General Nova lunged toward me; his spear outstretched in a direct attack. There were no feeling things out with him. He went straight for a killing blow. I struck the tip of the staff with my sword, directing the strike and causing it to move past my shoulder. He pulled back and struck again, and then again. His spear quickly launching a dozen sharp and dangerous attacks. Each one I countered with my sword.
I suddenly got a prickly feeling, and I leaped back. At that moment, a glow formed on his body, and the speed of his attacks sped to the point of a blur. I wouldn’t have been able to block it, and had I been standing there I would have been turned to mincemeat. This was far different than the fighting I was used to. When fighting, most people either attacked or used skills. When they attacked with a skill, there was usually a bit of forewarning. It was even considered common to announce what skill you were using before attacking.
That’s how adventurers and gladiators did it, at least. However, adventurers worked in teams, and it was often important to know what your allies were doing before they attacked. These verbal cues added cohesion to a team. As for gladiators, they were fundamentally showmen, and crying out attacks was a way of hyping up the audience, so it was likely taught and encouraged. General Nova was a soldier though. Soldiers put their lives on the line. Skills weren’t showy attacks designed to overwhelm or intimidate an enemy. They were simply a tool to facilitate killing.
He blended his attacks with his skills, slipping them into his attack. He did it a second time, swinging his spear like a staff in a wide arc that would slash my body. Each time it revolved, I had to take a step. He skillfully managed to activate the glowing skill just as the spear was behind his back obscuring my vision. When it came around him, it was moving faster. I had another premonition, but I wasn’t able to get out of the way. I blocked with my sword, which shattered as I flew back and hit the edge of the yard.
The crowds didn’t yell or cheer like they would in a gladiator match. These were the wedding attendants. They were mostly nobles from Esmore or the Ost Republic, so they were more sophisticated than the typical rabble. I could hear whispers and chuckles. A few people clapped lightly. Looking to the side, I could see the three girls I had brought with me looking on anxiously, holding each other as they watched me fight.
“Is that all you have?” General Nova spoke up. “After your previous confidence, I would have thought you’d be able to put up at least a bit of a fight. Frankly, you’re disappointing.”
I stood back up. Although I was a little dusty, he hadn’t damaged me at all, and despite all of his skills, I hadn’t used any of mine. I had managed to deflect two of these skills, used with the precision of a general, while not consuming any energy of my own. To most of the people present, it might have looked like I had lost that exchange. Otto, for one, looked increasingly worried. However, the King, General Octin, and Octius didn’t have faces like they had just witnessed someone being defeated.
Most of all, I had been holding back, trying to get a feeling for my abilities and how they matched his. I pulled out a new sword from my inventory. It was my turn.
This time, I attacked General Nova. My attacks didn’t have any flair. I didn’t know flair to give them. All of my techniques was self-taught, which gave my attacks a more abrupt and violent feel to them. I wasn’t precise like this man, and I’d never had a rhythmic fluid dance like Lydia. All I could do was attack with all I had, and try to survive. If my attacks were similar to any of the girls, it’d be Raissa with whom I shared the most familiarity.
She seemed to catch that as she watched me fight, and she’d occasional cry out in excitement when she saw something, I used that she recognized. While Eliana and Faeyna were purely worried, Raissa who had been a gladiator herself and had often fought for her life found some appeal to watching her master fight.
Our attacks went back and forth, dancing around the ring. He launched several skills at me. A few I was able to block, especially the ones he had used redundantly. My learning and mimicry allowed me to quickly gain a grasp on his skills, as well as figure out their weaknesses and strength. Just like the time I had fought Alysia, my attacks grew more confident and certain as I learned from the battle.
Alysia seemed to notice this as well, and her posture had changed. She was no longer slouching with her head down, but had straightened and was leaning forward, her eyes watching the match intently. Most people saw me as continually taking the disadvantage, but those with discerning eyes could see that General Nova was only managing to keep up through a steady use of skills, and those skills were quickly dragging down his stamina. Meanwhile, I still hadn’t used a single skill, and my stamina had been increased many times over to the point where I wasn’t even sweating yet.
