The First Step

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In order to win, Herbert must make an opening right at the moment that his magic was released.

He needed something to hit.

 

Before that, a downward blow was met by upward one.

Herbert made use of his heavier body and swung downward. However, Marlon easily parried it. Not to be deterred though, Herbert used the momentum and swung a second time.

 

Marlon was surprised to see Herbert making good use of his weight but nonetheless parried the incoming attack again.

Having done so, Marlon launched an attack of his own at Herbert’s defenseless belly. The attack landed and pushed Herbert back. Marlon quickly rushed after Herbert.

 

Their weapons might be training ones, but they were still weapons. A slash might not cut, but it caused a lot of pain; and a stab might not pierce through, but it caused bruises.

And right now, Herbert’s body was hurting all over.

 

Yet, his eyes still haven’t given up. It was as though they were just waiting for the chance to let loose.

Marlon felt something was off, but he just couldn’t put a finger on what it exactly was.

 

7, 6…

 

While enduring the pain, Herbert accurately counted down.

He encouraged himself to keep on fighting despite wanting to drop the sword then and there.

 

At any rate, Marlon rushed after him and he tried his best to defend.

Because he was focusing so much on not losing control of the sphere of mana, Herbert has gotten hit more than he should have.

 

Ouch! Damn it, it hurts!

 

The pain kept on coming and coming, never stopping.

It was so much, he couldn’t stop his tears from falling.

But if it was only this intense, Herbert could endure it. After all, Rodeo’s merciless assaults were much more painful. And more than even Rodeo’s training, the fact that nobody accepted him and his past self’s inability to accept it has hurt him so much more.

For this pain he was feeling right now, all he had to do was grit his teeth to endure.

 

And then, Marlon’s rush stopped and he distanced himself.

If one looked closely, they would see him catching his breath.

 

For the first time in the whole match, Marlon showed an opening.

This was the key to Herbert’s victory. And so, he whipped his shaking knees into action and dashed after Marlon. All while swallowing an intense urge to vomit, he tackled his opponent.

 

Marlon, tired as he was, was unable to fend off the tackle. Even so, he did not let go of his sword. After all, as long as he held his sword, he was still in the fight.

 

A tackle wasn’t considered a graceful maneuver, but so long as it would guarantee Herbert the win, he did not care.

The two of them made contact, fell to the ground, and wrestled against each other.

Naturally, even then, Marlon held on his sword.

 

Only 3 seconds were left.

 

Herbert once again made use of his heavy body and pinned Marlon down.

In response, Marlon employed what seemed to be his unarmed martial arts knowledge to place Herbert’s right hand, the one holding a sword, into a hold.

However, even if Herbert was to let go of his sword now, the delayed magic would still hit Marlon before the sword dropped to the ground. Moreover, this close up, there was no way Marlon would be able to dodge.

 

In one moment, Herbert’s face was that of someone convinced of their victory, but in the next moment, it was of shock.

Marlon, who was still focused on Herbert’s arm, suddenly turned his gazed to where the sphere of mana was.

 

I win…oi, oi, are you serious!?

 

Marlon moved to drag Herbert’s body in such a way that Herbert would be the one hit by the wind spells once it exited the sphere. Essentially, Marlon was trying to use Herbert as a shield.

In a split-second decision, Herbert devoted himself not into moving his body but into controlling the sphere of mana.

 

“Accelerate!!”

 

He invoked Accelerate, another beginner-level spacetime spell.

The wind spells that were barely within the sphere began accelerating was now on course to hit Marlon’s back instead of Herbert’s. However, because its trajectory was slightly different than what Herbert had calculated before, he would likely get caught in the aftermath of the attack.

 

Meanwhile, the unusually perceptive Marlon twisted his body to evade the first spell, Air Cutter. It was already too late though.

And so, the two suffered cuts all over their bodies.

 

Still determined, Marlon prepared to defend himself against Wind Shot, the second spell that had been in the sphere. He raised a hand, but it did nothing to help. He was hit by the wind spell and he dropped his sword to the ground.

 

All sound vanished in the arena, not even the sword made any as it bounced.

 

Herbert looked at his hand and confirmed that he still held his sword.

 

“Th—the victor, Herbert von Unruh!”

 

 

 

 

“Herbert…won?”

“Marlon…lost?”

 

Those were the whispers within the arena.

There was no mistaking it anymore. Herbert, through his own efforts, changed the future.

But it might take a while for that to truly sink in.

 

For now, he slowly and sluggishly got up.

Every joint in his body ached, and he had cuts and bruises everywhere.

Unless healing magic was used, he’d probably feel sore for a few days.

 

When he looked around him, he noticed the audience were still stunned, unable to believe what just happened.

It seemed each and everyone of them didn’t expect him to win. It was so sad, Herbert felt like laughing.

 

“I…I lost?”

 

Herbert turned around and saw that Marlon has also stood up, with his hand on his cheek.

He was baffled, trying to make heads and tails of the situation.

For Marlon, defeat meant the uncertainty of his childhood friend’s fate. For him, much like it had been for Herbert, victory was the only option.

 

Marlon was clearly in a state of shock. He was fearful of what Herbert might say next.

 

“Marlon, I’ll tell you my demand now.”

 

Almost disregarding Marlon’s state, Herbert loudly exercised his right as the victor.

At that point, all the whispers that filled the arena vanished once more. Everyone was paying attention to Herbert’s every word, his every action.

This was the first time in his life that he experienced such a thing.

 

But when he noticed the feelings of joy swelling within him, he admonished himself once more.

 

I must change. I must avoid being rash, and instead become a man who is worthy of being part of a duke household!

 

After setting himself straight like that, Herbert proceeded to state his demand.

It was one he had prepared beforehand.

 

“I order you to…be in charge of my do-over!”

“……?”

 

Marlon stared at Herbert and then cocked his head to the side.

His good features—before the duel at least—made even such a cheeky motion elegant.

 

““In charge…of your do-over…?””

 

Even the crowd looked puzzled.

 

“Fu, fufufu…ahahahaha!”

 

As though he was playing a trick on them, Herbert laughed loudly like that.

 

I really did it…I really changed my fate!

 

In truth, his laughter came because of the realization of what he just accomplished.

Even when the air of excitement in the arena had died down, Herbert continued laughing…


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