Even though I could guarantee myself a prize at this point, I couldn’t slack off. If I managed to get second place, or even the championship, my prize would increase drastically. However, at this point there were no new Keepers left. And even among the loser’s bracket, I could see the veterans showing their explosive strength.
Battles were not lasting as long now, everyone pulling out all that they had to end their matches with a single decisive strike. They all knew that one more loss meant that they would lose any shot at winning this tournament. And although these meetings often held multiple tournaments for the same game, they would have to fight through an entirely new tournament for that prize, whereas this felt so close by comparison.
One by one, I got to see the powers that a Keeper could display in the games. Magic, cultivation, there was even one Keeper that chose to mix it up by going for a pure technology build in one fight. Though, he seemed unfamiliar with wielding the weapon that he had chosen and was eliminated thanks to that.
To my surprise, it was actually MeanGreen that emerged as the final victor of the loser’s bracket. He was able to quickly triumph over all of his adversaries using the same physical fighting style that he had displayed before. And once he had earned his spot as the ‘Final Loser’, as the hosting companion called it, he sent a fierce glance in my direction.
“Alright, everyone! The moment you guys have been waiting for! Our two undefeated fighters! EarthForceOne, MissTery, please approach the first stage!” She called out in a booming tone, while myself and the red-skinned Keeper moved up for our fight.
As expected, neither of us adjusted our avatars for this battle. We had come all this way through the use of a single fighting style, and we wanted to see it through. Though for me, I was busy trying to come up with a surefire plan to defeat MissTery…
Once the countdown had ended and we were sent into the world, I found myself standing alone on a tiny island, one step in any direction enough to send me to the water. Quickly, I loaded my magic cards into the magazine for my gun and waited for the battle to start. The moment it did, I did not begin laying traps again, but rather fired off my detection spell.
I doubted that I would be able to use traps to win a second time so easily. Ignoring the fact that MeanGreen might have warned him about how I defeated him in our battle, just the battle itself made me lose confidence in that tactic. After all, MeanGreen had been able to sense my traps, and the only reason he fell for them at all was because he spent too much time talking.
As soon as my detection spell showed me where MissTery was, I fired off my teleport spell to take me roughly a mile behind him. Forcing him to change his course would buy me a little bit of time, and until then I began shooting myself. Enhance: Speed. Enhance: Strength. Aegis. Three buff spells that would boost my physical ability.
After casting those spells, I brought the Mage Pistol into my left hand. It wouldn’t play a big role in this fight, but I couldn’t just turn it into a card either. Logically, doing so would cause the several cards stored inside of it to scatter, and there was still the off chance that I would need them later.
By the time that I finished casting my buffs, I could already see MisTerry on the horizon. However, he did not charge over, merely standing in midair. His one eye stared directly at me from far away, his four hands in front of his chest forming a diamond shape. In the center of the diamond, a glowing sphere of golden light could be seen.
Reflexively, I began spreading out my chakra threads, ready to dodge at a moment’s notice. From observing the fights of the ki specialist Keeper, I could guess that this was the preparation for a big technique. And sure enough, I was not disappointed.
Several moments later, MissTery clapped his four hands together over the golden light, causing it to wash over his arms. Then, he began to move his arms back in a strange, slow rhythm, leaving golden after images. When he was done, he no longer had just his four arms, but another forty behind him.
Yet, this was still not the end. He did not charge over towards me and overwhelm me with his fighting power. Instead, all forty-four arms moved to place their hands in front of him, forming a four layered circle of palms. This time, I could feel the ripples of ki spreading out all the way to my position, and my hand clenched on the pistol.
This wasn’t any special power of a system. If I was right, this should be a technique that he knew how to perform from his own training. Suddenly, all forty four palms flipped upside down, and the world around me seemed to shatter. Black cracks spread out through the air, originating from his position like a spider’s web.
The grassy land that I was standing on shook and broke apart, several pieces rising into the air, falling into the cracks. The ki he was emitting was all around me now, and I could feel it. In a desperate move, I began stepping through my chakra threads, fleeing as far as I could to the side. If this was a directed technique, then moving back or forward would amount to nothing, so only the side was a possible escape route.
Thankfully, my chakra threads allowed me to slip between the cracked space, but I never felt myself escaping the field of ki that MissTery emitted. Glancing over towards him, I saw him still facing me with a serious expression, his arms all still facing me. As I watched, his palms turned inwards, and all clapped together, collapsing into just his original four hands.
For a single moment, I felt a pressure on my body unlike anything I had ever known before. I could feel my bones cracking, shattering under the force. But before I could even cry out, it was already over. I was back at the stage, bent over and gripping the console, feeling a cold sweat on my back.
Playing over the scene again, I knew that there was nothing in my arsenal that could have changed that outcome. If I moved to engage in close combat, just the sheer number of arms would have overwhelmed me with an assault from all angles. None of my defensive spells even held a candle to that attack.
