About twenty days had passed since the Duke had promised Ardis his entry in the Lotus Cup. Meanwhile, the capital had increased in foot traffic, more foreigners can be seen walking on the streets.
With colorful stalls lining up both sides of the main street, the inns in the capital are all fully occupied.
The first day of Lotus Cup. It is the opening ceremony of the event that would make the capital Gran lively every year.
The venue, the royal arena is packed with spectators as the opening ceremony is about to begin.
「Oi, did you see the participants this year? 」
「Yeah. The vice commander of the third army division, then the commander of the assault squadron and his rumored son. And from the explorers there’s the Sword Demon and Axe Saint, the Twin-horn Nagare, and also a female mercenary that’s quite famous recently. They have gathered quite the members this year. 」
In one corner of the arena, few men were looking at the participant list and gossiped. Beside the man who were getting excited seeing multiple names of famous participants, another man muttered while tilting his head.
「Hey, this name here, Moore・Greystar……」
「Moore? You mean the former mercenary Moore? 」
Another man asked after hearing the name.
「That guy is coming out? Albeit he never participated in any prior. 」
「But why only now? 」
Of course, they would be doubting it. Although Moore is known for his strength that is in the top ten of the army, neither during his mercenary days nor soldier days did he participate once in the Lotus Cup.
「Isn’t it because he couldn’t stay idle for any longer? I heard that he was dormant for a year and even fired from the army. 」
「That’s why he want to get famous from the Lotus Cup? What a selfish guy. 」
The group who didn’t know what really happened only criticized Moore.
「But he’s strong right? Wouldn’t he easily get to the semifinals if his opponents aren’t the worst? 」
Moore’s strength is quite well known in the Kingdom, regardless of whether he’s liked or not, the expectations on him are the same. That’s true, the other men agreed and nodded.
「Rather than that……」
Another man changed the topic.
「This 『Ardis』 here, who is it? 」
One of the men noticed the name after seeing the participants.
「Ardis? Was there someone like that? 」
「Isn’t that the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』? 」
Ardis’s name is well-known as the subjugator of the Three Great Demons in the Kingdom. Although it’s not like those people didn’t know Ardis, but in a martial arts tournament like the Lotus Cup, the name made a big question mark appear on their head.
One of the men had successfully linked the name Ardis with the famous magician but, the others didn’t seem convinced.
「Haa? Why would a magician even participate in a martial arts tournament like this? 」
「I don’t know even if you ask. 」
「Isn’t magic banned in the Lotus Cup? 」
「Needless to say. 」
They shared their doubts with each other.
「Isn’t it just to fill the slots? Many warriors died in the war with the Empire after all. 」
Certainly, the Kingdom army had suffered losses because of the war with the Empire. And because of that, many strong warriors in the army were lost.
That’s why, the Lotus Cup this year compared to previous ones have more explorers and mercenaries.
「Just because they don’t have enough people, that doesn’t mean they have to find a magician right? There’re many others who are qualified. 」
Even if the number of strong warriors had decreased, there’re still many other talented people to fill the slots. For example, the leader of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, a party active in Thoria, Ted would be a good choice.
They didn’t know what was the reason they have to find a magician to fill the slots even though there’re talented warriors out there.
「That’s true too……」
「So why a magician? 」
In the end, no one from the group was able to make a guess. The men all became silent while still having an unsolved question.
Changing the location, the VIP section of the spectating area.
A place that is specifically for high ranking nobles were built with three walls surrounding them.
Only the front is open to see the arena, and a roof is over them to shield them from the weather. A Duke would deserve such special treatment.
Any nobles that have a rank lower than a Count wouldn’t be given a special isolated spectating space. They would have to sit with other nobles in a special area if they want to spectate.
Of course, they won’t have to pay for any entrance ticket, and their seatings are spaced enough unlike the common seatings, so their treatment are still much better than the common folks.
On the other hand, nobles who are above the Marquis rank are given the privilege of watching from a spacious place along with their families and escorts.
In an aristocracy society, it is the norm for such separation. And in one such place is the acting head of the Nyrestia Duchy, his daughter, Minerva, their servants and five escorts. Then Minerva’s instructor who is going to participate in the Lotus Cup, Ardis, and also Moore standing beside.
Leaving aside Ardis, Moore who is not even an escort has no reason to be present. That’s why he was confused.
「Why do I have to participate? 」
The person had grumbled in a soft voice to Ardis beside. But the Duke who managed to hear it interrogated him.
「N-No! Certainly not! 」
Moore panickily denied it.
「It wasn’t much different sneaking in one or two persons. 」
Moore’s doubts weren’t solved at the Duke’s vague response. The reason why Moore was confused is that his name was also listed as one of the participants.
