In the Waiting Room
Today was the day we would fight our second preliminary match.
Its location, a large stadium, was practically the exact opposite of the puny training ground in which we’d fought the first round.
The first round’s 1000 plus participants had been cut down to a measly 240. Soon, that 240 would be further reduced all the way down to 48.
The participants were split into 2 groups of 120, with each assigned to one of the two larger stadiums the event was to be hosted in. Both stadiums were known to get pretty full seeing as how the second preliminary round not only functioned as the first round open to spectators, but also the only public round that featured battle royale style matches. The 5 FFA format was actually quite popular, as people thought it fresh compared to the standard 1v1 format used throughout the rest of the tourney.
Another reason spectators enjoyed flocking to both this round and the tournament as a whole was the fact that one could gamble. Everyone other than the match’s participants would be allowed to bet to their hearts’ content. Participants were banned from placing bets in order to discourage them from fixing their matches. Match fixing was considered a serious crime and any found guilty of it would be put to death.
In my world, gambling had been an act that was often associated with organized crime and the underworld as a whole, but that apparently wasn’t something we had to be concerned with. Dias was rather strict, he was known for cracking down on and preventing it. Larger criminal organisations would always be destroyed the moment they were discovered. Smaller scaled organisations sometimes managed to find themselves staying off the radar, but none of them held nearly enough power to have their way.
Plus, the Adventurer’s Guild was the entity responsible for all the bookkeeping. They possessed the power, authority, and talent necessary to make sure nothing happened, so there really wasn’t much to worry about.
『Alright, let’s go.』
We still had a fair chunk of time before Fran’s match began, but apparently, all participants actually needed to arrive earlier than was scheduled. Hence, we’d planned to spend about 30 minutes in the venue’s waiting room.
Fran didn’t actually seem nervous. She was still her usual taciturn self despite the upcoming second preliminary round. Since we had a bit more time to spare today, she even ended up buying and eating a bunch of stuff on her way over to the stadium.
『Man, this place is huge.』
The venue was a massive cylindrical building that looked almost exactly like a colosseum. Today was our first time viewing it from up close, but I could feel the excitement contained within nonetheless. The sheer amount of hype that filled the arena was evidenced by the ridiculously loud cheers we heard booming out from within.
Fran headed inside through the combatants’ entrance at the building’s rear. Today’s receptionist seemed to be the kind that had their shit together. And so, we managed to make our way into the waiting room without anyone stopping us in our tracks. All of the other participants immediately turned towards Fran the moment she entered the waiting room. Most regarded her with surprise, contempt, or a sense of bewilderment, but she ignored them and found herself a seat.
To her, this was only normal.
There were a total of 5 different waiting waiting rooms. The tournament’s organisers had intentionally made it so people wouldn’t run into their opponents prior to actually entering the arena in order to minimize the amount of potential conflict. They’d also even gone as far as to set a rule stating that combat was banned within the waiting rooms’ confines.
「The hell’s a brat like you doing here? Scram!」
Unfortunately, people were people, and rules weren’t always respected.
One of the second round’s participants immediately started blabbing off to Fran despite the fact that he would’ve realized that she wasn’t just some random kid if he’d so much as just used his brain. A mere moment worth of thought would’ve allowed him to realize that she’d had to at least have some ability given that she’d gotten through the first preliminary round.
The man in question, a dude with a vulgar look on his face, went out of his way to rise to his feet and approach Fran. The fact that combat was against the rules put me at a loss. I wasn’t really sure how to handle the situation given that we weren’t allowed to do the usual thing and just smack him to shut him up.
It turned out that Fran didn’t share my sentiments. She knew exactly what to do, as evidenced by the fact that she activated all her intimidation-type skills without a moment’s hesitation. That is, she immediately filled the entire room with an incredible amount of pressure.
『Hey Fran, you’re going a bit overboard there.』
Fran’s aura had caused many of the other participants to rise to their feet with the faces paled and their weapons drawn out of sheer habit — and they’d only been been hit with collateral damage.
The man Fran had been aiming her bloodlust at had lost control of his legs and fallen flat on his ass. He was trembling in fear and almost on the verge of passing out.
