『Looks like it’s finally go time.』
『We’re going to be up against an A ranker, someone as strong as Amanda. We’ll really have to push ourselves if we want to pull a win out of this one.』
「Already know. But-」
『Yeah. Let’s win this shit.』
「Nn! Will definitely win!」
We’d actually already leveled a few skills up in preparation for the fight, skills we decided would help us based on what we learned from consulting with Rumina.
「Good morning. It’s time for your match to begin. Are you ready?」
One of the tourney’s staff members called out to us and informed us that we needed to go.
「Then please follow me.」
Fran walked down the usual corridor in her usual manner. She was pumped and looking forward to the match, but not even the slightest bit nervous.
It had finally come time to put one of the schemes we’d come up with into action — not that it was actually anything grand enough to be denoted as such.
The first thing I did was buffing Fran a whole bunch. Specifically, I’d use support magic in order raise her stats. She then poured her magical energy into me in order to make use of that magical conductivity stat of mine. Specifically, she emptied herself out, drank a few High Grade Mana Potions to refill her bar, drained her entire tank yet again, and then once again downed a few more pots to top herself off in preparation for the battle. Doing that allowed her to raise my attack a ton without having to put any strain on my blade. Numerically speaking, it ended up getting boosted almost all the way up to 3.7k.
There was a pretty major problem with the strategy we were currently employing, as I was only able to hold the magical energy she charged me with for about 20 minutes. We would have to end the match before my timer ticked all the way down to zero.
『Hey you sure you’re alright? You kinda just downed 8 entire mana potions.』
Luckily, it seemed like there wasn’t any issue. I honestly felt like this strategy of ours wouldn’t actually be possible if it wasn’t for Fran’s habit of eating as much as she did. Any normal person would probably feel bloated from suddenly drinking 8 glasses worth of stuff.
Entering the stage caused Fran to be showered with the usual cheers. Evidently, she’d already grown used to them, as hearing them didn’t cause any change in her expression.
「And entering from the eastern gate is the girl that’s taken this year’s tournament by storm, the cute face that’s gained an explosive amount of popularity, Fran, the Magic Sword Girl! She’s stomped competitor after competitor, and caused upset after upset, a trend she’ll need to maintain if she wishes to beat the A ranked adventurer she’ll have to face today! Can she do it ladies and gentlemen? We’ll have to wait and see!」
The commentator’s words almost made it seem like he was rooting for us, which, I kinda did understand. Seeing a kid like Fran give it her all just kinda made you feel like giving her a bit of encouragement. The only people that I could imagine not feeling that way were probably the Blue Cat Tribe’s members.
「Do your best Fran!」
「Make sure you win, for our wallets’ sakes!」
「We believe in your Fran! You have to win! The better you do, the more we’ll get to eat tonight!」
All three Scarlet Maidens were present and cheering for us. I kinda felt like they were being a bit too open with their greed, but what mattered wasn’t the reason that they were rooting for us, but rather, the fact that they were.
「And from the western gate we have one the most likely contenders for the championship title, a man that’s crushed every single one of his opponents with an overwhelming display of strength, Goldalfa, the Impenetrable Fortress! His feats have been truly worthy of his A rank status. He’s managed to remain entirely unscathed throughout all the battles he’s won to date! What do you think, ladies, gentlemen? Will he be able to pull off yet another flawless victory? 」
Godlafa, like Fran, was also greeted by a ridiculously loud series of cheers. However, he seemed less popular than her, as there were also a couple boos thrown into the mix.
It was almost as if the crowd had already come to the conclusion that Goldalfa would come out on top. To me, it seemed that the people cheering for Fran were cheering in hopes that she’d put up a good fight as opposed to getting defeated in an instant, not because they believed that she’d be able to win. Honestly, it was something to be expected. Fran had been on a winning spree, but she was still just a C ranker. Goldalfa was an A ranker, so there wasn’t really any reason for anyone to suspect that he wasn’t way out of her league.
『I’m looking forward to seeing the looks on everyone’s faces when we prove them wrong.』
We faced off against Goldalfa at the arena’s center.
The equipment he was wearing today was completely different from the first set we’d seen him in. His armour was much tougher looking; its massive scarlet frame was decorated with a series of flame-like streaks. Likewise, his axe also gave off a much more intimidating air. It was jet black, and had a design that made it incredibly obvious that its main purpose was to serve as a weapon in times of war.
The armour also seemed to have the ability to block us from properly appraising him. My Eye of Empyrea skill allowed me to at least discern his stats and skills, but I couldn’t actually check any details regarding his equips.
