Three Versus One
We decided to continue sparring with the adventurers Gamud took under his wing after he finished lecturing them.
However, that didn’t go too well. Their moods had hit rock bottom not only because they’d just been scolded, but also because they’d realized that they were no match for Fran.
They weren’t able to draw out the full extent of their abilities as a result, so she ended up totally crushing them with one hit each even though she was holding back. It took less than five minutes for her to go through a full cycle.
「You guys are pathetic… Is that really all you’ve got?」
「We’re… terribly… sorry!」
Gamud spoke a line to provoke the adventurers into taking action, but they didn’t take the bait. Instead, they simply responded with a series of despondent frowns and grimaces.
They knew that they were far too lacking in both strength and experience to beat Fran. That, combined with the fact that she was just a kid, had caused their confidence levels to hit rock bottom.
We’d been hired because Gamud had wanted us to knock the group down a few pegs. Unfortunately, he seemed to have overestimated them, as they’d ended up totally breaking down instead.
Fran threw a quick glance in the guildmaster’s direction, as if to ask whether or not there was any point in continuing. We obviously didn’t want to overstress Gamud’s disciples. There was a chance that pushing them harder would lead to them either retiring or completely losing all motivation to improve whatsoever.
She quietly whispered the question to him, as if to prevent anyone else from hearing it.
「Nah, keep going. The only ones that’ll break from what you’re doing now are the lost causes that never would’ve made it too far to begin with. They would’ve either ended up retiring after some sort of slip up or losing their lives in the field.」
Techniques can be honed, and skills can be learned. Dispositions, however, are innate. To be frank, Adventuring isn’t the type of career that anyone could pick up and just do. Some people will be better suited to it than others, and that’s that.
It was much better to realize that during a training session than out in the field where one’s life was at stake. And it was for that reason that I couldn’t help but think of Gamud’s methods as kind. The adventurers he’d taken under his wing were fairly talented. It was only a matter of time before they’d set out for a dungeon or haunt. It’d be far too late for an adventurer to find out that they’d made the wrong career choice in the midst of an expedition.
「Let’s get on with the second round. Dewfo, Naria, Miguel, you’re up.」
Dewfo and Miguel assented reluctantly as Naria squealed in terror.
「This next battle will be a 3v1. I take it you have no complaints?」
Though her opponents seemed full of complaints, Fran herself seemed all for it as evidenced by the clear way she’d nodded in response.
「Oh, and how about this? We’ll ban Fran from retaliating for a good bit. All you guys need to do for it to count as your win is hit her once.」
I wasn’t too happy about Gamud deciding the rules without consulting us, but I ended up dismissing the thought because it’d only ended up serving to pump Fran up all the more. The restrictions seemed to appeal to Fran’s more childish side, as they made the spar almost seem more like a sort of game.
Likewise, the adventurers had finally started to show a bit of drive. The three seemed to think that they would be able to land a solid, damaging hit on Fran under the current circumstances, and thus, the three of them engaged in a quick meeting to discuss their plan of attack.
「It looks like you’re ready. Good. Begin!」
The first to attack was Miguel. He charged Fran and attacked with a swing of his greatsword. We immediately realized that the strike was a decoy given its unrefined nature.
Surely enough, Dewfo ended up closing in on us from behind as Miguel closed the gap. Honestly, he wasn’t too bad at sneaking around, but it wasn’t enough to deceive us. Naria launched an arrow at us right before Dewfo attacked, almost as if to cover for the holes in Miguel’s assault.
Her shot was precise, and really served to prove that she was actually quite skilled with the bow. It flew under Miguel’s armpit and by his face as he unleashed his strike. Honestly, it was an impressive sneak attack that would’ve caught any less skilled opponent off guard.
Dewfo’s attack was timed in such a way that it arrived at about the exact same time as Naria’s arrow. They were working together quite seamlessly, as one would expect from a group whose members partied up on a regular basis.
The Phantom Swordsman’s blade seemed to have a sort of skill applied to it, as it seemed to distort in the same way distant objects would on a hot summer day. It seemed that the skill’s purpose was to make it more difficult to figure out the precise manner in which his sword was being manipulated, which in turn meant that it gave him a bit of an edge in close quarters combat.
Though Fran’s three opponents had coordinated quite well, their attacks had failed to land or even surprise her. The Black Lightning Princess was both capable of detecting presences and detecting movement in the air around her. Thus, she caught the arrow with her bare hands and perfectly dodged both incoming blades. She then leapt out of their newly formed encirclement with ease, an act that caused all three of her foes’ faces to twist in frustration.
