The moment Iris enters the arena, she is greeted with thunderous applause.
This tremendous popularity is the proof that she is the main character in this tournament.
Iris studies Jimina as they face each other, and calms herself down.
Jimina Sehnen. He is undoubtedly a formidable opponent. Even when seeing him up close like this, she cannot gauge his strength, despite feeling a depthless something from him. Strength incongruous with his appearance. A young man that emits an out of balance feeling that messes with her sense of reality.
However, Iris does not think that she cannot win. Above that, Iris must win.
She believes it her calling to win in this Festival of the God of War.
Her political sense is nonexistent, and she herself admits it. The only thing she can do is to be Midgar Kingdom’s symbol of strength.
‘As long as Iris Midgar is present, then Midgar Kingdom is safe.’ It is her calling to be the one to grant this sense of security to her citizens.
To that end, she does not mind being propped up as a portable shrine. As someone with no other strength than brute force, she understands that she would be used in politics.
But that was only until recently.
As the price for having been a mere prop so far, her first effort at standing on her own two feet…… fell flat. Anxious about the future of her country, she founded the Crimson Order, but could not gather people nor resources, ultimately changing nothing.
Since then, she’s been able to gradually gather some numbers, but she is still miles away from her vision.
But having said that, she is aware that dipping her hand into politics this late in the game would only lead to her being used by everybody and every faction. So politics will be left to the politicians, while she will gather her strength in the way that she knows best.
She knows how powerful her popularity with the citizens is. Those who can serve as the brains of the Crimson Order have already been gathered. All that’s left is for her to take the championship at the Festival of the God of War and cement her popularity amongst the populace. Then everything else will fall into place.
With this belief in her heart, Iris raises her sword and waits for the starting announcement.
Jimina, I’m sorry, but I’ll be going full throttle from the very beginning. Regardless of what you are hiding, you will not have time to use it. Everything will be decided in a split second.
“Iris Midgar vs. Jimina Sehnen!! Battle start!!”
Along with the start of the match, Iris steps forward, then stops.
A tiny utter of doubt escapes her lips.
Why does Jimina’s figure feel so far away?
Did she mistake the distance between them?
But she double checks—she is not mistaken. However, it’s her feeling that is telling her that Jimina is far away.
She does not know the reason why. Perhaps she is just nervous.
But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she had stopped moving.
She refocuses, readies her sword, then throws in a feint.
The instant she confirms that Jimina’s eyes have been drawn by the feint, she rushes in.
Once again, her feet stop.
She jerks her upper torso as if to evade something, then leaps backward.
She saw a sword.
She saw Jimina’s sword severing her head.
But Jimina’s sword had not moved at all.
Naturally, her head is still connected.
She could not help murmuring out loud.
She clearly saw Jimina’s sword.
The instant she rushed in, Jimina’s sword had slashed with overwhelming might and cleanly severed her head.
She had thought everything to be over.
Her loss…… no, she had been sure of her death.
But apparently that was a mere illusion. Jimina doesn’t even have his sword raised, and is just standing there in place.
Iris cannot comprehend what had just happened.
She brings up her sword, and attempts to circle the edge of the arena, as if to probe him.
One round. Two rounds. Three rounds……
The distance between them remains unchanged. Yet somehow, Jimina’s figure feels even further away now.
“…… You’re not coming?”
So Jimina asks.
But Iris cannot step in.
Every fiber of her being is telling her not to take that one step.
Iris screams, as if to throw off her hesitation.
Then she takes that step with the greatest amount of speed that she can muster.
However——his eyes are following me!!
Jimina’s gaze is still solidly centered on Iris.
Then, as if to indicate something, his eyes move.
That instant, Iris brakes by instinct.
An enormous burden assaults her body, and she even hears a disturbing sound from her knee joints.
But without paying that any mind, Iris stops herself, then flies backward in a tumbling motion.
She had clearly seen Jimina’s sword piercing her chest.
“…… No way.”
However, her chest is completely unwounded.
There is also no trace of Jimina having brandished his sword.
“This cannot be happening……”
Before her eyes, Jimina is just standing there, still with sword unraised, same as before.
“…… What’s wrong?”
So he asks.
Iris’s body shivers in response to…… something.
She’s got to do something.
Agitation and fear thrusts her into motion.
That same instant, Jimina’s eyes move.
As if he is reading the future, his eyes and the tip of his sword both flick to a position in front of Iris.
At which, Iris hallucinates her arm being cut off.
Finally, she understands what is going on.
She understands that Jimina has only been feinting her the entire time.
He completely reads her movements, then sends her warnings with only his eyes and the tip of his sword.
That if she doesn’t stop——she would die.
With just that alone, Iris has been hallucinating his sword.
The visions of her being cut were almost indistinguishable from reality.
Past words from her master raise up in Iris’ mind: “A master’s ‘lies’ feel like reality.” True to those words, her master had led the young Iris around by the nose.
But what Jimina is doing now is “reality” far beyond what her master had been capable of.
Is something like that even possible……?
Iris does not claim to be the strongest in the world. She understands that there’s always someone better out there. However, from an objective point of view, her strength as a magic swordsman should be within the top ranks of the world. That’s what she had believed.
And such a person is being led around the nose by mere feints?
If that is true, then Jimina’s true strength——he would indeed be the strongest in the world, hands down.
And that would be in a dimension that not a single person can even come close to.
Is that actually possible?
Iris berates herself.
“Don’t be tricked.”
He hasn’t even swung his sword once. All she has to go off on is mere speculation.
So Iris murmurs, as if towards her instincts.
She firms her resolve to not stop no matter what, then takes a step forward.
There is a sound of something cutting through air.
The next instant.
An incredible impact slams into Iris’ entre body.
Her consciousness blacks out for a few seconds, then she finds herself staring at the sky.
In the middle of the arena, Iris is lying on her back, staring at the sky.
What had happened?
Iris could not see Jimina’s sword at all. All she remembers is Jimina’s eyes tracing her movement, then an incredible impact.
It’s a miracle how she still hasn’t let go of her sword.
Iris forces her aching and unresponsive body to sit up.
“Iris Midgar…… is this all you amount to?”
A sword is thrust before her eyes.
Jimina is looking down at Iris with eyes devoid of emotion.
Even though he is so close that she can touch him by reaching out, his figure appears to be so, so far away.
So very far away……
Ahh…… so that’s what it was.
Iris finally realizes.
His figure appearing far away was no illusion.
From the very start, he has been in a far, far away height, looking down upon her. A place so far that Iris can never touch, no matter how much she reaches out……
Iris’ sword falls from her hand, raising a dry clang.
In the arena that has fallen as silent as a crypt, that clang echoes.
Iris Midgar had been defeated with a single attack.
That fact has caused everyone to be frozen with shock.
Amidst the silence.
Kotsu, kotsu, sounds out footsteps from Iris’ back.
A stir gradually runs through the arena.
Kotsu, kotsu, kotsu goes the footsteps, until they stop.
Every single eye in the audience is focused on the person who had caused those footsteps.
Even Jimina is displaying slight surprise on his face.
“I have returned, Father.”
The person standing there is the beautiful princess of Oriana Kingdom, Rose Oriana.
Not sparing even a glance for Iris and Jimina, Rose is staring straight at the special seats box.