Test Your Skills, Glory Awaits the Victor – Part 03
“You’ve checked the bracket, right? Now all you have to do is win, and you will be fine. If you keep winning, we will face each other in the quarterfinals. When that happens, please withdraw.”
“Withdraw? Shouldn’t the stronger one remain in the tournament?”
“I do not doubt your abilities, Miss Selyse, but I have trained under the Sword Saint. It’s impossible for me to lose against adventurers,” East said with utmost confidence.
They were sitting in the lounge of a hotel, the most luxurious one in Hopestadt, facing each other. The dim and quiet atmosphere was a stark contrast to the bright sunlight outside.
The other members of the Four Eastern Stars were enjoying tea and sweets at the next table.
Their laughter reached East, and he glanced over nervously in their direction.
“You will be facing Jillarte in the second round, the daughter of the previous leader and the ray of hope of the Dragonfolk. Can you beat her?” Selyse asked.
“A foolish question. I hear she’s a Rank C adventurer.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to continue training until the tournament begins.”
East got up and left.
Selyse silently watched him go.
“That guy’s so tense!” Selica said.
Selyse moved over to their table. “He sure is.”
“There’s more to adventurers than just their ranks,” Sara said. “Also, that guy doesn’t know that Jillarte was held in the kingdom’s prison, does he?”
“I don’t think he was informed. The knights were mobilized to recapture Leather-elka, and at the same time, East started traveling to Einbiest.”
“I didn’t expect the prisoner to join the tournament!”
“She was apparently arrested on false charges anyway,” Sophie chimed in. “From our point of view as adventurers, the kingdom’s methods are inexcusable and shameful.”
Every member of the group, not only Selyse, were not happy with the kingdom’s recent actions.
“Selyse, do you think East is strong?!”
“I’ve heard he’s one of the more skilled members of the Order. But he’s not at the same level as a commanding officer, and he’s considerably weaker than the Sword Saint.”
“Then you should try to win!”
“Yeah, but they have their dignity to preserve.”
“Good point,” Sara agreed. “The knights would have wanted both slots for themselves, but if they sent two knights, it would be obvious that they were trying to invade the Confederacy. And so they asked the Adventurers’ Guild.”
“Because the Adventurers’ Guild in the royal capital serves His Majesty.” Selyse chuckled awkwardly.
Pond’s guildmaster, Unken, clearly sided with the adventurers, but the guildmaster of the royal capital valued the wishes of the king and the nobility. Rumors among the adventurers was that they wanted to be a noble.
“He seems to have his own reason to fight, though.”
“Oh, you don’t know. I think it was Sara who told me.”
“It’s just a rumor I heard,” Sara said. “Do you remember that name Silver Face on the bracket?”
“Nope!” Selica replied proudly.
Sara laughed. “Well, a while ago, the pride of the Order, the Sword Saint himself, lost in a battle.”
“…What?” Selica couldn’t believe her ears. “L-Lost to whom?! Can anyone even beat that musclebrain?! I doubt Selyse can beat him solo!”
“That guy is on a whole different level,” Selyse said. “I’d like to beat him one day, though.”
“Word is it’s a man called Silver Face that beat him.”
Lawrence, Commander of the Knights of Ponsonia, was not one to hide his defeat. As a result, news of his loss quickly spread throughout the Order. Given the knights’ strong unity around their leader, East could not let Silver Face go free unpunished.
Should East progress through the tournament, he would eventually face Silver Face in the semifinals. He wished to conserve his energy and avoid exhausting himself by fighting Selyse in the quarterfinals.
“The knights are sincere and faithful to their duties,” Sophie said in a hushed tone. “But others aren’t. The kingdom’s recent actions are unacceptable.”
“I agree. I hoped the Fire Drakon Catastrophe would make things better, but I guess not.”
“Selyse, have you considered the matter we talked about earlier?” Sophie asked.
“Yeah, once this is all over, we’ll seriously consider moving the Four Eastern Stars’ base of operations from Ponsonia to a different country.”
The man lived in the most magnificent house in Hopestadt, dressed in the finest clothes, and ate the most delicious food. He now stood on the balcony, looking down at the city’s nightscape.
Standing at over two meters tall, his supple muscles belied his massive frame. His mantle was a deep red that accentuated the golden mane shimmering on his head. As the night descended, the chilly wind that accompanied the drop in temperature and humidity sent his mantle aflutter.
