Chapter 37. The Eyes Of Anger.
The arena was clear and the fighters were ready to start. Vorin finished with intros and the match was about to commence.
- Begin! - and spectators fixed their eyes on the arena.
Vallery dashed at Mordan right away. She had an axe and a shield, which was unusual. Most of the time, people use a sword with a shield in the other hand. It is a balance between the defense and offense. You protect yourself with a shield and cut or slice your enemy, bit by bit, slowly wearing them down.
But having an axe offered a different type of advantage. Blows from an axe usually were more powerful and in the hands of a skilled fighter, it was really difficult to defend against it. Not to mention, some were using a shield as another form of weapon.
This became evident for Mordan right away. Having two axes is great if you’re attacking. But it took all he had, to defend against Vallery’s powerful blows.
At the same time, Alaran tried to get close to Htilil, but it became a challenge right from the start. He missed every swing of his sword. Each time Alaran was about to land a blow, Htilil vanished from his sight and appeared somewhere else. As much as he tried, his blade was slicing through the air, never reaching her.
Htilil didn’t mind Alaran’s attacks at all. On the contrary, she seemed having fun seeing him swing left and right. To add to her game, Htilil would blow a kiss to Alaran now and then, either taunting or encouraging him to keep trying.
Even if it was fun to watch, I sensed something more than a simple hand wave with an invincible kiss. It was faint and hard to notice, but each time Htilil blew a kiss, a wave of magical energy was released as well. Similar to casting a spell, but to her opponent it probably felt like a warm breeze of wind.
It didn’t take long to see what was happening to Alaran. His movements became slower and less accurate. After one more swing through thin air, he froze in a spot, unable to move. Htilil giggled cheekily, walked close to Alaran and whispered something in his ear.
Seeing Htilil so close to her Master, Vallery figured he might be in trouble. She blocked the next swing from Mordan, pushed him away and charged at Htilil. What happened next shocked entire arena.
- ‘Bang!’ - Alaran blocked Vallery’s attack to protect Htilil.
- What? - even the other participants couldn’t believe their eyes.
Ghm... So that’s what she was doing. That doesn’t look good.
I was almost convinced about who Htilil really was after seeing what happened. It’s possible I was mistaken of course, and I wish I was. But if not, I wondered how did Mordan get her to agree to partner with him. There’s a hefty price to pay for that.
All eyes were on Alaran and Vallery in the meantime. And the main reason for that, was because Alaran was attacking his own companion. Vallery did all she could to defend against her Master’s powerful swings. But she didn’t strike back.
Maybe she didn’t want to hurt him. Or maybe because Vallery simply couldn’t. No companion will attack her own Master willingly.
No one was able to see confusion and fear in Vallery’s face. And thing’s were looking bad for her.
- Master Alaran stop! It’s me, Vallery! - she kept shouting.
But her pleas fell on depth ears. Alaran was as serious as anyone fighting a real enemy. There was nothing Vallery could do. Especially when she couldn’t fight back.
Alaran was in trance and, like a wild beast, fought for his territory. No amount of pleas or cries made him return to his senses. His attacks didn’t stop even after Vallery lost her shield and the next swing wounded her.
- Aaargh! - she cried from pain.
But that didn’t make Alaran stop. Spectators were horrified as his next thrust pierced Vallery’s body.
- Nooo! Master... Ala... - Vallery succumbed on her knees.
Only then Alaran came back to his senses.
- What? - the confusion and fear overwhelmed him. - No... Vallery! Nooo!
Alaran was shaking, still holding the handle of his sword, which was fully covered in Vallery’s blood. The arena was silent. Either from the horror or sadness, or both.
I glanced at Htilil in the meantime. Her poise and demeanour showed she was pleased with the outcome.
- Help! I need help! - Alaran held Vallery in his hands. - Healer! Somebody! Please!
- Number five is unable to fight! Winner number thirteen! - Vorin’s judgement was sound and quick.
Alaran was in no way to fight anymore. A number of people rushed in to help critically wounded Vallery. I had no doubt in my mind about Htilil anymore. She wasn’t just another spellcaster. She was far worse.
