Koujiro couldn’t help but push on. He knew that he could do so much more, only if he tried. Seeing how others had struggled through so much doubt and uncertainty, these thoughts riled him up to be the best that he could ever be. The stories of his friends made him realize that he wasn’t a failure if things didn’t go his way.
He wasn’t hiding behind talent that people didn’t recognize. His efforts would finally pay off, even if it was in the smallest of ways. The image of his loving wives and children, in their everyday lives, flashed before him, the culmination of what he had gained.
Every little success became a learning experience, forcing him to realize that people didn’t become good without effort. True effort without reward at times. But now, he could push forward without any of that. Instant feedback or not, he simply had to step onward.
After all, life was not a set of numbers and values. There was no immediate gratification like scoreboards or stat numbers handed out. There was not always someone to grade his value. Only Koujiro himself could decide if his actions were worth it, and only time would tell if he had become the person that he wanted others to see him as.
Determined to continue the fight, he made the mecha hurl its own sword at Eryn hovering midair, catching her by surprise. As she hurriedly ducked out of the way, he piloted the large mecha right into her, snatching her up like a small animal in his palms. Putting everything into keeping her contained, Koujiro reached over in the cockpit and pulled a lever that read ‘Self-Destruct’.
As the alarms blared around him, he quickly leapt out of the machine and into the fiery surroundings. His body soared through the midair blaze, only feeling the pressure of wind against his falling body. Moments later, a fierce explosion rippled through the sea of flames, creating a void around its proximity. The shockwave knocked Koujiro hurling downwards to the ground below even faster than before.
If he hadn’t been subjected to a similar experience of falling, he would have panicked. But the Queen of Sistina had taught him a valuable lesson. The time he spent from her punishment hadn’t been wasted as he let the strange sense of familiarity force him to focus. He had plenty of time before he hit the ground, and he was expecting Eryn to pop out of the explosion at any moment.
Koujiro gripped his sword tightly, keeping a watchful eye on his surroundings. The scenery finally shifted as he dropped below the sea of flames. His body was a bit toasty, but otherwise fine.
He eyed the explosion above him, confident that it wasn’t enough to stop the Demon, and sure enough, he caught a glimpse of purple in the orange sky above him. In the next instant, that purple glow zipped through the flames, making a beeline straight for him.
Koujiro had no choice but to attack, as he had no footholds or ways to dodge in midair. He raised his sword high above his head and screamed as he sliced forward.
Like the fancy move that he recalled from one of his shows, he sent his mana and divine power forward like cannon fire with that downward slice. The recoil of that energy sent him speeding backwards even more.
But as Koujiro glanced to the side and saw an outline of trees catching up to him, he cut off the attack and let the residual thrust spin him around. Facing the ground now, he could see exactly how high he was.
And with another quick slice downward, he repeated the same attack, albeit with far less power. This time, he could feel his body decelerate as the burst of energy collided with the ground. A few demons became collateral damage in that moment, unable to escape from its direct path.
Eventually, he slowed down enough to stop the attack completely, landing with a loud crack as his body hit the ground with his free hand punching straight down and knees bent. He had always wanted to do that – make a picture-perfect, heroic landing.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be! The style of a Champion King!” Koujiro nodded to himself in satisfaction.
But then, Eryn simply landed right in front of him with a simple tap, like she had gracefully hovered to the ground. An all-powerful being making her descent to contrast his crude performance.
“Tch, way to ruin my mood,” Koujiro spat at her.
“Well, are you done?” Eryn smirked, looking hardly affected by all that. “No more trinkets to surround yourself with borrowed power?”
“Hey, come on. A man has to revel in his trophies and shiny things sometimes. I’m keeping you at bay, aren’t I?” Slightly exasperated, but now able to breathe again, Koujiro stood up in a fighting pose to continue the match.
“Hmm, not for much longer-”
Koujiro cut her off as he charged forward, a bit flustered that neither his mecha nor his self-named skill, ‘EXCALIBURRRRRRRR,’ had hardly done much to her. His teeth chattered as he continued to put on what pressure he could against an opponent that he knew he couldn’t win against now. Even with stats that were boosted ten-fold, they were capped out against an opponent that never grew tired.
But seeing the look of desperation in his eyes, Eryn simply shrugged the attacks off with parries of her own. It was clear who was the one with more fighting experience. After a few more exchanges of blades, Eryn simply reached out and grabbed the tip of Koujiro’s sword, surprising him.
With one swift motion, her blade struck his stopped sword, shattering it in half. Koujiro backpedaled, now weaponless. He moved to cover himself with his gauntlets, but Eryn’s left fist caught him in the stomach before he could fully guard.
Koujiro felt the metal armor warp against his torso as the momentum flung him several steps backward. But Eryn wasn’t done just yet. Her sword caught him next in the side of the leg, the metal armor there cracking as the strength of her swing swept him off his feet and into the air.
As Koujiro spun backwards, he caught the sight of Eryn before him. She had jumped right over him, bringing down a hammer blow with her fist straight atop his chestplate. He could feel his ribcage creak as the armor barely gave him the protection to survive such a powerful strike.
