One-on-One Duel

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“But, was it really okay? Accepting a condition like that.”

While they were seeing off the back of Valentina’s striker from the [Gradius-kai], Schleer asked in a small voice.
The conditions for this one-on-one duel with Valentina are extremely simple.
If Kisei wins, she will withdraw her fleet.
And if Valentina wins, Kisei will have to become hers.

The former aside, the latter was something unacceptable for Schleer.
It is common among the Vuld nations for a beautiful prince of a defeated nation to get forcefully married off to the winning side.
However, Kisei is a mercenary and a Terran.
He has no obligation to practice Vuld’s customs.

“It’s okay.
I just have to win after all.”

Kisei calmly answered.
In truth, as long as they win it’s not a bad condition for them at all.
Even if the reinforcements arrive and join the fight against their imperial fleet, there is no doubt that the Calencia side will suffer a lot of damage.
If instead, the enemy fleet chooses to withdraw, it would be better to let them go so that Schleer’s side can regain their bearings.

“But with this striker……..”

Of course, Schleer no longer has any doubt about Kisei’s ability as a pilot.
However, the spec of Valentina’s striker should be far superior to the mass-produced model they have fought so far.
Valentina’s personal striker, the [Ortho Kratzer].
This striker is said to have been newly designed from scratch as a Royalcraft with a single-minded pursuit of performance.
By completely ignoring the costs, not only its main engine, its armor, propulsion system, and sensors are all top of the line.

“Well, it’s true that this machine is nothing compared to a Zenith-type.”

This kind of one-off high-performance craft is called the Zenith-type.
The type of weapon that spreads fear on the battlefield.
Still, in terms of weapons, you would be better off mass-producing lower-cost models rather than spending all your resources on a uselessly high-spec one.
That being said, just like how royalty and aristocrats on earth always demand some kind of special weapons for their exclusive use in the medieval era, the Vuldes are doing the same thing.

Against a Zenith-type striker, the [Gradius-kai] which was modified with some armor and random avionics should stand no chance of winning.
Furthermore, the[Gradius-kai]’s only available armament at the moment is an anti-ship grenade launcher whose spare ammunition is already exhausted.

“But you see, don’t you think this is kind of exciting? It’s a situation that you usually only see in manga or movies you know.”

“If it’s like in the manga then the only outcome waiting for you would be to get humiliated by that woman in front of me right!!”


Kisei forgot himself and loudly retorted.


Kisei let out a long sigh at Schleer who is now covering her mouth from embarrassment.

“I’ve worked for many Vuld armies so I’m already used to this but……can I please have some professional delicacies so as to not touch such a topic?”

“I’m sorry……”

Hearing those words which formed from his long years of enduring such a thing, Schleer apologizes to him in a small voice.

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“Well, leaving that aside, we are about to enter combat.
Let’s put our all into this!”

“Ye, Yes.”

After Kisei loudly breathes out and slowly takes a deep breath to switch his mood, he grasps the control sticks and points his gaze to the front.

A white flare was fired from the [Prussia].
At the same time, a communication came in from Valentina.

“13th Princess of the Nored empire, Valentina Tous Argarine.
[Ortho Kratzer] hereby challenge you to a duel!”

“Mercenary, Hokuto Kisei.
[Gradius-kai] accept your challenge!”

It is a Vuld’s custom to announce their name in battle as their race puts great importance on formalist aesthetics.

Immediately after Kisei gave his reply, the lock-on warning sound rings out in the previously quiet cockpit.

“She’s coming huh!”

A red beam cut through the darkness of space.
That beam which was aimed straight toward the cockpit of the [Gradius-kai] was then deflected away by the photon saber.

“Th, That woman! She aimed straight at the cockpit after she said all that!”

“I see, trust—huh.
I’m facing a good enemy today…..!”

While ignoring the angry Schleer, Kisei mutters to himself.
He then accelerated his striker at full power and the digital tachometer at the console immediately raced to the red zone.

At the same time, the [Ortho Kratzer] also accelerated.
The distance between them gradually shortened.
As they accelerated toward each other, the [Ortho Kratzer] continued firing its red blaster beam toward the [Gradius-kai], and each time Kisei ward the beam off using the photon saber.
Eventually, when Kisei reached the distance where the gold engraving was visible to him, the [Ortho Kratzer] stopped its advance.

“Kuh….so that’s her plan after all.”

Schleer grits her teeth.
The [Ortho Kratzer] is keeping its distance while barraging them with its blaster.
Naturally, Kisei also tries to close that distance but the difference between the accelerating ability of their strikers is clear.
With only the minimal output from the [Ortho Kratzer]’s thruster, the distance that the [Gradius-kai] managed to bridge immediately widened again.

“Surely you are not going to say that this is unfair, correct? The performance of our strikers is also a part of combat after all!”

The muzzle installed at the base of the [Ortho Kratzer]’s lance flashes red and a blaster beam is fired toward Kisei.

While repelling the incoming beam, Kisei replies.

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“Of course, I am not going to call it unfair but……the only things a pilot can rely on in the end are only skills and the pilot’s will!”

Kisei fired the grenade launcher, sending a large anti-ship missile toward the [Ortho Kratzer].
However, compared to the beam, its speed is too slow to hit anything.

