“Everyone~! Kept you waiting! We will now begin the Martial Arts Tournament of Great Keith!”
The announcer using wind magic to amplify his voice resonates in the area.
Cheers that made the ground shake in the round shaped colosseum.
The venue is beyond full.
“Uwaah, there’s a lot of people.”
Sa-san and I were looking up in awe at the presence of it.
“Hey, Aya, will you be okay? The opponents all seem powerful.” (Lucy)
Lucy pinched the sleeve of Sa-san uneasy, but Sa-san doesn’t seem to be nervous at all.
The participants going up the round ring all have good physique and have pretty threatening looks.
By the way, in this time’s Martial Arts Tournament, it will be an all class battle; in other words, it is a battle where it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, where there’s no divisions between your weight or race.
Because with this tournament, you can become the yearly Country Designated Hero of the Fire Country.
Therefore, all the participants are given a chance.
Moreover, the participants aren’t only from the country, but from other countries, coming all the way here seeking honour and fame.
At the stage there’s the announcer reading the names of the participants one by one.
Cheers being raised each time he mentions one is most likely because they are famous fighters.
“Even so, despite being such a big tournament, 32 participants is a bit low.” (Fuji)
“Danna-sama, that’s not it. There were already preliminary matches done, and there were more than 10,000 people.” (Nina)
“Eh, seriously?” (Makoto)
I was also surprised by what Nina-san and Fuji-yan were talking about.
“Did you even participate in those preliminary matches, Sa-san?” (Makoto)
“No, I didn’t. All I did was write my name in the entree sheet.” (Aya)
Oya, why is that?
“Hero Makoto, it seems they have given her preferential treatment for being a comrade of the Water Country’s Hero. Looks like she has been chosen as a member of this tournament in the special branch.” (Sofia)
Princess Sofia tells me with a stiff expression.
“Hmm, does that mean…” (Makoto)
“The Fire Country is probably planning something. If Aya-san hadn’t chosen to participate herself, the chances are high that they would have cooked up a reason to have you participate…” (Sofia)
“Defeating the Water Country’s Hero to show the power of the warriors of the Fire Country, huh.” (Makoto)
They really got an eye on me.
“Next, the representative of the Water Country, Sasaki Ayaaaa!!”
Sa-san’s name was called.
I was going to tell her to do her best, but I noticed the air in the surroundings shifted in an instant.
“Get off!” “You cheater!” “Boo!” “Go lose already!” “Don’t you feel bad for the people who actually won their way here through the preliminary matches?!” “Have some shame!”
Booing rose from everywhere all at once.
“W-What’s all this?!” (Lucy)
Lucy was fuming.
“The information of Aya-san participating in this tournament without doing the preliminaries has been leaked. The source of that leak is most likely the higher ups of the Fire Country.” (Sofia)
“Just participating in the decisive matches of the Martial Arts Tournament in Great Keith is the highest of honours for warriors. It is said that your average warrior wouldn’t even be able to win through the preliminaries, so…this must be their spite from that.” (Nina)
When it comes from the former warrior of the Fire Country, Nina-san, it sounds really convincing.
“H-Hey…Sa-san, the mood is like this and all, so wouldn’t it be better to just forfeit?” (Makoto)
I got worried for Sa-san and spoke to her, but her eyes were directed at the highest story of the colosseum, at the VIP seats.
The ones sitting there are the king of Great Keith, and around them there’s the nobles from and outside of the country.
I could also see a person that I once saw in the Sun Country, who I think was from the Four Sacred Nobles.
Geralt-san is…not there (what a relief).
Sa-san’s eyes were directed at the brown skinned black haired female Hero, Olga Sol Tariska, who was sitting cross-legged and yawning as if not interested in all this.
“It is okay, Takatsuki-kun. My objective is to defeat her after all.” (Aya)
I turned to look, and Sa-san was smiling.
Seems like she has absolutely no intention of withdrawing from this tournament.
“Got it. But try not to push yourself, okay?” (Makoto)
Let’s just cheer for her.
