Test Your Skills, Glory Awaits the Victor – Part 06
“Using a smoke screen to launch a surprise attack. Very devious of you.”
Upon leaving his waiting room, Hikaru ran into someone.
“Is that how you defeated the Commander?” East shot him a sharp glare.
“What are you talking about?” Hikaru asked.
“Don’t play dumb. A small man, a robe and a silver mask. There’s no one else with that creepy appearance but you.”
The man’s comment about his outfit stabbed Hikaru in the chest, but this was not the time to feel dejected.
I guess Commander Lawrence told his men about his defeat. That’s why East knows about me too. But he can’t accept that Lawrence lost.
Hikaru himself knew just how strong Lawrence the Sword Saint was.
“As a knight of the Kingdom of Ponsonia, I will defeat you here and now. And I will prove that you employed dirty tactics to defeat opponents stronger than you.”
East drew his sword.
What? Is he for real? He wants to fight me right here and now?
Hikaru could use a smoke bomb here to beat East, but he had no idea how a brawl outside the ring would affect the tournament. Worst case scenario would be disqualification.
“Dirty tactics? You watched the match, and that’s all you got? Man, you’re dumb.”
The Lycanthrope that Hikaru fought earlier appeared, accompanied by several other people. A suffocating atmosphere descended on the corridor.
East turned to the Lycanthrope. “You lost to that smoke screen, didn’t you? What would you call that if not dirty?”
“These guys are saying the same thing, so I brought them with me,” the man said. “I thought seeing the guy would convince them.” He jerked his chin toward his companions. “Smoke bombs prevent both parties from seeing each other. It’s not dirty, since it’s a level playing field. If it rained, and you lost, would you call the winner dirty?”
“But Silver Face used the smoke bomb because he thought it would give him an advantage.”
“Sounds like a valid strategy to me. If rain gives you an advantage, you wait for it to rain. Is that dirty? Besides, a werewolf lost in a battle of perception. What can you do?”
The Lycanthrope clicked his tongue in annoyance.
“That’s enough,” Hikaru cut in.
He’s pretending to accept his defeat gracefully, but he’s actually still pissed. He’s even giving East hints!
Hikaru’s cheek twitched. The Lycanthrope had basically told East that the smoke had no special effect and was used purely to block his perception.
“Yeah? Don’t tell me that’s all you got. You beat me, the favorite to win the whole thing,” the Lycanthrope said.
“I don’t care about that one bit,” Hikaru replied.
If they think I have some other tricks up my sleeve, then I’ll make full use of that misunderstanding.
“You tell them, Silver Face,” Jillarte interjected. “The only favorites to win the tournament are Silver Face, Gerhardt, and me. I mean, seriously. You? Beat Silver Face? Dream on. You should try beating me first.”
The situation didn’t escalate into a brawl, but Hikaru was still bothered about drawing unwanted attention to himself. East and the Lycanthropes. Save for their representative, the Lycanthropes were probably not satisfied about the match results. Hikaru might run into trouble in the streets.
I guess that’s more work for my Stealth…
Jillarte had come to see Hikaru after he won his match. She got the gist of the situation from the flow of the conversation. She didn’t need to know about the Sword Saint Lawrence, so Hikaru didn’t go into detail.
When Jillarte and Hikaru arrived at the reserved seating, they were met with cheers of joy.
“Nobody can beat Silver Face with that smoke screen,” Chi of the Ratmen said. “Very cunning.”
“Is he not taking off the mask?” Lukrek of the Sinners added. He still only cared about the mask, apparently.
Hikaru watched the other matches. The first round had many one-sided matchups, resulting in quick fights.
Come to think of it, I didn’t see that Rank A adventurer Ryver.
Both their matches were happening simultaneously, so by the time Hikaru’s match was over, Ryver had finished too.
The last matches of the day were about to begin. Among the eight people in the arena was a prominent figure—the current leader of the Confederacy, Gerhardt. The venue was filled with cheers.
