“You’re an amateur, right? I can tell with a look.”
Annerose walks towards me, and stops barely within reach.
She has light blue eyes shining with a strong will, and her hair of the same color is cut to around shoulder length.
“You have a cheap sword, and a weak-looking body.”
Annerose lightly taps my sword and body with her index finger.
“Though the swords used in the tournament are dulled, if you take them lightly, you candie.”
Then once again, she shoots me a sharp glare.
I look into her eyes, and think for a bit. The reaction that I should show here is……
“I’d advise you to not judge books by their covers.”
So saying, I turn away from Annerose.
Indeed, the setting that I’m going with here is that I look weak but am actually really strong. And thus, it would be contrary to come off deferential here.
The best effect is if I get them to think ‘this guy is weak, but sure is presumptuous.’
“What is with that attitude. And here I am actually worrying……”
“I don’t need it. Save it for someone who does.”
Ah right, gotta remember to use the pronoun ‘ore’ to refer to myself.
(T/N: There are many options in Japanese for the pronoun ‘I,’ depending on gender, age, relative status to the conversational partner, etc. ‘Ore’ is the most masculine one, to the degree where in some situations would come across as excessively aggressive.)
“I’m being serious, you really……”
“Oi brat, that was a warning, not advice. And warnings are meant to be taken seriously.”
Abruptly, a man interrupts our conversation.
If I have to use a simile to describe him, then he is like an rough-looking pro wrestler. However, the sword on his waist is well-used, and the various scars on his face give off a ‘veteran of battlefields’ aura.
In actual fact, among everyone present, he seems to be the strongest after Annerose and me.
“I am Quinton. I’ve participated in the Festival several times already, and every time I see weaklings like you pouring cold water on the audience. How about you just run on back home and suck your mama’s tits?”
Quinton’s brazen ridicule is met with voices of approval and vulgar laughter from the surroundings.
But I shoot Quinton a sideways glance, then sneer.
“At the very least, I’m stronger than you.”
Quinton’s face turns livid.
“Gyahaha! Quinton, you’re being looked down on!”
“Quinton, you gonna just let a small fry run his mouth off about you?”
Quinton’s eyebrows scrunch up from the jeering, and he grabs me by my collar.
“Oi, you better be careful with your tongue. Who the fuck did you say is stronger than me?”
I do not answer.
But I do raise a corner of my mouth in a sneer again.
“Seems that you are in need of some…… educating!”
So saying, he throws me.
I crash into some people, then roll on the ground.
“Yea, show him who’s who!!”
“Gyahaha, make sure you go easy on him!!”
The people around Quinton and me back off into a ring. As expected of these people who make their living from violence, they sure know how to react.
“This is your last chance to apologize.”
So says Quinton while cracking his neck with koki koki sounds.
“Your standard really is low.”
I shake my head with a ‘yare yare’.
“I will fucking KILL you!”
Quinton charges at me with a punch.
To be honest, unarmed combat in this world is almost entirely undeveloped. More like, people are stronger when using a weapon, so the only opportunities for unarmed combat are either when the fighter is that much stronger, or when the fighter has been driven to the ropes to that degree. Otherwise, unarmed combat almost never happens.
If there is an unarmed combat tournament, I would undoubtedly take first place. That’s how much confidence I have.
The various ways that I can react to this situation flash through my mind.
Countering with a left straight or right hook would be simple yet effective. Stopping him with a jab or front kick then wait-and-see would be safe. Not doing anything and going completely wait-and-see would be even safer. Meeting him with an elbow or knee would be very effective. Tackling him and then locking him into a joint lock on him would be good too.
If this was a real fight with a strong enemy, I would definitely go with the jab. But not with a fist, but with outspread palm, all five fingers aimed towards his eyes.
But against mere Quinton, there is no need to go that far. In the first place, I…… don’t even feel like fighting yet.
Quinton’s fist sinks into my cheek.
Then I am sent flying away flashily, crashing into the surrounding human wall.
“There’s more where that came from!!”
Quinton’s punches land on me.
Right, left, right, left, left, left.
I allow myself to continue being punched without raising my own hand, then arbitrarily collapse by myself where I think appropriate.
“This guy is weak! He’s way too freaking weak!”
“Gyahaha, so he is a small fry after all!”
The gallery’s derision is music to my ears.
“Is he too scared to do anything? What a wimp!”
Quinton looks down on me and scoffs.
“My fists are not so cheap as to be used on the likes of you.”
So I say while looking up at Quinton and smiling.
“So you haven’t had enough yet?!”
“Stop it already!!”
Quinton’s raised fist is stopped by Annerose’s voice.
“You’ve already gone too far. If you’re still itching for a fight, then I’ll be your partner.”
Annerose glares up at Quinton.
“Oi oi, the lady said she’d be your partner!”
“Gyahaha, can you be my partner instead?!”
In contrast to the jeering, Quinton’s face grows grim.
Leaving behind a ‘tch,’ he turns on his heels.
“What’s wrong, Quinton? Going for a piss?”
“How boring, it’s already over?”
As Quinton leaves, the human ring also beaks up.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t foresee it turning into that.”
Annerose reaches out a hand.
I stand up while ignoring that hand.
“If you’d actually wanted to, you could have stopped it at any moment. Am I wrong?”
Annerose flinches from my question.
“Rather than something that you can’t recover from happening to you during the tournament, I thought it better for you to learn a lesson here first. But he really did go too far. Are your wounds alright?”
Annerose reaches towards me, but I intercept it with one hand.
It seems that Annerose has noticed. Despite having being punched so many times, there are no obvious wounds on me.
If I have to point one out, the only thing I can raise is the small cut on the side of my mouth.
I use a thumb to wipe away the blood slowly oozing beside my mouth, then turn to leave.
“The taste of blood…… how long has it been last……”
So I murmur in a small voice loud enough to be heard by Annerose.
“……! Wait! What is your name?”
I feel her strong gaze on my back.
With that, I disappear into the sea of people.
Then I clinch a guts pose.
I have successfully done it.
‘The small fry that everyone underestimates, but a small minority have realized that he might not be what he seems!’
I absolutely love this cliché.
In my opinion, those who unveil their strength before the tournament even begins are mere third-rates.
Where’s the fun in that? What’s the point of revealing your true strength in the least interesting place possible?
Being underestimated by everyone before the tournament begins is just right. Then when the tournament begins, you make more and more people think “Wait, isn’t that guy kind of strong?” Then only at the climax do you reveal your true strength to make people go “Hell, that guy was actually that fucking strong the entire time?!” Now that is a first-rate flow.
To maintain control over the audience’s impression of me until that crucial moment is the task that I have been tasked with during this Festival of the God of War.
I host this single-person reflection session while hiding into the shadows.
Then after confirming that Annerose and the rest have left, I secretly get back in line and complete my registration.