Fran stared Zefmate down as the two stood across from each other at the arena’s center.
「Hey there, heard you totally wrecked one of our guys.」
「Could you maybe do without the glare?」
Though it was in part because we were about to have to fight him anyways, Fran didn’t bother concealing her naked hostility. She narrowed her eyes and stared in his direction without bothering to say a word. He, however, responded not with bloodlust, but instead with a perpexled, bitter smile.
「I had Seiz punished.」
「I’m talking about the guy you beat during the second round of prelims.」
「Because lost to Black Catkin?」
「Nah. It was because he was far too rude. He shouldn’t have said what he did even if it was just for provocation’s sake. In fact, let me apologize for him. Sorry.」
Zefmate caused Fran’s eyes to widen his shock as he gave her a prim and proper bow alongside an apology. She wasn’t the only one to feel the way she did, I also ended up surprised as all hell.
The reason for my surprise was a bit different from Fran’s. I’d popped the Principle of Falsehood because I thought he was trying to bullshit her to butter her up, but it turned out that his words hadn’t been laced with lies; he speaking from his heart.
「Seiz won’t be one of our execs for much longer. I’m planning to demote him because I feel that we really shouldn’t be thinking of or treating Black Catkin the way we do.」
「Saying that even though Blue Catkin? Maybe not actually Blue Catkin? Something else?」
「Ahaha… I really am a Blue Catkin you know? Though, I guess I can see where you’re coming from. I understand that you don’t trust me, but I’d like to say that I don’t approve of the slave trade, nor do I plan on looking down on you just because you’re a Black Catkin.」
『Wow. He actually isn’t lying. Everything he’s said so far is true.』
（Huh? Telling joke?）
『I’m being serious. He really means what he says. His apology was genuine.』
My words prompted Fran to once again glare at Zefmate, this time, as if probing him. He, however, didn’t mind. He simply stood there exactly as he had been despite her looking at him the way she was — which made sense. There was no reason for him to react any differently given that he’d been speaking the truth.
「Can’t be trusted!」
It was a result that led Fran to flare up in agitation, an emotion I couldn’t really blame her for feeling. To her, Zefmate was basically the equivalent of a mafia boss, and good natured mafia bosses were a concept limited to the realm of fiction. There was simply no way for one to exist in the real world given the nature of their work. Hence, the result of the Blue Catkin communicating his intentions to Fran had caused her to be stricken with bewilderment, which wasn’t exactly what you’d call the best emotion to be feeling going into a duel.
『Calm down. You don’t really need to think too hard about what he’s said. It doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to need to beat him in battle.』
「Nn. Will attack first, think later.」
Race: Beastkin (Blue Cat Tribe/Blue Leopard)
Class: Blink Strike Swordsman
Status Level: 53/99
Espionage: Lv 3
Evasion: Lv 5
Crisis Detection: Lv 6
Bow Techniques: Lv 3
Bow Arts: Lv 4
Vigilance: Lv 4
Sword Techniques: Lv 8
Sword Arts: MAX
Divine Sword Arts: Lv 2
Command: Lv 6
Boost Morale: Lv 3
Kicking Techniques: Lv 4
Kicking Arts: Lv 5
Blink Step: Lv 3
Interrogation: Lv 4
Spear Techniques: Lv 2
Spear Arts: Lv 3
Twin Sword Arts: Lv 5
Elemental Blade: Lv 2
Climbing: Lv 7
Poison Resistance: Lv 3
Water Magic: Lv 3
Magic Resist: Lv 2
Lesser Agility Boost
Sense of Direction
Blink Strike Blade
One Who Brings Victory
Blue Dragon Fang Shortsword
Adamantite Alloy Longsword
Multi Headed Dragon’s Body Armour
Leaping Dragon’s Wing Mantle
Bracelet of Status Abnormality Resistance
Health Restoring Ring
Both Fran and Zefmate immediately began to act the moment the battle began.
Fran gave into her frustration and launched an attack backed only by brute force. It was a bit crude and lacking in finesse, but more than powerful enough to end the match if it happened to land.
Zefmate defended against the strike by crossing his blades and blocking. He then began attempting to wrap his two swords around me in order to disarm her. The technique was stellar, but his attempt ended in failure for the sole reason that he wasn’t capable of matching Fran in terms of pure power.
The fight turned into a series of back and forths after the initial clash; both combatants continued to swing their blades at one another in an attempt to get a hit in. Though Zefmate was armed with two swords, and Fran only one, she gradually gained an edge on him and began taking control of the battle’s momentum. The reason she was able to suppress him wasn’t just because of her strength stat, but also because she was simply more skilled in the way of the sword.
Realizing that he was at a disadvantage, Zefmate leapt a whole ten meters back and disengaged, an effect likely brought about by that Leopard’s Paw skill of his. The sheer amount of momentum it gave him was so great that it rendered Fran unable to catch up and immediately assault him as he landed.
「You sure are strong.」
「Not too bad yourself?」
「Thanks. You being both a Black Catkin and as strong as you are really seems to prove my point. We Blue Catkin really have been wrong to look down on your kind.」
「First time… Meeting not scum Blue Catkin…」
Fran’s emotions had finally settled, she managed to grasp the truth and accept it for what it was. The gaze she threw in his direction was no longer one filled with anger or hatred, but instead driven by curiosity. She had taken an interest in him.
「Ahahaha… Yeah…You’re right… We Blue Catkin really do have to stop acting the way we do.」
Zefmate’s laugh was dry, he seemed to be feeling both really depressed and somewhat awkward at the same time.
