| Steadily winning its way through, Rudel's class was to go against Eunius' in the semi-finals. In their block with nothing but strong foes, by the time they reached the semi-finals, both sides were in tatters. In truth, Eunius was injured here and there. But Rudel...
"R-Rudel, are you alright?"
Izumi asked Rudel in worry. In his match with Luecke, he had taken a hit from advanced magic. And before that, he had taken on a consecutive stream. After that, he had easily managed to win his way through, but... here and there, his body was wrapped in bandages, making him a painful sight.
"No problem at all. My body can move."
He said as he spun his shoulders. His body moved... don't you mean moved with pain? Izumi thought, but this tournament was one they had to win at all costs. Even if they had to push themselves, she thought and concentrated on match.
And the match that began... up to the final matchup, they somehow obtained four straight wins! Rudel's class's advancement was already set in stone. While both sides were worn out, when it came to feelings, Rudel's class was winning.
The final match held a surprisingly subdued air. With the semifinal score at four to one... from the tattered Rudel's point of view, there was no reason to push himself here. Right, normally, he should've just preserved his strength for the finals without damaging his body any further.
Rudel and Eunius stood opposite one another, waiting for the referee's signal. Within all that, Eunius struck up a conversation.
"Good grief... why does my class have to be such a nuisance? Hey, Rudel... I know I'm being selfish, but could you take me on seriously? No, even if you don't, I'll be going at you with the intent to kill."
Not with his usual raptor-like smile, Eunius made a grin full of self-derision. Rudel gave his request a serious answer.
"What are you talking about? Of course I'll fight you seriously! I'm going to protect the promise we made on the grounds!"
Eunius' eyes widened in surprise as he burst into a bit of laughter. The wood sword he had prepared for himself was a longsword intended for use in both hands. As he held it aloft to take a stance, Rudel prepared his own sword as well. The referee- who had been hesitating over whether to interrupt their conversation or not- determined that as long as they weren't going to carry out a half-assed fight before the royal family, then all was well as he signaled the start.
"I've taken a liking to that idiotic part of you! Now come at me for real, Rudel!!!"
The two clashed head-on. Eunius focused solely on his sword, while Rudel adopted a style of freely switching between wood sword and spell. Comparing the two of them, Eunius displayed a surprisingly elegant array of skills, while Rudel's fighting style was rough and violent.
Rudel's swordplay that focused on winning as the premise was closer to a mercenary's than a noble. His magic added on, it was a battle Eunius was unfit for... those around were sure to think.
But in truth, Rudel was being pushed back. With Eunius' flowing sword strokes, and the difference in power born from his physique... they all served to torment Rudel, and Eunius was used to dodging magic. With magic as his weak suite, Eunius' fighting style was a simple one.
Don't give them a chance to use magic. If they do use it, then dodge.
Simple in concept, difficult in practice, Eunius exhibited the full brunt of his philosophy against Rudel. What's more, his attacks were connecting. Rudel was the one unable to handle his barrage.
"Are you having fun, Rudel!? Right now, I'm having the time of my life!!! That you can follow me to this level- that you'll take me on seriously- you really know how to make a man happy!"
Rudel fended of Eunius' consecutive attacks. Knowing things would be bad at this rate, he channeled magic into his sword to cut through Eunius' blade of wood. But sensing the irregularity, Eunius took distance from him. Seeing Rudel's glowing sword, Eunius noticed.
As he took distance, Rudel switched over to a mid-range magic battle. And dodging his attacks, Eunius,
"Pouring magic into your sword? Nice... that's one way of doing it!"
Stopping in his tracks and taking a stance, Eunius cut right through the magic coming at him. Sending magic into his blade, he had mastered the same magic technique in an instant. But there was one difference. As Eunius never used any magic, he had plenty of it to spare.
In contrast to Rudel's sword that could at most give off a faint glow, Eunius' wooden sword shook as his magic reserves poured from the blade. Using that quivering stream of energy, Eunius cut at Rudel. Rudel naturally stopped it with his own sword, but the sword's magic coating moving like a whip slicing into Rudel's face.
