A sea of people.
A sea that stretched as far as the eye can see.
In my previous world, I once heard of a saying: if you stack all the people in the world shoulder to shoulder, you would at most be able to fill up a major metropolis.
Right now, this was exactly what I was experiencing: did everyone in this country all gather in this spot?
What was originally a decently wide street had me rubbing shoulders and banging against people with every step. Around me, the sounds of human traffic cling and clanged in my ears while the muddled scent of sweat and body odour from god knows who bombarded my nose.
Even though the Three Battles hadn’t started yet it was as if the various weaponry and armor had already begun clashing. Naturally, they weren’t friendly bouts.
Di Qi Ju: Ah…
Di Qi Ju: I got separated.
I had a feeling that this would happen: me getting separated from the rest of the expedition team amidst all the people.
Mo Chuan wasn’t a part of our initial operation seeing as his current appearance was rather shocking. If he were to appear in broad daylight, it would cause a load of trouble.
One’day High acted separately from us as well, leaving earlier than all of us. Considering his feelings right now, Breman tacitly approved of this act.
Thus, it was only Lee Sole’shot and Halfmoon Leak’age who set off with me. However, just as we stepped into the crowd, I lost sight of both of them.
Errr, then…since there’s still a bit of time left, should I look for them or just head to the coliseum grounds first? Come to think of it, since Mo Chuan was their keeper, how was he going to arrive on scene?
Lifting up my head slightly, I glanced at the continuous row of buildings that were at most three stories high, a strange idea suddenly popping into my head as I did so.
If I was Mo Chuan, perhaps leaping from rooftop to rooftop was an option? Given his agility, he could probably achieve that. Plus, I doubt many of these people would notice him given their tenseness.
Just like that, I convinced myself of that theory to the point where even I felt like doing that myself. Besides, that vantage point would probably allow me to spot Lee Sole’shot or Halfmoon Leak’age.
Di Qi Ju: —oh!
That’s right, the Mechanist’s Symposium. If my memory serves me right, that should be the tallest building nearby and it wasn’t that far off from the coliseum either. Looking from the sixth floor, I should be able to spot the bow-wielding Sole’shot and the uniquely dressed Halfmoon.
Alright, that’s the plan then.
Just as well, the road towards the symposium is a lot less crowded than this stretch of road.
A while later, going off the memory of my previous trip to the symposium, I smoothly arrived at my destination, the Mechanist’s Symposium. Within the main lobby on the first floor, I ended up meeting two unexpected acquaintances.
Di Qi Ju: …oh?
It was the Head Mechanist and Double Seventeen walking out together.
She stood at the entrance watching the burly man leave till he finally disappeared completely into the crowd.
Di Qi Ju: Miss Naphier.
Naphier: Oh…it’s you.
Di Qi Ju: You’re acquainted with that man just now? He’s one of the participants of the Three Battles isn’t he, Double Seventeen?
Naphier: Mhm, you know him as well?
Di Qi ju: Well, we met each other by chance in Reitdarke…
Naphier: Reitdarke…I heard he took up a part time job in the National Fragrances, did you meet him because you were engaged in something seedy?
Di Qi Ju: No way! It’s just…I did actually spar with him there.
Naphier: Ohh? So that means you’re taking part in the Three Battles as well?
Di Qi Ju: That’s right. In order to find the sinner who took away your wish ability, my participation is necessary.
Naphier: About that…
The Head Mechanist smiled slightly and out of habit, gave her leather cap a lift.
Naphier: About that matter, I don’t think it matters anymore.
Di Qi Ju:…huh?
The moment those words left her mouth, it left like I was suddenly thrown into a sea of fog and lost my way.
Di Qi Ju: You’re saying…you don’t care about your wish abilities?
Naphier: Ah, I’m not saying that those don’t matter. I’m just saying that matter we discussed isn’t that important anymore.
Di Qi Ju: …why?