After that, I went to where Princess Sofia and Lucy are, and told them: “Sofia, Lucy, I leave the cheering of Sa-san to you.” (Makoto)
“Leave it to us, Makoto!” (Lucy)
“Understood, Hero Makoto. If Aya-san gets injured, I will have her treated by a healer of the Water Country. The tournament staff has prepared healers, but they are under the influence of the Fire Country, so this is just in case.” (Sofia)
With how things are going, I can easily imagine them doing something.
I appreciate the consideration of Princess Sofia.
“You will be doing the subjugation of the Snake Church, right? You should be the one being careful.” (Aya)
Sa-san directed a worried gaze to me instead.
That’s right, the supposed meeting of the Snake Church is on the very day of the Martial Arts Tournament.
Is that a coincidence?
(No, it is most likely intentional…) (Makoto)
Just like how they aimed to attack in the Light Hero’s captain inauguration ceremony in the Sun Country.
At the time when everyone is concentrating somewhere else, they would move in the back.
Will Archbishop Isaac be involved in this one too?
“Then, I will be going!” (Aya)
Sa-san runs to the ring of the colosseum.
I looked at Fuji-yan, Nina-san, Princess Sofia, and Lucy…and spoke to Furiae-san who was biting a straw in a bad mood.
“Heya, I am counting on you to cheer too. But if you are not feeling good, you could run away before us.” (Makoto)
Since that time when she saw the future of the capital falling, Furiae-san didn’t want to go outside.
She seemed to be slightly mentally unstable, so I told her she could return to Makkaren before us.
But, in the end, she remained in the Fire Country’s capital.
“I don’t want to turn tail and run away alone. Also, you -My Knight- and the others aren’t running away, right? Then you change the future.” (Furiae)
“Alright, got it.” (Makoto)
I received encouragement in the Furiae-san style, and I nod back at it.
“Let’s go, Hero Makoto-dono.”
The Guardian Knight Old Man called me.
In this time’s Snake Church subjugation, I am borrowing the Guardian Knight Old Man and a number of the bodyguard.
Looks like a Hero going alone is a no.
(…Do your best, Sa-san.) (Makoto)
Leaving behind the venue that’s still booing, we headed to the meeting place for the subjugation team.
“We have been waiting. You people must be the squad of the Water Country’s Hero-dono, right?”
“That’s right. You people must be the special unit that General Tariska was talking about.”
The Fire Country’s knight and the Guardian Knight Old Man were talking to each other.
The two of them were not wearing any exaggerated armor, and their equipment is the bare minimum necessary (as for me, I always have lightweight equipment).
From what I can see at a glance, they look like adventurers or mercenaries.
This time’s plan must not be noticed by the Snake Church.
Because of that, they have formed a special unit with a few tens of people for this mission.
The Fire Country Knight in front of us is our guide.
We followed the knight for a while, and noticed that the city was declining the further we went on.
“This place is called the slums. It is the place with the worst public order in the capital of Gamuran.”
The guide knight told us this.
I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded for now.
When I looked at the residents here, I could see that there were a lot of people with tattered clothes and the children were barefoot.
Even when the sun hadn’t risen, there were already drunk people, and others who were gambling.
It certainly fit the bill of slums.
(But for some reason…the residents seem to be in a good mood.) (Makoto)
What’s different from this and the Sun Country’s lowest district was that, despite the poor attire, everyone was looking lively.
There were a variety of races: humans, beastkin, dwarves, elves. Everything goes.
Could it be that there’s even demonkin here?
No real problems happened on our way.
There were cheeky brats and beggars who would come to us and demand to give them something, but when the guide knight showed them some sort of insignia, they grew pale and left.
“What was that from before?” (Makoto)
I was curious and asked, and the young knight answered.
“Hero-dono, I showed them this crest of the Enforcement Knights.”
What was in his hands was a crest that had the design of a Goddess holding a sword and a book.
