*Sss Sss Sss*
The sound of banging metal and sharpening stones could be heard throughout the hall. Rough grunts of excitement and cries of cheer could be heard all around him. In the middle of the busy hallway stood a youth who looked too fragile for the environment. Clad in only a thin leather chest piece and padded leather guards for his thighs and shins, the youth stared awestruck at his surroundings.
‘This…is…the Colosseum?’ He asked himself in disbelief. All around him were rough people, some adventurers and some trophy fighters. All of them had the look of a veteran and all of them stared straight at him with the look of a predator. He could see blacksmiths making some minute repairs on gears and other tradesmen selling potions and gear.
“Hey Welp.” A tough looking man approached Hiro from behind. The man had been eyeing him ever since he came into the long hall.
“Y-yes?” Hiro backed up a few steps, the smell of sweat and dirt was strongly emitting from the large man.
“You don’t belong here.” He threatened.
“What do you mean?” Hiro refused to back down. He decided to come early and explore the Colosseum before the D-Rank Division tournament starts.
“Many Welps like you, who barely weaned off their mother’s milk, have made the mistake of coming here. Leave.”
Hiro glared at the man, no matter how threatening the man looked, he didn’t like the way the man talked. “What if I don’t?” Hiro retorted.
“Oh?” The man grinned maliciously, “What do we have here? Some sort of hero?”
“Aw Jack lay off the kid!”
“No point in wasting your energy on that Welp!”
The people in the back started jeering, some even wanted to see blood spilled.
“Hehe, Welp you’re lucky I’m in a good mood, you can go. Now leave.” The man pointed down the hallway to his left.
‘What is going on?’ Hiro thought back to earlier. He had travelled to the west entrance of Adetia where the Colosseum was located. The Colosseum was located between the slums and the Nobles district. The disparity between the two were very clear and looking at both sides from the Colosseum. One had lots of buildings built close together with lots of shady alleyways while the other was a beautifully large expanse of green grass and finely trimmed hedges.
Hiro had entered the Colosseum from one of the many entrances. He followed the signs that was directing fighters and proceeded to go deeper into the building. Instead of going up and into the stands, he went through a series of busy hallways and finally ended up in the hallway he currently was at. Along the way, he had seen holding cells stocked full with exotic beasts and even food stands, but he paid no mind to them, since they weren’t important.
“You don’t get it do you?” The man’s temper began to rise. “Can you read this sign?” He pointed to the sign placed high up on the wall.
“C-Division Fighter’s Hall.” Hiro slowly read out. “Ah! I’m so sorry!” Hiro quickly apologized and briskly walked down the hallway.
“Hmph! Lousy brat. Must be those idiots from the AA again.” The man snorted and went back to sit down. They were the fighters that belonged to the Colosseum, for the past few days, many people from the AA had mistaken the area they were supposed to wait at and mistakenly entered the fighter’s areas. Of course there were adventurers there too, but those adventurers were also fighters in the Colosseum.
Hiro didn’t notice the belts of the fighters that had the letter C engraved on it. Only after it was pointed that he was in the C-Division Fighter’s Hall did he start noticing it. He knew that the fighters here had some pride and jealously guarded their areas, not letting those of lower ranking or even outsiders in. The inner hallways where the fighters are located are divided into halls. First was D-Rankers, which was the poorest and run down hall. Then came the C-Rankers, which was the largest, since lots of fighters are stuck in that division. B-Rankers are even more neatly organized and finally A-Rankers and up have their own private rooms.
Currently, the D-Rank Fighter’s Hall was being used to house the AA competitors. During that time, many blacksmiths and merchants set up shop within that area to sell their services. It was only at this time that the D-Rank Fighter’s Hall would be so lively. Of course, since Hiro arrived early, not many people were there yet. There were only a few dozen or so adventurers and many of them kept to their little groups. The D-Rank Division tournament hadn’t even start yet and the atmosphere was already tense.
“Wow…” Hiro commented as he looked at the people around him. Many had young faces, no traces of combat experience could be noticed in their gazes. There were exceptions, mainly those who sat by themselves and patiently waited for the tournament. Those people had their eyes darting around, measuring their competition and making devious calculations.
