“Hey! Kanari! Your lover is up next!” An excited feminine cry howled out from the top of the stadium seats, where the number of empty seats far outnumbered the number of occupied ones.
The Lucha Amphitheatre had a capacity of over ten thousand, way above the number of students and teachers currently in the academy. Hence, even though the upperclassmen demonstration was one of the most popular events of the year, there were still many empty seats. Being celebrities that would have been mobbed the moment they arrived, Kanari and Elrin deliberately arrived late and chose the most remote locations of the stadium to sit. Naturally, seeing as one was the future goddess of the Empire and the other was the sweetheart daughter of one of the wealthiest man in the entire world, the two young girls had hidden security guards surrounding them to keep irritating individuals out of their sights.
“Stop it with your jokes, Elrin! You know how much I hate talking about him!” Kanari crossed her arms in displeasure and sharply replied to her friend.
The two had been acquaintances since they were very young. The Duchess of Highgarden was a regular customer of the Zedcris Conglomerate, and Terlus Zedcris knew how vital it was to keep an influential individual like the Duchess by his side. Since his daughter, Elrin was the same age as Kanari, Terlus had encouraged the two to become playmates from a very young age, essentially creating a bond that would last a lifetime between them.
“Hehe, it’s just that amusing! Since Fred is so persistent, why don’t you just accept him? He’s talented, he’s good-looking and last but not least, I’m sure he would never cheat on you? Isn’t he the complete package?” Elrin couldn’t pass on the opportunity to tease her childhood friend. “The tale of the devoted romantic is so famous that many of my father’s employees have heard of him! Especially the unmarried female clerks, they all dream to have a zealous man such as Fred…”
With her hands attached together, Elrin imitated the expression of a lovestruck maiden who dreamt of having a prince on a white horse, carry her into the sunset. Used to Elrin’s constant teasing, Kanari rolled her eyes in annoyance.
“If you like him so much, why don’t you marry him?”
“Haha, even if I wanted to, he wouldn’t even spare me a second glance. Don’t you know, my father actually invited him to join our company, but he turned it down in a heartbeat. What to do? His heart only beats for one person~.” Elrin sang in a sonorous tune.
“You… Whatever… I really don’t understand why he’s so adamant. If he weren’t aiming to marry me, I would have loved to have him join my forces. However, every time I tell him that, he doesn’t listen and claims that he will work hard to become a better man for me… What does that have to do with anything?”
It was a dilemma that plagued Kanari. On one side, she wanted to add a young and loyal talent to her forces, but to do so would mean that she would be sacrificing her freedom to love. Kanari’s mother gave her full control over who she wanted to marry and would never force her to swear her eternity to someone that she didn’t love.
“Haha, that does sound like something he would do… Honestly, why don’t you just humour him for a bit? Go on a few dates with him and then decided if the two of you are really unsuitable?” Elrin offered up a suggestion to Kanari’s predicament.
“If it was as simple as that, I might have gone on one date with him… But that Fred is utterly serious. If I gave him a chance to date me, he would propose on the very same day! I’m sure of that!”
“Wow… He’s really madly in love with you… So what is it about him that you don’t like? Is it his background as a commoner?” Elrin put her index finger on her chin and thought out loud. Fred was undoubtedly a good catch. The only real ‘flaw’ that he had was his lacklustre upbringing.
“You know I don’t care about that… My father was a commoner as well, and he still managed to marry my mother.” One of the main reasons why Kanari’s mother, the current Duchess of Highgarden, gave her daughter complete autonomy of her love life was because of her own experiences growing up.
When Kanari’s mother was a teenager, she fell in love with a commoner from her Duchy and swore to marry him after two years of dating. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with her conservative parents, who hated the fact that their daughter didn’t want to marry a man of an equivalent status. Throughout the early years of their relationship, Kanari’s parents had gone through hell as the amount of hate and negativity being thrown their way almost tore them apart. However, the pair of lovebirds eventually managed to pull through and write their own happy ending. Not wanting her children to go through the same unhappiness that she did, the Duchess of Highgarden swore to never get involved with her children’s love life and gave them full control of whoever they wanted to date.
“Then what is it?”
“Honestly… He’s just not my type.”
“Pfffffttt!!! That’s the reason?! That’s the reason why you rejected him thirty-seven times?!” Thousands of saliva droplets flew from Elrin’s mouth, unbecoming of a daughter from High Society, as her shoulder’s trembled and her entire body convulsed. A piercing laughter reverberated through the stadium, causing numerous eyes to fall upon the duo.
“Calm down would you?!”
“W-Wha-hahaha! Y-You actually just rejected him based on his looks?!”
