The final day of the Lotus Cup. The last remaining day of the tournament that was held every day, Ardis showed himself as one of the last participants in the arena.
The audience seatings were packed, and there were even people forced to stand and watch.
The annual big event. On top of it being the finals, having someone not of the army in the finals had also played a great role in attracting audience.
Ardis’s opponent in the finals is the vice commander of the third division, Kamlan. He’s someone who had advanced to the finals of the Lotus Cup twice albeit haven’t claimed a championship for himself yet.
He’s seen as one of the powerhouses in the Lotus Cup this year, and according to his past track records, he had advanced to the finals with a dangerous fighting style.
「So you’re the Countless Swords Sorcerer that had dealt with the foreigners during the war huh. 」
「What if I am? 」
His opponent called out to Ardis first when they were at the center of the arena.
「I have seen your matches so far, I know you’re not a normal magician. I’m sure you have participated in the Lotus Cup seriously and not to make a joke out of us. 」
Nope, I totally came here to make fun of you and embarrass you though, as Ardis retorted in his mind.
「But the army has its needs too. Although I feel sorry――」
Kamlan’s words cut off suddenly, and his expression clouded. But immediately after, he raised his head back up with resolute eyes towards Ardis.
「I can’t afford to lose here. 」
「Of course. We’re not fighting to lose after all. 」
Although Kamlan’s words intrigued him a little, Ardis replied as a matter of fact.
「Are both sides ready? 」
The judge confirmed with the two the last time. It was a judge different from the semifinals. As expected, the judge that time was hated by the audience, so there’s no way he would appear now.
If that judge were to reappear in the finals, then today’s match would probably be a booing parade by the audience. It’s a wise choice to have swapped him for someone else. Though of course, the judge this time is probably also Marquis Holguin’s man.
There’s no change in Ardis’s mindset to not let his guard down. Ardis inspected his opponent, Kamlan. He looked to be in his late thirties, the age when a warrior shines the brightest.
He’s taller than Ardis half a head, and his slim body was packed with muscles like armor. Not oversized that it would sacrifice speed, and not thin that he would be lacking strength.
It is a physique most balance in any warrior’s eyes. His weapon is a bastard sword that can be wielded with a single hand or both hands. There was a shield with a size small enough to not hinder his movements affixed at his left arm.
Leather armor that emphasized mobility was on him. Even while protecting vital spots and his joints, it is designed to provide the minimum cover to not hinder agility.
Seeing his equipment, Ardis guessed that his fighting style emphasizes on speed. At the very least, Ardis didn’t think he’s a type to power through everything.
「Both sides take position. 」
As according to the judge’s instructions, Ardis took five steps backwards.
「Well then, what kind of tricks will they be pulling this time? 」
Ardis muttered to no one but himself. After all, there were assassins on the day before the semifinals, and even the judge during then wasn’t fair.
There were actually also people that were surrounding him after the semifinals but Ardis decided that it was too bothersome to deal with them and lost them in the forest instead.
Marquis Holguin who had tried his best in trying to harm Ardis many attempts definitely wouldn’t back down now. There must be a trick somewhere. Ardis who was on alert heard the signal from the judge.
Ardis and Kamlan both moved at the same exact time. But their movements were more like trying to get a feel out of each other. Ardis advanced half a step, and matching that, Kamlan advanced half as well.
It was Kamlan’s side that went on the offense first. Just as Kamlan’s arm moved, Ardis already started his evasion maneuver. It was a horizontal slash that mostly had no precursor that came at Ardis.
It would’ve been a hit against normal soldiers but it isn’t a speed threatening to Ardis.
Ardis dived lower and tried to approach Kamlan from below. But as expected, his opponent is a championship candidate. Kamlan’s bastard sword changed trajectory and chased after Ardis.
Ardis quickly abandoned the offense and used his sword as a shield and retreated the opposite direction. The sword that missed Ardis sliced the air instead.
Ardis moved first as the two once again closed their distance. After making a feint, his attack aiming for Kamlan’s legs were deflected away by his bastard sword. After three exchanges, the two took some distance again.
「What a shame to have you as a magician. 」
「Well, thanks for the compliment. 」
Kamlan’s impressed words were replied by Ardis rudely. There’re no signs that the two are even remotely serious yet. Kamlan changed his grip on his bastard sword into two hands.
Probably acknowledging Ardis’s strength, he plans to start attacking seriously.
It’s the same for Ardis having gauged his opponent’s strength. Certainly he has that much to be called a championship candidate in the Lotus Cup, his abilities are much greater than the assault platoon captain in the semifinals.
