Big news! I’ve finished the rough outline for this volume and it’s too bad work has given me not time lately so I can write as much as I want.
Anyways enjoy. I’ll be releasing the others in a bit.
Chapter 54: Tournament Begins
[New Message From Aegris Gidder]
Standing in front of a mirror inside of a weapons store Aegris stood brandishing his new slightly larger buckler made up some kind of yellow gem. His sword looked to made of the same gem and a bit thicker than his last sword. The most notable was one side of the blade had a jagged, but not serrated, shape making it look like a bolt of lightning had been frozen in place onto one side of the sword.
Aegis was with him too but standing behind oblivious to her brother taking a picture looking at an item on a shelf. On her hand, I saw the gleam of two yellow rings which I assume are the same weapons as her brother’s.
“Jealous? We got them yesterday.” Said the overlaid text on the photo.
So they did end up getting new weapons.
The gains from the bear where not small especially only split four ways and if the original quest was their expenses for the time during the tournament then the bear spoils along with the other hyres were slew were a bonus they could freely spend. I was happy they ended up taking my advice.
I smiled a bit unsure how to respond but still sent a short reply. After pressing send I looked out of the moving train headed towards the Grand Colosseum. It was finally the day of the tournament.
The city had swollen with people the streets and trains packed.
The first match of the day hadn’t started yet, there was more than an hour to go, but I could already hear the excitement from the coliseum.
Contrasting the waves of noise outside, inside the train the mood was somber. We had space as these are designated trains but everyone here was quiet because they were mentally preparing themselves for the fight that could dictate their future. My mood was no different, although I knew my strength was sufficient, I couldn’t help but feel anxious about being rejected.
I would still have to do my best to showcase what I can do without revealing too much.
[Welcome to Obsense City Grand Colosseum. Passengers, please check for your bags before your departure. Have a great day!]
Once the train stopped everyone shuffled off heading towards the entrance dedicated to participants in the tournament. It was a large gate labeled clearly with a green beam scanning everyone passing through it.
“Hey look more are coming!” A man noticed us standing at a different gate.
With the alert, more turned around.
“Who’s that guy in the black jacket he looks interesting what’s his name? Anyone know it?”
“Forget that guy the one with blue hair looks strong who is that?”
“That’s Star King!” Multiple voices replied in unison.
The eyes of those waiting by the general admissions entrance fell on us. I looked over my shoulder to the man behind me as a couple of people seemed to be calling towards him. His hair was deep blue and in it laid glowing specs of light making me feel as if I was staring at stars through an ocean.
He smiled at the few that recognized him and then continued along with us, a small loose group that got off the train. This wasn’t like the attention the legendaries got when I first arrived as I head towards Laurent’s orientation. Here it was more a haphazard acknowledgment.
However, if he made a name for himself here I can see it being a possibility. Like everyone here how bright we shined would be based on our capabilities.
Most of us silent continued on our way. As I neared the gate a frown almost escaped onto my face as I looked at the woman who was walking towards us.
“Hi! Welcome to this year’s Talent Tournaments. I’ll be leading you today into the waiting area. Please have your badges ready to be scanned and follow me.”
While sounding genuinely pleasant I couldn’t help but feel a general sense of dislike towards her. Just off her appearance I knew whatever she did would somehow irk me, it was unfair to at the moment I couldn’t help feeling it. It was all because her armor was a familiar silver armor, same with the badge that clasped her cape. It was a look of one Laurent City’s people.
I wasn’t too surprised, but I did think the Obsense City as the host would be taking care of the event’s manpower.
It seems I was wrong. Laurent and his academy are more careful than I had thought in supervising this event.
Still, it wasn’t out of my expectations and wouldn’t affect anything as I wasn’t planning on bribing or cheating in any way.
After a scan of our badges from the green light that we passed under the Laurent guardsman led us into a long hallway. No one talked while we briskly made way but I did feel everyone here was sizing each other up taking short glances at each other — some better at it hiding it than others.
After being led for a few minutes we reached a large ballroom.
Through the grand doors, we met enough sets of tables, sofas, and chairs to seat thousands making it look like a massive furniture showroom lit by many high floating geometric chandeliers.
