A knight’s honor is their life.
Even if one were to stand before certain defeat, a knight must never shirk their duty. They must never retreat from a challenge.
That was the sole reason behind the ringing sound of clashing blades in the center of Avalyne Academy’s premier tournament arena, a place where the empire’s youth struggled against one another for fame, status, and above all, victory.
Medrauta dashed forward through towering pillars of flame exploding from the ground before her, her silver hair streaming behind her like a moonlit pennant. She grit her teeth as her opponent met her mid-stride, bringing their heavy greatsword to bear against her simple longsword.
The two blades locked together and held fast, Medrauta and her opponent pitting their strength against one another despite the obvious disparity in size of their respective weapons. Had it been anyone else, they would have lost instantly.
But not Medrauta.
For she was the strongest of all knights, a towering and unreachable pillar even amongst the brightest stars in all of Avalyne Academy. Strength, speed, technique, and even inborn talent. In all these aspects, she was by far the most superior knight.
“Now, my lord!” Her opponent’s clarion cry cut through the air like a whip. Rather than a request to her lord, it was more of an order.
“Immolate Acceleration!” A voice rang out from behind Medrauta’s opponent, far out of her reach and behind the still-burning pillars of flame. “Go, Brigitte!”
At once, fire burst forth from Brigitte’s sword, engulfing its steel as its magical properties caused it to propel her weapon forward along with augmenting her already formidable battle prowess.
Medrauta winced as the flames spread from her opponent’s sword and onto her own, flickering dangerously close to her face. Sparks flew and singed her hair, but she refused to give Brigitte any ground.
...Damn it! Even though I’m stronger... How the hell am I losing to her!? Angrily, Medrauta pushed herself away from Brigitte as the flames grew in both intensity and strength, forcing her to retreat at last.
“You’re wide open!” Brigitte declared, dashing forward the moment Medrauta backed off.
“Hah! As if!” Medrauta smirked at Brigitte’s overconfidence. Sure, she’d been forced to retreat once, but that didn’t matter in the slightest. In a one-on-one confrontation, someone of Brigitte’s level wasn’t even worth her time.
But this was not a simple one-on-one match.
Instead of charging at Medrauta, Brigitte leapt straight past, her dark red hair trailing past her like a veritable plume of flames. Fire burst forth from her heels at the command of her lord, propelling her forward before Medrauta could re-adjust to the situation.
Brigitte’s leap carried her far past Medrauta...
...and straight onto the raised dais where Medrauta’s very own lord stood.
Brigitte swung her sword upward, its flaming tip tracing a perfect circle of blazing crimson as she pointed the massive weapon at the center of her target’s chest.
At that very moment, a loud trill of several trumpets punctured the air, followed by an easygoing female voice. “A~lright! Match over! Lord Levant and Knight Brigitte are the victors of this bout!”
Medrauta cursed loudly, throwing her sword at the ground with such speed and power that the weapon bit deeply into the stone flooring of the arena and remained there, vibrating violently. She stomped her way toward the boy who had played the role of her lord.
“L-Look! I’m sorry!” The boy stammered even as she approached.
Medrauta’s hand shot out and grabbed the boy by the collar, her iron grip just as hard as the gaze in her eyes. “What the hell were you doing?”
“I tried! I r-really did, Medrauta!” The boy was sweating profusely now. “B-But you just weren’t resonating with my Crest!”
“Oh? Are you saying it’s my fault now?”
“Relax,” Brigitte cut in with a sigh. “You won’t get anywhere roughing your lords around.”
“She’s right, you know?” Levant stood beside her with an exasperated expression. “It wasn’t exactly his fault when you weren’t even following orders. Even if you couldn’t resonate with his Crest, that’d be the least you could do. It’s no wonder you’re stuck at the bottom of the rankings.”
Medrauta released her grip on the boy’s collar, rounding on Levant with unbridled fury in her eyes. “What did you just say? I’ll—”
“That’s enough. You of all people should know that the match is over, Med.” Brigitte said, stepping in front of Levant. “And hey, don’t worry about it too much, alright? I’m sure you’ll... find someone who you can resonate with.”
Medrauta clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Fuck off.”
Normally, the two were on pretty friendly terms, but Medrauta didn’t exactly feel friendly at the moment. She turned on her heel and strode off, her head held high with whatever pride she still had left.
Indeed, the academy’s strongest knight was actually ranked at the very bottom. Over the course of her first month, she’d already managed to rack in around two hundred matches. The result? Two hundred losses.
In all this time, Medrauta hadn’t managed to win a single match despite being heralded as the most talented knight in all of history. How?
The reason was simple.
Even though her skill and strength was unparalleled, she possessed one fatal flaw that rendered all of her abilities completely irrelevant: the inability to properly resonate with any lord’s Crest.
Knights were born with powerful constitutions that surpassed the average person and could be made even more potent with training. However, a knight’s sole weakness was the inability to use magic.
Because of that, the existence of lords and ladies were indispensable. No mere nobility, the title of lord or lady conferred not only status to the individual, but also recognized their heavenly gift from the creator god Aluvsha.
To become a lord or a lady, an individual must bear a Crest, a unique mark on their body which was granted to them by the heavens themselves. While a lord or a lady could not utilize the powers of their Crest themselves, they could channel its divinity through a conduit. Namely, a knight.
By bestowing the powers of their Crest unto a knight, a lord or a lady could cause their knight to produce incredible miracles of magic that not only greatly enhanced their already formidable physical capabilities, but could shape reality itself. Together, a knight and their charge formed a pair that could compete with others for status, fame, or even political reasons.
In fact, the rulers of Avalyne were decided through a tournament between knight-noble pairs, where the strongest of them all would take the throne.
In other words, a knight who couldn’t resonate with any Crest was beyond useless. No matter how strong they were alone, they would never be able to stand in the face of a knight and their noble working in perfect tandem.
That’s why despite being the strongest knight, Medrauta never had any chance against Brigitte during their match.
Not even for a single second.