Vampires were a race with pale faces and fangs peeking out of their mouths. They had evolved to the point where they could be active even under sunlight. And their physique was on par with the opponent, Gerhardt.
“Is that all you got?”
But Gerhardt’s greatsword was able to catch the Vampire’s huge mace.
“This is stupid.”
The greatsword did not budge even an inch. The Vampire was gripping the mace with both hands, while Gerhardt was using only his right hand.
“Wooo! Woo! Woo!”
The Vampire swung the mace down repeatedly like a madman, sending sparks flying, but the greatsword remained still.
Gerhardt thrust his greatsword listlessly, deflecting the mace and sending it rolling far to the back of the arena.
Stunned, the Vampire watched the weapon fly, then turned to Gerhardt with a start.
Hit by Gerhard’s roar at point-blank range, the Vampire shrank back and fell backward, foaming at the mouth.
“My goodness. He defeated his opponent with only his voice! Such power from our leader!”
The host was clearly biased.
The audience was on its feet applauding. Gerhardt threw his greatsword aside and left the arena, looking bored.
“He’s too strong, Hikaru,” Lavia said.
“Yeah. I don’t think Jillarte can beat him.”
“What are you going to do, Lord Hikaru?” Paula asked.
Hikaru’s only choice was to support Jillarte. Since she would insist on fighting fair and square, the best Hikaru could do was to keep winning until he faced her and then withdraw.
For now, I too need to focus on tomorrow’s match.
Hikaru did not think too much about it, but little did he know that the situation would take a turn for the worse.
“Hi, Silver Face.”
Hikaru was just relaxing after returning from the arena when Jillarte arrived. He didn’t expect her to visit him at his inn. He quickly put on his mask before greeting her.
“What’s up?” Hikaru asked. “We can talk downstairs.”
Lavia and Paula hid in the room since they didn’t have their masks at hand. Hikaru and Jillarte went down to the first floor of the inn. It was just before dusk, and there were few customers at the dining area around this time. Perfect for a quick cup of tea.
Jillarte exhaled. “Must be hard keeping your face hidden all the time.”
She had become quite the celebrity at this Ruler’s Rumble, so she came with a hood on, just like Hikaru. She did not have any Dragonfolk with her as she wanted to avoid drawing attention. No one would think that a participant in the tournament would be out wandering alone during the day.
They were seated just a short distance from the window. Jillarte took off her mask; she was facing a window to the backyard and the washing area, so no one should pass by from there.
“Do you, um, wear that mask all the time?” Jillarte asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“Oh, sorry. I don’t mean to pry. I’m just, you know, curious about what you look like.”
“My face isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye.”
“You can say the same about mine.”
Jillarte had told him that they were cursed for betraying a drakon. Hikaru had some questions related to that.
“You’ve done so much for me, but I don’t know anything about you,” Jillarte said. “So I came here to try to get to know you a little better. Am I bothering you?”
She cast her eyes down. Her voice was a little shaky. Hikaru realized that Jillarte, as an adventurer, needed to muster up her courage just to interact with others.
Though she was a positive and easy-going person, Jillarte was of the Dragonfolk, a discriminated race. She was born with inferior looks. Perhaps the only people she could trust were those of her own race. Hikaru could only imagine how she felt—being daunted even by the hooded and masked Silver Face.
“I don’t mind your being here,” Hikaru said casually. He wondered if he managed to say it properly.
“R-Really?! That’s good to hear.”
“What do you want to know about me?”
“Um, your favorite food?”
“I like street food. It’s easy to eat and has a simple flavor. High-class food is nice too, but too much and I get sick of it. Street food has a wide variety, and it’s not complicated. The competition is also fierce due to its accessibility. So yeah, I like it.”
“Is something funny?”
“I just can’t imagine you touring the food stalls.”
Giggling with amusement, Jillarte looked like a typical teenager. Unfortunately, her dull scales looked morbid, and her eyes were cloudy.
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