Even though his tension was high, Ardis’s mind and thoughts were calm. He closed the distance in order to verify his suspicion earlier. His speed was unbelievable for someone not with the help of mana.
Despite so, his opponents had an upper hand. No matter how fast Ardis was, Kamlan who was being strengthened with magic buffs could easily react to that. Ardis’s swords was swung with the least preparation motion.
However, it was deflected by Kamlan’s bastard sword despite the speed. As for Ardis, he already thought that it wouldn’t work from the beginning. Ardis followed up closer at the gap showed up as Kamlan defended.
「The mana isn’t going away huh. 」
Ardis has the mana-sealing armband on him now. Leaving aside its effects on the wearer, it’s supposed to nullify all magical effects within three meters according to the explanation in the rules.
If that’s true, Ardis’s armband would overlap and nullify the mana around Kamlan right now. However, even though Ardis was at a distance where they’re exchanging swords, the mana on him didn’t disappear at all. Strange. Ardis thought as his sword continued to move.
Ardis could see that Kamlan’s armband has mana in them. He is sure that it’s another magical tool that imitated the looks of a mana-sealing armband.
But the problem lies within what effects it has. Judging from the situation, it probably has some functionalities to hinder the real mana-sealing armband’s effects.
Even if there’re many magical buffs on him, if all of them gets nullified when Ardis is close, there’s no point at all. Rather, it would create a huge disconnection between his mind and physique when that happened, causing his senses to go wild.
As expected, they should’ve done some countermeasures against that. Kamlan’s bastard sword ripped apart the atmosphere as it targeted Ardis’s head.
Ardis immediately ducked down as the bastard sword passed above him. Ardis felt a terrible chill down his spine. Even if it’s a blunted blade, it’s still a mass of steel swung by someone magically strengthened.
On top of that, the sword itself is enhanced as well. If it hit, Ardis probably wouldn’t survive.
However, since the Lotus Cup is a martial arts tournaments where weapons are allowed and no magic is allowed, Ardis had closed the distance knowing the danger. Dodging Kamlan’s sword barely, Ardis counterattacked being extra careful to not burden his sword too much.
Since his sword would break if he tried to parry Kamlan’s attack frontally, a misstep would be fatal. Despite the mental burden on him, the sword exchanges that he barely manages was awaking his warrior instincts with joy.
Although Ardis was counterattacking at any gaps he sees, he was still at a disadvantage. Under the immense pressure, Ardis suddenly felt something amiss.
Kamlan would sometimes stop attacking and back down unnaturally. After exchanging attacks multiple times, he wouldn’t pursue despite it being a good chance but take distance.
Ardis thought it was just him being careful at first but, as expected, Ardis suspected something as he continued to do that. With that suspicion, Ardis was able to make an inference as he examined the armband on Kamlan.
The mana radiating from the armband has weakened. The effects of Kamlan’s armband is probably to hinder with the 『Nullify all mana within three meters』 effect of Ardis’s armband.
But that’s not a perfect solution either, Ardis had realized that the mana on Kamlan’s armband dwindling when he is in range. It would regain its strength if Kamlan took distance, and weaken again if Ardis is in range.
Although it’s not for sure, Ardis though that Kamlan’s armband wouldn’t be able to keep its effects for long if Ardis is in range. Even without knowing the exact workings of the armband, Ardis could make that inference easily.
Of course, Kamlan must’ve known that in advance, that’s why he would retreat after every few exchanges. Ardis made a guess that it needed to be continuously resupplied with mana.
「If so―― 」
If its mana decreases when Ardis is close enough, it just means that Ardis have to keep him in range. It would normally be nothing more than a reckless thinking.
His opponent having a bastard sword and himself both enhanced with mana. Even if the both weapons are made with the same materials originally, Kamlan’s bastard sword is now undeniably harder than Ardis’s sword.
If Ardis failed to receive an attack properly, his sword would definitely break. It will be something he has to keep an eye for carefully.
Ardis’s next attack aimed at Kamlan’s left leg. But Kamlan’s reflex which was strengthened with mana could easily respond to that.
