Originally, the Lotus Cup is used as a form of training of sorts for the army in the royal capital. Although it was originally held whenever, it became grander every time, and so they decided to publicize it, becoming the Lotus Cup.
This is why even after the event became official, the organizer is still the army, and many of the participants are still from the army. Although there were times the tournament was called off because of warring times with the Empire, it will be the twenty-seventh Lotus Cup this year.
It is now a festival of sorts that is expected in the capital every year. Although there’re people who laugh at it being 「Just a stage for Marquis Holguin to flaunt his power」, it didn’t matter for the majority of the Kingdom citizens.
Especially for the merchants, for them, they wouldn’t care less what is the real purpose behind the event as long as there’re more customers to earn from. And so, there’re many merchants arriving in the capital, not letting a chance to earn slip by.
The Lotus Cup was put on hold the previous year because of the war, so it had been two years since the last.
Since it’s a martial arts tournament originally, no magic is allowed, and mana-imbued weapons or tools are all banned. To prevent cheating, all participants will have to use weapons that are provided by the officials.
A total of thirty-two names are on the participants list. And among them, eighteen are soldiers either from the Royal Army or territorial armies of various lands of the Kingdom, and the remaining nine and five are mercenaries and explorers respectively.
Moore and Ardis both participated as mercenaries. Normally, the participants from the army would be more than ninety percent, and only three or four are not from the army.
But because of the war last year, the talents in the army had decreased. And because of that, the non-soldier participants this year are unusually more.
「Well, that’s probably one of the reason why we can participate even though we have no ties with Marquis Holguin at all. 」
「Is it like that? If they’re taking this as a method to flaunt the army power, then they would never let any outsiders participate being an uncertainty. 」
「I bet the Marquis and the army thought so as well. They wouldn’t let any outsiders participate normally. But since they’re saying any strong warrior can take part, and then the Duke recommended us, the Marquis must have no choice but to allow us. 」
The first match is already ongoing on the royal arena. On the circular arena with radius about thirty meters, two soldiers holding sword and spear each are against each other.
Moore and Ardis are camping at the participants entrance way, spectating with their back leaning on the wall. Although there’s a spot for them as participants, there’re too many soldiers, mercenaries or explorers of Marquis Holguin there, so they couldn’t speak freely.
And so the two are standing at the entrance like gatekeepers.
「Oh, the match is over. 」
Seeing the soldier with the spear is sure to win, Moore got up and patted dusts off his body.
「I’m up next, see ya later. 」
Greeting Ardis lightly, Moore made his way to the center with steps like on a stroll.
「Which weapon will you use? 」
One official asked while showing a table with various kinds of weapon on display.
「A single-handed sword and a light shield will be good. 」
And so, Moore took a sword and a small round shield with him. Fixing the shield on his left arm, he grasped the sword and tightened his grip a few times.
「Unn, this one’s good. 」
Saying so, he walked towards the arena where his opponent and the judge is waiting. The judge looked like a soldier in his forties.
Although it’s not someone Moore recognizes, he must be of considerable position given that he’s serving as a judge in the Lotus Cup. As for his opponent, he’s clearly showing hostility towards Moore.
「To think that you would appear here. 」
His opponent that had been glaring him approaching said.
「Oh well, it’s not like I expected myself to be here too. 」
「Beware of your words, commoner. 」
His opponent is a non-commissioned officer in his mid twenties. Just like how he know Moore, Moore knows him as well.
Although he’s not Moore’s direct subordinate considering they’re in different battalions, he is still someone Moore had crossed swords with in training sessions.
It seems like he’s not fond of Moore who climbed the ranks despite being a mercenary, and also because Moore didn’t really care about pointing it out, all Moore remembers is his hostility.
He was a platoon leader if Moore recalls correctly.
「Don’t be so uptight. We’re comrades that had undergone the same training right? 」
「You’re no longer my superior. You are no more than a cowardly commoner that had abandoned his duties, and in no position should I listen to you. 」
Unlike Moore who is a mercenary, he’s someone with a background, and he had always been thorny towards Moore. It seems like he wouldn’t even try to hide his animosity towards Moore who has now lost his position and power within the army now.
「How cold of you. Someone here is filled with sadness losing his job, he would appreciate more concern. 」
「Shut up, thirty-four years old child! For someone so simply like you to be a battalion commander, it is damaging the reputation of our proud Nagras army! I shall personally teach you to not show your face in the capital any more! 」
The judge finally decided to interrupt the two prolonged greetings.
「Stop there. This is no place for an argument. 」
Glaring at the two equally, the judge couldn’t bear them any longer and decided to just do his job.
「Are you familiar with the rules? There’s no time limit. Magic and arts are forbidden. And of course, outside help are not allowed. The outcome is decided if an effective attack on a critical spot landed, or if one side is incapacitated, on the occasion of losing your weapon, it will continue until you express your loss verbally. Again, no weapons or tools other than the ones supplied in the event is allowed. 」
The judge took out two arm bands from his pocket and handed over to both Moore and his opponent.
