Ardis who had closed the distance rapidly made his move first. Drawing back his sword with both hands, twisting his waist, he stabbed along with his running momentum.
It was a straight forward attack from an outside perspective. Moore easily dodged it by twisting his upper body in an angle.
But in the next moment, Moore would immediately realize that his opponent is not that straight forward but a shrewd bastard.
Ardis’s thrusting trajectory changed, and then moved inwards to Moore’s right arm.
Moore panicked at the unexpected feint from Ardis. But Moore is not an average swordsman as well.
Immediately turning his arm away and avoiding his sword being deflected by Ardis, he tried to strike against Ardis’s sword with the blunt of his shield.
Ardis immediately released one grip off his sword, with one hand now free, he directly grabbed at the edge of the shield and stopped its movement.
「Oi oi, what the heck was that. What kind of reflex do you have. 」
「Nope, it was really close. 」
Just as Ardis said so, he tried to pull the shield towards himself in hopes of making Moore stumble.
「Not that easy――! 」
Moore didn’t go against that force, but instead used it to his advantage and got closer to Ardis in one go. At the same time, from behind the shield, he tried to attack from Ardis’s blind spot.
「I thought so! 」
Ardis who had expected there will be something coming in advance easily released his grip on the shield without hesitation and retreated. This time, it’s Moore’s turn to pursue Ardis as he retreats.
As if shovelling, Moore’s attack came from below and aimed at Ardis’s head. But Ardis deflected it easily by swinging his own sword downwards.
The sword exchanges continued between the two who had stopped moving again. At first glance, the spectators probably wouldn’t be able to determine who has the upper hand.
But Moore who was already known for his swordsmanship in the first place might be seen advantageous. Ardis’s true forte is swordsmanship imbued with mana.
Needless to say, body strengthening, making footholds and jumping in the air limitlessly, and using flying swords enables more attacking methods for him.
In that sense, Ardis not being able to use magic right now would certainly mean a disadvantage. Ardis’s current swordsmanship is probably only seventy percent of what he can do when he can enhance himself with mana.
But even without using mana, Ardis’s swordsmanship that was trained through many battlefields is topnotch. He can easily defend against Moore’s sword and even counterattack.
Rather, it’s Moore who should be praised. Even if Ardis cannot fully unleash his true strength, the match had gone for longer than three minutes.
Moore struggled against Nedulos in the other world but, it’s not like his experience with a sword is a show. If he was born in the other world, no doubt he would’ve become a famous swordsman. But of course, that’s only if he――.
「Can survive. 」
Ardis’s unintentionally spilled some words while crossing swords.
「What survive? 」
「It’s nothing. 」
Moore asked more clearly regarding Ardis’s words that had no context. But Ardis just dismissed it along with a sword aiming for his leg.
But Moore’s sword would intercept and block its trajectory. As if dancing with blades, the two repeated movements of attacking, dodging, defending and counterattacking.
The show of the two not willing to let even one step filled the arena with cheers.
For a while now, Moore had been continuing hacking at Ardis without stopping. It meant that Moore’s swordsmanship is just that good but, Moore also revealed that it isn’t the only factor.
「By the way, your original appearance is that right? 」
Idle chattering while their swords didn’t stop. Moore’s words caused Ardis’s eyes to narrow.
「If you’re different from your original appearance――」
A strong blow from Moore shook Ardis’s sword slightly.
「There should be some misalignment between your body and your swordsmanship. 」
It is a clever inference. Just as Moore said, Ardis’s current body is much different in age than his original’s. His stride, his arm length, his body weight, and even the height of his vision.
Ardis’s swordsmanship that was tempered through the years was not with his current body as a baseline.
The movements imprinted in his mind will cause a discomfort because of the incompatibility, and that would be a gap in a fight. But that’s if there’s a change to his body suddenly.
「I mean, I’ve been in this form for quite long already. 」
Ardis had been in his younger form for quite a while already. It’s not strange that he would be more used to it after more than seven years.
Although there’s still some slight discomfort, he didn’t intend to let it be a flaw when he’s fighting, and it hadn’t affected any of his battles so far.
Despite so, Moore still aimed for that insignificant disparity, of course with the ability to make it happen.
With an angle and timing that Ardis considers obscene, Moore struck at a position where misalignment between his reach and viewpoint would likely happen.
「Sorry for 『Fighting with Handicap-san』 but, I can’t see a way to win if not for this. 」
Moore continued striking while aiming for the cracks where Ardis would even have the slightest discrepancy.
「I shall take this one! 」
「Don’t worry, I don’t think it as a handicap! 」
「Why thank you! 」
Moore swung hard at Ardis, holding Ardis’s sword down. Ardis albeit slowly, his body is certainly growing, and he now looks like sixteen or seventeen on the outside.
