TL Note: Uh… I somehow just realized that all this tournament arcs seems to be just the qualifiers to decide who represents the Empire in an international tournament… uhh… I had somehow been under the illusion that it was an intranational affair… I don’t think it should matter too much to you readers due to slow updates and short memories, but this really bugs me for having made such a big mistake… Oh, but don’t worry, I think the tournament gets interrupted, so there won’t be more tournament arc stuff, I think… – A sheepish Elephant No. 5
Chapter 28 – Qualifiers, Final Day (Part 3)
General Audience Seating
“Wow…what surprising strength.”
Uncle Byron folded his arms as he mulled over the match between Brandon and Amy.
Well, I could understand his sentiments.
Thanks to the protection spell, no one would die, but it was fortunate that her opponent was Brandon.
Even I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that explosion.
The arena floor was a mess.
Some soldiers were currently repairing the arena.
Sheesh, even with the protection spell, that power was really something.
“I guess there are two more matches left now. I thought Sir Knight would definitely be the winner, but I’m a bit worried after having seen the strength of all the other Commanders.”
Uncle Byron scratched his head.
The finals were on a completely different level from the previous matches.
This year’s participants were far stronger than the participants of previous tournaments. It was a gathering of monsters.
Well, until Commander Chie came, I was the monster of all monsters.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it. Even if I threw everything I had against the Commander, I would still lose, you know?”
“For real? Can’t you claim to be stronger than the other commanders, aside from Sir Knight?”
Uncle Byron looked surprised.
Alice giggled at our conversation.
“Well, Elder Brother.”
Uncle Byron raised his eyebrows.
“‘Elder Brother’, is it? You used to call him ‘Brother’.”
“Ah, how nostalgic.”
Uncle Byron made me remember how Alice used to be.
She was really feminine back then, unlike now.
She had not had any interest in martial arts at the time, and had constantly pestered mom to teach her how to cook and make sweets instead. She had not been interested in anything unfeminine.
The way she always clung to me, like a little chick, while calling out ‘Brother! Brother!’ was extremely cute.
I used to think, “I’m not giving my little sister to anybody!”
However, she had been completely corrupted by the palace servants. Now, she beat up monsters with martial arts in her free time, and grinned ominously at corrupt nobles.
She occasionally met with other servants at a secret location, doing something behind the scenes.
Honestly, I didn’t even want to know what she was up to.
I had accidentally seen something once.
One time, when we were arresting a certain corrupt noble, I saw a group of servants observing while smirking.
Of course, Alice was in that group.
Come to think of it, that noble had surrendered…
Those servants must have done something!!
Well, I was a bit worried about my little sister’s future.
I was supporting Claude, but I had an ulterior motive.
Seriously, I couldn’t think of anybody who was more suitable for Alice, in more ways than one.
More ways than one!!
“Elder Brother? What are you thinking about?”
I thought that I could hear something grinding behind me, and I turned to face Alice.
Alice was smiling.
Her smile looked the same as always, but it felt like I was staring into an endless abyss.
“N-Nothing. I was just wondering when the next match would start.”
“Is that so?”
My face twitched as I lied, and the darkness disappeared from Alice’s smile.
She probably wasn’t fooled, but at least the dark abyss of “Don’t think anymore rude things” was gone.
I felt cold sweat on my back.
I took a glance at Uncle Byron and saw that his face had also stiffened.
When I looked around, I saw that people who had overheard our conversation and seen Alice’s dark smile were showing similar reactions.
Why couldn’t the next match hurry up and start already?
My match against Celes was next.
We stood on opposite ends of the arena, our weapons in hand.
I had to be extra careful of her wooden spear.
It had a long shaft, and each strike would contain a considerable amount of force.
In addition to that, the peculiar speed of a spearman was troublesome.
Frankly, I would have liked to have Sakuya right now.
My bokutou didn’t have a scabbard, so I couldn’t use iaido.
Well, I had never stopped practicing kendo after coming to this world, in order to try to perfect my technique, but I had never actually used it in a real battle.
However, now was the perfect chance to try it out.
Which one was faster? Her spear or my katana?
It would be the same with Mr. Musclehead, though.
“Are you two ready?”
The referee asked.
We nodded, readied our weapons, and looked at the referee.
At the referee’s signal, Celes decisively rushed forward.
She thrust her spear at me, but I parried with my bokutou.
I countered with a slash, but she deftly blocked it with the shaft of her spear.
Spears were designed for thrusting, but that wasn’t the only way to use one.
One could block attacks with the shaft, just as she had done.
