「Congratulations, Miss Fran. You have earned the right to participate in the main event.」
Fran ended up having to visit what almost looked to be yet another waiting room after winning the match. There, she was met by a clerk who explained how things would work from here on out.
The tournament wasn’t set to start till the day after tomorrow, but, tomorrow was going to be a busy day regardless. The matchups and brackets were to be posted in the morning and an opening ceremony was to take place around noon. The tournament’s participants didn’t actually have to participate in the opening ceremony. In fact, the clerk’s tone made it seem like we were more or less discouraged from doing so, which honestly only made sense. Putting a bunch of hot blooded warriors in one spot sounded like a terrible idea no matter how you spun it.
They pushed the idea even further by stating that copies of the brackets would be delivered straight to the inn we were staying at so we wouldn’t even have to head out in order to check them.
To us, not having to attend the ceremony was nothing short of a blessing. Fran wasn’t the type of girl that’d be able to sit still while nobles and other bigwigs went about with their long speeches and whatnot. Plus, the Beast Lord was pretty much guaranteed to be present as a VIP of sorts, and being around him didn’t quite seem like what one would call the best idea ever.
We were also informed that the main tournament’s participants would be given preferential treatment at all smithies throughout the city for the event’s duration. Injuries could be fixed on the spot with ease. All one would need to do to restore themselves to perfect health was to either chug a potion or two, or have someone cast a few healing spells. Gear, however, couldn’t really be fixed unless you took it in for maintenance.
Luckily, there wasn’t too much new information to absorb, so we ended up leaving the arena not too long after our victory — only to immediately run into Judith.
「Hey Fran. It looked like I really didn’t even stand a chance.」
「Haha… Only because you held back enough for me not to be.」
The way she spoke made it clear that she was feeling a bit down. Fran had no idea what to say given the circumstances, and so, she just ended up not saying anything at all. Instead, she simply looked at the other girl with a bit of a troubled expression.
「Oh uh, sorry, don’t mind me. I just wanted to wish you good luck and to tell you to give it your all, in part for my sake.」
「Oh, and make sure you win the first round! I’ll be betting all the spare cash I have on you!」
「Might fight Lydia if she wins prelims.」
「That doesn’t matter! I’ll still be betting on you anyway.」
Judith smiled cheerfully while giving us a thumbs up.
With that, we departed, our minds and hearts filled with Judith’s half sincere, half greed-driven words of encouragement.
「Will do best.」
『That you should, for Judith’s wallet’s sake.』
The tournament brackets were delivered to us the next afternoon.
We immediately began looking them over the moment we got them. The brackets were split into four distinct blocks, labeled A, B, C, and D respectively. Each naturally contained 16 of the tourney’s 64 contestants.
Fran’d been placed in slot A-11, which… honestly didn’t really mean much to us. It told us who we were up against and all, but did nothing to tell us how strong he or she was supposed to be.
『Looks like we’re up against someone named Zefmate…?』
『He isn’t seeded, so I guess that means he must’ve at least been strong enough to win his way through the prelims.』
We decided to put Zefmate aside for the time being and look into him a bit later on. I figured we’d at least be able to learn a bit about his fighting style if we just asked Erza.
After shelving the thought and putting something on our to-do list, Fran and I immediately looked over all the seeded combatants.
「Forrund and Amanda.」
『Royce and Goldalfa are on here too.』
The four A ranked adventurers looked to be the tourney’s top seed, as their names were placed in the page’s four corners. Though some tournaments involved having seeded individuals fight less matches, this one didn’t. There were exactly 64 participants, so it was fair in the sense that each and every single individual would have to fight the exact same number of battles to win the event.
As we were in Block A, the first top seed we’d end up encountering, if any, would have to be Goldalfa, one of the Beast Lord’s escorts. He was in the same block as us, and specifically had been placed in slot A-1. Block A’s second seed, Colbert, had been placed opposite him in slot A-16.
Having 16 seeded combatants meant that there were naturally four in each block. They all seemed to be quite strong, but Goldalfa and Colbert, the ones we’d have to fight, seemed especially intimidating. Both were capable of bringing Fran to the verge of death with a single strike. Fortunately, we knew about both their abilities to an extent, so we could at least begin thinking up how we could best deal with them ahead of time.
The first of the two we would face would be Colbert, which in turn meant we’d need to be able to do something about opponents that made use of Martial Arts. But again, he wasn’t the only person we needed to defeat. There were just so many people we needed to look up and do research on — a fact that worried me to the point where I’d started doing mental laps.
Fran, however, wasn’t. The possibility of having to go up against one of the Beast Lord’s guards failed to frighten or worry her. In fact, it’d done the exact opposite. Hearing that she might get to fight Goldafa had pushed her battlelust over the edge and caused her to break into a smile.