People carried Vallery out of the arena, with Alaran following them. There was one more match left in this round and I felt sorry for number eleven already. Stigmarl, a Gold Rank adventurer, was burning with rage. His whole demeanour showed to stay away from him or else.
After team number thirteen came back to the lounge, Stigmarl glared at Htilil with such anger, people thought he will attack her for sure. But he restrained himself.
Htilil, on the other hand, giggled seeing him all flared up. She didn’t mind extra hate at all, but rather enjoyed it.
- Next match! Number eight, Stigmarl and Karina, versus number eleven, Ron and Nancy. - Vorin informed about the next fight.
Stigmarl gripped his sword tightly, threw another menacing glare at Htilil and walked down to the arena. His companion, Karina, followed him.
Ron and Nancy looked unsettling. For a moment I thought they might not go out to the arena at all. But after a little hesitation, they walked out.
Ron was a Bronze Rank adventurer and Nancy was his four star Bronze companion. They won a match against another Bronze Rank adventurer and advanced to the next round.
Everyone in the lounge noticed how furious Stigmarl was. His powerful aura was overflowing with anger. It was a bad time for anyone to face him right now.
Participants were ready and the fight was about to start.
- Begin! - Vorin gave the signal.
- Haaa! - Stigmarl focused his magical energy into his sword.
His opponents took few steps back, afraid to get close to him.
- Windcut Slash! - Stigmarl swung with mighty force.
A powerful half moon blade was released from his swing. The blade landed right at the bottom of Ron and Nancy’s feet with such power, it blew them away. That shook the last bit of confidence they had. Ron declared they surrender as soon as he was able to stand up.
- Number eleven surrendered. Winner number eight! - announced Vorin.
That didn’t surprise anyone. If Stigmarl aimed directly at his opponents, they would’ve been cut in half. My guess was, he wanted to let some steam out. And at the same time, show certain someone how serious he was.
- We are down to our last four participants! The most exciting matches are yet to come! - Voring tried to lift up the mood in the arena.
And it worked. People were excited to know who will fight next.
- Next match! Our previous fight winner, number eight, Stigmarl and Karina! - and the crowd cheered. - Versus number sixteen, TC!
Haha, yes! And he’s in a mood for a fight too. Let’s go!
I almost ran to the arena. After my fight against Potion Users, I wanted to blow some steam off as well. And Stigmarl was a perfect opponent for that.
- Master TC! Good luck! - Eve shouted.
The crowd joined in with the cheers. I waved at Eve. This is my third fight in the big arena and a second time against a Gold Rank adventurer. I was looking forward to a good fight.
- No need to get excited too much boy. I’ll make it quick, just like my last fight. - with his comment, Stigmarl slashed my excitement in half.
- Tsk... you know, these ‘boy’ comments start to become really annoying. - my mood changed from ‘Yey! Let’s fight!’ to ‘I’ll kick his ass’.
- I don’t care what a Bronze Rank thinks. Roland must’ve felt pity for you and that’s why he surrendered. I don’t intend to go easy on you. - he really looked down on me.
- Oh really? Let’s see you prove it. - I threw away Robert’s sword and shield.
- Haha! Giving up before the fight even started? I suppose I should thank you for not wasting my time. - he actually believed what he said.
After hearing his words, once again, my mood changed from ‘I’ll kick his ass’ to ‘I’m gonna kill him’.
- Summon Blood Halbert. - and my halbert appeared in my hands once again.
- Hmmm? - Stigmarl face changed, realizing I don’t intend to give up.
- Begin! - we heard Vorin’s voice.
- Flash Move. - I instantly appeared in front of Stigmarl.
- Huh? - he was more than surprised seeing my face in front of him.
- Haaa! - ‘Swoosh! Boom!’ -
He jumped back just in time and my halbert hit the ground.
- Getting cold feet ‘old man’? I thought you didn’t care about the ‘Bronze Rank’? - I didn’t hold back with the taunts.
- This is nothing. - but his voice wasn’t as convincing as before.
- Yaaa! - ‘Ding!’ - I blocked Karina’s attack.
- Sorry sweetheart, but I need some space. Ha! - I swung back, pushing her few meters away from me.
- Single Ground Cutter! - I quickly raised my halbert and, using both hands, swung down aiming at Stigmarl.