「I see you’ve won your way here.」
「Will win today too.」
「You’re really spirited, and I commend you for it. But you’ll need much more than just drive and willpower to defeat me. Come! Come at me with all the strength you have!」
「Planned on it.」
Goldalfa didn’t seem to be underestimating Fran, not even in the slightest, as he was glaring at her as he would a powerful rival.
The caster quickly went over an interesting detail as the two stared each other down.
「We’ll be making use of the Cradle of Time from this match onward, thanks to the Beast Lord and his generosity.」
The Cradle of Time was a magic item that allowed one to turn back the clock within a prespecified area, and was set to activate in the case that one of the contestants happened to die. Best part of it was that apparently, the cradle didn’t actually affect one’s memory, so dying wouldn’t meant losing the experience you gained. As one could imagine, it was really a expensive item, and hence, typically saved for the semis and beyond, but this time around, the Beast Lord had decided to sponsor the tourney with a huge chunk of cash. Thus, they were able to start using the item a full round earlier than usual.
In other words, we were able to go all the hell out without really having to worry about dying or killing our opponent. That wasn’t the only factor that allowed us to go all out. There were now also a bunch of barriers set up around the arena in order to protect the audience members from any stray attacks.
Battles that included the use of the the Cradle of Time were different from other battles in the sense that there was no ring out option. One could only win by killing their opponent, disabling them, or forcing them to surrender.
「I don’t really think this needs to be said, but I’ll say it regardless. I will not underestimate you simply because you are a Black Catkin as it was a Black Catkin that made me as capable as I am today.」
「Exactly as desired.」
Fran unsheathed me and gave me a light swing as if to demonstrate her resolve.
「And I take it that’s your Magic Sword? Interesting, it truly appears to be much more than just your average blade.」
「You too. Cool armour.」
「This armour is what I wear to battle. Me wearing it serves to prove that I’m taking you seriously. It has Appraisal Blocking, both types of passive recovery, and even Magic Resistance. It was none other than a product crafted by a God-tier Blacksmith, a Magic Armour powerful enough to perform its function, even against a Godblade.」
Wait, wait, you serious!? That’s some shit dude! I mean, it was possible that I was actually be the work of some God-tiered blacksmith too and all that, but that, again, is just a possibility. His armour, on the other hand, was totally the real deal!
I mean, I was pretty confident and all that, but I couldn’t really help but get a bad feeling about that armour of his. Specifically, I was concerned about the possibility that it’d have some sort of secret ability that’d totally wreck us.
「I’ll bring everything right off the bat in order to crush you! Awakening!」
The few visible parts of Goldalfa’s skin were dyed grey as he shouted the skill’s name.
「Woah! It appears that Goldalfa has already awakened! He’s activated what most Beastkin consider their trump card! Can you believe it, ladies and gentlemen!? He’s already gone full throttle even though the match has yet to start! Things are getting heated up! I guess I’d better say, let the match… begin!」
Wait, seriously!? He awakened already!?
Goldalfa’s awakening differed greatly from Zefmate’s. That is, his stats didn’t end up changing. However, the same couldn’t be said for his skills. He’d gained a bunch of abilities that looked hard to deal with, namely, Muscles of Steel, Super Fast Reflexes, and Hardened Skin. His High Speed Regeneration had also gained several levels, and shot all the way up to 8. But that wasn’t all. Highly dense magical energy had also began circulating throughout his body.
Race: Beastkin (White Rhino Tribe / Black Steel Rhino)
Status Level: 72/99
Intimidation: Lv 8
Super Herculean Strength: Lv 8
Fist Techniques: Lv 5
Fist Arts: Lv 5
Presence Detection: Lv 3
High Speed Regeneration: Lv 8
Herculean Strength: MAX
Club Techniques: Lv 6
Club Arts: Lv 6
Mining: Lv 8
Resistance to Abnormal Status Conditions: Lv 7
Blink: Lv 3
Resistance to Mental Abnormalities: Lv 7
Elemental Blade: Lv 8
Greater Earth Resistance: Lv 4
Charge: Lv 7
Axe Techniques: MAX
Axe Arts: MAX
Divine Axe Techniques: Lv 6
Divine Axe Arts: Lv 7
Magic Perception: Lv 3
Muscles of Steel
Super Fast Reflexes
Dampened Sense of Pain
Goldalfa swung his axe downwards without moving from where he stood the moment the match began. The action caused three massive shockwaves to erupt from his axe and assault us.
They were powerful; they were backed by so much brute strength that I was pretty sure that launching those three attacks alone would’ve already been enough for him to instantly defeat most C ranked magic beasts.
