Ayame felt a heavy presence pressing down on her. Her hand started trembling. She held her sword with two hands and tried to shake of the heavy feeling by releasing her own presence. It helped suppress the trembling but she could still feel the pressure closing in on her as both of them got in position.
The audience didn't know what to think. From their perspective, it looked like an obvious mistake when Kazuya dodged too early and lost a point. From his amazing performance, something felt off but they couldn't quite figure it out. They wondered what he was going to do now that his perfect streak had been broken by non-other than the previous champion.
"[Overhead slash!]" Ayame wasted no time and attacked. Kazuya on the other hand remained still.
"[Playtime is over]" a voice spoke up in Ayame's head, the shock caused her attack a second delay which Kazuya didn't fail to take advantage of. With a light step forward, he used the sword in one hand and hit Ayame's hand. The strength of his blow made the bamboo sword in her hands fly out of the dueling area causing a stir.
"P-point Kouzuki!" The referee stuttered. Ayame's bamboo sword flew in his direction but he evaded.
"Y-you just…" Ayame was flabbergasted. It wasn't because of what happened to her sword but to the direct message in her mind.
"[I just confirmed your suspicions. What about it?]" he shrugged "[I can even teach it to the robot girl. It's a basic skill and that's all there is to it]" He turned around and went back to position. Ignoring the stunned Ayame, he waited for the next round to begin.
"Go Kazu!" Mei cheered. Kazuya looked over after hearing her. "Stop playing around and finish it so we can go home!" he gave her a nod and faced Ayame who got her sword back.
"You heard her. The test is over hmm…" he stopped to think. "I think I'll call you naïve girl" hearing him, Ayame had mixed feelings. She was glad that she had been acknowledged since she knew that Tomoyo was called 'robot girl' by him but being called 'naïve' by someone younger than her felt like an insult.
"You sure are confident" Ayame still thought it was fair game. He might have scored a point after he caught her of guard like she did to get a point.
"Unless you reach the same state you were in with the fight with the robot girl, you won't be of much use to me as a sparring partner. Do you remember feeling everything move slower?" his words made Ayame shiver.
"!!" As if he had read her thoughts, he bluntly told her about the experience she had, this was why she wasn't disappointed after losing to Tomoyo. She felt like she had found a breakthrough after that bout.
"If it wasn't for her reaching the same state, the robot girl would have slowed down too. That is only the initial stage of both your potentials though" Kazuya looked at the referee and waited for the signal. Ayame knew that she wouldn't get anymore out of him so she got in position.
This time Ayame stood still. She knew that Kazuya would try to finish this so she chose this method to make use of all her abilities. With her reflexes, she was going for a counterattack. The disadvantage of Kazuya's one handed style was the side left open when he attacked. That was her target.
"Not a bad plan" Kazuya lightly stepped forward to initiate an attack. He couldn't help but admire this naïve girl's clever tactics and focus.
Due to her intense concentration, Ayame felt something warm inside her gushing forth. Time had once again looked like it was slowing down. She could clearly see the light step that her opponent used to approach. With the sword on Kazuya's right hand, Ayame immediately took advantage of the situation and targeted his unguarded left.
"[Impressive. You actually returned to this state]" A voice sounded in her head.
The slow-moving Kazuya didn't move slow in her vision anymore. He immediately sped up and met with Ayame who had begun her counterattack. A strong force to her bamboo sword threw her off her stance. She immediately looked at the supposedly unguarded side of her opponent. Her eyes couldn't help but open in surprise to find Kazuya's sword was now in his left hand.
"(This power on a non-dominant hand?)" she thought as she jumped backwards to regain her stance.
"[I forgot to inform you. I'm ambidextrous]" Kazuya's voice appeared on her mind together with a light chuckle. He immediately gave chase and Ayame couldn't help but defend. His continuous flurry of strikes gave her no chance to counterattack as he kept switching the sword between both hands at unpredictable times.
All those who were watching couldn't help but rub their eyes or pinch themselves. Ayame who had an epic duel against Shiroyuki Tomoyo was getting pushed back like this. Even Jirou and Miyamoto had never seen this style of fighting before. They knew that Kazuya followed a non-traditional style but this was just out of their expectations.
Tomoyo watched every moment of the battle. She felt a little envious. Kazuya had never showed or used this style against her. She felt that this was his original way of fighting and felt inferior to Ayame for not being able to go against it.
Ayame who kept getting pushed back waited for an opportunity for a counter-attack. She was hoping for his stamina to deplete. She only needed one opportunity and it came not long after. Kazuya's flurry of strikes suddenly stopped. She gripped her sword tight and repositioned herself to strike back.
"Point Kouzuki!" The referee's declaration stopped Ayame's thoughts as she turned towards the referee. She followed the referee's vision which were under her feet. That was when she realized that she had already gone out of the dueling area. She had been pushed back this far and instantly lost the match.
"I…" she looked towards Kazuya who had already removed his headgear. She didn't know what to say but was surprised to see a smile on his face.
"Thanks. That was a good spar. I finally got to break out a sweat" he was in a good mood. He held out his hand to shake hers.
"A spar huh…" Ayame took off her own headgear along with the cloth to let down her hair. She glanced towards the stands and found the person who Kazuya looked at earlier. She extended her hand to shake Kazuya's hand but immediately pulled him towards her.