The long shaft of the spear could be swung in different directions to knock an opponent down.
It could act as both an edged and a blunt weapon, and because of its length, it had a long range.
However, if I could get in close, I would have the advantage.
Now, what to do?
I backflipped to dodge a sweep of the spear, and then did it two more times to create some distance. Then, I prepared my sword.
Celes also readied her spear while watching me.
When I looked closely, I could see that her breathing was a bit heavy. It had been that way since she first charged at me.
Well, it was only natural. Mr. Musclehead and Celes were definitely tired out from their matches.
Even then, I could tell from our exchanges that she didn’t seem to have any intention of losing and wanted to end the fight quickly, so that she could save as much energy as possible for the next match.
However, what was this feeling?
If she came at me in her current state, that was probably a good thing for me, right?
No, it wasn’t like that.
In this half a year, I had learned that she had a habit of making light of ordinary opponents when she was tired.
I knew her personality well, to the point that I knew all the bad parts.
No matter what situation she was in, when she was against a strong opponent, she would grin.
In short, she was a battle maniac.
The stronger her opponent, the sharper her expression became.
Long story short, the Celes in front of me had that kind of ecstatic expression.
I could tell from her face that she saw me as an opponent worth going all out against.
I was happy at the thought, but I couldn’t help marveling at how much I had changed.
Until half a year ago, I had been ostracized by all the high school girls, due to my childhood friend.
I couldn’t help being happy that somebody who had acknowledged me as worthy of their full strength was standing in front of me.
That was why I decided to answer her with my full strength.
My strength was something I had gotten from Amaterasu-sama, but I had cultivated my skills during this half a year.
Of course, I had to hold back my strength, but I would use my skills without reserve.
That was what the current me could do to answer her.
I took a deep breath, stepped back with my right foot, and held the sword at my side, pointing down.
This was the Waki-no-kamae, one of the five stances of kendo.
We stared each other down.
The match would be decided the moment Celes moved, so I focused all of my attention on her.
I believed that the current me could see this through to the end.
Then, the critical moment came.
Her spear was aimed straight at me.
I stayed still until the last moment, right before the speartip reached me.
I swung my bokutou up, from several kuameitos behind me, and pushed the spear skyward.
(TL: kuameito = centimeter)
Celes lost her balance, and a look of surprise appeared on her face. I took that opening to swing the bokutou at her torso.
Celes was sent flying backwards, finally landing on the ground.
She tried to get up, but couldn’t, and she coughed violently while clutching her stomach.
“Match! The winner is the Black Knight!!”
The referee saw that Celes was unable to continue fighting and announced the winner.
The audience cheered.
I went over to where Celes had landed.
“Celes, are you alright!?”
I held back as much as I could, to an extent that I thought she could endure, but it might have been too much.
I sat her up and patted her on the back.
“I…I’m fi…cough! Cough!”
Nope, there was no way she was fine.
Thanks to the coughing, she ended up speaking in broken sentences, like Amy.
Celes’s eyes teared up from the pain with every cough.
I’m so sorry!
What was taking the stretcher so long?
Sheesh, what were they doing?
Didn’t they feel bad, seeing Celes like this?
She needed to get to the sickbay and lay down on a bed as soon as possible!
Just as I was thinking that, I saw two soldiers run in from the doorway, carrying a stretcher.
They seemed to be hurrying, but they were nothing other than late to me.
Ah! I could do that!
“Up we go.”
I carried Celes in my arms and hurried to the sickbay.
In my second life, I was involved in a princess-carry (carrying side).
I ran past the two soldiers, ignoring the referee’s and the stretcher-carrying soldiers’ surprised looks.
The injured came first.
People’s stares came second.
When I reached the sickbay, I saw Stupid Swordsman gaping at me.
Since the next match was immediately after, I left Celes with the medics and returned to the arena.
I thought Celes looked strangely red, but I guess being princess-carried in front of that large crowd was embarrassing.
I decided to apologize to her later.
General Audience Seating
When they saw the Commander carry Celestia in her arms, the women in the audience squealed in delight.
Even a man like me had to admit that it looked cool.
Even though she was a woman, as a man, I realized that I had lost to the Commander in various ways.
“Sigh, Sir Knight is so dreamy.”
“I want Sir Black Knight to carry me too.”
“If only he would do that to me…”
There was a moment of silence.
The women fantasized for a while, then blushed in excitement.
No way! It wasn’t just Vice-Commander Charlotte, but the townswomen as well!!?
“Calm down, Elder Brother.”
Alice tried to calm me down while wearing an amused smile on her face.