The thousands here was interesting, I thought they would break us up into smaller rooms, but what really caught my eye was the lofted boxed area at the back with darkened windows. There weren’t any steps to go up either from inside the ballroom and with my eyesight I could only make indistinct figures of people standing looking over us, it was tinted and held some kind of enchantment.
After making a loop around the outer edge of the ballroom following the guard, no, tournament official we finally stopped under that lofted area as here was where the catered foods in a buffet style were.
The Laurent official turned around.
“When your match is coming up you will receive a message to go to a private locker room to prepare. Each locker room leads to the main battle area of the Grand Colosseum, once inside the locker room someone like me will guide you out to your match location.”
No one said anything as we all stared.
“If you do have some later feel free to ask me or anyone else in a with a badge.” She pointed at the badge holding her cape.
“That is all! Enjoy the food while you wait and good luck!” With a gentle smile, she walked away in a straight path out of the ballroom to go bring in more participants.
When we were led around a couple of curious eyes fell on me and the others who arrived but I sensed most fell on the man behind named “Star King.” He stood out even if they didn’t know his name. He had an undeniable aura.
The mood was much better than the train, plenty of chatter and clinking plates dissipating the stuffiness from earlier. Everyone stood in small groups and in my guess made up of those that recently performed quests together.
I walked over to the catering and made myself a plate while looking at the walls of the ballroom taking a look at all the people from Laurent standing in watch.
Oh? Not all the guardsmen are too keen about the scale of this talent tournament.
If it had been me before Laurent’s flat out slaying and mugging of me I would have brushed it off as my overthinking.
I noted that it wasn’t just a few guards that looked to be hiding feelings of disdain. It was closer to two-thirds. Although I felt the woman who brought us here was sincere with her attitude she was in the minority.
“Nous we’re over here.” A soft voice called out to me as I was just about to leave the area under the loft to find seating.
My eyes fell onto a pair of red-headed siblings sitting at a large white table sharing a plate of fruit. I made my way through the crowd to them.
“I noticed you looking around, but something tells me you weren’t just looking for a place to sit?”
Frightening how quickly she grasped what I was doing it really was only a short gloss over that I took. I was certain it appeared like I was just looking for a place to sit.
Not denying I answered.
“It’s no unexpected for them to feel this way, after all this year close to half of the new cadets will be from here,” I replied in a helpless tone.
“Oh? Are you familiar with people of Laurent, have you been?” Aegis had a mischievous grin knowing she had been right on point.
I shook my head.
“How could I get into the city? Besides everyone knows how they view non-residents, even people from the other major cities experience this from Laurent’s residents.”
“Ahh, that’s true how silly of me to forget.”
Truly frightening how badly I want to roll my eyes.
“So, when do you two have your matches?” I looked at the two after sitting down.
“I’m the fourth match in my bracket so I have a bit of time before I go up.”
The coliseum battleground was large and because everyone was relatively weak cutting it into 100 sections to have 100 matches at a time from the 100 brackets in the early stages was fine. There were exactly 10,000 participants that they had to filter through.
“I’m the eighth and Aegris is the second. He should be getting the message soon. I saw people already leave for the first match.”
Star King had immediately left for an exit after the short tour was over. He had probably received notice.
“It came.” Aegris looked up from his phone.
He had been sitting quietly since I arrived and figured his pensive look was due to that. After he double-checked his weapons and handed their storage ring to Aegis he walked towards the same exit Star King had taken.
“Good luck out there Aegris.”
“I won’t need something so useless just to show just how strong I, Aegris Gidder, am.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the seriousness of his tone as he walked off.
Aegis only lightly smiled as she watched her brother off.
“He’s just nervous.”
“Not in the least,” Aegris replied from a ways off surprisingly still within earshot.
With those final words, he left the large ballroom.
“Does that mean you’re aren’t Aegis? Not saying I’m not, I am, but it’s a normal reaction from the worry of failing here no? Everyone here shares the dream of making it to Laurent.”
Aegis raised her eyebrows taking a glance at me.
“I didn’t take the interesting guy who cares about appearances to admit that so readily. For us being accepted into Laurent isn’t a big deal as it is for others here. Do you happen to place large importance into getting in?”
