The birdie’s tears – Part 3

The next moment, another roar burst in the arena.

This time not only the slums’ people were cheering, but also those who were ever-so-slightly interested in Suzuran. The slums’ company fought bravely and achieved the impossible, that’s why even those who couldn’t follow the current situation were excited.
On the other hand, the nobles were awfully silent. None of them dared to mouth a word. But that was obvious, since Suzuran’s victory hid a deep meaning: magic could lose.

It was the trumph card that led them to victory in the great war between humans and demi-humans that ravaged a few centuries before, and it also became the cornerstone of their firmness in time.
Even thirty years before, during the ex-empire’s war, Richtert’s magic was crowned as the strongest weapon. That was why the privileged classes like nobles had an unshakable firmness.

Still, that firmness crumbled the moment that Suzuran won.
Magic could be faced even by mere demi-humans who couldn’t use any, so even the strongest weapon known thus far had a flaw, a weak point.

“C’mon… it’s better if you act now, you know?”

Takumi’s whisper melted in the bedlam’s roars as he watched the audience’s reactions.

A ‘magic killer’ wasn’t someone who could neutralize magic, but someone who could plunge its authority into the abyss.
From that very moment, what was believed to be ‘absolute power’ wasn’t ‘absolute’ anymore, and if it was to be neglected, Richtert—that embodied the core of magic—would have sank.
Now that those two magic knights were defeated by Kunon and Karin, the authority, peace and order built thanks to that very power was likely to get threatened.

That’s the reason why in such a situation, that person would have surely showed himself.

“…What a wonderful show, Suzuran’s members!”

A clear voice cut through the boiling excitement and echoed in the arena, slowly quietening the audience while its owner—Kiad Fortesea—walked to the center of the stage.

“Let me express my respect for your feat! As a magic knight myself, who is also part of the gallant Fortesea family, I want to challenge you!”

His declaration was followed by glaring at Takumi while a murderous intent seeped from his wicked smile.

“Takumi, slave merchant of Suzuran! You, who taught those demi-humans how to counteract magic, are praiseworthy! Accept my challenge and show me your true abilities!”

The merchant silently watched him while the audience started to stir.
Kiad had spied Suzuran through Lise, so he knew that Takumi didn’t have any magic power and that he was punier than a demi-human.
He was the weakest human ever seen.
If someone like him was to fight against a magic knight in a one-on-one battle, he would have died for sure.

Still, Kiad phrased his declaration in a way that people would perceive as ‘you, who are strong enough to teach those demi-humans how to counteract magic’, so if Takumi was to flee from his challenge, people would have understood that even the strongest wouldn’t beat Fortesea’s magic, thus the value of magic itself wouldn’t have swayed.

One thing was clear: if the merchant was to accept that challenge, the noble would have toyed with him until his death.
Any of those choices lead to the very same conclusion—magic’s value would be the same as before, and Takumi’s plan would have went up in smoke.

In that case, the best choice for him was to decline the challenge and save his own life.

“Allow me to gladly accept your challenge, then.”

Takumi’s quiet reply reached everyone’s ears.

“But let’s put up a great show!”

He then spread his arms wide while the audience, faces mixed with perplexity and excitement, stared at him.

“Knights who lose against demi-humans and former slaves don’t deserve their title, so if I win, I want my subordinates to earn it! And if I lose… I offer you my head as token of my impoliteness so far.”

As the audience burst again in thunderous roars of excitement and bewilderment, Kiad’s face was puzzled.

“…Did you come here to waste your life?”

“What a nice way to say that I’ll lose.”

Takumi folded his arms on his chest while his smile shone with confidence.

“You must have forgotten what I said.”

“As if I could ever remember the words of an inferior nobody like you. You lost the moment you accepted my challenge. I let you gather information from Lize to let you come here… I won’t lose.”

Takumi tapped his finger on his temple.

“Let me tell you something that I’m not even trying to hide. I don’t have any magic power, so both magic and magic tools are useless for me… Without that, I’m the weakest man in the world.”

Magic was what brought people a step above the rest. Thanks to it, they could face demi-humans’ absurd abilities, but Takumi didn’t have any inside of him… and exactly for that reason, he could kill magic.