“Hiro?” A familiar voice called out from behind.
“Hm?” Hiro turned around, “Colin?! Is that you?!” His face brightened up.
“Yea! It’s nice to see you again!” Colin shook Hiro’s hand. As soon as they shook hands, Hiro could tell that Colin had been training diligently from the calluses that have formed. Frowning a bit, Hiro suddenly thought back to how he had no experience with a sword at all.
“Colin you’ve changed a lot…” Hiro looked at the well-built muscles on Colin’s exposed arms. Colin was bulkier than Hiro, but he was not as large as bodybuilders. Colin looked like a hero from Hiro’s dreams. He had a tall figure, reaching 180cm (around 6ft) well-built figure, not too thick and not too thin. He also had short blonde hair that paired nicely with his sharp green eyes. He had a strong jaw that outlined his growing beard.
“Haha. I could say the same thing to you. I remember you were at least a full head shorter than me. Now we’re nearly the same height.”
“I just had my growth spurt.” Hiro smiled back. Colin had some sort of calming aura that seemed to lighten up the mood where ever he was. Hiro glanced at Colin’s back and stared at the profoundly large sword. “Colin… That…”
“Oh this?” He turned around to show the sword, “I wanted to study under Romulus, so I tried copying his style, which uses a large sword like this.” The sword was taller than Colin was, the handle stuck over his head by 10cm. The width of the blade was easily 20cm and had a thickness of 5cm at its thickest point.
“How do you swing that thing around?” Hiro asked with his jaw dropped.
“Lots and lots of strength, haha. Anyways, enough about me, what have you been doing the past month?” Colin naturally and quickly changed the topic.
“Me? I’ve been training, preparing for this day. I hope we can face off against each other. I want to see how you will use that giant sword of yours.” Hiro smiled.
Colin could only give out an empty smile. He knew that Hiro stood no chance against him, since he had been training with Romulus for nearly half a year before that point. The competition was only a ploy to make people accept him as Romulus’ disciple and nothing more. Secretly, Colin felt bad for Hiro, he could tell that the current Hiro was much more different than a month ago, so he couldn’t imagine what sort of training Hiro had done.
“That’s great!” He smiled even brighter than before to hide his pity. Just like that, the two of them chatted until the beginning of the tournament. The D-Rank Fighter’s Hall was soon filled and even had people spilling out into the outer hallways. Only when the gate to the inner field open did the adventurers file out.
“Good luck Hiro.”
“You too Colin.”
[Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Welcome to the final Division of this tournament! I’m happy to present you: The D-Rank Adventurers!]
Hiro could hear the booming voice that was ringing throughout the Colosseum as he exited onto the field. The field was a large expanse of dry dirt that stretched for 150m diameter. It was a circular field that could change into any type of terrain if wanted. Currently it was set to default so there was nothing but dry dirt as far as the eye can see.
Looking up, Hiro could see the thousands of tiny faces that seem to cheer crazily from the stands. All the seats were filled in the Colosseum and even a large floating projector was overhead to transmit a closer view to the farther audiences. Hiro could only hold back his breath and stare at the scale as he made his way into the center.
[As you many have known, many of these adventurers are here today for only one reason! And that reason is: The right to follow the S-Rank Adventurer Romulus!!!]
A sudden burst of cheer came from the crowd, drowning out everything around Hiro.
[Calm down Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Master Romulus would like to say a few things before the tournament commences!]
The crowd quickly quieted down and waited in silence as a man from under the VIP pavilion stood up. Hiro could also see many others under the pavilion, Siberus was one of them and even Lena.
‘Lena?’ Hiro widened his eyes in surprise. As if catching his eyes, she looked straight at him and gave him a smile and a wave. What Hiro didn’t know was many adventurer’s had also seen her and thought she was looking at them. Many fainted when she smiled and even more when she waved. They weren’t only competing for the discipleship anymore, they were competing to impress her.
[As you may all know by now.]
The deep voice coming from Romulus began.
[I have accomplished amazing feats and quests. Mostly well-known for defending the town of Kiern from 7 dragons and subjugating the Lich King in the east. However, my time of glory is near its end. Before I depart from the world of adventuring, I would like to leave behind my knowledge and my skills.]
