The first time I met Violet Lingonberle was shortly after the whole wedding fiasco with Duke Charlemagne.
Having caught wind that I created the Sangria served at the reception, Viscount Lingonberle reached out to the Faulkner trading company with avid interest. A spiked wine had been just the idea to rejuvenate his flailing vineyard sales. The harvest season before had yielded poor grapes, giving a sharper acidity to the wine’s flavor.
Unsuitable for the refined tastes of a noble’s tongue, his storehouse slowly filled with wine that was sold to the local bars at a fraction of the normal price.
Recognizing the Viscount’s face upon meeting him, I recalled the keen interest he had sampling it before. My face lit up as I stared at the barrels upon barrels of cheap wine that we could use for Sangria. It would be a simple matter to adjust the flavor with fruit and sugar, reselling it at a much higher profit margin. The trading company would even tack on a cut for every barrel of Sangria sold if he agreed to be a long-term supplier.
I had just shaken hands with the Viscount, sealing our partnership, when two girls burst through the vineyard. They wore simple armor pieces over their noble attire, a sign that they had returned from combat training.
“Father! Father! Is that the Demon Cleaver I see?!” Violet bounded toward us with rich enthusiasm. Bianca trailed behind, also with a look of curiosity.
“Yes, my dears. But we are doing business. Please try not to be rude and greet Sir Evers properly.”
As the two girls paused to grip the hems of their skirt and perform a curtsy, I scratched my head in embarrassment at being treated so importantly. Being a knight still felt unfamiliar to me.
“Magic knight trainees, I take it?” I glanced over to the Viscount.
The man cleared his throat and seemed to avoid my gaze. “Well, yes. They have been quite enamored by a certain someone as a role model.”
Before I could ask ‘who’, Violet blurted out the answer.
“Viscountess Faulkner is so amazing. Sir Evers is her Electi, right? Could you please tell me stories about her? Please!”
I chuckled to think that Eryn would have such a fanbase that wanted to follow in her footsteps. After all, they were merely a few years younger. Judging by their expressions, simply hearing about her stories wasn’t going to satisfy their thirst.
“Now girls, Sir Evers is here on busin-“
“I’m not so busy that I can’t make a few kids happy,” I said, cutting him off. I turned back to the girls, knowing what would please them more. “Wouldn’t you like to meet her?”
Violet’s face went slack momentarily before her eyes widened and twinkled brightly.
“Of course, we can arrange a time for you. The Viscountess would love to have you come by.”
The two girls were exuberant, dashing around the vineyard as their father placed a hand on his temple in embarrassment.
I chuckled. “Don’t mind it. Frankly, I find cheerful girls to be quite charming. Having only just gained a title, stiff formalities are still a bit jarring for me. Their behavior won’t concern my Master in the slightest compared to what I have done.”
“I see… then I’ll trouble you with this favor. As a father, I personally worry about them becoming magic knights, but catching the interest of one with such skill eases my worries a bit.”
A few days later, the girls arrived by carriage to the domain of Faulkner. However, I had to greet them at the edge of town because there was quite a bit of construction in progress, making it difficult for vehicles to pass by.
“Wouldn’t want to dirty your ride, right?” I kicked up the levi-board that I used to travel between places. “Shall we walk from here?”
Violet had another suggestion in mind. Pulling out levi-boards from the carriage for herself and for Bianca, she smiled while indicating that they could keep up with me.
As we glided through the streets filled with construction workers and scattered materials, I noticed that they were indeed riding their boards with the slightest of ease. While I had grown accustomed to the obstacles littered about, this was a first time for them. Despite that, their movements swiftly flicked between people and objects with not even the slightest hint of panic.
Approaching the Faulkner mansion, I saw the unmistakable blue and white armor that Eryn wore. She, too, noticed our approach, turning around to greet us. Stopping right up to her, she suddenly voiced out a thought that crossed her mind.
“Hey Claude, wouldn’t it be interesting if more people could fight like you on the board?”