It seemed to be an assault he’d launched in order to scout out our strength.
『Let’s go, Fran!』
I fired off a spell to intercept Goldalfa’s attack.
The fireball bursted into a massive conflagration as collided with the shockwave and dyed the stage in red.
I took advantage of the resulting smokescreen and teleported us behind Goldalfa.
Fran immediately took advantage of the opening presented and attacked Goldalfa’s neck by drawing me from a sheath of wind while activating all the usual skills.
It was both a deadly strike and a perfect sneak attack —
— one to which he couldn’t react.
My blade sank straight into his neck. I felt it tear through his flesh and bones as his blood sprayed from his newfound injury.
Yet, it left me unsatisfied. I felt myself smashing through a wall of magical energy and a bunch of really tough skin and muscle before even hitting his armour. We’d lost a lot of the power that the strike had initially come with.
The attack that was meant to completely behead him stopped halfway through his neck. We were unable go any deeper because of how insane his defenses were.
That said, our attack had yet to end. We hadn’t managed to do what I was hoping, but we’d opened up an opportunity, an opportunity I promptly attempted to take by turning my blade into a series of needles and stabbing them into his innars.
Unfortunately, I was too slow. Goldalfa reacted before I did.
He released a burst of magical energy and sent us flying.
Shit, he has balls!
The dude completely disregarded the fact that we half beheaded him and managed to make a calm, composed decision.
His shockwave did much more than just give him some breathing room. It ate through a huge chunk of both my durability and Fran’s HP. All in all, it seemed even more powerful than the thing he’d started the match with.
The Rhinokin immediately chased after us, so Fran had no choice but to dodge his attacks as she choked up blood.
『You still doing okay?』
We’d already known long ahead of time, but I felt the urge to reiterate that tanking Goldalfa’s attacks was a terrible idea.
『I’m surprised he awakened right off the bat like that. We also failed to actually take him in one go… Oh well, can’t be helped. Let’s start by stripping away his defenses.』
I did as per the contingency we’d thought up ahead of time and shoved all my remaining points into a certain skill.
『Be careful of his armour. It’s completely outside our predictions, and we have no idea what it can do. Either way, we’ll have to go in for a melee. Make sure you don’t get hit, not even once!』
『Shit, he’s already healed up!?』
Goldalfa leapt at us the moment we finished figuring out what to do. I honestly surprised that his wound had closed that quickly. His sheer vitality was terrifying.
The two fighters began exchanging blows, with Fran dishing out lighter attacks in rapid succession, and Goldalfa attempting to land hard hitting, decisive blows.
The Rhinokin seemed to be pretty much spamming axe techniques, as every single one of his swings was accompanied by a shockwave. I was pretty sure he would’ve killed at least 100 spectators had there not been a barrier protecting them. The shockwaves weren’t too-too strong, but taking them head on wasn’t what I could call good for my durability, so Fran ended up dodging or warding off all the hits as opposed to blocking them.
All of Fran’s attacks were aimed at the cracks and seams in Goldalfa’s armour, but we weren’t really able to damage him nearly as much as we expected to. The cuts we gave him immediately closed because he’d just regenerate off the damage; we weren’t able to inflict any lasting wounds.
I tried destroying the armour itself, but even it ended up healing back up immediately after sustaining damage, a trait that honestly wasn’t too unexpected in and of itself given that Fran’s Black Cat Set was capable of doing the exact same.
Another thing I tried was throwing a few spells at him from time to time, but to little effect. Attacking him with magic failed to do anything beyond verifying that he’d been telling the truth when he said that his armour gave him magic resistance. Goldalfa himself had already had ridiculously high physical defense to begin with, so slapping that flashy armour of his onto him basically turned him into a walking fortress.
Goldalfa once again used his innate skill at close range and sent out a blast of magical energy in every direction. The skill itself was a simple one, but it was incredibly difficult to deal with nonetheless.
At close range, the skill inflicted damage while also messing up our posture. It also appeared to be able to function as a sort of barrier if instead cast at medium range.
More importantly was the fact that it inflicted both physical and magical damage simultaneously; it didn’t seem like we would be able to fully negate its effects through the use of Physical Damage Nullification.
We’d managed to mitigate most of the damage this time around by deploying a barrier, but we still did sustain some. Goldalfa had us right where he wanted us. We were currently deadlocked into a stalemate, one he knew Fran would eventually lose because he was able to outsustain her.
「Huh. You can even use summoning magic!? Interesting, but doesn’t matter. You won’t be able to break through my defenses with any sort of attack that lacks in terms of power.」
That was something we already knew. Urushi was pretty strong, but he was indeed the type that relied more on chaining attacks than delivering single, more powerful blows — not that it actually mattered. We didn’t call for Urushi because we’d wanted him to deliver a decisive blow. We had other, better plans in mind.