He even went as far as immediately scuttling backwards the moment Fran laid eyes on him.
Welp. It getting all quiet was good and all, but I kinda felt bad for what we did to all the other contestants.
They weren’t able to relax until after Fran cancelled the skills and bowed her head in apology. That said, their expressions had ultimately ended up remaining stern; most seemed to have come to understand their own relative weakness.
Yup, she definitely went overboard.
Everyone present remained dead silent, which in turn made the cheers coming from the colosseum’s arena sound strangely distant. Fran, however, literally didn’t give a shit. She simply sat down, pulled a glass of juice out of her dimensional storage, and started drinking it with an innocent look on her face like it was nobody’s business.
The atmosphere ended up remaining as is until another contestant ended up entering the room.
「Oh hey, well if it isn’t the Magic Sword Girl.」
「Hey, long time no see. So you’re taking part in the tourney too?」
The girl that walked into the otherwise tense room was Lydia, an adventurer we met back in Barbra, and a member of the Scarlet Maidens. She was fairly easy to recognize, as her face was currently decorated with its usual expressionless mask.
The fact that she was here immediately led me to assume that the other two members of her party were also actively participating.
「Judith and Maia here too?」
「Yup, they’ve also both signed up for the tourney. Judith’s over in one of the other rooms. Maia had to go to the other venue instead. But seriously, whew.」
「Well, it’s just that you being here means I won’t have to worry about fighting you.」
Lydia had seen the extent of Fran’s strength back in Barbra, so learning that she wouldn’t have to fight her had caused the older girl to breathe a sigh of relief.
「Our goal is to make it past the preliminaries.」
「That’s just not something that’s going to happen. Both Colbert and Forrund are going to be participating, and there’s no way any of us could even imagine matching up to them. To be honest, we’re just entering in order to make ourselves better known so people won’t look down on us. Our party only has girls in it, so it’s a necessary measure.」
The reason the Scarlet Maidens had decided to take part in the tourney seemed like one of the more common ones. It did make sense though. Getting filtered through the preliminaries despite the tournament’s scale really would serve to evidence one’s skill to some extent. I mean, that was interesting and all, but I cared much less about the reasons she was participating than I did about the other participants she had just mentioned.
「Colbert and Forrund participating too?」
After all, it seemed that two more powerful opponents had joined the fray.
「Uhmmmm… Could you not smile like that? It’s kinda scary!」
Hearing that Colbert and Forrund had come seemed to light both Fran’s spirit and her desire to fight aflame, as she immediately smiled a belligerent smile.
「Oh, yeah! Congrats on ranking up! The fact that you’re already a C ranker is really impressive.」
「Please go easy on me if we happen to get matched up against each other after the prelims are done with. Please try not to hurt me, ‘kay?」
「I’ll hold you to it then! I swear I’ll get really mad if you make me hurt all over!」
I honestly couldn’t tell if Lydia was weak or strong from a psychological standpoint. But either way, Fran ended up getting called shortly after the two started to converse.
The clerk that called for us led us through a narrow passageway. Blinding sunlight flooded into it as we made our way through; it almost seemed to emphasize that the arena lay beyond.
『Are you ready, Fran?』
『This is your last chance to avoid garnering the Beast Lord’s attention, so if you want to back out, it’ll be now or never.』
『You sure? Even though the Beast Lord might end up making note of you?』
The Beast Lord had broken Fran’s spirit and left her trembling thereafter simply by standing before her.
But it didn’t matter.
Fran didn’t care that the actions she was about to take were ones that could ultimately attract his attention. The moment she learned of Kiara’s fate was the moment she threw away the very consideration of backing down. Doing so, running away with her tail between her legs, had become equivalent to casting away her tribe’s pride.
And that, she simply refused to do.
『Go all out, do whatever it is you want. Don’t worry about the Beast Lord. We can always just teleport the hell away, find ourselves a ship, and sail off to another continent if really need be. But that’s not something you’ll have to worry about, I’ll take care of everything if worse comes to worst, so don’t let your fears hold you back.』
『Alright, that’s all I had to say.』
There was no point in dwelling on what ifs. All we needed to do for now was focus on and conquer the second preliminary round.
『Let’s do this!』