With that innocent question, the meeting suddenly became a training experiment, with the two girls and me joining Eryn as we floated around smacking each other with soft training swords. The giggles erupting from Violet and Bianca seemed to satisfy them more than any normal talk would have.
At the end of it, Eryn surprised them with an offer.
“Would you like to train under me and develop this method of combat?”
The two girls, not even waiting to ask their father for permission, agreed wholeheartedly to it, forming the beginnings of what would go on to become the ‘Knights of the Valkyrie’.
And now, the most senior member of that squadron, Violet, was facing me in the finals.
In a year’s time, she had grown tremendously, enhancing her Fire magic under Eryn and honing her abilities on the levi-board. At this point, my riding was like an amateur compared to her fluid skills – able to perform tricks like she had ascended beyond the limit of gravity’s hold.
Quite simply, attempting to use my levi-board against her would make me look bad. In that case, I could only rely on what I had developed instead – the ability to cut down any foe with a simple strike.
Violet stared as I lowered myself into a stance with my knife outward, daring her to approach me.
Would her swift mobility outmaneuver my strikes, or would my strike find its place at her mana gates, sending her to dreamland?
The audience grew silent as they could feel the tension, as the matches leading up to this one had essentially ended with a decisive moment that their eyes couldn’t tear away from. Even blinking could block out the chance to see the single blow that decided the victor for this match.
This was especially so for the pair of eyes that scrutinized each other’s movements in the arena, waiting for the signal to ring. I was having a staring contest with her, not wanting to miss a single thing to exploit.
Two fingers on my left hand were held right below my diaphragm, ready to tap at a moment’s notice. With this being the final match, I couldn’t fathom that she wouldn’t use it.
Sure enough, a cry erupted from her as the match began.
“Flash of Strength!”
Quickly pressing the spot to activate the ‘Divine Mana Gate’, I felt a rush of mana course through my body, heightening my senses. Both techniques produced similar effects, despite the different methods of activation.
For the two of us, a few short minutes were all we had to go all-out. The victory would come soon enough.
Violet nearly disappeared from my sight as her board warped forward in an instant. Just like in her battle with the son of Earl Allenguard, even a blink was long enough for her to traverse the entire starting distance.
Fortunately for me, my enhanced senses gave me just enough time to swing my mana-imbued knife towards her form, causing her movement to stray from its straight trajectory. Like a curveball missing a bat, she dodged out of the way at the last moment. Though I missed hitting her body, her wooden training sword couldn’t escape my reach.
As she flew past me and skidded to a stop, the abrupt deceleration was enough to snap the weapon in half after I had struck its weak points. She stared at the stump of wood in her hand, confirming what she had known all along from seeing me fight several times before. Granted, she had not experienced my newfound abilities gained in Sanshiro for herself, but there was no doubt that Eryn had devised some tactics to guard against them.
Simply tossing the useless weapon aside, she decided to go hand-to-hand against me. Since neither weapon nor armor could withstand a strike from me, it was better to not use them at all. Therefore, Violet had not re-equipped her normal armor. Nor did she want to risk breaking her family’s sword.
In fact, she had even slipped off the leather armor she had on previously. The budding mounds on her chest swayed slightly with her movements, distracting me momentarily. I mentally smacked myself for thinking such a thing in the middle of a serious fight.
I moved forward to strike, but she glided right up to me in an instant, which made me shift to a defensive stance. Her fist crashed into the mana barrier coating my body, the instinctive protection I had developed for many months with Lau’s training.
Her level was still a bit low compared to mine. Since her Attack stat wasn’t overpowered like Eryn or Saki’s was, this resulted in a heavy thunk against my chest that barely moved me inches back.
Seeing my advantage, I sliced down at her, only to see her form disappear again. This time, I felt a similar blow against the back of my neck. She had circled around to strike there. Unfortunately for her, my mana shield coated my entire body, covering up any possible weak points. Lau’s sparring had ensured that I didn’t slack off on protecting my body uniformly. Without a strong enough Attack, there was no way to brute force past it, even in her enhanced state.
