With Ulthane screaming his lungs out for his announcement, everyone at the venue has come to where we are. So, we are pretty much surrounded by the typical ring of people.
I can also see that my Maid-Knights are approaching me, but it is difficult for them to move with so many people blocking their way and they can’t just jump over them. Well, they can, but that’d be rude, heh.
"And the ones who will be fighting are...!!!"
Knowing his kind, it will obviously be him...
"...from the Kyrie Kingdom’s side, heh, who else but me? I, Lord Ulthane Reignitz, shall gladly and proudly take that place."
This guy is even bowing and waiting for a round of applause but...no.
Also, everyone else shares my 'ugh...this guy...' kind of expression except for the few that look quite marveled.
Hmm? You are asking why I accepted the idea of the duel in the first place? Well, to beat him up, duh! How could I forget the way his Order and him treated my now Maid-Knights? And if I am not the one chosen to fight him, but I bet he will choose me, then more reason for one of my Maid-Knights to do so.
It will serve like a good warm up for her.
"And from Lady Argento's country…well, how about the Lady herself shows us her country's might?! Right?!"
Called it, again.
"Are you mad, Lord Reignitz?!"
"Yeah! How can you ask that of an important guest?!"
"What are you trying to do, you Mad Bull?!"
Wow...the nobles and citizens are saying all those things for me. Even in front of Prince Licht and Lady Hilde.
I guess this Kingdom has this level of freedom…but most importantly…it…kind of makes me happy...
"Who dared to call me 'Mad Bull'?"
So says Ulthane while making his gaze sharper before looking around and projecting his killing intent towards everyone.
Some are unaffected and even angered by it, mainly those who have clear battle experience, but the ones that fit the civilian category have been rendered completely silent.
He looks furious. It is obvious that he does not like that title. Not one single bit.
“When I find whoever called me that, I will show everyone what a ‘Mad Bull’ really is.”
He says that as he cracks his knuckles and neck, pretty much threatening the people he is sworn to protect...what a piece of crap.
And look at that.
Neither Prince Licht nor Miss Hilde seem intent on doing anything about it.
Even if one of them seems like he wants to.
…you know what? I am going to beat this cliché of a big muscled arrogant guy into the ground, all so that he may reflect on his actions...
"Huh? Miss Gabrielle, right? What is it that you find so funny?"
Says Ulthane to our resident ojou-sama, who just literally entered the fray by causing the crowd to part and let her go through, all while not only nailing the ojou-sama laugh, but the complimentary ojou-sama laughing pose too.
She is now in front of Ulthane, who is looking at her with both confusion and vexation.
"My, my, my! Your arrogance, of course! That is what is making me laugh, you so called Knight! Not only do you threaten your people, the reason behind your oath! But you also think that you are capable of dueling against my Dear Master. OHOHOHOHOH—know your place…Mad Bull."
OOOOH SHE JUST USED THE OJOU-SAMA TECHNIQUE NUMBER TWO!! OJOU-LAUGH CANCEL!! GOING FROM A MOCKING OJOU-LAUGH TO A SERIOUS THREAT OR PROVOCATION!!
SHE IS A NATURAL!!!
NOT ONLY THAT!! HER EYES ARE IN FULL DISPLAY WHICH AUGMENTS THE IMPACT!!
OH! THERE'S THE POPPING VEIN OF ANGER!! HE’S ABOUT TO LASH OUT!!
Everyone was probably expecting the same thing as me but...there he is...just laughing...
"HAHAHAHA...if...haha…you say so with that much confidence, then does that mean that you are enough to beat me? Me? A Knight Leader?"
He says that with a really dirty smile...
Oh, now I get it.
"My, there is no need for pointing out the obvious."
His objective wasn't just me...
"Heh! Very well! I like feisty women who are up for a good fight!"
...but my Maid-Knights too...seeing as how he just licked his lips...