“He doesn’t look that old.” Hiro muttered to himself. He glanced up at the projector and could see a man who looked to be in his 30’s. The only thing that seemed to show his age was the weary and tired eyes that Romulus had.
[Though this is only the D-Rank Division, don’t lose hope. I am looking for potential, not strength. As long as a person show’s talent, I would even pick them from the D-Rank Division. Even if they don’t place in the top 3, I would still consider them for discipleship. That is all.]
Romulus concluded his short speech and sat back down. The crowd once again began cheering loudly, while Lena kept waving expectantly at Hiro. Though Hiro was lost in thought.
‘So as long as I show promise?’ Hiro thought, his chances were risen once more. He had seen some dangerous looking people while staying in the D-Rank Fighter’s Hall. They were clearly stronger than D-Rank adventurers, so they must’ve registered and not rank up to have an easier time.
[Isn’t that amazing?] The previous man began talking once more. [Master Romulus is so kind as to give even D-Rankers a chance for discipleship! Truly a magnanimous man!]
[Now I’ll explain the rules of the preliminaries! Since there were so many D-Rank adventurers signed up, we’ve decided to change up the preliminaries!]
There were lots of murmurs coming from the hundreds of D-Rankers in the field. Usually there would be multiple stages where there would be a knockout battle on each. Hiro wasn’t there for any of the days so he just remained quiet.
[Scattered throughout the field are small pendants like this!]
The man held up a golden pendant that was glowing.
[There are 16 pendants in total! The time limit is 20 minutes! Those who are holding a pendant by the end of the time limit will proceed to the battle rounds!]
There was a large uproar coming from the 500 or so D-Rankers, though they were drowned out by the roar of cheering coming from the stands. The audience favored the change, since they already sat through 6 days’ worth of knockout battles.
[Ready Everyone?! Begin!]
A loud firework was shot into the air and suddenly different spots in the field started glowing. On the projector a small stopwatch began counting down from 20 minutes. The gathering of adventurers soon jumped into action, many were running after the glowing pendants that scattered around the 150m diameter field. Many who were late to react, soon furiously ran after the quicker ones.
Hiro just stood there. So did Colin and a few others. These people were the smarter ones. Many had the look of veterans and experts, some were even dressed in full plate.
“Yo Hiro!” Colin called out as he ran over to Hiro. “Look like we had the same idea! Haha.”
“Yea. Only idiots would spend 20 minutes defending the pendant from others.” Hiro agreed. Just like the rest that stood around, he planned to wait until the last few minutes to snatch it from someone. Conserving his energy for the battle rounds.
“Hey Hiro.” Colin closed in and whispered into his ears, “You should watch out for that person with the full plate.” He pointed to the suit of armor.
“Yes. I’ve rarely seen that alloy, but I know it’s made from Magmatic Rocktortoise shells. Not only is it ridiculously heavy, it’s also very heat resistant.”
“Alright.” Hiro carefully studied the armor suit. The person inside had casually walked out a bit and sat down like it was nothing.
“Also that woman over there.” Colin pointed to a woman who had two daggers on her back. She wore very tight leather armor that revealed her figure. Her cleavage was spilling out from the suit of leather armor and she had a very seductive smile aiming at both Colin and Hiro.
“She’s dangerous alright.” Hiro whispered as he watched the woman slowly swing her hips as she walked towards them. “Here she comes.”
“Well boys.” She giggled, “What are you two handsome men doing out here?”
“Oh we’re just waiting for the timer to end.” Colin was the first to answer.
“My my. You two aren’t as stupid as the rest of the idiots. I like.” She coquettishly smiled.
“Err… Madam is there something that you need from us?” Hiro tried to ask as politely as he could.
“Oh my. So polite as such a young age.” She walk up to Hiro and touched his face. “What is your name sweetie?”
Hiro could smell the scent of lavender and could feel the cold smooth hand brush over his cheek. Her large brown eyes were staring intently into his, drawing him even deeper into her eyes.
“M-my name is Hiro…” Hiro answered.
“Hiro?” Colin stared from the side.
“Why don’t I teach you everything I know after this competition?” She whispered into his ears.
