Chapter 238 - Second (2)
Unlike his aggressive answer, Theodore was extremely nervous right now. He had expected someone with Veronica-level strength would emerge, but he hadn't expected that he wouldn't be able to see the combat capabilities of a sword demon.
If Lee Yoonsung's memory was correct, this was a sword ring. Despite retreating 30 meters in two seconds, Theodore was convinced that he wasn't out of the sword's range. He just noticed it, but he had already stopped breathing.
Theodore realized that he could lose his head if there was even a small gap between his inhale and exhale. He currently had an unprecedentedly extremely sharp sensitivity, but the time he needed to maintain this confrontation was around 20 seconds more. If he lost his concentration for even a moment, he would die.
'I need to catch up with that speed somehow.'
Theodore's breather had only lasted three seconds, but thanks to Gladio's sacrifice, Theodore managed to get a clue.
Zest's sword was certainly quick, but the interval between the strikes wasn't completely zero. It was just such a short gap that it was impossible to catch with human senses. Gladio had been able to respond by reading the orbit of the sword.
If Theodore wanted to catch up with this speed, he needed reflexes at the level of the ancient species, Ulfheðnar, that Superbia had transformed into. How could Theodore reproduce such reflexes?
'... I can do it.'
It was possible if he used the same technique he had used against Marquis Fergana but at a higher proficiency. If the electrical signals of the nervous system were accelerated to the extreme, the entire world would seem like it had stopped. He might not be able to overtake Zest's sword, but he wouldn't fall behind in speed.
Dozens of tactics and ideas mixed in Theodore's head as he concentrated till he reached his limit. It had been exactly 17 seconds from the start of the confrontation until the conclusion. The moment that absolute death was three steps away, Theodore Miller stepped forward boldly.
Then the murderer raised his sword like a reaper.
Zest's sword pierced through the air.
Almost simultaneously, Theodore's body shone with a blue light. He might not have Gladio's Aura Ability, but he had Alfred's extreme sensitivity. His concentration was so extreme that he couldn't miss the sound of a falling needle.
'It's coming.' The world of his optic nerves was black and white. It was a world where everything stopped. In this slow scenery, Theodore stared at the blade before him. 'It isn't just fast. Omitting the intermediate process... It's a phenomenon that can't be understood by common sense. Is his Aura Ability the power to interfere with 'space'?'
Maybe it was 'time.' A few speculations came to his mind as Theodore observed Zest's sword, but he didn't have the time to ponder.
Theodore took a step back as the space in front of his neck was split apart.
'Kuk! This is ridiculously fast!'
In this black and white world, only one sword and Theodore Miller seemed to move freely. The blade passed by the side of his neck and suddenly cut down the side, then it tried to split him from his crown to his groin. This was when Theodore finally saw a gap, so he extended his hand out and reached for the four elements.
The sword was moving at a terrible speed, so it was likely that Zest's defense would be just as fast. In this situation, the most appropriate attributes were lightning and light.
'Alfred's Magic Missile x Melt Downer.
'Melting Complete: Finger of Death.'
As these two spells merged, Theodore's five fingertips glowed with an ominous green light. It was the combination of a destruction magic, which could melt even metal, and Magic Bullet, which contained a quick destructive power. The defensive power of aura wouldn't be able to block this.
In an instant, the fingers of death aimed at the enemy's abdomen.
Five rays of destructive energy burned through the air. Then the ionized air turned into a vacuum as the rays aimed for Zest's abdomen.
The moment that the flesh was about to be pierced, Theodore heard it clearly.
[This is quite good?] Zest whispered with an eerie smile.
Kiing! Then the rays were cut off. Theodore couldn't even see Zest's movements as he cut all five rays of light with one slash. Zest truly was a sword master of the strongest empire. His aura density could probably withstand even great magics. It was impossible for Theodore to break through that defense. So, when Theodore saw the scene, he was astonished.
'Did he stop the rays in that posture? The magic light is a bit slower than a lightning bolt, but... my magic can't break through that defense!'
On the other hand, Zest's lazy expression started to be overtaken by a predator. "It has been a long time since I've felt like this. I'm excited."
Zest had always defeated the enemy with one-sided attacks, so he hadn't struggled for years and could never feel satisfied. His lazy behavior derived from a feeling of boredom, but Zest was actually a beast that was more vicious than any swordsman.
Unfortunately, Theodore's struggle had woken up that sleeping beast. Zest pointed his sword at Theodore with a strangely twisted smile. "Okay, I'll play properly."
It wasn't worth using a lot of effort, but it wasn't bad to play around. Theodore Miller's skill caused the sadistic nature of the sword demon to boil up. Should he cut off the limbs first? How about cutting off those cheeky fingers?
The monster, Zest Speitem, threw away his mask of laziness.
Chill. Theodore felt a wave of fear and couldn't help taking half a step back.
Pit...! Zest's blade narrowly passed through cloth and scattered drops of blood. If it had entered a little bit deeper, Theodore's carotid artery would've been cut. Theodore hurriedly moved back while healing his neck. This attack was so quick that the previous strikes seemed like a joke. However, from Zest's point of view, this was a normal attack.
'Damn, I have no chance of winning in a melee...!'
Theodore was still faster than lightning. When it came to speed, it was common sense that human speed couldn't overcome lightning. Even if the opponent had the ability to go beyond space, how could he stop lightning that went into the sky?
Theodore determined after opening up the distance between them and flying up into the sky.
"Hey, you can't run away."
...No, Theodore tried to fly up.
"Now let's have so fun, yes?"
