With the tournament in full swing, the competitors were quickly whittled down through 1-on-1 matches. Eryn herself was already on her third opponent, having quickly downed the first two challengers with only a single blow. Her current opponent was a grizzly looking man with claw-like weapons. He was apparently a visiting adventurer who just happened to be in town for the event. Taking several swipes at Eryn’s head, she ducked each one and countered with a sword strike to the knee.
The man pivoted his body and kicked the sword away, before swiping downwards to chase after his petite prey.
Having been shifted off balance from the kick, Eryn spun with the sword’s reflected momentum while dashing past the man, narrowly avoiding the next swipe. Adding arm strength to momentum, Eryn swung the sword into the man’s back as she flew by.
The blow cracked the man’s armor and sent him several steps forward. A trickle of blood started dripping down the back of his legs.
Not content with the exchange, the man grimaced and turned around to meet his enemy, but Eryn had already appeared in front of him.
With a hefty kick to the stomach, the man buckled over and collapsed to the ground. The match was over.
Healers raced up to the stage to cast recovery spells, and soldiers lifted him onto a stretcher, taking him off the stage. Thankfully, a strong enough recovery spell could reverse nearly any kind of damage, but that didn’t mean that people couldn’t die from these battles. The healers and judges acted quickly to call a match and recover those injured.
Eryn sheathed her sword and jumped off the stage. Walking back over to the waiting area, she sat down to spectate the next match.
By this time, the playing field had been reduced to less than thirty people. I had already seen quite a few matches. Whenever I saw a knife wielder take the stage, I perked up in anticipation only to become depressed as minutes later he or she would be taken down. So far, nothing had clicked in terms of new strategies.
Finally, it was the old man’s turn again. He was up against a heavily armed spear wielder, looking just past the prime of his life.
“Oh, that’s Sir Gadwin, Captain of the troops along the northern border.” Cornelius took interest in battles of notable people.
The Captain had normally been stationed to guard against a neighboring country who had conflicts with Sistina in the past but was peaceful as of recent times. It appears that his skill was forged by skirmishes that occurred during that turmoil.
As Pietro and Gadwin dance between blows, we could see that their exchanges greatly riled up the crowd. Blades clashed on occasion, drawing brief sparks before each person moved out of the way for follow-up attacks. Neither side dealt a decisive blow as attacks glided off weapons or met with empty air. After several minutes of fanciful display of martial art, Pietro jumped back a far distance and rubbed his back. With a bow, he turned around and hopped off the stage, thereby disqualifying him.
The audience groaned in disappointment that the wonderful match so far had ended without any climax. Gadwin himself looked relieved though, as signs of his weariness were apparent to the keen of eye. His spear suddenly felt heavy as he strode back to the waiting area.
Then came the last match of the round. Saki the Destroyer was facing off against a young blond swordsman who drew the admiration of the female crowd. Young girls cheered as he leapt gracefully onto the stage.
Another popular hot guy…As if the one next to me wasn’t already enough.
Feeling quite sure of himself, he casually walked up to Saki.
“It goes against my principles to injure one as lovely as yourself, even if you are a champion.”
The man was a flirt too. As he continued to use pick up lines, Saki looked progressively more annoyed. Literally shooing him to the other corner, the judge signaled for the match to start.
The man quickly dashed and circled around Saki, keeping out of her range. Every so often, he would dive in and deliver a quick strike to her body. Saki swung her mallet in response, but the man had long moved out of the way.
After several exchanges, cracks were starting to form in Saki’s armor. The man stopped to blow her a kiss. Seemingly ignoring him, Saki prepared for the next exchange. The man once again continued his rhythm of striking and dodging, seeing effectiveness in his technique. The champion wasn’t fast enough to touch him.
Eventually, the armor gave out as one strike shattered the chest piece, the broken bits crumbling to the ground. The man once again paused a safe distance away. A single cut appeared along Saki’s bare side, blood slowly trickling down.
“I have won this round! Your armor is destroyed, and it is well known that your defensive abilities are on par with an ordinary townsman.” The blond man raised his sword in celebration.
Saki grabbed her chest armor and ripped off the remaining section. Her upper body was now covered only with a simple bra. Placing her hand over her bare collarbone, she yelled loudly.
“If that’s what you think, then come at me!”
