I don't want to wake up, it's so comfortable right now, sleeping on top of this soft pillow, I feel a warmth run past my head. Wait, when did I fall asleep? Wasn't I still in the iron badge tournament, what happened? I force myself up as I feel that I may have forgotten something.
"Master! Are you okay?" A familiar voice sound out before I could search my memories.
It seems I was lying down on Faris's lap in this tent of some sort.
"...Faris, where are we?" I ask as I rub my eyes clean and can't help but notice the pain in my palms.
"We're in one of the tents that the guild let us use while you recover from your match." Faris dutifully explains while adjusting from a kneeling to sitting position.
My memories start to come back to me, that's right, I just beat Kou! The last thing I remember was yelling at the top of my lungs from the adrenaline as I took my victory pose before suddenly feeling the pain of my broken arm and bleeding palms overwhelmed me. I'm going to need some gauntlet or something if I'm going to do use my explosion spells to power my thrusts again.
"How long was I out for and what about my match? I'm in the finals aren't I?"
"Sorry master, it hasn't even been half an hour since your match with Kou but the healing mages deemed you unfit to continue fighting so you automatically defaulted your match."
...Sigh, I managed to make it to the finals so I should be satisfied, yet I can't help but feel a little frustrated. I was only one match away from winning the whole thing, I was so close.
"Don't be sad master, you were so amazing today!" Faris wraps her arms around me.
Can't be all down now, can I? Not with my Faris cheering me up and it's not like I had a bad showing in the tournament at all.
"Hmm, you're right, besides, I sure made a killing this tournament! Did they pay me out from my wager yet?" I ask while I take out my coin pouch from my space ring.
"Yeah, they gave it to me to hold on to, it's right here." Faris hands me another small pouch.
I take out the coins and start counting my harvest, 1 platinum coin and 58 gold coins from Faris's pouch added onto what's in my ring previously adds up to a grand total of 2 platinum coins, 338 gold coins, 197 silver coins, and 35 copper coins. I should really go change these gold coins into platinum coins, it's starting to pile up.
I was a bit short of 2 platinum coins before the tournament and now I have over 5 platinum coins to my name and I still have the tournament rewards waiting for me, I wish I could participate in the tournament next month again...
"Excuse me, the award ceremony will be starting soon, will you wake your master up soon please?" A female voice speaks out from outside the tent, must be a guild staff.
"Ah yes, I'm awake, I'll be out shortly." Have to put away all this cash, can't be showing off my wealth now, wouldn't want to stir up the greed of any random strangers now, do I?
I exit the tent with Faris to see a catkin lady with a killer body in a guild uniform waiting for us. MILF spotted!
"The ceremony will be starting soon so if you could follow me." The MILF bows politely before turning around to lead the way, making me follow her while my gaze is glued to her swaying tail and wide hips. They say that lust increase after an intense fight, it must be true, or so I want myself to believe.
Faris who notices my gaze tightens her arms around mine, squishing her chest into my arm.
"I'm sorry Faris, I may lust after all kinds of women but you are the one I love the most," I whisper silently into her ears, turning her complexion red. Have to ease her into the idea of a harem after all, better to start now than later.
Our flirting time is interrupted as we approach the main stadium where the guild leader gave her speech this morning.
"I'm sorry but beyond this point is for staff and participants only, your slave will have to make other arrangements until the ceremony ends." The nice ass I was staring at turns and hide themselves from me as the guild staff turns to bows towards me. Those deep ravines aren't bad either.
"Faris do you know where Norton is?"
"Yep, I'll watch the ceremony with Lord Norton, see you later." Faris gives me a quick peck on the cheeks before running off towards the crowd.
Time to get this tournament over with, it may have only been a day but it feels like it has been going on for far longer than that.
"I would like to first thank everyone here for participating in this month's iron badge tournament and all the staff that worked hard throughout the day to allow for this event to go on smoothly..." The guildmaster gives her speech while I stand in a line of ten people total, off to the side by the guildmaster, including Kou still in his black armor with only one person standing in between us.
"...and finally I would like to congratulate all the adventurers who managed to make it into the top 10% and qualify for promotion..." I heard the loser bracket to make it into the top 100 was intense, someone was even accidentally heavily injured.
"...I must remind you all who are about to get your bronze badges that you are not superior to anyone below you in rank or inferior to anyone above you. No matter how high a level you manage to train your magic to, you can still be killed as easily as any others, there have been many instances in the past of gold badges being killed by iron badges. It is important that you all continue to sharpen your senses through training and be on guard no matter who or what you fight against..."
