Chapter 13: Final day

A whirlwind of sound accompanied an acrobatic dance as Nes spun his spear while avoiding his opponent’s attack. His flurry of spear thrusts forced the other combatant to retreat in frustration. They were the last two combatants on the battlefield, all others had already been eliminated. Not a single combatant could inflict damage on Nes, his defense was a bulwark and his mastery of the spear was unparalleled among the Demi-humans. Out of all of them, the only one who could defeat him would be the Shakiri, who possessed herculean strength. Even then, the victory would most likely hinge by a thread.

The Tiger-kin, who were known as masters of the spear, were astounded by the skill and fluid movement of the Dragon-kin prince as they watched their representative be pushed back. There was no contest, Nes had devastated every opponent he faced with abject grace until only one remained. Nes gave him no rest, no quarter, but hounded the hapless warrior forcing him to his knees and ultimately, defeat. The stunned crowd was silent in admiration before erupting in cheer and applause.

Nes did not care for applause and paid it no mind. His only concern was finishing the bout promptly so that he might run to his sister’s side. Her fight was taking place at the same time as his and he worried for her safety. There were almost no deaths in the Grand Council competition, but there was always a small chance and that was more than he was willing to accept. If he had his way, his sister would never have participated in the competition but his sister had been adamant about it. That damn Fayde, pushing my sister into dangerous situations. He knew it wasn’t entirely Fayde’s fault but he needed someone to blame.

After the battle, Nes pushed his way through the thick crowd, forcing his way through the admirers who had watched his battle. Nes looked young, but he was handsome and many Demi-human women had come to adore him over the past couple of days. The fact that he was Dragon-kin only made him even more desirable as a mate and now that they also saw his combat prowess, women were literally throwing themselves at him. To Nes, this was just an obstacle that needed to be removed in order for him to hurry to his sister’s side.

He finally forced his way through and ran towards the battlefield that had been designated for his sister’s competition. Having tired himself, he paused for a moment to catch his breath. The crowd was much smaller in this area due to the popularity of the spear competition. Magic competitions were mostly unpopular, only a few would be interested, so it was easy to quickly locate his sister. Fayde was lifting his sister up in his arms and was twirling her around while they both laughed. Nes couldn’t believe what he was seeing, what the hell is this!?

He could see the competition was already over and from the looks of things, his sister had won. It’s not like I doubted she would win, but that damn Fayde….. why does he get to swing her around like that…..

Nes walked over to his sister and Fayde who were celebrating Allein’s victory. The wind had been knocked out of him and he had lost all his enthusiasm and motivation. His sister didn’t even notice as he approached, she was happily being doted on by Fayde. Every gesture of affection Fayde showed to his sister hit him with the force of an avalanche. He thought he would die before he could complete the last few steps.

“Oh Nes! How did your competition go? I could hear the cheering from all the way over here.” Fayde was the first to notice him, his sister didn’t even turn to look at him as Fayde continued to pet her head.

Nes could only force out a dejected response, “I won.”

“That’s incredible! Excellent! Good job Nes! Why do you look so sad though? You should be ecstatic.” You just don’t get it, you thief! Stealing my sister away…..

“Whatever….” He replied still downcast.

Allein finally looked at him and her radiant smile immediately perked him up a bit, “Congratulations brother, I always knew you would win. I am proud of you.”

Her words filled him with a surge of vigor that revitalized him. A moment before he had felt as if the world was ending but now he stood proudly pumping his chest, “Of course! I am your big brother after all!”

She laughed at his response and his vitality had fully returned. No, don’t turn back to Fayde! Praise me more!

Allein looked up at Fayde and her lovely smile was no longer directed at him which made him feel a pang of regret.

“Fayde, you better reward me just like you rewarded Reia!” EHHH!? What did she just say?

Nes’s mind was racing, wait she can’t mean ‘that’.

Fayde chuckled while running his hands through her hair, it sent shivers down Nes’s spine, “Allein umm… I don’t really know how to put this… you are still too young….”

“Hmph! Then I will sleep with you alone tonight, send her away!” She wasn’t letting up and Fayde finally assented, “Okay, okay, tonight it will just be you and me, but we will go right to sleep! I have to fight tomorrow and need enough rest. No talking my ears off, okay?”