To be fair, I couldn’t really blame them. Fran had dodged their perfectly planned and seemingly unavoidable attack with a brilliant display of agility. The surprise they felt was only natural.
Still, they continued to attack. They kept trying to hit Fran with combos until Gamud finally gave her permission to retaliate, at which point in time she knocked all three out with a series of kicks. Her victory was accompanied by a wave of silence. None of the adventurers that we’d yet to face managed to respond. They all seemed to feel that they wouldn’t be able to so much as scratch her regardless of what they did. That, however, didn’t mean that they gave up. The spars still happened. Our second 3v1 went pretty much the same way as the first, but the third ended up being a bit more interesting.
Our opponents ended up being Wanda, the flame mage whose level just barely fell short of Dewfo’s, Red, the shielder with appraisal, and Liddick, a spear user. Their demeanors were quite different from one another’s. Red looked like he’d totally started panicking, Wanda seemed surprisingly confident, whereas Liddick seemed to be going into this whole thing with a serious, professional attitude. To me, he seemed like the most earnest of the nine fledgelings Gamud had taken under his wing.
One of the things that struck me as the most curious was the source of Wanda’s confidence. She hadn’t been all that motivated as far as the 1v1 went, so I figured it was probably because she assumed that she, as a mage, would be able to shine much more brightly in a group. Thinking about it, I could kinda see where she was coming from. Though Fran had demonstrated her ability to avoid physical strikes with ease, she hadn’t really shown off any of the countermeasures she had for spells.
Her two party members were clearly of the same opinion, as they focused their strategies around leading Fran around in such a way that she’d be easier for Wanda to aim at. Fran noticed, but she took the bait anyways. She moved right into Wanda’s line of fire.
She went all out. The spell she casted was one with enough power to critically injure a C ranker. It could even produce injuries too severe for Greater Heal to fully restore. The nasty grin that decorated her face demonstrated that it was an intentional choice. The attack wasn’t as powerful as it was because she had accidentally forgotten to hold back out of desperation, but rather, one she’d launched in order to pay Fran back for all the frustration she’d caused her. It looked like she still needed a bit of discipline and refinement as far as her personality went, but that wasn’t something we bothered concerning ourselves with. Educating her was Gamud’s job, not ours. All we’d been hired to do was smash what was left of her pride to bits.
Fran shot off the exact same spell. Her flames collided with Wanda’s and resulted in an explosion that perfectly neutralized both attacks.
「That’s impossible! Flare Blast!」
「How…!? Fire Javelin!」
「How!? Why!? What!? That’s impossible!」
Two magical attacks perfectly cancelling each other out wasn’t something that could be considered normal under any circumstance, even if the two in question happened to be instances of the exact same spell. You needed to angle the attacks so they hit each other just the right way while also having a short enough chant speed and enough precise control over one’s mana to match the original attack’s power before it actually hit. In other words, it was an advanced trick that would typically be considered impractical.
Of course, Fran was hella strong and all that, but any other decently skilled mage would’ve been able to pull off the exact same feat. The problem lay with Wanda herself. Her chants were long, and she completely failed to hide any traces of her magical energies. The only skill she really had was flame magic. In other words, she was suffering because she relied too much on being a backliner. She was far too used to fighting in an environment crafted for her by her allies.
Wanda ended up falling onto her knees the moment she realized just how far ahead of her Fran really was. She’d completely lost the will to fight.
And so, before long, Fran ended up kicking the third group through the air. We’d assumed that our 12th match would also serve as our last, but Gamud had other ideas in store. He wanted us to take on all nine of his disciples at once. He clearly wanted to make sure we thoroughly broke their spirits.
Fran didn’t have any reason to refuse, so she ended up going along with it. The rules were the same as they’d been for the 3v1. Fran wasn’t allowed to attack right off the bat, and it would be considered her loss so long as she was hit even just once.
They didn’t end up managing to match her. She led them around for about 10 minutes before finally showing them a glimpse of what she could really do by wiping them all out in one go.
Specifically, she’d ended them with a fire spell with a large area of effect. Gamud had ended up getting hit too, but he almost seemed to enjoy it as he would a cool breeze. We’d purposefully held back, so it didn’t really do that much damage. In fact, I was pretty sure that even the nine we were up against could’ve withstood it so long as they just grit their teeth and endured instead of screaming and letting themselves get blown away.