Legg the Barbarian
Leguna got to know Eibron much better that evening. He even called Gerd over. When he revealed his true identity, Gerd had behaved relatively well, and it was no surprise for him to show up again.
Leguna didn't reveal Gerd's true identity to his companions, however. Such things had nothing to do with them. He was worried telling them would make them go look for trouble. Leguna also didn't want to trouble Kurdak with his teacher's plots, Gahrona was much better at it, anyway.
Their next matches played out as predicted. Leguna, who showed his power, successfully defeated the 13 strata magus and stood at the top of his group; Kurdak had similar results; and Eirbon ended second behind Kurdak, still in the bracket that advanced.
Leguna and Kurdak's opponents were average even in the top 32. Leguna made it through sweatless and Kurdak finally face Nigruela. The match went nothing like Leguna had expected. Kurdak easily pummeled Nigruela into the ground. The poor man didn't have any teeth left when the match ended.
"Boss was like a boar in heat and Nigruela the only sow in the arena..." Leguna later narrated.
They later heard that Nigruela was barely any more than paste and powder when the priests started treating him. The poor man had wanted to surrender just a few moments in, but Leguna did not give him the chance. The judge had to step in and end the match on Nigruela's behalf before Kurdak let up.
And so the two were in the top 16.
Kurdak's opponent this time was Legg.
"Ugh... Why do I have to fight that whacko?" Kurdak cried when he saw the man's name paired with his.
The top sixteen had quite a few by-now-well-known fighters. Annelotte stood at the top, but that was mostly for her looks and demeanor. The one most known for their combat was Legg.
The huge man took 16 badges during the preliminaries, the most of the entire round. None of his subsequent matches had lasted more than ten minutes either. Most were also heavily injured when the matches ended, including a 14 strata magus.
Kurdak and Leguna had watched one of his matches. Kurdak and Legg had quite similar styles, actually, though Legg was far more extreme.
He roared, and he charged for his opponent blindly. He never made any defensive moves, relying wholly on his gift to cover him. He'd suffered injuries in every match, though only minor ones; a scratch here and a bruise there. His opponents never left with any less than several broken bones and torn tendons; a few even lost entire limbs.
Leguna grew anxious. He hurried to the training center to look for Gerd and asked him to research Legg's background.
According to his report, Legg was not a Hocke native. He came from the northern highlands barbarian tribes. They were the empire's greatest threat in the north.
Though there had never been any large-scale invasions for several years, there was always fear of something big brewing beneath the peace. Small skirmishes still happened frequently. It was entirely possible Legg had been sent to disrupt the tournament to spite the emperor.
So Hocke thinks you have so much talent huh? You're even hosting a tournament! Fine. We'll show you what true power is.
Legg was a 14 strata berserker and earth binder. Everyone knew of two gifts he had. The first was Skin of Terra. He could change his skin into something akin to solid stone. Once done, he was impervious to almost all physical attacks. The other was Stonebreaker. It let him break or cut stone however he wished and solidify its shape, making his creations very strong. He'd used it to create the stone shield Leguna had seen him use.
His first ability was purely defensive, whilst his second could be used for offense, but slanted towards defense as well. Barbarian berserkers also had other secret techniques passed down from their ancestors that boosted their abilities for short times. If this particular brute went all out, even normal high-order warriors might find it hard to overpower him.
Kurdak had almost no chance of winning. Leguna advised him to throw the match the moment it started. He did not want his boss to end up like all the barbarian's other opponents.
"No way!" Kurdak yelled, "How on earth would I surrender before facing him properly?!"
"But Boss… Legg is too strong, and he's very savage. He won't spare you. I can't be certain of victory against him myself either."
"I know that."
"Then why do you insist on fighting him?"
"Because I'm Kurdak!" the man declared, "I'm not a gifted and ain't blessed with a unique talent, but I have my pride. I cannot run from a fight! I can lose and be badly hurt, even die, but I cannot be a coward! Running away from a fight would hurt me much more than getting injured! I would never have the courage to fight again!"
Leguna stared at his boss quietly. The man's face practically shouted 'praise my pride'.
"Boss, you'll lose everything if you die or are crippled, too, you know."
"You little!--" Kurdak slapped Leguna's head. "--Can't you let me have my moment?! Is this how you cheer on your boss?! Damn it, turns out shit teammates are worse than strong opponents!"
Leguna rubbed his head, wincing as his fingers touched the tender spot left by his boss.
"This is for your own good... Legg's too strong. I don't want to have to scrape you off the arena floor because you fought some nobody without thinking."
"Don't worry," Kurdak said seriously, wiping the smile off his face, "I know my limits. Don't forget what we do for a living. Isn't getting injured par for the course?"
"Alright," Leguna conceded. "Wait, Sis Vera didn't come talk you out of it?"
"You think she's like you?" Kurdak snapped, "She knows there's no point trying to convince me otherwise. She won't waste her breath."
"Have you realized Sis's changed a lot?"
"Of course I have! Vera told me several times that, with me leading the party, Annelotte handling ranged combat, and you dealing with ambushes, she feels useless. You even dealt with Balor mostly on your own. She wants to change. She's finally growing some brains."
"Sis has always been smart! She's just never had to think before." Leguna laughed.
The match was about to start. Vera, Leguna, Innilis, Eibron, and Gerd were there to watch. Kurdak had become quite popular, surprisingly, so the stands were reasonably full.
Even Annelotte was present, sat in a VIP booth. She had disguised her figure, so no one knew it was her, but Leguna and his companions knew. She wasn't alone, however. A young man in similar robes sat beside her, short hair dancing in the breeze. His looks were hidden behind a gentle mirage, a shifting mass like looking through the hot updraft above a flame, but his elegance and class was beyond question.
"Who's that?" Leguna asked, a tinge of jealousy bubbling in his voice.
Vera squinted - her vision more acute than Leguna thanks to years of training.
"I don't recognize him, he's pretty handsome though. What's wrong? Jealous?"
"Why would I be jealous?"
Vera giggled at her little brother.
"Relax. You know how Annelotte is. If the guy's self-centered, you have nothing to worry about."
Leguna sighed and continued his absent gaze at the girl.
"How is it? The VIP seating gives a much better view, doesn't it?" Geoffrey smiled.
"I appreciate it, Your Highness," Annelotte answered monotonously.
"No big deal. I just happened to bump into you today and thought I'd give you a good show," Geoffrey continued his grin.
Contrary to his comment, he'd spent a lot of time preparing for this. He rushed to book a VIP booth the moment he had even the slightest hint that Annelotte was considering watching this match. He then made sure to bump into her on the way over and invited her to join him.
Annelotte had no interest in the man, but she didn't mind having a good view of the match. Far more appealing was the relative quiet of the booths compared to normal seats.
As for Leguna…
Hmph! Who cares if he sees me? I'll have nothing to do with him. And he has no say in who I see or what I do!
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