Allein happily hugged Fayde while glancing towards the side and Nes could see a conniving grin on her face.

FA~~~~~~~~~YDE! I am going to kill that man!

After a long day of excitement I was happy to be lying in my bed. Our tribe had been successful in moving up in the rankings and were now in second place, much to the surprise of the other Demi-human tribes. That meant that everything was riding on my shoulders. Iif I didn’t win in the competition tomorrow then it was all over. This was expected though, so it wasn’t a surprise to me. I was just beginning to really feel the pressure now that it had finally come to this.

I had asked Reia to let Allein sleep with me alone tonight but all that meant was she was sleeping somewhere on the other side of the tent. If it makes Allein happy then it’s fine. She was in fact happily snuggling against my chest. It made it somewhat difficult to sleep but I was getting used to it, considering she did it mostly every night.

I don’t know when it was that I finally fell asleep but I began to drift in and out of consciousness and finally found myself within a dream. The dream was pleasant but it was suddenly disturbed by a foreign presence. It was a feeling of slight discomfort which dissipated quickly. What’s going on? This felt familiar, it was something that had definitely happened to me before.

My dream suddenly shifted and my vision blurred. I was now standing on a grassy plain that stretched into the distant horizon. Flowers of all shapes and sizes adorned the lush and green landscape, reminiscent of a rich embroidery. A remarkably beautiful woman stood before me, one which I recognized.

“Allein?” I was surprised to see she had entered my dream in her adult form, she hadn’t done so since the very first time we met.

Allein placed her delicate hand on her mouth and giggled, “You promised you would reward me, didn’t you?”

“Eh… I did let you sleep alone with me, didn’t I? Why are you here in my dream?” I had a feeling where this was going but I asked anyway.

“Here in your dreams, we can be together, can’t we?” Her eyes fluttered cutely but she wasn’t fooling me.

“Allein….” I wanted to say more but she cut me off angrily.

“It’s not fair! If only I hadn’t slept in that place for all those years then I would be an adult and not a child. I love you too, why can’t I receive your love just like Reia?” She sounded strangely desperate but I was uncertain why.

“What are you talking about? You have my love, you know that.”

“It’s not the same and you know what I mean. I want to be with you too. I can be, here, in your dreams.” She walked towards me seductively but her eyes seemed lonely.

Before I could respond her body was suddenly against mine and her arms wrapped around me. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything as I enjoyed the warmth of her body. She felt good against me and it was difficult for me to even reproach her. Her beauty had in some ways left me bewitched and confused.

“All…” I tried to speak her name but her finger on my lips left me speechless. She reached up, pulling my head close and whispered in my ears, “It’s just a dream, and no one will know.”

I no longer had the strength to resist her and I surrendered my will to her enchanting gaze.

I was awoken the next day having had a wonderful dream that I didn’t wish to end. It was the final day of the competition and I would have to fight a series of battles against the strongest members of each tribe. These battles were intended to be fought by either the Khan of a tribe or a chosen warrior. This meant that only the strongest of each tribe would be involved in the competition this day.

As this was an important and grueling day for me, I wouldn’t be fulfilling the normal duties of a Khan and instead spent the day preparing for the fights to come. It was almost noon when Fieral came to me to inform me of the first round of battles.

“My Khan, your first opponent has been announced. You must quickly get ready and head to the battlefield.” Fieral hardly ever showed any emotion while conversing with me, she was always serious about her duties.

“Who is my first opponent?” My servants were helping me equip my battle gear as I responded to Fieral.

“You will be fighting the Dog-kin warrior Piero. He is a fierce warrior and a master of the spear. They say that the only reason Nes won the spear competition was because Piero was not allowed to compete in it.” I considered her words and nodded. Sounds like a good first opponent, I can’t be careless. I will try to use my void power as little as possible unless absolutely necessary.

After preparing myself for battle, I left my tent along with my servants and those closest to me as well as the chieftains of the Fox-kin tribe. There was no one who would not be present at today’s events. This was the highlight of the entire Grand Council competition and would be the final determinant in ranking the tribes. For us, it meant much more than that. With our victory, I would force the tribes to unite under my leadership. For the first time in thousands of years they would be united under a Great Khan.