My fellow weebs and nerds, is it fine to call him disgusting? I mean...we do lewd many characters in so, so many ways...and you could even say that I am the pinnacle of those...but this guy is beyond that.
So, is it alright? Yeah? Great.
Ah, crap. I made the 'disgusting' face and scared some people without noticing...although other guests are doing the same.
"But! How can I fight just a simple attendant? After all, you referred to Lady Argento as your Master, correct? That won’t be as interesting and we can’t have that, can we? Ah, there’s also my honorable position to consider. So how about we make it even more interesting…Lady Argento.”
Ugh...he is looking this way.
"Hoooh~~, you better make it something worthy of looking down on my dear Gabrielle."
I say so while looking down on him without any reserve.
After all, he is a big guy but...only for a human.
"That is one mean look you got there, Lady Argento. But working for the King has made me quite resistant to those kinds of looks. Which is a shame, really, but that is more of a bed-talk topic. Heh."
I so want to see Gabrielle punch this guy...
"Anyways, I propose two new conditions! First, a bet! Upon winning we may claim one of these things! For me, the hand in marriage not only of the one I beat, but also of yours, Lady Argento!"
Aaaahhh...so this really is what he was planning...what was I even expecting? Something a bit smarter? Nah...
Hm? Am I going to act as a concerned princess then? The heck will I do that! Neither me nor my besto waifu would ever act like that!!
NO! DON'T YOU DARE MENTION THE MIND BREAK AND NTR DOUJINS!! DON'T YOU DARE!!!
"You...! You are despicable! How can you manage to dirty the honorable title of a Knight like that?!"
"Love earned through a bet is but void! There is no way the Goddess is going to accept that union! We sure not, Lord Reignitz!"
Again, the guests are fast to recriminate him.
What do you think, darling? I might get taken away.
"Fufufu...hahaha! You jester! You can beat him with your pinky finger, so do not say things like that! Fufufuhahaha…ahh…"
Heh, sorry. I had to try.
"Hmph. And for us?"
"Lady Argento...! You do not have to do that!"
Right when that idiot is about to reply to my question, a familiar face interrupts him as he enters the fray and approaches me.
"Baron Thach, it is fine. My dear Gabrielle will not lose."
I say so while showing him my most confident smile and yet, he doesn’t look the least bit dissuaded.
"That may be, but I cannot permit you to risk your family life for something as low as the machinations of someone like him."
He says that with a strong and serious tone, never taking his eyes off mine. Nice.
"Baron, look at my dear Gabrielle's eyes. Do you see any doubt in them?"
He does as I say before his eyes go wide and he stays silent for a moment, only turning back to me after that.
"I...apologize. It seems that I have disrespected her will as a warrior and yours, Lady Argento."
Heh, I knew he would get it.
"It is nothing. Not only your sincere concern is more than enough to balance any offense that might have caused, but it is something to be valued."
These veteran types have the knack to instantly identify that 'will'. After all, they see it in the mirror every day. Also, I meant every single word I just said.
"If Baron Thach understands, then I will proceed to answer your question, Lady Argento. In case that you win you will have my Order's full support in any endeavors you may partake. Be it inside or outside the Kingdom."
Hmm, it surprises me that Ulthane didn't interrupt our talk, but his offer still sucks.
He must think that I do not know all the things his Order has done and has not done.
Seriously…it’s like he is offering me a broken fake besto waifu figure and hyping it up as original and new.
"What is your last condition then?"
"Oh, I will tell you, but only if you accept the bet, Lady Argento."
He smiles disgustingly...again...
Man, do you want me to lend you some doujins? That could help with those vibes of yours...
"I believe my dear Gabrielle talked about there being no need to point out the obvious?"
I say with a face that clearly expresses my annoyance.
"Heh, yes, I do remember cutie here saying something like that. Then the other condition is that there is going to be a fight before mine! It would not be good entertainment if everything ends too quickly after all. And that one will have...hmm...who can give a good show?"
