From the across the lands and even the worlds, peoples from all walks of life with different reasons and goals gather at the same spot for one singular purpose.
The Country of Skills, the Grand Coliseum.
Every round of the Three Battles was a major crowd pleaser that attracted everyone from the strongest of experts to even the local lords, powerful officials and merchants whose wealth could even rival a nation.
Whether it was man, woman, elderly or child, everyone knew that the “Three Battles” wasn’t just a battle of personal strength.
In these hallowed grounds, heroes, revered by the masses, were born by the throngs. Yet at the same time, these grounds birthed a mountain of sacrifices, the people who gave their lives in the arena and were destined to be forgotten by the fickle masses.
Tomorrow, the curtain was about to be raised on such a performance once more.
On the night before such an important opening, Breman summoned his subordinates for the last time for the final preparations as well as to give out his last bit of instructions.
Breman: Let’s be clear about something, I won’t arrive on the scene at the same time as you guys. Rather, I won’t go at all.
Breman: This matter started because of One’day High so it’s a private matter.
One’day High: …I understand.
Di Qi Ju:……
Everyone who was present could feel it clearly: the One’day High standing before us today was markedly different than before.
He had his hair cut. What was once a flowing head of hair was now a more professional looking, short and tidy hairstyle. From a glance, the first impression he gave off was that of an astute businessman or a veteran soldier.
Breman: Seeing as you’re older than me, I’ll spare you the lecture.
Breman: However, just as a safety precaution…Mo Chuan, you’ll be his keeper.
Mo Chuan: Keeper? What’s that?
Breman: In order to settle his score with Nine Heaven, One’day High ended up registering for the Battle of Death as well.
Breman: Broadly speaking, the Battle of Death only has one rule and that is to battle till one side admits defeat.
Breman: In the early instances of this battle, there were a lot of deaths with some even making use of this rule to legally kill a person.
Breman: Later on, one of the previous kings instituted a rule in order to prevent this loophole from causing any unrest. That was the “Keeper Rule”.
Breman: Any participant of the Battle of Death has the right to apply for a keeper’s protection as long as said keeper registers as one beforehand. During the day of the battle, this keeper is allowed to interfere at any time in order to protect the life of his client.
Breman: However, a keeper is only allowed to defend his client, any form of attack is banned. Not only that, the moment he acts in defense of his client, that counts as a loss for the client.
Breman: In other words, it’s a trump card, a trump card that prevents any malicious intent and unnecessary loss of lives.
Mo Chuan: So…the keeper has to be extremely powerful and observant? Plus, he must have the full trust of the client as well I presume.
Breman: That’s right. If a keeper isn’t competent, he might inadvertently cause the loss of his client or worse, if the keeper isn’t strong enough to protect his client, then his client might just die. In that case, there’s basically no purpose in having such a keeper.
Breman: Not only that, there’s also the possibility of your keeper being bribed to interfere on purpose in order to force a loss.
Breman: According to what I know, all those who were worthy of receiving a title from the king were those who had no keepers. A monarch’s road is a lonely one after all.
Di Qi Ju: If the champion still needs someone to protect him, it’s unlikely that he will be able to convince the masses…
Breman: Well, that’s none of our concern since One’day High’s goal isn’t to become the champion
Breman: Mo Chuan, you don’t have any issue with becoming his keeper right?
Mo Chuan: ……
Mo Chuan: Alright then.
Breman: —if you have anything on your mind, please bring it up now. Don’t be another One’day High and only spring it on us when something happens.
Mo Chuan: No, my story has nothing to do with the people here or their country.
Mo Chuan: It’s just…
Di Qi Ju:…?
Mo Chuan tilted his head and threw me a glance that left me puzzled.
Did it have something to do with me?
Mo Chuan: It’s nothing important and I doubt it will cause any damage. When it comes, I’m sure it will naturally settle itself.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Such empty and obtuse words…you might as well not say them at all.
Mo Chuan: Just take it as I said nothing then.
Breman: Alright then. We still have to respect the opinions of other races, since you feel that it is something within your control, I won’t say anything about it.
Breman: Halfmoon, Sole’shot, you guys are participating so how about letting Mo Chuan be your keeper as well?
Lee Sole’shot: I’m fine without one, I only registered for the Battle of Righteousness after all.
Breman: Huh, I guess that’s true. That battle does have stricter rules and a judge presiding over it that has the authority to step in. A keeper isn’t necessary then.
Breman: How about you, Halfmoon Leak’age?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I’m fine as is.
Breman: You’ll be fine on your own then?
Halfmoon Leak’age: If I needed someone else to protect me, I wouldn’t be standing here right now.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Also, I only joined this fight to settle a score. Once I taught that guy a lesson, I’ll forfeit immediately.
Breman: Is that so…
Breman: In that case, you’re going to have to pay me first, Halfmoon.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Huh?
Breman: In order not to affect the quality of the matches, the rules state that those who forfeit or surrender without putting in their best effort would have have to pay a fine.
Breman: Have you paid off that debt you incurred from our little gambling session?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Then I’ll just fight to the end.
Breman: —it’s fine, it’s fine. I’m just joking, just go and have a blast.
Breman: Just remember, there’s only one condition for my approval of your participation.
Breman: … “settle it cleanly”.
One’day High: Understood!
Halfmoon Leak’age: Kay.
Lee Sole’shot: Yay!
Mo Chuan: What the heck is “yay”…
Breman: Di Qi Ju, come over here for a second.
