Taking a deep breath to get rid of the embarrassment, the Chief closed his eyes for a second and turned toward the one who had spoken so impetuously.
When he did so, he was pretty surprised to see a style of clothing that he had only seen in pictures.
A red vest over a tight shirt, with tight pants and a traveling coat that reached the knees.
Oh, yes, this was the style that was currently in fashion in the nearest city.
Aaron, meanwhile, was shaking his head on seeing the extremely constricting nature of those clothes. The coat could be pulled by anyone to make the one wearing it lose balance, and such tight clothes would cause the wearer to move slowly.
Edmond, on the other hand, who had just named himself with such valor, was taking in all the shocked gazes with pride on his face.
It seemed that pausing outside to arrange his hair and dust his clothes which had gotten dirty during his travel had been the right decision.
His black hair was combed perfectly to curve up and fall down like a curtain on both sides of his face, which, he thought, was quite a heroic look.
Yet, when he heard the one whom he had come looking for answer, he stumbled and almost fell as he had just begun walking forward.
“Challenge hours are over. Come tomorrow.”
His confident demeanor gone, Edmond quickly looked at the clock on the wall.
It read 12:01.
Raising a hand, he stuttered, “B-but it’s only been a minute! You can’t-“
“Oh, yes I can. The Challenge hours were put in place so that you Ascenders won’t disturb our lives all day. Get going! Just try to reach before 12 tomorrow! Now, then, children, where was I?”
A defeated expression appeared on Edmond’s face as he leaned on the wall for support.
He had rushed over with great enthusiasm after braving countless Teras in the jungle.
Now…he had to go back?
Seeing his defeated expression, the Chief chuckled.
‘Hehe, serves you right for interrupting my speech.’, he thought, before turning back to the children.
Yet, he raised his eyebrows and took a step back when he saw them looking at him with reproach.
Wh-what the hell was wrong with these kids? Weren’t they looking up to him just now?
“Mom was right! The Chief really does like escaping from his responsibilities!”
“Yes! I heard Mrs. Ernst telling my mom that the Chief loves to escape when it’s his time for chores! We do all our chores!”
“Yes! Chief should fight! I wanna see the fight!”
“Fight! Fight! Fight!”
This made a ray of hope appear on Edmond’s face, while the Chief could only gape at the little kids.
Right now, he knew that even if he tried to explain about the Challenge Hours, it wouldn’t make any difference.
In fact, other Hamlet Chiefs welcomed Ascenders at any time, as the Challenge Hours weren’t compulsory. Yet, if a Chief wanted to quote them, he could.
Sighing, the Chief realized that he would have to rouse his viper again.
“All right, fine! I’ll fight! Let’s go! Do you all want to watch?”
This made the children’s eyes light up, and they once again started to look at him with admiration.
That wiped away the last hesitation in the Chief.
Turning around, he suddenly had to take a step back, as he had come face to face with the kid who had just been slumped on the wall.
Weren’t you looking defeated just now? What’s with the enthusiasm?
Edmond’s valiant disposition was back; he was holding out a rectangular card, on which one side was filled with details.
The other side was empty.
Looking like it was made out of some silver-colored metal, the card looked very sturdy, and it even looked as if the material it was made out of was precious.
Seeing the card, the Chief raised an eyebrow and said, “An Ascender Card, huh? Seems you’re prepared. Where are you from?”
Beaming with pride, Edmond answered, “Dion City.”
This time, genuine shock appeared on the Chief’s face, and even Jenny slightly opened her jaw with surprise.
Bending closer, he whispered in Edmond’s ears, “Do you have any…”
“Err…no. I ran out of it on the way here.”
Bending back and straightening himself, the Chief said, “Well, too bad then. I was looking forward to tasting the famous City of Wine’s specialty. You’ve come a long way. Why here? Why not go to a hamlet closer to your city?”
Aaron, who was watching, felt amused when he saw the one who had called himself Edmond raise his fist and use it to beat his chest twice.
If a 4-Armed Gorilla were here, it would definitely go forth to answer the mating call.
However, it looked as if Edmond treated it as some impressive gesture, as doing so made his eyes blaze with excitement.