The guildmaster rambles on for a while until she starts handing out the rewards to the top ten, starting from tenth place. That means I'm second last to get my reward, and the man on my right must be the champion, the winner of this tournament. He sure has the air of a veteran around him, though he looks plain, the type that doesn't stand out.
Strength Lv. 1
He sure is pretty high level for his age, would've been a tough opponent.
"Congratulations Aster Estrea, here is your reward for being second place as well as your bronze badge, you may keep your iron badge as a keepsake but all it has been marked as deactivated and can only be used as identification." The guild master personally hands me a pouch of coins and my new guild badge; made of bronze with a Weycorus tree depicted on it as well as three glaring red fruits hanging from the tree.
"...I now declare the end of this month's iron badge tournament, thank you to everyone for attending and hope you all have a great evening."
The tournament ends immediately after the reward ceremony and the remaining crowd starts to recede. I quickly make my way around trying to find Faris and Norton's group but it seems they were the ones to find me first as I watch them emerge from the crowd, must have been a lot easier being able to spot me on the platform.
Faris reaches me first and latches onto me while Norton dispiritedly lag behind, followed by Norton's party members who are trying to cheer him up from the side.
"Congratulations!" Norton's party members speak in sync.
"Thank you, I'm happy you guys were here to support me for the whole day." I thank them before looking over at the still dejected Norton.
"Sigh, congratulations Aster." Norton forces out while glaring at me.
"What's with him?" I whisper to Faris
"I'm not sure, he's been like that since master's last match."
"Did you bet against me and lose?"
"..." Norton winces and looks off to the side.
"Hahaha, you got what you deserved!" Seeing his reaction, I couldn't hold myself back from laughing.
"HEY! You bastard, I did stay the entire day to cheer you on, the least you could do is---" Norton is cut off short by a familiar voice and the sound of heavy armor drawing near from behind me.
"Aster Estrea!" I turn back to see a suit of black armor behind me.
"...Sigh, what do you want Kou? I'm pretty sure I beat you fair and square so remind me what else we have left to talk about?"
"...You...I..." Kou stutters at my attitude.
"Spit it out quickly." Wanting to quickly head out for some rest and food, I hurry Kou which prompts him to take a deep breath before continuing.
"Since you are strong enough to beat me, regardless of the dirty tricks you used, I acknowledge your strength..."
Who would want to be acknowledged by the likes of you? And what dirty tricks? You fucking sore loser.
"...That is why I want you to swear to me that you will never use your slaves as your shields again!"
How did this conversation end up in me having to promise you something?
"Master has never used or treated me as a shield, he properly takes care of me and I am happy to serve him! And before you ask, NO, master did not forbid me from speaking out against him!" Faris is the one to respond, and aggressive at that as I was still puzzled at how quickly the conversation took a turn.
"...Then...that is fine I suppose..." Kou is stunned at Faris's outburst and struggle at how to respond. Good job Faris.
"...Idiot" I can't help but mutter under my breath, seeing Kou's confused face.
"What was that! I heard that you savage! Show some respect or I'll---"
"Now now, I'm glad we all cleared up the misunderstandings, but I'm sure you're all tired from a long day of fighting so why don't we all head to out for some food together?" Norton timely intervenes as he walks out in between us.
"What? And who are you?!"
"Allow me to introduce myself, I'm Norton Lockhart, a novice adventurer, and these are my companions." Norton eloquently introduces himself and bows.
"Another slave abu---Lockhart? May I ask if you are a part of Count Lockhart's family?" Kou's speech suddenly become a lot more polite.
"Correct, I am the second son."
"So it is Lord Norton, forgive my rudeness." Kou bows back at Norton with practiced etiquette.
This bastard is sucking up to Norton as soon as he heard he was a noble, as expected of merchants who live for money.
"Please, just call me Norton."
"Well Norton, it would be rude of me to decline your offer but I need a moment to change into something more suitable as well as find my companions as well."
"That's fine, you can come with your companions after, meet us at that restaurant in half an hour. It is located at..."
What the fuck man, why am I going to have dinner with Kou? I thought this was going to be the last I'll see of him too, screw you Norton.
Kou and Norton finish up their conversation as Kou gives me one last look before quickly disappearing out of sight. Good riddance.
"What was that Norton?" I interrogate Norton as soon as Kou is out of sight.
"Calm down, it's just a little networking, can't hurt to make a connection to people as wealthy as the Hakuren family now, can it? Besides, I may be an adventurer now but I still need to think of my family's best interests."