“Anyways, Sir Knight sure is fleet-footed.”
Uncle Byron praised the Commander in admiration.
He tuned out all the squeals coming from around us.
Well, I normally wouldn’t mind it much, but when it came to the Commander, I couldn’t focus.
I wonder why?
“Oh, he came back.”
Sure enough, I saw the Commander run back into the arena, where Brandon and the referee were waiting.
That really was fast.
Uncle Byron had reason to be surprised.
I was also surprised, but for a different reason.
She had been running around, but wasn’t the Commander tired?
Hadn’t she already fought against two commanders today?
Just how big of a difference was there between Commander Chie and the other commanders?
More importantly, how large of a gap was there between the Commander and me?
I became a bit scared.
It wasn’t from terror, but from a fear of being left behind.
I had held the title of the “Empire’s Strongest” until half a year ago. The past me would have laughed at the idea of being afraid of being left behind.
However, after having served under the Commander for the past half-year, I had become attached to the position.
Rather than just some title, it was something more important.
That was why I didn’t want to lose. I wanted to always be close to her.
I wanted to be right next to that person forever.
I realized that a desire to monopolize her had sprouted in my heart.
I bit my lips, clenched my hands, and focused on the arena.
Only Alice noticed that change. She sighed in exasperation.
Several years later, Alice would reminisce about how I had been so dense that it troubled her, but that’s a story for another time.
After taking Celes to the sickbay, I hurried back to the arena, but Mr. Musclehead was already there.
“I’m sorry for being late.”
“Don’t worry about it. Circumstances are circumstances.”
Mr. Musclehead said with an amused smile.
He looked refreshed.
“Excuse me, may we start the match immediately?”
The referee broke in.
“Ah, no problems here.”
“I’m also fine with it.”
We braced ourselves.
“Mr. Musclehead, those gauntlets…”
“Don’t call me Mr. Muscl- Ah, whatever. I don’t want to go against you empty-handed. They’re only practice gauntlets, but they’re better than nothing.”
Mr. Musclehead was wearing practice gauntlets designed for unarmed combat.
They were a plain, metallic color and were also reinforced, like our wooden weapons.
However, that meant that, like Celes, he considered me an opponent he needed to go all out against.
He usually sparred with Stupid Swordsman bare-handed, but he was wearing those gauntlets right now.
I also needed to respond in kind.
I wordlessly took a stance.
The referee saw that we were ready and gave the signal.
At the referee’s voice, I swung the bokutou at Mr. Musclehead.
He deflected it with one of his gauntlets, then threw a punch at my face.
I tilted my head to the left and swung my blade up.
However, he was used to fighting unarmed and didn’t lose his balance. He kicked my back, which I had exposed with my swing, with his right foot.
I fell forward, but I tucked in my chin and rolled forward to break the fall. It was the Shoulder Roll from judo. I immediately got back on my feet, then attacked again.
Come to think of it, this was probably the first time I had received a direct blow since the tournament had begun.
Taking that into account, weren’t the Fighters quite strong?
They had less power and shorter reach, but they were still dangerous.
Despite their shorter reach, they could move much more faster in close range than anybody who used a weapon.
As for their power, they could compensate for that with magic items.
Of course, a mediocre fighter wouldn’t have been a problem, but I wasn’t facing an ordinary fighter.
We continued to exchange blows as I thought that.
I had been hearing that strange sound for a while.
The bokutou I was using was making that sound.
I also heard this sound last match…
This was bad.
My handmade bokutou wasn’t made by an artisan, so it was more fragile than the other weapons.
Even though it was reinforced with magic, it wasn’t strange for it to have slowly taken damage over the course of the tournament.
Well, it wasn’t like I couldn’t fight empty-handed, but I wanted to be able to face him with all of my ability, and I needed a sword for that.
Well, it had come to this.
I distanced myself from Mr. Musclehead, then called out to him.
“Mr. Musclehead, could you wait a moment?”
“Huh? What’s wrong? You’re forfeiting?”
Mr. Musclehead cracked a joke.
“No, it’s not that. I would like to continue, but the bokutou is at its limit.”
I swung the bokutou lightly. He asked me to clarify, puzzled.
“In my match against Celes, it took some damage. Though even without it, I guess I could still manage to fight.”
“I see, so it’s weakened. I guess you could still fight without it, but I want to fight you with your weapon.”
Mr. Musclehead scratched his head and looked troubled.
Oh, I got a favorable response.
It seemed that Mr. Musclehead felt the same way.
“Me too. That’s why I have a suggestion.”
