「The fuck is that! 」
In one of the nobles’ seating of the arena, one particular noble was red to the face with anger as he smashed the wineglass down into the floor.
One of the highest authorities in the army, it is none other than Marquis Holguin who is also the Lotus Cup’s organizer cursing.
「If Kamlan loses……」
Marquis Holguin and the army’s reputation would eat dirt. The Marquis’s voice volume increased with unrest and anxiety.
「Never. Something like that can never happen! 」
His irritation instead directed to the old servant behind him.
「Don’t you have any idea! 」
「Even if you ask me……」
The Marquis was anxious to the point that he came up with a reckless idea.
「That armband, detonate it! At the worst case, the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 can be eliminated, and we can call it off as an unfortunate accident……! 」
「However milord. If he’s basically sticking to Kamlan, the mana required for that wouldn’t even reach. 」
It’s true that the armband that Kamlan wore had the capability of hindering the effects of the mana-sealing armband that other participants has to wear.
But at the same time, there’s also a mechanism to self-destruct in case for a situation to destroy evidence.
Just as the Marquis said, it’s possible to detonate the armband using that mechanism and drag in the Countless Swords Sorcerer as well.
However, that itself would mean sacrificing Kamlan, and on top of that there’s a need to provide enough mana to the armband.
Presently, as the Countless Swords Sorcerer is not willing to leave Kamlan alone, detonating it is impossible.
「I know that much! Then force some distance between them! Use some suitable excuse to separate them! 」
「But that would be……」
The judge is also one of Marquis’s men. If on his order, it’s definitely possible for the judge to halt the match and make them take distance.
But knowingly the situation is in favor of the Countless Swords Sorcerer and halting the match would look bad, and if Kamlan’s armband exploded right after that, only the dumbest person wouldn’t realize something was up with the organizers.
It’s not at all a good hand to play now.
「No buts! Don’t you dare tell me what to do! 」
But if his lord is insisting on it, the old servant couldn’t say 「No」 as well.
「……I understand. I will give the orders right now. 」
Just as the old servant was about to leave the room, one of the escort passed on the message that there was a visitor.
「Don’t you see I’m busy now! Put them at some later time! 」
The Marquis howled at the escort soldier with anger.
「However……, the visitor is an aide of the royal family……」
「of the royal? ……Can’t you tell them to wait until the match is over? 」
The Marquis was confused at the unexpected visitor.
「Yessir. I’m afraid that it is an emergency matter. 」
「Kuh, at this time……. No choice, let them in. 」
Leaving aside if only a normal officer, as expected, he couldn’t chase away someone coming with royal orders. If a royal aide had come to visit, it would mean that a royal member had instructed him to do so.
It’s not possible to chase him away without hearing his matter. The escort soldier immediately guided the aide into the room, after exchanging greetings, the aide immediately went into the main topic, which was something that the Marquis would’ve never imagined.
「His Highness is summoning Your Excellency. 」
「His Highness? 」
The Marquis had evident confusion.
「Could it not be after the match? 」
「Nossir. It’s 『Immediately』, as I’ve been told. 」
The Marquis was quiet at the aide’s words. Leaving aside other countries, the crown prince of the Nagras Kingdom holds immense power.
Although he couldn’t dismiss the crown prince, the Marquis should be able to delay the meeting by a while with a reasonable excuse.
However, for Marquis Holguin presently, the crown prince is someone he must not irritate right now.
Marquis Holguin’s daughter is currently one of the fiancée candidates of the crown prince, Prince Karst. Although the other two candidates are not giving up, the Marquis’s daughter still holds the upper hand.
However, the marriage is not set in place yet. That’s why the Marquis couldn’t do anything that will displease the crown prince in this period.
「Do you happen to know what matter is it to have my presence needed? 」
As he asked so, the aide opened his mouth statically, and said words that surprised the Marquis as a matter of fact.
「『I hope you can explain yourself』, is what His Highness wanted me to pass on. 」
「Wha……! E-Explain……? 」
It was not something he wanted to hear, as the Marquis’s face turned green.
「What explain! Why would His Highness wants an explanation from me!? 」
「Me being a lowly servant would never know. However……」
「『It’s unsightly to do any more pranks』 is what His Highness said. I’m afraid that it would be better to not do anything more than this. 」
The Marquis became speechless. His body was trembling and stumbled slightly as the older servant supported him from behind.
「W-Why would His Highness……」
The Marquis muttered as if moaning in pain.
Behind the Marquis who was shaking his head with an expression of not understanding, the old servant closed his eyes seemingly with remorse.
