Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
My surroundings were filled with naught but noise. The streets were crowded, and the people that filled them continued to shout and laugh as they basked in the city’s celebratory atmosphere.
“Wow…” Enne, whose hand I held, opened her eyes wide as we moved through the city. She was so impressed by how lively it was that she couldn’t help but raise her voice in admiration.
“I know, right? Seems like the king was right. This place is looking pretty festival-like right about now,” I said in a tone indicative of my good mood.
The demon realm’s capital was bustling with so much energy that a single glance was enough for me to feel the excitement radiating from its people. As could be assumed from the sight that lay before us, it had been five days since I spoke to the demon king about what I was going to do for him.
We had finished getting everything ready and set out in order to make our way over to the arena. As we had already spent a decent amount of time wading our way through the streets, we were already almost there. One of the things I had noticed was that every single person that had ventured out of their homes was wearing either a smile or some other expression of joy and excitement. This, of course, included more than just the people wandering the streets. Those looking to profit off of them felt the same way. Countless stalls had been opened up by aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike. The shopkeepers advertised their products by shouting at everyone that walked by. Their merry cries only served to add to the already vibrant atmosphere.
I had sensed a gradual buildup over the past few days. The capital had slowly gotten noisier as more people rolled in. But today, today was different. Everyone’s excitement had suddenly spiked all at once. A part of me was surprised. I had thought that the demon realm was in a situation that wouldn’t have allowed for its people to kick back and relax the way they did. But apparently, I was wrong. And I was fine with that. As far as I was concerned, this was just how festivals had to be.
Logically speaking, it did make sense. Unlike the world I used to live in, this one was suffering from a severe lack of entertainment. People were starved for it. Events like this one were so rare, so few and far between that everyone who was anyone would do their best to enjoy them.
“Does that mean you’ve taken part in festivals before, My Lord?”
I gave a vague, non-committal answer while smiling to gloss the topic over before turning towards the agent left in charge of us and asking her a question. “So, Agent McH-, er, Haloria, what exactly did you say we needed to do again?”
“You need to speak with the arena’s staff and complete your registration at the front desk. Unfortunately, we are unable to exert our influence on the tournament itself, so we have no idea as to who you will be fighting. Match placement is completely random, and the event’s staff will be responsible for guiding you through the rest of the process.”
“Alright, works. And I think you guys said something about the preliminaries being like some sort of battle royale or something?”
“That is correct,” said Haloria. “It is a fifty person free for all. The last three left standing are permitted to participate in the rest of the tournament. With your strength, surviving the preliminaries should be a breeze.”
Welp. Time to give it my all and see where it gets me.
“Some of our subordinates have mingled in with the tournament’s staff. We will be happy to assist you, so please ring the bell you were given whenever you wish to call for us. Someone will see to you as soon as possible.”
“You’re talking about the bell that doesn’t actually make any noise when I ring it, right?”
Like the ring, the bell I was given was an item imbued with magical properties. It wasn’t capable of carrying out a regular bell’s primary feature, but it could release mana at a very specific frequency. Man, the demon king sure does have a whole bunch of cool stuff. Though I guess it’s only natural seeing as how he’s literally in charge of a whole country.
We spent a few more minutes walking and talking as we moved down the main street before finally arriving at the arena. The building was large, round, and for some odd reason, reminded me of the baseball stadiums we had back on Earth. The town had been noisy. But the stadium was even noisier. There were tonnes of people packed into the area. Though some of them were armed, they were all standing in neat lines. Man, seeing people with their weapons and armour out standing around all civilized and shit is pretty weird. Seriously. This shit’s surreal as fuck.
Standardization apparently wasn’t something that demons cared much for. People were holding all sorts of different weapons. One example was a broom with its bristles replaced with needles, and another was a scythe with a hammer on the other end of its snath. It was almost as if each race had its own unique selection of equipment; the line was filled with all sorts of different people wearing and holding all sorts of different things. All in all, the resulting scene almost appeared to be chaotic and disorganized in nature despite the orderly line the warriors stood in. Is this really supposed to be a martial arts tournament? Looks more like a weapons exhibition or trade show to me. Not that I’ve really got the right to actually say anything seeing as how I’ve got myself a Japanese-style sword with a big ass blade.
