「I thought I had some chance there though. 」
After the match is over, Moore complained while walking beside Ardis on the way out of the arena.
「I even had a bunch of conditions that favors me. It’s so depressing. 」
Unlike his words, Moore didn’t look bothered at all. Of course, he would still have the taste of defeat but, it’s not like he has any regrets having gave his all.
「I have my share of experience fighting with monstrosities for twenty years behind me. There’s no way I will go down easily. 」
Rather rare for Ardis who is usually uncaring towards his opponent, he consoled Moore in his own way. That’s also because that he recognizes Moore’s abilities.
「For you to say monstrosities, I can’t fathom it. Well, I guess it must not be that rare considering it’s a world with stupid strong demonic beings here and there. 」
Moore must’ve recalled the Nedulos and also the water demonic being in the other world. Moore looked exasperated as his shoulders dropped.
It’s not like he’s weak. In this world’s standard, even among elite swordsman, Moore can be considered better than them.
As far as Ardis knows, people that can match Moore’s strength is at most Nere, Ted of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, and the escort of Marrieda, Nicole.
There’s just a fundamental difference in living conditions between the two worlds. For anyone from the other world, even if they’re not warriors but merchants, they could probably make a name for themselves as warriors in this world.
That’s why Ardis in his own way tried to cheer up Moore.
「If you were born in the same world as me, then I bet you can become even stronger than me. It’s just the difference in raising environment. I’m sure the Duke was impressed with your performance too, there’s no need to be dwelling over the match. Now you just have to sit back and watch the rest. It’s going to be exterminating program later after all. 」
The semifinals and finals. Moore looked strangely at Ardis who made a metaphor like that against elites participating in the Lotus Cup. But in reality, Moore’s match with Ardis’s match was more or less like the finals of the Lotus Cup.
「……I didn’t think you were a person like that. 」
「Really? I mean, I’m good towards my friends. 」
「Yes yes, I pray I will never become your enemy. 」
Together with Moore who shrugged, Ardis left the arena.
At the nobles’ seatings, there was a man sitting on a luxurious chair glaring at the arena without moving. Displeasure was apparent on his face, the dangerous feeling emitting from his expression was increasing.
He’s the authority in the army, the organizer of the Lotus Cup, Marquis Holguin himself.
「Was it not to your likings, Master? 」
There was a white-haired old man behind asked. It’s obvious that he’s a noble’s servant with his appearance.
「Didn’t the plan went perfectly? 」
He’s someone who had supported the Marquis for more than forty years, he’s one of the few people who knew all about his master, even his surface and underside.
He also knew that Marquis Holguin had manipulated the match up in the back to make the two participating under Duke Nyrestia’s name to clash.
But even though one of them were eliminated just as planned, he thought it was strange that the Marquis still seemed displeased.
「Just as planned……. Yes, that’s right. The plan of making either one of them entering under the Duke drop out went well. But……」
「What is it? 」
The old man asked about his master’s annoyance.
「What do you think about that fight? 」
「Let me see. I can only give amateur comments but……, it wasn’t a pretty fight. 」
「……That’s right. It wasn’t an elegant fight to show. 」
Although he agreed with the old servant, his voice still seemed displeased. The Marquis spoke again after a short while of silence.
「But they were strong. 」
The words were filled with irritation.
「Certainly, they have the constitution to have the Duke’s backing, but are they really significant to worry about? 」
「You might not know it but, that‘s dangerous. Although I heard about Moore ・ Greystar’s strength, I didn’t think it was to this degree. He might’ve even gotten to the finals. In that sense, it was fortunate to have him eliminated. But the problem now is the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 that advanced. In a martial arts tournament where magic is forbidden, even though his showing in the previous battles, I was looking down on him being a magician but……. That guy is dangerous. 」
Repeating the same thing, the Marquis emphasized the danger.
「Is it to that degree? 」
Already reaching his middle years, the Marquis hadn’t been on a war for a while already but, he had experience taking command of soldiers during his young days against the Empire.
