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A few hours later, Helen sat in the most prestigious area of the arena, gazing at the second arena. Based on information, that was where Randidly would be fighting his first match. But still, Helen was quite dissatisfied, because she was not the reason that they had ended up here. In fact, she was just a guest…

“Bahahaaha!” Aethon Thai thundered, slapping the male spear attendant’s back, who giggled  childishly as he dropped the glass cups he had been juggling due to inebriation. An attendant quickly stepped forward and swept it up, also providing another glass full of ale, which Aethon began to enthusiastically slurp. Drunk and giddy, the male spear attendant swayed on his feet and burped.

Helen wanted to die. But this was the best place to view the Ghosthound, and after what she had seen earlier, Helen was decidedly interested in getting another look, without having to face it directly. In addition, she was curious what these great men, the heads of the powerful Styles here in Deardun, would say in regards to his performance.

There were 7 or 8, either patriarchs or matriarchs, or even vice-leaders, of the Styles around, joking jovially and enjoying their food and beverage. They commented briefly on matches, but they didn’t pay them much mind. Perhaps mostly because the favorites, those raised by the larger Styles, kept winning. There was no reason to pay very much attention to the predictable outcomes.

Perhaps that was another reason why she was here, Helen thought with an inward sneer. To see the Ghosthound fuck up their perspective on strength.

Another match ended, and as the name Randidly Ghosthound was one of those called to ascend. To his credit, even through his inebriety the male spear attendant straightened and looked towards the stage with a serious expression.

Aethon looked amused. “Starstruck by beauty? Many a lesser man has had their hearts captured by this woman from the Viper Sunstrike Style. Derrita, how do you manage all of that attention?”

Truthfully, the woman who was standing opposite the Ghosthound was quite lovely, with long golden hair and a classically beautiful face. One of the old women sitting in their group, who appeared to be from the Viper Sunstrike Style, huffed in annoyance.

“Truthfully, it is a struggle. Luckily the girl is dedicated to the spear, or else… Hopefully this opponent has enough strength to at least make her serious, she’s had too easy of a time thus far. I suspect she will make it all the way to the final tournament with ease at this rate.”

“She going to lose.”

Helen blinked, turning and looking at the male spear attendant, who had apparently shaken off most of his drunk, and was watching the stage with serious eyes. The powerful heads of the Styles stiffened, as Derrita’s face became increasingly red, glaring at his uncaring back.

Aethon Thai shook his head, chuckling, and attempted to make the peace. “Hooo, you have had quite a bit to drink lad. Sure, that boy passed through the preliminaries, and he has a bright future as a spear user ahead of him. But-”

“Mmm” Suddenly inebriated again, the male spear attendant collapsed against the railing, and leaned his head against the metal. The group laughed, and Derrita still looked annoyed, but she wouldn’t push the issue further, given Aethon’s intercession.

Helen shivered. Truthfully, the power of backing was unrivalled. But her attention narrowed as the referee announced the start of the match. The two spear users began to circle each other, their weapons raised.

Around her, the older generation payed very little attention to the match. They missed the Ghosthound’s first step, which was so sharp that his opponent’s eyes widened, and she began to retreat.

But this was not a race that this girl could win. The Ghosthound moved, and the distance between them absolutely disappeared. There were strange reverberations to the air, and his advance was steady and vicious.

Finally realizing the futility of it, and refusing to allow his momentum to build any further, the female spear user stopped and made a stand, preparing to cross blows. The Ghosthound struck, once, twice, and both times it was rebuffed by a marvelous defense. Feeling more confident in her strikes, the woman advanced, and the Ghosthound slashed with his spear.

Again, the woman smoothly raised her spear to meet the blow, but then her eyes widened as it seemed like a portion of its swing was entirely skipped, and it had arrived early. Her defense was much more hasty, and she was knocked partially off balance.

The Ghosthound advanced, but this time the air was thick with power, and Helen swore she could faintly see traces of his image in the air. But around her the elder generation continued to chat, heedless.

Although it made her grind her teeth, she said nothing. Helen was not so foolish as to speak out here, with only the feeble support of Aethon as drinking buddy of the male spear attendant to rely on. Results would speak for themselves, and this result was swiftly becoming clear. The Ghosthound’s attacks sped up mightily from his initial salvo, and his footwork became absolutely sublime.

Overwhelmed, the woman began to lash out, and screamed mightily, summoning her own image. It was a blurry picture of some sort of yellow serpent, but the fact that she could show that much showed her talent; the Artisan boundary was only a hair away.

Someone tsk’d behind Helen, and the statement made her blood run cold.

“To think she would fall so easily for a Willpower attack… I’ll double her training after this tournament.” Derrita harrumphed, her eyes chilly. The other elders nodded, as if they agreed with the assessment.

Could they truly… have been observing the match this whole time while they were chatting…? Were they so far above her realm that she wasn’t even aware of their focus…? Or was this level of competition simply like an open book to them…?

“So he was also a movement specialist…” Aethon mused, while spinning a mug across his fingers. “Truly, that boy is filled with surprises.”

The Ghosthound moved faster and faster, striking more and more quickly, and very soon the woman was covered in wounds. Eventually, while she gnashed her teeth, she dropped her spear and surrendered, saving her strength for the next match. After all, this was only her 2nd loss. She could afford it. The Ghosthound slowly lowered his weapon, and then gazed at the ground with a frown.

It seemed that he was still having trouble truly capturing it. Helen’s spar with the Ghosthound had been… mixed. There were times where he was simply elusive, but there was also a moment where it had felt like her heart would stop from the sense of dread the attack produced. If he couldn’t get it to the point it was consistent, there was no point.

Although clearly, the bonus to movement was extremely useful.

One wizened old woman leaned forward, adjusting her spectacles.

“So…” She said, almost to no one in particular. “This is the inheritance of the Spear Phantom… truly fascinating. But still a hair short. The boy needs more polish. A few more matches..”

No one answered directly, each engaged in side conversations and diversions, but as Helen looked at the ground and spread her senses, it was clear that there was a very hidden conversation going on between these heads of Style.

The way they moved and sat, the way they looked, how their posture was… they were jostling about something. Something related to the Ghosthound. And it appeared that whatever side the wizened woman was on was losing.

“It is truly only fair,” One man drawled, sipping his mead. “If there are matches designed between the seeded individuals and the preliminary fights… there must also be fights between two individuals from the preliminaries. It is unavoidable, although there is a certain amount of tragedy. Do not the seeded individuals fight quite valiantly against each other?”

Aethon stood, walking over to the male spear attendant and touching his back. “Well it seems you are a pretty good gambling man, eh? What do you think, can this Randidly Ghosthound win against the only remaining individual from the preliminaries with one loss?”

The male spear attendant just nodded, and then burped, and then the whole crowd erupted with laughter, and their talks seemed to move forward. Was it that simple, deciding the fate of another…?

Helen saw an attendant bow and leave, walking towards the area where the referees congregated. Helen felt very fucking strange as she watched that individual walk over. She remembered very vividly, watching the match between the Ghosthound and Dian, who she assumed was the other individual from the preliminary that they were talking about. To see them fighting again, up on stage…

Strangely, all Helen felt was a bitter jealousy.

‘What… what am I doing here?’ She wondered. ‘When did I become a spectator?’

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