Chapter 30:

Chapter 29. Anticipation

Zero to Hero

"Wake up! Time to go kick that elf’s ass!"

"Ah, good morning to you too. But I still have to win 2 more matches before I can even face her."

"Shouldn’t be too hard, right? According to the intel, you and Carla are a cut above the rest," Abigail quipped, her voice laced with confidence, as she and Candace greeted me at the threshold of my room.

"Who knows, some of them might be harboring hidden artifacts, making them unexpectedly formidable opponents," I mused, rising from my bed with determination to tackle the challenges of the day.

The breakfast spread laid out by the hotel was once again a delightful indulgence, fueling us for the day ahead. After relishing our meal, we set out for the stadium, anticipation building for the final day of competition.

"Last day, Yami. We have to leave you here. But don't worry, I'll make sure they bring you some prime cuts later," I reassured my loyal pet as we exited the room.

"Have you figured out how to beat her?" Candace inquired as we leisurely strolled towards the stadium, with time to spare before the matches commenced.

"Mmmm… During our clash, I'm certain her polearm was enchanted with some artifact. I wasn’t prepared for that. However, it did afford me the advantage of uncovering this revelation before our actual bout, giving me some time to think," I explained, a glint of determination in my eyes.

"HA! Thank me for giving you that edge!"

"Nah… Perhaps you should thank me first for saving your life yesterday," I retorted.

"No way! It’s your duty to protect me! If anything were to happen to me, my sister would hunt you down!" Tina exclaimed with mock seriousness.

"I didn’t exactly invite you along for that very reason. I never signed up to babysit a raging baby, but here we are," I teased, earning a playful swat in response.


"Who are you calling a raging baby!" Tina protested, as she half playfully pummeled me.

Arriving at the stadium, the reception to my intervention yesterday was largely positive. Many were relieved that Tina remained unharmed, though I couldn't help but notice a few resentful glances from those who likely had wagers riding on her death. Thankfully, disaster had been averted, and we could now focus on the day's challenges with renewed determination.

Arriving at my seat, I turned around and offered my gratitude to the pair of elves who had prompted me to act swiftly. Intrigued, I engaged them in conversation about past tournaments and Carla’s performance.

“I recall reading that she has triumphed in about 75% of the tournaments she’s entered. Do you happen to know what transpired in the ones she lost?” I inquired, eager for insider insights.

“She's only been bested by first-time participants like yourself. Occasionally, we witness newcomers with odds closely matched to hers who emerge victorious,” one of the elves disclosed, leaning in conspiratorially.

“Just between you and me, many believe she deliberately lost those matches. You’re the first contender I’ve seen who genuinely appears capable of giving her a challenge,” the other elf added in a hushed tone.

“If that’s the case, aren’t the tournaments rather dull to watch?” I pondered aloud.

“Quite the contrary. Carla rarely participates in tournaments, maybe three or four a year at most. So when she does enter, the anticipation is palpable. Spectators eagerly wager on whether anyone will pose a genuine threat, given her tendency to breeze through matches with opponents either surrendering or experiencing peculiar mishaps,” the elf explained with a wry grin.

Before I could remark on the irony of spectators betting on potentially rigged matches, my name was called, signaling it was time for my first match of the day among the top 8 contenders.

With a match under my belt and the reassuring conversation with Candace from the previous evening, the trepidation I had felt the day before had largely dissipated. I navigated through my match effortlessly, conserving my energy for the final bout while securing my place in the top 4.

Similarly, Carla advanced in her match without breaking a sweat, her opponent conceding before the contest even commenced.

As the four matches concluded swiftly, the announcer ushered the top 4 contenders onto the stage for impromptu interviews to fill the time before the lunch intermission. After perfunctory introductions, the announcer posed generic questions to Carla and the seasoned competitors, questions they likely had answered countless times before.

Turning his attention to me, the announcer delved into the events of the previous day, probing my decision to intervene and whether I harbored any fear for my own safety while protecting Tina.

“Honestly, that strike caught me off guard. After taking it, I began to doubt my chances of winning. But if I had to make that decision again, I would unquestionably jump in to prevent my friend from being turned into minced meat,” I responded candidly, my resolve unwavering.

As our conversation meandered into lighter topics, the announcer inquired about my purpose in visiting the city. I offered a fabricated reason, hoping to swiftly redirect the focus away from myself. Eventually, we were granted reprieve for the lunch intermission.

“Really? Here to sightsee the beautiful nature? There is no nature here! Just flat plains and buildings!” Tina scoffed at my response during the interview.

“What do you expect me to say? That we're here to uncover the underground enslavers and disrupt their operations?” I retorted, half-jokingly.

“At least make a more convincing excuse for someone who used to bask in the limelight,” Tina countered.

“You've seen my interviews at Dragonspire. I was never adept at deception,” I defended, recalling past experiences.

“Right! All Ken ever did was profess his love for a ton of girls for the entire world to see. It was so romantic! I wish those mirror artifacts were still around so Ken could do the same for me,” Candace chimed in nostalgically.

“With the ban on teleport artifacts, I'm sure Dragonspire's global communication and broadcasting spell would face a similar fate with how useful it is for spreading information. Besides, I believe the headmistress was the only one who knew how to conjure that spell, so it's unlikely anyone could replicate it,” I remarked, engaging in the speculative banter.

Chatting with the trio over a meal at the familiar restaurant for the third consecutive day, the girls embraced the opportunity to unwind, while I racked my brain for strategies to overcome Carla in our impending match, which held greater significance than mere competition.

After expressing our gratitude to the waitress, we made our way back to the arena for the final three matches of the tournament, where I hoped to emerge victorious.

Being slated for the first match, I decided to entertain the crowd, prolonging the bout to avoid being subjected to endless interviews to fill time. Despite my opponent's experience in tournaments, our skill disparity rendered him unable to pose a genuine threat. Pretending the match was a close contest, I eventually concluded with my signature flaming slash, eliciting gasps of awe from the audience.

Returning to my seat amidst cheers, I watched as Carla effortlessly advanced to the finals, her opponent surrendering before the match even commenced. Disappointed by the lack of a learning opportunity, I prepared myself mentally for the ultimate showdown.

As the announcer hyped up my impending clash with Carla, I braced myself for the challenge ahead, determined to give it my all in the final match of the tournament.