「I heard you want to enter the Lotus Cup? 」
A lord, someone who has to fulfil his duty as a public servant, the Duke’s residency is truly only somewhere to sleep for Duke Nyrestia. Just as he stopped by between his work, he heard a wish from a mercenary who is an instructor for his daughter. It was that he wanted to enter the Lotus Cup that is held by the army.
「Yes, I will have to enlist Duke’s help for that. 」
「But why the Lotus Cup? It’s not like there’s anything for you to gain there. 」
For the Duke, Ardis and Moore are the benefactors that had brought his daughter back from missing after a year. Of course, he was suspicious of Ardis and Moore at first but, after his own thorough investigations and Minerva’s story, he had already confirmed that they’re innocent.
Now only his gratitude for the two as a father remained. And a wish coming from Ardis, he would agree to it if it’s not anything excessive. But Ardis who wanted to enter the Lotus Cup was unexpected even for the Duke.
He couldn’t grasp Ardis’s intentions at all.
「I have heard that it is the best show stage for those of Marquis Holguin’s faction. 」
But his questions soon dissolved.
He managed to connect the dots between Marquis Holguin that Ardis mentioned, and the Lotus Cup.
「……I see, that’s your intention huh. 」
The Duke understood without Ardis needing to explain any further. Marquis Holguin is the perpetrator regarding the incident with his precious daughter.
Of course, as a Duke, he had pulled as many strings as possible to retaliate within the rules but, without proper evidence, he couldn’t have him judged in the light. Although he’s still unsatisfied, it’s not like he could do anything more.
Luckily, Minerva had returned without any injuries, so he probably has no choice but to soon put an end to the incident. It was an opportunity given thinking about that.
For Marquis Holguin, the Lotus Cup is the best stage for showing off his power. In reality, the Lotus Cup is only a stage for Marquis Holguin and his men to display their prowess.
And if someone hailing under Duke Nyrestia’s banner, who is seen as their enemy, what would happen if Ardis managed to place well. On top of that, the participant is albeit famous in the capital, is not any more than a 『Magician』.
Marquis Holguin’s public face would probably be crushed into nothingness. But, that’s a story only if Ardis can advance in the Lotus Cup.
「Thanks for your thoughts. I understand your intentions. But isn’t the Lotus Cup a martial arts tournament? And of course, the use of any magic or arts will be forbidden. 」
「I know. 」
Ardis had replied plainly at the Duke’s confirmation.
「Then don’t take this personally, it’s not like your swordsmanship isn’t up to par, but the participants are all talented martial artists chosen from the army. There’re many top fighters chosen from the army, and also many from mercenaries and explorers. 」
「I have known that as well. 」
「I already know. 」
It was rude, considering a mercenary had just overwhelmed a Duke’s speech. The servant beside him frowned, but the Duke raised his hand to stop him.
「――So what about it? 」
And then, the words that Ardis spoke can be even considered arrogance.
「Are those martial artists you speak of have the ability to even deal with even one of the 『Three Great Demons』? 」
After a short period of silence, the Duke’s voice reanimated the room.
「Of course not. But aren’t them opponents you can defeat only by using sword magic? 」
「If it’s just about a 『Bell Chaser』, then a sword is enough. 」
Hearing that, the Duke lost his words. But he is also one of the residents of the higher society. Without showing surprise on his face, he only muttered.
「Just about a 『Bell Chaser』, huh……」
Even with subjugation squads sortied by the Kingdom, a strong demonic being that couldn’t be subjugated. To refer something like that as 『Just about』, it can only be self-confidence, or plainly arrogance.
「Fine. If you’re going that far, then for your participation in Lotus Cup, I will do something about it. 」
After sighing deeply in a way that wouldn’t be noticed, he agreed to Ardis’s wish. Of course, he didn’t forget to add on a condition.
「But I will be troubled if you’re going down in just one or two rounds with my name. Do you understand that as well? 」
Since he was to use the Duke’s name, of course, he must not show a pathetic sight.
「Don’t worry, or would you like to test my capabilities? If you gathered maybe ten elites from the escorts in the residency……」
Ardis mentioned so plainly. Of course, the Duke is not against the idea of Ardis proving his strength.
If he can fight on the same footing with the elites in the residency, then winning and advancing in the Lotus Cup is not impossible. And the Duke can rest easy recommending him.