Gerhardt Vatex Anchor, the Leader of the Confederacy of Einbiest, was over thirty years old. He could no longer be considered young, but no one had appeared to challenge him.
The degree to which a Beastman’s animal traits manifested varied between individuals. Gerhardt’s lion part was potent, as evidenced by his mane, mouth, and sharp fangs.
“So Jillarte is participating in the tournament.”
Try as he might, he couldn’t fully suppress his emotions. Anticipation. He hoped for the appearance of a powerful foe that could threaten his position.
The lion’s instinct inside him longed for battle.
“I was wondering why the Dragonfolk attacked a fortress, and it turns out it was to rescue Jillarte.”
As the leader of the Confederacy, he must not overlook the Dragonfolk’s actions, actions that could lead to a war with the Kingdom of Ponsonia. But Gerhardt did not summon the Dragonfolk, and instead left them alone.
He claimed that each race had the right to self-governance, and he must not infringe upon their domains.
Gerhardt desired competition among the races. His unwavering gaze showed no signs of doubt. His goal was clear.
The previous leader had advocated for the rights of minority groups and established a culture of equality, and Gerhardt introduced competition on top of that.
If he lost, then so be it. Any fraud committed would be met with punishment. So, while there were many who missed the previous leader, there were also many who were satisfied with Gerhardt’s reign—only because Beastmen were the overwhelming majority.
If there were issues with Gerhardt’s leadership, the Confederacy of Einbiest could not have maintained its stability for twelve years. Although there were disputes among the races, Einbiest as a whole continued to grow.
How ironic it was that the losing races ended up incurring debts and had to sell their slots to Ponsonia.
“Fate is a funny thing, isn’t it, Kouga?!” the lion roared. “No matter what you want, I will follow my own path!”
At this moment, Gerhardt was not the leader of the Confederacy, or anything else for that matter. He was simply a warrior.
Some participated to carry out the will of their late father.
Some to fulfill an important mission assigned by their nation.
Some to finish a commission.
Some simply enjoyed fighting.
And some were accomplices.
The first day of the Rulers’ Rumble finally arrived.
The sun rising on the eastern horizon painted the walls of the arena vermillion.
Spectators crowded outside the arena to secure good seats. Stalls were already selling food, and the area around the arena was bustling with activity. When the gate leading to the seating area opened, the crowd rushed in with a roar of excitement.
The sun climbed over the clamor, illuminating the mortar-shaped arena. Except for areas reserved for VIPs and representatives of each race, the seats quickly filled up.
At 8:00 a.m., special carriages arrived to pick up the fighters. Only participants were allowed to board the carriage.
“I’m off,” Hikaru said.
“Take care,” Lavia said.
“We’ll be cheering for you!” Paula added.
Lavia and Paula could watch the matches from the reserved seats, but Hikaru told them to wait until a little after the tournament started before going. He wanted them to avoid running into members of the Four Eastern Stars. Going after the tournament started should prevent drawing attention.
Contestants arrived at the arena in open carriages to show them to the audience.
“Who’s that guy?”
“A hood and a mask?”
Hikaru was met with only unpleasant murmurs, while Jillarte, who departed from the same inn as Hikaru, received a warm welcome of loud cheers.
The Dragonfolk, Ogrekin, Sinners, Ratmen, and other minority races gathered and follow her into the arena. To Hikaru’s surprise, some of the Beastmen also cheered for her.
Jillarte, wearing a somewhat stiff expression, raised a hand in response.
Miss Ray of Hope sure has her hands full.
People who couldn’t secure seats in the arena gathered outside. There were places equipped with magic items that transmitted the sounds from the arena, allowing people to follow the match. It reminded Hikaru of radio broadcasts of professional wrestling matches.
Gambling was also taking place, with Gerhardt having a whopping odds of 1.1. Jillarte was expected to do well but still had odds of 7, while Selyse had odds of 4, and Silver Face 12.
Hikaru could only catch a glimpse as he was in his carriage, but there was someone with even lower odds than Selyse—3. Their name was Ryver.
They’re in the same bracket as me. If they win, I’ll face them in the second round. I wonder who it is. If they’re as strong as Selyse, I’ll have to check them out later.
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