Without a shred of doubt, the man dashed forward with his sword raised.
Saki raised her mallet with one arm and swung it downwards, much sooner than before.
“Ha! Don’t think that you can catch me by merely swinging earlier!” The man swiftly dodged to the side.
However, the swing did not stop, colliding into the ground with full force. As a large dent formed from the impact, a shockwave spread outwards, shaking the entire coliseum like an earthquake.
Being caught in the middle of dodging, the blond man lost his footing and tripped. Seeing her chance, Saki swung the mallet horizontally, catching the man in the rear. The force of the blow was enough to send him flying into the crowd, where he crashed face-first into an earth wall that was hastily cast by a nearby magic knight.
‘Saki the Destroyer wins with a home run!’ I felt a bit sorry for the guy, but he had it coming. I was thankful however that I learned a few things from that fight.
I had wondered why he had chosen to destroy his opponent’s armor rather than go after the exposed areas of her body. Realizing that my previous world likely behaved differently, Cornelius informed me that defense bonuses applied to the entire person’s body regardless of the equipment’s form or shape. That meant attacks couldn’t penetrate regardless of where you aimed so long as the person and equipment’s total defense was high enough. However, the equipment itself had different durability based on its material properties. When facing off against an opponent with high defense, breaking their armor to negate its stat bonus was indeed the correct approach. That was evident when Saki only started bleeding after her armor had been sufficiently broken.
As I took in this information, a few video game quirks that I saw before finally seemed to make sense. I turned my palm upwards and smacked it with my fist as I thought, ‘The existence of bikini armor is totally legit here!’
Now, only 16 competitors remained. I looked around for Pietro, but he had disappeared at some point after his last match. I guess I’ll have to corner him next time about the mask.
I turned back to the waiting area, where Eryn had let out a cry of surprise. The reason being that her next opponent had been announced, which was Saki the Destroyer. That was bad luck that she got her this early, but she would’ve had to face her eventually. Her previous opponents had been easy, so at least she would be at full strength.
Saki was already waiting on the stage, with a new set of armor to replace the damaged one from before. As the two squared off, Eryn looked a bit nervous.
“If you’re not coming, then I shall start!” Saki charged forward with her mallet raised.
Pounding the ground, a tremor was created around the arena once again. Having already revealed this attack, she had no reason to hide it any longer. Eryn nimbly dodged away while focusing on her footing. Being caught off guard would be fatal.
Like the guy before, Eryn took on a similar strategy. Parts of Saki’s armor gradually got dented, but cracks had not formed yet. Despite going through the same number of exchanges, her attacks weren’t as effective as the previous competitor. Focusing a status check on the blond guy in the crowd, it showed that his level was a bit higher. His equipment was also fancier looking. Even the extra attack boost gained from being tied to an Electi wasn’t enough to compensate. She was also moving slower, as one of Saki’s attacks finally clipped the side of Eryn’s hip.
Stepping a bit farther back than before, Eryn grimaced as she felt her hip. Even the slight contact of the mallet had jostled her hipbone and shot a sharp pain down her leg. She wouldn’t be able to keep up the same speed as before.
Eyeing her chance, Saki leapt forward and struck. Not able to get away in time, Eryn tried to parry the blow, only to have her sword knocked out of her hand as she was launched several feet away but landed upright. Now, her sword lay behind her opponent.
“Give it up. You fought well. There’s no point continuing.” Saki lowered her weapon.
“Not yet. I can still go on.” Eryn braced herself. Normally, she never relied on this skill due to its aftereffect. However, this was a stage set up to demonstrate yourself to the kingdom. And she had something to prove. She would suck it up and deal with the consequences later. With a deep breath, she muttered to herself.
“Flash of Strength”
A glow enveloped Eryn briefly as she got up. Her body felt light again. Seeing Eryn revitalized, her opponent didn’t hesitate to renew the attack. Eryn kicked off the ground and leapt over Saki’s swing as the mallet smashed into the ground where she had just been standing. Eryn’s speed had nearly doubled.
Landing next to her sword, Eryn picked it up before quickly closing in on her opponent. Sword met with a plated forearm as Saki guarded the blow. Unlike before, the armor caved in and showed signs of destruction. Blood started dripping to the ground. Even with Saki’s defense boosted by armor, the skill had also increased Eryn’s attack enough to overcome it.
