When my normal attacks failed me, what else could I rely on but good, old-fashioned brawling? Granted, I wasn’t an expert on fists of fury, but there were other ways to fight that didn’t count as a direct attack. Somehow, Orwitz’s strikes didn’t register as such, so a loophole existed. Lau could often damage me without the intention, or bloodlust, that should accompany the blow.
As I had learned many times before, my puny attack stat hardly made a dent in anyone, but when the intent of attacking was absent, then things completely changed. Be it a back massage, a grab of the arm, or an accidental bump – those could still cause a measure of pain, because they were just natural occurrences. The lack of intent was the key to success here. But first, I had to figure out how to use that against a dangerous opponent that wasn’t bound by such conditions.
Orwitz leapt at me, boosters firing, which spun him in a full rotation. Recalling my training with Lau, an expert dodger, I waited patiently. Even with how rapid his movement was, the booster made him predictable. He could not change his path as abruptly as a person’s natural joints.
Just in time, I edged out of the way of a flying kick. His body soared past mine by mere inches. After continuing several meters, he circled around and came for another shot. This time, he aimed a back fist at my shoulder.
Not giving the booster on his arm time to activate, I stepped into the blow and grabbed his wrist, simply holding onto it for dear life. The wrist was thin enough for my fingers to wrap completely around, making my hold nearly impossible to pull off without the right technique. Even as I was carried away by the thrust of Orwitz’s propulsion, I refused to let go. My grip grew tighter and tighter to compensate for possibly being thrown off, letting myself ride the momentum as the two of us spun around.
Finally, we landed on our feet, before Orwitz sent another punch my way. Unfortunately, I was too close to dodge, so I instinctively tugged his wrist one way to redirect his whole body. A large impact slammed into my right shoulder, forcing me to let go of the captive limb.
I gritted my teeth and spun with the blow, reducing the damage by moving with the momentum, another technique passed on by Lau.
‘How long had it been since I last fought like this? Where every attack mattered, and I couldn’t just rely on my cheap shots to end the match?’
Granted, Orwitz was nowhere near as sharp and unpredictable as Lau. He only had his thrusters going for him. That was why he was surprised when I spun completely around to grab him by the same arm again.
And at that moment, I saw something quite strange.
The indentation of my previous hold was still there, like my grip had molded it out of shape. Testing it out again, I pressed my thumb into the arm of the sentai suit, discovering that it was rather squishy. I had believed that the suits were made out of some strange armor, as every hit that I observed upon it simply bounced off like striking a hard object. But to my surprise, it was rubbery and soft, almost like latex stretched over skin.
That moment of absentminded wonder earned me a deck to the chest, sending me sailing backwards. I rolled several meters, dirtying the precious armor handed from Katalina to me, but that didn’t matter. My mind was whirling to understand what that all meant.
‘Super sentai suits… Lamps Magellan… ideas from my home world… mana control… toughness…’
Various thoughts spun in my head before I came to some strange conclusion. If Lamps Magellan was some genius on par with Katalina but also gifted with otherworld knowledge, who was to say that he couldn’t exploit the properties of both worlds? He could have invented something that was near impossible to fight against, but it was just as likely that he was smart enough to cover up the hidden flaws.
After all, there was always something lacking in creations. Some drawbacks that inventors tried to disguise, all the while embellishing the strengths. In this case, its strength in combat was undeniable. But then, why was the material so soft and squishy? Why could the grip of a single hand distort it?
But knowing that little detail now opened up a very distinct chance to win. My lips curled and my hands relaxed into a ready position for grappling. Orwitz, likely ignoring the hand mark on his wrist, rushed forward once again. He flung rocket jabs at my body as I side-stepped away.
The rhythm of his attacks had a set pattern to it, similar to what Lau had observed with mine at the start of his training. Similar to how I once was, the straightforwardness of Orwitz’s amateur attacks became clear. A puppet, moving in a predictable fashion as if remotely controlled – that was the feeling of the opponent I was up against. The focus was not on attacking me, but rather, on controlling his suit to move as expected.
