The morning had come. Ryuji left his dorm and headed to the outbuilding that his training sessions were regularly held. The third test had come, and Ryuji had to pass to graduate from the academy. Months of time had flown by and he had still made no progress. He never got the hang of switching personalities and at this point believed it to be impossible. He opened the door and stepped inside to face his teacher.
“What’s the test?” Ryuji asked with little emotion to his voice. He wanted to maintain a clear mind so he didn’t fuck it up.
His teacher took out their training crystal. “Quite simple really, we go in here and you beat me. How about it? Doesn’t get much simpler than that.” Wakefield’s voice was laced with sarcasm.
“Then let’s go old man.” Ryuji sat in front of his teacher and readied himself for the battle. If he failed that meant he wouldn’t be able to keep his promises and he wasn’t going to accept that.
“Let’s go indeed.” The light engulfed them.
Ryuji stood in front of his teacher in an ever-expanding plane. Wakefield was armed with a standard one-handed sword. Ryuji desperately lunged at his teacher as to catch him off guard.
“Pitiful!” Wakefield defended against his attacks without effort. Ryuji's desperation flared and he employed skill after skill to get the better of his instructor.
“Cut! Sunrise! Raiden! Thunderclap! Vorpal! Oni! Autumn Rain!”
Every attack was expertly avoided and by the end of the barrage he had not suffered a single scratch.
“Is this all! Divine Thrust!” Wakefield pointed his sword at Ryuji and lunged with alarming speed. All he could do was put his sword in the way, but the katana Ryuji loved so much shattered under the pressure. A hole was in his left shoulder and his blade rendered useless.
He dropped to the floor with a look of pure horror. ‘I have failed.’ Blood poured onto the ground from the hole and with it he felt renewed energy as well as a wave of flaring anger.
‘I cannot give up now! What was the point of me being here if I fail now? Can I look them in the eye and say I tried my best? Bullshit! I’m cutting down that geezer right now.’ With a face contorted in rage, Ryuji rose to his feet and gripped his broken sword. He used his blacksmithing skill to repair it completely, a trick he picked up in the year of his training.
“Oh, so you’re trying again huh?” Wakefield’s sarcasm was as blatant as ever but despite his mockery, he resumed a defensive stance once more.
“Keep mocking me bastard… you’re gonna end up in half here real soon!” With a failing voice, Ryuji summoned his critical energy into his reforged blade and prepared his last gambit.
Ryuji kicked off at full speed and rushed down a prepared Wakefield. Right before he got into striking distance Ryuji raised his one good arm in the air and aimed the blade directly at him.
“So easy to read.” Wakefield dodged to the left of the blade and prepared to skewer him once more.
“Yes!” Ryuji's strike was a feint he changed the direction of his sword and cut diagonally to the left. Wakefield had already assumed a stance for stabbing and didn’t have enough time to defend himself from the strike and the blade full of anger passed through his head.
“Moons mirror.” Wakefield appeared behind Ryuji the one in front of him gone and replaced by a glass statue.
He looked down and saw a red blade protruding from his stomach. Red hot pain surged through his brain and his body turned to light.
He opened his eyes and looked at his teacher who was openly grinning about his predicament.
“Ryuji, you fail.”
His words stung and Ryuji felt a pit in his stomach. Everything he did had been for nothing.
‘I am worthless.’
“Let’s hope your team does better.”
“The final test is a team test. As long as three people in the team pass everybody passes.” Wakefield smiled as he said this mostly because he purposely did not tell Ryuji. He wanted to see him crack under pressure and crack under pressure he did.
“So that means I can still pass.” Hope returned to his voice.
“Yes, but it also means that if another one of you fails, you all fail.” Wakefield stomped out his hope.
Ryuji stood up and walked back to his dorm. He had nothing to gain by sitting with that excuse of a teacher. As he walked back he felt more useless than ever before. He couldn’t do anything on the last test and this time he might be the reason they all fail.
‘Even if we do pass that just means that I’m riding on their coattails. None of my efforts has made a goddamn difference.’
“This shit sucks.” A voice full of scorn escaped him as he made his way into his room. At the moment all he was capable of doing was waiting for good news.
He sat down on the couch and waited. He sat like that for hours waiting for his roommates to come back with news. All the while a dark feeling spread throughout him. To have one’s efforts be dashed is truly a depressing thing and Ryuji was realizing this quickly.
“We’re back!” A cheerful voice belonging to a certain blue-haired girl rung in Ryujis ear.
His chest was tight as he anticipated the news. From her tone, things sounded good but even if that was the case, he still had to inform them of his failure. The prospect of it made him want to hurl.
‘How long are they going to want to keep a loser like me around?’
“Hey guess what? We all passed with flying colors! This is usually the part where the main guy gives us all head pats of appreciation right?” Dot said something completely and totally stupid that only he would get. Which is a situation that happened quite frequently between them.
“Well? I’m waiting!” Dot crossed her arms and pretended to pout. Looking at this display Ryuji decided to leave his problems for later and celebrate now.
