Fran, Urushi, and I idled about in the waiting room as the second round drew closer. Our match was the third, and the first had already begun, so we were guaranteed to take the stage in less than hour.
A lot had happened yesterday, but none of it had functioned to discourage Fran. In fact, I’d say that the events that’d transpired ended up motivating her more than anything else; she now was practically dead set on at least making it past the tourney’s third round.
The fact that the Beast Lord was going around crushing Blue Cat slave traders made her feel a sense of satisfaction, so she’d recently started acting in a much less aggressive manner than she otherwise normally would have. That said, she would still do the usual and beat up any that attempted harassing her. Though she didn’t seem to realize it herself, it seemed that hitting them wasn’t enough to dispose of all the stress they brought, and as a result, she’d been on edge for the past day and a bit. To be honest, her much more frequent interactions with Blue Catkin weren’t the only reason she was so much sharper than usual. Participating in the tourney, in and of itself, had also put her in a more belligerent mood.
Given that our match was coming up soon, Fran decided to warm herself up. Namely, she swung me a bit and practiced dodging by having Urushi jump at her.
『Our turn’ll be coming up soon, so don’t push yourselves too hard just yet, alright?』
Both Fran and Urushi continued to accelerate despite voicing their agreements. The pair had already gotten so fast that their actions had become indiscernible to the average person. That, however, wasn’t enough to make me stop them, as to Fran, her current actions were pretty much the equivalent of a walk in the park.
A clerk came knocking not too long after the two started warming up. I was honestly surprised with how quickly it came; we’d only been waiting for about 30 minutes.
「Excuse me, Miss Fran? The second round is over. It’ll soon be your turn, so please get ready.」
Asking the clerk allowed us to confirm that Goldalfa had once again ended his opponent in an instant.
Yeah, beating him definitely looked like it wasn’t going to be easy.
「Please follow me.」
『Oh yeah, Fran, don’t forget to say something like “nice to see you again,” when we run into Kurusu. We have met him already after all.』
『Make sure you do, alright? Don’t pretend you forgot who he is, okay?』
Hmm… I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried. Fran seemed to have totally forgotten that Kurusu existed, but he was still technically a C ranker and therefore not exactly what you could call a small fry.
The impression I had of him was that he was the leader type as opposed to the type that was actually all that skilled in single combat. But that impression didn’t really hold. He seemed a bit different this time around. The man we found upon climbing our way onto the stage had a sort of fierce air to him.
「You’re not someone I ever expected to see here.」
『Huh, is that really supposed to be Kurusu? He seems a lot more… wild than he did last time we saw him.』
Name: Kurusu Ryuuzel
Class: Mad Swordsman
Status Level: 37
Malice Detection: Lv 3
Espionage: Lv 4
Evasion: Lv 6
Court Etiquette: Lv 3
Madness: Lv 4
Presence Detection: Lv 6
Sword Techniques: Lv 6
Sword Arts: Lv 8
Art of Self Defense: Lv 4
Command: Lv 2
Blink: Lv 8
Cold Resistance: Lv 4
Poison Resistance: Lv 7
Trap Detection: Lv 2
Dulled Sense of Pain
Passive HP Regeneration
One That Has Overcome Death
Raging Sabertiger’s Longsword
Mithril Alloy Body Armour
Hundred Foot Spider’s Mantle
Ring of Evasion
It looked like he’d switched from being a Blink Swordsman to being a Mad Swordsman. As a result, he’d lost a fair bit of vitality and dexterity in exchange for a boost in his strength and agility. In other words, his role seemed to have transitioned into that of an all out attacker.
Seeing his face had finally caused Fran to recognize him, but she ended up a bit confused because of the disparity between how he was now and how he was before.
「Fufufu. That’s a mean question to ask.」
「Seeing the way you and Amanda fought led me to contemplate a few things and alter my own style a bit. I just so happened to get a bit too immersed in retraining myself is all.」
In other words, seeing Fran and Amanda go at each other had caused him to go into shock and question his own abilities. Thus, he ended up trying a few things and adopting whatever he thought was best.