“For a challenge! I know you’re one of the strongest Hamlet Chiefs. You might even break through soon, right? I wanted to beat you before that, so I could boast that I took the hardest way. My father told me that when a man does something, he should do it in such a way that everyone looks up to him.”
After a few seconds of silence during which the children stared at him with awe, the Chief broke out into loud peals of laughter.
These surprised even Aaron, who had been expecting some sort of acknowledgment from the Chief.
He had no social skills whatsoever, but this sight had reminded him of a face-off between two Crocodrills who had been leaders of their respective tribes.
Crocodrills usually settled disputes by using their sharp, pointed snouts to drill holes in their enemies. Yet, these two had wanted to sort it out by communication, as there had been a bigger threat which wanted to eat both of them.
So, the two fought, and the loser agreed to follow the winner.
However, nothing similar happened here.
After laughing for a few seconds, the Chief wiped away the tears at his eyes before laying a hand on Edmond’s shoulder and saying, “Yeah, great choice, kid. If everything went well, I would have retired in 3 days. I guess you’ll be the last one I crush. That guy from the World Government always complained that I’m unfair. Well, he can’t blame me now, as you came looking for me by yourself. Time for some fun. Children, follow, and when you go home, tell your mothers what you see. Ok?”
Aaron and the children didn’t understand too much, but they nodded and followed, looking forward to the fight.
Edmond only humphed, looking as if he would settle this in the ring.
Jenny had stayed silent till now, but eagerness appeared in her eyes, too, meaning that she, too, was looking forward to the fight.
Still chuckling under his breath, the Chief led them all to outside before heading to an open area.
On seeing the crowd, the hamlet folk who were idle heard the news that there was going to be an Ascender Challenge and chose to follow.
Finally, by the time they reached, the audience had at least 50 members.
Aaron was more excited than all of them. The condition to follow the clue in his mind to find out his identity was to beat this man, and he was going to get a chance to see someone try. Hopefully, he would pick up some tricks.
He still hadn’t had time to clearly order all of his thoughts, but this was something he really wanted to do.
His identity had been the biggest mystery that had haunted him throughout his life.
Who was he? Who were his parents? Where was he from? What was that white pod?
He had always been afraid that there might never be a chance to pursue these questions, but now that there was one in front of him, there was no way that he would let it go.
Amid the cheering for the Chief, Edmond humphed again before artfully raising his hand.
Instead of simply letting his Tera appear, it seemed that he had other plans.
First, he raised his left leg, before bringing it down forcefully and shooting an uppercut with his right hand into the air.
The moment his fist reached its highest point, the white gem appeared between his knuckles and flashed, resulting in a shape which seemed to be half the size of a human.
That shape flew through the air before landing on the ground with flair, awing all the spectators and making a few even say things such as ‘Cool!’.
However, when Aaron saw the Tera that had appeared, he scoffed.
It was one of the weakest that the two of them usually encountered in the jungle: a Foxtail Rabbit.
“Goooo Bewitching Fox! Show ‘em hell!”
A Bewitching Fox- one of the strongest predators in the forest?
Clearly, there was a case of mistaken identity here.
This thought appeared in Aaron’s mind, and it seemed to dawn on the villagers, too, as they started to chuckle among themselves.
Edmond saw that something was wrong, but he just assumed they were jealous of his Rare-grade Tera.
Yet, when the fat viper which appeared shot a single attack, the ‘Bewitching Fox’ jumped in fright and ran out of the ring, resulting in an automatic forfeit.
Finally, even Edmond understood what was going on when he heard the words which floated to him from the villagers.
Apparently…he had been cheated into buying a Foxtail Rabbit, instead of a Bewitching Fox.
Shock coursed through his mind, along with panic and alarm.
Yet, he had to save the day.
So, touching the poor, frightened Rabbit, Edmond took it back into his Core and struck another heroic pose before saying:
“I seem to have misplaced my Tera. I’ll be back. I assure you that I haven’t been cheated! My Bewitching Fox must be…lost in the jungle! I’ll go search for it now! Goodbye, everyone! It was really nice meeting you!”
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I'm an aspiring author who fell in love with writing the moment I wrote my first story.
Most Notable Work: World Domination System, an 800,000 word ongoing fantasy novel which can be found at https://www.webnovel.com/book/11413811606356705/World-Domination-System