He is turning around while looking for someone within the guests.
"Forget it! I am not fighting for you!"
"Pfft, as if!"
Aaand he is rejected every single time he lays his eyes on someone. That is until...
"Ah! Of course! You! Former maid and sparring partner of the Fallen Prince! The Three Eyed Ogre!!"
...his eyes fall on Mary.
"No, I refuse in her name."
Prince Licht answers immediately while putting her behind him.
His uncovered eye shows a sincere desire to protect her.
So…he can also act like that, huh.
That is good, it at least shows that he cares about her.
Maybe he is not that 'evil'?
"No, Prince Licht. I actually think that it is a good idea. Mary here is quite strong, and she can surely stand on her own against many. Besides, things might get complicated if the King were to hear about this from Ulthane. After all, her situation is a…special one, remember?"
Wow, he is mad at her. And I get why, I mean, how can she say that when she also backed Ulthane’s idea? Which means that while she has only mentioned Ulthane, she’s telling him that she can also make things complicated.
As for Mary, she looks quite frustrated...her head is hanging, and I can see that she is biting her lip. I guess she’s had it hard since in the eyes of the foolish king she was the maid of a traitor. He probably punished her in some shape or form just to keep his lie consistent.
Also, seeing that Licht is her Master now...maybe he asked his father to let him keep her as his servant. Thus, keeping her close to him instead of her leaving the palace and telling the truth. Maybe he even convinced him not to kill her?
Hmm...instinct is muddy on this one...I was correct on 'something', but it is not telling me on what...I again lack information...
Erevain is glaring at Hilde and…CRAP SHE IS INDEED GLARING AT HER QUITE INTENSELY!
CALM DOWN! WITH THAT FACE SOMEONE WILL FIGURE OUT YOUR IDENTITY!!
LOOK!! YOU ARE SCARING LOCKE-CHAN!! SHE IS ABOUT TO CRY!
"Tch...I will do it, Prince Licht."
"Mary...are you sure?"
Licht is clearly surprised by that answer and Erevain seems to be calming down a bit too...phew…
She says that with eyes full of conviction.
Licht moves away as he says that and lets Mary go towards Ulthane's side.
"That was a good choice, Mary."
Aaaand Mary just ignored Hilde completely. Ouch.
"Perfect!! Then all that is left is who is going to fight her."
Hmm, I could send Erevain...who is looking at me with an expression that says 'I am ready if you want me to fight' but...
...Erica had already been moving to Gabrielle’s side the moment Mary was mentioned.
So, I give Erevain a look and signal her with my hand to wait.
This is not her time to fight.
"Oh, Miss Erica. Are you sure? You look a bit…frail. So, it might not be a good idea for you."
His words may sound concerned, if not condescending, but he is clearly ecstatic about it.
His face is practically screaming 'easy win!!'.
"I am grateful for your concern, but it is unneeded."
She says so in a cold tone and then turns to me.
"Master, may I?"
"You already volunteered, and I did not object. So yes, you may fight her, Erica."
Seriously, talk about asking for forgiveness instead of permission.
"Fufufu~~, in this case it’s more like asking for permission after doing it instead of forgiveness, dear."
Oh well, this was pretty much going to happen sooner or later.
"Then the fighters are set!! Let us go outside! The garden that adorns this venue shall be our arena!!"
The waiters are surprised by this and have quickly turned to Prince Licht and Hilde for permission, which they both give. With that, the waiters have begun moving, starting by opening the doors towards the garden.
You see, the venue is a very big salon with windows on both sides, but those on the left side also act as doors towards a garden. And said garden has an open enough area that is perfect for the duel that is going to take place.
One that the waiters and even the staff that were behind the scenes are quickly preparing by setting appropriate tables, chairs, and even canapés for everyone to enjoy.
Now that is impressive.
This level of quickness and no hesitation!
