continue anymore.
Col. Serena seemed to be still full of energy, but I was already exhausted. Close combat using swords really takes a toll on your mental strength and concentration. Perhaps Col. Serena was gradually getting used to my movements because I had to breathe in and slow down time a lot more frequently in the second half of our matches. I’ve only ever used the ability this frequently during my matches with Mei. Well, unlike the matches with Mei, I wasn’t vomiting blood every few moments, so it was a lot easier to deal with Col. Serena.
“This is the first time I’ve been humiliated like this……”
“Humiliated……? This is just a spar, right?”
“There’s nobody who beat me seven times in a row during all my previous spars!”
“I see…… Do I need to take responsibility or something?”
“Mu–! I haven’t said anything of the sort you know!?”
Col. Serena’s face turned bright red as she pointed the tip of her practice sword toward me. Oh, no, no, no. I won’t resist ma’am. I’m firmly against violence. I sandwiched my practice swords inside my armpits and raised both hands as a sign of surrender.
“They should have completed recording our motion data. We’re done here then. Let’s pack up!”
“I’m gonna ask you for a spar again next time I have the chance……”
“Ah, yes, yes. Next time, alright?”
Under Col. Serena’s heated gaze as she trembled due to a sense of humiliation, I headed to the shelf installed near the wall to place the practice swords back. Somehow, I feel like Col. Serena was even more set on me compared to before though…… Is this the so-called force majeure? Is it? Fine, let’s just think of it that way. It feels like my tendency to attract trouble reared its ugly head again, but it’s probably just my imagination. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. I decided not to dwell on it any longer.