◆ In front of the inn in Avangard Castle Town ◆
Even though we had only been apart for a few days, the scenery was quite nostalgic. if it hadn’t been for Hast-sama’s magic, it would probably have been a week. How could I have traveled from a continent so far away that it would have taken days to get there by boat and back to this place in an instant? I don’t know why I’m so bad at magic.
「 Hey, Roel. Magic sure is amazing 」
「 Um, Ryua-chan……」
「 Umm, you’re stepping on……」
Roel pointed discreetly at my feet. I thought something was wrong, it was a person. I’m stepping on a person. I wondered if I had fallen on top of him during my instantaneous movement. If that’s the case, I need to get him out of the way right away.
「 Umm, Sorry 」
「 Ugahーーーー! Who the hell are you? You just showed up out of nowhere! Hmm? 」
The man who stood up was a droopy-eyed man in armor, Greyman, who I believe we fought in the finals of the preliminary round of the fighting tournament. I remember meeting him in front of the weapon shop sometime ago. Anyway, this guy is wearing different equipment again. This time, he was wearing light armor with exposed shoulders. I had an image of him as a flamboyant old man, but I guess he’s not so flamboyant.
「 You, you are! I thought I hadn’t seen you for a while, but you’re still here! 」
「 I mean, it’s only been a few days 」
「 Shut up! Don’t make me look stupid! So what do you want from me? I’m telling you, I can’t give you this equipment, and I’m not lending you any money! 」
「 Well, nothing really. It was just because you happened to be at this spot, doesn’t mean I’m here to see you specifically. 」
「 You, you annoying little……」
I didn’t say anything wrong, but it just made him angry. I wonder what’s wrong with him. I wonder if he still cares about the loss. Oh, did I make a hole in his armor during that fight. I wonder if I can buy something like that with the 150,000 gold I have, but I don’t want to spend it on something like that.
「 Hmm, it’s really become more of a nuisance. It’s not easy being the winner of a fighting tournament. 」
「 What’s that supposed to mean?」
「 Oi! It’s the winner of the tournament, Ryua!」
All of a sudden, I wondered why he did so, shouting my name in the streets. And when I was wondering what they were up to, I saw a lot of noisy people coming from everywhere. They ranged from young men and women to old people, but the one thing they all had in common was that they were all dressed as if they were going into battle. There were swords, spears, axes, knives, weapons in their hands, and some of them were bare-handed.
I wonder if all these people are adventurers. Their eyes are glaring, as if they’re trying to catch something. All of them are looking at me.
「 This girl defeated the Master Knight and even won the championship?」
「 I wondered what type of person it was, but to think it was only a child……」
「 They’re so stupid, they don’t even know the difference between themselves and us. 」
They’re saying whatever they want. What’s with these people? And Greyman, the one who started this mess, is smirking. It’s like he’s saying, 「 What do we do now? 」 so, I’m starting to feel annoyed by all this.
「 Ryua-chan, maybe these people are here to fight with you 」
「 Eh, eh? Why……」
「 The rumors about you have already spread all over the continent, a B-ranked girl defeating A-ranked participants one after another and winning the tournament. I’ve heard that you defeated the new Demon King’s Army that attacked the kingdom, and that you gave hell to thousands of kingdom soldiers.
How could they leave such a thing alone?
In fact, if the word gets out more, we might even get scouting and invitations from other countries 」
So there was such a story behind it. That’s why, these people have been coming here while I’ve been gone. If that’s the case, there’s a possibility that there will be more of them in the future. I wonder how many of these people there are. There are so many that I’m sick of counting them.
I was thinking of going to a nearby town while gathering information on the one-winged demon, since the A-rank promotion exam was still a ways off. Oh, that’s right. I wonder if these people know anything about it.
「 Now, let’s change places, A big place for this Bomber Barth to run fight freely 」
What are you talking about. I don’t want you to decide things on your own. I never said anything about fighting.
「 Wait. She may be a kid, but she’s still the champion of the fighting tournament, I don’t think a mere bounty hunter would be enough to face her 」
「 You’re the one who’s going to die first, from this Kutou the Zanpakuto. The slashing monk who used no weapons at all and sliced through even a Full Metal Scorpion, a mass of steel, with my bare hands. 」
More and more people are coming in. Fine, okay, let’s finish this quickly.
「 Um, does anyone here know about a one-winged demon?
It’s a powerful demon that have only one wing……」
It quieted down. I wonder if I said something strange. It’s probably not the right thing to ask the people who came to fight. There were even some angry people with wrinkles between their brows. Some people are closing the distance between us.
