The next morning I woke up with Reia in my arms. I watched her sleeping, admiring the contours of her face. I had drank quite a bit the night before but the alcohol they had was mostly a type of wine which wasn’t particularly strong. Luckily, I had no hang over and felt fine despite the night of drinking. Reia had abstained from alcohol because she was required to fight today and needed to be well rested. After the fun we had last night, I think she slept just fine.
Allein had slept with her brother the previous night and hadn’t disturbed us for the entire evening which was a blessing. I doubted she was fully happy about it but at least she was understanding enough not to voice her disapproval. She was still young for a Dragon-kin and this was something she had to accept as the future wife of a Khan even if she did so begrudgingly.
Since Allein usually slept on top of me, I didn’t get too many chances to be alone with just Reia. This was a moment I was happy to enjoy and I wanted to take full advantage of it. It was truly a peaceful experience lying here with her in my arms and watching her slowly breathe as she slept. Soon the day would begin and there would be much to do and I wasn’t too happy thinking about Reia being hurt in the fighting today. Alright, enough being a creep, time to wake up!
It was still early in the day and there was some time until the second day of the Grand Council competitions would begin but there was still much that needed to be done. Visitors would most likely come calling soon and as Khan I needed to welcome them. My Rej’gan servants would also be milling about waiting to bathe and clothe me. If I took too long, then Fieral would most likely get angry at me, they had work to do and couldn’t begin until I woke. It really is difficult to get even a moment of privacy….
After waking Reia up and eating breakfast, I visited Shar and Tris to make sure they were behaving themselves and then I saw to some of my duties as Khan by hearing petitions from tribe members. There had been some brawls fought with members of other tribes. It seems they had insulted me and the Fox-kin involved had wanted to protect my honor. While I was certainly happy about it, I asked them to avoid conflict with other tribes in the future even if they insulted me. It was important to get my duties over with as soon as possible since the competition would begin around noon.
“That was the last one my Khan.” Fieral bowed her head to me as I sat on a wooden throne-like chair within my tent. I had been hearing one petition after another and it was required for me to sit in the chair while passing judgement.
“Glad to have all that over with! It is getting close to noon, Reia, are you prepared?” I sighed to myself, tired after deliberating for over an hour.
“Don’t worry, I’m ready.” I nodded and stood from my chair which was quickly removed from the area by several of my servants.
“If you win, I promise to reward you later….” That got a blush out of her!
“Fayde! Didn’t I tell you to stop saying things like that in public?” She looked around to see if anyone was paying attention. Of course since most of the people in the tent were Fox-kin, they were all definitely in earshot.
“Anyway, tonight you need your rest. You drank a lot last night and tonight you need to sleep! The Khan battles will be much more difficult than the fighting today because you will have to fight a few matches… assuming you win.” She said the last part teasingly.
“Ha ha! Funny. I am definitely going to win.” I had no doubt in my mind, even if I had to use all my void power, I would.
We were interrupted by one of the Rej’gan, “my Khan, it is time. Reia must leave now otherwise she will be late for her fight and be disqualified.”
“Alright….” I paused and took one last look at Reia before she left, “good luck…. Win.” She nodded her affirmation and gave me a bright smile before leaving.
I turned to Fieral who was always nearby in case I required anything, “We should head there too. We need to cheer her on!”
Among the Demi-human tribes there are many that don’t have an affinity for magic and lack the talent to learn. These tribes instead focus on honing their martial skill and dedicate themselves to a particular weapon or fighting style. Of course, since the Demi-humans lack proper smiths, they are only able to craft crude weapons. To alleviate this problem, Demi-humans hunt humanoid monster, such as orcs, which can occasionally be found roaming the Plains of Sorrow. There are also the seasonal human expeditions which invade the Plains.
Most Demi-humans use spears in battle, but there are also elite warriors who use a variety of other weapons. These weapons were those taken from monsters or humans and rewarded to the best warriors of their tribe. This is what the second day of the Grand Council competition is all about, the elite few who are the pride of their respective tribes and an important part of their war potential. They would battle each other in order to determine dominance and also as a test of their skill.
My father often told me stories about the Grand Council competitions. It seems the first battle is a battle royale between all of the best swordsmen of the tribes. I have heard that the Rabbit-kin are known as the best swordsmen, but this year will be my year for sure. I am level 16 now, there is no way that any of them can match my strength after having been enhanced by the ‘Mark of the Void’.
I surveyed the battleground which had been chosen for our battle royale. There were 20 tribes on the Plains but since the Demon-kin had showed up this year, there were 21 fighters in total. Most of their eyes seemed to be on the top contenders from the last Grand Council tournament and they were wholly ignoring me. That suits me just fine. The Fox-kin have never been known for their skill in close quarters combat. They will be in for a surprise this year. It wasn’t just me, but Nes, Allein and Fayde were all skilled warriors. They will be taking note of us soon….