General Nova was keenly aware of this more than anyone else. His cocky smile had disappeared, and his brow had begun to furrow. He had stopped making jeers and speaking high and mighty. He had managed to hide it well, but his concern was finally starting to show.
I activated Haste for the first time since the beginning of the battle. Having it as a dungeon skill didn’t give me the ability of Haste infinitely, regrettably. Haste consumed mana when it was active. When someone casts Haste on you, they were using their mana to speed you up. When you activate Haste on yourself, it is ultimately your mana that is used up.
My speed suddenly shot up as I used a spell unexpectedly. General Nova’s eyes bulged, but when I used a skill, I was very familiar with, Quick Attack, my body reached a state that seemed like instantaneous movement to the crowd. I blurred. General Nova activated a skill that formed a defensive shield around him. My sword struck the shield and shattered. For the first time, General Nova was thrown back.
“I need a better weapon,” I said bitterly, pulling my last spare sword from the inventory.
The whispering crowd had become extremely quiet. For the first time, a realization started to dawn on everyone. I was stronger than General Nova, a lot stronger.
“You… you can’t defeat me.” General Nova cried out, his calm demeanor slipping away.
He was technically right. If I defeated him, it would be bad. The King suggested that I should seek to win this victory, although he had never said it outright. I didn’t trust him though, so I was inclined to want to do the exact opposite of what he asked me to do. It was best for Aberis if I conceded this fight, but did it in a way where I was superior. I had already shown I could fight. In fact, I might have gone a bit overboard here.
“I concede.” I put my sword to the side.
This caused murmurs to grow throughout the crowd. They sounded extremely displeased. They were expecting a more vicious battle. This one was just getting interesting, and suddenly one of the participants gave up.
“What is that?” General Nova’s voice was hoarse.
“You are a general deserving of your title. I am only a lord and adventurer, more suited for monster fighting than people fighting. Ultimately, that was the best attack I had. Since you survived, there is no point. I acknowledge you are the superior fighter.”
The murmuring in the crowds grew louder. It was clear that most of the people present didn’t believe that at all. Some were confused, but most were dissatisfied a good show was being ruined. I didn’t care at all. These people weren’t my people. The small group from Aberis wouldn’t demand one of their nobles fight for their entertainment.
“You promised if I surrender and admit I’m inferior, then you will end this.”
General Nova took a step forward. “You will surrender when I let you surrender!”
“It’s over!” A voice came from the stage.
General Nova spun with an ugly face, but when his eyes landed on Queen Xin, he quickly shut his mouth and smoothed his expression.
“My lady, if things end this way, I will not be fulfilled. Your daughter may also continue to harbor some feelings…”
She stood up, open fury on her face. “Would you accuse my daughter of being some kind of harlot?”
General Nova took a step back. As smarmy and smug as he acted to most people, it was clear that he was genuinely afraid of Xin.
“N-No, I wouldn’t dare… but…”
“Then, this competition is over.” She declared. “I’ve already allowed you the hand of my daughter. If you want to disrespect her by suggesting such things, then-“
“No! Your daughter is pure and beautiful, and I am honored to be her husband!” His face turned red as he spoke.
“Then, let’s get this over with!” She slapped her hands like a thunderclap, and everyone responded.
All of the honor that he had was destroyed. He received supportive looks from his harem girls and the other humans who respected him, but most of the Osterians just shook their heads in disgust. Without any fanfare, our competition was over. They began to file back into the church, dispersing like this entire event had never even happened. As I rejoined my group, I fought off Octin and Octius who tried to give me hugs. Eventually, I used the three girls as my buffer.
I noticed at that point that General Nova was glaring at me hatefully. However, his look wasn’t the one that worried me. I felt the eyes of the King on me too. He didn’t say anything, but it was clear he had expected this fight to end differently, and I had somehow stepped on his plans. Whatever was going on, I had a feeling that it wasn’t over.