『So if we win the first round, we’ll probably have to fight… Wait, seriously? Him?』
「Kurusu Ryuuzel? Don’t really remember?」
『I’m not surprised you don’t remember him, but he was that one C ranked guy that was there when we went dungeon diving with Amanda.』
『Oh come. He was the one guy that kinda functioned as both a guide and examiner at the same time. Dude was kinda handsome, but almost seemed kinda pitiable given how worldly-wise he was. He must’ve seen some shit.』
「Maybe vaguely recalling?」
Welp… It didn’t look like I’d be able to jog her memory, so I just gave up. I figured she’d probably remember him if she saw him. I was fairly confident Kurusu himself would likely recognize her on sight, as the impression she’d left on him had been a pretty deep one. It’d probably get all awkward if Fran ended up treating him like a total stranger, so I decided to make a mental note to remind myself to remind her that she knew him the moment we came across him.
That said, the mental note I made wasn’t really one I’d classified as anything even remotely close to high priority. There was a fair chance we wouldn’t actually end up getting pit against Kurusu anyways. He would have to win against the individual seeded into slot A-9 in order to actually see us in the ring.
『Looks like Kurusu’s going to to have to fight that old guy, Radyer.』
「Said he was C ranked?」
『Yeah, but he’s apparently as strong as a B ranker and even used to serve as a court magician.』
Radyer getting seeded honestly seemed nothing short of reasonable. I kinda felt a bit sorry for Kurusu; I really couldn’t see him winning against the old mage.
「Radyer will win.」
Fran voiced her agreement.
Well, I guess we’ll have to figure out how to best fight mages if we wanted to beat Radyer.
『And if we manage to make it past Radyer, we’ll have to face off against Colbert.』
「Nn! Will need to try hard. Excited.」
Colbert was much more experienced than us, and even had a trick or two up his sleeve. He’d had something that disguised his stats, so we didn’t even know if the values we’d seen back then had really been his actual ones. All I really knew about him was that he had that a mysterious martial arts-type skill referred to as Dimitris-Style Martial Arts, which was yet another thing we’d have to look into.
『And if we beat Colbert, we’ll have to fight Goldalfa.』
Goldalfa, like Colbert, seemed to be fairly strong, so I didn’t doubt that he’d win his first three matches. I wasn’t really confident as to whether or not we’d be able to bring him down ourselves; there was a fair chance he’d be able to plow through us and win his fourth match as well.
『Hell yeah we will!』
If we did beat him, then I’d say we actually had a fair chance of actually winning the whole goddamn tourney. He, as an A ranked adventurer, was someone strong enough to single handedly upset the balance of a country’s military power so it went without saying that he was a likely contender for the championship title.
『Though, beating him isn’t really going to get us out of fighting all the other A ranked adventurers present.』
If all went well, Fran would have to fight Amanda in the semis, and Forrund in the finals, the realisation of which practically left her trembling in excitement. Both gave off the impression that they were even stronger than Goldalfa, especially since we’d witnessed their power first hand back in Barbra.
「But will still win.」
『That we will.』
They were extremely formidable, but I refused to back down. There was no point in me doing so if Fran actually intended on giving it her all. After all, victory was something that necessitated the right mindset; there was no way for us to win unless we fought with that precise purpose in mind.
『Fuck yeah! Let’s do this!』
『I was just getting myself pumped, cause we’re gunna win this shit!』
We’d identified what seemed to be our main threats, but that didn’t mean we could actually let our guards down. As there were many other strong contestants, there was a chance we could be caught off guard and completely obliterated by someone we hadn’t expected to fight if we didn’t remain vigilant.
Having come to that conclusion, we decided to once again look through the brackets in order to identify our acquaintances.
The first name that happened to catch our eyes was Fermus’. He happened to be in Block D together with Royce.
The second name we noticed was Erza’s. It seemed the tournament was fairly flexible and its managers were willing to accommodate people’s needs, as they hadn’t listed him by his real name. Erza, like Amanda, was placed in the Block B. I kinda wanted to see the two fight, but also kinda didn’t, as it’d likely be a showdown that’d determine which was the more fearsome woman.
The third name that caught our eye was the name “Phillip Krysten,” which happened to be listed alongside Forrund’s in Block C. I was a bit unsure as to whether or not he should actually be here given Barbra’s status quo, but figured he probably had his reasons for participating. Plus, he honestly had seemed pretty damned strong given what he was able to do to Rynford, so I was looking forward to seeing the full extent of abilities; Phillip vs Forrund was a match I didn’t want to miss.
Our eyes moved around the page a bit more and located the name Charlotte. I recalled her immediately. She was the young War Dancer that’d helped us out back in Barbra. She seemed to me like the type of person that’d fight through the rituals she performed with her dance as opposed to engaging in direct combat… which wouldn’t really help her given that her first match was against Erza. I felt pretty bad for her, so I at least, in my mind, offered her my heartfelt condolences.
Her name was the last familiar one we found.
The person we’d been looking for hadn’t made the list.
Wait, didn’t she ask Fran not to hurt her too much if they came across each other during the main event and all that? How could she actually not make it after saying something like that?
God damn it, Lydia! What the hell!?