“That’s not going to work!”

Naturally, Valentina simply took an evasive maneuver.
However, the missile was timed and it detonated itself just before it reached the [Ortho Kratzer], creating a huge fireball in front of Valentina.
At the same time, Kisei throws away the grenade launcher and accelerates at full speed.

“Trying to blind me? But when you abandoned your only means of long-range attack, the victory is already mine!”

Valentina fired another shot of blaster beam and flew backward with a grin on her face.
Even if she loses sight of the [Gradius-kai] for a moment, that is no problem to her.
As long as she can maintain the distance, the victory will be hers eventually.

“GUh…….only 10 percent of the propellant’s left! Can we really win this!?”

“Of course!”

Kisei deflected the beam toward the [Ortho Kratzer] and Valentina easily avoided it.

“That’s a scary technique but if you know it’s coming then there’s a lot of ways to avoid it!”

Further deepening her smile, Valentina pressed the button on her control stick.

“Besides! Even if you can deflect a few blaster beams, there’s no way you can deflect all these!”

The container-shaped object mounted on the back of the [Ortho Kratzer] split opened and a large number of micro-missiles were launched from the inside.
The hornet-like missiles all rush toward the [Gradius-kai] at the same time.

“It’s just Proximity Fuze, just sit back and accept your defeat!”

These micro-missiles only contain a small amount of explosive charge.
If they don’t land a direct hit, the cockpit should be relatively safe.
That being said, Kisei is not planning to give up.

“She came up with a countermeasure for me after a single battle huh….!”

Kisei mutters so as his mouth curves into a smile.
If he can not block them with the photon saber, then he just has to avoid them all.
Kisei accelerated at full speed……toward the horde of missiles!



The two princesses screamed in surprise.
However, Kisei smiled and accelerated even further.

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The distance between him and the missiles was closed in an instant.
As a result, the missiles couldn’t fully accelerate.
When Kisei advanced his striker past them, most of the missiles could no longer track him and were left behind by the [Gradius-kai].
These missiles were designed to make sharp turns for tracking purposes but they are still small-sized missiles.
All of their propellants would be exhausted if they had to perform such a U-turn.

“You are good! But—–!”

But it is still unavoidable for Kisei to take some hits.
With the proximity fuzes detonation, several small explosions broke out around the [Gradius-kai].

“It’s my win.”

Convinced of her victory when she saw the [Gradius-kai] emerging from the explosion, Valentina raised her voice.
The [Gradius-kai] was in tatter with Its head and several parts of its body completely blown away.
It is no longer fit for battle.


In the cockpit of the [Gradius-kai], Kisei pulled the trigger with a satisfying smile.

“It’s my win.”


Before Valentina could finish her sentence, a shock shook the [Ortho Kratzer].

“Ugh….what!? Damn it!”

After enduring the intense tremor inside her cockpit, Valentina looks at the console monitor, her earlier confidence disappeared from her expression.
What was displayed on the monitor was the damage report screen of her striker dyed in bright red and a single merciless sentence.
[Complete lower body loss].


As far as she knows, the [Gradius-kai] did nothing.
She looked around to see if any other striker had ambushed her but there was no one around at all.
Instead, Valentina spotted something floating in the empty space.

“The grenade launcher!?”

Yes, it was the anti-ship grenade launcher that Kisei threw away.

“He activated it remotely!? That’s impossible.”

Anti-ship grenade launcher’s ammunition indeed possesses a guiding system.
However, since it was designed to hit a large target like warships, the guidance system installed was only a simple one.
Hitting a small target like a striker with it is extremely difficult.
Moreover, since it was fired remotely from the striker, precise aiming with it should be impossible.

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“You guided me to its range using your striker as a decoy……”


Valentina weakly let out a sigh at Kisei who casually replied to her.
She then let go of the control sticks.

“It’s my complete defeat.”

The [Ortho Kratzer] has lost everything from its waist down, and its main engine was shut down in an emergency.
It can no longer continue the battle in this state.

“Your mistake was when you stopped moving when the battle was still not decided yet.
If you moved earlier……I might have accidentally got the cockpit within the explosion range too.”

Thanks to the image guidance system, it was possible for Kisei to manually guide the missile to some extent.
That being said, he will not be able to aim that well against a moving target.

“I see.
It seems that I am still green huh.”

Valentina said with a self-deprecating smile.

“But your tactics and the decision you made were all superb.”

Saying so, Kisei exhales.
It was a close call for him as well.
However, his expression still looks happy for some reason.

“The next time we meet, I’m sure that you will bring along an even tougher partner.
I’m going to look forward to that.”

Instead of sounding ironic, his tone was genuine.
Hearing that, a bitter smile leaked from Valentina.

“Well then, my fuel is almost gone as well, it’s about time I take my leave.”

Saying so, Kisei cut off the communication and flew away in his tattered striker.

“……the wicked start that once you laid eyes on it in the battle, you will definitely fall, huh.”

Being left alone in her cockpit, Valentina’s eyes fixed toward the direction where Kisei just left.

“I see.
Certainly……….it seems that I did fall.”

As she whispered to herself, her cheeks were dyed bright red.

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