“Hooh, you must be a really promising one to be an Enforcement Knight at that age.”
“No no, it is just that I have been doing the same thing all the time due to my grandfather.”
When the Guardian Knight Old Man praised him, the knight laughed slightly embarrassed.
Enforcement Knights are…if put into words, a job that’s like a combination of police and judges.
Their authority is high, and they can apprehend criminals, but also bring judgment right in the place.
It is a scary thing, but the Enforcement Knight saying ‘you are a criminal’ and cutting them down is a legal action to take.
Of course the cheeky children would run away.
By the way, the Enforcement Knights are not exclusive to the Fire Country.
They are apparently in every country.
There’s the most in the Sun Country, and the Water Country also has some.
You apparently need the Divine Protection of the Sun Goddess, Althena-sama, who governs justice and victory, and are required to overcome tough trials and exams to qualify.
In other words, the young knight in front of me is an elite among elites.
“Hero-dono, we have arrived at the entrance.”
After walking for a while, and crossing a back alley without many people, we arrived at what looked like a trash deposit.
At the place the Enforcement Knight pointed at, I could see there’s a stone gate and stairs leading underground.
“This is the entrance to the underground cemetery of the Fire Country, Hero-dono.”
“The Fire Country is hot in the daytime after all. It is a custom of our country in order to provide a refreshing place for the dead to rest peacefully.”
“I see…” (Makoto)
The Guardian Knight Old Man and the Enforcement Knight-san tell me this.
“It is dark, so be careful.”
We slowly went down the stairs leading underground.
It was as if the heat outside was a lie. The underground was filled with a cool air.
In order to not turn the underground passage into a pitch dark space, a number of places had what seemed like air holes where light entered, but it was mostly darkness.
We used the Night Vision Skill and moved inside the darkness.
At both sides of the passage, there are grave markers that continued on seemingly endlessly.
It is currently broad daylight, so it isn’t that scary, but if someone were to ask me if I want to come here alone late at night, I would confidently say NO.
“Just how far does this underground cemetery go for?” (Makoto)
Walking through this underground cemetery that isn’t showing any signs of ending, I asked the Enforcement Knight.
“The passage of this cemetery continues all the way until the outside of the capital. It is also one of the emergency routes in the times when the capital were to ever face disaster. For the sake of that, it is made similar to a labyrinth, so I recommend not coming here alone.”
Yeah, I would never come here alone regardless.
“The Fire Country Knights have all been drilled the map of this underground passage in their heads. A drawn map of it isn’t allowed. You understand…the reason why, right?”
The Enforcement Knight smiles in a suggestive manner.
“It is because it would be a dire problem if it were to be stolen by the enemy.” (Makoto)
It is a route that can allow you to stealthily enter the capital from the outside after all.
“Yes. Just the act of memoing is grounds for punishment. That punishment is unique. If you are found out drawing or in possession of a map of the underground passageways, you will be thrown in the deepest part of this underground cemetery, and you would have to come back on your own efforts. Scary, right?”
Was that dark humour just now?
The Guardian Knight Old Man, the Water Country Knights, and I looked at each other’s faces.
“W-What happens if they don’t manage to come back?” (Makoto)
That was the point that bothered me the most.
The Enforcement Knight moved his gaze the other way.
“See there? That over there is a grave marker for a newbie knight of the Fire Country. Soldiers not coming back is a yearly occurrence..and mourning for them is one of the duties of the newbies. I was also dejected by this in the past.”
The ones from the Water Country were shocked.
The Fire Country soldiers are too spartan!
“Just kidding. That was a joke.”
Seeing our faces, the Enforcement Knight shrugged.
H-How much of that was a joke?
Was the joke that the grave marker he pointed out was actually not from a newbie knight?
Were the contents of the punishment the joke?
(It would be better to not ask too deeply…) (Makoto)
After that, we silently continued on.
The depths of the underground cemetery were truly the very definition of a labyrinth.
The grave markers were now gone, and there were now passageways going left, right, up, and down.
