A shrunken, lanky man in a strange robe stepped onto the stage, where a young knight stood with crimson hair flowing upon his armor. Sword brandished, the magic knight known as Trypt preemptively sent flames coursing down the length of his blade. A confident sneer was upon his face as he felt lucky to have been paired off against a seemingly easy opponent.
Certainly, the physique of Jayce didn’t seem to be that of an experienced fighter. In fact, he gave off the feeling that he had spent a bit too long in the corner of some musky library, exercising his mental capabilities. For those who were actually familiar with him, they knew that, in fact, this was what he did with his day-to-day life.
“I’m going to roast ya!” howled Trypt, a bright-eyed, straightforward swordsman who excelled in Fire magic. Occasionally, commoners found ways to unlock their potential without the heavy expenses that only nobility could bank on. Obviously, it was a source of pride for the few that it happened to.
Combining that into swordplay to train as a magic knight was the easiest way to gain a steady income, with the possibility of a knight title or more from exemplary performance.
And doing well in a tournament where the entire kingdom was watching would surely give him the needed boost.
Despite his mild taunts, the robed man, Jayce, hardly registered a response. He had been lost in his own thoughts, seeming to ignore the world around him. The only sign that he was alive came from the trembling lips as he muttered phrases to himself. If the long fabric hadn’t been hiding his lower half, legs fiercely trembling would have been apparent.
‘Ah, scared to death, isn’t he? Of course, anyone would be, having to face a trained knight of Sistina. I should go easy on him. Maybe cut the magic power but make the flames flashier.’ Trypt was not a mean person at heart, so he decided to settle with creating a nice show for the audience.
When the signal struck, Trypt dashed forward to get within range. Meanwhile, the flames upon his sword extended and branched out, until they looked like a fountain of fire spraying from the hilt of his weapon. By reducing the magic concentration, he was able to enlarge the effect to a dazzling degree, something that catered to the approval of the audience.
“Burning! Sword of Infer- GUH!”
Suddenly, the flames cut off, and the sword dropped straight to the ground like it weighed a thousand pounds. Trypt fell to his hands and knees feeling much too heavy to hold himself up.
“What?! What is happening to me?! I can’t move! All my power is…!”
The audience watched in awe at the knight suddenly dropping to a crawl. Even his head slowly drooped downwards until his forehead touched the ground.
In contrast, Jayce had not moved a single step, continuing to mutter to himself. Most were confused as to what was going on until Duke Reichenstein stood up and addressed the crowd.
The muttering that Jayce had been doing all this time had been a repetition of spell words to cast a seemingly high-tier magic that weighed his opponent down. Though he was indeed nervous about the match, he found solace in repeating the words that were engraved in his heart, putting full faith into them. After all, this was all he had.
Jayce, too, was a commoner. His family had little money to send him to magic school, and his thin frame was utterly unsuitable for combat. In the end, he was stuck in the corner of some bookstore, helping the owner for a livable wage.
However, that didn’t mean that he gave up. In the corner of his quiet refuge, there were expensive grimoires detailing the theories of magic. While he couldn’t hope to purchase them, borrowing them during his breaks was the next best thing.
He poured his efforts into understanding the principles, testing the mechanisms for each element to figure out what he was attuned to. But sadly, he could neither produce a healthy flame, nor could he generate the liquid of life in any shape. Hardly a breeze kicked up when he focused, and the earth laughably hiccupped at his efforts.
However, he had found something in the end. An element that brought him to this very point. With its powers, he was able to make a well-trained magic knight fall to his knees. It was as if the knight was bowing to him in fealty. For a man long ignored, there was no better feeling.
“Hey wait, isn’t it a bit odd that we haven’t heard of this guy? Isn’t Gravity Magic pretty dang difficult for a novice to perform?” Chancellor Evers commented to the Duke, the former watching intently at the match. Of course, he would be interested. There was a chance that he would be facing off against this magic in the finals.
“Certainly, the mechanisms for employing Gravity-based magic are extremely complex without proper understanding. A commoner figuring out a principle that took me years to get right is certainly astonishing,” the Queen added.
Jayce smiled. If it even piqued the interest of the genius inventor who became Queen, then that was all the more to be happy about. Just then, he saw something land with a clang ten feet away from him. A single knife, one used commonly in the kitchen, landed flatly on the ground without bouncing in the slightest.