Naphier: Truth be told, last night…well…
Naphier: They came back.
Di Qi Ju:……
Di Qi Ju: What??
Naphier: I’m not sure when but last night, in the midst of my work, I decided to try and activate my wish ability and who knew, it actually worked.
Naphier: I’ve confirmed it several times now, it inexplicably returned to me.
Di Qi Ju: That…
How the heck did that even happen…
According to Hilda Karlyle’s account, that sinner should have two abilities: the ability to steal a person’s wish ability and the ability to turn said ability into wish points. Kinda like how a thief converts his dirty goods into cash. However, based on Naphier’s account, it seems like her ability had merely been borrowed.
Does that mean that the perpetrator returned the stolen ability after he accomplished his goals?
But, the ability that she lost, exactly what value did it hold, was it really valuable enough to steal?
Di Qi Ju: About that, do you mind if I ask you what led you to make that fateful decision?
Naphier: —the orgasmic sensation of being viciously loved by countless beautiful men!!
Di Qi Ju: Err…
Di Qi Ju: Just take it as I never asked…I’ll take it as you never answered…in fact, I heard nothing…
Naphier: Oh right, you’re one of those men as well, Di Qi Ju.
Di Qi Ju: …your standard seems rather low.
Either way…after several waves of tsukkomis I do not wish to remember, we finally skipped past that topic and I managed to tell her the purpose of my visit.
She agreed with my idea and allowed me onto the sixth floor of the symposium.
Looking down from the window, the mass of people below seemed more like rats and insects as they hurried towards the Grand Coliseum. As if they were the river flowing through a pair of flood gates, the audiences parted into two sections, filling up both sides of the stands in an instant.
Then there were those who didn’t enter the coliseum from the main entrance but instead quietly entered the rounded structure through a smaller sidegate.
Di Qi Ju: What’s that?
Naphier: That’s the entrance for the contestants, there’s a resting room there where you can spar with the other contestants while waiting and scout out their moves.
Naphier: It’s not like everyone entered with the intention of being the champion, most joined with the mere hopes of leaving uninjured.
Di Qi Ju: But…don’t they have your invention?
Naphier: It’s true, the Three Battles uses a number of products from our symposium, the identity registration machine, the equipment testing machine and the treatment machine….
Naphier: But was that truly a good thing for the Three Battles, this country or even humanity?
Naphier: Humans are sensual creatures at the end of the day. The pursuit of stimulus like fame, power, position is to be expected but this road is paved by the countless emotional sacrifices of other humans.
Naphier: A person’s success belies a mountain of failures by others.
Naphier: Having enabled such a tradition in this country, was what I did truly the right thing?
Di Qi Ju: I don’t know…
Naphier: Who knows, perhaps the loss of my wish ability was karma for all the inventions I put out…I had thought this way before.
Naphier: …Ah, I apologize, I brought up something irrelevant, please ignore it.
Di Qi Ju: It’s fine…
Naphier: Well, you’ve seen the entrance of the Grand Coliseum, it’s about time for you to enter as well.
Naphier: You’d better not dilly dally any further or they may take it that you forfeited and fine you a sum of money. I’ll send you down.
Di Qi Ju: Ah, thanks.
Di Qi Ju: —oh right, do you mind if I ask another question?
Naphier: Mhm? Go ahead.
Di Qi Ju: How did you and “Double Seventeen” meet each other?
In the eyes of the audience, the Three Battles was a battle royale.
In the eyes of the merchants, the Three Battles was a giant auction.
At the same time, there was another group of people, an independent factions of sorts…
–that was the gamblers.
In the eyes of the gamblers, the Three Battles was nothing but a giant gamble.
And in this year’s Three Battles, there was a wager that was alluring enough to capture the attention of all the gamblers. The “battle” between the “Cold Wind Empress” who made her triumphant return and the Chief of the Military Police of Skills, Ferdila, who was also the instigator of this entire wager.