Aegis looked over again but got no reaction from me so she continued.
“As for my brother, I’m not worried. He was always one to be nervous in preparation before a battle never during. As for myself, I’ll agree my words might have been misleading, I can’t say that I’m not nervous. Just a small worry that we’re not as great as we think ourselves to be.” Aegis sighed as she turned back and took a long look at the door her brother went through.
“It’s not that I’m not confident in our abilities Nous, it is as you said it’s the anticipation of the unknown chance of failure. Nothing is certain after all.”
Nothing was certain indeed. This is why even I with my strength unmatched against anyone here I was nervous.
“You can choose to ignore my opinion since we’ve only known each other for so little, but I’m not trying to flatter you two when I say I think you two are a cut above.”
Aegis’ faced me with a solemn expression for what felt like a long moment then nodded and returned a small smile, a genuine one. At least genuine enough that I thought it so.
“The battles are officially starting, let us watch a match and discuss.” Aegis pulled out her phone summoning a projection of the coliseum and began cycling through the 100 battlegrounds.
The first rounds of participants had entered the field. Aegis continued to flip through so far uninterested.
“Wait, go back to that one.”
“Hmm?” She flicked her finger back.
“This one? With the blue-haired guy?”
I pinched my fingers onto the projection zooming in.
“Yeah, this guy do you know him Aegis?”
“I remember him entering with you, but I do not know him. Is he a friend of yours?”
“No, its nothing like that. I don’t know him either but apparently, he has some fame, he might be strong. I heard people cheering for him calling him Star King.”
“Star King?” Aegis looked at the battleground curiously.
“Hmm, another mark? Are you always on the lookout for interesting people Nous?”
“No nothing like that, I just learned about him by chance.”
“By chance… and it was the same for us meeting you at the gate. I’ll be taking this compliment over your simple words earlier. That you sought after my brother and I and not that man.”
I laughed dryly at her words.
“You place that much weight on my opinion of you two?” I said returning the mischievous face she wore earlier.
“We’ve seen each other’s capabilities there is no need to hide that we think well of each other Nous. My brother thinks the same of you too.”
So you’re just as good at deflecting, huh.
Not that I minded. Alice had normalized this behavior — while warped it had its uses. And she wasn’t wrong there were many opportunities to talk to him being led here, but I just didn’t have the gut feeling advising me to connect with him.
“Let’s see how Star King fights Aegis, we might have to fight him at some point.”
Each entire bracket was a secret to prevent any serious meddling and who would accuse Laurent City of match-fixing. Their word was gold to many like it had been for me.
“Mmm, let’s see if you can go four for four Nous.”
“Are you saying Alexander is the third?”
“Who else could it be? Is there another?”
Eugene’s face flashed in my mind driven to the thought. I said nothing and sighed as I turned back to watch the match.
At the sound of a horn Star King summoned two orbs of light circling them around him then began his attack.
“He’s a mage, how rare.” Aegis eyebrows narrowed as she studied him more seriously.
I was surprised, I thought he would be special but didn’t expect him to be a mage.
Each light shot out a pulse of a blueish white beam. His opponent jumped then dashed turning into a pink mist moving to the left dodging out of the way.
“Decent power just from two rays of light,” Aegis noted.
They looked to be carrying serious weight as each left a fist-sized hole on the ground.
Dashing left and right his opponent tried to close the distance but the two beams were becoming increasingly accurate forcing him to use his pink mist more often in his attempts to close the distance. However, it looked taxing as his face continued to pale after a dozen or so uses of the pink mist even struggling to lift up his giant demonic-looking armored claw on his left hand.
So this is a mage… truthfully I’ve never seen a full mage at my age and stage fight in person.
The rays continued to shoot down all the while Star King stayed still standing at his starting spot. It was obvious he wasn’t using even a tenth of his ability but to be fair his opponent was quite slow, I was certain Aegis and Aegris would have won in no time against him easily too.
“GUH!” A mouthful of blood shot out from the mist then Star King’s opponent tumbled on the floor from the pink mist.
A ray had hit his right arm leaving nothing but a mangled mess of grey skin and nub of bone. Around the wound, it looked like it was burnt into grey ash but I sensed something different.