“How about we make the next attack the decider of the match? I think the bokutou will break after this, but…”
“Use our full strength in our next attack?”
“Yeah, how about it? I think it will be interesting.”
Mr.Musclehead crossed his arms in contemplation.
Then, he grinned.
“How interesting! I accept. But, you have to use your true strength!!”
With that, we braced ourselves.
Mr. Musclehead had one foot slightly behind the other, and he was holding both hands in front of his chest, like a boxer.
I also had one foot behind the other, and held my blade high.
One of the five kendo stances, Hassou-no-kamae.
It would have been easier to use more strength by using Joudan-no-kamae.
TN: read up on all these kendo stances here! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamae#In_Kendo
However, Joudan-no-kamae was disrespectful.
I read in a book that it was taboo to use it against a higher-ranked opponent.
It would be fine to use it in this world.
Still, knowing this, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a girl who had only been wielding a sword for half a year to use it against an experienced martial artist.
That was why I chose to use a variation of the Joudan-no-kamae, the Hassou-no- kamae.
In exchange for losing some power, it could be used against multiple enemies.
It was probably not ideal in a one-on-one match.
However, I didn’t have any other way to use my bokutou to the fullest.
I took a deep breath to calm myself.
We had decided to conclude it with one last attack.
Both of us completely stopped moving.
The next moment, we would both attack with all our might.
We waited for that moment.
General Audience Seating
For a few seconds, the Commander and Brandon were motionless.
They were completely still, without even a quiver.
Then, the loud cheers also gradually petered away.
They must have realized that it wasn’t the time for raucous cheering.
Would it be more appropriate to say that they couldn’t let out a sound?
The intimidating auras of the contestants had reached the audience seats.
They were both motionless, but it was an unbelievable match.
The moment one of them moved, the match would probably be decided.
Rather, it wasn’t a probability, but a certainty.
They both seemed to have energy to spare.
It wouldn’t have been strange for the exchange of blows to continue.
Despite that, they had discussed something, and the next instant, this intimidating atmosphere had appeared.
I didn’t know why, but I could tell that something had happened.
Well, it was probably fine, since they are both among the best of the best.
Soon, the match would be decided.
The tense standoff had continued for several minutes, but it seemed like it would end soon.
Somehow, I could tell.
Anybody who fought for a living could tell, more or less.
Then, the moment came.
The two of them leapt simultaneously.
Despite the lack of any signal, they could tell that the time was right.
A fist and a sword collided with amazing speed.
A soft sound rang out. One of them had his right fist extended, and the other had swung their sword downwards.
Everyone held their breaths.
After several seconds, a sound rang out.
The Commander’s blade split, right down the middle.
No way… the Commander…?
Brandon straightened himself and turned towards the Commander.
When he saw that, the referee opened his mouth.
However, Brandon told him to wait.
He looked refreshed.
His voice reverberated through the entire stadium.
After that, he began to list.
He fell down with a loud thud.
The Commander slowly stood up.
She turned to face the fallen Brandon.
“Thank you for facing me with your full power!”
She did not have her usual, frivolous behavior, and was looking down with humility instead.
They had both shown their pride as warriors.
Someone in the audience, fascinated by the two warriors, applauded.
The applause spread instantly. Some of the spectators were so overcome with emotions that they started to cry.
Uncle Byron was one of them.
Alice and I stood up and joined the applause.
I had never experienced this emotion before.
As someone who had lived doing nothing but kill others, I didn’t think I would be so moved.
It was only an instant.
But it had all happened in that instant.
It was a miracle borne from two warriors.
I was able to witness it.
“Winner, Black Knight! The Empire’s representative is the commander of the Knight Corps and the Imperial Family’s personal knight, the Black Knight!”
The stadium broke out in cheers.
In response to the cheers, the Commander raised her broken “bokutou” up into the air.
The Commander looked exactly like a strong knight.
The loud cheering continued.
Thus, the qualifiers for the Three Countries Martial Arts Tournament came to an end.
It was a moving conclusion brought about by two warriors.
To Be Continued
I am sorry for the wait!
How was Chapter 28?
There were definitely typos, which I will fix later.
Finally… Finally! The qualifiers are over!
It was long.
It was really long.
I didn’t think writing the battle scenes would be this difficult.
I really want to punch myself from 3 years ago for starting this arc and thinking that it would be a quick and easy write.
Anyways, after this, the three countries martial arts tournament will be very important.
I have other work, but I will do my best to keep writing.
Please continue to enjoy the story, even if the next chapters will be late.