Now I get why the Maid-Knights have been so efficient at being maids even without the proper training!! They were emulating the perfected work of these people!!
Any hotel of my world would kill for just one of these maids and butlers!!
"Fufufu~~, I am proud to say that the maids and butlers of Arte are top of the line! But do you want to know something even more impressive, dear?"
More impressive than what I'm seeing? Yes, please!
"They are not even using their Royal Attendant active skills."
"Fufufu~~. Ah, dear, they are calling for you. It seems the area for the parties involved in the duel has been finished."
Yes, I can see that...and I can also see that they already turned the garden into a perfect outdoors salon...
Hmm? The butler that just walked past me...he had a familiar scent...let's focus a bit...oh! There is a maid with monochromatic hair too! So, they are here, eh! Interesting!
Let's just keep doing our thing then. I don't want to disrupt them.
So, as we walk to the garden, I can see that Erica is completely focused on the duel. There is no doubt in her body language, nor a single ripple in her mana. Her heart is beating calmly as well.
If I were to use an example, then it would be...yes...the calm surface of a lake.
After everyone got to their seats and the Head Butler gave the 'okay', Baron Thach volunteered to be the referee as he would be a neutral party.
No one objected.
Then, as it had been agreed upon, the first match would be between Erica and Mary.
She has looked human since I met her, so I am curious to see this 'Three Eyed Ogre' aspect of her.
Wait...do all the races, except for elves and dwarves, have a human form?
"No, dear. In the case of Demons and their sibling race, the Ogres, only the half-bloods can turn into the race of the other parent. In Lyra's and other beast-kin's case it is more of a power-saving mode than another form."
Oh, interesting. I'll ask Mika to buy some books about all of that...I really need to learn more of this isekai!
"Fufufu~~, she will be happy to hear that, dear."
Ah! It is starting!
"Miss Erica. Miss Mary. Step forward, please."
Says Baron Thach in a solemn tone.
He is truly taking this seriously.
Meanwhile, Erica and Mary are now facing each other very closely.
"Let me remind you that this is an honorable duel. Even more so, it is a duel between two countries who wish to establish friendly relations. As such, this shall not be a battle to the death. The rules are simple. Make your opponent bend the knee or make them unable to battle, as in losing consciousness. I specify this because I do not want clever excuses..."
He says that last part while looking at Ulthane reproachingly and he scoffs at him.
"...am I clear?"
"Yes, Baron Thach."
Says Mary while not losing eye contact with Erica.
"Indeed, Baron Thach."
Says Erica while doing the same.
"Very well then, assume your positions at your pertinent sides and wait for my signal."
They both nod at his words and they go to their sides.
Erica is on the east side of the ‘arena’ and Mary is on the west side. Meanwhile, Baron Thach is at the north side of the 'arena' and we the audience are at the south. Take these directions from my point of view, of course. Also, Gabrielle and Erevain are seated at my left and right.
Aaaaah, the tension can be cut with one of my claws!!!
If this was a cartoon, I would've done it by now!!
"Prepare your weapons or stances! Healers, be at the ready!"
So exclaims the Baron.
"I sympathize with your story, Miss Erica. You do not know how much I do, but...!"
Says Mary...wait...what is that? Oh, is this the transformation?!
Her mana is turning into a vivid and fiery red! A horn is also popping from the left side of her forehead! She's also grown fangs!! Wait! That mana is covering her hands as if they were gauntlets! Forget about the western Ogre, she looks like an Oni!!! The mana is also coalescing on her forehead and...ah! A third eye! The mana has turned into a red third eye! It is like a floating, fiery tattoo!! It all has that same Oni-like style! Her eyes look bloody red too!!
"I cannot let myself be defeated once again! Not if I want to hold on to that title..."
She mutters that last part and I guess no one would hear that from the sound of her fiery mana...well, except for me that is.
In any case, maybe she is referring to her title as Erevain's sparring partner? But that would imply that she still cares about her...hmm...
