Episode 37 : Quarterfinals (1)
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Chapter 188 :

Episode 37 : Quarterfinals (1)

After everyone did their training, the last 4 days were for something that I and my comrades had planned.

Currently, I'm guiding everybody to a place I have visited before. It was a place that I was hoping to use as a resting area, but it wasn't meant to be.

Rustling~

"JoonChul~!! Where are we going?" Alaine asked me when I was leading everyone.

As I considered whether to reply or not, Noel suddenly remembered when he loudly spoke. "Ahhh!! This place! It looks familiar! Isn't this where we saw father with that strange mermaid?!"

"Come to think of it.. Yeah, it is." Once Mya remembered that, she spoke. 

At that moment, I stared at Noel and Mya with a smile, seeing my grin must have caused them to feel somewhat scared.

I should have known that my villainous face isn't fit for a casual smile.

Nervous and flustered, Noel stuttered with his hands moving around a lot. "F-Father! We didn't mean to spy on you..! We were.. hm just curious? Yeah!"

Did they expect me to scold them? Surely, I wouldn't do that to them for spying on me, it wasn't that big of a deal either.

I'm not that mean, am I?

‘Ahem..’ Lucifer purposely coughed.

A little annoyed by Lucifer, I ignored him because I had arrived at my destination with everyone.

"Erm? Why does it look different?" Mya noticed as everyone began to take a look at the area.

"It's just your imagination." 

The place where my clone had been was a cave where I encountered Etheldreda. And speaking of clones, I'm not in a third person perspective anymore since this is my real body.

How, you may ask? 

After recovering in the ice ship without anyone aware of my true form and injuries in the past 27 days, I managed to get back to a state where I could move more or less thanks to Mirai's assistance.

If it weren't for Mirai's hard work in healing me during the night where she didn't have to be bothered by the tutoring, I would have needed a few more months before I could safely move again.

‘Mirai did overwork herself..’ I thought with a grim expression.

Knowing Mirai, she must have hated the fact that she couldn't come early to protect me from being stabbed by Excalibur.

‘If Mirai hadn't come, she wouldn't have seen me getting stabbed.’ I mused with a frown.

Preferably, I would rather have Mirai stay by Frostina's side than to have her witness me in my humiliating state at that time.

It's not because I felt humiliated, I really wish for Mirai to not have seen me in such a state.

If she hadn't, then maybe she wouldn't have overworked herself to this point. But because Mirai saw me while she stood there feeling helpless, she forced herself to work harder for my recovery.

..What worse is that I didn't have the power to stop her from overworking herself.

‘I'm sorry.’ Unknowingly, I apologized to her in my head.

"Earth to JoonChul~! Heyyyy~!" Alaine called out to me as if she thought I didn't notice her hands swaying in front of my face.

"Ask away." I said, knowing she would be curious about why we're here. 

"Woah~ You knew what I was thinking. Did you read my mind, JoonChul?"

"Nope, you're just predictable."

All of the sudden, Louis came to me to ask. "JoonChul, why are we here and why didn't we bring HwanGi along?" 

 

"I instructed HwanGi to keep guard of the ship." I said, lying about it since I didn't want to trouble my mind to keep talking in two different personas.

"Why HwanGi though? Would your comrades be more effective at guarding?"

"It's a test for HwanGi."

"Test?"

"To see if he had improved or not. Just like how I'll put you to the test soon."

"Okay? But wouldn't it be dangerous to leave HwanGi alone?"

"It'll be fine. If anything, I already put up defenses in case something happens."

"..." Louis is doubtful.

But I don't care.

Also, there's no need for HwanGi, who I made as a clone, to be in this place. If the clone were to dissolve from a powerful punch, it would cause panic and concerns for everybody to know that clone HwanGi just died.

With Alaine here, the one who wields the ‘Clone' skill, it would be no sweat for her to realize that HwanGi was a clone, and use her talkativeness to tell everyone about it.

So I planned ahead and put clone HwanGi in charge of watching the ice ship.

..Fwoosh~

Finally, I told everybody. "We're here for something special." 

When I expected Alaine to speak, I already found her talking to me. "Something special? Don't tell me we're going to do more training?! JoonChul, you promised that there wouldn't be any training for the last four days of this stage!" 