With the sub-10-minute battle Star King won as his opponent conceded holding his arm. Once he conceded he was quickly healed by a person in Laurent City’s armor.
“Did you see that Nous? The discoloration of his arm?”
“Petrifaction, very little I wonder if he was holding it back.”
“He could be…”
Once the match had ended the ground instantly repaired itself so going back to study the ground was impossible, let alone getting the approval to interrupt the match schedules.
We turned our attention back to Star King’s opponent to see if there was anything more. While his wound was healed he still looked pained with a dark expression. It held a face of disbelief and frustration, thinking all his work and training amounted only to this loss. He had been slapped by reality.
I could scoff and disparage his abilities by thinking “he should have worked harder” or “he was too lazy” but that was cruel. I don’t know if those statements were true or not and it would only serve to help me avoid feeling any sympathy. In this world and on Earth talents and opportunities all differ which leads to different results. He had lost his first match and it would be up to him to see if he could shake off this loss.
It was unfortunate to look at but I had no connection to him so it wasn’t hard for me to move on.
While Star King’s battle was one-sided it didn’t garner much attention as the 99 other battlegrounds where actively being used. This fight wasn’t very flashy either and the crowd was focused on others. However, after seeing this Aegis and I looked at each other knowing in time he would be noticed.
“This Star King… you have an eye Nous he wasn’t trying at all and won. Like you said I’m positive he is holding back considerably.”
“I didn’t know he would be this strong either, there is no doubt he was holding back, but by how much?”
It wasn’t a question either of us could answer, only think about.
The fact that he knows to hold back tells me he isn’t so simple. He wants to keep his future opponents in the dark meaning his battle sense isn’t bad at all.
Aegis continued to frown as she rewatched the replay of his match. Instead of focusing on the two she was now only focusing on studying Star King.
“Mmm, he will be a difficult opponent. Mages are rare at our stage many won’t know how to fight him. More so when he knows to deliberately hide his strength. He must have combat experience and isn’t just sheltered mage.”
“What are you two talking about?” A slightly rougher and deeper voice but similar to Aegis’ appeared behind me.
I was surprised to hear him. I quickly turned to see him standing behind me looking at the replay.
“You’re already back? We didn’t get to see your match…”
Aegris shook his head.
“Don’t, it was a waste of time Lumi. I was nervous for nothing, the pathetic girl couldn’t even last a single exchange before her head was almost taken had I not stopped myself.”
Nervous for nothing?
So he was nervous, I grinned.
“What’s with that gross smile?”
“Nothing, we were just watching the match of a mage. I feel he’s pretty strong.”
“Oh?” Aegris grew interested.
“Let me see.” He sat down and began to watch.
His face didn’t change as the one-sided match played out.
“That’s it? This is what has you two worried? No different than facing a bowman. This guy, if that’s all he can do then he’s nothing much.”
“Aegris don’t underestimate him.” Aegis turned to her brother.
“I’m confident in your ability brother but I do not want you to be careless.”
“Hmph.” Aegris puffed as he rewatched it.
“You should listen to the girl she knows what strength is. Otherwise don’t be surprised when you find yourself laying on the ground like the dying dog that I turned that guy into.”
A blue-haired man suddenly by our table across from us speaking forcefully and with a trace of anger.
Aegris returned a ferocious glare at the visitor.
“Star King you’ve mistaken my simple words of advice as praise. I’m afraid you think too highly of yourself if that meager ability was enough to truly impress outside the fact of its rarity.” Aegis looked at Star King with a playful smile.
The participants that had been passing by or sitting around us became quiet hearing Aegis cold voice behind the gentle playful appearance.
“Spouts big words but when confronted he has another speak for him! Haha, beg for mercy now and I might think about sparing you if you happen to be in my bracket as I doubt you’ll make it to the finals.”
Sparing? He wants to kill Aegris over being disparaged?
Killing each other wasn’t prohibited or punished due to the nature of fighting making death a possibility during the matches. It seldom ever happens because of onsite healers and is rare to be fully intentional. Most don’t come to kill others they come to show their strength in the killing.
But it does happen and it can be personal.
