My gaze wandered across Saki’s body. Just like Violet had done before, the Electi of Attack, my next opponent, had stepped onto the arena without her bulky armor. Instead, she was wearing a cute shirt and skirt similar to that of a Japanese school uniform. I mentally slapped myself for momentarily fawning over the attire that was so commonly used in anime settings.
“What? It’s not like my armor would do me any good against your attacks. It would just weigh me down.” Saki narrowed her eyes at my ogling. Her tone held a bit of annoyance.
I fully understood what she meant, since my blows went straight through armor, ignoring its defensive properties. Even her fighting style had probably changed to suit a strategy against me, as speed and agility were more important.
Just like the match before, this one would likely end in a single blow as well. My strikes would paralyze her if I hit her mana gates, and her blows were strong enough to wreck my mana shield and send me crashing out of the ring.
It all came down to outmaneuvering the other person into that decisive strike. With our levels nearly equal, the stats that mattered for this were hardly different enough to bet upon. It would depend on our combat sense developed over the course of living in this world.
Of course, neither one of us were stereotypical fighters. Our styles were as different from the norm as could be. From Saki’s taiko style of malleting her opponents to my slicing and dicing on an imaginary chopping board, even veteran fighters were at a loss of who would be victorious.
However, I knew that Saki had a secret ability. She had hinted to me about it shortly after the demon attack on the old capital. And her current attire seemed to be triggering some major flags.
To show up to our battle in such an outfit was nothing short of suspicious. There was no place in this world that I knew of that could tailor such attire other than The Spiffy Chicken, in which otherworld designs had been passed down the family from generations prior.
As the signal sounded to begin the semifinal match, the first words out of her mouth made me involuntarily shiver.
“Come on, ‘Senpai’. I won’t bite… too hard.” Saki even topped it off with an alluring pose.
If that wasn’t a freaking omen of death, then I didn’t know what was.
I felt a wave of darkness brush over me, and immediately, the Saki before me had grown several times taller. A glow from her eyes masked the dead emptiness of her pupils. A crazed smirk of insanity decorated her lips as trails of blood seemed to flow down her neck and gradually dye the white sailor top red. The mallets that she had been holding were replaced by bloody hatchets.
“Won’t you come to me, ‘Senpai’?” she coaxed me forward again, with extra emphasis on the last word.
This was far, far more intense than what she had done before. What I had known of her ‘Aura de Gigante’ skill was that she could create an illusion that made her giant, as well as tap into the fear of those caught in its range. The result she described was ‘a fear of her overwhelming power’.
But this… this did more than simply turn her into a figment of unstoppable might. Somehow, the image before me was the very incarnation of fear that a girl like her could take up – the yandere at peak madness.
My legs quivered. The knife in my hand fell to the ground. I felt compelled to drop everything and run. More than the Demon, or any other enemy that I had faced before, this sight left me gasping for air like the darkness had squeezed my throat shut.
‘Oh shit, I can’t even move.’ My mind finally registered the paralysis in my body. Fear had robbed my legs of strength, such that not even the slowly approaching form could compel me to move. Rather, it seemed like I was going to pass out from shock.
A voice echoed from inside my mind. ‘Remember, yanderes are girls too. They are merely craving the love of their Senpai.’
I didn’t need to question where this thought had come from. It was that blasted past incarnation of mine!
‘What the hell are you blabbing about now?!’ I screamed internally at him.
‘Why don’t you take this chance to look at her. Really look at her. With your eyes.’
‘What do you mean my-‘
‘This is an illusion, is it not? A creation spawned from my own fears with no real form. If that’s the case…’
“Eyes of Providence!”
Saki stepped back as I suddenly opened my eyes, crying my skill out. With that active, the illusion of her as a giant disappeared, leaving only a fogginess of miasma surrounding me. Inside her effective range, her miasma warped my perception, leading to the hallucination. But still, I couldn’t see where she was in this fog that blocked my sight.
“If she’s going that far… I mean, she seems to be fine using this. The charm must be working…,” I whispered to no one in particular.
I fingered the divine charm that Koujiro gave me. Saki had one as well. That had likely enabled her to use ‘Aura de Gigante’ without penalty.
I dug into the feeling of my core, letting the miasma inside of it escape. Focusing it on my eyes, I triggered the next skill that relied on this sketchy power – Eyes of Ruination.
Within the fog, the outline of a girl appeared. Upon her body were cracks that pulsed with the mana of life. Judging by how the lines moved, it appeared that she had become cautious of me. All of a sudden, she seemed like a porcelain figure filled with cracks.
“That’s right… yanderes need love, too,” I mumbled, stepping forward in a slight daze.
The mallets in her hand swung at me, but I could easily see them. I sidestepped to the right with little effort.
Another swing horizontally at me. I ducked, not missing a beat to advance forward.
The girl before me was growing increasingly frantic with her movements, obviously unsure of what to do.
Despite her swift swings, the glowing of her body told me everything I needed to dodge. The instant before she moved, a slight pulse of mana coursed through her muscles, an obvious tell of how her movement would go.
I hadn’t looked deeply into this skill, mostly because I feared the miasma, but it was proving to be quite useful. And with the divine charm, I didn’t feel like I was losing myself from its effects, aside from a slight cloudiness in my head.