"And so I did." I grinned.

"What~? Huh? Then what is it?"

"We will have a tournament to see how much you all have improved."

"Jeez. Are we having a tournament arc right now?"

‘Hey, don't break the fourth wall, Alaine.’ I frowned before explaining to her. "Yes, you all will be put to a one on one match."

"Hmmmmmm.. There must be a reward for the winner righhhht????"

"The reward goes to the ones who have improved far from their original standpoint."

"What are the rewards?" 

While I looked at Alaine's sparkling eyes, I really questioned why she only paid attention when I mentioned rewards.

‘..It really revealed her nature.’ I thought.

By then, Raiden spoke to his pupil. "It would be more exciting if the rewards were a secret, wouldn't it?"

"Secret or not, I know JoonChul is gonna give us some good stuff~ So when do we start~?!"

"Now." 

With a quick response from Raiden, Alaine became shocked as she stood gazing at us with confusion, and she wasn't the only one since everyone was baffled.

Alaine repeated. "Now?!" 

"Yes."

"Ehhhhh?!!!!"

———

Fluttering~

The cave that held ‘The Rebels’ Guild's tournament, had only two people inside, standing apart from each other as if they were both preparing for an all-out fight.

Above the sky with thin ice amidst the air, there was a desk and five seats for the five people who were sitting there as judges of this tournament.

The five judges are obviously Raiden, Mirai, JoonChul, Frostina and Behemoth.

On the other hand, there were spectators on the right side, watching the view from up top and staying there to prevent any damages from below.

The spectators are none other than Mya, Noel, Noelle, and Crystal.

In due course, Raiden shouted for everyone's attention, taking the role of the commentator by himself. "Look right here, everybody!! I, Raiden Takumi will be the commentator for this tournament!"

"This tournament is to determine who has gotten better than their former self! To test out their ability after a harsh training, this will be a rollercoaster of a show from here on out!"

"As with all games, there will be a few rules you need to follow!"

Upon saying that, Raiden struck a lightning bolt up in the air, shaping it into words as he stated the rules.

"Rule 1 : Never put your opponent on the verge of death!"

"Rule 2 : Consumables are allowed, but it's advised to save them up for future uses!"

"Rule 3 : Leaving the area is not allowed!"

"Rule 4 : No damage must be done to the surroundings! Minimum damages are okay!"

"Rule 5 : Have fun!"

"That's all for the rules! If there's an emergency or such, we the judges will take care of it!" 

Raiden seemed to be enjoying this.

"In the quarterfinals, let us see who will be fighting in the first round of this tournament! On our right, we have Louis Antoine! And his opponent shall be my disciple, Alaine Katherina!"

While in the moment, Alaine waved at everyone, grinning in exasperation when she was about to fight against Louis soon.

Smiling from watching his disciple, Raiden continued his commentary. "Time is a precious thing, so without any further ado, we will begin the fight in.. 3!"

In no time, when both Louis and Alaine drew their weapon to prepare for battle, Raiden raised his arm high up into the sky as he was counting down.

"2!"

At that point, Alaine and Louis gripped their weapon tightly while gulping down their nervous saliva down their throat while staring at each other.

"1!!"

Moving an inch forward when the lightning bolt in the air snapped with a bang, Alaine and Louis immediately launched themselves forward with their weapon out to get the others.

"Let the first bout begin!!" Raiden exclaimed with his might.

CLASSSH!!!

What came after Raiden's shout was the collision between Louis and Alaine who were pushing each other back with their strength.

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Skill, ‘Acceleration’ Lv. 4.]

In the end, Louis swayed his trident to get rid of Alaine's daggers, knocking Alaine a few steps back as she swiftly disappeared.

[Player ‘414’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Extraordinary Multitasking’ Lv. 5.]

Seeing how Alaine isn't visible, Louis concentrated closely on the sound that she might possibly make, swinging his trident to his right when he noticed a slight noise from there.

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Clone’ Lv. 5.]

Woosh!

"A clone?!" Louis spoke with slight surprise after cutting Alaine's clone in half.

