With Lastiara’s match finished, I walked to one of the restaurants on the ship.
In order to waste time I decided to eat until the second match in the afternoon.
It’s a fancy onboard restaurant. But even though it’s an onboard restaurant, it doesn’t feel like one because of the endless lines of ships. It’s only when I strain my eyes to see far into the horizon that I’m finally able to see the beautiful clear blue color.
I ate while looking at such half-baked scenery and afterward returned to my room. If I wait in the room an official should come like last time to guide me.
Just as I promised Lastiara, I’m confident I’ll win the second match of the 『Fighting Tournament』.
If I remember correctly, Lastiara planned to break the 『Bracelet』 in the middle of a match. I also have my duty as the Guild Master of 『Epic Seeker』, and also the issue with Lowen’s 『Lingering Regrets』. I don’t have the option to quit here.
And so just as the sun hit its highest point, I hear a knock on the door. Guided by the official, I head to the north area arena and enter the private waiting room.
As expected, the waiting room is a private one. With the rooms provided being this good, a lot of money is being spent on the contestants of the 『Fighting Tournament』.
Because of that I understood that there’s lots of money at stake behind the scenes of this selection.
…… Just a little more until my first match.
I sat on a chair inside the room and spread 《Dimension》.
I thought it’d be better to gather information on my opponent before the match begins. Spreading my senses, I find the person who I believe to be my opponent. Furthermore, as per my bad habit I also 『Observe』.
Name: Agnes Krooner HP143/147 MP156/156 Class: Mage
Strength3.31 Vitality3.15 Dexterity1.89 Agility1.26 Intelligence6.23 Magic8.23 Potential1.42
The leader is a girl named Agnes. It seems like her along with the other mage girls around her are my opponents.
From their uniform and the content of their conversation I realized that they are students of the academy of the northwest country Eltraleu.
Until the very last moments, those girls were diligently discussing their battle plans.
「―― Got it? The opponent is that 『Epic Seeker’s』 Guild Master. Don’t be negligent, and go all out right from the start!」
「Un, got it. I heard he specializes in freezing magic, so I’ll focus on flame magic」
「I’ll shoot flame magic from the rear nonstop. I’ll be going all out at the start, I’ll leave the guarding to you」
Their last preparations before the match were overheard. This is cruel.
Once they began talking about their formation I wasn’t able to hear any longer and cut 《Dimension》. The match ended before it even began. Even being unfair has its own limits.
With nothing else to do, I spend my remaining time concentrating.
I calm my panicking heart. Using my rationality I hold back my impatience in wanting to learn the 『Truth』 immediately and the desire to rescue my companions.
After about thirty minutes, an official urges me into the arena.
Returning a nod, I take out the 『Crescent Pectolazuri Straight Sword』 from 『Items』 and leisurely walk down the path to the arena.
After passing through a dark corridor that continues for dozens of meters, I cross a gate ―― the moment I enter the arena, piercing light and excited cheers assault me.
The thunderous roars echo in the pit of my stomach.
My legs immediately stiffened. The cheers I heard during Lowen’s and Lastiara’s morning matches are incomparable to this.
It felt as if the cheers from the thousands of spectators directed at me had a mass of its own. Of course it’d be completely different than when listening to it at the back.
Somehow I manage to move my frozen leg, and under the gazes of the whole crowd, I move onto the sand ground.
My throat feels dry because of excessive pressure. My heartbeat continues rising, my body stiffens due to the tension.
I put on a blank expression in order to hide that and walk to the center where my three opponents await. It looks like I was the last to enter.
「―― And next, he is the very representative chosen by Lauravia! From the spine-tingling guild 『Epic Seeker』, comes the master himself! Contestant Aikawa Kanami! In addition, he has entered individually! The only one who has the courage to enter this final selection by themselves is only him! Is that the manifestation of an absolute confidence, or is there some other reason ――!!」
The host’s voice echoes. That introduction was more embarrassing than I expected, but I managed to stop myself from facing down.
I was hoping to enter with three people if possible. Palinchlon probably expected this.
There’s no one else I can invite other than Snow or Lowen…….
After somehow managing to bear the pre match statements, my opponents draw closer.
「Then the two teams will now decide the Competition format」
The host urges us to consult with each other before the match. The three academy students are also tense. They look about the same age as me. It’d probably be difficult for girls in their teens to endure the fervor of the venue.
However, the girl who I believe to be the leader resolves herself and steps forward.
I also resolve myself. My plan is to propose the standard tournament rules with no bets. I’m not going to accept the opponents rules even if they’re stubborn.
「―― Uh, umm, I’m a fan! Please shake my hand!」
I was absolutely not going to accept…… but my resolve was fragile.
With a red face, the girl in front of me deeply lowers her head with her right hand stretched out.
「Eh, eh……? Ah, okay」
Overwhelmed by that charming action, I unconsciously shook her hand.
And so, with the girl taking hold of both the pace and my hand, the conversation continues.