“As I suspected, not Gravity magic. The knife didn’t even wobble upon landing.”
Jayce looked up towards the Chancellor, who had added his take of the situation. His arm was extended forward, signifying that he had thrown the knife. Next, he reached into a portal and pulled out something before throwing it.
A small apple sailed through the air and into the range of Jayce’s spell. However, this apple did not fall straight down as if being pulled by the indiscriminate force of gravity. It freely bounced and rolled upon the arena’s surface undisturbed.
The Queen and the Duke looked on, astonished by this. ‘If it wasn’t Gravity Magic, then what else could it be?’ they turned to ask the Chancellor with only their perplexed expressions.
“Electromagnetism. The attraction of objects under an induced magnetic field.”
While Queen Katalina had not heard of the word ‘magnetism’, she had experienced the knowhow of electricity. After all, she had been responsible for the creation of magic lamps running on a network of supplied mana. This invention would not have been possible without the explanation of electrical current as described in other worlds.
Jayce grinded his teeth at being discovered so easily. He had, in fact, awoken to the affinity of electricity, which was not a heavily studied branch of magic. What little was known had come from it naturally occurring as lightning in nature and the few creatures that could employ its use in limited ways.
But that changed as the concept of electricity started emerging as a portable source for illumination. A phenomenon that was once ignored as an aftereffect of other magic was slowly being dissected.
The breakthrough came when Jayce was playing around with some objects, zapping them for fun. He noticed that certain metals pushed and pulled each other with an invisible force. Unknowingly, he had stumbled upon polarization by pure accident. And after developing his magic for many months through trial-and-error, he came up with the spell ‘Electric Field’. Though it was far easier conceptually than the difficult magic of Gravity, he could still disable those who wore metal-based equipment to a similar effect.
For the moment, it didn’t matter that his skill had been revealed to the world. He watched as the man named Trypt finally fell to the ground, too exhausted to keep himself up. With him unable to continue, the match went to Jayce. He had succeeded in his goal of attracting the top of the kingdom. A feeling of exhilaration swept through him at the recognition, something many commoners would beg for.
With the crowd still stunned by the previous match, another bombshell was about to be dropped.
“Wait, you both forfeit?!” Queen Katalina asked, a bit shocked.
The two competitors in front of her, Horwitz and Goldar, both bowed their heads in apology.
“Your reason?” she continued.
“We are but simple foot soldiers, confident in our arms. But regardless of who wins this match, he will have to face off against ‘them’.” Horwitz pointed over to the two masked fighters. He had already encountered the frightening might of the two masked men during the preliminaries.
“Yah, we ain’t risking our necks against monsters like those two. It’s more than enough for us to stand on this stage. We both gots a girl waiting for us in the stands,” replied Goldar similarly, who had been convinced to withdraw after seeing what Horwitz had faced.
“I love you, honey bear!”
“I love you, snookums!”
Two girls in the crowd cried out their overwhelming support for them at that moment. The Queen eyed them with understanding and sighed.
“Fine. With the forfeit of Horwitz and Goldar, we will move on to the final match of the set…”
With that cue, the two masked fighters stepped up to the stage. After the flashy engagement from their qualifying round, the audience held their breath, wondering what else they would pull out.
With the crowd hushed, even the quiet conversation between the two rivals could be heard.
“Let’s settle this with one blow!” Juggler Mask announced.
“I concur. Our aged bodies can hardly last for much more.” Bringing his sword vertically before him, Butler Mask started focusing his mana.
Immediately, a maelstrom spiraled around them as the two fighters seemingly charged their ultimate attacks. Mana – visible to all and thick enough to move objects – kicked up a wind and started rocking the barrier that was all that stood between the audience and them.
“That’s… not a good sign. The shield integrity won’t last at this rate!” Queen Katalina nodded to her two trusted friends, Duke Reichenstein and Marchioness Faulkner. Creating several portals that connected her and either side of the arena below, a simple command was all the Duke needed to leap into the nearby one, ending up behind Butler Mask. The Duke started forming a giant ice wall to add on further layers of protection.
Similarly, Marchioness Faulkner appeared behind Juggler Mask, creating a wall of fire as an additional buffer on that side.
From within the arena, swirls of mana could be seen spiraling around the fist of one person and the sword of another. Only the two of them knew what drove them to such lengths in their rivalry.