“I proved that demi-humans can win against magic depending on the situation. What will happen when a weak human who can’t even use magic like me wins against you?”

“Hahaha! Do you really think you can beat me?! The worst, weakest man in the country beating Fortesea, the strongest magicians?!”

“That’s what your knights thought too. Have you seen how they ended up, though? I guess you still haven’t noticed it.”

Takumi’s smile was brimming with self-confidence. Losing was inconceivable for him.

“My goal was to bring a certain someone out on stage from the start.”

No matter the gap between their power, his behavior was the same.

“Destroying the law formulas, attacking magic knights without them noticing, finding the flaws in your magic tools… I came up with all of this, so do you really think that my chances of winning are zero?”

He bent over a little to look at Kiad from below.

“I accepted your challenge because I will surely win. Even thought I’m way weaker than a demi-human and can’t even use magic, I will end your life. Then, I will become the magic killer.”

The next moment, the noble started to hear some comments from the audience.

“C-Can he really win against Lord Kiad…?”

“He offered his head as a token for losing… He must have some tricks up his sleeve.”

“Well, he did teach the demi-humans how to defy magic, didn’t he? Probably he knows how to nullify other kind of magic…”

“So he’s really convinced to win this challenge…?”

Those doubts spread in the audience like an illness and soon infected the nobles and the magic knights who were tutored by Fortesea. A whirlpool of insecurity traveled in the air and descended on Kiad, who started to conceive the chance of losing.

Although he could see many worried faces, he tried to rationalize what was going on.
The man in front of him couldn’t use magic—he was the weakest, worst human existing. On the other hand, Kiad was a member of the Fortesea, the family with strongest magicians in the country, and as a powerful magic knight himself, he couldn’t affort to taint his family’s name.
Still…

“…What’s up, strongest magic knight? You look afraid.”

He stood frozen in place while pondering as the slave merchant peered at him.
Although he was abysmally stronger than his foe, he still had to put up a facade… but soon Kiad smiled wryly.

“No matter the foe… Fortesea has defeat everyone so far.”

He then erupted in a crazy laugh and unsheathed the short sword he had tied to his hip.

“Do whatever you want! I’ll crush you with my gallantry!”

Almost screaming, Kiad raised his short sword over Takumi, who, for the first time, let his expression crumble and rose his eyebrows.
The next moment, after the sword started to swoop down on his target, Kiad was hurled away as if punched by an invisible, powerful hand.

“Gh… Gwah…!”

His anguish leaked from his lips in formless words while the sound of his bones cracking and snapping within his body reached his ears.
While Takumi glared at him from a distance, tick—a high-pitched sound echoed in the arena.

“…I will not allow you to speak my family’s name while showing that shameful behavior.”

The voice of a middle-aged man grew closer and heavier with every word.
His expression was as hard and cold as steel and furrows wrinkled his face while his presence overwhelmed the audience—his cane stabbed the ground as he approached the two man in the arena.

“Although you do not deserve to be part of Fortesea, we are still blood-related. I tolerated this unsightly show so far, but if this continues… I, Elvis Fortesea, will purge you.”

The end of his sentence was marked by the ticking of his cane.
Kiad’s expression twisted as he tried to squeeze out a reply to the voice of the man who led magic to its current authority thirty years ago.

“Why…? I was going to show to everyone our gallantry—”

“What can an idiot like you show to others? That slave merchant proved that magic has flaws, which was very significant to witness.”

Elvis, his gaze sharp like an ice knife, turned to face Takumi and asked in a glacial tone.

“Did you come up with a way to make that elf and that wolf-girl deal with magic?”

“…Yes. After many researches, I created an approach that could counteract the possible manifestation of magic.”

“Truly wonderful. You are a keen observer.”

“Thank you. I’m honored to be praised by the man who twisted this country.”

Takumi stared at Elvis’ eyes that, after a few instants, were cast down.

“This time, you won this match. Now let me end this show.”

“Please, wait, Father! If we step aside without fighting, our name will—”

When Kiad tried to protest, the man stabbed the ground again with his cane.

“When did I say that an idiot who lost without even battling could mouth his thoughts? What makes you this stupid, Kiad, is that you cannot even tell when you have lost.”