Every fighter on the battleground appeared to be a skilled swordsman and their weapons were superior to what Demi-humans usually carried. None of them appeared to be magic weapons like mine though. I unsheathed my sword and held it at the ready, it would be mere moments until we began. Magic was not allowed in the battle, but the lightning properties that were innate in my sword would not be an issue. I wouldn’t be able to use an elemental sword strike but the sword was still far superior to the ones the other fighters possessed.
From what I was told, there were two rivals who posed the greatest threat, the Rabbit-kin swordsmen Ichiki and the Wolk-kin swordsmen Arrangar. It would be nice if those two came into contact first. I should focus on taking out some of the warriors closest to me to gain some breathing room and then observe the battleground. Settling on an initial plan, I closed my eyes and steadied my breathing.
My eyes opened to the sound of drums signalling the start of the battle. I immediately sprinted with all my strength to the nearest opponent who was caught unaware by my incredible speed. He had just enough time to barely parry my blade as I continued my strikes one after the other in quick succession. He was unable to properly defend against my superior strength and the incredible speed of my sword. He was soon knocked out of the competition.
Three other nearby combatants engaged me after observing me so easily knocking out the first warrior. My skill was readily apparent to them and noticing the danger, they agreed on a temporary truce. Do they really think numbers will give them an advantage? They are not very skilled after all.
Two of the warriors attacked from the front while another circled behind me in order to attack from the rear. The blades of those to my front met mine and my strength was too great for them to overcome. Not only was I able to stop both of their swords with mine, I simultaneously threw them back which momentarily left them disoriented. This temporary reprieve allowed me to deftly parry an attack from the third combatant to the rear. Again, my strength and speed proved too difficult a hindrance and I made quick work of my adversary.
The other two fell soon after and I had successfully cleared my immediate vicinity of threats. I took a moment to survey the battlefield. Only a few minutes had passed and more than half of the combatants had been eliminated. There were a few scattered battles still taking place but it was clear that they would soon be over.
By the time I had finished catching my breath, only two other warriors remained. The battle had gone exactly as I had predicted at the start. Both the Rabbit-kin warrior, Ichika, and the Wolf-kin warrior, Arrangar, stood ready to face me.
“Well, this is unexpected.” Ichika was pointing towards me as he spoke.
“You are better than expected, for a Fox-kin. I didn’t think your tribe had any warriors with such skill with a sword.” Ichika’s tone was not a mocking one, he was honestly surprised.
The Wolf-kin warrior seemed equally surprised, “I have never seen you at any of the past competitions, what is your name? I am Arrangar!” He pounded his chest as he announced himself.
“I am Ichika!” The Rabbit-kin warrior announced himself in the same manner.
It was customary for Demi-human warriors to thump their chests while speaking their names as a sign of respect and I did the same, “Reia, fiancée to Khan Fayde of the Fox-kin tribe!”
Their eyes went wide and Arrangar was the first to speak, “The human? And I was hoping to make you my woman….”
“Ha! As if she would want an undignified and unwashed beast such as yourself for a husband!” Ichika taunted Arrangar while pointing his sword at the warrior.
Arrangar growled threateningly in response, “I will soon make you eat those words you long-eared fool!”
“Enough talk! Neither of you are making it out of here on your feet!” I sprung into action without allowing any more conversation.
According to my information, Arrangar’s sword technique relied on his great strength while Ichika’s relied on his speed, but I possessed both in equal measure. The two warriors were taken unaware by the ferocity of my attack. Meeting strength with strength and speed with speed, the two speechless warriors were driven back. They fought with all their might in order to hold me back while I chipped away at their health and stamina. Realizing their chances of victory against me were slim, they nodded towards each other and began to coordinate their attacks.
Seeing the intense battle raging, the crowd watching roared in excitement. Their voices drowned out the sound of swords clanging. I couldn’t even hear my own heart beating despite the fact that I thought it might pound right out of my chest as I continuously intensified my speed. I decided that I must push myself to the absolute limit if I wanted to win this battle. It was not one I could afford to lose, I know you are watching me Fayde, I will not let you down!
I switched gears and decided to overwhelm Ichika first. He was barely holding back my strength and there was nary a difference in our speed. I put all my strength behind my superior blade and battered him until he could no longer move. This left me vulnerable to attack which Arrangar did not fail to exploit. He put his immense strength behind a powerful swing aimed at my side and sent me tumbling across the ground after being lifted into the air. I barely made it to my feet in time to block his next attack.
I was beginning to tire as my stamina began to deplete but I did not hesitate in the least. My quick feet seemed to move on their own as they dexterously avoided my opponent’s attacks. This provided me ample attacks of opportunity on his unguarded flank. The battle had now become one of endurance as we each whittled away at the other’s stamina and health.