「I heard the rumors in Lauravia! Although we’re the same generation, you being the leader of a guild, is something very respectable! I’ve also seen your battles once before! It was very cool!!」
I wince at the unexpected development.
This is the second time I met a fan. To think, out of anyone it could be, it ended up being my opponent.
「We plan to work for a guild in the Allied Nations after graduating, we’ve looked through the guilds of each country but…… as expected, the best one is 『Epic Seeker』! And among them Aikawa-san is special!」
「Th, thank you……?」
「Although a shameful request please listen! Would you come with us to the academy if we win!?」
「Eh, to the academy? Why…..? 」
「Yes! I heard that Aikawa-san is not only a skilled mage, but also a searcher! A temporary teacher ―― no, if possible, please become our private tutor! And then, would you teach us about the guild and labyrinth!?」
The unbelievable request completely befuddled me, all I could do was recycle the previous words.
「A private tutor……? Someone like me……?」
「Yes, please. I’ve also heard from a fellow participant Franruhle-senpai that your battle in the labyrinth was amazing. If Aikawa-san who she yearns for were to come, she would be very happy」
Franruhle…… If I remember, it’s the female knight I met at the ball. She called me 『Sieg』. Maybe, inside of the past I can’t remember, the two of us searched the labyrinth together. And she probably exchanged that information with the participants from her academy.
…… That was unexpected.
I resolved myself thinking it was going to be money on the line, but a teacher. Still, it is a cute request. It’s like a boy who plays soccer asking a pro soccer player to be his coach. A request of this level should be acceptable.
I don’t think I’d be a good teacher, but it isn’t something that would kill me if I were to lose.
I agonize over whether or not to give in to that request.
Seeing me in such a state, the girl adds on more words in a panic.
「―― i, if, we lose then we’ll do anything you ask!」
My face cramps. If I leave this alone any longer, I feel like it’d only turn into something even worse. The receptionist for the 『Fighting Tournament』 gave me various ridiculous examples of what happened, thus I decide to accept before the situation gets worse.
Finish it quickly and ask for nothing, that’d be the best outcome.
「N, nnー……. On, only if you win? If you win, then that’s fine」
「Thank you very much!」
As our requests settled, it felt as if the volume of the voices in the venue increased.
The weight of the girls 「I’ll do anything」 must’ve fired them up. Unfortunately for them, I don’t plan on asking for anything if I win. If I do then it’d only be to the extent of asking for a favor for 『Epic Seeker』.
Setting the excited spectators aside, we move on to deciding the methods for victory.
「In exchange, the rules will be 『Loss of boutonniere』. I don’t want to receive any injuries, nor do I want to give them. And I don’t mind if you want to go three against one. Apparently those are the general rules」
「Yes, we also wanted to do 『Loss of boutonniere』! As for our numbers, the three of us will go together! I’ll be borrowing your chest!」
The girl agrees to the rules and leaves with a smile. While fidgeting, she receives the flower from the host. She really does look nervous.
Although a bit suspicious of her actions, I also go and get a boutonniere.
And then, the host begins to explain the situation in a loud voice.
「――My goodness, contestant Aikawa!! Such a terrifying condition was so easily accepted! His words are gentle, but does he not realize this is a wager on their very selves!? Or could it be that this is the manifestation of absolute confidence in victory!?」
That explanation was enough to correct my misunderstanding.
「As expected, he did not realize! Exactly as the rumors on the streets, although he is skilled he is quite the airhead!」
It turned into something big before I knew it.
The peaceful sounding words of a private tutor fooled me, in reality, the girl with her face dyed in red before me had in fact bet her own body, and she is trying to obtain my body, I finally realized.
And I easily accepted.
In spite of the receptionist having warned me, I’ve already blundered. Of course that’d excite the audience. The arena becomes even more energetic as they eagerly wait for the start of the match.
「Please wait a ――」
「―― Well then, let the second round of the 『Ichinotsuki Allied Nations’ Knight Ball』 north area, begin！」
And then, the match was mercilessly started.
At that moment, a magic chant echoed in the arena ――
「―― 『O pillars, extend』! 《Flame Pillar》!」
「――《Flame》！ 《Flame》！ 《Flame》！」
「――『Pile on the sacrifices for the flame』『Burn away time』『Play the resolve』――」
The girls began constructing their magic the instant the match started. Regardless of their positions, front, center, and back, they all chose to use magic. However, the chant of the girl in the back is long.
There’s no time to complain.
I also construct my magic and approach the nearest girl.
On that note, I hadn’t drawn my sword. It’d be bad if I were to leave a wound on one of the girls.
「―― Magic《Di Winter》」
I put up my interference magic. Fortunately, the current me has an understanding of flame magic. Not to mention weakening it, even dispersing the magic would be easy.
First I’ll disperse the 《Flame Pillar》 launched by the girl in the front, next I’ll interrupt the chant of the one in the back, and finally I’ll deconstruct the center girls elementary magic 《Flame》 ―― but I fail to interfere with even one.