A single blade, like a shark’s fin above water, pierced through the ground. Stigmarl, who was charging at me, wasn’t able to evade in time.
- Ghaaa! - he covered his face to block, but was blown away from the hit.
- Master Stigmarl! - Karina shouted.
Her Master, slightly shocked about what happened, picked himself up, face burning with rage and embarrassment.
- Well done ‘old man’. You actually survived it. - I commented sarcastically.
Although I knew a single hit won’t take him down, but it was satisfying none the less.
- You arrogant brat! - Stigmarl shouted angrily.
- Still keeping the same attitude, eh? - I placed the halbert over my shoulders and rested my hands on it.
- Don’t think one lucky hit will win you the fight. - he stated.
One lucky hit? For real?
All of this Bronze, Silver and Gold Rank stuff was getting on my nerves. Sure Gold Ranks were stronger than Bronze or Silver Ranks, but Stigmarl’s attitude was unbearable. And he was super annoying on top of that. At least Roland was fun to fight against.
- Hey Mister Gold Rank! How about we fight one on one? You know, like a man versus another man? Unless, of course, you’re too afraid to fight a Bronze Rank alone? - that was, literally, the lousiest taunt in history.
- What? Your insolence knows no bounds! - Stigmarl didn’t like my comments at all. - I’ll teach you some respect! Karina, stay back! I’ll take care of him myself!
But it worked.
- Yes Master. - she stepped away from us.
I can’t believe it worked. He must be really full of himself.
I was surprised he agreed to it so easily. But that’s exactly what I wanted. Dealing with him one on one will be easier. Besides, I didn’t want to hurt Karina. I felt bad enough for Meera already.
Stigmarl pointed his sword at me.
- Now I will show yo-
- ‘Ding!’ - he blocked me attack.
- Blah, blah. Enough of your talks. - I had no intention of listening to him.
- Right where I want you! - Haa! - he swung back.
- ’Swoosh! Slash! - but I managed to dodge his attacks.
- You’re pretty fast on your feet. - he commented more of surprise than as a compliment.
Man, does he ever shut up? If this keeps up, I’ll pass out just from listening to him.
- ‘Slash! Swing! Thrust! Thrust!’ - I unleashed an avalanche of attacks.
- Aargh... - he felt pain from my halbert. - How? I blocked all of your attacks.
- Probably not. - I grinned.
- Is this the magic Roland was talking about? - he asked.
But I had no obligation to answer.
- ‘Swing! Thrust! Ding!’ -
Stigmarl dodged my first two swings, but was forced to block the last one. The impact force pushed him few meters away.
- Ghaahh... How is he so strong? And a Bronze Rank? - he thought out loud. - But I won’t be defeated by someone like you!
He took a stance, ready to swing.
Oooh... Something’s coming.
- Windcut... - Stigmarl. - Slash!
- Summon Blood Armor! - I was just in time.
A powerful wind blade shot at me from his swing. My armor appeared right before the impact. I raised my halbert to block incoming attack.
- ‘Boom!’ - the force blew me away, but I was ok.
- Not bad. Not bad at all. - I stood back up.
- What? An armor out of nowhere? - despite seeing it in my earlier fight, he was still surprised.
- I’ll admit you’re strong. - I complimented him.
- Your words mean nothing to me. - he retorted.
Pfff... and here I thought I’ll be nice. Whatever, have it your way.
- Haaaa! - I stepped forward and focused my energy.
The ground shook around me, lifting pebbles and rocks in the air. The magical force gathered in my body for a few moments, empowering my strength.
- That didn’t make an impression on me. - Stigmarl was getting ready for another swing.
I didn’t listed to his words anymore. I’ve had enough of him. With one foot forward and one pressed backwards...
- Ha! - I jumped at Stigmarl with such force, a cloud of dust was left behind from my sprint.
- Huh? - ‘Bang!’ - he managed to block my attack, but the strike force blew him to the end of the arena.
- ‘Bam!’ - Ghaaa! - he hit the wall with his back.
Even Karina was shocked to see what happened, however...
- Haaa! - Stigmarl dashed at me flying.
He used the wall as a leverage to push himself away.
- ‘Dang!’ - our weapons hit each other.
