Upon arriving, we found the venue to be surprisingly quiet. Further consideration made me feel like I’d stated the obvious given that the first preliminary round wasn’t actually open to the public.
Men we presumed to be adventurers were entering and leaving the building, their bodies exuding auras of passion and excitement.
『It looks like they’re handling all the reception stuff over by the entrance.』
Fran approached the receptionist in her usual, calm manner, with Urushi hidden in her shadow. He’d actually chosen to hide there on his own volition, as he knew he would’ve ended up having to do once we got into the waiting room anyways.
「I’m sorry, we aren’t allowing spectators today. The second preliminary round starts tomorrow. You’ll have to come back then.」
The receptionist did the usual thing and treated Fran as a non-participant despite the fact that she had me shouldered. It seemed that the receptionist had thought Fran to be an adventurer that’d just joined up or something.
I was a bit confused as to why the receptionist didn’t recognize Fran given the guild had announced that she’d hit C rank and all that. I only came to understand exactly why it’d happened after appraising the receptionist and finding out that he wasn’t actually associated with the guild, and was instead a civil servant working under the local lord.
「R-Really? What’s your name?」
「Let’s see… Oh, there it is. Wait, you really are participating in the tournament?」
「Are you sure you want to? There aren’t any healing services available for the first preliminary round, so you can get hurt really badly. It’s okay for you to back out if you want.」
The receptionist seemed like a pretty good guy, but he wasn’t really doing Fran any favours. That said, she wasn’t getting irritated either, seeing as how she could tell that he was only saying what he was because he was actually concerned for her safety.
「I’m serious. It really is dangerous, alright?」
「Make sure you surrender if you feel like you’re outclassed, okay!? And do it before you get hurt! It’ll be too late for you to regret your choices if you do!」
The receptionist wasn’t able to leave his desk, so he ended up voicing his concerns by shouting them at Fran as she headed inside.
Meeting the receptionist was pretty much the only hiccup we encountered along the way; everything that happened thereafter went rather smoothly. The person that showed us around after we got inside was an old adventurer, one skilled enough to tell that Fran was much stronger than she looked.
In fact, he’d even ended up looking at the other participants with a look of pity, as most seemed to be grinning at her as if she was mere prey.
「Heh. Looks like the last participant’s just a brat!」
「I guess that means this’ll effectively just be a 4 way free for all then.」
「You do know that this tournament isn’t some sort of game, right? I’m supposed to be winning it big and making a name for myself, not playing with some kid.」
The other 4 participants were already present. Half of them looked like mercenaries, and the other half like adventurers.
All but 1 of the participants had ended up looking down on Fran. The sole individual to regard her with a stern gaze was also the only person bothered appraising immediately. It turned out that he was actually a decently strong adventurer; his stats indicated that he was at least D ranked, which in turn meant he probably knew exactly who we were.
「Take your places, we’ll soon begin.」
The old man that guided us over immediately began acting like a referee. However, he was interrupted by the less skilled adventurer before he could continue giving directions.
He approached the old man and asked him to remove Fran from the fight.
「Look, I get that kid’s qualified for this and all, but she really shouldn’t be here. I’m only taking part in this tournament in order to make myself famous. I’ll probably end up going down in infamy instead if word gets out that I ended up hurting a little girl like her just to get past the preliminaries!」
「Say what you want. I don’t have the authority to disqualify her.」
「Hey kid! Back out, right now! This is a martial arts tournament, not some sort of children’s game!」
He likely would have continued yelling at us if the other adventurer hadn’t called out to him.
「I’m guessing you just got here then?」
「Arrived yesterday. What of it?」
The more skilled of the two adventurers breathed a bit of a sigh. He seemed to have guessed that the other adventurer had only just in Ulmutt, and hence, had yet to hear about Fran. From that, he determined that convincing the other man was impossible, so he instead turned towards the judge and urged him to start the match.