“Since you’ve said this much. Only blame yourself when I bring your life spilling from out your throat if you have the capabilities to face me.” Aegris had a similarly cold tone his sister had.
“Whose life will be spilling where?” Star King’s hair began to shine brighter.
Seeing Star King turning dangerous Aegris shot up from his seat tossing his chair and bringing out his lighting sword and buckler in response.
Oh, we’re making a scene?
I shot a glance immediately at Aegis and just as I had thought she was looking straight at me.
“Control yourself! Do you know where you are!? Are you a rapid animal with no self-control!” In a bid to make a bigger scene I stood up yelling at Star King.
Aegis stood up too throwing the table off to the side.
“Dare move an inch and you’ll be the only one to see something spilling today.” Aegis’ ice-cold voice reverberated so all could hear.
“THERE WILL BE NO FIGHTING OUTSIDE OF THE BATTLEGROUNDS!” A booming voice completely shook the entire ballroom.
A man in Laurent city gear appeared between us.
“This is your first and only warning to the four of you. Another outburst and you will be disqualified. So go ahead decide now if fighting each other here is worth it.”
The four of us glared at each other looking as if we were wishing we could have at least exchanged one blow. Star King seriously glared at each one of us as if etching our faces into his mind then snorted before he turned around and left.
I scanned over the sea of participants looking over then looked at the private lofted area above. I could make out that the entire darkened window was lined up with people looking down to see the commotion.
“Who are they?”
“Do you know what happened between them?”
“What’s their names?”
The crowd’s chatter became louder once Star King and the guard had left.
Not a bad way to get noticed early on at all!
It was now obvious that the area was for Laurent Academy officials and special guests to study us. It was the only explanation for that area to be there as the guards were down here.
The crowd still looked at us causing Aegris to show displeasure being gawked at.
“What are you looking at!” Aegris roared causing the crowd to look down and disperse.
Their eyes widened and they quickly left but some looked displeased at his attitude.
Although his roar had momentarily silenced the crowd the talk quickly resumed.
“Laurent’s people aren’t renowned for nothing. I didn’t even feel that guard approach!” Words of praise began to refill the silence before turning back into chatter.
Somehow knowing the situation was over the chairs and tables flew up, repaired themselves, and landed on their original positions. With our seats back the three of us sat back down.
“Not a bad job Aegris. With this, I would say it’s certain you two will be in Laurent with me.”
Aegris tilted his head at my comment “of course its certain who wouldn’t want me?”
“Aegris, it’s not that simple. Nous is pointing out the fame aspect that you’ve collected today.” Aegis’ voice was normal again no longer containing a trace of the chilly fire.
I was certain she wasn’t truly angered or bothered earlier switching faces for someone like her was something both practiced and natural.
Aegris donned another puzzled look.
“Fame? From this?”
“Everyone was looking over here…This outburst made your face known. Once more wins start piling up you’ll be famous. Look it’s already spreading online.”
I showed him someone’s recording from the crowd barely showing it was uploaded three minutes ago. Some comments were even praising his earlier quick match and linking to the official replay. Star King was being praised beating out Aegris since his match was longer and more importantly the fact that he was a mage.
Aegis and I weren’t the main focus but some people were asking about us too. Aegris looked at my screen as new comments continually appeared and smiled.
“Not bad at all.”
“It’s not bad in any way, it’s good,” I replied.
“To be clear it’s not the fame that’s important it’s the extra attention from the officials we’ll be getting is what actually matt—.”
A message appeared.
[Please enter locker room E43 your match will begin soon.]
“Is something the matter Nous?” Aegis asked.
“We’ll talk later. My match is coming up, I’ll see you two in a bit.” I got up from my seat to leave.
Even this caused eyes to look over. Seeing me leave Aegris turned to me.
“Lumi the ground is a bit dusty so account for that.”
“I’ll make sure to do that.” I couldn’t help but smile at the advice. It was better than my simple words this I felt was very Aegris like.
Aegis spoke after “why do I feel you’ll be treating us to a grand showing?”
I simply shook my head not answering before I left.
It was time for me to make my move. A performance that would hammer my position as the undisputed number one in my bracket on my first match. Making sure I was dazzling would be the best way to secure my admission.