Personally, I think he probably changed a bit too much.
「This is perfect. I knew going into this that I’d never be able to catch up to you, but fighting you is still exactly what I needed to see just how far I’ve come!」
Kurusu drew his blade, a longsword carved from the fang of a Tyrant Sabertiger. It was something we had to be careful of, as it had the Vibration Fang skill.
「You’ve even ended up matching my rank. I guess that means I’ll have to make sure I don’t disgrace myself.」
「Also won’t lose.」
Fran drew me and took a stance.
The caster seemed to take that as a signal of sorts, and immediately declared that the match had begun.
「Here I go! Madness, activate!」
Kurusu immediately threw his defenses out the window and cast a buff that caused him to focus purely on offense; he chose to try hitting her before she hit him. It wasn’t a bad choice, as he knew that Fran’s offenses would’ve overwhelmed his defenses either way.
The Mad Swordsman’s training had evidently paid off. He’d raised his stats and discovered for himself a new way of engaging in combat.
But he wasn’t the only one to have grown stronger.
Fran had done the same, and unfortunately for Kurusu, the changes in her stats had been much more dramatic than the changes in his.
The gap between him and her was even wider than it’d been back in Alessa.
Fran easily sidestepped Kurusu’s downwards swing before countering by directing her blade towards his sword arm.
Realizing her intentions, Kurusu forced his left arm between him and me in order to trade it in and save his right.
「Fufu. Not yet. My left may be done for, but I’ve still got my right!」
Fran took the initiative and went on the offensive. Her foe was able to avoid her first two attacks, but that was it. The loss of a hand had caused him to lose his ability to balance, which, in turn, caused her third strike to embed itself within his body. Naturally, it didn’t just end there. She aimed me at his right hand and attempted to strike it once more in order to force him to surrender.
But he still didn’t give up.
Kurusu’s body began glowing the moment he shouted the skill’s name.
I sensed a sudden influx of mana, so I decided to appraise him. Doing so allowed me to figure out that he’d lost most of his HP, but gained a massive boost to all his stats. He’d even gotten the Nullified Sense of Pain skill to boot.
The skill he’d just used was one that could only be used when on the verge of death.
The Mad Swordsman didn’t attempt to avoid Fran’s strike despite the boost to his agility. In fact, he willingly facetanked it while roaring and throwing out a counter.
Only then did I finally come to understand his strategy. It was perfectly fine for him to take a fatal hit given that he had a Sacrificial Bracelet. His Nullified Sense of Pain allowed him to take advantage of the instant he tanked Fran’s attack. Specifically, it allowed him to retaliate regardless of all other factors.
It was a strategy that didn’t sound too bad given how the tournament worked. It didn’t matter how injured he got. He’d end up getting healed by the tourney’s staff so long as he didn’t die. Pushing himself to the very edge of death would make it possible for him to defeat foes whose stats were higher than his own.
But it didn’t work.
Fran warded off the blade he thrust at her by smacking its side with her palm and throwing it off course, an action only made possible by the fact that she could track his sword with pinpoint accuracy.
And then she kicked him, right in the cut she’d given him earlier. It was an attack that he simply couldn’t possibly have dodged. He was too far off balance, not that he could actually keep up with her to begin with.
All the air was sucked out of his lungs; he wasn’t even so much as able to scream as he was sent rolling off the stage. He stayed on the floor even after getting sent out of the arena; it looked like he’d lost consciousness.
「And that’s game! The winner is Fran, the Magic Sword Girl! She’s managed to triumph through not only the first, but also the second round despite all the adverse rumours and speculation!」
Apparently the crowd had thought that Kurusu was more likely to win, which, to be honest, wasn’t all that unexpected given that he’d been a C ranker for much longer than we had.
「Kurusu had attempted to apply the same suicidal strategy he’d used in the first round, but this time, his sword fell short! What a shame! It looked so close too!」