「This is imbued with a special barrier that would prevent any outside support with magic. Taking it off mid-match is forbidden. Taking it off willingly will be seen as a loss immediately. Clear? 」
Moore nodded silently, and put the arm band on his left arm.
「Then both sides take five steps back. 」
After glaring Moore for another time, the officer silently turned around and started walking. Similarly, Moore took five steps back and muttered in monologue.
「Good grace, if someone like him is participating, they must be really lacking people in the army……. The army is in a bad spot more than I expected huh. 」
As he walked, the footstep sounds he made were dry. After both sides have backed off five steps and faced towards each other again, the judge announced the start.
「And now, start! 」
The opponent took the first step and rushed in at Moore. He’s with similar equipment like Moore, a sword and a shield.
But unlike Moore who chose a round shield, he is using a kite shield that covers his whole left arm.
「Would anyone really choose those gear facing a mercenary in a one-on-one fashion. 」
Muttering softly, Moore took half a step ahead matching his opponent’s stride.
「Take this! 」
The attack with momentum was redirected by the round shield.
Was he confident in his first strike, he clicked his tongue while dealing the second and third, Moore observed his opponent calmly while dodging the attacks.
「Hee, you became more skillful. 」
「Obviously! Unlike you idling for a year! 」
There’s no more than the number one hand can count who knows the incident that Moore was transported to another world along with the daughter of Duke Nyrestia. It wasn’t his intention to be absent for a year but, it can’t be helped that everyone thought he had abandoned his duties for a year.
In any case, it’s not like Moore took it easy at all. Rather, albeit just a day, Moore seriously thought that his life was in constant danger.
Of course, it’s not a venue for him to explain specially for his opponent, nor did he had the intentions to do so. Moore ignored what he said and responded with something of his own.
「But aren’t you too focused on offense? 」
As if an instructor pointing out his mistakes, Moore counter attacked at the same time. After defending against three attacks, Moore decided to counter attack and swing at the kite shield in his opponent’s hand.
A dull metallic rung, and the kite shield in the officer’s hands shook.
He tried to turn his body left in panic but, Moore was already gone. Moore had changed his position just as his opponent’s turned, then another heavy blow was aimed for the shield again.
The attack that came from an unexpected angle stumbled the non-commissioned officer.
「Stop running around! 」
「I mean, you should’ve expected this the moment you have brought out a shield this big. 」
Answering the irritated officer, Moore swung at the shield again. Contrary to the officer who only stood in place defending, Moore moved around swiftly and attacked from all directions towards the shield.
Who was the one holding an upper hand, it was obvious even from a distance.
「Are you so cowardly to avoid a fair fight! 」
「Are you stupid I say. I don’t see a need to put myself in danger more than needed. 」
「We are proud soldiers of the Royal Army! 」
「So? Rather, I’m not a soldier already, remember? Didn’t you say that yourself just now? 」
Moore unintentionally smirked at the officer who looked like he had forgotten what he just said.
「Whatever. If you want a fair fight so much, then I guess I can do that. 」
Moore stopped his leg after saying.
「Good decision, commoner. 」
「Yes yes. It’s my honor for such a praise, little young master. 」
「Even though you’re speaking whatever you like, what selfishness. 」
「Words are unneeded! 」
Redirecting the sword that came his way again with the round shield, Moore swung his own sword as retaliation. Knowingly that it will be blocked by the kite shield, Moore decided to kick up the sand with his left foot.
The officer shrunk away at the attack that came from an unexpected direction. Of course, Moore would not let that gap slip.
Pulling his leg and making him fall, Moore stabbed out and stopped his sword just before his neck from behind.
The judge declared in a loud voice. It’s obvious that Moore had won.
「Look here, your view is really narrow. Which shield to choose, what kind of attack to use, you probably never thought of handling multiple opponents with that. Even if it’s in the Lotus Cup, even if it’s just against one person, it’s a mistake to think that you’re only going to get attacked from one direction. Anyways, if you’re falling for small tricks like that, you will die early. 」
「Shit! It’s cowardly to use a blinding attack! 」
Not sparing an ear to what Moore said, he only complained. After sighing a little, Moore stood up and decided to take off the arm band and return the weapon before going to where Ardis is.
「Judge! That attack just now is cheating! It’s against the rules to use a weapon other than the one provided! 」
It seems like he wasn’t convinced at his defeat and complained at the judge, but the response he got was cruel.
「You’re saying the sand at your feet is a weapon? What stupidity. In the first place, if that’s against the rules, it would mean countless winners of the past Lotus Cup will be invalidated. Who would dirty the name of our past winners just because of you? 」
Right. There were past cases in the Lotus Cup where someone had won because they used sand or rocks at their feet. Using the sand and rocks at their feet are recognized as the ability to discern the 『Situation』, and is not seen as a weapon.
It’s his wrong to have participated in the Lotus Cup without even verifying that in the first place. Will he ever realize that what Moore said about his vision being narrow doesn’t just refer to the opponent he can see.
「Well, it’s not my obligation to look after him. 」
Moore left the arena not giving another thought about him.