Now, the only question was ‘how to attack her?’
The problem with ‘Eyes of Ruination’ was that I could visibly see a person’s fragility. If I were to target any one of these visible lines, there was a strong possibility that I would do too much damage to Saki. In the case with Willingham, his head had parted from his body from a single slice. It was far too dangerous to attack her in such a state.
I was stumped. Getting close had been achieved, but doing a finishing blow was too risky to pull off. If I tried to extinguish my skill, she would likely slip back into the fog, putting me back to square one. Therefore, there was really only one thing I could do.
Diving under another one of her swings, I kicked off from the ground and rolled forward. Looping my left arm around her leg, I circled around and wrapped my other arm around her torso. Quickly, my left arm shifted along her body as I stood up, gliding over her chest before forcing her arms upward from below. With my forearm pinning her arms on either side of her head, the mallets in her hands could only flail side to side above. I dug my head into her back to avoid the panicked swings above. Any stray hit would likely knock me out.
“Hey! What are you-“ A blush spread across Saki’s face, having been put in a compromising position. She could feel my breath tickling her back as my grip tightened to lock her in place.
With a maneuver that wasn’t deemed as an ‘attack’, the physical strength of a decently-fit man overwhelmed that of a girl who hadn’t undergone similar training. One’s stats did not matter when it came to such a situation. This was the best way to keep Saki’s mallets out of my reach.
“Unhand me, you-“ Saki tried to drive her heel into my shin, but I lifted her whole body up, causing her foot to sweep only air.
“Here goes nothing!” I closed my eyes to cancel out my enhanced vision. There was one strike in my skillset that didn’t need accuracy to work. Rather, I merely had to focus on the mana signature flickering wildly in my arms.
“Soul Rending Strike – Death by Embracing!”
Given the strange circumstance, it felt appropriate to give the move an alternate name. However, my mind was no doubt tainted by an anime situation that existed in a similar fashion. Despite the fact that I wasn’t intending to kill anyone, I had made a Freudian slip on my part.
Regardless, a wave of mana rushed at the girl in my arms, causing her to twitch and squeal like she had been electrocuted. Barely moments had passed before I felt her go limp. The mallets fell to the ground with a thunk, giving me the signal to open my eyes again.
I was fortunate that Saki had been a petite girl that I could easily lift. This wasn’t a strategy that I could pull off on just anyone. Nor would it have even crossed my mind if a guy had been in her place.
‘No, I think I’d rather lose if it came to that…’
I shifted Saki’s weight into a princess carry, a more comfortable position of holding her. ‘What a way to end a match…’
“And Chancellor Evers has won, sweeping his foe into a loving bridal carry! Has our esteemed Chancellor wooed yet another of our kingdom’s eligible bachelorettes? Has even the fearsome presence of ‘The Destroyer’ been blown away from his shocking embrace?”
I froze when those statements blaring across the coliseum registered in my mind. I briefly looked down, seeing Saki’s head gently snuggled up against my shoulder. To others, it would seem like quite the endearing gesture.
“Wha- no, I?!”
‘That wasn’t my intention at all! Stop making things up to fire up the crowd!’
Before I could move to stop him, I felt a strange heat against my back. Furthermore, the whirring of a magic stone within a chamber sounded behind me. I nervously turned around to see Eryn with a grin that hid her annoyance, as a haziness caused by heat floated around her. Katalina was also giving me a disapproving look while fingering the button on her magic gun.
“Sooo, how long have you been casting your net in other places? Hmmm? I thought it was a bit suspicious to find the two of you together in the baths.” The stifling heat coming from Eryn burned my skin which had grown ice cold.
“In a way, this seems logical. You have been spending quite a bit of time with her. And your ‘quirks’ and ‘strange ideas’ do stem from material existing in Miss Saki’s home country, does it not? Based on this, one can hypothesize that you would naturally find attraction in-“
“What the hell are you misinterpreting!?” I interrupted Katalina’s grounded explanation. If she was going to make such a convincing argument, then even I would start to believe it!
“Then, am I mistaken? You are not using your position to take advantage of Miss Saki?” The gun waving in her hand dared me to confirm her suspicions.
“Of course not! I mean, she’s cute and all, but-“
“But?” Eryn approached this time, locking onto the hint of doubt in my voice.
“What good would it do to chase after someone whose eyes are looking only at you?!” I nearly screamed at her face. Somehow, I felt like my argument wasn’t very convincing, since Saki was still in my arms.
Yet, Eryn stepped back and turned away, the heat emitting from her body going poof like a switch had been flipped. The truth of those words had hit a little too hard.
“Ugh, don’t remind me. That’s the last thing I want to remember.”
I let out a sigh as I gently placed Saki on the ground in front of the recovery team, telling them that she merely needed to sleep off the effects in a place plentiful of mana.
In my mind somewhere, I felt a vague form kicking me for my cowardice. I mentally flicked him back into the recesses of my memories.
And with that, the final match was determined. I would be fighting against Violet, the knight that Eryn had been personally training. I got a sudden chill from that.
‘Knowing Eryn, she would likely have a trick up her sleeve. Just what did she have planned?’
I looked over to her, who was walking back to her seat with Katalina. Noticing my gaze, she shot me a smile. One that caused me to gulp nervously.
‘I’m not going to get off easy, am I?’