“Oh yeah, I should probably get myself disguised before I see the receptionist, huh?” I said. “Sorry Leila, but I’m going to have to ditch you. Make sure you use the thing I gave you to get yourself back to the dungeon if something happens.” I reminded her of the necklace in an indirect manner in order to throw off any would-be eavesdroppers.
“Of course, My Lord,” nodded the maid in understanding.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t be seen together in public after I put on my disguise in order to stop people from making the connection between me and the alter ego I had devised for the sake of the operation.
“Well, Haloria, it looks like it’s going to have to be your job to keep Leila safe while I’m out. I know she’s kinda famous and whatnot, so make sure no one ends up bugging her too much, alright?”
“Don’t worry, you will be leaving her in good hands,” said the secret agent. “I’ll keep her safe even if it means putting my life on the line.”
Her words caused a sweatdrop to appear on the back of my head. Yeah uh… she’s totally just going to warp out if she gets into any trouble, so you should also probably focus on getting yourself to safety.
“That looks like it would probably be a good spot to change.” The agent pointed me to a piece of cover I could probably use to get out of sight. I followed her prompt and headed over with Enne whilst checking my surroundings both by looking at my map and by actively focusing on my enemy detection skill. Only after I was completely sure that we were out of sight did I make use of the Ring of Transfiguration and grab the mask I had stored away in my inventory.
My new mask was quite different from the one I had worn back when I was helping the humans. This one didn’t so much resemble a clown as it did the mask worn by the molecular manipulator known as the black reaper. Oh wait, it’s missing the thunderbolt that’s supposed to be running through one of the eyes.
Leaving the mask as nothing but a blank slate with eyeholes and a fake mouth made it seem a bit too creepy for my tastes, so I ended up embedding a random star-shaped gem just under its left eyehole. Like basically every other fancy thing I had picked up in the demon realm, it was something I had gotten from its king. He had casually handed it to me without a care in the world the moment I asked for it. Man, Iunno if it’s just me, but he seems hella loaded.
Like everything else I made with Weapon Transmutation, the mask was a weapon. Technically speaking, it was a boomerang, just a dysfunctional one. I could totally throw it at someone and use it to hurt them, but it probably wouldn’t ever turn around, let alone come back. Not that it really matters. I’m probably never actually going to throw this thing, so yeah.
While the clown mask came in a pair, I only had one reaper mask. I didn’t make a second with the mouth area exposed this time around because it wasn’t necessary for me to keep the artificial face on at all times.
“Okay, looks like I’m just about ready to be seen in public.” I said before turning to the sword girl by my side. “I’m sorry you have to miss the festival, Enne. How about I make up to you by letting you pick what we do in the evening?”
“Okay,” nodded the kimono-clad weapon. “And I don’t mind, Master. Anything is okay as long as we’re together.”
She spoke a series of words that made me extremely happy whilst allowing the slightest bit of shyness to tinge upon her usually expressionless face. Ermagawd. Isn’t she just the cutest thing ever? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Don’t actually answer it.
“Thanks, Enne. I like spending time with you too.” I smiled and patted her on the head as I spoke. “Could you do me a favour and go back to possessing your main body?”
“Okay.” She nodded and touched the weapon I held in front of her. And as she did, she disappeared. It almost looked like she had fused with it the moment she and it made contact.
I hoisted her over my shoulders and sighed after confirming that the process was over. “Welp. Leggo.”
I arrived at the desk after sitting through the line. There, I was greeted by a receptionist that seemed to belong to one of the demonic races—she had both a tail and a pair of horns. “Good morning, sir. If you’re here to complete the signup process, then please present the document you were given at the time of your initial registration.”
I handed her the card that served as the proof of my registration.
“Please give me just one second to confirm the details.” The receptionist paused to look over the documents. She stopped each time she went over a major detail and asked me to confirm it. “To sum things up, Mr. Ypsilon, you were born here in Regighihegg, and your weapon of choice is the greatsword? Would the weapon you have mounted on your back be the greatsword in question? That’s quite the impressive blade. It says here that you’re participating on the king’s recommendation. Is that correct?”