The shield on his left arm moved into trajectory to block Ardis’s sword.
Ardis immediately pulled back his sword. Even if his opponent only tried to deflect his sword, Ardis might still break his sword if he swung at the enhanced shield wholeheartedly.
In this battle, there’re too many limitations that Ardis had to keep in mind. He couldn’t use mana, and he cannot properly attack as well.
He had to stay in range at all times to hinder his opponent’s strengthening, in other words, he will have to fight constantly on danger where a mistake would spell defeat.
However, something like that――.
「I have known in advance. 」
Muttering by himself, Ardis increased the speed with his attack. He could keep up with Kamlan who was strengthened with mana.
「What a fearsome magician, you are. 」
While exchanging swords, Kamlan praised Ardis. However, the fear on his face was apparent.
「That’s not quite right. 」
With an emotionless face as usual, Ardis replied. That was not being humble but a fact.
After all, there’re much more fearsome opponents in Ardis’s world.
「But I don’t have the intentions to lose either! 」
Kamlan swung his sword down while crying out. Ardis dodged it by side stepping, and stepping forward one step, his sword was swung aiming at Kamlan’s right wrist.
Kamlan’s strengthened body moved the shield on his left arm and blocked Ardis’s sword. Kamlan’s wholehearted swing downwards with the bastard sword was forcefully pulled up into another trajectory.
For Ardis who doesn’t hold a shield, it would be an attack that forces him to back down normally. But Ardis don’t have an option like that now.
While exchanging attacks like this, Ardis had verified the mana in Kamlan’s armband is decreasing. But if he took distance now, Kamlan’s armband would be recharged.
If that happened, Ardis would get nowhere in this match. To break the stalemate, Ardis knew that he would have to stop whatever effects that Kamlan’s armband had.
「As if you’re escaping! 」
Kamlan who tried to take distance again was pursued.
Kamlan’s eyes were dyed with surprise, then in the next moment anxiety. To not let him escape, Ardis continued to advance as Kamlan tried to retreat.
Ardis would step forward every time when Kamlan tried to take a step back. Of course no distance would be made.
「Tch, that’s your plan huh! 」
Kamlan clicked his tongue realizing Ardis’s intentions. The mana within the armband on Kamlan is getting weaker by time.
Of course Kamlan wouldn’t let Ardis draw closer quietly as well. He had to force Ardis to retreat no matter what with his bastard sword.
It isn’t an easy feat to continue advancing while dodging attacks. In a normal situation, Ardis would be able to dodge sideways with spare margin but, if he did that now, he wouldn’t be able to catch up.
And of course, backing down to dodge is not an option. As he had to keep moving forward to keep up, attacking by bending forward is naturally not possible.
Ardis continued to dodge Kamlan’s bastard sword that would end the match in a single hit with the bare minimum motion.
Even as the bastard sword continued to shave Ardis’s several strands of hair off and the intense air pressure that Ardis felt by his shoulders, arms and even his face every time it passed through, Ardis never stopped closing the distance.
Using all nerves in his body, Ardis felt like he was walking on a tight rope across a valley where no mistake can be made as he continued dodging, all while sometimes aiming for Kamlan’s waist or knees to dull his movements.
Eventually, that time arrived. It was probably a long time for the two participants. But the action where Ardis continued to chase down Kamlan who was trying to escape was in fact not long at all.
As the offense and defense continued to happen, Ardis sensed a definite change with his eyes. The mana residing in Kamlan’s armband had completely exhausted.
Kamlan’s face distorted with pure anxiety. That moment, Kamlan’s movements became dull to the point that it was visible to the naked eye.
That’s because the body strengthening magic he was supplied was cut off. At the same time, the mana strengthening his equipment disappeared as well.
The effects of Ardis’s armband had fulfilled its original role. There’s already zero distance between Ardis and Kamlan now. If Kamlan still can’t manage to get away, it would return to a pure physical fight without any involvement with magic.
Ardis’s sword pointed towards Kamlan who had a face with apparent unrest as he declared.
「And this is the checkmate. 」