We checked in on Colbert, who’d been carried over to the sickbay, not too long after the match ended. His wounds had been healed by magic, but he’d yet to regain most of his stamina, and so, he was still bedridden and unable to so much as sit up.
「Colbert, feeling okay?」
「Hey… It appears that I’ve narrowly managed to escape death.」
「Hahah. You have me beat. I never expected to lose even after undoing my sea…ugh.」
Colbert placed a hand on his head and groaned.
「Yeah… It seems that I’ve simply pushed myself a bit too hard. This happens every time I use Asura.」
Asura was the technique that caused him to suddenly sprout a bunch of magical arms. My assumption was that said technique boosted both his reaction speed and widened his field of vision, as I failed to see how else he would’ve been able to fight on par with Fran and her Sword Lord Arts.
「You were strong, stronger than any foe I’ve ever faced before.」
「Your next opponent will be a tough one, but I believe in you. Beat him, for my sake as well.」
We decided to leave the sick bay after exchanging a few more words with him. As he’d yet to recover, I figured that forcing him into an extended conversation probably wasn’t exactly what anyone could call a good idea.
I expected that he’d end up getting some peace and quiet after we left, but apparently the exact opposite happened, as I happened to catch ear of a few panicked shouts just before we wound up out of earshot.
「God damn it! I went overboard and let the blood rush to my head! Damn it! I’m totally going to get excommunicated! There’s no way my demon of a Master will let me get away with this!」
His tone made it incredibly easy for me to picture him cradling his head and shaking it in despair. It would’ve been something interesting to discuss with Fran, but I decided to practice tact and keep any mention of his circumstances to a minimum seeing as how he’d purposefully waited for her to leave before letting his emotions take control of him; he clearly hadn’t wanted to show his more pitiful side.
『My condolences, Colbert. My condolences.』
『Nah, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about. Let’s just go.』
The next thing Fran and I did was head back to the arena. Specifically, we became spectators, as it was probably the best possible use of our time. There was a chance we would end up having to fight the people that emerged victorious today should we win the next round. It’s not like we’d be wasting time even if we lost either, as observing these higher leveled fights served to broaden our horizons regardless.
There were only a total of eight matches scheduled today due to the nature of the single elimination tournament structure, and as we fought the second, there were only six for us to observe.
Amanda was the one fighting the day’s third match, and had just finished wrapping up right as we managed to get back. She had once again basically finished her foe off in an instant.
「Didn’t get to see anything.」
『Eh, can’t really be helped. This next match should be interesting enough to make up for it though. Erza’s going to be fighting.』
His opponent was a C ranked adventurer, one known to be rather difficult to fight because of his incredible technical skill with the spear. The battle was honestly one I was really looking forward to and didn’t want to miss.
However, we were at a bit of an impasse. There wasn’t anywhere for us to sit. We contemplated what to do, and I actually almost ended up creating a chair using earth magic, but, fortunately, one of the men nearby called out to us and, in doing so, stopped me before I did.
「Hey, are you Fran? The Magic Sword Girl?」
He, the middle aged man, was spectating the match with a bottle of wine in one hand, and a skewer in the other. Based on that, I assumed the guy was probably doing pretty well for himself.
「W-Woah, it really is you. I’m guessing you wanted to spectate?」
「A-Alright, feel free to take my seat then.」
「Yeah, go for it. I’ve been betting on you since the prelims, and at this point, you’ve earned me so much cash I can kick back and skip work for the rest of the month.」
Wow, he really has made a lot off us.
The fact that he’s been betting on us since the prelims meant he was probably half doing it to cheer Fran on, and half because he wanted to see if could earn himself a big ass return off her efforts. That said, I still felt thankful because he had still been rooting for us either way.
「I’ll gladly fork the seat over if you just let me shake your hand so I can brag about it to all my buddies!」
「Thanks! I’ll be cheering for you tomorrow too, so do your best out there!」
And so, the man shook Fran’s hand, relinquished his seat to her, and walked away with a bit of a chuckle. My guess was that he’d probably headed somewhere he could comfortably stand around while watching the remaining matches.
Erza’s match began shortly after we sat down. His opponent was as difficult to deal with as his reputation suggested, and managed to stay out of Erza’s range while attacking him with his spear.
However, the spearman’s attacks were a bit too light to actually inflict any damage; Erza ignored all his strikes and managed to brute force charge right at him without really minding the incoming onslaught.
The spearman’s incredible agility allowed him to dodge the attack that came out of it, but seeing that it’d destroyed a part of the arena with just one hit had caused his blood to run cold.
His movements started to dull with time, not because he ran out of stamina, but because the disparity in their attacks’ effectiveness caused him a great mental burden.
He was in a pretty shitty situation, one we’d experienced several times before. His attacks did practically nothing, but everything’d be over for him if he failed to dodge even just once. He wouldn’t be able to rake in a win unless he went out on a limb and shifted to a style that would put a bit more emphasis on pure power, a choice he was hesitant to make given that his opponent’s giant ass mace kept only barely missing him.
