It feels as if time has stopped.
No, that’s just a metaphor. Because the butterfly was flying in the air, fluttering between us. Illuminated by the twilight light, the bright red butterfly’s colors became deeper.
What is this? What, what is going on?
It was hard to believe that this was a butterfly that lived in this forest. That much was obvious from the fact that Ray was standing still. And I had the feeling that he was …… watching my every move closely.
This is a great opportunity!
However, I was not the only one who thought so. Ray’s right hand once again closes in on my chest[TN: sounds weird, I know]. This distance, this speed. I don’t know what happened to that butterfly, but there was no hesitation in the action Ray took. If I continue like this, I will be …… torn off. The two remaining roses will be in his hands.
As it is, …… cannot make it in time.
Neither the physical technique nor the magic that Ray taught me will be able to help me in time.
My actions at that time were not conscious even by myself.
I just didn’t want to lose, so I bit into …… Ray’s right hand. The only action I had to take was to somehow prolong the …… time. So my unconscious made the decision that this was the only way to do it now.
Ray leaked his voice. I’m not sure if he was expecting this, but his reaction was delayed. Of course, I can’t let go of this right hand that bit me. I also have to cover the left hand that comes next.
I was self-conscious.
And then the butterfly fluttered between me and Ray again.
This must be …….
The next moment, the butterfly exploded.
For some reason, I understood that, so I immediately took cover and flew backward. I managed to catch myself and rolled away.
Ray, on the other hand, could not defend himself in time and was blown backward. However, he was quick enough to receive the blow. His eyes met with mine, without caring about the scorching body.
The butterfly was gone. What was that all about?
But I don’t care about that. Time passes quickly, quickly…!
The distinctive smell of burned protein irritated my nostrils. Perhaps some of my hair was burned. But I don’t care about that. For now, I just couldn’t lose sight of Ray.
As I concentrate on that, …….
My heart skipped a beat.
What is it? Gradually, my body was overwhelmed by the heat.
Hot. Just hot, just hot.
It felt as if my body was being scorched from the inside out.
But why? I didn’t feel any pain.
And the next moment, a large number of bright red butterflies appeared. They were flying around me. Fluffy, fluttering, and swaying as they flew.
Is this something I’ve created?
But what on …… is this?
At the time, I was fully absorbed. Ray did not miss it, of course. He ran straight to the ground and came towards me.
Ahh. I see.
I guess I lost after all.
But strangely enough, I had no regrets. I had given it my all. I gave it everything I had. Because I didn’t want to give up. I never want to lose. Even though I thought so, the reality is ruthless. No matter how strong one’s desire is, there are things that cannot be reached, things that cannot be achieved.
And the moment the sword he wielded was about to reach my rose,……, it happened.
Yes. It is an impossible phenomenon. A phenomenon that cannot be understood. But it’s happening right in front of my eyes.
The rose in my chest hadn’t fallen yet. It was only the bright red butterflies that kept overflowing from my body that prevented it. Hundreds of butterflies came together to catch the blade strike.
A trickle of blood dripped from my nose. But I don’t wipe it away, I just let my consciousness fall. I feel as if I am sinking to the bottom of a deep sea. Deeper and deeper my consciousness sinks.
My world gets dominated by darkness. But I intuitively understood that it was not a bad thing. I knew that I could surrender to this.
And I suddenly understood that it was a glimpse of my own ability. From that point on, it was time for me to even the playing field with him, or rather, for me to dominate.
Just the two of us, dancing together.
In this forest, wrapped in the light of this twilight, we continued to fight. Earlier, I had wished that it would end sooner, sooner. But now, I wanted it not to end.
Right now, it’s just him and me in this world. Just the two of us, we were dancing in the world. We continued to dance. It was as if Ray and I were the only ones in this world, and we kept fighting each other as if we were performing our own dance.
Aah. So that’s what it was.
I realized. And I understood where I was supposed to be. I see. The place that Ray had shown me was right there.
And the time that seemed to last forever would come to an end.
“…… Amelia. Congratulations, it’s time.”
When he said that, I noticed a mechanical beeping sound.
When did ……? I didn’t notice it until Ray said it. That’s how engrossed I was in the final battle.
“Oh, …… is it over?”
“…… Aah. It’s over. And the two roses left in your chest. That’s the final result.”
When I looked closely, I could see my teeth marks clearly on Ray’s hand, and the blood was dripping from it, dripping, dripping. When I saw it dripping on the ground, I understood once again what I had been doing.
Right. I had bitten Ray in the end. And now we were both wearing burnt clothes, and our hair was a little burnt too. My face probably looked terrible, too. I could tell by looking at Ray. Without any quick defenses, he took the explosion head-on.
I’ve done some terrible things,…….
“Ad…….that……I got carried away,……I’m sorry,……”
“No, it’s okay. It’s the same for both of us. And that butterfly, too. ……”
“Ah …… yeah ……, but it’s just a little …… my unconscious behavior …….”
The butterfly …… was barely audible in his voice. Maybe thinking that it doesn’t matter now, he continues the conversation further.
“…… I was acting with the intention of breaking Amelia’s heart. Instead of taking a lot of roses from the beginning, I slowly hunted her down and brought her to the final battle. Having seen Amelia in action, I was sure that she was going to win the fight. I thought I could settle this around seventeen o’clock,……, but I was completely defeated. I gave it all I had. But it was Amelia who won. You won.”
“Ah, ……, eh ……, um ……, t-that, ………”
I can’t get my voice right.
And then, perhaps relieved, he slumped back.
When I think about it, I don’t know how I was able to stick it out this long.
There were many times when I felt like my heart was going to break. Over and over again, I felt like I was going to break. But I don’t know what it was that kept me going each time.