Juggler Mask stared forward, his vision unwavering. The man in front of him had stolen a dear family member for decades. Returning with a swordsman after discovering that the demon was alive, they had implored Sanshiro’s leader to act. However, such a coordinated action by Sanshiro would lead to a war between countries, and her refusal to back down from further engagements resulted in her imprisonment. She only had to stand down in pursuing the demon and promise to never leave her home again for her to be released.
However, that man had swayed her into being defiant. In the end, the swordsman that accompanied her had smashed a number of their warriors, himself included, in order to reclaim her freedom.
Though he had his reasons, his brash actions had done a number on the country, including permanently crippling his Holiness, Seiya Mitsubishi. It had been a horrible smear on his family’s honor, one that created a grudge against them that lasted for decades. Only by the mercy of Lady Kaguya had it disappeared over time.
In contrast, Butler Mask found the rivalry to be the silliness of things. While he was, no doubt, headstrong in charging through Sanshiro’s forces to reclaim Narika, the man known as Pythagoras Tromaine did not know when to quit.
If someone went against him, he would deal with it using his sword. It had just so happened that the ruler of Sanshiro was someone he could not hold back against. If he hadn’t stopped him and his guardians, their combined might would have slain him. What good was honor if he couldn’t fight for what was important to him? What of his promises to his dearest?
Over silly rules and traditions, the two fighters had been swept up in the greatest of battles in the past. Even after decades, not even time seemed to weather away these feelings.
“THRUST THAT PIERCES THE HEAVENS!”
“EXPLODING CHASM HOWL OF BLIGHT!”
A thick spiral of mana launched from Juggler Mask’s hand, drilling through the air like the space itself was being destroyed. A fierce wind licked across the edges of the barrier.
At the other end of the arena, a sword was brought down, causing the arena’s paved surface to instantly crack and form a triangular chasm in front of Butler Mask. In the next moment, the earth swallowed into that chasm exploded upwards, showering the entire arena with debris. Somehow, the effects of both attacks were barely being restrained by the barrier, which alone had the strength to repel a small army.
The mana spiral plowed its way through the exploding earth and slammed into its target, while the shrapnel bursting from below bunched together and seemingly swarmed the other man like a neverending sandstorm.
Both attacks swallowed up each other’s opponent such that no one could see their fate. The magnitude of power being displayed was unlike anything experienced in the previous rounds. Because of that, the sound of cracking echoed throughout the coliseum. What Katalina feared was happening. At nearly the same time, both ends of the barriers shattered, allowing for the attacks within to escape from its confines.
Fortunately, two capable magicians were there to greet its rampage. The spiral crashed into a heavy wall, causing a deafening shatter of ice being chipped away. The clusters of swarming earth met with the extreme temperature of the fire wall, turning them into molten lava that splashed heavily onto the ground.
The spray of ice shrapnel and molten lava became fiercer, causing the coliseum’s onlookers to seek cover or cast mana shields of their own. Though most would admit their fear of the situation, the collision of explosive powers was undoubtedly mesmerizing to watch.
This continued on for nearly a minute before the flow of mana running rampant began to die down. At nearly the same time, the attacks extinguished, leaving behind two fighters, still standing, upon thin pillars. The ground around each of them had been blown away, forming a giant crater, save for what those two stood upon.
“Oi! You’re kidding, right?!”
“How are they still unharmed?!”
Muffled cries of surprise blanketed the coliseum. Even with all that, the fight had not been decided. However, seconds passed and the two in the arena remained unmoving. Soon, people were questioning what was going on.
After a minute passed with no further movement from the two, their masks suddenly started cracking. Pieces crinkled and fell from their faces, revealing pale expressions and lifeless eyes. Neither one looked well enough to continue. They had both passed out on their feet.
Before their simultaneous knockout could be judged, two blurs knocked them off their platforms. With a gentle clack, Cooking Mask and Cleaning Mask landed right in front of Queen Katalina, the two men being carried over their shoulders like lugging a corpse.
“The idiots blew through all of their mana and passed out. I highly doubt that they’ll wake up until sometime tomorrow, so we’ll be taking them home.” With a courteous bow, the two of them disappeared like they had never existed in the first place.
“Right…” The Queen looked over at the demolished arena with a heavy sigh. “At least, the first set is over…”
A break was sorely needed to get things back together for the next round.