Chapter 89

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The initial stage of the event was dynamic, but the following matches exhibited a more subdued rhythm.

In the capital, despite potential divisions among factions, nearly all the nobles are interconnected through familial ties within three generations. The apprehension towards blood relations, surpassing even scholarly affiliations, stems from a lengthy history of intertwined familial connections.

Additionally, the majority of noble participants in this competition are either opportunists or hypocrites considering shifting their loyalty to the crown prince’s faction. The staunch loyalists, from the outset, were against the tournament. If the princess herself intends to secure the throne by offering herself as a bargaining chip, it presents a moral quandary where one must express sorrow and submission at her feet.

Thus, all contestants fought a moderately aristocratic duel. Even if they lost, they still had to show off their prowess to the citizens, so the duels were uneventful but moderately spectacular.

And then, a foreigner appeared.

[A delegate from Kalion, Edelflat Cohenulf, makes an entrance!]

The arena fell silent.

It was different from Ivan’s case. The cheering was scarce because participants didn’t know who he was, unlike the contrasting scenario with Ivan. There wasn’t a citizen unfamiliar with the name Edelflat Cohenulf.

Generally, citizens are more passionate about knights than wizards. Magic is distant from daily life, difficult to understand in terms of structure and activation principles, but the knight’s prowess is intuitive.

Hence, citizens tend not to remember the heroes of Kalion. After all, most elves were wizards.

But Edelflat is different. The one-eyed Edel. In wartime, she faced a dragon and saved the entire legion, losing an eye in the process.

With just that one feat, she was enough to make the citizens’ hearts race. On top of that, among the haughty elves, she stood out, holding a sword and walking proudly, enough to be admired.

Therefore, the citizens fell silent.

Why, an elf… and a female elf at that, participating in this tournament?

Even more, the strongest elf… all of a sudden?

[It appears there’s no one willing to challenge me. A common occurrence.]

Edelflat, standing on the dais, scanned the surroundings and spoke with a laughter-infused voice.

She lifted the helmet, keeping her face hidden.

It was a highly impolite gesture. Of course, there was no need to verify if the person inside the helmet was herself or not. As long as Veolgreen guaranteed and Krasilov accepted, if it wasn’t her, it could lead to diplomatic incidents.

However, revealing one’s face implies a certain respect for the authority of the royal family, at least in the realm of etiquette.

[Are you going to keep me standing here?]

The audience stirred at Cohenulf’s words. How rude! How dare an elf act like this here! A kind of commotion with such sentiments followed.

Soon, a knight walked out from the opposite side.

“Greetings, Cohenulf. I’ve heard of your noble deeds….”

[Enough.]

“What…?”

[I said cease your prattle, human. Spare me your introductions and opinions; your meaningless chatter won’t make any impression on me.]

Cohenulf ignored the pleasantries and drew her sword.

There’s no starting signal in the tournament. Once the two step onto the arena, it’s considered ready to begin.

So, Cohenulf aimed her sword at her opponent, not with a formal gesture or polite nod.

[Come. Leave your name with me through your skills.]

“This is outrageous…!!”

All participants here are nobles. If you’re a Krasilov noble, you shouldn’t receive such treatment anywhere in the United Kingdom.

That’s common sense. Common sense in the societal system created by humans.

However, it wasn’t common sense for elves. Especially for Edelflat.

In war, nobility flowing in one’s blood doesn’t guarantee one’s life.

Even if you’re a high-ranking noble with vast estates, if you lack skill and a blade pierces your chest, you die the same.

Remembering a person’s name is not the result of generations but of individual ability.

In comparison to the deep history of human noble families, it’s nothing for the secret noble houses of the elves.

-Srrung…

The sword smoothly scratched through the air.

The tip of the blade remained steady, as if it didn’t need to move at all.

Cohenulf didn’t even flinch.

“This… rudeness… I will inquire about it with your elf kind for sure!”

The opposing knight rushed forward, like an enraged wild boar. In fact, the charge of a trained knight, even if not on horseback, is stronger than a wild boar.

The moment when the weight distribution of the entire armor, destructive magical power flowing through the veins, and a lifetime of training in swordsmanship perfectly align.

-Kiiing!!

The lowered blade swept down, and Cohenulf’s sword, which had come to a stop, smoothly swirled before falling.

-Clang!!*

That was enough. To perfectly control and deflect the force embedded in the opponent’s sword.

The motionless sword once again aimed forward without any movement.

Now, in front of it, was the exposed neck of the knight who had missed his swing. It was a strike perfectly calculated in direction and timing, foreseeing the opponent’s approach.

“I… I… have lost.”

[It was a fight too regrettable to be memorable. If you wish, take up your sword. I’ll give you a second chance.]

