Last Embryo Volume 4 Chapter 1 Part 1
Giant Spirit Train 『Sun Thousand』, training grounds on the terrace on the top floor.
The air between the two swordswomen who were engaged in a sparring match with one another was so tense that sparks could spontaneously start to fly around them at any moment. Finishing the latest exchange of blows with their glittering blades now stood perfectly still, glaring at one another. However, even the smallest of movements could cause this delicate balance to crumble and erupt into a violent spectacle, even something as quiet and insignificant as flipping of the single spider’s thread with a finger. That is how skilled and battle-sharpened were the senses of both of the young women standing amidst the wooden training ground build on one of the terraces of the Giant Spirit Train’s upper floors.
Kudou Ayato’s weapon of choice was a segmented sword-whip, while Uesugi has chosen to go with a long-handled red spear. While there was no doubt that the ability to split itself from its short-ranged sword form into the mid-ranged whip form and vice versa in the blink of an eye gave Ayato the advantage of controlling the distance at which she wanted to engage her enemy, whenever the tip of her segmented sword was colliding with the blade of Uesugi’s long-handled spear – which was about the same size as an average adult male – it would always end up being blown off to the side as if it was nothing but a dried-up leaf. So if she moves well and chooses an accordingly aggressive strategy, Uesugi should not have any difficulties with handling any of Ayato’s attacks in any way she wanted. However, Ayato’s arsenal of weapons is not limited to the sword-whip alone. She also has two short spears that are meant to be used in close range engagements, so if Uesugi tries to close the distance between them thinking it will put her in the advantageous position, she is going to be in for a painful comeback. Currently, both sides of this training exercise continued to observe their opponent while remaining wary of their potential next move, looking for the moment where the right opportunity to strike would present itself.
However, at one point Ayato took a deep breath and opened her mouth, breaking the silence between them.
「I feel like I should ask you to forgive my rudeness so far, Miss Uesugi. Even though I was the one who requested you to have a sparring match with me, I have done little in the way of taking initiative during this battle, so I am going to fix that now.」
Hearing her say that, Uesugi loosened up a little and the tips of her lips curved up into a slight grin.
It was obvious that she did not intend to take up initiative from the very beginning, but it would be a lie to say that she was not looking forward to seeing exactly what kind of tricks her opponent, whom she was fighting for the very first time, had up her sleeve. Also, as the one who was challenged to this duel, it was her duty as a swordswoman to rise above and beyond the expectations of her challenger.
After loosening the grip on the handle of her sword for just a little bit, Ayato let out a small breath, which was then followed by a lightning-fast forward thrust that made her blade separate into segments and then slide forward while coiling through the air like a snake.
「Fuh. . . . . . . . . . . . .!」
The sword drew three wide arcs in the air, and then it swiftly attacked Uesugi, diving straight towards her. This precision, speed and sharpness of movements, which seemed to be brought about by nothing other than Ayato’s own physical prowess have caught her a little bit off guard. That weapon, Serpens Scorpius, was truly worth its name. It embodied the threat of both the snake’s fang and a scorpion’s stinger, making it something that not even a seasoned warrior would be able to handle by simply standing in place with their guard held up. If it was just like the fangs of a snake, all that Uesugi would have to do to be victorious would be to crush the skull that held the fangs together, and if it was just a scorpion’s stinger, she would simply have to cut it from the scorpion’s main body along with its entire tail.
However, the problem with Serpens Scorpius was that each and every one of its segmented blades was like a combination of those two venomous elements, and there were so many of them. And unlike the real snake, whose belly – the only place on its body not covered by the rigid scales that would protect it from harm – was its weak point, the one she was facing now looked like it was nothing but a sentient mass of fangs, making the confrontation with it no laughing matter.
No matter how many times she would push the tip of that sword-whip away with her blows, it always coiled right back to continue attacking her in rapid succession, and that result was the same no matter how she tried to handle it. Therefore, Uesugi thought that her actions need to be quicker and more decisive.
「Thinking that you have sealed my movements simply because you can attack me from any direction you want. . . is really the height of stupidity!!!」
Deflecting the next two strikes of Ayato’s sword-whip with the tip of her spear and the end of its handle by spinning it around, Uesugi then broke into a forward charge. Even though Ayato knew that such reckless actions were synonymous with Uesugi Kenshin’s name she was still surprised that she would result to such direct actions under the current circumstances, but as it turned out, it was the correct thing to do.
After carefully considering all of the variables: presence and absence of terrain obstacles, the difference in their physiques and abilities and the distance between them, Uesugi judged that there would be no merit in her trying to dodge or escape Ayato’s attacks. It is probably thanks to her countless years of experience on various battlefields that she was able to instantly select the best possible course of action for her. But at the same time, that maneuver of hers has also revealed the difference in the level of skill between the two of them. While her charge might have indeed been a reckless thing from the perspective of the ordinary bystander watching their match, she alone had enough strength and skill to not only continue to deflect all the attacks of the segmented blade that was coming at her over and over again like a snake eager to sink its venomous fangs into the neck of its prey, but she was also able to steadily press onward towards the sword-whip’s wielder. Ayato, who decided that for the time being using just Serpent Scorpius should be enough continued to slowly retreat while increasing the speed of her attacks and the number of arcs the whip form of her weapon was drawing through the air to put even more pressure upon Uesugi. While moving her hands skillfully, she tried to corner her down by attacking every part of her body form every possible.
However, one thing that she could not deny was the fact that Miss Uesugi’s power and determination to break through her attacks were both truly extraordinary. Id did not matter if she tried to use her sword-whip to form a net around her, bar her way with a fence made from thorny blades or torn at her arms and legs, as long as she knew that those attacks were not going to outright kill her, Uesugi continued to advance with her indomitable samurai spirit.
That ability of hers to ignore minor injuries like they were never there to begin with was one of the reasons why she was not to be underestimated, but still, Ayato was greatly impressed that a formidable warrior like her, someone who made a name for herself as one of the strongest warriors from Japan’s Warring States Period and eventually came to be known as Echigo’s God of War could withstand so many attacks without even flinching, and she even felt honored to have someone like that as her opponent in this training session.
That being said, this sparring battle and regular battle are two entirely different things.
This kind of warrior who runs straight ahead not unlike the charging boar was like a perfect sitting duck for Ayato. If Uesugi’s strategy for winning against her assumed that she would be defenseless and unable to do anything as long as she keeps charging towards her in an attempt to force her into close quarters combat, then Ayato felt like she was not the one who was going to lose this match.
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