“Not just his looks!!! His entire being just somehow makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Oh wow, so it’s on a molecular level!!!”
“No… I mean, sure he’s good looking and all… But the way he presents himself, the way he asked for my hand in marriage in exchange for his services, and finally I just can’t get over the fact that he looks like he’s in his thirties when he’s just a teenager… Anyway, he’s just not what I’m looking for in a partner!” Kanari listed all of the reasons why she didn’t accept Fred’s confession. In fact, she had many more reasons to dislike the eighteen-year-old, but she didn’t bother to list everything out.
“HAHAHAHAHA!!!” Laughing until tears formed in the corners of her eyes, Elrin felt a pulsating pain coming from her abdomen. “God, I can’t stop laughing!”
“Just leave it be alright? If I were to marry someone, I must at least find the person attractive right? However, whenever I look at Fred, I feel a sense of dread and my instincts are to immediately turn in the other direction.”
“STOP!!! Y-You’re going to kill me!” Already rolling on the floor due to excessive laughter, Elrin begged for Kanari to stop her explanation. Her dead serious expression only served to make the content even funnier, and if Kanari continued to bash on Fred, Elrin feared that she would be the first person in her family to laugh to death.
“What are they doing?” While Shin was expectantly waiting for the match to begin, a thunderous laughter bellowed down from the top seats, breaking his concentration. In the most remote seats in the stadium, Kanari and Elrin were having a cordial conversation, in fact, one might say that they were too chummy. Elrin was bellowing out loud, while Kanari was wearing an expression of genuine concern.
“Kanari and Elrin huh? I didn’t know that they were that close.” Emma thought out loud.
“You know them?”
“A little… We talked to them a few times, Elrin especially. She’s possibly one of the friendliest girls in the entire academy.” Emma replied to Shin.
Elrin had the blood of a merchant, and her inherent nature was to surround herself with capable people. In fact, in just a few weeks since school began, Elrin already had the most extensive information network as she befriended nearly every female in the school. From her fellow classmates to her high-strung teachers. She didn’t even spare the janitors and lunch ladies. Naturally, she had some connections with her male counterparts, but her network with the females was indisputably the best in the academy. Hence, it came as no surprise that the Silver Spoon had sought out the Fairies of the Hail to form a budding friendship.
“I see… Well, just be careful not to be dragged into any more troubles alright?” Shin gave a light warning to the twins before turning his attention back into the ring. The two contestants had already taken their places and were waiting for the referee to initiate the start of the battle.
“Fred Newton. Spirit, Iron Titan. Cultivation Level, Rank 23.” Cupping his hands together, Fred greeted the referee and his opponent and said the standard phrase before a duel between Spirit Users could begin.
“Charles Castillo. Spirit, Shobo Flute. Cultivation Level, Rank 22.” Following Fred’s lead, Charles did the same movements and bowed down to his opponent.
“A combat-oriented Spirit User taking on an auxiliary one… Won’t it be completely one-sided?” Shin asked Isadore.
“In normal circumstances, that would be the case… But Charles is no normal auxiliary Spirit User.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll find out in a little bit.” Not willing to elaborate further, Isadore wore a bright smile as he fell back on his chair in preparation to watch the show.
“Ready? Begin!!!” Once the referee signalled the start of the match, Fred immediately summoned out the phantom of the Iron Titan and directly sent a large amount of mana to strengthen his body. Within one second, Fred’s muscles swelled up at an exponential rate his tanned skin started to turn into a metallic grey shade as the Iron Titan merged with his expanded body.
“Spiritual Body Enhancement!” Shin exclaimed in jubilance. His goal for coming to the demonstration was precisely to watch his seniors use a Spiritual Body Enhancement so that he could learn more about the infamous ability.
“Exactly… That’s a Spiritual Body Enhancement.” Isadore confirmed Shin’s observation with his own commentary. “Learning it is rather difficult, and most combat Spirit Users wait until they break through during their Rank 30 or Rank 40 promotion when they have gathered enough experience. However, Fred managed to do so when he promoted into the Spirit Core realm.”
“Did he learn it with ease?”
“Hardly! From my sources, he trained hard for thirty days straight without sleep and, without any access to human life, in preparation for his promotion. Well, it did pay off in the end though… He managed to learn the infamous Spiritual Body Enhancement.”
Fred’s body shone with a greyish light as the ground below him showed signs of breaking down. Now that his entire body was made of metal, his weight nearly increased tenfold, making all of his hits all the more deadly.
“My turn…” Although he was unwilling to fight, Charles still held his end of the bargain and summoned out a luminous ivory white flute that bore ancient markings that resembled that of musical notes.