『Keep it up Fran! The plan’s working. I managed to absorb some of his mana.』
The skill I’d leveled up just a bit earlier was in fact Mana Absorption. I didn’t have enough points to get it past level 9, but, it was still managing to exactly what I needed it to do regardless.
Fighting Colbert had taught that Physical Damage Nullification wasn’t something that made us invincible. We could still take damage from magic, or anything else in its vein. Plus, the skill consumed a tonne of magical energy.
To that end, we devised a plan that would address both those points at once: absorbing our opponents’ magical energy. It allowed us to not only drain mana directly from our opponents, but also from their attacks, which, in turn, would naturally weaken them.
I’ve had the skill at level 3 for a while. I could’ve boosted it up back when we were fighting Colbert as well, but I’d decided against it at the time because I didn’t know how effective it’d become. I didn’t want to make a bet we weren’t sure to win, especially given the value of my self-evolution points.
Plus, we still had a few other cards left to play, so I’d kinda been on the fence and ultimately ended up just leaving it.
The reason I was willing to level it now was because we’d asked Rumina and Dias about its effectiveness, and both had told us that it’d get pretty annoying to deal with if leveled.
In fact, it was such a good skill that even Rumina thought it to be dangerous, and so, I’d actually really been looking forward to seeing just how effective it was capable of becoming.
And it really had lived up to its reputation, as I’d managed to drain away Goldalfa’s mana bit by bit. The reason we’d called Urushi was because we wanted him to be able to help us land a few more hits, and therefore force Goldalfa to use Regeneration and drain his mana even more quickly.
Fran casted a dark-type elemental blade, and continued attacking her opponent as often as she could. She still wasn’t able to inflict any significant damage on him, again, that didn’t matter, as we were stealing more mana from him than his armour could passively recover.
Long story short, the name of the game was to make him run out of mana before finishing him off with a single blow.
「Huh? That’s… strange…」
The A ranked adventurer realized his mana was draining more quickly than usual, but he didn’t seem to have caught onto the fact it was because I was absorbing it. That said, he didn’t panic. He kept his cool and switched to what he believed to be the best possible strategy.
He suddenly cast all manner of defense aside and raised his axe above his head in order to deliver a powerful, almost desperate seeming downwards swing. It was an attack that would totally mince Fran to pieces should it land, but it was far too obvious for her not to dodge.
But it seemed that he hadn’t been aiming for her to begin with.
Instead, he’d been directed his aim towards the stage itself. A series of cracks expanded from where his axe landed and shot all the way through the arena.
The force of the impact caused the battlefield to shake. His technique appeared to be one that caused a local earthquake, and in doing so, prevented one’s opponents from moving around. It looked to be about a magnitude 7 on the Japanese scale, or a 10-12 on the Mercalli scale, as it heavily restricted both Fran’s and Urushi’s actions.
『He was aiming for the stage itself!?』
The axe that’d been embedded inside of the arena came flying into Fran’s torso immediately after the ground began shaking. Goldalfa had suddenly started moving much more quickly than he had throughout the rest of the battle’s duration, likely an effect caused by him combining his Super Fast Reflexes skill with a technique that emphasized speed over all else. He moved at such a speed that even I, who’d been speeding up my thoughts with space/time magic, had a hard time processing, so there was simply no way for Fran would be able to react to his assault while also dealing with the earthquake.
I immediately teleported us away from him and casted a few spells on Fran.
『Greater Heal! Greater Heal! Greater Heal!』
The attack was basically the opposite of the one we’d finished Colbert off with. That is, it completely gouged out Fran’s stomach. Her innards had come flowing out from the wound together with her blood as she vomited both her vital fluid and her stomach acid simultaneously. I was honestly surprised she didn’t just instantly die from the shock.
「Still… okay…! Bfuh…」
Her legs seemed a bit unsteady, but she managed to stand up, spit out the blood she had in her mouth, and recover before the Cradle of Time activated.
『Shit, he’s not letting up!』
Goldalfa didn’t pull back because Fran had healed. In fact, it’d actually caused him to immediately begin chasing after her yet again.
（Now! My turn!）
Fran had just had a giant gaping hole torn in her stomach, but she wasn’t feeling even the slightest bit discouraged. In fact, she was as far from backing down as could be. Taking the hit had only fueled her battlelust further.
 Literal is Varja Wall, but I localized it because I feel like Varja is much less understood here than it is over there.