The Lotus Cup entered the third day. The initial thirty-two participants had now only left eight.
Participating in the Lotus Cup is already an honorable achievement, but anyone who had won till the third day is considered glorious enough in the martial arts world. Despite so, Moore who appeared in front of Ardis on that morning looked a little awkward.
「Hey Ardis. 」
Ardis replied after being called out by Moore who looked like he wants to sigh.
「Those people with political power are really tyrannical and selfish……, are you sure you can handle them? 」
「They’re all about like that but, what’s up? Well, I think I know. 」
Seeing Moore’s appearance, Marquis Holguin must’ve done something. It’s about the most important time for the Lotus Cup, and the Marquis is sure to be pulling some string behind now.
「My opponent was changed. 」
「That so. 」
Ardis didn’t think much of it.
「That’s quite the uninterested reply. Aren’t you interested in who is it? 」
「It’s not like I’m the one fighting right? 」
「That might not be the case. 」
Ardis asked the meaning behind Moore’s words.
「I mean, the opponent I’m facing was changed to none other than you, Ardis. 」
Ardis looked a little surprised at the sudden revelation.
「That’s strange though? What happened to the match up yesterday? 」
Moore had come out the second match of the day, and Ardis’s was the sixth. From how the order goes, they should only meet up at the finals.
There should’ve been no way they will match up in the quarterfinals.
「Is there any past cases where the match up is changed? 」
「No? This should be the first time as far as I know. 」
Ardis’s expression looked a little sour.
「It must be Marquis Holguin’s doing, huh. 」
「Nine out of ten it is. We’re no more than annoyance to him. Since we’ve won our matches so far, he must’ve thought of doing something, and eliminating either one of us is the best idea he thought. 」
It must be the Marquis Holguin wanting to eliminate even either one of them that he had altered the match up of the tournament. It was obvious why he would set up Ardis to go against Moore.
「His intentions are clear like water. 」
「Well……, considering it’s his stage of performance, it’s no doubt we’re no more than annoyance. 」
If they’re advancing in the tournament, Moore would clash eventually. That’s something inevitable.
The original match up can be said best for them. Might as well fight each other at the finals to thoroughly defame Marquis Holguin, so the sudden change in the brackets was undesirable.
「But then again, I thought Marquis Holguin would be more shrewd. I was even on guard for it. 」
While joking around, Moore’s eyes were still serious.
「Small fries would always try to do something that makes it looks like they’re unrelated at first. They would only do something more direct after failing.」
「Though I didn’t really want to fight with you until the finals……」
Moore spoke what Ardis thought too. In the first place, their purpose on this stage is different.
After getting transported into another world together with Minerva, he must’ve understood Ardis’s strength with his own eyes. Moore sighed again, looked down and shrugged, it seems like he was convincing himself.
「Well, it’s no use grumbling over it now. 」
「That’s right. One of my always caught with trouble acquaintance said that going with the flow of life is essential. 」
「Hou. You’re speaking like you won now, isn’t that being careless? 」
Towards Ardis who spoke like not towards his opponent, Moore was criticizing.
「Did you not know, I’m a swordsman right? 」
Moore clicked his tongue after hearing the black haired young man saying that as a matter of fact.
「It’s hard to believe but, it seems to be the case. 」
「Either way, we will know when we fight. Talking this and that here won’t change the fact that our matchup is decided.」
「That’s true. 」
Moore understood that too. With a change of pace, he agreed with Ardis.
「But since I’m also here thanks to His Excellency, I can’t go down without a fight. Expect me to try my best. 」
「Of course. 」
Ardis’s short answered with a grin.
The time for the match have come, Ardis and Moore walked out towards the middle.
「Tch, that guy is snickering up there. 」
Moore was grumbling hatefully, and Ardis was prompted to look at the nobles area. It is the same lame looking person that was glaring at Moore when he won the first match.
Marquis Holguin is the perpetrator behind the assassination incident on Minerva. He must’ve waited happily for Ardis and Moore who are annoyance participating under Duke Nyrestia’s power to fight each other.
Rather than a smile of anticipation for the match, it was obvious to Ardis that it is a smirk proud of his own actions.
