According to Plan
In the city of Ishka, the method of settling things with a duel is not that unusual.
To settle disputes in a duel with fists and swords is what rowdy adventurers would wish for as well. It’s a common thing.
However, it’s not something that’s done while left unchecked.
What is required for a duel to be officially recognized is to have a witness.
They choose the place for the duel, they make the preparations for it and make sure the outcome of the match is right.
To bitch about the outcome is the same thing as dishonoring the witness.
Because of that, the witness is required to have some social status with a sense of duty. On the other hand, if you can’t find a witness for your duel, it will count as a private battle and the parties will be judged under the city’s laws.
As I expected, the witness for the duel between me and Lars is going to be the guild master, Elgart.
The location for the duel is the guild’s training area. There were no other spectators or onlookers. Only Lars, the other members of Falcon Sword, Ciel, Elgart, and the female receptionist with braided hair stood in this spacious area.
For me, who was expecting a crowd of adventurers and guild staff cheering them on, this was honestly a surprise.
Well, it was originally a grudge match between us after all. It’d be embarrassing if something strange was yelled out in the middle of our duel and it gets heard by the other adventurers.
However, without a crowd, there’s a risk of Lars not accepting the result when he loses.
It wouldn’t be strange for the guild master who shelved Miroslava’s sins last time to shelve away Lars’ defeat this time.
When I thought about that, the door of the training area opened as a middle-aged man rushed in while trying to catch his breath.
「….*haa*, *haa*…. Oh, my apologies for being late! Something came up when I was on my way out and it took me some time to get here」
His silk clothes and plump physique really gave off the typical image of a merchant.
This person who was dispatched from the 『union』 squinted his eyes and surveyed the surroundings, confirming the faces of the people gathered here.
「I thought it was unusual for Master Elgart to be calling for me, but it looks like there’s something quite interesting going on here」
「The details are written in this letter. Since we’re short on time, Fedor-dono, we’ll be beginning immediately, is that fine with you?」
「Yes, sure, I’m fine with that. Will there be a new slave born today, or will there be a slave set free? No matter which case it’ll be, It would still be what a slave dealer truly wishes for」
As long as this flamboyant Fedor person with a somewhat aloof manner of speech and behavior was sent here from the 『union』, it doesn’t matter if he is incompetent or irresponsible. Just him being a witness is enough.
Rather, if they choose to not acknowledge the result with him being here, I will have to go pick a fight with them.
But that would not be very appealing.
The 『union』 refers to the union of slave traders.
Like the adventurer’s guild and the Temple of the god of law sect, they are a huge, well established organization across the border. Everything related to slave trading has to do with the 『union』.
The power of the union- since their influence of dealing with more than thousands of slaves at times has reached even small countries and other regions, they are not people you want to mess with unless you have a death wish.
Well, besides, sometimes you’d get involved with them even when you’re really not trying to– Not just the unfortunate people like Ciel, but someone like me who is walking a thorny path, I can’t say for sure that I won’t need their help with something in the future either.
Whatever. What happens in the future is in the future. Let’s focus on what’s in front of me right now.
Lars was equipped with a one-handed sword, a shield, and steel armor. They were probably all enchanted with magic. He probably got them due to the strength of having the backing of a merchant company. In short, he was completely armed.
With the exception of the black sword by my waist, I’m wearing the leather equipment that I always wear. Only the part covering my chest is armored. It’s obvious how much defense power I have.
It’s my complete loss if we’re just looking at our gear. It’s at a level where Lars would probably laugh at me like a little kid.
Of course, no one here was laughing. Since this is a duel where sometimes people lose their lives, it’s natural for people to give it their all.
Lars himself was looking at me with a serious look of hatred.
「Now then… Both sides, get ready!」
I readied my sword. I’m not going to use my soul equipment in this duel.
Besides testing my power, this is also a way to let the guild and the union gauge my strength like this.
The question is whether or not Lars will allow it–
He rushed up and slashed diagonally down at my shoulder.
If I took that blow without doing anything, my left shoulder would probably have gotten cut off.
Of course, I’m not so sweet to give him that first strike for free. I leaped back slightly and evaded the slash, then I tried to get in a counter hit while his body position crumbled.
However, as I thought, it won’t be that easy with a sixth-tier adventurer. Lars cleverly moved his shield and covered the small opening he had after his attack.
Next I’ll attack this spot– The moment I thought that, Lars’ second attack came flying at me.
It was even faster than the first strike.
You would not think that he was wearing heavy armor from seeing those movements. Apparently, his first attack was just an opening move.
Realizing that I couldn’t dodge it this time, I used the back of the sword to parry the hit.
The tremor transferred to me as his attack collided with my sword. Heavy. I was able to withstand it by standing my ground tightly.
It’s obvious, but Lars is a different person than he was from five years ago.
「What’s wrong, Sora?! You won’t beat me if this is all you got!」
Third hit, fourth hit, fifth hit… Lars yelled out and taunted me as he continued to unleash his attacks.
I curled my lip as I responded,
「Thanks for your advice」
With that said, I dashed to the side and dodged his thrusts. He immediately followed up with attacking with his shield, but I evaded it as well. This adventurer who seems to be okay with using any moves he could think of then tries to trip me, but I dodged that too with a dash backwards into the air.
While I was in the air, I watched him carefully.
The one thing that is emphasized in the four basics of the phantom blade style, namely, the “ki slashing view”.
To “view” is basically to observe.
It’s said that a general of the empire once said that “You’ll win the fight one hundred percent of the time if you know where you and your enemy both stand”. But that quote isn’t limited to the state of war.
As I thought, without using my soul equipment, the other side was stronger.
Moreover, the amount of accumulated experience he has built up was way more than mine.