It took a him a good bit, but he eventually managed to do it. He made up his mind and drove his spear straight towards Erza after dodging an attack that left the bigger man off balance. It was the fastest, and most powerful strike he’d demonstrated to date.
The crowd gasped as his spear closed in on Erza’s unarmoured upper body.
But it didn’t work. The spearman’s weapon wasn’t able to pierce Erza’s skin. It was instead stopped by the bigger man’s ridiculously high defenses.
From there, it all went downhill. The man was promptly caught by Erza and dropped to the floor, where he was pinned by a full body technique that rendered him unable to breathe. He ultimately ended up having to surrender with an oxygen deprived wheeze.
『Must suck to be him.』
「Close combat means openings.」
『Well, I mean, you’re right, but…』
No way I was ever going to let Erza pin Fran to the floor, especially while making full body contact. Just, hell no.
『Pinning techniques are just terrible.』
『In more than one way at that.』
Erza’s match was the only one that’d really been interesting. All the others basically ended in an instant or were kind of boring.
Forrund’s match, the fourth match, was so short that it caused the crowd to boo. It didn’t even take him five seconds to finish off his opponent.
Phillip, the Krysten family’s eldest son, fought the fifth match. It was a harsh battle full of backs and forths, but we’d already seen him fight back in Barbra, so it ended up being kinda dull.
Neither Royce, nor Fermus ended up having to go all out, but they both finished their matches in less than a minute. All I could tell from watching them was that they had even more power hiding beneath the surface.
『We’ll have to win tomorrow’s match if we even want a chance at fighting any of them.』
「Will definitely win.」
We headed to the dungeon after we finished spectating the day’s matches so we could not only try out our new skills, but also run a few simulations in order to figure out how we’d go about fighting Goldalfa.
Fortunately, Physical Damage Invalidation didn’t actually activate whenever we took a step, but it did consume an incredible amount of mana nonetheless. It’d react regardless of whether we were attacking or defending; half of my mana pool had actually vanished into thin air before I’d even realized any of it was missing.
But, as evidenced by its ability to even nullify the shock generated by our attacks, it was ridiculously potent. Fran was able to punch an ogre many times her size without even feeling the slightest bit of backlash. In a real battle, the skill made it so we were able to ignore any and all of the attacks our opponents used to zone us. It didn’t matter whether they slashed at us with swords or whacked us with hammers. None of it had any effect whatsoever.
Likewise, Perfect Barrier also turned out to be pretty useful.
It only consumed as much magical energy as either one of the two barriers that’d merged to create it, but had the full effects of both. The potency of its defenses did still fall short of our newly found nullification skill, but that was to be expected.
In other words, we were pretty much going to end up spamming Perfect Barrier whenever we could, and saving Physical Damage Nullification for when we really needed it.
『Alright, that’s enough testing. Let’s try figuring out what we should do against Goldalfa.』
The fact that Goldalfa was an axe user made me suspect that we would probably end up having to rely on Physical Damage Nullification if we wanted to beat him. I had no idea exactly how strong he’d get if he used Awakening, but I somehow doubted our defenses would be solid enough to hold off his attacks.
His offenses were but one of my two main concerns. The other was the extent to which he was capable of soaking up damage. The dude had High Speed Regeneration, Strengthened Skin, and over 1k HP to boot. We probably wouldn’t be able to beat him by slowly wearing him down; I didn’t think we’d be able to beat him in a more drawn out battle.
In other words, if we wanted to beat him without using Physical Damage Nullification, we’d have to not only dodge all his attacks, but also deliver attacks with enough power to break through his defenses and quickly end the match. My conclusion? Things weren’t exactly looking up.
We spent a bit of time thinking up hypothetical situations and the skills we’d level to deal with each of them before finally calling it a day.
「Will go visit Rumina.」
Fran had already stopped addressing Rumina in the respectful manner that she’d done when they first met — not that the older Black Catkin minded it at all. In fact, she even seemed to enjoy being referred to more casually. The two’s relationship almost seemed to have developed into one that was kind of like that of a grandmother and grandchild, a status quo with which both were satisfied.
『Good idea. We might as well go pop in and say hi before we leave.』
We teleported into the room Rumina had made us a few days earlier.
She seemed to immediately pick up on our arrival, as she even ended up greeting us by the door as we entered her quarters.
「It appears that you have triumphed once again. I believe your next match will be a quarter final round against an A ranked adventurer?」
『Yeap. We’ll be fighting one of the Beast Lord’s subordinates.』
「And will you be attempting victory? I believe you have already satisfied the conditions he has laid before you by winning this morning’s match.」
「Will win. Will force Black Cat Tribe’s strength to be acknowledged.」
『We’re intending on playing every single card we have if that’s what it takes.』
「I see… Very well, I shall say no more regarding the matter. Instead, I will offer you my encouragement. Forward, Fran, to victory!」
And so, we headed back to the inn after having Rumina tell us a bit more about skills and magic.
Tomorrow, our match would be the first. We had to get up even earlier than usual.