Before anyone had noticed, thick clouds had gathered, covering the sun and throwing the world into shadow.
Within the clouds can be heard sounds of thunder.
Rain begins falling, one drop at a time.
“What are you all doing?! CHASE HER!!”
Doem’s rage-filled roar rips into the air, and his subordinates that had been merely observing the situation all leap into motion.
After positioning themselves to surround Shadow, who has taken up position in front of the hole, they all rush towards him at the same time.
However, the next instant.
A single flash of jet black mows them all down.
A single stroke. All these magic swordsmen that Doem had carefully hand-selected were all knocked back, and are now rolling on the ground.
“How can this……”
So this is Shadow. Just as the rumors had indicated, any run-of-the-mill person would not even be his opponent.
Doem clutches his bleeding stomach while backpedaling.
“S-, someone! Is there anyone?! Someone who can defeat him?!”
Then he shouts.
But the only response he gets is the sound of the rain.
Midgar Kingdom’s knights have Shadow surrounded, but only from a distance away.
Not a single one of them are underestimating Shadow’s strength, not after seeing how he had defeated Iris.
The rain begins to pour. Thick raindrops strike down on everyone alike.
Shadow’s jet black longcoat has gotten wet and shiny from the rain, thus reflecting the sudden flash of lightning.
Then more lightning strikes. And every time it does, the figure of Shadow is lit up and branded into the eyes of everyone present.
Together with that voice, a gray-robed female jumps into the air.
In midair, she throws away her robe and draws her longsword. Then she alights onto the battlefield.
“Goddess of War, Beatrix……”
So whispers someone.
The one entering a stance with her sword held up amidst the falling rain is a beautiful blond-haired elf.
With only a chest guard and loincloth on, her white skin is wet by the rain and illuminated by the lightning.
Shadow vs. Beatrix. The two quietly confront each other, as if to sound out each other’s maai.
The start of the fight is triggered by a violent peal of thunder.
Shadow’s sword lengthens as if to match Beatrix’s.
Then, a flash.
Shadow’s jet black sword mows.
The rain is slashed.
For a brief moment, an area devoid of rain is created by the trajectory of his sword.
Indeed, Shadow’s sword had missed.
Beatrix had retreated half a step instantaneously, thus evading Shadow’s mowing attack.
Then she immediately shifts into counterattack.
A razor-sharp thrust rushes towards Shadow, just like a spear.
Behind the mask, Shadow seems to be smiling.
Shadow dodges that by turning his body half around, and uses the momentum from that motion to release another slash with his sword.
But Beatrix withdraws her sword in time.
Even while drawing back her sword, she crouches, thus evading Shadow’s attack.
Then she shifts into counterattack again.
The two are only tearing apart raindrops.
More than ten moves are exchanged in the blink of an eye, slicing the rain again and again.
The severed raindrops turn into small sprays drawing beautiful arcs illuminated by lightning.
Everyone is watching with bated breath.
This is exactly a dance.
The sword movements that no normal person can follow with their eyes leave their traces in the air, painted with rain and lightning.
A breathtaking sword dance.
Not a single person is in doubt that these two are standing at the summit of the path of the sword.
But it is Shadow who announces the end of this dance that they’d love to watch forever.
“This sword is insufficient, huh……”
Shadow leaves Beatrix’s maai, and gazes at her.
Beatrix does not press in, choosing instead to utilize this opportunity to calm her breathing. Her bountiful breasts heave up and down violently.
She lets slip a sigh of admiration.
Her blue eyes simply gaze at Shadow.
For a while, the two do not move.
“I shall show you my true sword.”
So saying, Shadow returns his jet black blade to its original length.
That is his original maai.
At the same time he speaks, he’s already stepped in.
Then, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, he closes their maai.
Then an impact.
The instant Beatrix realizes that her maai had been breached, she abandoned offense and focused solely on defense. However, she could not see Shadow’s sword at all.
Not only her, no one else in the venue could see it.
That single stroke…… did not cut rain.
Knocked back by the impact, Beatrix rolls inside the rain.
Though she could not see the sword, she was able to defend through her intuition alone. However, it was barely by the skin of her teeth. She was unsightly knocked back far away, unable to even initiate a counterattack.
She immediately leaps back to her feet in preparation for a follow up attack.
Thunder roars, and Shadow disappears along with the fading lightning.
That instant, Shadow is already standing before her.
Brandishing his invisible sword.
She concentrates on Shadow’s sword with all of her nerves, then again is assaulted by an impact.
She truly could not see it.
Ignoring the dirt smeared onto her face, Beatrix stands up and immediately jumps back to take a distance.
Once again she had blocked in time, but it was only due to intuition and luck.
There is no guarantee that she’ll be able to block the next one too.
But no follow up attack is forthcoming.
Beatrix stares at Shadow underneath the lightning and racks her mind.
Why can’t she see it?
It was not merely fast. Shadow’s sword is somehow…… different.
Through her experience of fighting accrued over her long life, she finally reaches the answer.
Shadow’s sword is——nature itself.
During a fight, while dealing with many swords at the same time, a fast sword is indeed a threat. However, even a fast sword requires a preliminary movement. Even if she doesn’t see that preliminary movement, her fighting experience can tell her when the attack would reach. As long as she pays attention, dealing with it is not impossible.
But the sword that is the greatest threat during a fight is the one beyond her awareness. Speed is not needed there. The key lies solely in being beyond her awareness.
Shadow’s sword is natural.
Without killing intent, without hesitation, without strength, possessing only naturalness.
People do not pay attention to what is natural.
Just as she does not pay attention to the falling rain, Shadow’s sword slips out of her awareness.
Beatrix can only stand in wonder before the depth of Shadow’s sword. His technique is a bottomless abyss that no one can ever reach.
And thus, she resolves herself for her defeat.
“Oh Goddess of War, let me see how you struggle……”
Shadow holds up his jet black sword.
Beatrix does not have the confidence to block the next strike.
“Wait a moment.”
A dignified voice interrupts the fight.
“Let me join the fun.”
There stands Iris, with unsheathed sword.