His cane kept tormenting the soil annoyingly.

“Father, are you saying… that I have lost?!”

“What meaning do defeat or victory have now? Currently I cannot say who has won.”

That was precisely one of Takumi’s goals, as it was the ladder to the outcome he wanted.

“That slave merchant used mysterious actions to win against you. He has used your words, the audience, and this entire situation.”

He glanced at Takumi, whose lips were sealed.

“His skills are clear since he could teach two demi-humans how to counteract magic. He might actually know a way to nullify it like his companions did, although he cannot use magic-related items.”

Elvis emphasized that precise word.

“Given that he accepted the gallant Fortesea’s challenge, he might know how to win against us. If we think about it, he might be stronger than his demi-humans, since he taught them how to deal with magic, and even offering his head might be a way to thoroughly reach his goal… ”

Elvis marked each of the points of his analysis by ticking his cane and Kiad was petrified in front of his barrage of explanations.

Takumi’s words and attitude brought him not to think about victory, but to another potential outcome that wasn’t clear yet.
Even if he was to lose at least once in a million matches, it would still prove that magic wasn’t an absolute power—it would have been reduced to something beatable even by someone who hadn’t a teensy bit of magic in itself.
Fortesea was stabbed by that possibility.

The slave merchant used his words, behavior, the audience, and even the way of thinking of his foe to instill into him one doubt: Takumi might win.
But that blade-like weapon wasn’t aimed to Kiad Fortesea.

“This slave merchant’s goal was to bring me out here and stop this match. Because there was no other way to smash that hypothetical outcome.”

For Elvis, Takumi wouldn’t have earned anything from winning, but Kiad’s defeat was a risk that would have caused devastating consequences to magic’s image.
Still, interrupting the match prevented the risk from materializing.
That was Takumi’s way to survive the current situation.

“Yeah… maybe I’ve planned this.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders at Elvis’s glare.

“Feel free to stop this match, but remember that I’ve put my life at stake. If I lose, it would be very bad.”

“I have said this victory is yours. And despite you only asked it verbally, I should bestow the title of knight on your demi-humans.”

“Father! Do you really want to bestow such a honourable title on some inferior beings?!”

“Of course. Those inferior beings has won against two weaklings who should not be in the ranks of my magic knights, thus I will strip them of their title. Also… I will forgive one error, but I have no sympathy for those who pile them up.”

After slicing his son with those sharp words, he slapped his cane, and Kiad opened his eyes wide before losing his consciousness.
Then, leaving him there, Elvis faced the audience.

“The match has ended. Applaud loudly Suzuran’s members as they won against my knights.”

Although Elvis’ appearance cast a veil of bewilderment on everyone, the arena that had been silent up to that moment was once again shook by the commotion.
Takumi looked at the nobles as they kept their silence.

“Lord Elvis, is magic this important?”

“Obviously. You know that this country needs an absolute power, do you not?”

Richtert was labeled as a little country in the continent of Veril.
The raids coming from Denmerg, in the north, had pushed Richtert’s territory away; the monsters’ dens of the Bestia virgin forest in the west were growing; the sea enclosed the Kingdom from the south.
To survive in that bloody cage, Richtert confined itself and developed an absolute, peerless power—magic.
Thanks to its usage in the war of thirty years before, Denmerg’s raids’ frequency dropped sharply and no more wars had flared up.
That sort of peace was won only thanks to Richtert’s magic, so once that power had lost, the entire country would once again plunge into chaos.

“What you are doing is no different from destroying this country.”

“But is it fine for you to destroy other people from behind the scenes?”

Elvis didn’t reply to the man who tried to cover his reasons and ideals with arrogance, and looking like he had lost interest, he turned on his heels.

“Let me sincerely praise you for what you did today. You did great, but if this is your ability, I can relax.”

“Is that so? If you say that… you’ve probably seen your limit.”

With an arrogant smile, Takumi pointed his gun at Elvis’ back… then lowered his hand.

“Look down on everyone and one day you will get destroyed.”

“The strong’s duty is that of crushing everyone who goes against it.”

Without looking back, Elvis merely walked back to the nobles’ seats while Takumi watched his back grow distant in silence.


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