「 I don’t know about that. I still haven’t received a response to my offer of a duel, you know? 」
Ah, just as I have expected, it seems like no one knows. I would have really wanted to just let go now, though. Hmmm, I wonder if there is a way to avoid getting involved with these people. I guess I’ll have to fight.
「 I see, since this would take a long time fighting one by one, let’s fight them all at once! 」
This time, the reaction was a full-blown Haah. I could tell right away that I had completely offended them, no matter how much I tried to avoid it. I regretted it as soon as I spoke. That guy even had veins on his forehead, and the other guy was doing some kind of trick with his knife, ready for battle.
These people want to fight me seriously. But if I say something like this, it’s natural for them to feel like I’m a fool. I guess I have no choice but to fight.
「 Hey, what’s going on here 」
A familiar voice, a young man with a large sword on his back. Yes, Siegel walked up from behind these people. They all turned around at once, and almost everyone was astonished. By their reaction, I knew exactly how much Siegel was being looked up to.
「 D, Dragon Hunter Siegel?!」
「 You’re not supposed to be in Avangard, aren’t you? 」
「 Oh, you two. Maybe you’re the ones causing all the trouble.
Yeah, yeah, I think I have a pretty good idea. Hey, you guys! The little cutie here is very tired from her trip!
I mean, since you’re the challengers, shouldn’t you be the ones to be polite first? 」
「 Ugh, that’s for sure.……」
「 If you really want to fight, just do what she says 」
The people who had been sniffing around so much were brought together at once. I see. Is that what I should say? I wonder if Siegel is used to dealing with this kind of people. It was only a short time before I felt relieved that this situation had been settled. Some of them walked in front of me without a care in the world.
「 Don’t joke with me. I spent several days to coming back and forth to this kingdom of Avangard.
If I win against you, I can make the power of this Zanpakuto even more known to the world. Of course, we are not planning to challenge you with half-hearted determination. I want you to understand that. 」
There’s also the explosion guy and a knife-wielding guy staring at me. I understand what’s going on, but at the end of the day, these people are just trying to show off their power. And I just happened to be here. In other words, I’m nothing more than a stepping stone for them. Throughout the years, including the tournament, I’ve been trying to rethink my approach to competitions. Like Amane-san, each of us have our own strength that we have honed. Of course, Greyman and Hekaton here are the same.
But then thinking about it more. Did I want to conquer the Cave of the Abyss because I wanted to show off my power? If I think about it that way, maybe I’m not so different from these people. The more I think about it, the less I understand.
「 What’s the matter? Could that be the winner of the tournament……」
Before I realized it, there were even more people surrounding me. This group of challengers reminded me that I’m particularly famous in this town. I couldn’t back out now. However, thanks to my troubles, I already have an answer.
「 All right, lets all fight 」
The challengers were excited by my reply. From then on, things seemed to flow. The people of the town and I were in an uproar, and to top it off, they were calling it a mini fighting tournament. I know it seems like a personal matter, but I’m the one who has to fight all these people. I wonder if it’s going to be a series of fights. No, it doesn’t have to be. I shouldn’t have said all of them.
「 By the way, Greyman-san, you’re not going to challenge me?」
「 Ah, well. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather right now, so I’ll pass 」
After saying those line, Greyman’s eyes were swimming around for some reason.
◆ Avangard Kingdom In front of Avangard Bridge ◆
The city was indeed a nuisance, and it could seriously get caught in the aftermath, so I changed the location. I could have gone anywhere outside, but it would have been too much trouble to go too far away, and here I wouldn’t have to worry about demons attacking me because there are only weak ones around.
A lot of galleries surrounded us. Roel was genuinely cheering for me, Siegel seemed happy for some reason, and the townspeople were following along, making for a rather confusing group.
「一I guess I’m first in line 」
There was a lot of fuss over who would fight first, and they finally decided via rock-paper-scissors. The sight of a large group of adults playing rock-paper-scissors is a bit disturbing, even to me. The winner of the rock-paper-scissors tournament was Kutou the Zanpakuto. With his skinny body and shaved head, he doesn’t look very powerful.
「 You’re not going to use a weapon? 」
「 There is no weapon that can match the strength of my bare hands 」
Because of that, I haven’t taken out my sword yet. Because if I injured him badly, I would need to have Roel heal him later.
◆ VS “Zanpakuto” Kutou ◆
「 I’m sorry to be so abrupt, but I have to end this quick! Hundred-slash-knife hand! 」
A series of thrusts that could cut through the sky is quite powerful, but too slow.