It seems like the Duke had registered for him without saying anything, Minerva thought. In the first place, Moore was caught up in an incident and sent into the other world because of protecting Minerva.
Fortunately, they managed to return, but a year had already passed in this world, and so Moore who is absent for an entire year was of course fired from his position in the army.
The Duke and Minerva both understands that Moore isn’t to blame for his absence for a year. But since it’s not an incident they can let the army nor the Kingdom know, and also not like it’s something believable, in the end, Moore was treated as a disgrace who had abandoned all his duties and got fired from the military.
Of course, both Minerva and the Duke feels guilty about it. After all, Moore was the person that protected Minerva along with Ardis, and for the Duke, they’re both his benefactors that had managed to bring back his daughter.
And so, the Duke thought to use this opportunity to let Moore have a chance to get back his reputation. While sneaking in Ardis as a participant, he had also secured a place for Moore.
The plan is to let him show his capabilities in the Lotus Cup. But the problem is that the person himself was not told anything about it.
Moore who was invited with the reason of only spectating found out that he is participating just now. It can’t be blamed that he’s feeling unwilling.
「Certainly I’m not happy with the people of Marquis Holguin, and Lotus Cup was something I couldn’t participate even if I wanted to, so I appreciate Your Excellency’s thoughts but……」
It’s only the warriors from Marquis Holguin’s banner participating in the tournament. It’s said that any strong warriors can take part but outsiders were all eliminated by Marquis Holguin who is the actual organizer.
And of course, although Moore’s name is well-known, he wasn’t able to participate because he wasn’t Marquis Holguin’s men. The Duke prompted Moore to continue since his sentence had dropped off.
「Speak as you wish. 」
「If only at a time when Ardis is not participating, is what I thought. 」
The Duke laughed at Moore’s frank words.
「Hahaha. I see. But since you’re going down there with my name, I can’t have you look so depressed. At least show the spirit that you intend to win against Ardis-kun. 」
Since he was encouraged to have more spirit, Moore tightened his expression.
「Of course, I will be going with the intention of winning. At the very least, I won’t be showing any pathetic sights that would put a dot on Your Excellency’s reputation. 」
「I’m expecting it. 」
The Duke nodded satisfactorily at Moore’s answer.
「Well, I guess it’s time to go to the waiting room, Ardis. 」
There’s a need for all the participants to move to the waiting room. It’s about time they have to make their way there.
Moore voiced out to Ardis, then just as he wanted to move, he remembered something, 「Oh, before that. 」.
「You can’t use your own weapon here. Since it’s probably not a good idea to leave it in the waiting room, wouldn’t it be better to leave it with His Excellency? 」
「…… That’s true. 」
Since it’s going to be a fair fight, all mana-infused weapon or tools are banned in the Lotus Cup. Of course, just normal Heavy Iron-made sword would be no problem but, the broadsword and short swords Ardis uses aren’t something that can be found in stores.
Of course, he wouldn’t be allowed to use them. Ardis today had only brought a broadsword with him.
Minerva recalled that it was a sword with the name 『Skies of Myriad Colors』 if not mistaken. Ardis who took off Skies of Myriad Colors all together with its scabbard handed over to the servant standing by at the back wall as Minerva interrupted.
「Ah, Shishou. If you don’t mind, I will look after it. 」
The sudden proposal made Ardis pause for a while. He asked with a gaze towards her father. And the Duke responded not with words as well.
He only showed a small affirmative gesture with his chin, and a hard to notice bitter smile.
「Alright, I will leave it to you. 」
After agreeing to it, Ardis handed his sword over to Minerva.
「Yes. I have certainly received it. I will take care of it even if meant for my life. 」
「No wait, it’s just a sword, there’s no need to be saying that…… 」
Ardis said with a troubled face to his pupil who exaggerated, before leaving for the waiting room.
「Ojou-sama, shall I look after it? 」
After Ardis and Moore left the place, one of the servants offered to take over but Minerva hugged the sword in her arms and shook her head with a resolute and stubborn manner.
「No, it’s a very important sword from my Shishou. I will hold onto it until it’s time to return. 」
It meant that she’s intending to carry the sword in her arms while spectating the Lotus Cup. Unlike her training days, Minerva today is wearing accessories that wouldn’t shame her standing as a daughter of a ducal family.
But of all things, no one expected that a noble ducal lady wearing a beautiful dress would hug a dirty sword for the entire time.
The troubled servant requested help from the Duke.
「Fuh……, let her do as she wish. 」
As for that, the Duke answered with a mix of bitter smile, and it was the approval that Minerva most thanked for.