Unfortunately for Arrangar, I had achieved a higher level and had a greater reserve of health to fall back on. Realizing this, I struck one last time putting everything I had into offense knowing full well I wouldn’t come out of this unscathed. It didn’t matter if I completely abandoned defense, for I would be assured victory. With a final clash of our blades, I struck a blow across Arrangar’s chest while receiving a slash across my waist.
Arrangar fell to the floor, defeated, and I only lasted but a mere moment longer before I too fell unconscious.
Fayde having seen this, ran out to the battlefield and quickly called for healers to rush to Reia’s aid. Fayde could feel through the ‘Mark of the Void’ that she was fine, only unconscious after having lost all her stamina. He breathed a sigh of relief and let the healers take care of her. He ordered his servants to attend to her and to carry her back to their tent once she was healed. He would return later to check up on her because it would take time for her to wake and there were still other battles taking place.
Watching Reia win the sword competition, Laila was impressed with the woman’s skill with a blade. It was rare for there to be a talented female swordsmen and for her to win the competition was surprising. She chanced a glance at the battle with her ‘Demon Eye’ and could see a strange magical connection which tied her to the Human Khan, Fayde. The connection was powerful and she had never seen anything like it before but she could tell that it had permanently enhanced Reia’s abilities.
Interesting. The more I learn about the human, the more I am intrigued.
She of course initially had nothing more than scorn for the man, but she was falling into silent curiosity which had fully replaced her initial disdain.
The sword competition was the first match of the day’s competition and also one of the most important matches as well. Sword, Spear, Bow and Axe were all highly favored competitions that gave the most points towards the ranking. With this victory, the Fox-kin would certainly maintain their position. If they were to win another one of the major competitions, they would be a force to be reckoned with, especially since it was almost guaranteed they would win most, if not all, of the magic challenges.
They will certainly not win the bow competition since I am competing in it. There is none here my match. The Tiger-kin are assured to win the axe competition, so all that remains is the spear. That Dragon-kin boy is strong and my brother can’t compete because he will be competing tomorrow. I suppose I should assume the Fox-kin will win that competition as well. That will put them in second place if my calculations are correct…. which they are. So, it will all come down to tomorrow then. I am worried….. What is that power hidden within the Human…
I haven’t been able to communicate with Dreg for a few days now. It should be fine, events are proceeding according to plan. I just wish I knew what was going on out there. Fayde had stopped by yesterday to inform us of the first day results, he seemed satisfied. I guess I will just wait until later. As she was thinking about her mission, she was reminded of the game she was playing.
“Shar, your move!” Tris had yet to win a game against Shar, he was just too talented.
If only the Empire had such a man. Maybe I can secure his escape somehow… If I could convince him to join us it would be a great boon to our cause, but I must be careful not to give myself away. She didn’t think it would be possible but she at least wanted to try.
“Yes, yes, okay!” Shar made his move without hesitation, he most likely had already prepared several moves ahead which frustrated Tris to no end.
“I know Fayde has been pestering you as of late to aid him in his endeavors.” Tris was attempting to be careful with her words, Shar was no fool.
“Yes, he asks me every day without relenting. It can be tiresome, but I do enjoy our conversations. He is an interesting man and it is amazing what he has accomplished. In truth, if not for my loyalty to my country I would have most likely assented by now.” That’s troublesome…. Hmm…
“You do realize that if Fayde succeeds here in uniting the tribes, he will most likely attack your home country?”
“That is most surely what he will do if he wishes to achieve his aspirations. It would be the wisest course of action.” No anger or resentment in his voice. What is this man thinking?
“Doesn’t that bother you? He is going to destroy your home.” It was Tris’s turn and she moved the chess piece while asking her question, she wasn’t really concerned with winning.
“I have spent considerable time with Fayde and I think I have a good measure of who he is as a man and who he would be, as a king. It is the people that make up a nation and it is the people I have always tried to serve. My loyalty is not to any one king, although I do owe the king of La’gun’s father a debt of gratitude” He pointed a finger at Tris and continued sternly, “which I will not betray!”
He then paused and shrugged, “I will not help Fayde conquer my home, my honor won’t allow it, but if he conquers it on his own then I have no issues with serving my nation, with him as king. I will still fulfill my duty as best as I am able and perhaps I can even repay my debt to the former king by bartering for his son’s life.”
Shars words left little doubt in Tris’s mind that it would be impossible to convince this man to come with her to the Empire, even if they took care of Fayde.
What a shame, just a waste. It might be wise to kill this man too but Fayde must come first. I can’t do anything to jeopardize the mission but, I am surprised that Shar thinks so highly of Fayde despite being a prisoner. It isn’t like I necessarily hate Fayde either. I even get along with him quite well, if not for the fact that I have orders to kill him. Maybe if circumstances had been different, we could really have been friends, but I won’t dwell on that. I must fulfill my duty to my country. Her determination had wavered only slightly but her loyalty to her country spurred her on.