“Hii!” Hiro felt another shiver and jumped back.
As soon as he jumped back, a large bolt of lightning flew out of the sky and struck the woman. The smell of burning hair flew past his nose and the loud cries of pain came from the woman. The rest of the contenders in the center field looked at the 3 people in shock. Colin stood there wide-eyed, while Hiro tried hard not to vomit.
From further away and under the pavilion, King Forst could hear the girl by his side mutter, “Hiro is Lena’s, you bitch.”
[What is this Ladies and Gentlemen!? A Level 2 lightning strike spell was just casted in the field! Our emergency staff has gone down to retrieve the person who was struck!]
The crowd went wild. They didn’t know what had happened, but a level 2 spell, powerful enough to dangerously harm a human was just casted in the field. They could only conclude that there must be a mage hidden within the D-Rankers.
[Ladies and Gentlemen! Our experts have determined that this was not outside interference, the spell had actually originated from within the barrier set up by the Colosseum!]
As soon as the man announced that, the crowd grew into a frenzy. They had never expected a mage to participate in a tournament meant for fighters. Mages took time to cast spells and within that time, the fighters would’ve already closed the distance and defeated the mages. The only explanation for a mage to compete in a tournament with the chance to become a disciple of Romulus, would be if the mage was also a warrior.
“Hiro why did you jump back just now?” Colin asked Hiro as he watched the men dressed in white quickly rushed the woman out of the field.
“I don’t know. I felt a shiver run down my back and just jumped.” Hiro stared confusedly at the woman.
“Hm…” Colin mumbled. He was suspicious, as soon as Hiro jumped, the lightning struck. Either Hiro was the mage who did it, or someone else was working with Hiro. This time, Colin was wary of his ‘friend’.
“A-anyways, let’s just keep watching the timer.” Hiro quickly responded. He didn’t know who had casted the spell, but he was just happy he survived.
They both quiet agreed and watched the timer slowly go down. All around them, many D-Rankers were frantically running around while clutching the glowing pendants in their hands. Some were even sent out of the field by emergency staff. Many were covered in wounds and some were even nearly trampled to death in the chaotic chase.
[Isn’t this competition grand Ladies and Gentlemen?!]
[If it weren’t for the arrival of Grand Priestess Allaya over at the pavilion, we wouldn’t have been able to do this!]
The crowd cheered on the cold beauty who stood up and waved.
[She had just recently arrived within our fair city of Adetia and with her 50 or so experts in light magic also came. Thanks to the Temple of Sienna we don’t have to worry so much about injuries! They could even mend broken bones or reconnect limbs!]
The crowd began to cheer wildly. Though it was only temporary, Priestess Allaya had agreed to support the tournament by providing healing for the competitors. This was to spread the influence of the Temple of Sienna and grow their follower’s population within Adetia. Currently their influence in Adetia was very weak, the dominant god was Gristol the god of wealth and commerce.
Hiro and the smarter D-Rankers patiently waited until there was only 5 minutes left on the timer.
“Ready to go?” Hiro asked Colin.
“Yes.” They both stood up and wished each other good luck. Hiro suddenly ran towards the less chaotic group, while Colin went the opposite way.
Seeing the two youths jump into action, the rest of the people that were lounging suddenly also sprung up. They all quickly ran in a different direction, making sure not to get in each other’s ways. They didn’t want to waste unnecessary energy by fighting each other and mainly wanted to save their strength for the battle rounds.
Hiro soon arrived at the outer edge, where he saw a group of 10 or so D-Rankers surrounding another man. He chose this group because he could tell from their equipment that they were beginners. Ever since the start, he had carefully paid close attention to them.
“Alright.” Hiro casually ran into the group. They were all busy trying to take the pendant away from the man’s hand. The man that was holding the pendant was wildly swinging his sword around with his eyes closed.
“Back off!” He screamed as he tightly shut his eyes and swung. “I-i-if you come close, I’ll hurt you!”
Hiro and the rest of the adventurers looked at the man with disdain. The man was fat and pudgy, there was no ounce of muscle showing, just fat. Anyone could tell that the man had no fighting abilities, some of the D-Rankers were even wondering why the fat man was in the tournament.