He stood up and walked over to her. “You say that, but I bet if I did it you would be super embarrassed about it. Oh, I can see it now, Kyaaa I-I didn’t mean for you to actually do it b-baka.” Ryuji made a fake embarrassed face and squirmed nervously.
“Huuuuh? Oi, are you implying that in a rom-com setting I would be the discount tsundere? Cause if that’s the case you’re about to have a serious case of a broken face!” Dot's anger flared up and pushed the sleeves of her dress up while winding up her fist.
“See? You are just such a violent little girl.”
“Will you two children stop fighting over something so stupid. We haven’t even told him the news yet.” Queen interjected and sat down on the couch.
“News?” Ryuji had no clue what kinda news it could possibly be.
“Oh yeah! The top four teams get to participate in a tournament and the winner gets to leave the academy S rank.” Jessy informed a now frozen Ryuji of his terrible fate.
“This sucks.” His voice full of sadness he dropped to the floor and mopped.
“What’s so bad about it?” Dot's question made him turn his face around towards her before answering.
“We have to fight monsters that’s why.” With a sigh, he got up and reluctantly asked the next obvious question. “When is it?”
The next day Ryuji walked reluctantly towards the stadium where the tournament would be held. Apparently, the school wanted this to take place as soon as everyone graduated so they could kick everyone out and get ready for the new students.
“It’s not thaaat bad. We don’t get a penalty for losing, so we only stand to gain from this.” Jessy the voice of reason beside him spit out some logic.
“We expect you to carry your weight hero.” Queen the voice of harshness on his other side made him cry a bit.
“Don’t worry if you don’t carry your weight I’ll still love you.” A joking cartoon character spoke from his back where she was currently riding.
“Is there a reason that I’m acting as your personal vehicle?”
“Hmmmm, what if I said this was my rightful place in the universe?”
“Denied.” His rejection was quick and flat. He reached behind his back and picked her up then placed her on the ground.
“Hmph, no fun!”
They arrived at the stadium and made their way to the designated seating box. At the bottom of the stadium were four box-like dugouts where the teams would sit and wait for their turn. Ryuji sat down in the dugout and realized that their team was the first to arrive.
“Wow! That’s a big crowd. They are going to be so surprised when my gun magic kicks everyone’s butt!” Jessy was getting hyped over in the opposite corner of the dugout.
“The crowd is pretty big, I guess they invited the city in to show them the cream of the crop.”
“Cream of the crop is right!” From his left near the entrance to the arena, Rosey walked into view. “Did you know that our teams are going to face each other right off the start? Sad, but I can’t wait for a chance at a rematch. What about you?” Rosey’s voice started off cute but slowly devolved into one filled with malice.
“I’m just so looking forward to it.” With a forced smile, he saw Rosey off to her dugout across from theirs.
‘I am not looking forward to it at all you crazy bitch.’
“Why is little red riding hood staring at you like that? Wait did you get yourself a girlfriend?” Dot came back from the bathroom and spouted nonsense in a fake tone of surprise.
“Are you an idiot? That’s a look of total hatred.”
“I know what you mean, her face pisses me off.” Dot sounded pretty serious and Ryuji was going to ask what was wrong but then.
“Oh look it’s the people that think they're better than us.” Queen spoke up and looked towards the shinobi walking in with his team.
Behind the ninja was a built man that reminded Ryuji of someone from street fighter. The man was huge in height and in muscle structure. His hair was brown and disheveled while his eyes were brown as well. He wore bland brown clothing and had a constant grin on his face.
“That guy is huge! Hey, you see that Ryuji, he lets girls piggyback.” Dot managed to point something out entirely pointless and Ryuji ignored her.
Riding on the huge man’s shoulder was a pale elf girl. She had the pointy ears of an elf with pure snow-white hair that reached her ankles. Her physique was that of a little girl. The clothing she wore was a purple dress with some white polka-dotted throughout. The main draw of Ryuji's attention was to her weird eyes. Instead of just being round her pupils looked exactly like a sun.
“That is weird as hell.”
Dot scoffed and gave a flat response. “Like we can talk about weird eyes.”
The final member was a short girl with blonde hair that was tied up in a braid. She wore blue clothes and had blue eyes. The thing that aught Ryujis eye was the weapon on her hip.
“A katana? How the hell does she have one of those?”
While he was eyeing her the last team entered and the voice boomed from the speakers.
“Welcome to the end of year tourney! We will compete in three team matches consisting of four one on one battles. The team with the most wins will move on. Who faces who is decided through a random drawing. Without further ado, the first match will be between The Commanders team and The Sword Saints team!”
‘This is nerve-racking just don’t give me crazy lady!’
“The first match is Ryuji versus Arc!”
“Lucky Me!” Ryuji jumped out of the dugout and ran towards the center of the arena.
“This sucks.” A depressed Arc moseyed over and took his place beside Ryuji.
A grinning Arc responded quickly with “Shut up.”
A light came out of the crystal and the tournament began