“Alright! What an outcome! MissTery’s signature technique, Shatter the Earth and Collapse the Sky, folks! I haven’t seen that one used in years.” The companion called out loudly, breaking me from my thoughts. I made a mental note to look through the market later to see if I could find that technique. I had seen its power first-hand, so I knew just how terrifying it was.
“Next up, EarthForceOne has to defend second place against MeanGreen! Fighters, to stage one!” Thankfully, I didn’t have to move from my spot.
Are you alright, father? Leowynn asked with concern from within my spiritual realm. That was…
I know. I sent back to her with a brief nod. A technique like that shouldn’t be within the realm of a first rank Keeper. However, he had not broken the rules. The amount of ki that he had was within the limits. It’s just that he knew a technique that went beyond those limits. Likely, if he was able to use his full power, he would not have required a charge-up period in order to release it.
The seconds ticked by, and once again I was sent into an isolated world. This time, I was at the edge of a deep canyon which stretched on to the horizon. Once I was done loading my gun, I prepared to fire off the detection spell again. The trap tactic was definitely not going to work on the same person twice, so I could only prepare for a frontal confrontation again.
However… once my detection spell launched, I was surprised to find that there was no response from it. Even after giving the spell enough time to wash over the entire world, it did not detect another living creature. Shit, he’s using a stealth technique…
Without the ability to search for my opponent, I simply began buffing myself again, waiting for them to come to me. If this battle would be at a time of his choosing, then the least that I could do is prepare myself for it. Of course, I had to hope that they weren’t simply going to use a planet-busting spell to end the fight while I couldn’t sense them.
Thankfully, nearly five minutes later I saw MeanGreen walking through the air in the horizon. The golden glow that he held before in our previous fights were gone. Instead, I felt an intense surge of mana whenever I looked at him. Oh great… he’s not just a physical fighter.
Just like MissTery, he stopped just above the horizon, staring at me with his hands behind his back. I could barely see him opening his mouth when I enhanced my eyes with ki to watch him, yet his voice rang out in my ears. “Sorry, EarthForceOne, but let this be a lesson. Little tricks and traps aren’t meant to take you all the way here. It ruins the fun for the other participants. And if there’s no fun to be had in a fight…”
Rather than speaking, he brought one hand out from behind his back and lifted it up to his chest, his palm facing upwards. A small orb of light formed in his palm, an intricate mix of countless strange symbols. When MeanGreen opened his mouth again, his voice once more echoed. But this time, it seemed to speak from the world itself, rather than directly to me.
“My life is the core of the world. My heart shaped the past. My hand molds the present. My mind begets the future. This world has fallen to chaos and must be restored.” With every word, the mana pulsing from the sphere of light grew stronger.
This wasn’t elemental magic… I could not feel any disturbance in the flow of natural energy, so why… Did he have another system that boosted his mana through chanting? Feeling a sense of danger, I immediately began rushing towards him as fast as I could, hoping to get there in time to stop him from unleashing this spell.
“Within my eyes that see all, return the world to its original state. Let all things become new, and all beginnings end. Final Cleansing.” When he finished his last line, the ball in his hand slowly dropped, moving towards the ground. Yet, it was still too far away for me to reach before it hit the ground.
The moment that the orb representing the spell hit the ground, a field of white began to spread out in all directions. Within the field, all things lost their shapes and colors, as if they were simply erased. With how close I was to the blast, I barely had enough time to fire off a single spell.
I hastily cast my teleport, wanting to move to the far side of the planet. However, in doing so, I felt a similar pressure crushing my body as when I fought MissTery. In my attempts to get as far away from the blast as possible, I forgot one of the rules of this tournament.
The fighting area shrank over time. None of my fights had ever lasted this long, so I miscalculated the size of the world… “And that’s that folks! EarthForceOne loses to a ring out!” I heard the companion’s voice before I even noticed that we were back in the Administration Room.
I glanced up, seeing MeanGreen politely nod at me before stepping down from the stage, the companion’s voice ringing out once again. “This means that EarthForceOne will be leaving with the third place prize of five hundred points! Let’s hear a round of applause for this new competitor!”
To my surprise, there was actually a brief round of applause from the people still gathered in the room. However, what surprised me more was that the companion then began walking over to me. “You can stick around to watch the rest of the fights.” She said, holding a hand out. “But rules prohibit people from playing the game again after they win a prize. Can’t just have three people dominating the tournament again and again to farm points, right?”
I glanced down towards her hand, where there seemed to be a familiar blue glow, the typical light that the system shined. Giving a small nod, I took her hand in mine, guessing that this was how they transferred the prize points. Even if I didn’t accept the prize money to fight again, I doubted I’d be able to get as far a second time.
Alkahest’s System Companion Alaria wishes to transfer 500 points. Authorizing with host Keeper… transaction approved. Alkahest has transferred 500 points to your account balance.