However, it’s not enough to be a threat to Ardis, he concluded. It’s at a level where Ardis can say he will be a good match against Moore or Ted from 『Bright Stars of White Night』.
Ardis as well fortified his grip on his sword against Kamlan. Will it be a swift match, or will it be a long one in order to show the difference in strength to the audience.
Just as he thought what would be the best way to damage the Marquis, Ardis’s eyes caught something unbelievable.
Mana that would normally be absent during a match in the Lotus Cup was nesting in Kamlan’s sword. But there was no one other than Ardis who could notice that change. After all, there’s close to none who can actually see mana in this world.
Although it was a commonplace in Ardis’s world, it’s an abnormal ability in this world. As far as Ardis knew, the ones who can do this in this world is himself and Nere only.
It’s unlikely that there’re people among the audience that can tell, or rather, there’s probably none. That’s exactly why there’s an armband that all participants need to wear to seal mana that is obvious to the audience in the Lotus Cup.
「But the armband……」
Kamlan as well wore an armband similar to the one on his arm right now. But the strange thing was the mana was even flowing to there. As Ardis wondered what was happening, he noticed more mana flow.
In Kamlan’s shield, even his armor started to have mana flowing through them, and then mana that strengthened his body started flowing. It’s probably magic that enhances his equipment and also a body strengthening buff.
Kamlan’s armband stayed silent―― rather, staying silent is not the correct description. After all, the armband itself was involved in the flow of mana.
But for the people who cannot sense the flow of mana, the armband on Ardis’s arm and Kamlan’s arm might as well be the same. So that’s what they’re going with, Ardis suddenly understood.
Although he doesn’t know what was the armband that Kamlan wore, Ardis knew clearly what his enemies’ intentions are. A fight where Ardis has his mana sealed while Kamlan receives support and strengthening through magic.
That’s probably Marquis Holguin’s plan in its entirety.
The moment he understood Marquis Holguin’s aim, an unusual laughter was heard from Ardis. The armband on Kamlan’s arm looked similar to Ardis’s but was a totally different thing.
There’s probably a magician hiding somewhere in the arena to provide strengthening buffs to Kamlan. The armband that should’ve prevented that interference didn’t, and the audience who couldn’t tell the difference would never know they cheated.
On the other hand, the armband on Ardis is probably the one that works properly. His mana is sealed thanks to the armband, and if he tried to remove it, he would be immediately disqualified.
Although there’re still some question yet to be answered, the situation basically sums up to Ardis not being able to use mana against Kamlan who is receiving support from various magic.
The difference in the presence of mana is great. On top of easily enhancing one’s bodily functions by almost two-fold, if counting in the equipment enhancing magic as well, one can easily win against an opponent even if he’s inferior.
In reality, the difference between demonic beings and beasts are the fact that they can wield mana. It’s a demonic being exactly because it can use mana.
If someone put something like the armband on Ardis’s arm now on a demonic being, it would probably regress to not more than a fierce carnivorous beast.
The difference in being able to use mana is vast. Although it might differ from species, in a fight among the same species, the side that can use mana is evident to win against the side that cannot.
Ardis’s dry laughter continued.
「I see, I see. That’s how you’re coming huh. That’s right. It’s an obvious method. 」
It’s a situation hopeless to win thinking normally. The audience could only see Ardis suddenly started laughing without any reason.
The only ones who can understand what Ardis said is probably people who can sense the flow of mana, or those that are related in the plot. Marquis Holguin himself, his men, the magician who is providing buffs to Kamlan from somewhere, and probably the judge who is also an accomplice.
Kamlan himself is probably briefed beforehand as well. If not, he would’ve been surprised by the sudden buffs applied on him. And what he meant by 『Although I feel sorry』 before the match started is probably referring to this too.
「I see, it’s certainly a fight that is impossible to win normally. Normally it is. 」
Although Ardis said so, his expression wasn’t anxious. Rather, there was a smile.
It’s not a smile of desperation. It’s not a smile of giving up on winning either. But rather it was the trembling of a real fight that he had not experienced for a long time.
A situation normally impossible to win. But even if he’s being supported with magic, Ardis was still intending on winning. In a situation where he can’t use mana against someone that’s receiving magic buffs.
With that much handicap given, Ardis finally for the first time had a chance of losing. After arriving in this world, it was a real fight that Ardis haven’t experienced.
His sight, hearing, smell, and thoughts as if casting off all unnecessary elements became sharper. Although his life is not on the line here, just the point of 『Not intending to lose』 is raising Ardis’s tension.
Finally against a foe at the same level, Ardis narrowed his eyes and said.
「Fine. I shall pick this fight. 」