- That won’t be enough to take me down! Yaa! - he swung again.
- ‘Swoosh! Slash!’ - I jumped back to avoid his swings.
- ‘Swing! Thrust! Thrust! Swing!’ - I counter attacked once my feet touched the ground.
- Aaargh... - ‘Ding! Swoosh! Ding!’ - my opponent evaded some of my attacks and blocked the others.
My Blood Halbert didn’t spare him on the strikes that were blocked. And I didn’t intend to stop just yet.
- ‘Thrust! Swing! Swing!’ - my halbert was in for more blood.
- Haaa! - ‘Swoosh! Slash!’ - Stigmarl defended himself and hit me with his sword.
- Aaargh... - he managed to land a hit on me.
That hurt, a little.
He was about to attack again, when...
- Single Ground Cutter! - I bashed at the ground, sending a piercing blade at him again.
It sent my opponent flying on impact.
- Aaaa! - Stigmarl fell on the ground.
I was in a mood to end this quick, but I knew Stigmarl wasn’t weakened nearly enough yet. Even after so many attacks, he was almost at full strength. I had to admit he was a formidable opponent. I used his arrogance against him so far and it worked. But if the fight drags out, he’ll come at me in full force. And I showed off enough already.
- Windcut Slash! - a powerful blade shot at me from the cloud of dust.
- ‘Boom!’ - I jumped away to avoid getting hit.
Doh, I’m a real fortune teller after all. He’s getting serious already.
- Windcut Slash! Windcut Slash! - Stigmarl went all out ballista at me.
He shot his Windcut Slash at me one after another, which made it difficult to get close to him.
I knew I landed a few good strikes on him and my Blood Halbert did it’s job as well. But Stigmarl wasn’t boasting for nothing. He still had strength to spare.
I had an idea on how to end the fight quick. It wasn’t the most elegant one, but it was worth a shot.
- Windcut Slash! - another blade shot at me.
- Unsummon. - my armor and halbert disappeared, while I jumped away to evade the attack.
By this time, the arena was covered in dust from all the Windcut Slash blades my opponent shot at me. Stigmarl stopped his attacks for the dust to settle. His eyes and ears were focused to catch any movement or sound.
- ‘Trip! Roll!’ - I rolled to the side and picked something from the ground.
- Here! Windcut Slash! - he swung in the direction he heard the sound from.
- ‘Bang!’ - the Windcut Slash blade hit the ground, raising another cloud of dust.
- Hmm... I missed? Whe-
- Aaah! - shouted Karina.
- What? - Stigmarl didn’t expect to hear her voice.
Everyone waited for the dust to settle, in order to see what happened.
- How dare you? Bastard! - Stigmarl got enraged seeing what happened. - Let her go! Now!
- Sorry, no can do. Feel free to use your Windcut Slash to take me down instead. - I was behind Karina, with Robert’s sword right under her chin.
- Master... - Karina’s voice shook.
- What’s wrong? You want to get a new companion anyway, right? - I taunted him.
- Ghrr... - his teeth grinded against each other.
But I knew better. I knew he cares about Karina. I saw his face and attitude after what happened to Vallery. And his behaviour right now showed he’s not about to cut Karina in half.
Stigmarl was strong, that was a fact. And I wished I could fight him longer. But I simply needed to win, even if it meant taking the less popular route.
- Release her now and fight me like a man! - Stigmarl ordered me.
- How about you surrender instead? - I suggested.
- Tsk... - he gripped his sword with both hands, but didn’t move from his spot.
- Come on, my hand is getting tired. - I pressed my sword closer to Karina’s neck.
- Aaahh... - she tried to lift her head even higher.
- Damn you! I won’t forget this! - Stigmarl was angry, but then... lowered his sword. - Fine. I surrender! Now let her go!
- Number eight surrendered! Winner - number sixteen! - I released Karina after hearing the announcement.
She stepped away and looked at me with confusion in her eyes. I smiled at her and went to pick up Robert’s shield.
- Congratulations Master TC! You won! - Eve was happy for my win, even after I used such a dirty trick.
I waved at her and she waved back. After picking up the shield, I made my way back to the lounge. Stigmarl glared at me with an angry look, but it didn’t matter anymore. I was more concerned about the next match.