Chapter 31:

Chapter 30. Showdown

Zero to Hero

Gazing at my opponent and taking note of her attire, I couldn't help but wonder if she intended to engage in a physical battle or if she was employing seduction as a tactic. Despite the lingering chill of early spring, she wore scant clothing, her elven beauty captivating my attention, rendering me oblivious to the announcer's commentary.

While I was still lost in contemplation, she suddenly lunged at me with full force, her polearm poised to strike.


Her attack thundered down with formidable power, catching me off guard. I barely managed to raise my defenses in time, her allure momentarily distracting me from the impending danger.

Drawing from Tina's recent encounter and the singular piece of information we had gained, I knew I couldn't rely solely on my physical strength to withstand her assault. Summoning an earth shield just in the nick of time, I thwarted her blow, avoiding physical harm.


She pressed on relentlessly, launching a barrage of attacks without regard for her own safety. Faced with her overwhelming strength, I found myself forced into a defensive stance, unable to mount a counteroffensive.

As minutes ticked by—5, 10, 20—her onslaught showed no signs of waning. Each blow threatened to shatter bones or worse, leaving me scrambling to maintain my defenses. With every passing moment, her vigor remained unyielding, reminiscent of Ryo's seemingly boundless stamina.

After enduring 25 minutes of relentless assault, I found myself at a loss. Unable to transition from defense to offense, and with my stamina waning, I struggled to devise a strategy to overcome her. Meanwhile, she exhibited an endurance seemingly born of rigorous training, leaving me grappling with the realization that victory seemed increasingly elusive.

Exhausted and devoid of alternatives, I resolved to muster all my remaining stamina for one final, desperate gambit. Vanishing from Carla's line of sight in a sudden burst with my teleportation, I utilized my teleport magic for the first time in our duel, aiming to catch her off guard. Summoning every ounce of energy I possessed, I unleashed my signature attack.


With a fierce battle cry, I hurtled towards her, unleashing my most potent strike, banking on the hope that I had worn her down sufficiently and that the element of surprise would tilt the odds in my favor.

But wait—did she possess a protective artifact? It dawned on me too late that I had only gone full strength against opponents shielded by such artifacts. In the heat of the moment, I had neglected to consider the stark reality of potential fatal consequences if the elf girl wasn’t strong enough to defend.

Unable to halt my momentum, I could only pray that the scantily clad beauty before me was shielded by such an artifact, sparing her from becoming my unintended casualty. Eyes shut tight, I hurtled towards her with unrelenting force.


Fortunately and unfortunately, the girl proved more than prepared for my assault. Harnessing her superior water magic and wielding her enchanted polearm with precision, she erected a formidable water shield, transforming my fiery onslaught into nothing more than a billowing cloud of steam. The arena plunged into obscurity as her evaporating shield obscured visibility entirely.

With my stamina drained to its limit, I recognized the futility of continuing the struggle. Surrendering seemed the only prudent choice before the impassive girl. Having endured a grueling 30 minutes and expended every ounce of effort, I consoled myself with the thought that I had done all I could to aid Abigail's cause.

Just as I was on the brink of announcing my surrender to the announcer, my magic flickering to near-extinction, the unexpected occurred. Abruptly ceasing her defense, the girl stood motionless, prompting the announcer to declare my victory, my blade poised precariously against Carla's neck.

Confounded by her sudden cessation of resistance and baffled by the turn of events, I acknowledged the cheering crowd with a grateful wave, feigning triumph while internally yearning for answers from the enigmatic girl.

“Why did you lose on purpose?” I queried, perplexed by the unexpected turn of events.

“I merely followed my grandfather's instructions,” she replied simply before striding away, leaving me with more questions than answers.

Baffled by her cryptic response and besieged by the announcer's relentless interrogation, I feigned composure, outwardly accepting the victory while inwardly grappling with a profound sense of humiliation.

Enduring what felt like an eternity of scrutiny and fabricating responses to justify the outcome, I was eventually liberated to return to my seat as the crowd dispersed.

“You should have at least sliced her arm off,” Tina remarked, her dissatisfaction evident, while the others congratulated me on the win.

“Sad to break it to you, but she's akin to Ryo—slightly inferior in overall power, yet I pale in comparison to her stamina. She simply allowed me to emerge victorious, for reasons unknown,” I explained, striving to rationalize the inexplicable.