On one side of the stands, nearly all of the gamblers had gathered there to witness this wager. In the middle of them sat the core of today’s wager: “Cold Wind Empress” and Ferdila.
Early in the process of their wagering, news of it had already begun spreading across the casinos throughout Skills, reaching the ears of each and every one of these gamblers.
Just by itself, the return of the Cold Wind Empress was enough to cause a stir amongst the gamblers, yet the appearance of this giant wager turned that excitement up to feverish levels. Not to mention that the contents of that wager was just as explosive.
Would the missing “Sword Soul”, Savile, turn up in the upcoming Three Battles?
Even though the Cold Wind Empress had regained the prestige of her yesteryears, the number of gamblers who thought that she would win was few.
After all, in these two years, there hadn’t been any news of the Sword Soul . Even the inhabitants of the “Underworld” didn’t have any information about her. Saying that she had died wouldn’t be a stretch at all.
Of course, there were the die-hard fans of the Empress who contend that the then undefeatable Empress would never lose. Her opening match in Ferdila’s casino was no better proof of that fact.
Either way, almost all of the gamblers believed in one thing: if the Empress actually won this bet, then this Three Battles was bound to be the most exciting Three Battles ever.
In a country that worships personal strength to such extremes, idolizing a person was an inevitable outcome. Everyone present was hoping for the birth of a “Dual Champion”, a “Triple Champion” or a “Twice-crowned Dual Champion.”
Of these, only a minority looked forward to the birth of other new contenders.
Ferdila: So Cold Wind Empress…based on our current situation, your chances don’t seem that good.
Breiya: Oh? Why not?
Ferdila: I’ve already sent my men to investigate, of the participants this year, there’s no “Savile Kuine” amongst those listed.
Breiya: …so what about it?
She didn’t seem the least bit bothered about Ferdila who was assured of his victory but instead had an ever widening grin on her face.
Breiya: Our bet was that the person formerly known as Savile Kuine would appear, not whether or not a person named Savile Kuine would appear.
Breiya: The wager is about a person not a name.
Breiya: If “Sword Soul” was to enter the Three Battles under a different name, that would count as my win as well, right Master Ferdila?
Breiya: In other words, there’s no guarantee that I’ve lost till we’ve seen the last match.
Ferdila: Even so, is there a need for “Sword Soul” to do that?
Breiya: Well, that I can’t comment on.
Breiya: Everyone has their own reasons for joining the Three Battles. This giant tournament will combines all these varying desires together and give us an answer in the end.
Breiya: Only those who have the last laugh deserve this answer.
Ferdila: …alright then.
Ferdila: Since you put it like that, I’ll just have to accompany you till the end.
The opening match of the Three Battles was the preliminaries of the Battle of Righteousness. The entire coliseum arena was divided up into small sections in which simultaneous endurance matches would take place.
Standing beneath the audience stands at the backroom, there was still no sign of Lee Sole’shot or Halfmoon Leak’age. Looks like I’ll have to wait till this afternoon’s matches were over before I found them.
Soon, I was given a piece of paper with the tournament schedule written on it. On it, were the names of my opponents and the rules involved.
Originally, I was extremely worried that I wouldn’t be able to read the words on it but surprisingly, the names were written in phonetics.
Having learnt how to read these phonetics in school, I was able to pronounce each and every one of the contestants’ names.
Di Qi Ju: My name, my name…
Skimming through the dense wall of text, I quickly searched for my name.
Di Qi Ju: Di Qi Ju…Di Qi Ju…
Di Qi Ju: —Ah, found it.
Di Qi Ju: My first opponent in the preliminaries is…
Di Qi Ju: “bay ly as strange”?
Di Qi Ju:…
Di Qi Ju:……
Di Qi Ju: Bayly…
Di Qi Ju: Bailey Estrange???
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Special thanks to Kaung Thant Win Naing!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.