Orwitz’s attacks were simply that. A robot piloted into people, rather than intentionally attacking them. Drawing upon my own experience, I could finally see how Orwitz had been able to tear through the crowds. He was a rampaging hazard, not a combatant. And somehow, the world deemed that stats didn’t need to apply here, but rather, the normal physics that I understood. How amazing was it for Lamps to figure this out and fully capitalize upon that?
But he couldn’t hide the inherent flaw from me. It stood out like a sore thumb. I merely had to bide my time until I could reach out and grab it.
That chance came when an overextended right hook flew past my face. ‘Too methodical,’ I thought, finally able to anticipate the robot’s dance.
I bent down and stuck out my foot, causing Orwitz to trip and fall. I was on him in an instant. My larger, bulkier body sat upon his legs as my hands pressed against his back. With the armor on, I likely weighed twice as much as him. And even firing off the rockets couldn’t pull him out from under me.
Still, it was like riding a mechanical bull. I had to stop him before the thrusters gave him any room to squirm out. Quickly, I put together my index and middle finger and pressed them firmly into his back.
The boy below me made a dreadful sound at the feeling of his back spasming. Though I couldn’t push any mana through his impenetrable suit, the acupressure technique was undoubtedly effective. I reached for another spot with my other hand, and instantly, the body jerked again. He was probably seeing stars in his vision, my fingers digging deep into the places my mom warned me to be careful of. They were the spots that induced hellish pain when pressed.
After several more pokes in this wicked massage arrangement, I could feel Orwitz’s struggling begin to lessen. He was likely starting to black out from the pain. If that were the case, then I could tear this suit off him and finally take him hostage or something. If he was as young as I thought he was, then it would leave a bitter taste in my mouth to kill him.
With one of them immobilized, that would make the other one easy to deal with. I looked over to where Ludmila and Gwendolyn were fighting, only to see a sword swinging right for my head.
Ludmila found her opponent to be quite worthy. Gwendolyn, the other twin that wore a strange suit, moved like a wild beast after her prey. She was naturally more emotional than her younger brother, which made her attacks sharper and more ferocious.
But Ludmila was used to dealing with predators of the wild. Even without her Electi skills in her previous life, the charge of a bear or the pounce of a lion was what a hunter prepared herself to face. A simple knife, or bows and arrows if one was gifted with aim, was all that one had against gnashing teeth and flesh-tearing claws.
Because of that, Ludmila was not afraid of the strikes that could smash her bones or tear chunks from her body. The gory results of those slain by her opponent did not paralyze her with fear. The sword in Gwendolyn’s hand was far less scary than the guns that killed her family. She had overcome the gunfire, and the trauma that came from that. A dinky sword was hardly anything to sweat about.
Ludmila ducked under the blade and dashed around Gwendolyn. Her impressive speed allowed for her to circle around back, where she could drive a fist of mana into the other girl’s back. However, Ludmila’s fist crashed against a thick wall of mana, the essence of Lamps Magellan syphoned through Resonance Stones.
Even her own mana training couldn’t make a dent on the thick protection that coated Gwendolyn’s body. The man behind the suit’s invention had truly considered many things. Though Ludmila couldn’t damage the wearer directly, the force behind the blow still pushed her opponent back a few steps.
Ludmila’s fists, combined with her speed, allowed her to pin Gwendolyn in place. Hopefully, Claude would find a way to break through their defenses as she could count on his abilities time and time again.
After several minutes of speedy back-and-forth exchanges of strikes, with not much luck on either side, Gwendolyn suddenly looked off to the side. Of course, Ludmila turned as well, wanting to know what had caught her attention.
Claude had pinned Orwitz on the ground, digging his fingers into his back. The boy in the suit struggled in pain, trying to propel himself away with his thrusters, but to no avail. Claude wouldn’t let go; he had found a way to immobilize his opponent.