On one hand, there’s the activeness of youth, but it also can’t be denied that he’s lacking the trained body of battlefields like Moore’s. Ardis normally would’ve been able to cover for it by using mana and raising his physical ability.
But now that using magic is forbidden, his body is no more than a young swordsman’s. Although he didn’t intend to lose in swordsmanship, Moore certainly have the upper hand when comparing raw strength.
Making use of the fact that Ardis’s body is still not at its prime, Moore continued formulating attacks basing on that. I see why he can be a commander, as Ardis felt impressed at his strength.
Ardis not being able to use mana is not a terrible inconvenience. If it’s a match when they first met, Ardis would’ve probably easily won against Moore.
However, among all participants of the Lotus Cup now, Moore is the one who understands Ardis’s abilities the most.
Exactly because that he has a good grasp of Ardis’s strength that he wouldn’t be taken by surprise. Exactly because that he knows Ardis’s original appearance, he could come up with the idea of aiming at the disparity between Ardis’s body and his swordsmanship.
Those two are the advantage that Moore had that no other participants had.
「I have made my preparations. Of course, I will have some chance! 」
「Just as I thought! 」
Moore continued attacking utilizing the information he knows and the rule of the Lotus Cup as his backing against the difference in strength that would be hard to fill normally.
Moore’s sword style would be power if choosing from either power or flexibility. Of course, Ardis knows how to use a power sword style too. But his current body doesn’t have enough arm strength to fully utilize it.
If so, then Ardis’s best bet is to retaliate with a flexible sword style. Ardis quickly gave up trying to fight back with strength, but to use speed and swordsmanship to counterattack.
That would probably be the most intense and most beautiful counter that had happened so far in the Lotus Cup. But that wouldn’t continue for eternity as well.
Ardis retreated five steps behind after deflecting away Moore’s slash. Firming his grip and taking a small breath, he focused and dived deeper into his consciousness as he thought it is time to settle the match.
「Oi oi, why not take it easier. 」
He must’ve realized Ardis’s change in atmosphere. Moore tried to call out with an easy-going voice.
「It’s a rare grand stage. It’s wasteful to let it end just like that right? There’re not many chances to be fighting under so many cheers and gazes, you know. 」
Moore tried to prolong the match by convincing Ardis.
「I won’t fall for that. 」
But Ardis wouldn’t fall for it.
「……It’s obvious huh. 」
Moore clicked his tongue having his intentions seen through. Now that Ardis cannot use mana, it’s not just arm strength that Moore has an upper hand in, stamina would be the same.
It’s easy to imagine that the longer the match, the more advantageous Moore would become. But of course, even if Moore becomes more advantageous, the chances of winning only increases ever so slightly.
Ardis sent his praise inwardly to Moore who stuck to it even though it is such a slim chance.
「――That’s exactly why! 」
Closing the distance in a blink of an eye, Ardis swung his sword from the side aiming for Moore’s thigh. Moore who barely managed to react to it slipped a shield between the sword and his leg.
A dull sound rang as the sword was blocked.
「That’s quick! 」
Not giving a chance to Moore who was complaining to counterattack, Ardis already moved onto his next move. Weaving below his own sword by ducking, Ardis spun a half revolution clockwise and got through Moore.
In the midst of that, Ardis incorporated another attack at Moore’s left shoulder in the spinning motion.
Moore who had barely managed to avoid Ardis’s everchanging sword had his stance crumbled.
On the other hand, Ardis already went to his next move. After aiming for Moore’s shoulder, Ardis had already gotten a position diagonally behind Moore on the left.
On top of that, as Moore was still facing forward, it can be said that Ardis had taken his back completely.
Moore’s panic in his face manifested in words as well. He must’ve realized that he wouldn’t make it in time even if he turned around.
He tossed himself wholeheartedly forwards while his back still facing Ardis. Exactly like diving, Moore tried to get away from Ardis at all cost but, of course that wasn’t allowed easily.
Ardis pursued not letting the chance slip. Ardis has his own share of agility even without physical strengthening with mana.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like Moore’s thoughts caught up with the sudden development. Rather than logic, he must’ve thrown himself forwards as a warrior’s instincts to save himself.
But the thoughts behind that movement is so simple that it’s impossible to shake off Ardis.
「It’s the end! 」
「Wai, sto――! 」
Disregarding Moore’s panic cries, Ardis sword approached. Managing to turn around halfway, Moore’s sword that was trying to deflect it hit nothing.
Ardis easily weaved through the uncertain parry and stopped his momentum just as his sword approached, before lightly hitting Moore in the neck.
That would be a vital wound in an actual fight. Even if it’s a dulled blade, if Ardis swung at his full power, even Moore wouldn’t get by unscathed.
「That’s it! Match! 」
The judge’s voice that had announced the end of the match reverberated in the arena. The moment when Ardis’s victory was evident in everyone’s eyes, the entire spectating area was filled with cheers.