[16] Lover’s Maws
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"So, how was her research?" One of the receptionists of Aclair's adventure guild, Clara Stone, asked.

She was the twenty-something-year-old woman Claire had become familiar with. Emerald eyes. Two moles beneath her left. Blue, almost black, head of hair. Wearing a black, collared, shirt above a tanned skin with the right arm rolled up, paired with cotton-brown pants, she was, essentially, a tomboy that perpetually wore a mischievous smile.

Claire could not say whether or not she liked interacting with the woman.

"Rumors and speculations or not, it was most definitely useful," She said, "And I suppose I have you to thank for that? What do you want?"

"Aww, who told you I wanted something?" Clara recoiled.

Both Claire and Via scoffed at the same time.

Clara Stone laughed with her sing-song voice.

"Fine fine~" She said, "I suppose you're right."

Then she looked at Asta.

"I'm a bit interested in that golem of yours. Wouldn't it be interesting to see it actually fight?"

"Huh?" Asta's faceless head tilted. "Me?"

Clara nodded. "Yes. You. What do you say, Via?"

The bunny blinked her eyes.

Claire tilted her head. "Really? Asta? Not me this time?"

Clara shrugged.

"No, " Via said, "Let me fight that golem of yours. I can take out my stress and get a feel for his skill at the same time before I actually start training him. Two birds, stabbed to death, just like that."

Claire felt as if that wasn't the right saying but relented. Looking at Asta, she decided he could be improved, seeing as she built him before she had evolved.

As an Elemental Lord whose control over water and ice was most likely number one in this world, that action took only a snap of her fingers. Water swirled before Claire, taking the shape of a featureless humanoid. Then, she muttered.

"Freeze."

In an instant, the air chilled and an ice golem was born, renewed and better with her now S+ mana rank. Bringing Asta's new body a strength and speed of the same, though he still had no mana.

"Oooh!"

The excited Asta quickly switched bodies, momentarily showing his real self, and Claire waved her hand, casting the former figure away into mana.

"Asta can't die. So, destroy his body if you must. You can go all out." Claire said, now gaining interest in how the fight would turn out.

"Oh?" Via Goodwill grinned as her eyes gleamed. "That sounds damn beautiful."

"And, Asta," Claire said.

"Hmm?" The boy glanced her way with its faceless head.

"Only use <Loki>."

There wouldn't be much for Via to learn about his swordsmanship if he started firing arrows.

The arena at the back of the adventure guild was set. That stone structure domed in a faint mana shield. Claire sat upon a chair of ice and Alicia sat beside her. Around them, adventurers also took an interest in the coming fight.

"Alice, who do you think will win?" The Ice Queen asked.

"Hmm."

Alicia glanced at the two opponents. On one hand was an elemental spirit with a superior body made of ice, able to wield two legendary pieces of equipment. On the other hand was the bunny girl she disliked.

"Asta." She said.

"Oh?" Besides them, also seated upon a chair of ice, Clara Stone raised a brow. "You look down on her a bit too much, don't you think? Via is a highly rated adventurer, you know? She might not beat the golem in strength but, tell me, have you ever seen the true ability of her skill?"

The Ice Queen's azure eyes turned to the arena, glazing gold as she wondered what the skill 'Lover's Maws' actually did. It did have a rating of 'Rising' but that seemed far too high a rating if it could only change to short swords and wrap things up.

"Interesting," She muttered.

[Name: Via Goodwill

Race: Beastman

Strength: B+

Speed: A+

Mana: B

Skills: Lover's Maws (Rising)

Overall: A+]

Upon the arena floors, Via Goodwill faced her opponent with as much focus as she faced any. This time, however, she decided to treat him as any monster she had been assigned to slay. Killer Bunny was a moniker of hers, and there was good reason for that. When she was serious, things usually ended up dead.

"Alright," She reached her arms to her side. A chain of gold coiled around her and she grasped its two lengths. A moment later and those ends morphed into short swords.

"I'll rip you apart."

"Eh—?!"

Without waiting for the boy, Via kicked off the ground as her skirt fluttered. They were ten meters apart but the girl crossed them all in seconds.

Her two swords blurred and they slashed.

The clank of blades rang as Asta managed to block her assault, <Loki> in hand.

"You didn't even say go!" He seemed enraged at that fact. "That's unfair!"

Via scoffed as his body sped up.