「Though I am still feeling apologetic, I won’t be able to throw in the towel or let you have the match else risk harming my band’s reputation. I’ll still be winning this match of ours.」
「Right back at you.」
Fran took a stance. She kept her guard up despite smiling and seeming a bit curious as to what Zefmate would do.
The amount of magical energy dwelling within him began to skyrocket.
His muscles began to bulge and expand at an incredible rate the moment he muttered the skill’s name. All visible parts of his skin were immediately covered by blue fur with black spots on it. His appearance warped into exactly what his race suggested — he became a blue leopard.
「We Blue Leopardkin are a species that specialize in enhancing our own bodies. You’d be best off not thinking of me as the same person you just exchanged blows with! Blink Strike Blade!」
Zefmate’s attack almost seemed to be paired with an instant transmission, as he almost seemed to vanish, only to reappear right next to us as he delivered his blow. The strike was so fast that Fran was unable to counter, and forced into only blocking it.
「To think you’d block even the first strike…! Haaaah!」
The Awakening skill had boosted his strength stat by more than 30 and his agility by almost an entire 200. If one were to judge him based solely on his speed, he’d likely be classified as an A ranked adventurer. His assault was fearsome, and really ingrained into my mind just how much more powerful Beastkin became upon evolution.
Blink Strike Blade seemed to be the type of skill that boosted one’s speed as one used it to attack. It, combined with Zefmate’s innate high speed, made him so fast that we actually couldn’t keep track of him with just our eyes. He seemed to be the most speed focused fighter we’d ever encountered to date.
He began using both Blink Step and Leopard’s Paw to move around at super high speed in an attempt to throw us off while also attacking with Blink Strike Blade.
A ridiculous number of incredibly fast attacks came at us from every direction. If Zefmate were up against any weaker adventurer, he probably would’ve already completely torn his opponent to bits.
However, Fran wasn’t what one could call a weaker adventurer. Thus, he hadn’t even managed to get a single clean hit on her.
All that training we did had allowed Fran to grow much more accustomed to using her detection-based skills. Through their use, she was able to sense every single one of his moves — and that was all she needed. The fact that Fran could detect his attacks allowed her more than enough leeway to react to and defend against them.
Fran’s sheer ability had led Zefmate to panic. Though he stated he didn’t look down on the Black Catkin race, he, as an evolved Beastkin, probably never even considered the possibility of losing to one in combat given that they weren’t capable of evolving.
He must’ve simply thought that he, as an experienced veteran, would be able to trump Fran, a little girl, in all of stats, experience, skill quality, and skill quantity.
The Blue Leopardkin’s attacks grew more frequent as he lost his cool. He stopped doing as many feints, and moved around much less between repeated offensives. His impatient attacks would’ve ended anyone that couldn’t keep up him. But again, Fran could. As a result, his assault only grew duller. His strikes became monotone, repeititve, and predictable.
A low rising stone wall spawned in Zefmate’s path as he closed in on Fran from behind.
The result mirrored exactly what would expect to see if a bike smashed into a guardrail at full speed; the impact of ramming into the wall caused Zefmate to go flying through the air.
「I was read like a book and baited!?」
Fran fired a spell towards what I presumed to be the now defenseless Blue Leopardkin — only to have me realize that I’d been underestimating the effects of his Leopard’s Paw, as Zefmate kicked the air and changed his trajectory to avoid the incoming flames. His actions had been so far out of the scope of my predictions that I even ended up unconsciously clicking my tongue.
I felt like the only reason I thought it was over was because I’d decided to leave everything to Fran. If I wasn’t effectively functioning as a spectator with the best tickets in the house, I probably wouldn’t have assumed that victory was assured even after Fran fired that supposedly final spell.
In other words, I wouldn’t have let my guard down.
I would’ve instead acted as Fran did.
「When did you!?」
Fran had immediately started moving after firing off her attack. She used the flames she shot at Zefmate as cover, got around him, and approached him from the rear through the use of Fire Magic the moment he attempted to dodge the attack by using Leopard’s Paw.
Zefmate was fast, but so was Fran. She was capable of moving just as quickly as he was, even after he’d awakened.
To him, it must’ve felt like Fran had instantly teleported behind him, like someone had matched his speed. And that was something he didn’t quite seem to be used to. He wasn’t capable of properly defending himself from her assault.
All he managed was to throw the sword in his left and thrust the one in his right in order to retaliate.
Both attacks, done purely out of desperation, proved ineffective. The sword he thrusted at Fran only barely managed to scratch her cheek, whereas the one he threw ended up getting tossed inside her dimensional storage.
Fran slashed her opponent’s legs as she pushed him out of bounds. She could’ve just sent him flying, but chose to rob him of his mobility as well, just in case he somehow managed to recover. Without his speed, Zefmate was sure to lose.
As a result, Zefmate had lost one of his legs, and with it, his sense of balance. He was unable to steady himself, and ended up falling outside the arena’s boundaries.
「Its over! It’s over!! I can’t even tell what happened! Ladies and gentlemen, that, what we just saw was merely one of the tournament first rounds! Can you believe it!? Both combatants were moving so quickly I wasn’t able to tell what either was doing!」
The fact that both Fran and Zefmate had dashed around as quickly as A rankers had caused the caster to start screaming in excitement.
「And our winner today is Fran, the Magic Sword Girl! Her victory has set a new record! She, as a 12 year old, has become the youngest contestant to ever win one of the tournament’s rounds!」