The whole arena froze. Mei and Kyouko stood up in shock as Ayame pressed her lips on Kazuya's forehead. She looked at Mei as if challenging her before letting him go.
"You…" Kazuya was a bit dazed as he touched his forehead.
"Salty… I was the one who made you break a sweat so can't I have a taste?" She stuck out her tongue. "Your reward for winning. Congratulations" she giggled and left to recover. She had used far too much of her remaining stamina on that match. With two losses, she could only settle for third place because of those two little monsters.
Kazuya could only sigh as he headed back towards his own corner. He didn't look at the audience stands this time because a chilling cold was emanating from where Mei was sitting. He knew that Mei was upset so he chose to deal with it later.
Tomoyo rushed up to him and immediately used her handkerchief to wipe his forehead. She made sure that it was spotless before letting him go. Miyamoto laughed wryly and gave two thumbs up towards his troubled student.
Seeing that her actions did the desired effect, Ayame closed her eyes and focused on recovery. Tomoyo and Akabane were called to the dueling area not too long afterwards to start their duel.
The match between Ayame and Kazuya had changed how everyone looked at him. Most of the spectators thought that the early match between Tomoyo and Ayame had been the highlight of the tournament. They did not expect the sudden appearance of this underdog to shake what seemed to be an expected outcome.
The question on everyone's mind was; 'will Shiroyuki and Kouzuki truly fight?' They were teammates and from the looks of it, were good friends. It was already startling that a young monster appeared from Sacred Forest Academy but now there were two of them. One even more mysterious than the other.
"You jealous Mei?" Kyouko mocked her icy assistant.
"No. Kazu already told me about that thieving cat. You saw it too didn't you? She looked straight at me before she did that!" She held it in but Kyouko knew what this girl wanted to do.
"Wasn't it because you shouted for Kazuya to finish the match and beat her? Wait… Kazuya told you about her!? When!?" She was surprised that her son actually talked about girls.
"We can talk about that later. What's important right now is that we find a way to protect Kazu from wenches like her" Mei knew it would take a while to explain so she dodged the topic.
"Aren't you being too paranoid? Besides, that girl is no stranger. She's probably Kuronuma Oji-san's granddaughter" Kyouko explained. She was no stranger to Kendo and could immediately tell from Ayame's style which style she learned.
"Another one of your father's friends?" her eyebrows were raised after knowing this.
"Yeah. I saw him earlier here today but didn't get to say hi"
"Good. Keep it that way. I don't want Kazu to have any contact with that girl after this tournament" After what Kazuya informed her of, how could she let that girl get close to him?
"You're getting more overprotective than I am" Kyouko sighed. There was no arguing with this stubborn assistant of hers when she's agitated like this so she just ignored her for now. She meant well but she was afraid that Kazuya would be under Mei's thumb when he grows up at this rate.
The scoreboards updated. Tomoyo had won without any problems. Both her and Kazuya were now the only ones who hadn't fought. Both had two wins so whoever wins in their duel will take the championship. The two of them had already performed marvelously so Miyamoto was satisfied with the result.
However, the audience including the referees, wanted to see these two go at it on stage. They wanted to see who among these two monsters would come out on top. The main judge approached Miyamoto to ask if they were still going to continue but he turned to the two.
"I don't mind if the robot girl wants to. She worked hard to get where she is so I can grant her the rematch she wants if she thinks she's ready for it" his casual reply made the judge look towards the favorite to take the championship this year.
*nod* After seeing his match with Ayame, she didn't want to let this chance go. She had never gotten the chance to seriously spar with him after their first one.
"Alright then. Please enter the dueling stage" the referee smiled and returned to his spot.
The crowd erupted in cheers as the two entered together. Whoever won, they were now the king and queen of this year's tournament. The cheers however suddenly stopped the moment Kazuya had taken a stance. Unlike all his other matches, he held his bamboo sword with both hands and had taken a regular stance just like everyone else.
"This kid…" Jirou who had been silent all this time walked closer to the dueling area.
"What's the matter? Is something wrong?" Miyamoto asked. Kazuya indeed never took such a stance before but this was the normal stance so it would be weirder if he didn't know about it.
"It may look like the traditional stance but I and probably Tomoyo can see it. This kid who never participated in classes is planning on using our Shiroyuki style"
Tomoyo was startled after seeing Kazuya take a stance. She was surprised after seeing the style he used against Ayame but he, who never took a class in their dojo suddenly intended to use her style against her. She didn't know what he was up to and secretly glanced at his face.
"!?" a cold chill could be felt on her back. The sharp look she was used to wasn't there. His expression was blank and his eyes expressionless. She couldn't see how he was feeling. "(Is this… how I look like in front of others?)" she wondered. As the stoic expression on Kazuya's face remained unchanged.
Tomoyo took her own stance. The moment she did, a pressure heavier than he had ever let her go through attacked her. The expressionless eyes now had a glint of fighting spirit. She wasn't the only one affected however, even Ayame who had been recovering at the side trembled at the presence. It felt similar to what Tomoyo had released in their match but this was on a whole new level.
The instant the referee shouted, the intense pressure suddenly shifted. Tomoyo who was about to strike felt a force preventing her to move. She tried to take a step forward but her throat immediately felt resistance. She glanced down only to see that a bamboo sword had already struck her throat.
"P-point Kouzuki!" the silence made the referee's call echo through the arena. The first round ended too fast. Before anyone knew it, Tomoyo's throat had already been struck by Kazuya.