Zest remained on the ground and swung his sword in an empty space.
Jeeeong! Then there was a roar, and Theodore fell down.
'... What, this...?'
It wasn't until Theodore fell 30 meters and landed on the ground that he realized what had happened. He had hit an invisible wall in thin air. It was lucky that he hadn't released his lightning mode. It was clear that his bones would've been shattered if he had received the collision with his human body.
Theodore landed on both legs and barely opened his mouth. "...H-How?"
"Hah, everyone's reaction is always the same." Zest walked step by step and chuckled. "I cut space. The space is cut many times to form a wall. Of course, the world will immediately restore it... It is good for those who are fast like you."
"It seems like you can't believe it. Isn't this swordsmanship?"
It was confidence in his Aura Ability. This was a declaration that Theodore could be killed at any time and that he couldn't escape. Theodore now understood why the empire had dispatched the 2nd Sword.
...A swordsman who could cut space? Zest had completely cut off Theodore escape route. Even if Theodore's body's condition was perfect, he wouldn't be able to move through the space. He felt reluctant to use Umbra because he sensed that the result wouldn't be good.
'I can't avoid it with Umbra. I don't know what effect will happen if he cuts the space, even if I avoid it by moving to another dimension.'
Reality showed that he was absolutely cornered, but Theodore still didn't give up. His disadvantage wasn't the only thing he learned from Zest's answer.
'I found a weakness. The only thing that can be cut from a distance is space. If he could cut me directly from a distance, I would've already died. He is fast because he erases the space in the gap between us, but if his blade is visible at close range, I can somehow avoid it.'
Theodore maintained a barrier of magic power exactly 3 centimeters above his skin. He would only be able to survive by avoiding the death which appeared in front of him. It wasn't much different from dancing on the blade. However, if he survived the crisis... he could seize the opportunity to reverse this unfavorable situation.
"Huuuu..." Theodore turned into lightning again and lowered his body. The difficulty of his current task was much higher than any difficulties he had faced before.
One mistake could mean death. Zest seemed to like that Theodore didn't lose his fighting spirit. Then Zest raised his sword with a grin. "Are you hiding something? This time, try to hold on for a while."
He would stab in any gaps that Theodore showed. Theodore couldn't rely on a gap in the opponent to win, so he spent a lot of points in the Library to ensure victory. Theodore once again became lightning and enhanced his cognition in preparation to meet Zest's sword.
The magician who transformed into lightning and the sword master who cut the space... In the wilderness where no one was a spectator, the struggle of two beings who had transcended humans had just begun.
* * *
The exchange between two masters ended in just five minutes.
"Kuheok!" Theodore's imperfect lightning eventually reached the limit, so he rolled across the ground and coughed up blood. It was rather miraculous that he had managed to maintain it for five minutes with his unstable circles. He hadn't been able to rest, and now his legs didn't have the power to rise anymore.
In comparison, Zest looked no different than when he first appeared. Just like a cat playing with a rat, he trampled on the devastated Theodore. Zest pointed his sword as he spoke with satisfaction, "It was really entertaining. For you to be able to avoid my sword up to here, it was beyond my expectations."
"...This is entertainment for you?"
"Of course. It might be different if you are the fire witch or muscles-obsessed magician, but your skills can't threaten me. Didn't you focus on running away because you are well-aware of this?"
Theodore couldn't deny the words. The difference between him and Zest was that big. If they fought a hundred times, Theodore would die a hundred times. If they fought a thousand times, Theodore would die a thousand times.
He was lucky to have been able to run away, but Theodore's logical thinking couldn't deny Zest's answer. Zest, one of the strongest people in the present world, was three stages higher than Theodore Miller in every way.
'It would be the same in Meltor.'
The general soldiers or even 100 elite knights wouldn't be able to overpower a superhuman like Zest. If Theodore confronted him with Baek Jongmyung, both of them would be killed. Veronica and Blundell were the only ones who were an equal match. In the first place, Theodore had no intention of confronting Zest directly.
"Well, you're not wrong but... But it is a big mistake if you think I only ran away."
"What?" As Zest frowned, Theodore pointed to the ground where the two of them were standing. Zest noticed it the moment he looked down at the ground. "A magic circle? This is... Ah."
It was a super large magic circle which was 50 meters in diameter. Zest thought about when this magic circle had been formed.
Theodore, who had turned into lightning, must've drawn it while running away. His movements seemed like he didn't know martial arts, and had only been occasionally ineffective. It made sense if he had been drawing this magic circle during the fight.
However, Zest didn't panic when he noticed it. "So, can you beat me with this magic circle?"
"No way." Zest was confused after Theodore denied it. "Attack magic can be avoided, and I can't bind you since you have the ability to cut space."
No matter what method Theodore used, he couldn't win. So, he had thoroughly prepared a strategy based on this premise. Theodore Miller couldn't defeat Zest Speitem. However. there was a way to call an existence that could beat Zest Speitem. The completed magic circle was summoning magic.
'Today, in this place... it's all connected.'
Theodore's magic power flowed into the magic circle on the ground, and it flashed red. A summons that could deal with Zest wouldn't be ordinary. The current condition of Theodore's body meant he would just self-destruct if he called Fafnir, and other existences wouldn't be able to deal with a sword master.
So, Theodore had searched the Library last night. It had been to find a catalyst for the summoning magic he had thought about since hearing who the author of Hellfire was. It was the species that was responsible for the division of this material world, and they had been the main enemies in the great war, with worshipers who still remained today.
"「 Open, blazing gate of hell― 」"
An enemy of the world, a demon, was called.