It’s easy to understand. The Marquis had done too much. Being a noble in itself would mean having shady connections under the table.
And a royalty isn’t exempted from that. But rather, the higher one’s position in the monarchy, the darker side they have under the table.
The crown prince would never give such a vague order out without meaning behind.
Even the fact of hiring people to assault the Countless Swords Sorcerer, being a Marquis, if he couldn’t do that much, he wouldn’t be able to keep his position for long.
Using their position and power to manipulate the odds in their favor, it’s something all nobles do. But that itself has its limits too.
With the judge that was present in the semifinals and his evident unfair judgement, that had probably crossed the crown prince’s line of what is tolerable.
And in the finals, it’s easy to imagine he would incur the crown prince’s wrath with something that couldn’t even be on the level of unfairness.
Even if there’s no way to verify that there’s direct interference using magic, it’s still possible to investigate what the Marquis had done.
Being the next king, the broadness of the intelligence network that the crown prince has has no reason to be inferior to Marquis Holguin’s or Duke Nyrestia’s.
「Please head over to His Highness swiftly. We can’t let His Highness wait after all.」
The aide hushed on the stunned Marquis Holguin with an expressionless face.
On the other hand, during that time, as Ardis was chasing down Kamlan.
Kamlan was desperately trying to get away, but Ardis would naturally not allow that. If he wanted to do that, he should’ve done that when he still had mana in his armband.
Being engaged in a close quarters combat with Ardis without the aide of the armband, there’s no way Kamlan can get away from Ardis.
In other words, if Ardis wouldn’t distance himself from Kamlan, there’s basically no reason the odds will tip over to Kamlan’s side.
Ardis had now completely grasped the initiative.
「However, I cannot lose here! 」
Kamlan has his purpose too. However, if only anything is solvable with only purpose and stubbornness, then life wouldn’t be so difficult.
Opponents would get stronger the more fights one got into.
Kamlan tried his best with his skillful swordsmanship and heavy attacks but, Ardis had kept at a distance where none of them could reach.
In a situation that he lost his magic support, there’s no reason Kamlan can win.
「You can surrender too you know? 」
「Who would! 」
Ardis would sometimes hit Kamlan’s neck and his chest, trying to break his fighting spirit. But as expected, there’s no way Kamlan would admit defeat honestly.
For Kamlan, he’s already backed up into a wall. To uphold the reputation of the army, he could never lose here.
Of course, Ardis didn’t expect the judge this time to judge fairly too, so he had intended to continue until Kamlan is physically unable to continue.
「Well, I have my ways if you’re like that too. 」
Honestly speaking, Ardis’s purpose wasn’t to win in the Lotus Cup. If he can achieve his original reason, then winning or losing doesn’t matter at all.
「Sorry but it will be a long performance. 」
Ardis’s attack increased in count. Although individually not heavy, their speed aren’t normal. Ardis already dished out three attacks before Kamlan can do one.
And soon, the bastard sword was blown out of Kamlan’s hands naturally after being on the defensive for so long.
Kamlan reached his hand out to the bastard sword. However, Ardis’s sword smacked hard at that arm.
Another punch in the gut of Kamlan whose face was already distorted in pain. That would’ve counted as a fatal hit normally but of course the judge ignored it with a poker face.
Ardis swung his sword the second time at the arm which still tried to reach out to the fallen bastard sword, before the bastard sword was kicked away out of Kamlan’s reach.
But of course that wasn’t the end. Ardis continued his flurry of attacks on Kamlan. On the other hand, Kamlan had lost even his weapon to counter attack.
He could only try to defend against Ardis’s one-sided attack desperately using his shield. It was a strange sight to see in a martial arts tournament.
「You can always surrender. But well, if you want to continue without a weapon, I can be your opponent till the end. ]
Kamlan who was only defending cursed at Ardis despite himself.
「Guuuh……, cowardly! 」
「……Whose mouth is that coming from. 」
Even within a battle, Ardis said so with an exasperated expression. If debating about cowardness, the match continuing on even though the outcome is already set at this point is already considered cheating on his part.
Even if the majority of the audience aren’t warriors, they should be able to tell that the fight they’re witnessing isn’t normal.
As a proof, rather than cheers, there were angry voices from the audience. Of course, the target of the audience wasn’t Ardis but the judge who still wouldn’t announce the end despite the match being like this.
If this continued, it’ll probably end in the same situation where Ardis can only win if Kamlan is incapacitated like in the semifinals. But that is also within Ardis’s expectations.
「If you’re up for it, I can be your partner until the end. 」
With a smile ridden with bad personality, Ardis increased the intensity of his attacks.