We were hit by crossroads an uncountable number of times, and I was sure a first timer would definitely get lost.
By the way, the Mapping of RPG Player is working on full here.
If the subjugation of the Snake Church turns out to be a lie, and this was actually a trap to lock us up in this underground labyrinth… I don’t think that’s the case though.
The Enforcement Knight silently signals with his hand.
We all stop.
At a long turn, deep in the darkness, I certainly do see something with my Dark Vision.
With the place and all, there’s the possibility of it being an undead as well, but…
“It is someone of the Snake Church. Most likely a lookout.”
The Enforcement Knight seems to have a pretty good pair of eyes.
He apparently has the mixed blood of a beastkin that has effective eyes in the dark.
By the way, strength is what rules in the Fire Country, so even if someone is a beastkin, as long as you are strong, you don’t get discriminated against that much.
“This is troubling. This is a one-way. It would take quite a long time for a detour.”
The Old Man crosses his arms at the words of the Enforcement Knight.
The Enforcement Knight took out a magic tool without getting agitated.
It looked like a sand clock.
“We were expecting lookouts. We were also aware that it would be difficult to dispose of them due to the structure of this place. And so, in the case that there’s outlooks close to the gathering location of the Snake Church, we plan on attacking them all at once the moment all the sand in this clock falls. With that, it doesn’t matter if we are found out by the lookouts.”
The Old Man nods at the Enforcement Knight.
It looked like it would go into waiting, but…
“Want to try incapacitating the lookouts?” (Makoto)
I have been following all the time and wasn’t really of use until now, so I tried proposing this.
But the Enforcement Knight and Guardian Knight Old Man made dubious expressions.
“I feel like it would be impossible to defeat the lookouts without being noticed.”
“There’s around 100 meters from here to the lookouts. They will definitely notice you.”
They obviously objected.
“Then, we can just have them not see us.” (Makoto)
I calmly answer.
“They are sleeping…”
We got close to the lookouts, but they were fast asleep.
By the way, there were two, but I had them both sleep.
“Water Country’s Hero-dono, the technique of just now was the elementary rank water spell, Mist?”
The Enforcement Knight looked at the bottle in my hand with interest.
“Yeah, I made the water in this bottle into mist and had the lookouts breathe it. The insides of this bottle are a trade secret.” (Makoto)
It is actually water that has the sleep curse of Furiae-san.
“Being able to incapacitate the opponents at that distance without them noticing! This is most impressive.”
The Guardian Knight Old Man was happy from the bottom of his heart.
“…What an interesting technique. It was a learning experience.”
On the other hand, the Enforcement Knight’s eyes got sharper.
I don’t know what he is thinking right now, but my priority at present is to efficiently change the future.
He soon returned to a peaceful expression.
“Thanks to the Hero Makoto-dono, we can now proceed. We will restrain the Snake Church people here and have one knight keep an eye out on them. We shall move on. Our goal is close.”
We silently nodded.
After that, there was no conversation as we moved on in the dark passageway.
The face of the Enforcement Knight was showing that he was nervous.
We are most likely really close to the goal now.
After a while, I could see a red light from the other side of the passageway.
When I confirm with Farsight, I could tell that it was the light of fire.
“They are there.”
“Yeah, there’s no doubt this is the gathering location of the Snake Church.”
We try to be careful not to get too close to them as we wait.
There’s still a bit of time before the sand falls completely.
But the eyes of the Enforcement Knight opened wide in shock.
The Enforcement Knight suddenly ran off.
Eh? Weren’t we supposed to wait?
“Hero-dono, what should we do?”
“Let’s follow him.” (Makoto)
The Old Man and I didn’t know what was going on, but we decided to follow after.
At that place, there was a giant round theatrical hall-like place that didn’t fit this underground setting.
There were torches burning at the surroundings of the theatrical hall, lighting up the inside in a red hue.
At first, I couldn’t tell what it was.
I thought something was laid on the whole floor.
What was piled up there were…several hundreds of collapsed people.