Our procession was a solemn one despite the raucous noise surrounding us. It wasn’t as if we weren’t excited, we had all just settled into a quiet peace of mind much like the calm before the storm. I soon found myself standing across the battlefield from my opponent who sneered at me disrespectfully. I simply returned the gesture with a smile which only seemed to enrage him.

This Dog-kin thinks that I am weak but I am going to make an example of him. Let everyone present witness my determination!

One ‘Phantom Image’ is all I will need. I will make this quick. I focused my thoughts on the power simmering within me. It was aching to be released but I restrained it on the cusp, my body quivering with the strain. When the gong sounded my power burst forth from my body and a ‘Phantom Image’ materialized beside me. It was different from what I remembered, it seemed more substantial, more dense with power. What is this? Has it become more powerful?

I dashed across the battlefield at a dizzying pace. My opponent remained motionless with both hands firmly gripping his spear. Piero was already prepared in his fighting stance with one foot rigidly pressed against the grassy plain in a forward position. The spear pointed diagonally facing towards the ground and an unknown power flailed around him against the stillness of the afternoon sun. He was an opponent to be reckoned with, if only he had never met me.

My boots made no sound as they flattened the grass in their wake and the earth trembled with each step. The power of the void within me released an intense pressure as it seeped from my pores and formed a dense cloud around me. Only I could see the dark mist of the void raging violently. As the whirlwind of power around me stormed ever closer to my opponent, the fear in his eyes became as clear as day.

I directed my ‘Phantom Image’ to strike first and it launched itself off the ground and straight towards Piero who was prepared with a twirling counter strike. His spear went straight through the phantom but the phantom’s blade struck Piero causing damage which left Piero in a state of confusion and open for a second attack which I took advantage of. He quickly recovered and blocked my next strike, pushing me back.

He had been too focused on defending against my combo attack and was caught off guard when I reversed positions with my ‘Phantom Image’ and slashed him across his unguarded back, causing him to fall to his knees in pain. True to his reputation, even with the disadvantage of fighting while on his knees, he parried my next few attacks while returning to his feet. It was obvious that he had very little fight left in him due to the strength of my attacks, but still he fought on in earnest until he finally fell to my ceaseless onslaught.

Most of the Demi-humans had gone to watch some of the other fights and so not many were present to witness mine, but those that did were left speechless. No one from outside my tribe expected that I would win. As I gazed upon the spectators, one in particular caught my attention. It was a young woman with eyes the color of crimson and when our eyes met, she looked away and disappeared into the crowd. That was the Demon-kin girl…

With no reason to remain on the battlefield I walked towards my tribe members who were cheering wholeheartedly. Reia and Allein especially were happy and greeted me with congratulatory kisses which I welcomed gratefully. I would only have a short time to rest and so we rested on blankets which had been laid out on the grass. Reia offered her lap to me and I accepted, much to Allein’s frustration. She tried to outdo Reia by feeding me fruits and fanning me. Yes, I am definitely too much of a gentleman to refuse their kindness, I chuckled creepily and received strange looks from those around me.

In the next two battles I fought, I made sure to use only one ‘Phantom Image’ in order to fool onlookers into thinking that was the entirety of my ability. I also learned while fighting that my ‘Phantom Image’ ability had seemed to level up because now my ‘Phantoms’ could actually do damage and were quite difficult to deal with. Not only could they not receive any damage, but they could now dish it out, although the damage output was low. It was still an extremely useful ability which allowed me to dominate the opponents I had faced.

There was only one battle remaining, I had made it to the end and my opponent was the Demon-kin Shakiri who had also easily defeated all opponents. I had been able to watch one of his battles and he was an incredible fighter whose strength was truly unparalleled.

This is going to be difficult. He is a tough opponent. I have the advantage of speed and my strength shouldn’t be too inferior to his. Then there are my ‘Phantom Images’. I will most likely start with one just to play along with my farce, but if things get difficult I will increase the number to three. If I can’t defeat him with three of my ‘Phantoms’ then I will need to use my ‘Void Strike’. I am hesitant to go that far though. No, I can’t hold back….

With the short time remaining until the last battle of the Grand Council competition, I decided to spend my time with Reia and Allein in order to relax and clear my mind of anxiety. It was the best preparation that I could do. Spending time with them reminded me of the reasons why I had been working so hard, to create a future for them, one without discrimination.

I wasn’t about to let one enormous brute get in the way of my ideals.

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