Just before Elysium’s hand closed around my shaft, I quickly materialised my physical body and repulsed her with a kick. Despite the fact that my attack should have come as a complete surprise, she managed to bring her arms up to block in time, protecting her from damage, though the force of the blow pushed her across the room and away from me nonetheless. I straightened myself and took a defensive stance, watching her carefully.

She corrected her flight posture midair, landing in a series of backflips that let her come to a rest squarely on her feet. She pushed herself to her feet and stared at me. Then she laughed.

“Okay, now that was unexpected! You. Lady. Are you that spear?”

Well, technically, I could take the form of any polearm, but I decided that it wasn’t a detail that particularly warranted correction. I simply nodded without saying anything. A wild grin crossed her face.

“Interesting. I’ve fought my share of opponents, but I can’t say I’ve ever fought a weapon before. Let’s see how good you are.”

With that, she kicked off the ground and dashed – not at me, but at one of the Vanguards who were still standing in the chamber. I tried to move to intercept her, but she was too fast. By the time I reached her position, the Vanguard was collapsed unconscious on the ground, and Elysium had taken his sword. On landing, I swept myself horizontally, slashing at Elysium to make her back off. She avoided the attack by jumping, and landed some distance away. I glanced at the downed Vanguard – he was still breathing.

“Vanguards, Elders! Retreat from here immediately!”

While saying this, I kicked off the ground to close in on Elysium, continuing my assault. Behind me, I heard Dyros carrying out my command, evacuating the Elders. Good. I wouldn’t be able to focus if I had to worry about those old men as well.

As I closed in on her, Elysium dashed towards me, slashing downward with her sword. I narrowly dodged the attack, but she took that moment to kick off against my body and launch herself toward the retreating Dyros. Was she intending to secure a second weapon? I wouldn’t let her.

“Don’t even think about it!”

A wall of magical spears appeared in her path, their tips pointed toward her. Undeterred, she leapt over the spear wall, then slid under the rows of spears I had laid behind it, then weaved her way through the twin rows of spears that I conjured behind it.

Who was this woman?!

Just as she was about to reach Dyros, he suddenly turned and slashed out at her. Although the attack was far too slow to hit her, it did cause her to falter slightly as she adjusted her posture. In that single moment, I formed a wall of spears directly under her, forcing her to back away from Dyros.

She landed and glared at me, then dashed in, assaulting me with her sword. I was quickly forced on the defensive, keeping her at bay with the superior reach that my main body afforded me. Her attacks were relentless, raining down blow after blow, an unending torrent of steel. Even when I conjured magic spears to strike her blindspot, she avoided the attacks with ease. I couldn’t perform a large barrage attack of spears, either, as we were interlocked in close quarters and I would run the risk of hitting myself.

She was skilled. Ridiculously so. Even when I tried to create distance, she quickly closed it, sealing off any chance of overwhelming her with magic. Eventually, I gave up on trying to strike her down with magic, and focused on receiving her blows on my shaft instead. Even though several attacks were easily avoidable, I made sure to block them rather than dodge them. After all, no matter how skilled my opponent was, I had one unsurmountable advantage.

I would not break. The sword that Elysium had taken was but an ordinary sword, and as such its hardness and durability were far beneath mine. Already I could see cracks running across its surface – the force which Elysium was using with each strike was far more than the weapon was designed to handle. Based on my estimation, it would break after merely three more clashes.

Perhaps she recognised that her weapon was on the verge of breaking, as well. Her attacks became more forceful, as if she were intending to end this fight before her sword broke.

She swung her sword high overhead in an arc, moving faster than the eye could catch. I brought up my shaft to defend, but then quickly adjusted it downward to block my midriff instead. As if following my motion, the sword changed direction midstrike and became a horizontal slash at my abdomen. As I suspected, it was a feint. I felt a shudder as the sword crashed against my shaft. One.

She drew the sword back and began feinting right and left, alternately. I kept a close eye on her movements, and very barely managed to perceive that it was a dual feint – she intended to stab straight at me. I narrowly twisted myself and knocked away the sword. Two.

She swung the sword backward and gripped it with both hands. She crouched low and dashed in, aiming to get inside my guard, disappearing and reappearing next to me, moving faster than I could see. Caught by surprise, I twisted my body out of the way at the last second – too late. The blade nicked the edge of my stomach, tearing my armor open. Particles of light began to emit from the wound in my side. This body would not die, but each injury I sustained made it harder and more mana-intensive to retain my form. If I exceeded my limit, I would lose my ability to stay in humanoid form. If that happened, my main body would be left behind, for Elysium to do with as she wished. I could not allow that.

Taking advantage of her overextended stance, I brought my spearhead down on her sword, striking it hard. Three. The blade shattered, leaving Elysium with nothing but a useless handle. I drew back my spear for a follow-up attack to end the battle, but as I did, I saw Elysium grinning like a madwoman.

She had a dagger in her hand. When did she get that?! Furthermore, it was a dagger adorned with the Faircleave crest – Dyros’ dagger? She must have taken it when she was backing off earlier!

In my attacking stance, I was unable to fend Elysium off as she stepped within my guard, dagger in hand. The strength of a spear is its ease of use and its long reach. However, its reach is also a disadvantage – if the opponent manages to move within the guard of a spearfighter, the spearfighter’s options are extremely limited. This was the situation in which I found myself.

Cursing, I executed one of my most-practiced techniques. I followed through on my attack and changed its target, jamming my spearhead into the ground behind Elysium. As I did, I vaulted myself over her head and used my shaft as a pivot to kick her away, creating some distance. I quickly assumed another offensive position. I had to take the initiative and end this now, before she could pull any more tricks.

I crouched low, taking an unusual stance with my body low to the ground and my spear body held in a tight grip behind me. This was my strongest attack, which had felled many an enemy. Against this attack there was no escape. There was no survival. It was a strike designed to completely annihilate the opponent without a trace. The downside was that it had a long windup, but I had few other options. That last kick had created enough distance that it was possible to fire it off before Elysium reached me.

Elysium’s eyes narrowed and she started murmuring.

“That move just now, and this stance now…”

Then she grinned.

“Well, this is my victory. Sorry.”

I didn’t reply. Instead, I launched myself at her, moving faster than she could see – faster than she could move. My speartip drove forward, straight at her right thigh…

…She swiftly punched downward, in front of her thigh, right as my attack was about to hit. Her strike struck my shaft, sending my attack off-course.

How?! How did she respond? She shouldn’t have been able to see where my attack was targeted!

I didn’t have the time to think on it further. Taking advantage of my exposed posture, Elysium pinned me to the ground, holding my hand behind my back. I felt the steel of the knife against my throat. If that moved across my neck, it was over. I closed my eyes and braced myself, but the feeling of losing my form did not come. She stayed her hand. Using her free hand, she wrenched my shaft from my grasp.

…It was at that moment. The moment she held me in her hand. The headache stopped. The glass shattered. It all became clear. Tears welled up in my eyes and fell down my cheeks. Elysium, my new owner, said something, but I didn’t catch the front half of it in my happiness. The back half was a question.

“…Those techniques you used at the end. Where did you learn them? Who taught them to you? Who are you?”

Struggling to push the words out through my sobs, I replied to my True Owner with the answer I had only just learned.

“Eurydice… Ling…”