「We should probably begin if you want the tourney to stay on schedule.」
「Come on! You’ve got to be kidding me!」
「Look, man, you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you don’t want to fight the kid, then just forfeit.」
「He’s right. You’re getting really annoying.」
「What did you say!?」
The two mercenaries joined the fray, which ultimately caused the four men to enter a staring contest in which they all glared at one another.
（Master. Can’t just send flying?）
『Not right now. You’ll end up getting disqualified if you do.』
Fran was starting to get a bit frustrated.
The old man responsible for doing all the rep work seemed to feel the same way; he started the match because he didn’t really want to put up with everyone’s bickering.
「The match will begin in 5, 4, 3—」
「Hey, wait, what the hell!」
「—2 , 1, start! 」
And so, the match ended up starting despite the weaker adventurer’s complaints.
Both mercenaries immediately kicked off the moment the ref said the word ‘start.’
「Heh heh heh. Best thing to do at a time like this…」
「…Is to immediately team up and jump the strongest guy!」
Though both mercs were rather weak, they still did have a fair amount of experience in combat. As they worked in the same field, the two established a mutual understanding and immediately began working together.
I’d always thought of mercenaries to be the type of people that were capable of using all sorts of different weapons, but weak nonetheless. However, after being presented with live samples, I came to realize that they were in fact individuals rather skilled at cooperating. My guess was that they were most likely even more skilled than adventurers were in that regard.
The weaker adventurer immediately reacted to their words.
「Kuh! How cowardly! I can’t believe you’d gang up on me right off the bat!」
Wait, did he seriously think that he was the one that was going to get ganged? Just how in the world did someone as weak as him end up with that much confidence? Dude’s been rattling on about getting famous and all that, but as far as I could tell, his attitude wasn’t backed by his ability. I didn’t understand why he assumed he’d be actually able to get past the first round of the prelims.
「First up is you!」
「Oraaahh! Go to hell!」
The individual the two mercenaries immediately approached was naturally the more powerful of the two adventurers; they closed in on him from both directions while swinging their blades. Their choice seemed logical, as the man did give off the sense that he was rather strong.
But they were simply too weak in comparison. Both were sent flying out of bounds with a single swing of the adventurer’s sword.
「He was way too strong!」
Fran faced off against the other adventurer in the meantime. He really seemed to be the type of guy who wasn’t good at reading the mood, as he ended up trying to convince her to forfeit even now.
「Listen here kid. I hit ranked all the way up to E faster than of Corrent Village’s other adventurers. There’s no way a little girl like you could possibly match up to my genius! Forfeit, walk yourself out of bounds right now if you don’t want me to hurt you. This is your final warning, you hear!」
Did he end up turning out the way he did because the tiny ass village he came from thought him to be a genius or something? Is that how all this happened?
Fran interrupted the weaker adventurer by kicking him in the stomach and sending him flying so far he almost fell out of bounds.
He held his stomach and looked up at Fran with eyes filled with disbelief as he vomited all sorts of different things. It seemed he was incapable of comprehending the fact that she’d just sent him flying about 10 meters back.
「Will get serious next time if you still want to fight.」
The adventurer lying on the ground in front of us was rather unskilled, but, even he could feel the aura of intimidation that Fran’s body had began exuding. He finally shut up and immediately rolled himself right out of bounds without even bothering to voice anything about shame or dishonor.
『Why’d you purposefully make him not go out of bounds?』
（Stupid and annoying, but wasn’t bad person.）
For that reason, she’d intentionally allowed him to choose whether or not he wanted to back off as opposed to just sending him flying further. I got where she was coming from, but honestly, I almost wanted to say that the way she did it was even more cruel than just finishing him in one hit. The way she attacked him made it so he wouldn’t be able to make excuses or say that he’d been caught off guard, which in turn might’ve just broke his spirit and made him lose heart.
「I knew this would be how things turned out…」
「I doubt I’ll be able to triumph over you, but I will at least get a hit in!」
He drew his blade and attacked in a fluid, skillful motion, but failed to damage Fran regardless.
She swung her left fist, smacked him with a counter, broke his stance, and caused him to collapse on the spot.
And so, Fran ended up moving onto the second round of the preliminaries.