I nodded in response to each of her inquiries. Ypsilon was, of course, the pseudonym I had chosen for the operation. Yeap, you got it. It’s just the letter Y again, but in like German or something this time.
“Great. I look forward to seeing you in action then,” she said. “The last step in the registration process will be for you to channel your magical energy through your ID card. Could you please do so to confirm your identity?”
I did as she said and cycled my mana through the card in order to make it glow to confirm that I was in fact Ypsilon. Man, these are some in-depth checks.
Contrary to my expectations, the checks they ran at the gate weren’t actually anywhere near as half-assed as I had expected. I had thought that it would be fine to have a proxy finish up the registration process on behalf of the actual participant, but it seemed that I was wrong. My impression stemmed from the initial registration. I had been allowed to fill in all sorts of fake details, and no one had been any the wiser. Though now that I think about it, that might’ve just been because the demon king was pulling the strings behind the scenes. I mean, I already know that he’s not doing this the legit way. He seemed way too confident in his intel for that. Especially when he was telling me about all the guys I had to watch out for.
“Thank you very much for your patience. Your registration is now complete,” said the receptionist as she handed me a wooden, rectangular block the size of a stick of lip balm. “You will be contestant number 113. Please make sure not to forget or lose your number. We will be calling it when it is your turn to fight. The waiting room is just over there. A member of our team will be waiting at the end of the corridor in order to provide you with further instructions. Thank you again, and good luck, Mr. Ypsilon.”
I raised a hand to thank the bowing receptionist before leaving the overly crowded entranceway and heading down the corridor the receptionist had pointed at. The area meant for fighters was separate from the area reserved for spectators, so I was finally given a break from the crowd.
After following the path for a bit, I eventually ran into a middle-aged man who looked to be one of the event’s employees.
“Good morning sir. You have arrived at a waiting area reserved for the tournament’s fighters,” he said in a professional-sounding tone. “Would you happen to be here to compete?”
I answered him by nodding and showing off the card and the numbered stick.
“Excellent. All of the rooms in this area are waiting rooms. The ones with red “no vacancy” signs hanging in front of them are already at their max capacity, so you will not be allowed to enter them. However, you are free to pick any room that is not fully occupied.”
Well then. And here I thought I was going to be getting a private room. Though I guess it kinda makes sense. The preliminaries exist just to cut down the number of participants. It’s literally a battle royale. They’re not going to have enough rooms to give everyone their own private quarters.
“This place… is interesting.” Enne spoke to me telepathically as I headed down the corridor.
“Right,” I chuckled. “This is the first time you’ve ever been anywhere like this, isn’t it?”
“You’ll probably be even more amused once we get to the arena. The arena’s where they actually hold all the matches. That said, it probably reeks of blood, so try not to let yourself get too amused, alright?”
I knew that bringing a child to a place where violence was enacted on a regular basis wasn’t the best of ideas. It was sure to be a poor influence going forward. That said, Enne wasn’t an ordinary child. She was quite literally a weapon. Enacting violence had, at one point, been her sole purpose. I was confident that she wouldn’t end up growing addicted to bloodshed given the fact that she knew to fear it. The time that she had spent as a magic blade had tempered her to know the insane nature of brutality. There was a chance that experiencing the tournament would be good for her; it would let her see the act of combat in a new light.
“Don’t worry, Master,” said Enne. “I’ll only use my power when I’m with you.”
“Thanks for that, by the way,” I said. “You’re a huge help.”
Only after wandering around for a bit did I finally find a room with a vacancy. I opened the door and stepped inside, only to find that the whole room’s eyes were on me. Some were giving me glares sharp enough to kill. Others looked on in an expression of amusement. A third group, a group of edgelords, was pretending not to care for what everyone else was doing. They were observing me out of the corners of their eyes while trying their best to blend into the background. Wow. This is nice. The atmosphere this place has got going? Yeah, I like it. You know how the room feels the moment before you step out onto the field in order to participate in some sorta sport? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. There’s this vague sense of excitement buzzing all around the place. Oh, man. This is just how festivals like this have gotta be. This is fucking great.
A big smile unfurled under my mask as I slowly looked around the room in a provocative manner whilst moving forward and finding myself an empty seat.