"Do it on your own then! Why are you getting me involved?"
"Hey, I'm just doing what's best for you too, don't be so petty." Norton smiles at me with an amused expression.
This guy...He's definitely doing it on purpose in revenge for making him lose his wager earlier, who's the petty one...
We start heading out from the guild once the crowd dispersed a little more and managed to fine Lawrence standing near the door connecting the guild to the training grounds, talking with a bunch of other guild staff.
"Hey Lawrence, want to join us for dinner? We're heading out right now." I say as I tap his shoulder to get his attention.
"Hmm? Oh, it's you guys, sorry, but still got a ton of work to do at the guild so you guys go on without me. Oh, and congratulations on getting second place Aster, good going kid." Lawrence shows his acknowledgment by pushing my head down and rubbing my hair into a mess.
"Is something up at the guild? I thought you guys would be free after this tournament is over already" Norton asks while my hair is being assaulted.
"Hmm, something like that, you guys will find out about it tomorrow so don't worry about it for now and have a good rest." Lawrence waves goodbye at that and moves back over to the group of people he was talking to earlier who moved slightly away to give us some space.
"I'm starving, let's go," I say as I give Norton a pat on the back.
"...Okay, let's go."
Norton takes us to a restaurant that is in a nicer part of town, the clientele here seems lean more toward merchants and higher ranked adventurers with better income.
We are seated in a private room and we order immediately as I'm famished, I ain't waiting if it's just Kou after all.
"You're such a nice guy, treating us to a feast even after losing your last bet Norton!" I wrap my arm around Norton, you're not getting away without paying the bill buddy cause I for sure ain't treating Kou to anything.
"...As a nobleman, generosity is a trait that has been ingrained to me, despite losing out on the last match, I still did make quite a bit anyway." Norton says while trying to hold back from berating me.
"Ah, waiter, a few more of your most expensive dishes and wine please."
"Anyway, I have something I've been meaning to ask you before Kou arrives."
"Have you ever heard of vigor magic?"
"Ahem, come closer." Norton's face suddenly turns a little red as he gestures for me to keep our conversation away from Faris and his companions who are chatting away happily.
"Officially, vigor magic is supposed to be exclusive to royalty so spreading it is forbidden although it has already been leaked to the point that being found capable of using it is no longer a crime. So you must have the right connections and pay a handsome sum in order to be able to learn it, anything more is unknown to me." Norton whispers to me as he darts his eyes around to spot anyone eavesdropping.
"Exclusive to royalty? What does it do anyway? Sounds like an enhancement magic though." I quietly whisper back.
"...Umm, it's for that, you know, increased performance in bed."
"Oh..., no wonder you sound like you've done your research in the subject, can't blame you for having trouble in that department with a party like that." I slyly grin at Norton before directing my gaze to his companions.
Excluding the large knight, they are three female beauties in Norton's group; a catkin with bright pink hair, foxkin with dazzling white fur, and a cool human beauty. They seemed well behaved whenever I was around but I bet that won't be the case when they're alone.
"...I...What are you saying, I have no problem whatsoever, I just happened to be well learned, unlike a certain someone who seems to know nothing." Norton turns beet red trying to keep his volume at a whisper to voice his excuses, it'd look cute on a girl but it's hella creepy on a guy if you ask me, so stop it already.
"So why did you ask about it? Oh..., it seems like you're the one who is starting to have problems in that department. Tsk tsk tsk, I'm disappointed Aster, after only one girl." Norton recovers as he find ammo to turn the conversation back on me.
"...Look, I have reliable information that Kou learned vigor magic so I was just wondering what it even was, didn't know it was something rare, think we should get it out of him somehow? It'd come in handy playing with your three cuties, wouldn't it?"
"Decide by yourself, it doesn't matter to me since I have no problem in my performance in that area even with three opponents." Norton breaks the whisper, no longer wanting to continue on that topic.
What do you know, so he does get it on with those three, one of my curiosities sated. But I'm going to pry it out from Kou's mouth with or without you, vigor magic seems vital to my cause after all!
Speak of the devil, right after we end that conversation, Kou enters the room followed by a full entourage of women.
"Greetings." They all bow and greet us in sync before getting seated.
We are sitting at a long rectangular table with Norton at the center with me, Faris, and his party to his left and now Kou is seated directly to Norton's right with his companions beside him wrapping all the way to Norton's group.