Although the Marquis isn’t someone very proficient with martial arts, as a commander, after retiring from the frontline, he was still able to see many strong warriors in the army.
If that Marquis had emphasized his appraisal on that magician, then no doubt the young magician is more of a threat than he imagined.
「Yeah, there’re sometimes overwhelmingly strong warriors that would sweep through the battlefield like Asuras. He’s the same category as those. I don’t think even Kamran can stand a chance……」
「What, the magician will win against Kamran!? 」
The champion candidate for the Lotus Cup this year. The deputy leader of the third army division, the one known as the strongest in Marquis Holguin’s faction, the old servant was surprised hearing that.
「Bad. It’s really bad…… 」
The Marquis looked really anxious.
「Even though it’s a precious time when my daughter is a candidate for the next Empress, I can’t afford to show an embarrassing side to His Majesty and His Highness…… 」
The reason why Marquis Holguin exerts powerful influence in the army is mostly thanks to many strong soldiers taking his side. It’s thanks to them monopolizing the stage known as the Lotus Cup and winning every year.
But if the champion is an outsider mercenary, and on top of that, a magician, his reputation would become nothing. It’s nothing better than a nightmare for him.
Then in order to quell this nightmare, the Marquis must make his move.
「Isn’t there no other choice but to make him retire from the finals? 」
The old servant seeing his master’s intentions voiced out.
「……That’s right, we will have him retire. But he’s strong, any subpar people wouldn’t cut it. 」
「Yes. I shall arrange elites. 」
「I don’t mind it even if it’s forceful, I will do something about silencing the incident. Don’t cheap out on money either. Get both quality and quantity, don’t ever make a move unless both is gathered. 」
The old servant bowed respectfully, and left the spot, letting another servant take his space.
The nobles’ seatings a few blocks from Marquis Holguin’s. Duke Nyrestia who was spectating the fight between Ardis and Moore together with his daughter, Minerva sighed deeply.
「As expected from them. 」
The Duke spoke with his daughter who was watching the match while holding her fist tight the entire time.
「Yes, their swordsmanship were both excellent. 」
The young noble lady’s words were filled with respects towards the two. It is clear the cheerful face is her genuine feelings without a shard of lie.
「Although his loss, Moore-kun’s sword was brilliant too. He might’ve even made it to the finals if it’s the initial match up. Seriously, that Marquis Holguin would only do unnecessary things. 」
Taking a breather there, the Duke took up a wine glass and wet his throat.
「But I must say, Ardis-kun’s sword was even better. Although having seen it previously, his swordsmanship is really wasteful considering he’s a magician. 」
「Of course. In front of Shishou’s swordsmanship, there’s no equal. 」
Minerva seemed proud about it like gloating over her own achievements.
「『Sword magic lies on the path of the sword』」
「Nn? What’s that? 」
The Duke asked after hearing a line from nowhere from his daughter.
「It’s what Shishou said before. Sword magic is just one of many sword techniques, it’s nothing more or less than swordsmanship at its core, to enhance and support the existing swordsmanship is what sword magic is essentially. 」
「I see. In other words, excellent sword magic will need excellent swordsmanship, huh. 」
「Yes. Witnessing Shishou’s performance, I’m only now understanding it. 」
Minerva now understood well why the first thing Ardis wanted her to learn is swordsmanship despite she wanted to learn sword magic.
Ardis was a swordsman in the beginning, and still a swordsman now. Even when transported in the other world or even in the Lotus Cup, Ardis had not used once his sword magic.
It’s probably because that his strength at its core isn’t from sword magic but from swordsmanship. Refine your swordsmanship, sharpen your sword techniques, sword magic is nothing more than a part of the two concepts.
Minerva finally realized that learning sword magic from the start is impossible. Ardis will probably still instruct Minerva on swordsmanship in the future.
And amidst that, there will surely come a time he will impart one of the many sword techniques, sword magic to her.
「The first milestone is, becoming an excellent swordsman. 」
Setting a goal for herself, Minerva’s determination was heard in her mutter.