「Are you going to show that you can best ten of my men? 」
「I’m saying that I can best all ten of them at the same time. 」
Although the Duke thought he was challenging Ardis, it seems like it was the opposite. And so, immediately, the Duke had given orders to the servant beside to gather the people to verify Ardis’s strength.
Heading towards the training grounds where Minerva would practice under Ardis’s guidance while the people are getting gathered.
「Is something interesting happening? 」
What wind did he catch.
It was none other than Moore who was offloading in the Duke’s residency that called out to Ardis.
「Whether if it’s going to be interesting depends on the opponents. 」
「Ooh, Jack and Cain, and Andrei. Quite the members is gathering huh. 」
After naming out the escorts that were gathered, Ardis asked Moore in a just in case manner.
「Are they strong? 」
「They are. Though, not anywhere close to you. 」
「If it’s you, how many can you go up against at once? 」
「How many at the same time, huh. Unn……. Three…… I think it would be about even then. If it’s against two, then I should win eight or nine out of ten times. Four of them would be difficult, just not losing will take my all. But if it’s somewhere narrower than here, maybe in a forest or a building, then I guess there’s some chance. 」
They are all either strong former mercenaries or former soldiers that had gathered. Just managing against two or three of them at once is already impressive.
Even in the army, it’s not far-fetched to say that less than ten can do that. But conversely speaking, even someone as strong as Moore couldn’t win if it’s against four of them at once.
And against them, if it’s just defeating all ten of them in a row, finding someone capable of that in the Kingdom will be difficult. While Ardis only replied 「Is that so」 at Moore’s answer, he swung the sword with a sharp edge handed over by a servant in a manner to familiarize with it.
「If you’re asking me that, then how many of them are you planning to take on at the same time? 」
「It’s annoying, so all of them. 」
「Eeh!? That’s too much even if……」
At Ardis’s unexpected answer, Moore’s eyes became round. But his expression immediately changed after, and said in a bitter smile.
「……No, I guess it’s easy for you huh. 」
As one of the servants messaged the Duke that the preparation is completed, the Duke signaled the servant that is acting as the judge.
「The swordplay test will now commence. Take front, both sides. 」
Prompted by the judge, under the eyes of the Duke, eleven people gathered at the center of the training grounds. On one hand, there’s Ardis with a composed expression, and on the other, the escorts are all grumpy.
It’s natural. After all, they’re mercenaries or explorers or soldiers that had lived so far thanks to their own strength.
Even if it’s an order from the Duke, a fight of ten against one, and even against a magician that had declared that he wouldn’t use any magic, of course they would be displeased.
But the escorts would’ve never guessed something more outrageous is awaiting them.
「It will be ten matches in a row. Are there no objections? 」
The judge who had thought that it would naturally be ten matches was called out by Ardis.
「It’s not like there’s a need to have ten matches right? Why not all ten of them at once? 」
The escorts’ faces became darker. They must be feeling humiliation. Although the Duke had heard of his intentions already, he asked again to reconfirm.
「Is that fine? There’s no going back on your words? 」
「No problem. Actually, it’s fine even if Commander Greystar wants to join. 」
As for that, it was once again more than what the Duke had expected. Not just ten on one, he had now said that eleven on one with Moore joining wouldn’t be a problem. The Duke wordlessly sent a gaze to Moore.
Responding to that, Moore’s answer was simple.
「There’s no meaning. 」
Although that answer was enough for the Duke, he asked for the others to understand.
「The result won’t change even adding one or two more people, is what I meant. 」
「What about the result? 」
「Ardis is going to win. 」
It was the escorts that is going to be Ardis’s opponents that reacted most to that. Impossible, is what their faces wrote.
His swordplay, is well known in Gran. Moore that is once strong enough to have his name known, although indirectly, he acknowledged that Ardis isn’t someone he can win against.
Moore’s judgement on Ardis is as such.
「Well, fine. If you can win against ten of them――at the same time, then it’s enough to earn the right to participate in the Lotus Cup. Begin. 」
The Duke signaled the servant.
With that much information given, even the escorts wouldn’t underestimate Ardis as just a magician. Anyone who still underestimate their opponent despite knowing so much have no rights to be eating the residency’s rice.
At the same time, Ardis is serious on taking on ten of them. It’s a situation where both sides can’t spare to be careless.
It’s a fine chance to discern his strength, as the Duke smiled in his mind.
「Yessir. The test will now start. Are both sides ready? 」
After calling out to both sides, the judge raised his right hand straight to the sky.
Just as the judge’s arm swung down, the eleven people started moving.