This time, Rudel tried to take some distance, but Eunius wouldn't allow it. Rudel was instantly put at a disadvantage.
The man called Eunius who showed rapid growth in the midst of battle, in the game he appeared as the 'Sword Prodigy'. While being a noble, he preferred freedom, and he was a reliable existence gentle to everyone. He had a sense of duty, and if you put him into the leadership role of a party, there was no doubt it would become a main force... he was that sort of character.
But that setting had always tormented Eunius. As a high-ranking noble, reasonable sword talent was more than enough. As his role would be to take command on the battlefield, Eunius would never go out on the front lines.
Eunius loved his own sword, and he earnestly took on his training. But he had no stage to test his limits. Everyone showed restraint from his position as a high noble. Even in the school's matches, they'd all come and lose to curry favor with the boy.
Precisely from his talent, Eunius could notice it with ease. It all felt so empty. He had once even thought to cast aside his status. But his sense of duty wouldn't allow it. Casting away his family... his people, and living by the sword? Eunius was incapable of such a thing. So he had given up on ever having a serious locking of blades.
Everything else was favorable. He had good friends in school, and even a girlfriend. He'd slip out of the academy and hit the town, and if it all came down to enjoying his student life, there were no problems.
The one who appeared around that time was Rudel. He met the boy who could only set his sight on being a dragoon, even if meant throwing away his family and people. Eunius had his hopes. If it was against him, perhaps he could have a serious match... there were no problems with his ability or will.
Around when he came to think it, talks of this tournament came around. To Eunius who couldn't tell if Rudel's feelings would ever change, if he let this chance slip by, he might never have the match he sought for the rest of his life... he thought.
If Rudel didn't see the value in a serious match with him, then never again... would he come at him with enough force to kill? He wondered.
Rudel ran around, and Eunius gave chase... at the moment he thought that pattern would repeat. Rudel went on the offense. Stopping his use of magic, he cut at Eunius with all his might. That wooden sword with magic channeled in, if it hit the wrong place, it would deliver a swift demise.
"That's right! Come at me like you're trying to strike me dead!!!"
Eunius put all the magic he had into his sword. And in regards to Rudel's attack, he had decided to counter. Rudel barely dodged. But Rudel's wood sword had been torn to pieces. In the instant he knew he couldn't hit Rudel, he had changed focus to his sword.
"It's my win...!!!"
Enuius tried to convince himself of his victory. But throwing down his sword, Rudel stepped into Eunius' bosom emptyhanded. Fearing not Eunius' instant response to counterattack, he touched the palms of both hands to Eunius chest... firing compressed wind magic with all his might.
Without any time, a single attack in a lapse of concentration... but even so, it was an attack from point blank. There was no way it was ineffective!
Enius was blown out of the hall. He tried to stand, but by the rules, those who left the premise were disqualified. Even so, he tried to stand... feeling an intense pain run through his chest, he found his body wouldn't rise as he willed it.
"Winner, Rudel Arses!"
And Eunius lost. He had lost a serious match. As he heard the cheers from the audience seats, Eunius collapsed down and looked up at the sky. It was already evening, the sky was died a shade of orange.
"Why can't I move... let me have a bit more fun! Just a little more..."
Eunius' tears came out. The more fun he had come to learn, the more he couldn't forgive when it came to its end. There, dragging along his body, Rudel stepped down from the ring.
"It was fun, Eunius. Let's have another match... if we do, I'm sure I can rise to greater heights."
Rudel said such a thing with a smile. Of beaten body, the two of them were in terrible states. The one the prodigy Eunius lost too was an average man whose talents fell short. But his form as he continued setting his eyes on higher sights, Eunius saw greatness in him.
"You're amazing... yeah, let's fight again. So you have to stay in the academy."
Their classmates raced over to them. And the two were quickly carried off to the infirmary... even with shorter matches, the tournament had taken more time than expected, and the finals were to be postponed to the following day.
The finals against Aleist's class was the only match that remained.