「It’s irritating to have it his way……. But that’s just how it is with someone that has power. I don’t think His Excellency can do anything to the sudden rule change as well. 」
「Why, I bet that face is going to be red in flames by the time Lotus Cup is over. Let him be happy now. 」
After all it was the purpose why Ardis participated. Ardis and Moore met eyes for a moment, before returning them forward.
Another two steps and it looked like Moore realized something and looked at Ardis with a dubious look.
「Did you really participate because of that――」
「Hey, keep the talk later. We’re opponents now. 」
Ardis chose the same weapon as the two prior matches while shutting Moore up, and moved to the starting position indicated y the judge.
「What a pity……」
Moore who was left behind shrugged, and took up his shield and sword without a choice and moved to the starting position as well.
Same to prior, the judge reiterated over the rules, and finally the start signal rang out in the arena.
「Here I come. 」
Just as the match started, Moore leapt out in a straight line. Ardis as well did not stay passive this match and went forward.
One of the dulled swords came from overhead, another came from the side, the two met each other and produced a loud ringing noise.
It felt like the true starting signal for the match. The two took some distance after the first exchange, then as if planned in advance, they took three steps counterclockwise.
Two swords exchanged again after the angle changed.
「Can you dodge this? 」
Moore stabbed outwards after taking half a step back. Ardis tried to deflect it and counterattack it with a downward slash.
「It’s my turn――」
But his counterattack stopped halfway. After all, reading Ardis’s counterattack, Moore’s shield were ready.
Rather than defending using it, it was more like a shield bash towards Ardis.
By a hair breadth, Ardis managed to stop it with the handle of his sword, and went for a kick from the side as retaliation.
「Too obvious! 」
Against that, Moore didn’t dodge or avoid it, but instead advanced even more. A kick’s force leverages the lever principe with the body as the fulcrum.
Because of that, the power is at its maximum when the target is at the very edge of the attack radius. Conversely, getting closer to the fulcrum would mean losing power, and of course the speed behind it as well.
Ardis whose kicking power was dragged to a stop changed his target but, at the same time, seeing that Moore moved his shield in defense, he made his stop.
That moment, the role of defending and attacking reversed. The side where his shield was, Moore opened his fist, and a rock was let loose from his hands towards Ardis’s eyes.
「From there!? 」
Ardis who had understood Moore’s intentions tilted away his head to avoid a direct attack towards his eyes. Of course, Moore wouldn’t let that chance slip.
Ardis realized he was at a disadvantage as he tried to retreat. Stopping the shield bash with the handle of the sword, Ardis managed to make use of its momentum and take some distance.
The countless exchanges happened in just a short time brought intense cheering to the arena. Among a gather of exceptional talents, Ardis’s and Moore’s swordsmanship aren’t that exceptional.
Every single sword that the elites of the army swung were like refined stories that drew the spectators in. On the other hand, their swordsmanship were underhanded and most human-like.
Their swordsmanship were trained and mixed with blood and sweat. Kicking, blinding attacks, feints, it can be said like the fangs of a wild beast called human.
There wasn’t any beauty nor elegance behind it. However, many were still captivated by its vitality and wildness.
A tense moment between the moves linked like flowing water. The gallant figures of the two looking and aiming for each other’s gap were standing out.
「As expected from a mercenary. 」
Ardis was impressed at Moore’s adaptability.
「Well, I have my experience fighting with those that have weird screws before I entered the army. 」
「I suppose so. A mercenary got to have that experience. 」
Unlike nobles who are taught from young as an obligation, or those soldiers that received training with discipline in a group, standing on a battlefield with just oneself, Ardis had been living a life where it’s uncertain a friend from yesterday will become an enemy today.
Although he didn’t know if Moore who had been living in a world without many wars have such experiences, he could tell that the lives of mercenaries that are used only as convenient gofers are not that blessed.
They’re not fighting for fame nor name, nor was it for someone else. With just a beautiful way of fighting, it can be said a mercenary’s way of living is too harsh for that.
「I don’t know how those elegant people fight as well. So I will have you know that it’s my forte too. 」
Moore replied lightly to Ardis’s declaration.
「It’s not like I have any complaints about that. 」
「I thought so. 」
With a slight smile on their face, Ardis kicked against the ground and resumed the fight again.