Watching Fran fight Goldalfa left me in a state of shock. She had become far stronger than I had imagined.
Fran had always been both strong and cute. That, I knew from the moment we first met. I had also known that she would eventually grow if given enough time.
I knew that she would one day surpass me, but I had always thought that day was one that wouldn’t come for another 10 years.
I had predicted that she would lose her quarter-final match, but she didn’t. She defeated Goldalfa, a foe that I would have had to struggle against.
Her rate of growth was so high it could only be deemed abnormal. It was likely one brought about by her desire to evolve, and made possible by Master, her mysterious sword. I had no doubt that it was he that guided her along.
Speaking of which, it seemed that Master had also grown considerably more powerful. He had performed several surprising feats as Fran dueled Goldalfa, feats that simply could not possibly be attributed to Fran herself. Specifically, I believed it was likely that he was responsible for using the instances in which the Fran had seemingly used Space Time Magic and Lightning Magic chantlessly in rapid succession. Likewise, I also assumed that he was the catalyst that had allowed her to evolve, to do what was considered unthinkable for the Black Cat Tribe’s members.
I was unable to tell exactly which abilities could be attributed to Fran, and which could be attributed to Master, but I did know that they would make for a difficult opponent with their powers combined.
They were not to be underestimated, even in the slightest.
The most surprising part of the battle was when they used Physical Damage Nullification. I was only able to recognize the skill because I had once experienced fighting against a foe that happened to have it. Their ability to stop Goldalfa’s axe head on and block his powerful shockwave-based attacks with nothing but an outstretched arm served to evidence that they either had the skill or one in its vein.
Physical Damage Nullification was powerful and difficult to deal with, but it still did have its flaws. Its high mana consumption meant I could eventually break through her defenses so long as I continued to attack.
「That girl has quite the strength to her. Is she perhaps some sort of adventurer?」
「I highly doubt that conjecture of yours. She appears to be a Beastkin, and is therefore most likely associated with the Beastkin’s Country.」
「I really would prefer if she was to affiliate herself with us given her strength.」
「Well, I shan’t be allowing to steal a march on me.」
「She has quite the number of applications if you take her beauty into consideration.」
「Uhyohyo, I would like to take her under my own wing as well.」
The nobles in my vicinity did as they inevitably would have, and began to make note of her. Fran’s tender age had led them to believe that she was prone to listen to their commands regardless of what they were.
「I would love for her to join the ranks of my imperial guests.」
「She would make a perfect guard for my daughter.」
I felt the urge to administer a tad bit of discipline, but stopped as I heard several more legitimate ideas arise. I was unable to determine which course of action would be better, and instead ended up once again pondering about her growth.
I had been acquainted with Fran for a long time. We met far before we encountered one another in Alessa. In fact, I was first introduced to her over ten years ago.
But in truth, our relationship was far more deeply rooted than even that.
I had long been acquainted with her parents. They were alumni from one of the orphanages I ran. Her parents’ names were Kinan and Framia. I still remembered looking after the two of them in their youth.
They grew up, left the orphanage after getting into an argument with me, and took up adventuring.
We had said our goodbyes on the wrong foot, so I was glad they decided to visit.
It had all been my fault in the first place. Adventuring had not struck me as their forte. The only fate I could imagine befalling them was death, so I denied their dreams. I told them that they would be unable to evolve even if they tried. My criticisms had been too remorseless, and because of that, I failed in preventing the two from taking off.
I had failed in communicating to them. There was likely a better way for me to go about giving them advice. That was why I was really happy that they purposefully sought me out and had me meet their newborn daughter.
They told me that her name was Fran. Both her name, age, and species matched that of the young adventurer I met in Alessa.
But even so, I was unable to discern her identity when I first heard of her. The reason for that was because I had caught wind of both Kinan’s and Framia’s deaths. Though there was never any word of Fran’s fate, I assumed she had followed in their footsteps.
Meeting her and seeing her face, however, changed everything. She looked just like Flamia had in her childhood, and so, I put two and two together.
I wanted to immediately let her know that I was acquainted with her parents. I wanted to take her under my care, but that decision was one I hesitated to make. She had already proved herself to be an accomplished adventurer, and more importantly, I had already proven unable to protect her parents and prevent them from meeting their demises.
After a bit of consideration, I decided not to mention the bonds we shared, and instead thought of a different method by which I could offer her protection. That was why I forced my way into her quest and sparred with her, so I could do my utmost to ensure her safety. I was certain that Fran would one day become an adventurer important enough to leave her name in history.
What I was worried about was that she would one day overestimate herself and have the rug swept out from right under her feet.
I wanted to teach her that thinking of oneself as the pinnacle of strength was foolhardy, that there was always someone or something stronger than oneself. I wanted to show her what it was like to face off against a foe far mightier than herself.
To that end, I spent several months immersed in bettering myself. In doing so, I raised the level of my Whip Techniques skill for the first time in around 10 years. I was only 50 years old, so I was still young, but the combination of my elven blood and a more relaxed lifestyle had caused my skill levels to plateau. However, many of them once again began to grow as I trained with a goal in mind.
My actions once again allowed me to affirm that goals were important, and that they encouraged achieving results.
I finally obtained the Celestial Whipmaster class I had always wanted, all so I could defeat Fran.
Fran and I faced each other the next day.
She wore a wonderful smile as she readied herself for battle. She was neither afraid of me nor nervous. I could tell that she had directed her entire focus on victory and nothing more.
I knew that I was going to have to push myself if I wanted to win. Yesterday’s observations had led me to understand that Fran had already not only surpassed me in terms of speed, but also had enough firepower to slay me in but a single blow.
That was simply how much strength her evolution had provided her.
And it was also the precise reason for which I had to win. I had to more than just win. I had to overwhelm her and prove to her that she should refrain from letting her guard down, and I had to be ready to make any and all sacrifices necessary to make that possible.
Fran and Master unleashed several spells the moment the match began.
The precise combination was one of wind and lightning. It seemed that the former was used to prevent me from using my whip, and the latter to paralyze me.
It was clear that they were using their heads, but the spells they had casted were far too weak to stop me in my tracks. I fought back by concentrating and releasing a mass of magical energy in order to execute my fastest and most powerful technique, one that completely blew their spells away.
「Call of the End — Vaisravana’s Downfall!」
My whip raged through the stadium at a speed not even I could perceive.
It blew Fran’s magic away and began assaulting her.
My assault proved that Fran had the Physical Damage Nullification skill. Each of the attacks assailing her were powerful enough to turn a High Ogre into mincemeat, but she was not taking any sort of visible damage whatsoever.
Still, I continued flaying my whip. I could tell my attacks were draining Fran’s mana. I had to press on until she ran out.
My divine whip technique’s high power was both its greatest strength and weakness. My whip would be destroyed if I kept up the barrage for far too long.
The whip I was currently using was one I had for many years, and one I had come to love, but I continued to press on regardless. There was no point in worrying about my weapon lasting me through to the final round. My true purpose was to win this match. Instilling a sense of humility in Fran was the one thing that really mattered.
「Here she comes.」
Fran vanished. I knew she had teleported through the use of Space/Time Magic, and because I knew, I was able to react to her attack.
I moved as quickly as I could and got away from my prior position. Fran appeared where I had been moments before, her face full of surprise.
Still, she didn’t give up.
She combined her skills and spells in order to accelerate at a rate far outside my expectations, an act that in and of itself, was exactly what I expected from her.
Fran put me in a bad spot. She not only activated my Spirit’s Grace skill, but had also forced me in her preferred range. Her black lightning cloaked blade flew right at me once again. It was an attack I highly doubted I was capable of dodging.