Author: alyalia

* * *

Lavender eyes were uncommon but not so unique as to be immediately identifiable.


“Contestants, greet each other!”


The two bowed their heads to exchange greetings.


“…Long time no see.”


“Indeed, it’s Miss Luize. I apologize for the last time. I interfered too much in your personal life.”


“It’s okay. Friends can have misunderstandings.”




“I’ll explain later. How did you know it was me?”


“Lately, Maxion has been noticeably trying to hide something. As you know, he’s quite bad at lying. Every time I watched Benny’s matches, a potential winner, I couldn’t help but think of you, Miss Luize. And those beautiful purple eyes, how could I not recognize them immediately?”


Sigh…” Luize sighed from behind her mask, looking embarrassed.


Thinking of Carlo, Edward asked, “Did you join the swordsmanship tournament to personally punish a debauched lover?”


“No. As you know, my ‘only’ lover seems less debauched than expected.”


Luize emphasized ‘only,’ and Edward’s lips curled into a smooth arc.


“I’m relieved to hear that. So, did you come here out of concern for your disciple?”


“That’s not it either. Sorry, but I’m here to compete seriously.”




“My goal is the prize. The sword of the dragon slayer, Lensia.”


“What does that mean…?”


Before they could raise their heads, the announcer, puzzled by their prolonged bow, intervened.


“This is a new kind of fight! Both contestants have been bowing without moving since they greeted each other!”


“As expected, the true skill of professionals.”


“That’s right.”


The crowd murmured in admiration as Edward and Luize finally lifted their heads, their gazes meeting.


“Are you serious about fighting?”


“Yes, fair and square.”


They returned to their positions.




As the horn sounded to start the match, their swords clashed closely. Klang!


“Master, it seems the balance is off.”


“You’ve beaten me before. And after all, Edward, you’re a skilled finalist.”


“That was luck.” Edward calmly answered the question of whether he had been cheating so far while hiding it.


“Even Maxion, who sparred with me so many times, has never beaten me. Luck is really part of your skill.”


They spun around in unison, distancing themselves before clashing again. Klang, klang, klang, klang! The audience cheered at the sound of swords clashing with each other.


“Then, I’ll only use techniques I’ve taught you.”




“It’s fair, right?”


“If Master insists on being so considerate.”


They stepped back, preparing for another exchange. Despite the gravity of the match, smiles lingered on their faces. Luize had been looking forward to facing him in the finals.


“I like waiting.”


Edward was right. Luize realized waiting could be thrilling and enjoyable. She twisted her wrist, deflecting Edward’s sword. Clang!  


Edward quickly followed her move. He, too, was glad for this reunion. Meeting Luize unexpectedly, he felt joy in the reunion for the first time. His smile seemed to linger unnaturally.


It was crazy, but at that moment, the prize seemed inconsequential. He couldn’t cheat in a match against Luize, who had taught him so much. Thus, the outcome of the match was predetermined. Yet, he chose to give his best, wanting to prolong their reunion.


It seemed Luize had already forgiven him. The end of this final match would also conclude their teacher-student relationship. Realizing Luize wouldn’t change whether she had a lover or not, there was no longer any pretext for their fake lover relationship.


Their relationship was as precarious as a spring dream that could awaken at any moment. If she were to divorce, Edward planned to offer her a swordsmanship instructor position at an academy in a southern coastal town, tying up their connection. Relieved that their last meeting wasn’t marred by thoughts of parting, they could focus on not hurting each other in their effort to win.


Raindrops pattered on the transparent dome above the arena. Klang. Their swords clashed sharply.


The emperor watched with interest. “Sword Reaper, huh? I’m curious about his identity. I’ll have to make him remove the mask right after the match is over.” He murmured softly.


* * *

Rante di Edevin surveyed those around him. Apart from their use of swords, there was no common denominator among them except for having been soundly defeated by ‘Benny.’


“So, you’re saying that person is a woman? Impossible. A woman can’t have such swordsmanship skills.”


“It’s true. That’s why I gathered you here! If Benny wins the finals and reveals her identity, everyone who lost to her will be humiliated!”


Eh, where would a woman learn such swordsmanship? Nonsense.” A low voice interjected.


“She is a woman. I checked right after the match ended because something felt off.”


Carlo, the leader of the reformed Dawn Wolves mercenaries, was muttering to himself while neatly tying his shoelaces. “Ever since I fainted that time, I’ve been oddly obedient to my girlfriend. My spine chills if I try to look elsewhere. Did Liri tell me to tie my laces like this? Seems different…”


“A woman, you say?”


Faces paled as they heard Carlo’s words. Known for his womanizing and simplicity, he wasn’t one to lie in such gatherings.


Rante scanned their faces with a look of bewilderment and opened his mouth. “Cough, so I’ve come up with a plan.”


“What is it?”


“Out with it! Liri will be embarrassed and dump me if she finds out.”


“Carlo, you’re the loudest and most recognized in the public among us.”


Carlo nodded reluctantly. His reputation had inexplicably improved since he started seeing someone.




“If you saw the words I have prepared, we’ll back you up. A few shouts of ‘That’s right!’ here and there will quickly change the mood.”


“What if the emperor asks to remove the mask?”


“Of course we’ll have to act first. We’ll split in half.”




“Yes. I’ll be in the other half, doing something else. That is…”


When Rante explained his plan, everyone nodded in understanding.


* * *

Gasp, gasp…




The two caught their breath and adjusted their posture before taking the final leap. Sensing this would be their final attack, they hardened their expression and stood there with a serious face. As they took their final breaths and lunged simultaneously. Klang!


Luize’s sword thrust forward through a twisted gap, aiming coolly at Edward’s neck. Their movements halted, and Edward slowly lowered his sword.


“Do you know, Miss Luize?”


His red eyes steadily met hers through the mask. As he sheathed his sword, he continued, “I missed you.”


The sweat-dampened black hair, heavy breathing, and shining red eyes were as beautiful as ever. Luize’s eyes behind the mask slowly took in his face.


“Me too.”


Edward’s face broke into a graceful smile. He raised his hands and declared his surrender.


“Wow! The Sword Reaper has won!”


The crowd’s cheers filled the arena.


From the moment their swords first clashed to the prolonged bout, Edward was certain of.  Luize’s victory. He was never meant to win against her. Luize knew this better than anyone. She continued the match purely because she didn’t want to end their encounter too soon. She wasn’t just sparing his feelings by dragging out a delightful match.


After a ceremonial handshake and farewell, they returned to their respective places to proceed with the award ceremony and closing. The two bowed to the audience.


It was the moment when Edward, who had lost the game, turned his steps and was about to return to the dressing room.


“Contestants, stand side by side!”


The announcer called Edward and Luize to stand together in front of the emperor’s seat.


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