She jumped back and he took a step forward, crossing that distance in an instant as his blade made one full swing.

'Fast,' She thought, though her two swords blocked its advance between them.

"Ah—."

She spun and kicked.

Her feet smashed against his face but he stood rooted.

Via Goodwill laughed at the obvious and jumped.

His sword slashed upwards to meet a chain of gold, sending sparks about and she stabbed down with her short swords.

"Yup. No skill. Pure stats." She muttered, her weapons hitting nothing but air.

He hadn't parried her attack. He should have been able to, but he hadn't. He had merely jumped back a distance away. Obviously, he wasn't well versed at split-second decisions between intelligent fighters.

She landed as soft as a butterfly and glanced at him as her bunny-ears twitched. Her head cocked and a blade slashed by—flakes of hair falling along with a drop of blood.

"Ha! I got you!" His voice echoed.

Asta was already beside her, his featureless body stepped back and he blurred into the distance.

Via frowned, eyes narrowed, ears twitching as blood leaked from her forehead, a faint line of a scar etched there.

"Here I come!" The boy's voice sounded.

He was blurry to her but she heard his footsteps and the wind before she saw him in focus.

He wasn't faster than sound, obviously.

She scoffed and slashed.

A short sword blocked a katana and she drilled with the other.

The downside with being what was essentially an ice golem was that Asta had no sense of 'feeling' in his body. Though he could see and hear perfectly well, he could not feel. Damages became mute to him and the change in the air when a weapon swished in his direction was not noticeable.

She stabbed into his chest, her sword making a hole in his body much to the cheers of those around them. If she could slice him up before he even noticed his body breakdown, she would win.

She slashed at his arm joints.

Yet.

That disadvantage was all but negated for Asta did not see with eyes but with the world's mana. Everything was perceivable to him in the radius around the arena. If he wanted to see further, the radius would narrow into a line. Though Via could claim to be best at hearing due to her ears, the elemental spirit had the upper hand in visual information.

Their blades clashed and a spark flew. A sword slashed along Via's thigh and she barely dodged it enough to leave only a sear of a line.

'Why is it so chilly all of a sudden. . .' Via thought, shivering as her numbing hands blocked an attack until she recognized the katana he wielded as that which Claire had. 'Drats, that's that weapon isn't it?'

She had only taken two faint slices on her body and she was already slowed. At such a rate, she would lose and he didn't seem any weaker. Asta laughed, holes and scratches on his form, but still very much moving with little problem.

Via gritted her teeth at the faceless creature before her. She felt his strength match hers and, if he pushed himself slightly even more—if he wasn't finding the spar only a fun game—she assumed he would overpower her.

"Tch," She was annoyed at the fact that a mere golem was stronger than her. He was far too fast to bind so there remained only one option for her.

Her golden chain shined a white light as it wrapped itself around her waist.

She jumped back from a slash and stared at the golem.

Though she did not like using the full power of her skill, she did not want to lose to a golem of all things. She took in a breath, wondering if he would dislike her for taking a page from his book. Remembering his annoying indifferent expression, however, she merely muttered a single word and allowed the image she had seen to guide her, making his signature her own as her right hand moved.

"<Sever>"

Her sword blurred down.

A white line traced the atmosphere.

The sky cracked into two and space itself twisted as the air shattered. Then, everything regained focus and she stood tall, short swords disappearing from her hands.

"It's my win, then," She said.

"Eh. . .eh?" The boy did not know what hit him.

Two halves of Asta's figure dropped upon the ground.

Bisected.

Then shattered.

For the splinter of a moment, Via Goodwill's overall rank had jumped to S+. For the splinter of a moment, Claire's glazed eyes had widened at the realization that the girl copied the Sword Saint's attack. Yet, it was Alicia's words besides her that shook her most.

"I remember. . ." The vampire muttered as she stared at the arena, the image of the bunny shifting and replaced by that of someone else. They looked similar but the person in her coming memories was older. More mature.

"The sin of Lust."

No.

Another figure etched itself in her mind. A single chest piece of iron on his body. A manifested weapon that perpetually changed forms. A human that became a demon who devoured from others all that he could.

The older version of Via.

The male.

She had the foggiest idea that the two were close. And, then, it clicked.

She blinked her eyes as both images combined into one and only Via remained.

"She is the daughter of Lust and Gluttony," She spoke with certainty.

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