「I can’t erase it……?」
The 《Flame》 that the girl in the center is chanting has no fault whatsoever.
I quickly understood the reason. The girl in the center has many rings on. And then, several of those expensive looking red rings break. I 『Observe』 one of the unbroken rings.
【Ring Of Magic Stone 『Scattered Flames』 】A ring with the power of 『Scattered Flames』 dwelling inside――
It’s a magic tool with a specialized magic stuffed inside.
My 《Di Winter》 can’t interfere with an already completed magic inside of a magic tool.
I immediately rethink my strategy and give up on plucking the girl’s boutonniere. Even if I were to attack right now, that 《Flame》 would get in the way before I can reach.
No helping it, I’ll deal with the 《Flame》 heading towards me.
I analyze my situation, and realize that my options are few.
That flame isn’t a problem to me. Even if it were a direct hit, it’d probably only decrease my HP a bit. As a result of my level going up, my endurance has crossed human limits.
However, the boutonniere won’t fair as well as me. A spark would be enough to burn it. That’s the problem. Because of that, I decided to prioritize my defense.
「Kuu, ――Magic 《Freeze》!」
A magic chill spreads and at the same time I use all my strength to dodge the 《Flame》 with an exaggerated action. Because of the rules, I can’t even let a graze get on it.
Thus our first move ended, the leader-like girl at the center gives an order.
「This is the rumored 『Counter Magic』! Everyone, do as we planned and use the magic tools!!」
They were barely perturbed at the fact that their magic failed. It seems they knew of my 《Di Winter》 to a degree. As expected of my fans.
As the accessories on the girls break, more magic is released.
All of them are wide ranged flame magics perfect for the rules of 『Loss of boutonniere』.
《Di Winter》 dampens the various flame magics that attack me, at times I even used 《Di Over Winter》 to defend.
The expensive magic tools break one after the other. The girls pay no mind at all. Their families are most likely rich. I have heard that nobles like that are common in the academy.
As I continued defending against the flames, I felt that their movements were practiced. There’s no break in their actions. In Eltraleu Academy practice for 『Loss of boutonniere』 must be common.
They are taking the best actions within the rules. A huge difference to myself.
As I admire their ability, I quickly draw my sword. I then take a cloth and water from 『Items』.
And then, I reflect on my arrogance. Honestly ――
I thought the probability of me losing was zero. That’s why I was so halfhearted with my decisions before the match.
I didn’t take out my weapon so that I could avoid injuring them. Because of that, I failed to defeat the vanguard on the first move.
No matter who the opponent, I was convinced of a one sided victory. This led me to careless information gathering.
「―― Magic 《Di Over Winter》、『Mana Freezing Conversion』！」
As I mutter the name of my greatest magic, I wrap the flower on my chest with the wet cloth, and create a membrane of water around it.
This should hold for several seconds.
「I won’t be careless any longer ――！」
Using all my strength I run through the flame magic.
My clothes and skin get signed but even then I close the distance.
Seeing me arrive in an instant, the girl in the front makes a look of surprise. However, the match was settled by the time she showed it.
My sword scatters the boutonniere as I run past her.
The other two saw that and tried to take a defensive stance. However, before they could finish, my match with the center girl had already ended. Extended by 『Mana Freezing Conversion』, my sword had already scattered her boutonniere.
And so, only the last one had an opportunity to challenge me.
The girl in the back brings her cane to her eyes, a magic tool breaks and a flame magic rushes out.
「―― Magic 《Ice Flamberge》―― and, Magic 《Di Over Winter》」
For an instant, 《Di Over Winter》 crawled on the blade of ice. And then, the sword gently brushed the launched 《Flame》.
The freezing attribute magic that suppresses the vibrations of mana permeates the 《Flame》, and the flame dies out.
After confirming the disappearance of the flame, I unhesitantly approached the girl.
The girl uses her cane to slice the air in an attempt to counter, but at that moment her boutonniere flutters to the ground. Once I confirm that I dealt with everyone’s boutonniere, I discard the wet cloth on my chest.
My boutonniere is safe, there’s not a single burn on it. I immediately point out that the boutonniere of the girls had fallen and call out to the host who lost track of me.
「Umm, Host-san. Is this enough?」
The host didn’t understand what occurred.
However, the girls’ boutonnieres had fallen, and only mine remained. In a panic, the host announces the situation.
「―― A, an instant! A true flash of offense and defense! The academy student team had thought their superiority, but in the next instant, all of their boutonnieres had fallen! Is this the true strength of 『Epic Seeker’s』 Master Aikawa Kanami!?」
The arena was filled with excitement due to the host’s embellishment.
「Contestant Aikawa Kanami, has fulfilled the conditions for victory! He brilliantly advances to the third round!!」
With the match safely over, I let out a sigh of relief.
―― Like this, I advanced to the third round.
Afterward, for some reason, in what looks to be embarrassment the girls ask about my demand at their loss, I shook my head and said there was nothing I wanted. And then, countless boos came from the audience.
And so, while being called a coward, I leave the arena in low spirits.