A/N: It doesn't matter for this chapter and the next if you've only read the LN or watched the anime; Takumu deserves more of the limelight he was given in both cases. At least, for volumes 1-4 anyway.

The Way Of The Sword

Haru is trapped.

His slim, silver body, straining to escape those panels, you can feel his shock and pain so keenly, it is as though it is your own. Why? How? Noumi didn't so much as twitch, yet Haru, Haru is..!

What.

What is that?

There's no stranger avatar you have ever seen in the Accelerated World. At least, Haru got a flying one, with a pair of silver wings, but this...this avatar is strange. As though made from cardboard cutouts, the ones they placed at store fronts three decades ago in place of virtual salesman advertisements nowadays...

And that grey light where his (or her) right arm should be, it's weird too. No special skill should continuously emit light, unless...unless...!

It is that skill. The forbidden arts, the secret technique. The same one you just learnt a day ago. In other words, in other words...

Noumi is talking to that guy. He sounds like some schoolteacher, genial and almost bored with his duty. And...you can feel the detachment. An absolute lack of emotion in his voice, compared to the fever-pitch in Noumi's as he readies himself to draw blood. Haru is still struggling, but at least...he's resisting. Your friend - Haruyuki, who grew up with you, who played with you, and let you watch him grow fat, he can fight on.

Noumi puts his fingertips together, and that electric purple wave covers those claw-like hands. They too, continuously emit light. Further proof that Noumi and that black avatar are working together. He might even have been Noumi's teacher.

Noumi - Dusk Taker, that twilight-coloured body, is in front of you before you know it. The pile driver on your right arm goes up into a ready stance - but you know it isn't a strong enough signal. You need that.

Concentrate your will, the feelings of a need for strength, and pour them into the pile driver-

Ah ha.

The stake, the pile, the sharp pointy end is glowing white like never before. That is the Over-Ray, the excess light emitted when you begin to activate that secret skill. And Noumi is visibly impressed - that you too, must had spent a titanic effort to learn that skill. Ten minutes in real life. Ten thousand minutes inside Accelerated World -a weekspent inside. And even then, a week to learn the secret art is insanely fast, as Yuniko admitted.

But he did it too - Haru was able to do it just as fast. And while that sword of light he used two days ago wasn't particularly impressive, more importantly, he could fight against Noumi on equal ground. There should be no reason you can't- there is no reason you can't.

In the corner of your eye, the green faceplate is looking back at you, straining between shoulders trapped between the gargantuan black blocks. Haru is still looking out for you. He can't do anything on his own - he's trusting you to do something.

Close your eyes and reach deep into your heart, Mayuzumi Takumu.

Remember the smirks on your kendo upperclassmen's faces, as they thrusted the bamboo sword into your throat.

Remember the pain as the neck guard broke and it dug into your skin.

Remember the hot tears that flowed down your face as your begged them to stop.

But never forget the sword slung behind your back. The sword you swung three hundred times a day, till the handle was soaked in sweat and blood. The shaft which endured countless strikes and parries. And the blade which soaked up your tears as you knelt over it night after night, when no one can hear you weeping.

It is a sword that never abandoned you. Don't you dare give it up now!

Call it by the name you gave the technique. Call it by its name!

"Cyan..."

Finish it! Call its name!

"...BLADE!"

And- that sword appears.

Single-edged, trapezoidal-shaped. A bright blue gem embedded in its centre. And - it is beautiful.

It is the sword you always wanted to wield, and the sword that never left you in your heart. It is not just a weapon to hold - it is an honour to even gaze upon it. And that someone of the likes of Noumi will never be able to understand that.

The ground quakes, and the chaotic purple waves of energy that are Noumi's hands flickers. Because he knows too, that this is a real wish to be strong - a wish that created your body, the swordsman named Cyan Pile.

He changes his hands into a single sword too, and now you can feel him - feel his desires switching and reloading into something different. But that is just a phantasmal wish to be a swordsman - that fallacy of a sword resembles nothing like the Cyan Blade.

So if that isn't his wish, then what is...?

He twitches. And you charge-

The two swords clash.

The fallacious sword against the Cyan Blade. Sparks and lightning streak and disperse at every instance they meet, as though your duel is tearing space itself apart.

You're operating on instinct now: Strike- block, block, parry, strike. Strike and counter. Repeat.

It occupies just so much mind power that you have time to think about the question - what is the wound that drives Noumi Seiji?

Why is it that all he does is steal and rob? How can he not feel that something is intrinsically wrong with taking away the hard work and joys of others? His phantasmal hands, sucking in the light pouring from the Cyan Blade - why is it so?

Why is Dusk Taker named Dusk Taker to reflect Noumi Seiji?

Because...because...

"...Upperclassman Mayuzumi, you have a fatal weakness!"

Shit. BlockblockblockBLOCK-

He's on the move. Thrusting. At your throat. Over and over again. But you will NOT let him get through!

You know why now. Your heart is still thumping madly with trying to keep up with those insanely fast thrusts, but you know now. All that is left is to shut him up long enough...

You raise the Cyan Blade high above your head, and where the scar on your neck is, a blue light glows. But you've never been calmer, because you know now. Just deliver one blow and silence him long enough.

He thrusts- misses. Close enough-

"SEIAAAHH!"

And you strike. One blow, one hit. Dusk Taker - Noumi Seiji is on the defensive. His smaller, speed-type body can't hold up with the size and weight of your heavyweight avatar. This result has nothing to do with the Incarnate System. He's clearly out of tricks here...

"-Demonic Commandeer!"

CRAP. The only special skill Noumi has that truly belongs to him. This skill which stole those tentacles and Pyro Dealer. The skill which took Haru's wings from him, is now being used on you!

But you won't let that train of thought finish. A tiny spark of warmth lights up within you as the final piece of the puzzle falls into place; you finally understand the reason why Noumi gave birth to an avatar that steals to live.

And you pity him for that.

The light effect of Demonic Commandeer is blasted away as you reach this epiphany. Noumi's fake sword is trembling - he knows, he feels too, what just happened!

"...OOOHHH!"

The Cyan Blade drills through his sword, then his wrist and arm- severing it completely from the shoulder and blowing him back. It literally gouges a crater in the ground of the Moonlight Stage.

"...you really are too greedy, no matter what the circumstances."

It might have been some grand proclamation of you being on some morally higher ground any other time, but you're not in the mood to choose your words. A picture paints a thousand words, the English saying goes; there's practically a panorama you resolved and want to explain. Noumi's stunned, or he's tired, he won't be moving for awhile.

to be continued.

Author's note:

I deliberately cut the story here for two reasons; one, Takumu's mental state changes twice within the fight, when Noumi counterattacks (with a huge dose of urgh). For oneshots, one to two 'mental state changes' are enough, an excessive number of epiphanies and 'ah-ha' moments head towards Gary Stu territory. Two, I'm tired, I need to pack, and by my standards, a length of about 1200-1300 words is enough.

Furthermore, there's another scene I want to expand on; hailing from V7 to V8, when Takumu and Haruyuki duel in an all-out battle for a second time. It's a spoiler for anime-only viewers, so I suggest you read the translated bits of V8 first, or avoid chapter three of this work.