“Be careful, Charles…” After giving a light warning, Fred kicked off the ground and accelerated at a pace that was unlike someone his size. From Charles’ perspective, it was as if a cannonball had been fired straight at him.
“I know.” Immediately bringing his Shobo Flute to his mouth, Charles began to play a resonant tune that calmed the nerves of all who were spectating. Only those who had formed their Spirit Cores would be able to resist the melodious song, as the others were caught in a tipsy trance. Of course, the one that the chorus was directed at, bore the full brunt of the attack.
“DING!!! DING!!! DING!!!” Chimes like those from resonant bells sounded out from the inside of Fred’s body immediately bringing the charging metal man to a halt. Since he was entirely made out of metal, once the music entered Fred’s ears, the vibrations caused by Charles’ spiritual ability would wreak havoc inside of Fred’s body.
“HARGGGGHHH!!!” Using sheer willpower, Fred overcame the pain that made his ears bleed and charged forwards once again. Throwing a straight punch at Charles’ face, Fred aimed to end the battle immediately, so that he could impress the black-haired beauty that was watching from the stands. Unfortunately, Charles felt that it wasn’t the time yet and masterfully evaded the strike using a footwork martial art.
“That technique! Isn’t it Mychael’s Lightning Swallow Steps?!” Shin shouted out. He was all too familiar with that maneuver as Shin had personally deciphered it from the illegible text that Mychael had handed down to him.
“Yeah… Before he was sent to teach our batch, Instructor Mychael was the combat teacher of their cohort. Hence, even the auxiliary students had learnt many of Mychael’s personal combat skills.” Isadore confirmed Shin’s suspicions.
Watching as Charles easily moved from one end of the ring to the other, Shin was genuinely awestruck at how efficient the Lightning Swallow Steps were in the hands of an expert. Whenever he watched Mychael perform that martial technique, all that Shin could see was a patch of blur as the scoundrel always moved too quickly. Yet, when Charles used it, the Lightning Swallow Steps seemed to be a divine ability that could dodge basically any forms of attack. However, there was no way that Charles could run forever.
After a few seconds of evading Fred’s relentless assault, Charles was finally forced to a corner and could only watch as a flying fist came his way. Placing his flute into his mouth once more, Charles played a different song, and this time, a translucent bubble enveloped his body and provided the ultimate defence against the deadly iron fist.
“Hey! Why are you making it so difficult for me to beat you?!” Now that they were rather close, Fred could finally communicate with his friend. “Don’t tell me you want to impress Kanari too!”
“Don’t be so paranoid you asshole! If I lose with one punch, wouldn’t it be obvious that we fixed the match? That, in contrast, would plummet your impression in Kanari’s mind!”
“That makes sense… But I don’t want to keep going at this forever!”
“Fine… Just come at me with your strongest attack. It would form a dust cloud right? I can at least take that opportunity to fake that I’m hurt.”
“Sounds good!” Leaping backwards, Fred gathered all of his remaining mana to form one final attack.
‘Tch, the things I do for a brother…’ As he watched Fred’s fierce expression, Charles immediately started to regret his decision. The young man in front of him only had eyes to impress his crush, not caring in the slightest that his actions would harm a good friend. ‘Whatever, I still owe him from before, so I guess we’re even…’
Even though it seemed like he was at peace with his decision, Charles was desperately playing his Song of Defence, hoping that the oncoming attack would graze him, but little does he know, that Fred would never miss if it were in front of Kanari.
Launching himself into the air, Fred summoned out the phantom of the Iron Titan, eclipsing the sun in the process. Although the phantom had no means of attacking anything in the material world, it still served as a good intimidation tool, and apparently, it was working. Shaking like an autumn leaf being blown by the wind, Charles cursed his fate as he watched the descending fist of his good friend land right on top of his bubble barrier, shattering it instantly.
Thankfully, Fred still held a little semblance of reasoning and missed his friend by the strand of the hair. His punch hitting the ground, Fred generated a minor earthquake as the entire ring broke into a thousand pieces as dust and dirt flew everywhere. Taking advantage of the mayhem, Charles found a nice, warm corner and pretended that he had fainted, giving all the credit to Fred.
“T-The winner is… Fred Newton!!!” As the referee announced the winner, the crowd began to break out into cheers, celebrating the champion of such a spectacular match. Raising a triumphant fist towards the sky, Fred intensely stared at Kanari, as if asking if she was impressed by his performance.
“Hmph! Such a show-off…” However, his actions had the opposite effect and just made Kanari dislike him even more.