His entire body slammed into the ground, back first. The pain of crashing into solid earth shot through his nerves as he made a Koujiro-shaped imprint there. As he struggled to find his own bearings again, Eryn walked right up to him, cold purple eyes glaring straight down.
“Are you done now?” she asked, using her foot to kick away something on top of him.
Koujiro realized that it was a slab of his chestplate. He looked down to see that his armor had been destroyed. Focusing a moment to open his stats menu, his eyes widened as he saw how low they had become.
He had taken so much damage that his armor no longer registered as being equipped anymore. And with that armor removed, he was no longer the strong Champion King, but the frail person relying upon it. Though he still had some items equipped, he knew that it was measly compared to what was needed to survive the next attack.
“Well, then. That’s one down-”
Before Eryn could bring her sword down to slice him in two, the sight of a spear tip flashed in the corner of her eye. She stepped back instinctively to avoid it. Shifting her feet to spin around, she swung her sword at the one that interrupted her finishing blow.
But then, her eyes widened slightly in surprise as her attack was blocked by the man’s gauntlet, his chipper grin looking like he was ready for a brawl. With armor that looked rather fancy for a Sanshiro warrior, she faintly recalled that there were people in Sanshiro that could give her a good fight.
“Yo, sup there, demon girl. You must be that chick, Eryn, that my bro Claude is so fond of. Name’s Wen Zhi, Electi of Defense, if you haven’t gathered that by now.”
Eryn gave him a smirk in acknowledgement. “Thank you for taking care of Claude back then. I’ll show you my appreciation by giving you a quick death.” Then, she unveiled her other hand from behind her back, a strong spell having been prepared during the brief exchange.
Wen Zhi mouthed a curse before quickly making some distance, moving his spear at the ready in an attempt to slice whatever magic came his way. But he gulped as Eryn weaved a whirling beam of roaring flames at him, a combination of Wind and Fire magic. He was just about to run, as he couldn’t hope to smack that away, but someone else dashed in front of him. He watched as the spell harmlessly bounced right off someone who looked almost exactly like him, sporting the same equipment as well.
“Brother, I do wish that you’d think ahead at times like these. Just consider who you are actually fighting here – an Electi with not one but two powerful stats. Not to mention, a seasoned warrior that could give Master Lau a bit of trouble through technique alone. And magic enough to sear the skies.”
“Well shit, bro. I’m not good at tactics like you are. The only way for me to grasp how strong she’s supposed to be, is to go for a direct clash.”
“Regardless, now that I am here as well, we will show you that the Sun twins aren’t to be taken lightly, even if our opponent is the legendary Demon that disrupted Sanshiro decades ago.”
Eryn eyed the two men, trying to spot the differences between them. Even their weak points seemed to be in sync with each other. Truly a pair of identical twins, but polarized in either Defense or Magic Defense. Though their personalities seemed to differ, that changed once they geared up for combat. They used their identical appearances to their advantage, going so far as moving completely in sync. Eryn admitted that this would be a troublesome fight.
“Hey, wait!” a weak voice interrupted them.
Eryn and the Sun twins turned to see Koujiro, half-naked and chugging a recovery potion. Though he already started to look better upon finishing his drink, it was strange that he hadn’t left to find cover. Instead, the fight in his eyes never left.
“Since she’s got ‘two’ Electi powers, won’t it be better to fight her with ‘three’ instead?” Koujiro asked cheekily.
“And… how are you supposed to fight in that condition?” Wen Lu cocked his head to the side, jeering at him.
Wen Zhi just scratched his head in confusion, while Eryn stared blankly.
“Oh! Like this!” He brought up his left wrist and tapped a few keys on the wristband that he wore there. Immediately afterward, he made a dramatic pose while yelling out, “Henshin!”
Before their eyes, a new set of armor materialized around him, complete with another sword at his belt. Koujiro drew his weapon and leapt into a fighting position.
“What do you think about that? ‘Queenie of Sistinii’ saves the day again! It lets me switch between nine different loadouts!”
All he got in response was a set of jaws dropping.
Eryn was the first to shake her head at how ridiculous the situation was.
“The things I put up with for world domination….”
‘No matter,’ she thought. With magic in her left hand and her sword in the right, she was ready to resume the battle against all three of them. But then, yet another surprise decided to interrupt them again.
In the distance, a strong mana signature could be felt. Everyone turned toward the source of it, wondering what could be coming from Yakuman. For it to be felt through the barrier, it had to be powerful and divine, but no one could say who or what it was.
All Eryn could feel was an intense glow in the distance. She scanned the source of it, wondering if the final person had made his decision. But no new white light emerged, at least not yet. Immediately, she felt the urge to abandon this fight and run to him anyways. To bring an end to this play and force him to choose a side.
Claude had not decided yet. And if that was the case, her options were still open. She took a few steps forward, ready to dash past her opponents.
But then, something strange happened.
The melody of a young girl touched her ears. It swept across the battlefield and filled it with a lovely voice. And for one moment, everyone stopped what they were doing. Nothing else but that song filled their ears.