“Do not insult me any further…!!”

[Mockery is when it’s directed at an opponent with a slight difference in skill, human. Would it not be more appropriate to call what I’m doing education?]

“Elf…!!”

The opponent shouted in frustration and turned away to descend.

The audience remained silent. To understand the recent fight, the spectators were too far and their vision couldn’t reach the level of the arena.

It seemed like a simple exchange of swordplay, but after just one move, the sword flew, the defeat was declared abruptly, and the opponent left the stage.

In the silence, Edelflat descended beneath the stage with the same lively steps as before.

***

And there, she faced Ivan, sitting deep in the corridor.

Both clad in armor, the visors of their helmets still lowered, but clearly locking eyes.

[Jhon.]

“Edel.”

The two stood outside the reach of their swords and quietly greeted each other.

[Still the same.]

“You’ve dulled.”

At Ivan’s words, Edel’s armor made a clinking sound.

[Dulled? Me?]

“Your swordplay was more vibrant than that, as far as I remember.”

Your sentence is already grammatically correct, but if you want to emphasize the question, you could add punctuation like this:

[You didn’t think he was a worthy opponent, did you?]

“Isn’t swordsmanship an art that shows off to oneself, regardless of the opponent? Tailoring the technique depending on the opponent doesn’t suit you.”

Here’s a corrected version of your sentence:

[How can you be sure if that thought hasn’t changed in the past 10 years?]

“Enough with the wordplay. I don’t know how to turn a phrase. Edel, answer me. What is your purpose?”

Ivan asked quietly.

“What does Veolgreen want in this country? Why did you specifically come?”

[Well, I’ve actually been curious about that. What’s your purpose?]

“Victory.”

[I… if I were to say, ‘hindrance.’]

Edel said in a playful voice.

[I don’t know Veolgreen’s purpose. I don’t know why he sent me, for what reason or what thoughts. But the ‘request’ I received is singular. Hinder the victories of others. How about you?]

“The ‘order’ I received is also singular. Win until the end. I don’t know the purpose or reason behind the order.”

[Interesting. Remember that saying now and in the future.]

Even if we were to meet above, I hope his determination remains unwavering.

Edel chuckled and walked beyond the corridor.

Ivan watched Edel’s back for a while. Her footsteps, stride, body responsiveness, and even ‘senses.’

The senses of an extraordinary being can deduce even the body beneath the armor. However, the information one can obtain from a superhuman like her, who is unparalleled in the ‘utilization of physical abilities,’ is limited.

For her, hiding her own state is too easy. And the meaning of that is to understand that she has become vulnerable enough to hide her condition.

Until 10 years ago, she never hid her presence at any moment. That was the kind of woman she was. Always laughing flamboyantly but occasionally sinking into seriousness. Unpredictable.

A master.

The master of the sword. A woman considered to have mastered all aspects of swordsmanship artistry utilizing her limbs.

A martial artist who has lived wielding a sword for centuries. Elf swordsmanship is divided between her era and the era that followed.

If such a person has to hide her sensory perception from others…

‘Has she dulled?’

Is dementia progressing more deeply than thought?

No matter how proficient elf medicine is, it seems it couldn’t overcome Alzheimer’s. With this, the threat level for elderly elves appeared to be significantly reduced.

There aren’t many prominent young elves, and the elders responsible for Kalion’s national power were mostly in an aged state.

Anyway, it’s not a bad thing. If the condition of the most promising contender in this tournament is like that, maybe. There might be a chance to strive for victory head-on.

****

In the following days, the tournament continued like walking a tightrope between the audience’s astonishment and anger.

[The winner is Sir Ivan Petrovich Yermov, Viscount Yermov!]

– Ugh… ahh!!

– Argh… aahh!!

Always smashing opponents within the clinch, and when the opponent loses their weapon, this madman would also drop his own weapon and start walking to deliver punches.

‘Ivan the Face Smasher.’ That’s what they said about the unknown third son from the rural noble.

Simple and brutish, that’s what the nobles called him. According to the nobles whose jaws were crushed by his hands, there was no finesse in his swordsmanship, no honor, and not even respect.

And there’s one more.

[The winner is Edelflat Cohenulf, a delegate from Calion County!]

“-Uuuuuuuu!!!”

“-Go back to your nest, elf!!”

[Ahaha!! If you need a lesson, come up here anytime, everyone!]

Despite the jeers from the audience, Edelflat walked out with a cheerful smile, waving her hand.

The knights facing her were divided into two groups: those who criticized the impoliteness of the elves and the young knights who wanted to gain recognition by challenging a legendary hero.

The overzealous knights would occasionally fail to control their youthful vigor, visit Cohenulf’s residence to attempt friendship, and end up getting a good beating before being chased away.