Well, I can’t forget the guilt she showed back then in the carriage…
Man, this is really strange...Mary and Licht…
Perhaps Erevain's hopes were not misplaced?
"So, you will have to forgive me for going seriously right from the start!!"
With that, her transformation finishes, and while the civilian guests are tense after seeing her, everyone else is calm.
Erica too. Also, I am glad I told her about me telling Mary that story. If not, that exchange would have been quite awkward.
"I just have one question for you."
Says Erica while gracefully weaving her blue mana, which moves like flowing water, as she starts her chant.
"Oh Water, arm me...[Water Sword Summon]."
Thus, her mana materializes into a fountain of water, which comes out of her right hand before she makes an elegant yet firm move with it. One in which she moves it downwards to the right and that is when the water takes the form of a gorgeous rapier.
The same rapier I saw her summon not too long ago.
Of course, that means that she is not using her old weapon, nor her new weapon. The former because it might get recognized and the latter because it might cause a scene since it is a Blessed Weapon.
"For what reason would you betray your family?"
Mary's eyes widen in surprise at Erica's serious question.
Meanwhile, the rest of the audience are confused by this, even Hilde and Ulthane are showing confused expressions trying to figure out why such a specific subject would pop up.
But there comes Licht and he masterfully explains the situation to them while erasing any chance of them suspecting Mary. He is pretty much telling them a short version of my fake story about Erica, which I guess Mary told him.
As for Mary’s answer to that question, she seems to have decided to not say anything.
"If silence is your answer, then I have no more doubts..."
With that, Erica proceeds to do a version of the traditional fencer salute to the opponent, the audience and referee.
How do I know that? Have you guys not read 'I will teach classical fencing in another world and lead a tranquil life!'?! You have not?! Pfft...isekai noobs. That is why I know!!
Of course, hers is a style that is similar to what I have seen, but it is still one of Arte.
"...I will defeat you in one strike that you will not be able to see coming."
She says that while firmly putting herself in the Arte equivalent of the 'en garde' position.
And once again, only silence comes from Mary as she takes a battle-ready position.
All while their mana begins to cover them.
Mary's mana is wild and with a vibrant red color.
Erica's mana is calm and with a clear blue color.
You could say that it reflects their natures.
They are now staring at each other's eyes, clearly engaging in that glorious image battle!
I wonder if there will be a time where I will be able to do that? Well, I will live for a long time thanks to this body, so I suppose that I will.
But I digress.
Mary's face seems to twist a bit every now and then. Which more than likely means that she is losing on those image battles.
On the other hand, Erica seems calm and collected as she stares at Mary.
Speaking of hands…I can feel Erevain's hand reaching for mine and I hold it, quickly interlocking fingers with hers.
It was obvious that she was going to be like this. She is not nervous. She is not afraid. But she is completely focused on this duel. She hasn't even blinked once since they stepped forward. She wants me to be with her even in that state.
And here I am.
This is something serious, so forgive me for my sudden change in tone.
The second Baron Thach says that Mary charges at Erica with an incredible speed for someone that hasn't made a pact with me.
"She has improved her speed, but..."
So mutters Erevain as we see her get closer and closer to Erica who is not moving at all.
All while the fiery mana on Mary's hands becomes stronger as she's about to attack.
"Face the inescapable grasp of the Ogres! Fire that vests me, I will take what I desire! [Burning Ogre's Grasp]!"
So exclaims Mary as her right hand grows, no, her fiery gauntlet is the one growing and turning into a giant burning hand that has opened. One that is clearly meant for crushing someone...into unconsciousness at least.
"...Erica has improved in everything. She did not rest in all this time. She kept training and training with one purpose and one purpose alone. That was to not be defeated in the same way. And now thanks to My Lord, she has changed even more."
Says Erevain at the same time as Mary completed her chant.
And now, her fiery hand is as close to Erica as it would get before being able to touch her.