Kou is now dressed in very common leather armor, a typical adventurer who wouldn't stand out if not for his red hair, just like when I first met him in that trap inside the dungeon.
"Greetings, nice to see you again, hope you don't mind that we ordered already but feel free to add to the order, it seems we do have enough people to finish it after all."
"Haha, sorry, we do have quite the large group."
"No worries, the more the merrier."
Norton and Kou continue with their small talk after a new round of drinks are ordered as I focus my attention on Faris and Norton's companions but I feel the occasional gaze from Kou's harem. Kou must've talked them into hating me or something, they keep staring daggers at me.
"Cheers!" Kou's drinks arrive with the food we ordered earlier as everyone takes turns toasting each other and clashing their cups before starting on the meal.
I move on to tea after finishing the meal as we continue sitting around and chatting.
"The tournament sure was exciting today, it's my first time going but even I can tell that the fight between you two was a league above others!" Seeing the lack of conversation between Kou and me, Norton tries to bridge us with a conversation.
"Hmph, he just got lucky and caught me off guard," Kou says with disdain, looking a little tipsy.
"Yea? Why don't we have a go right now? What? Scared without wearing that shiny armor daddy gave you?" I can't stand Kou normally and now with alcohol loosening his mouth, it's only become worse.
"Now now, I actually wanted to talk about doing business with the Hakuren family, my father has spoken very highly of your family's expertise in business." Norton immediately holds onto Kou's shoulders and changes the topic seeing his plan backfired.
Kou takes a deep breath and reluctantly drops the matter, giving Norton some face. "I'm sorry but I won't be able to contact the Hakuren family as I'm currently traveling incognito." Kou gives a helpless smile to Norton.
"Ha, so you're on the run from your own family? What'd you do? Piss them off by ruining the family business?"
"It's the opposite! The young master Kou is only taking a break because he is too talented so the master has been forcing him too much on him!" The girl next to Kou with long blonde hair defends the speechless Kou.
"Enough Caroline, I'm sorry for that display Norton but Aster's right, I'm running from the people of Hakuren family so I would appreciate it if you keep this meeting a secret, on the matter of business, I sorry to say I won't be of any help until a later date." Kou bows to Norton while the girls beside Kou stare daggers into me.
So I guess that's why I didn't see his cheerleader squad in the tournament and why Kou had his helmet on the entire time, he didn't want people to start recognizing his face to make it easier to travel about.
"Aster may I ask the same of you as well?" Surprisingly Kou actually bows to me.
"What do you need me for? It's not like you're going to stick around in town and I won't know where you'll be heading next."
"If anyone asks, just tell them you saw me alone and don't tell them anything about my companions, it won't be easy if they knew I was traveling in such an eye-catching party." Kou looks over at his large harem of eight.
Perfect chance to get him to spit it out!
"Fine, it's not like I want to meddle in your business but you're going have to give me something in return."
"I...I may be from the Hakuren family but I don't have much money to be extorted of...besides the tournament rewards..."
"Relax, I'm not after your money, well not this time. I just need you to give me some information." I pull my seat back and gesture for Kou to do the same so we can talk privately in the area behind Norton. Kou follows as I gesture him to whisper while facing away from the table.
"What is it that you want to know that requires us to be whispering and sneaking around like thieves?"
"I know you know vigor magic, why don't you teach it to me?"
"What?! I know of no such magic, nor would I need it." Kou barely manages to contain his voice as his complexion reddens.
"No need to be embarrassed, I know you know so just spit it out, it's part of the deal remember?"
"...Sigh...fine." Kou starts whispering even more quietly and occasionally glances back to his companions.
What? So he doesn't want his girls to know? What's the big deal?
"I learned it from someone in the capital, I won't be able to teach you much as I'm still learning and it require potions to even learn vigor magic so you better find that person instead. I'll write down where you'll find them and an introduction letter, they'll never teach you otherwise if they suspect you will report them."
"Can you write a copy for me as well?" Suddenly a voice whispers behind us towards where the table, surprising us as I turn back to find Norton right next to me.
When the hell did this guy sneak up on us, and what about not needing a performance increase?
"...Norton, I thought you said you were doing fine in that department..."
"...I just want to be more... well-learned."
At his obvious excuse, Kou and I just stare at Norton and a short silence ensues between us.
"...Making excuses isn't manly, you should own up to it if you're a man." Kou mutters under his breath.
...Shut up, you're the last one that I'd want to hear that from.
Just another random guy you'll come across on the internet who decided to write something on a whim.
Currently writing my first story, ever.
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