Despite that, she continued to strike several more times as I swung around trying to hit her with my mana blade. Even adding fire to her fists didn’t seem to do much, as my outfit was resistant to it, snuffing out the flames upon impact. A minute rolled by, and then two, but there was little in terms of damage that I accumulated.
When she finally backed off, hardly any time remained of our enhanced states. This was problematic for her as there was one drawback to ‘Flash of Strength’ – neither she nor Eryn was able to control its deactivation, causing them to run dry of mana and collapse. I, on the other hand, could simply shut it off with another tap of the finger.
Understanding her predicament, Violet gave me a cheeky grin. “That’s the Chancellor for you. Someone even the one I aspire to be has admitted defeat to.”
Eryn had found it difficult to win in a straight fight against me now. For the magic and swordplay she developed to be rendered useless with a single blow, she was likely still feeling bitter about it. Maybe, that was why she had sent Violet to challenge me, rather than competing directly herself.
“Honestly, I was thrilled to have this battle with you, Sir Evers.” Violet crouched a bit, readying herself into a charge. “Now, I have someone else to look up to. Someone else to admire.”
Violet moved full-speed ahead, instantly plowing into the left arm that I held forward to block her. The momentum from her dash caused me to take several steps back, her fist strong enough to make my arm sting with pain.
I was just about to bring my knife down when I heard some soft words that made my heart jump.
“I want your eyes only on me, Sir Evers. What do you think of me?”
That question, combined with a flirtatious wink, threw me in for a loop.
That moment of confusion exploded into panic as Violet dashed into my chest and wrapped her arms around me in an embrace. Her head resting against my chest was enough to snuff out my focus into ending the fight.
And I realized too late that this was exactly what she was aiming for.
Immediately after being embraced, she pulled her hand back and summoned the spell that she learned from Eryn. Using her fist as the focal point, an explosion erupted as she drove it into my stomach, sending both of us tumbling away from that spot.
I rolled several times before the texture of the ground suddenly felt different under me. A moment later, I collided into a hard surface.
‘Dangit! She got me good with that!’
Her words had distracted me enough to drop my mana barrier, leading to a full-powered surprise attack that knocked me back. Fortunately, my body registered it to be an attack in time, letting the defense parameter kick in, so I wasn’t hurt more than a sore spot on my belly. Quickly, I sat up.
I still had enough juice to keep going… that was, until I saw where I was sitting – the grassy area outside of the arena. I had crashed into the magic barrier shielding the fighting ring, meaning that I had fallen out of bounds.
Violet – still in the arena – popped up from her tumble and stuck out her tongue sheepishly.
“The champion of this year’s tournament is, in an unbelievable upset, Violet of House Lingonberle!” The announcer confirmed her victory as the crowd erupted in cheers.
I scratched my head and looked down, mentally kicking myself for the blunder I made, but then, I stood up and faced forward, clapping for the girl that bested me.
Footsteps clinked lightly behind me, but I didn’t need to turn around to know who it was.
“I told you that I’d toast your buns. It just took me a while to figure out how.”
I looked over at Eryn, who sported a sly grin. I chuckled at how gullible I was.
“You told her to say that, didn’t you?”
Eryn’s grin grew slightly wider. But then, a sudden thought floated in my mind.
“If you wanted me to make a mistake, why didn’t you do it yourself? I mean, if you had confessed to me mid-fight, I probably would’ve passed out right there.”
Eryn’s smile suddenly grew stiff. The expression on her face grew pale.
“Because it would be too freaking embarrassing for me, you idiot!”
In an instant, Eryn turned around and stomped away, toward her triumphant student to congratulate her. But not before I caught a glimpse of her blushing face.
“Well, don’t make me wait too long…”
I whispered those words through the smile that hung on my face.