Before Louis could even comprehend the situation, he already found himself to be surrounded by Alaine's clones, leaving no exits for him to escape to.

Whether clones or the real Alaine, every single one of Alaine was laughing by the sight of the bewildered Louis.

"Hehe~ Who do you think is the real me, Louis? Think quickly if you want to beat meee!!" 

"I don't need to think, Alaine." Confident in his ability, Louis smiled.

"Then I'm going to attack now!"

"Go for it."

Once Louis ended his response, every one of Alaine was charging at him in every direction, closing in with their daggers out to get him.

No doubt, Louis had to do something, but it wasn't to block or counterattack, but to spray the sand by using his trident to dig into the sandy ground and knocking the sand into Alaine's eyes.

"Ahhh!! It hurts! Oww!"

While Alaine was busy, Louis took this chance to take it slow by not attacking the clones, and began to dash toward the sea where the clones may have a disadvantage.

At that point, Raiden commentated. "Going to the sea, aye? It looks like it's going to Louis' favor! What will my pupil, Alaine do in this situation!?" 

The clones targeted Louis after getting the sand out of their eyes, sprinting with their utmost to beat Louis.

All of the sudden when the clones' feet touched the sea, Louis raised his trident to command the water to undergo a rise up, forming a wave to sweep the clones in one go.

"Bleh!! Damnit Louis!" The clones grumbled, standing upright despite the wave interrupting their balance.

As Louis expected Alaine to be on the ground for the duration, he speedily went ahead to strike down as many clones as possible to figure out the real Alaine.

But..

Louis didn't realize something important..

Just like how he used his trident's ability to summon waves, Alaine could also do the same.

Swoossh!!!

Out of the blue, Louis spotted Alaine escaping the wave and retreating to the sky to attack him from there.

It must be one of Alaine's boot's abilities that allowed her to walk on the air.

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Skill, ‘Flurry Strike’ Lv. 5.]

CLINGGG!!

The ear-piercing noise that comes from the clashes between a trident and dagger, was crackling sparks and air burst to the vicinity.

Flaring a tempest wind toward Louis, Alaine pulled back her daggers to kick off the trident and used it to jump above Louis.

[Player ‘414’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Extraordinary Multitasking’ Lv. 5.]

Thanks to this skill, Louis was focusing everything in his surroundings, including the clones who had used the time where he was dealing with Alaine to come charging in for a surprise attack.

"Grahh!" Louis groaned as he started parrying attacks from left and right.

Top to bottom, Louis parried and blocked without pausing for a slight second before finally setting out his second plan.

[Player ‘414’ has activated the Skill, ‘Marine Javelin’ Lv. 4 (+3).]

The javelins that were hiding on the floor after Louis had set them there when he unleashed the wave, had arisen from the ground to pierce the ones who stood on it.

Chattering!

It meant Alaine's clones suffered plenty of damage by how unexpected it was, and getting penetrated from the bottom was undoing the clones and erasing most of the clones in that one moment.

"No way!?!" Alaine gasped in awe. "I didn't even think of that!"

"I'll win this one, Alaine." Louis said without a hint of hesitation.

"Oh yeah? You do know that I understand how your personality works right?"

"..What does that—" 

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Clone’ Lv. 5.]

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Morph’ Lv. 3.]

[Player ‘998’ has activated the Hidden Skill, ‘Acting’ Lv. 4.]

"Alaine.. You.." Louis' eyes were in shock by what he was witnessing.

A sight where multiple of the people he was trying to protect, were standing in front of him as if begging him not to attack.

…Whoosh… 

"Brother Louis.. A-Are you going to hit me..?" 

The clones weren't in the appearance of Alaine anymore. Instead, they were disguised as Mya. 

In that unprecedented moment, Louis immediately froze in place when he heard the voice of Mya coming out of the clones that even resembled Mya.

..It was stressing Louis out from what he was seeing with his eyes.

‘They're clones.. But I can't just hit Mya like this..’ Complicated, Louis grumbled with his lower lip gritted.

"Brother Louis.." Alaine was literally toying with Louis at this point.

What could he possibly do to get through this dilemma? All eyes were on his next decision in dealing with this situation, along with Mya's spectating eyes watching him closely.

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