Di Qi Ju: Oh…okay.
Breman: You’re joining the Three Battles for your own reasons as well but, seeing you suffer so much unnecessary hardships under my command makes me unhappy as well…
Di Qi Ju: Err, sorry.
Breman: Don’t apologize, I’m not chastising you.
Breman: I don’t think you’ve learnt any techniques to use against humans or even possess a weapon. Joining the Three Battles like that will only earn you the scorn of the crowd.
Breman: In order to prevent our homeland from being disparaged, I have a present for you.
Breman: This weapon, you’re probably the only one who has the qualifications to use it.
Di Qi Ju:…?
Breman: —Alvin, fetch that thing for me!
Alvin: Understood, sir.
A casket roughly one meter in length was brought to the table. Looking at it, the first impression one got from it was, “there was something special contained within”.
Breman gently stroked the surface before removing the lid just as gently.
Di Qi Ju:…
Nestled within a cloth cushion was a scimitar of sorts. It had a slender sheath with a polished exterior that resembled an exquisite gemstone. Its hilt seemed to extend seamlessly at an angle into its blade and had elaborate engravings that seemed almost like grooves specifically suited for a person to grip.
Just based on its appearance alone, I would judge it to be an extremely powerful weapon…
But that ghastly brown hue makes me want to instinctively distance myself. Without a doubt, it was an unsettling color as if it was formed from a soft mass of organic matter that was homogenized and hardened into a solid block.
My gut feeling told me that this wasn’t a material was usually meant for crafting weapons.
Breman: There’s no need to be so jumpy, Di Qi Ju.
Breman: Weren’t you the first person to experience this object firsthand?
Di Qi Ju: This thing…what is it?
Breman: “Sorcerous Insect”.
Breman: Still remember that insect limb and fang we brought with us?
Di Qi Ju: Mhm.
Breman: Now, it has become your weapon…
Breman: A weapon that only you can wield.
Di Qi Ju:…
I remember now. It was that day, the day where I was surrounded by those razor sharp and solid fangs that constantly bit into me, viciously trying to mince my flesh.
As if it was happening right now, I was struck with a sense of fear. A fear that I would drop into the insect’s stomach and die from its acid…
…hah, just like that trap not too long ago: dissolved until there’s not even a single speck of my body left.
My body started to tremble slightly from the phantom pain wrecking my body.
Seems like the past few days wasn’t enough to repair the trauma I suffered.
Looking at my trembling hands, my ears were immediately filled with the grinding and mashing sounds of that worm’s fangs.
I’m…I’m still afraid.
Why…why is it still like this? Exactly what have I accomplished these few days? Other than looking for Poppy, didn’t I devote all my efforts into walking out of my trauma’s shadow?
Why, why does it seem like it had no effect at all?
Was my choice of quiet recuperation a mistake? If that’s the case…what should I do?
Breman: …what’s the matter, Di Qi Ju?
Breman: It’s just a weapon made from that worm, is there a need to tremble like that?
Di Qi Ju: About that…Commander Breman.
Di Qi Ju: I’m grateful that you prepared this weapon for me but I’m still really concerned about that trap I walked into. Did you manage to identify that substance?
Breman: We still haven’t identified its composition and effects. However, I had some local alchemists replicate it in order to send some samples back to Ethan for research.
Breman: Why bring this up all of sudden?
Di Qi Ju: That thing, can you replicate another sample?
Breman’s eyes immediately narrowed.
Breman: …what do you plan to do with it?
Di Qi Ju: I wish to…
Di Qi Ju: Experience that sensation again.
Breman: What the heck for??
Di Qi Ju: …you’ve seen my hands, Breman, they are still trembling uncontrollably.
Di Qi Ju: In order to cure them, this is something I must do…
Di Qi Ju: “Desensitization Therapy”.
Di Qi Ju: That’s one of the therapies from my hometown, it’s an effective therapy backed by medical science.
Di Qi Ju: By experiencing it under controlled conditions, I can slowly desensitize myself to it until I completely conquer it…
Di Qi Ju: …and overcome the pain it inflicted on me that day.
Breman: Will you be even be able to rest well tonight if you do that?
Di Qi Ju: It’ll be fine, thank you for your concern.
Di Qi Ju: At the very least, you’ve confirmed with your own eyes that it can’t kill me.
Di Qi Ju: If I’m able to overcome death, why would I lose to mere pain?
Breman: Alright then.
Di Qi Ju: …
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Hngh, hgnh…
Di Qi Ju: *gasp*…
Di Qi Ju: Hah—
Di Qi Ju: *huff*…*huff*….*huff*…
Di Qi Ju: *huff*—
Di Qi Ju: ……
It’s over. After suppressing all my grunts of pain, it was finally over. Even though the pain was still lingering in my body, I knew I had succeeded. Even under the duress of such pain, I could still stand my ground and pay attention to my surroundings.
As expected…merely avoiding it wasn’t a way to triumph over pain. Only by facing it, will it bow before you.
From this pain, I’ve gained my own strength and will.
Di Qi Ju: Whether you’re Ferdila or not, I should really thank you…
Di Qi Ju: It seems like you’ve taught me a valuable lesson.
As the icy cold water washed over me, the phantom pain wrecking my body seemed to flow away along with it.
Di Qi Ju: Preparations complete.
Di Qi Ju: Now, it’s time to find that sinner and free Poppy.
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Special thanks to Kaung Thant Win Naing!!