Relief briefly washed over Ludmila, before an enraged Gwendolyn pounced towards them. Ludmila quickly dashed over, hoping to knock the charging girl away. But she got as far as a meter from her until a prickly sensation stabbed at her body and nearly made her go numb.
In Gwendolyn’s rage, she had covered herself with a set of spikes created from mana. Like a porcupine protecting itself, her body was shielded from attackers, knowing that Ludmila would try to stop her. Even with her speed, Ludmila couldn’t stop a charging ball of needles thrusting her sword toward Claude.
The blade came closer and closer to his head. All the while, he was not paying any attention to it. As his protector, Ludmila didn’t hesitate to pull out her trump card. He had placed Orwitz in check, and there was no way she would let Gwendolyn disrupt him!
Time froze. The tip of Gwendolyn’s sword was mere centimeters from Claude’s face. But now, Ludmila had plenty of time to stop the girl’s assault. She raced over, pounding at the spiny mana with charged blows of her own.
In the isolation of frozen time, the mana around Gwendolyn’s body chipped off slowly like it had been made of ice. Three chimes rang. Ludmila had barely smoothed out the spikes, enough that she could get within reach of her opponent.
Six chimes rang. She pounded away at Gwendolyn’s body, hoping to knock her off her intended path. Her punches rained upon the other girl, but yet, she was immovable. Her stance remained firm. The determination to save her own brother was so strong that even Ludmila could feel it from the way she held herself.
Nine chimes rang. Running out of time, Ludmila tried to strike the weapon itself. But she didn’t have a way to break it like Claude had done. The craftsmanship of the weapon was high quality, specially reserved for aces in the army.
And on the eleventh chime, Ludmila backed up, as far as she could. She needed the room to speed up. In a flash, she dashed up to her top speed, forgetting all else. She plowed straight into Gwendolyn before activating her other skill, Instant Acceleration.
With the force of a cannonball going at the speed of sound, she slammed into Gwendolyn as a last resort. And finally, the twelfth chime rang. Time kicked back in.
The body against her suddenly moved, as if launched from a bowstring pulled to its limit. In an instant, Gwendolyn flew along the ground before crashing into the wall of the capital, tens of meters away. Not expecting this, Ludmila blinked a few times in confusion.
Little did she know, her ‘Clock-endspiel’ skill froze objects in time, so they couldn’t move. Ludmila had panicked, not realizing that her inability to move Gwendolyn had been due to that. The sequence of attacks inflicted upon her all came into effect in a single instant after time was restored.
And with all the force transferred straight into Gwendolyn compressed in that moment, it resulted in her body disappearing from that spot and ending up embedded into the nearby wall.
“Huh?” She heard Claude remark. In his viewpoint, he had just seen a blade right before his eyes. But in the next moment, the attacker had disappeared, replaced by Ludmila.
It only took a few seconds for him to realize what had happened. That Ludmila had frozen time to help him.
“You’re a lifesaver. Thanks, Ludmila.” Claude pressed down on Orwitz one more time, making him grunt sharply before his whole body went slack.
The two of them had prevailed over Purnesia’s champions, the gatekeepers for the capital. Finally, they could claim this base and end the war. They could finally settle everything and return home in peace.
But the sound of clapping interrupted their celebration.
“Ahaha, that was a simply marvelous show. Truly. It is quite the wonder to have someone be able to pick up the inherent flaws of my works and show me all its points of failure. Iteration is key to invention, and nothing else can make me prouder than to have it critiqued so well.”
Claude and Ludmila turned toward the voice and the clapping, seeing two men in military officer suits. One they immediately recognized as Golabki, standing there as a guard with pistols drawn. But the man clapping was much thinner and had a wily grin. The closed eyes were a weird contrast to the expression of glee on his lips.
However, they didn’t need more to assume who this man was. He was undoubtedly Purnesia’s great inventor, the right hand of the Mad Empress, Lamps Magellan.