“Didn’t you say the deal was off when you couldn’t pay the gold?” Candace probed as we made our way toward the betting booth to claim the unearned winnings.

“She mentioned her grandfather again. I suppose we'll learn more tomorrow,” I informed the group of my invitation to a private gathering, where I hoped to glean insights into the enigmatic figure orchestrating the underground operations.

While awaiting our turn to collect our earnings, we engaged in conversation with enthusiastic bettors, some exuberant in their support while others wore expressions of disdain, their hopes of profiting from my demise dashed.

The remainder of the evening unfolded without incident. After a satisfying dinner, we returned to the hotel, where I embarked on a leisurely stroll with Yami in tow, the girls trailing behind. Amidst their banter and squabbles, my thoughts lingered on Carla, prompting a sobering realization of my own limitations in a world teeming with formidable adversaries.


“Why are you always spaced out?” Tina's complaint jolted me back to the present, her frustration evident as I inadvertently ignored her amidst my contemplation.

"I’m going to the party alone tomorrow," I announced abruptly, disrupting the flow of conversation.

"What! What about that dress I bought! I need to show off and have people belittle you for not making a move on me!" Candace protested indignantly.

"That ugly elf’s gonna be there too, right? I need to have a word with her," Tina chimed in, her tone brimming with determination.

"Yeah, I think I'll be going alone or, at most, taking Abigail. The two of you are definitely not coming," I asserted firmly.

As we ambled through the vibrant cityscape adorned with countless light artifacts, their protestations continued, drawing curious glances from passersby—a spectacle I was loath to entertain.

"FINE! Stop screaming in my ears… You two can come as well…" I relented with a resigned sigh, fully aware of the impending challenges their presence would entail.

"Why did you even bother in the first place? You know they will just bully you into submission. For someone so strong, you sure are powerless in moments like this," Abigail remarked casually, observing the duo's jubilant celebration despite their incessant bickering.

"Do something about your friends… You know they will only cause me trouble and make things more difficult," I implored Abigail, aware of the futility of my request.

"What do you want me to do? You know they won’t listen to anything I have to say. Probably just bully me into crying if I piss them off," Abigail replied with a half-hearted jest, prompting Tina to seize the opportunity to tease her about her past attempt to kidnap us.

After hours of aimless wandering, we eventually retreated to our hotel room, bidding the night farewell. Feeling down and worthless about the fight, I spent the next day laying in bed, ignoring the girls until it was finally time for us to get ready for the party.

"How do I look?" Candace inquired eagerly.

Radiant as ever, she twirled before me in the dress we had acquired in Ostrium, embodying a vision of ethereal beauty.

"Nothing special," I fibbed, though the truth was quite the opposite—she was anything but ordinary.

"Nothing special at all! Stop trying to seduce my sister’s husband!" Tina interjected, her accusation accompanied by the entrance of the wolf girl and dog girl, both looking resplendent in their own right.

"Since when is she his wife? They were never married!" Candace retorted, igniting their customary bout of banter.

"Sorry, Yami, gotta leave you here one final time. Don’t want any shady characters making off with you," I apologized to my loyal companion before we departed for the party, the sun dipping toward the horizon.

"Remember, Tina, don’t cause any trouble. I can’t defeat Carla, and she isn’t even the most formidable if the boss truly is blessed. You might actually jeopardize your life if you act foolishly," I cautioned the wolf girl sternly.

"Why are you singling me out!" Tina protested.

"Because you're clearly the most troublesome of the bunch! Promise me you won’t act recklessly, or I’ll intervene the moment you do and have you escorted back to the hotel," I asserted firmly, refusing to succumb to her customary guilt-tripping.

"My sister will definitely hear about it if you do any such thing!" Tina threatened.

"Indeed she will. She'll hear how dumb you are that I had to knock you out to prevent you from losing your life," I countered, unwavering in my resolve.

With a disgruntled huff, Tina redirected her attention to her companions as we traversed the city toward a gated community nestled behind a secluded forest.

"Look at all those fancy mansions!" Candace remarked as we were granted entry by the vigilant guards, making our way toward the grandest residence at the far end.

Twice the size and ten times more opulent than the lackluster castle where Rena presided as queen in my homeland, it was difficult to discern which was the seat of royalty and which was merely a lavish abode in an obscure city.

Knocking on the ornate wooden door, I hoped for a favorable outcome as it creaked open slowly.