The surroundings tensed immediately. The crowd chanted their favorites’ names as they stared intensely at the pair. Neither Leguna nor Annelotte moved immediately. As expected of top fighters, they carefully watched their opponent, trying to gleam their intentions and determine the best counter.
Well, that was what the crowd believed. Leguna, at least, was not playing along. He just gazed at his woman. Her gaze was cold, distant, and frosted. She had not moved at all, not even a twitch, but Leguna understood her clearly. ‘Piss me off and I’ll end you!’
Leguna took two steps forward. The crowd cried. The assassin was approaching the magus, but the latter didn’t move at all. Was Annelotte really that confident? She didn’t care about the shrinking distance between them.
Leguna stopped when he they were five meters apart. He didn’t have the courage to take another step, nor to strike at Annelotte. He wouldn’t even if he was injected with the essence of courage itself. He acted like a student who had done something wrong. After a while of mumbling, a single legible word emerged from his mouth.
Annelotte stared at him, her demeanor unchanging. Her eyes were still just as cold as it had been at the start of the match.
Leguna gazed at her sour expression speechlessly. He had come this far, though, he could not turn back now.
“Um, can we have a proper talk? I know it was my fault. Don’t ignore me, please?”
“Talk?” Annelotte’s mouth finally let slip a word. “About what?”
“I was wrong! It was my fault!”
Leguna nearly screamed when he finally heard her acknowledge his existence.
The arena was dead quiet. A pin would ring if it dropped. The silence was broken moments later by a single muffled whisper. A thousand quickly followed and a soft hush like distant falling rain filled the arena.
“What are they doing? Are they talking? Is Ley apologizing to Annelotte...” a man whispered to a woman beside him.
“What do you know? He’s definitely using some kind of secret technique! Maybe it’s a preparation for a ritual or something!” the woman whispered back enthusiastically, though equally hushed.
“Foolish woman!” the man barked under his breath, “always going on about Ley day and night... How did I marry a frivolous idiot like you?!”
“You dare talk to me like that? I heard you mumble Annelotte’s name in your sleep last night! And boy, did you sound intimate. ‘Annie, Annie’ I heard you say. Those who don’t know we’re married might think you’re Annelotte’s husband!”
“So what? Annie is my goddess! Perfect, noble, strong... How could an average wench like you compare?”
“Suit yourself then. Ley is the admirer of my dreams.”
The man was speechless.
Leguna did really seem to be apologizing, but most just couldn’t believe that was what was happening.
“Your fault? What did you do wrong? Didn’t we agree we’d have nothing to do with one another? What do I care about any mistakes you’ve made? They have nothing to do with me.”
Leguna smiled bitterly.
“I... I know you’re still mad at me, but I’ve really realized it was my fault. I... I only joined the tournament to show you I’ve changed. If you want, you can beat me up to vent. But let’s drop this cold war and go back to how we were.”
An odd glint darted across Annelotte’s eyes, but too quick for Leguna to see. Had he, he would have recognized it as the gaze of contempt she reserved for utter imbeciles.
If Vera could make out what Leguna had just said, she’d pull an ear off his head. Beat him up to vent? Did he fight this hard to let Annelotte beat him up? Was he an idiot? That was, however, his intent, and what he had been doing.
“Of course I’ll fight,” Annelotte said, “But I don’t care to beat up defenseless dogs.”
“You mean...” Leguna hesitated.
“Fight me properly. I’ll forgive you if you can beat me, and only if you can beat me.”
“Really?” Leguna felt a rush of joy. This was exactly what he wanted. He had come all this way so she could tell him what he needed to do to earn her forgiveness.
His mood clouded again a moment later. Would it be appropriate to hurt her to gain her forgiveness?
“Don’t over-think it,” Annelotte said as she raised her staff and put it into her dimensional pocket, “Don’t hold back; I won’t, and you stand no chance of lasting even a minute if you don’t go all out, including using Host of Darkness, even if I don’t use my gifts.”
“If...” Leguna forced the words out of his mouth, “If I beat you, you’ll forgive me?”
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Annelotte nodded, “But that won’t happen. You can’t win.”