But that is when it happens.
Erica inhales and exhales in a perfectly calm manner while she sharpens her gaze and focuses on her.
Softly whispering that, she takes a single step forward, just one, and uses the point of her rapier to softly brush the giant hand aside as if it were as light as a feather.
She then takes another step, but now one lightly to the left and moves her sword gracefully towards Mary's legs, making it seem as if she has traced the infinity sign on them. But that's not it, she has actually moved Mary's legs with her rapier in a way that it would mess with Mary's footing and cause her to fall. And at the speed she is going...that will probably hurt.
Yet that is not all, she then takes another step forward while turning her rapier's blade inwards, making the rapier’s handle the one now facing her opponent and she proceeds to thrust it right on Mary's stomach.
And immediately following the dry sound of the impact, Mary's fiery hands and eye disappear…no, they have been snuffed out. Of course, the air within her lungs is gone too.
All as an expression of both surprise and confusion paint her face.
Her eyes seem to scream 'what happened?', a sentiment shared by most of the people in the audience. The reason? Only a few were able to see what Erica did, and even fewer saw it clearly.
It was like a dance, even if it was a three-step one, and it was beautiful.
And now Mary's eyes have become filled with nostalgic calm as she is supported by Erica in a way that looks like she is hugging her.
She is doing so because Mary's legs were about to give out and it is clear that she has just a few moments before fainting.
Still, to not immediately after that is proof of her strength.
"Ah...I don't know why…but you really remind me of him...of my little brother...ever since that day in the cathedral..."
She whispers weakly in between heavy breaths.
Only Erica who is close to her and us who have enhanced senses can hear her.
"You won...so...here is your answer...I would do everything...for the sake...the good...of my family...even if that means...betraying them...even if they hate me...as long as they are alive...then I—"
With that, her body finally gives out and she faints on Erica’s arms and doing so just before she was able to finish what she was going to say.
But her smile at the end tells us enough.
Yes...more than enough.
"Miss Mary is unable to continue! This duel goes to Miss Erica La Fonte!"
Our first victory out of two.
We should be happy and showing that happiness.
But this bittersweet feeling covers us.
It covers Erica, who tightly holds her for a second before giving her to the healers. And she does so not with the intent of supporting her but embracing her with that love she had hidden deep inside of her heart.
It covers Erevain, who is holding my hand tightly while looking at the unconscious Mary, all as she uses the side of her other hand to hide the fact that she is clenching her mouth.
It covers Gabrielle, whose usual smile is gone, all while looking at Licht for an instant. She is probably trying to figure out if he is to blame for Mary's circumstances or if he is in the same situation as Mary...
And of course, it covers me as I confirm once again that, as in my other world, things are not as black and white.
All in this moonless night.
To be continued...(cue illustration of Mary and Erica ready for the fight as their interconnected mana shows the sweet memories of their shared childhood in the palace)
Thank you very much for reading! I hope that you enjoyed the chapter! If you did, please drop a heart on it and look forward for Gabrielle's fight! And if you want to support me and the story, then you can go to either my patreon or ko-fi! Either way, and no matter if it is big or small, your help will truly help me keep writing this story!
On the fanart side, Lord Femboy, who has made the spicy fanart in our discord, just recently adapted the very first part of the first chapter into a comic! So, if you want to see it, head over there and drop a heart on it!
And for those wondering when is the next stat sheet coming out, it'll come out in a couple of chapters, don't worry!
Special thanks from the bottom of my heart to: EmbraceTheSleeb, Lord-Hollow, YukisoraRin, LordInquisitorSteele, Anon, Anon2, Tikku, Teresa, Ayth, Knight_Redundant, Schoookie and sumdudeguy!
Please do not translate my work without my permission. Favor de no traducir mi trabajo sin mi expreso permiso.
See you all later/tomorrow (depends if I finish revising another chapter before the day changes!)!