「 With this attack, it should be……Eh?!」
「 Slow 」
In between one thrust and the next, I would slip in close to his range. I then lightly flicked the side of his jaw. After such hit, Kutou staggered and fell to the ground, unconscious.
◆ vs. “Bomber” Barth ◆
「 Hahahaーーー! It’s showtime! You’ll receive a special rain of bombs made just for this day! 」
「 Oh no, this is dangerous! He’s going to burn this whole place to the ground! We’re gonna get caught in it!」
No, I won’t let you. The moment he unfurled his cloak, which was covered with many bombs, I approached him and slapped him lightly. He fell to the ground with his head bent at a strange angle and stopped moving.
「 You, you overdid it…… Um, you’re still alive, right?」
「 Oi! Isn’t your neck bent out of shape?!」
Fortunately, it was not life-threatening. Roel was kind enough to devote herself to heal even the guy who tried to fight me without considering the damage to the surrounding people.
◆ VS “Knife Juggler” Hamill ◆
「 Kukuku……Bored you to death with all those noisy bunch, didn’t you?
Let me declare it. You will be cut with these countless knives. 」
I thought I saw a glint of a knife, but then he started moving it with his hands again. He looked like he was having a great time, so I watched him for a while, but then I got bored, so I rushed forward and hit him with an elbow strike. At the same time, this person’s uncontrolled knife fell apart from the air. Watch out, I’m sure he was about to get chopped up. That was a surprise.
◆ And then ◆
「 Um, are we still doing this?」
There was still almost half of the participants left, but the excitement was fading as I continued winning. They were so silent that I could tell that their will to fight was long gone. The only people who were happy were the townspeople who hadn’t participated in the battle.
They cheered as if they were enjoying a theatrical performance. On the other hand, Kutou and Barth seemed to have fainted without even realizing that they had lost, and only understood when the others explained it to them after they woke up.
「……It’s definitely on a whole other level 」
That one word kind of stuck out to me. It simply didn’t feel like a compliment. I’m not sure what to make of it. You can’t tell where he’s looking, and of course I’m not at the other end of his gaze. It seems that they are looking away from the reality that they do not want to admit.
Kutou slammed his fist into the ground, soaking it with blood. The power he had believed in was shattered, and even if he didn’t say it out loud, I could tell just by his actions.
The reason is that I too had a really bad experience like that in the Cave of the Abyss. I was confident enough to challenge it, but I was no match for it from the start. It happened more than once or twice. However, if I gave up there, I would have lost in the truest sense of the word. I was frustrated, and that was the only reason I continued fighting.
I had vaguely thought that because I could do it, others could do it too. I had vaguely thought that, but now I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone.
「 Hey, there are no more challengers!」
「 You’ve all lost our will to fight?」
I can even hear the heartless voices. Maybe it’s nothing personal. They are people who have never fought something strong before, so they can selfishly say those things.
I wonder what my strength level is like.
I looked at the decreasing number of challengers and thought again. I stared at my palm, but of course there was no answer written on it. As I stared at it, Siegel put his hand on my shoulder.
「 Is this the end of it? I don’t think anyone wants to challenge you anymore.
But you know what, guys? Being able to sense the difference between you and your opponent is a strength in itself.
Umm, well, what can I say? Don’t be so depressed. I’ve lost a lot recently too. And I almost died many times. 」
I don’t know if that’s just him trying to comfort them. Whether if it’s comforting or not, Siegel said it to me in an attempt to make the situation a little better. I may be wrong, but that’s what I thought. I was able to become strong despite the difference in ability between me and my opponent, and those who may not be able to. I wondered what the real difference was.
「 Well, the Avangard Festival was over, but how could so many people still be gathered here?
So you’re all aiming it for that, huh?」
「 Siegel, what is that?」
「 Don’t you know? There’s something interesting going on at the castle right now. 」
「 Something Interesting? I thought these people were here to fight me? 」
「 Oh, come on, you’re now just thinking about yourself a little too much. Well, I guess some people did want to, but most of the time it’s for that thing. 」
「 Eh, does that include Greyman, then.……」
When I looked at Greyman, he blatantly turned his head in the opposite direction. It seems like I just ended up as a part of what this guy was originally aiming for. I had no choice but to interpret it that way. So that’s why all these people are here.
「 Siegel, what do you mean by that?」
「 Let’s go to the castle. Why not see it for yourself. Just so you know, there’s free stuff 」
Roel was drooling slightly, as if she had misunderstood something. Oh well, by the way, we still haven’t eaten lunch yet, so she reacted that way.