But that was because I didn’t want Ray to abandon me. It wasn’t a backward feeling of not wanting to be abandoned or disappointed.
It was just that I was facing this battle with all my might.
Even though I was about to lose to myself, even though I was about to falter, I had come to …… this point. I didn’t like it anymore. I didn’t want to keep being disappointed in myself.
I’ve had so many struggles up to this point, and I want to finish it. I began to think that way, and in the end, I was already …… determined.
Because, I’ve come this far, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to clear it up. The time spent with Ray was not in vain. There were times when I escaped, times when I didn’t want to, and times when I screamed pitifully.
But those days were real days for me and him….
I wanted to prove it.
It wasn’t just for me. I wanted to pass the …… final exam for Ray, who had done so much for me.
It was not a negative feeling. It was certainly not that I wanted Ray to abandon me.
I’ve been wishing for a long time that I could repay Ray for his efforts and that I could change as well. …… I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it this far without Ray.
On the surface, I was fed up with myself. But when I met Ray, I knew that I could be strong like him, not just like …… Ray himself.
As Amelia, I can reach that place.
This was the end of my wish.
When I looked back and thought about it, I was here. I’ve come this far. It was a short time.
But for me, it was the most intense day of my life, compared to the empty time I had spent so far. The days I spent with him was the …… real ones for me.
Could I have accomplished …… such a thing?
“Well, Trainee Amelia. This is the last time.”
I’m not sure how many times I’ve said that, but I managed to get up. In the process, Ray lent me a hand. I shook that big hand of his, and I knew.
I knew that I had really …… made it. There have been many things that have happened so far. I just kept running for the light, even though I had so many mixed feelings, conflicts, and almost messed up.
I didn’t achieve anything great. It’s just one silly girl who got something out of it. Apart from that, it’s nothing special to this vast world.
But there was a certain sense of fulfillment in me right now.
For me, this battle, all my efforts up until now, is now. Just now. It had become something special.
The process did not determine the outcome. It was the result that turned my process into a colorful one.
The days we spent together were changing into something colorful.
I am immersed in such a strange feeling.
Aah……, I, I think I got there.
“Trainee Amelia! You have now completed Ainsworth boot camp!”
“And this is the ranger badge. Of course, it’s not official, it’s something I made myself.”
“Thank you very much, sir.”
And I received the ranger badge.
It was a bright red badge with a design of a rose. I could tell that Ray had put a lot of thought into making it because it was a bit distorted in some ways. I thought to myself that he really is a very kind person.
After receiving the badge, I put it on my chest.
Ray stared intently at me and then smiled. His face wasn’t the cold expression he had earlier when we were fighting. Now his expression was the same as always, with warmth.
Then he said in a gentle voice,.
“Uhh, …… Uhh, …….”
“You did well.”
Drip, Drip, Tears flowed down my face.
“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”
“Yeah. …… It was hard. …… It was very painful. ……”
And I broke down.
I was completely in tears. And my nose was running profusely. I was a mess. My face was completely covered in tears and snot. Burned clothes and hair. My face was covered in mud, and my tears and snot were mixing with it.
It’s disgraceful. Yeah, …… really shameful, too.
But I wasn’t calm enough to worry about that right now.
I was just so happy. There was a certain sense of accomplishment.
What is this feeling that fills my heart? I wondered if I had reached the point where I wanted to be.
“I’ll say it again. Congratulations, Amelia. I wish you all the best in the Magic Swordsmanship Competition. You’ll be fine. No student has ever gone through such grueling training. You can have confidence in yourself.”
“Uhh ……Uhh …….”
I can no longer see clearly through my tears. However, Ray has the kindest expression I’ve ever seen on his face as he tells me this.
“…… Amelia. You are stronger than you think. I’ve always believed in you. I had high hopes for you. And you made it through this training. So you should be proud of yourself. You can affirm it at …… I think. The days you’ve spent here have been real. ……”
When he said this, Ray wrapped his hands around mine and squeezed them tightly. I felt the warmth from his hands, and I couldn’t hold back any longer. ……
“Um …… um ……! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I-I did itttttttttttttt! I did my best, ooooooooooooooooooh!”
“Ahh …… well done. Amelia is amazing …… and I honestly respect that from bottom of my heart. So you can cry today. Let it goo…..”
I hugged Ray and just cried, not caring about what was going on outside.
I cried, sniffled, and shouted pitifully. But Ray wrapped me up gently.
It was the first time in my life. Until now, I had never even cried. I was just fed up with being emotionless and helpless.
But I think I may have started to move forward ……, even if it’s only a little.
I got through this short but long training.
There were days when I wanted to give up, days when I wanted to abandon everything. I had been going through it with a negative attitude. …… But now, for the first time in my life, I was filled with the joy of having accomplished something on my own.
I am still a bird in a cage.
But even so, I may have been able to stand up a little. Until now, I’ve just been crouching in that cage. But now, …… now, I was finally able to stand up.
I’m sure I’ll be able to face this vast world ahead.
─ To me, who surely can’t be anything else. Is that where I am?
Yes. I’m here. Knowing his warmth, I know the warmth of my own tears because I already know …….
Surely, I am here.
Certainly, I exist here, in this place.
The existence of Amelia Rose, created by my friends and Ray, is etched in my mind.
I started to move forward.
Today, at this moment, I have taken only one step forward. For others, it may be a trivial, unimportant, and commonplace step.
But such a small step became a really big step for me.
I knew that I could move forward, even if I was like this. Today, just now, I have learned that.
So, let’s take on this challenge with confidence.
Many competitors wait for me at the Magic Swordsmanship Competition.
I will keep going in search of the real me that lies ahead.
With what he has given me engraved in my heart…
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