By this point, even the nobles began to notice the situation.

-This is a plot.

It seemed illogical that out of nowhere, a lesser-known rural nobleman would unexpectedly take the spotlight of the show.

This wasn’t some wandering knight who ‘accidentally’ found his way to Frechenkaya and entered the tournament as a young man.

It was probably Elizaveta, who purchased a skilled warrior to counterbalance the nobles, and the elves, who had perhaps detected Elizaveta’s plot in a ‘elf-like’ way and were trying to thwart it.

“Then, why not make those two duel first and be done with it?”

Duke Sheretif stroked his beard and casually remarked,

“If the princess wants to control us, and the elves want to hinder that princess, isn’t this like a love letter from those pointy-eared folks?”

“To call it a love letter might be an understatement, isn’t it too heavy-handed?”

“It’s because they’re elves.”

The audience unanimously agreed with his statement. Well, they were elves, after all.

“Unless the elves reach out to us first, we don’t need to bow down. So, if we make those two duel, one of them will surely be eliminated.”

In this tournament, there’s no such thing as a draw. After all, the prize is the princess.

“Let’s see, if that ‘Ivan’ gives that elf girl a taste of his blade, wouldn’t he? Hey, have you heard of Viscount Yermov?”

“Yes, my lord. They’re one of the many northern nobles who prospered after the war. Rumor has it that the third son loves hunting and is quite skilled with swords.”

“If they were honed after the war, they must have been a mercenary ragtag exhibition piece. Assist him with proper equipment along with a fitting demise. So even if the elf loses to him and the princess discards that wench, we can have her crawling under us.”

It made sense. After all, an anonymous nobody like that couldn’t defeat the strongest elf.

So, at the very least, support Edelflat Cohenulf with arms to cause some minor damage. Simultaneously, earn the favor of that wench.

Dismissed mercenaries are bound to be discarded. The princess never cherishes defeated soldiers. That lowly wench will surely be discarded, and then noble plans can be considered.

“But, My Lord, what if that wench defeats Lady Cohenulf?”

In that case, the elves’ offer of an implicit alliance, even dispatching a tournament representative to nobles, would be quite ridiculous.

If Yermov Viscount’s third son somehow wins, the prize for victory might be lost. The elves, having gone mad, won’t rush to send a female representative to marry the princess. Elf victory could be an opportunity for new prospects for nobles.

To such a question, Duke Sheretif burst into a chuckling laughter.

“Will you defeat a lion even if you give a knife to a mouse? Uh-haha-haha, he is destined to be defeated. The important thing is not to minimize our losses.”

“The tournament is in its fourth day. All the knights who were supposed to face Ivan and Edelflat have withdrawn. With only four participants remaining, at last, Ivan faces Edelflat.”

***

Isabelle sat in the stands, nibbling on her thumb. Though it wasn’t a pleasant habit, her tension was understandable. Yuri gently caressed her shoulders.

“Pavel, sir.”

“Hmm?”

“Will uncle lose?”

“No.”

Pavel, being from the royal guard himself, even holding the position of the guard captain, naturally knew Edelflat. Therefore, he sensed that Edelflat’s condition was different from before.

On the other hand, Ivan still demonstrated his peak abilities. Wasn’t it just four years ago when he defeated the Seven Dragon? Ivan’s skills had only improved since then.

“So…”

“He’ll surely win.”

“What?!”

“???”

Yuri, who had been listening, suddenly coughed and spat out her drink, startling everyone.

Pavel started patting Yuri’s back.

“But, if uncle wins, he’ll really marry the princess!”

“Do you want to cheer or curse?”

“I don’t know! I don’t want to see uncle lose, but if he wins, it’s going to be annoying.”

“Isn’t it a bit late for puberty to hit?”

“No, uncle always calls me a little kid in puberty!”

“You… just go away.”

Pavel cursed having to protect these kids. This wasn’t what he fought the rebels for.

[Kalion Delegate, Edelflat Cohenulf enters!!]”

“Woooo!!!”

So, instead, he decided to add his voice to the mocks for Edelflat.

“Wooooo!!!”

That old hag won’t recognize my voice from here, right? Surely she won’t realize it’s me? he thought.

He was one of the most excited people at this tournament.

If the commander wins, well, he’s going to be the princess’s husband now, so he won’t be able to continue being a commander, so he’s due for a promotion.

And if the commander loses, I’ll taunt him, saying, “Looks like Edel is still formidable, huh? I should have faced her instead of you. You know, with my Dragon Lance, I could have even taken down Einar with just one thrust!”

Huh? So, does that mean no matter who wins, I’m the one who benefits the most without losing anything?

And then…

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