“Then I apologize ahead of time.”
You make it sound like you actually stand a chance of hurting me. thought Annelotte contemptuously. Leguna’s arrogance dissatisfied her. She didn’t immediately attack, instead she waited until he entered stealth and made his move. She wanted to strike him down when he was at his strongest. To show him just how weak he was, and how impossibly far from earning her forgiveness.
Leguna know how strong his opponent was, more than anyone else. But he had to earn her forgiveness, so he went all out.
“There it is again! Miss. Annelotte give her opponent all the time he needs to prepare for his strongest attack! What more glorious win than striking down one’s opponent when they are in their prime? She must not forget though, Ley is not Nigruela! Is Miss. Annelotte strong enough to allow her opponent such a luxury, and if she is, how strong is that? Perhaps she will surprise us yet again! Keep your eyes peeled, everyone!” the announcer bellowed.
Annelotte carefully observed her surroundings. Even she had to admit Leguna’s stealth was horrifying. She could tell Nigruela’s rough location from the slight distortion of light his ability caused, like looking at an object over a fire. Leguna, however, was gone. There was no distortion, no presence. The world acted like he didn’t exist at all.
[Do I use that move immediately?] Leguna asked hesitantly.
[Yes. Don’t think you’re some big shot. Without Host of Darkness, you have less than two chances in ten of winning.] Gahrona answered, [If you want to win, you have to give it your all.]
[What if the bureau learns about this?]
[Why do they matter? They’ll be your subordinates if you lead them. I don’t know why you’re so afraid of them. Come to think of it, Wayerliss is famed for this move, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in the bureau knows. Even if they had an idea, they might not be able to tell it’s the same. Use it without worry! What can you achieve if you worry about every little detail?]
Leguna regulated his breathing and approached Annelotte slowly, Ebony in his right hand.
Annelotte couldn’t detect her opponent’s presence, but she wasn’t nervous. She closed her eyes and listened. A moment later she heard a disturbance, an unnatural muffle in the crowds’ whispers that shouldn’t be. The air distorted a moment later as wind rushed at her from one meter yonder. Behind it, Leguna’s reedy, blurry figure materialized.
Annelotte moved immediately. Her body shifted as if propelled by an outside force as it darted out of the attack’s way.
You think you can hurt me with something this weak? I hope this isn’t everything you’ve got!she thought.
Her dictation started an instant later, just as her feet touched the ground. The spell activated the moment her feet settled. A blue distortion in the space above her hand morphed into existence.
But Leguna had vanished again. He was once again absent like he didn’t exist. She had nothing at which to fire. No one among the audience saw Leguna’s figure in the moment it had partially revealed itself. Only Annelotte, with her supreme senses, had picked up on him. But now he was once again gone.
[Not bad. You’ve learned at least something. You can’t compare to Wayerliss, but you’ve at least improved,] Gahrona praised.
[Hehe, it’s all thanks to you, Teacher,] Leguna smirked.
Gahrona had been drilling him on Wave Blade since the day Wayerliss had taught it to him. She knew him all too well. Leguna was a lazy fart, if he wasn’t forced to do something, he would do nothing, especially when it came to training. He was all too happy to rely on his gifts for everything, even after having promised not to.
[Stop kissing my ass!]
Annelotte once again observed her surroundings, slightly surprised. She finally realized how dangerous the attack was when the brat had both appeared and vanished in an instant of the attack.
She didn’t have much time to ponder, however. Leguna attacked a moment later, his second strike far more precise than the first.
Annelotte dodged again though this time it was a far closer call. She had to dodge it. She would be just second rate if she couldn’t. She leapt forward and landed elegantly, like nimble pantheress.
Dust caked to her clothes and face, but the usual clean-freak was completely oblivious. She patted her clothes half out of habit and dictated a stoneskin spell.
“I didn’t think the chairman would teach you Wave Blade,” she said to the empty arena. “I’m sure he forgot to tell you one thing though. It has a fatal flaw perfect for a magus to exploit!”
 E/N: Considering he surrounds himself with Vera, Innilis, and is pursuing Annelotte, I think he’s not just an idiot, but a masochist.
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