I was trying to find the key to overthrow this difference between us in his movement.
If I look at myself from the side, I probably look like a dangerous guy watching Lars’ each and every movement with snake like eyes.
Is that why he’s looking at me with such hatred? Or is it because he was getting irritated from his attacks not landing? His swings had gotten wider and wider.
It hasn’t reached the point where they could be called careless attacks that left him with openings, but his accuracy has dropped lower than ever before.
It hasn’t even been thirty rounds yet. It’d be too early for him to get impatient I thought…no, if I look at it from his point of view, he’s having a struggle versus a level one. If that’s the case, he would start being bothered by that thought.
It would generally be an embarrassment if a sixth-tier adventurer couldn’t take care of a tenth-tier adventurer who got expelled in an instant. There’s no doubt he’s worrying about how his comrades and the guild master are looking at him right now.
Besides, he should have been quite egged on by Miroslava. Something like “Please show me what a real adventurer, a real warrior is capable of”
And now he’s in this predicament, so it was inevitable that he became irritated.
—Yeah, if I know this, then it would only be right for me to follow that route when fighting him. Lars has been weak in this field since long ago. His weak mentality seemed to be deeply rooted in him because of his simple villager background.
「What’s wrong, Lars? You won’t be able to beat me from just swinging your sword around, you know?」
「Shut up, stop fidgeting around!」
「Unfortunately, my sword is not a weapon that’s meant for clashing head on. This is how I fight. But still, it’s a problem that a sixth-tier adventurer is having problems catching me」
「Your movements are getting more and more careless—」
In short, I struck at his chest when he slightly lowered his shield.
I took that opening and dealt damage to his body.
「Hey, your shield is down again」
I continued to strike at the exact same spot where his armor cracked.
With a face in pain, he swung his shield at me to keep me away and returned a slash with his one-handed sword.
However, the attack was a large swing with a lot of force. It was not the same as earlier where I could deal with it by using my legs. There was no way for me to dodge that.
After that slash, we traded blows for fifty rounds from that point on before we distanced ourselves and stared at each other.
Lars was out of breath, his face was wry, and the blood that was dripping from the crack of his armor was tainting the ground.
…Un. I feel bad to say this but he’s weak.
It’s true that he’s stronger physically. He would be able to take me down if he could get close to me and lock swords with me. However, Lars does not know the ropes of making use of his advantages in a battle. Honestly, the Ayaka or Raguna from five years ago is still much stronger than him.
I also know the reason for that. Lars’ sword style is for fighting monsters and not for man to man combat.
Of course, he has fought with humans as well.
Bandits, necromancers, evil cultists, there is no shortage of human enemies for an adventurer.
However, if you look at it as a whole, most of what he fights are monsters. He did not learn how to fight with a sword to use it to fight with people in the first place.
In that aspect, although there was a blank period for me, I’ve learned a bit about the phantom blade style when I was young. Everyone around me was stronger than me, after all. The experience I had fighting strong people can be called nothing but abundant.
With that said, there’s no need for me to let this fight drag on when I’m sure of this.
Actually, it’s not impossible that this is his trap to have me drop my guard before going all in– Yeah, but if that’s the case, then in respect of his good acting I will show him my ki arts.
I stepped forward with that thought in mind.
Iria probably felt something that can’t be overlooked at this moment; she instinctively called out to Lars to get his attention.
Lars readied his sword in response as I dashed through the air and clashed with his sword.
With the sound of metal clashing, Lars’ one handed sword went flying in the air.
Before long, it pierced into the ground a little away from us.
When I saw Lars in shock as I put my blade at his neck, the guild master called out in a calm voice.
「That’s enough! Winner, Sora!」
When I saw how Lars looked at that moment, I suddenly thought-
Surely, that’s how I looked when I lost to the dragon tooth warrior during my trial.
「W-wait, wait! One more time, let’s fight one more time!」
After all that, that was the first thing Lars said to me.
Without thanking Iria who is currently using healing magic on him, he glared at me as blood dripped down.
Seeing him like that, I just shrugged my shoulders lightly at him.
「Does that mean you’re disregarding my victory even though we have a witness? The one who declared my victory was the guild master though」
「N-no! It was my loss. That’s fine with me. I’m admitting it, so let’s fight again, Sora! That’s right, this should not have been a best of one in the first place! I’ll win this time!」
「Hm. That’s fine with me but who will you give me next?」
「I won the match just now. In other words, Lunamaria is mine. You’ll have to prepare someone else to be my slave if you want to fight again. Like I said before, I don’t need Miroslava so there would be only Iria left」
Hearing that, Lars looked at Iria instinctively.
Iria who was healing Lars’ wounds made a serious expression when she caught his eyes.
「You can’t, Lars. Your wounds have closed up, but you haven’t recovered from the loss of blood. You can’t fight in such condition」
「It-it’s fine, I know how to fight him now. I’ll win this time!」
When Lars shouted out like that, Iria slapped him across his face.
*Pak*, the dry sound of skin slapping echoed.
「Stop it! Are you going to run from the results forever? You lost! If you don’t admit that first, how can you think about getting a rematch?!」
With her scolding, Lars dropped on his knees as if he finally accepted reality.
While I was watching those two, I laughed in my mind.
Iria’s attitude is harsh yet kind. It was the most correct way to respond that I can think of.
However, for someone who is feeling devastated from the bottom of their heart, sometimes correctness could be what’s hard to swallow.
At that time– if there’s someone who would only tell the man the things he’d want to hear, then the man will fall for that someone. Childhood friends they may be, but that relationship is not going to be forever.
–I did not see Miroslava. There’s no need for me to look.
–Everything is going according to plan.