“We don’t want to hurt you! Just hand over the pendant!” A person called out.
“Never!” The fat man called out. “Father’ll be proud of me when I return!”
“Fine then! Don’t go crying to your papa when we chop off a limb or two!” Another person answered.
“Eeeek!” The fat man cried out like a pig as the circle enclosed around him. Hiro couldn’t help but laugh at the funny scene. The rest of the D-Rankers were also trying hard not to laugh.
The only reason why the fat man had the pendant for so long was because the group chasing after him was toying with him. They have never seen such a fat person run for his life before, so they chased after him with no intent to kill. This was also one of those times, they scared the fat man and kept chasing after him without seriously trying to take away the pendant.
“Leave me be!” The fat man cried, “I-I-I’ll pay you to leave me alone!”
“HAH?! How much?!” A man called out from the chasing crowd.
“5!! 5 Gold coins!” He stuck out his pudgy fingers.
“Woah! This guy must be loaded!” The man shouted.
Soon they had surrounded the fat man again.
“Look here piggy, we’re awfully tired from chasing you. Why don’t you pay us each 5 Gold coins and we’ll leave you alone?” The same man threatened, he seems to be the leader of the group.
Hiro didn’t like the way the chase was going. He knew how bad being bullied feels so he didn’t join in, only followed. Seeing the man threatening the fat man, he silently watched the bullying unfolding in front of him.
“I can’t! Father doesn’t give me that much!” The fat man cried out.
“Too bad then! Men, let’s teach this pig what we do to livestock.” The group began to close in.
“Hiii~! I got it! I’ll ask father to pay you each 5G! Now leave me alone!” The fat man curled up into a ball.
“Hahaha! Look at this porky!” The crowd started laughing. “Now just give us the pendant and we’ll leave you alone!”
“What?!” The fat man cried out. “That’s not what we agreed upon!”
“Do you think you have any negotiation powers?” The leader threatened.
“Eek! Fine! Here!” The fat man threw the pendant up into the crowd and quickly ran away sobbing.
Quickly seeing his chance, Hiro jumped up over the crowd and snatched it out the air. Hiro felt some pity for the fat man, but the competition was his first priority. Landing softly without making a sound, Hiro looked at the glowing pendant.
“7” Hiro muttered as he looked at the number engraved on the bauble.
“You! Give me that!” The leader threatened viciously while pointing with his sword.
“Me? Why?” Hiro asked while smiling.
“It’s mine! Men, get him!” The group charged. There was less a minute left and they all knew that.
Hiro just smiled widely as he runs off and outstrips all his pursuers. Without any worries, he was already back in the wide expanse of the center field. With a few more seconds left on the timer, he could see the people waiting with him emerging from the large chaotic fights. He paid very close attention to Colin as Colin swung the huge sword around. What amazed Hiro the most however, was the person in the dark red suit of armor. The person in armor, hidden behind the helmet, had picked up the previous holder of the pendant with one arm and stripped the pendant off the other’s hand. With the pendant clasped in the suit of armor’s hand, it sat and quietly waited. Lots of the D-Rankers attacked, but did no harm to the suit of armor and their weapons harmlessly bounced off its carapace.
A loud horn sounded signaling the end of the preliminaries. Hiro looked at the rest of the people who passed.
“This isn’t going to be easy.” The competitors who passed were all from the same group of people that waited. There were around 30 or so of them, so some must’ve fought with others to take the pendant.
[Wow such an amazing start! Don’t you think so Ladies and Gentlemen?! With the conclusion of the preliminaries we will start the battle rounds after a short break!]
The crowd cheered. Silently watching, Allaya had kept her eyes on Hiro the whole time. The lightning strike had caught her eye and ever since then she paid attention to the man. After leaving Hiro alone with Siberus in his office a week ago, she had questioned Albert thoroughly about what had happened in the ‘Bright Night’ phenomenon until she was satisfied. She didn’t think much about Hiro, but after seeing him calmly dodge the lightning and went back to waiting afterwards, she felt he was hiding something from her.
[For those of you who passed, please bring the pendant to the staff member beside the exit! For those of you who failed, better luck next time!]