“Guess I don’t have the time to be playing around.” Saki’s eyes narrowed as she took a good look at Eryn. She swung back to clear some distance between them. Holding the mallet with both hands now, the aura around her changed.
Eryn continued her assault, using her enhanced speed to her advantage. However, her foe remained calm. Each time Eryn tried to swing, a mallet preemptively cut the space between them. The swing was not so much fast but deadly accurate as to where she would’ve ended up if she had pressed on, as if her movements had been predicted. One false step would end the match or maybe even worse.
Circling around Saki, Eryn tried to aim for her back. Yet, Saki simply turned around, keeping her mallet ready in front of her. Her guard was tightly managed, a testament to one who had trained hard to make up for her weakness.
Nothing she tried could get her past Saki’s defenses, as her predictive guard stayed one step ahead of Eryn’s movements. Her opponent had reacted wisely by tightening her defense and waiting out the duration of Eryn’s buff.
Eryn knew her time was almost up. If she couldn’t break through soon, there would be no more options. This would be her last shot to make an impact.
Eryn dashed forward with all her might. Swinging her sword faster than the eye could see, it appeared that she would risk it all in a single strike. Despite not being able to physically see the sword, Saki swung her mallet once again like before, having guessed its trajectory. Mallet met sword with a clang, but the force of Saki’s swing was still several times greater. The sword peeled out of Eryn’s hands and spun wildly out of the arena. Saki started to smile.
‘It’s over,’ she thought. Yet, the next moment caught her by surprise.
Eryn’s body was spinning midair, launched by Saki’s attack. However, this had been purposeful. Using the overwhelming force to her advantage, Eryn launched herself above Saki and drew her dagger while upside down. Staring into the eyes of her foe, Eryn aimed her dagger at Saki’s neck.
Having celebrated in haste, Saki couldn’t evade properly. The best she could do was bend back and tilt her head, the dagger narrowly grazing the side of her cheek. Having avoided the worst outcome, Saki dropped her mallet and swung her right fist into the airborne Eryn, batting her away. Eryn’s body flew to the edge of the stage and collided with the ground. Seemingly knocked unconscious, Eryn rolled off the stage and hit the dirt. The match was over. Healers rushed over to help.
Saki touched her face and felt warm liquid smeared on her hand. While it appeared to be a one-sided match in her favor, that last attack had shocked her. If that fatal blow had connected, she would’ve needed immediate medical attention. The crowd didn’t know how close she had been to losing the match. As a healer approached to tend to her, she took one last look at her fallen foe.
“Otsukaresama deshita,” Saki said softly in her native language, before walking away.
Though Eryn’s injuries were quickly healed, her stamina had been depleted from using that skill. She didn’t wake up until the rest of the tournament had been completed. Her opponent, Saki the Destroyer, had gone on to become the victor for the second time in a row. Other than Gadwin, no other challengers posed much of a threat. While the remaining competitors were certainly no pushovers, Saki behaved differently after Eryn’s match, taking great care to dispatch each of her opponents with the best of her abilities. She took no chances after her close call. Holding nothing back, this straightforward display of strength unnerved many who faced her, resulting in poorer than normal performances on their part. Even Gadwin, who was able to parry her attacks and dealt quite a bit of damage, ultimately fell due to Saki’s daunting focus. One moment of doubt on his part was all Saki needed to finally connect a single attack, sending Gadwin out of the arena for a ring out. Gadwin immediately got up and banged his head on his spear before taking his leave, mumbling the words ‘next time’ to himself.
During the matches, Cornelius had laid Eryn down, her head resting on his lap. As he petted the sleeping girl’s hair, I couldn’t help but feel a bit envious. Eventually, Eryn woke up with a jerk and tried to get up, only to crumple to the ground. Looking around, she realized that the events had already concluded.
The rebound from her skill had caused her entire body to cramp up in pain. Typically, a few days of rest would be needed to completely recover from an overclocked body. This skill was not one you could use on a whim.
As I took her home in the cart, Eryn laid in the back, sprawled out and trying not to move. I heard a groan every so often whenever the cart hit a bit of rocky surface.
Seeing her in this sad state, it reminded me a bit of my mom’s patients back home.
Contemplating on what to do next, I offered the only suggestion that I could think of at that time.
“Hey, how about I give you a massage?”