NBAA Vol. 6 Chapter 5 Part 1
A few hours later, a person from the arena visited the Hailstorm Guild with an apprehended Shun. He was carried into the guild handcuffed like a criminal.
In the guild leader’s office, Kagemaru, disguised as Maria, faced Monet, the manager of the fighting tournament, who oversaw the monster merchants in the adventure city and was informed about Shun’s behavior in the most recent incident.
“As an adventurer in the Hailstorm Guild, we can not let this incident slide.”
“Do you understand the severity of having your adventurer falsely claim to be registered for the match, while challenging a legitimately authorized player?”
Monet was upset with Shun’s problematic behavior, which interrupted the match.
Someone else was originally supposed to be the match-crasher, but Shun defeated and took her place.
The match-crasher who was scheduled to break into the match against Reito was a magician named “Eiri.” She was an adventurer visiting from afar whom the Dalton Trading Company hired. Why the Trading Company hired her and wanted her to play against a swordsman of their own company was unknown to the fighting pits, but that was a trivial matter.
The drama of a sequence of battles featuring newly buzzed-about players and a surprise challenger was thoroughly entertaining. The crowd was elated, and after two victories, the name “Luna” became well-known. However, the Battle Association was greatly irked by the fact that this time, the opponent wasn’t an Association-approved player but Shun, a swordmaster already confirmed for the main competition.
“I don’t know why your swordmaster challenged Luna specifically, but if he wanted to challenge her, why didn’t he consult us first!? A swordmaster confronting the rumored strongest swordsman… Just imagine how many high-profile guests we could have attracted with that alone!”
“We only want to say that you should let us know in advance next time! Plenty of noblemen and powerful families would like to see a match between swordmasters!”
Disguised as Maria, Kagemaru let out an inward sigh.
Monet was infuriated that someone with the prestigious title of “Swordmaster” had been allowed in the match so easily. However, he didn’t dare cross Maria, who effectively ran Adventure City. Despite going on and on with his words, Monet only complained and refused to address his own responsibility in the current issue at hand. He was holding out, expecting Maria to continue the conversation.
In Maria’s absence, the responsibility fell to Kagemaru to make decisions. Anticipating such situations, Maria had previously designated Kagemaru as her shadow representative. He had the duty to speak for her. Fortunately, thanks to his unique voice alter skill he was able to maintain his disguise by speaking nearly perfectly in Maria’s tone.
“So what do you want me to do about it?”
“No, no… haha! It’s not that complicated.”
When Kagemaru spoke to him with a sense of intimidation, Monet looked flustered and made a hasty remark, then got down to business as he sat down on the sofa as if he had calmed down.
“The Battle Association does not want to make a mess of things with the Hailstorm Guild and the Dalton Trading Company. However, we can’t let this issue go unnoticed… so we’d like you to provide us a player who can rival Luna.”
“Rival Luna, you say?”
“As you know, if rumors spread about Luna’s battle with the swordmaster and her victory, it would be impossible to draw customers if the players in Luna’s next match were too weak. If everyone bet on Luna’s victory, it would not be good for business. However, they can’t make a bet against a Dalton Trading Company player… In other words, we want you to prepare a suitable opponent for Luna.”
Monet’s eyes glowed with a suspicious light.
Kagemaru chose his words carefully.
“That would be difficult. All of our swordmasters have already been confirmed for the battle festival.”
“But Lord Shun…”
“I understand. That fool… no, since my adventurer caused trouble, it’s only natural to prepare a replacement. But a swordmaster is out of the question. If things go wrong, someone could die.”
“That’s very unlike you.”
Monet clearly disapproved of Kagemaru’s statement. The fame of Luna was increasing day by day, and there was no doubt that she was no match for an ordinary opponent. He wanted a renowned adventurer who had returned to the city as her opponent, but the negotiations could not proceed without Maria’s consent.
“Plenty of adventurers in the Hailstorm Guild are as good as swordmasters. How about choosing one of them?”
“It’s not a question of ability. For our part, we want to have someone well-known, if possible.”
“What about my close associate, Shinobi Kagemaru?”
“Shinobi… Sorry, who is that?”
When Monet asked him the question with a straight face, Kagemaru realized that his name recognition was not that wide and was a little hurt inside. He thought of a way out of the problem.
At that moment, he remembered the existence of a demon that the Hailstorm Guild had asked him to defeat the other day, and an idea came to him.
“Well, how about a change of pace? What about if our next opponent were not human?”
“Not human? What do you mean…?”
Monet clearly couldn’t hide his unease at the mention of the term “Demon.” Such was the fear associated with the very existence of demons. In fact, many Demons boasted powerful abilities, with creatures like Cyclops and Minotaurs designated as Level 4 dangerous species. In terms of notoriety, they would be a perfect opponent for Luna; the only question remaining was which specific foe to prepare.
“We have indeed had opponents fight with monsters before, but never demons…”
“Don’t worry. We have already captured a demon. Just take a glimpse of it, and you’ll understand.
“G-, Got it… Well, let’s take a look.”
He was willing to put himself in danger to get a large amount of money, even if it meant taking some risks. That was Monet’s business policy. He asks to see the demon captured by the Hailstorm adventurers.
The following day, a report was delivered to the Dalton Trading Company stating that Luna’s next opponent had been arranged.
Eight days after the fourth match, Reito received a summons from the Dalton Trading Company. Unlike previous occasions, Reito pondered why there was such a delay in determining his next opponent. Nevertheless, he visited with Hitomin perched on his shoulder this time.
At the trading company building, they were met by Ferris, who wore a grave look, and Alice, who uncharacteristically sported a frown despite her typical stoic demeanor. From their expressions, Reito deduced that a particularly challenging opponent had been selected.
“Glad you could make it, Mr. Reito.”
“Hi… uh, can you take care of this girl for me?”
“She’s a slime? Understood.”
Given the gravity of the impending discussion, Reito passed Hitomin to Alice, who took her with a puzzled expression.
Reito faced Ferris, pausing for a moment, and then asked: “I take it you have decided who the next opponent will be?”
“Well, that’s the way it is. Before I go any further, I want to say one thing: the next match will be the last one against you. If you win this match, your participation in the main tournament will be complete.”
“The main tournament.”
Upon learning that this would be his final match before participating in the fighting festival, Reito’s expression grew tense. As he attempted to ask Ferris about the nature of his final opponent, she scratched her head and presented a photograph.
“Here’s the materials on your next opponent.”
“This match was special and took a lot of time to prepare.”
Reito examined the documents and photographs handed to him, recalling that this world possessed technology for producing photographs. From what a servant had informed him during his childhood, special magical tools existed in this world capable of creating photographs. Given their rarity, only a limited number of individuals possessed them.
“What is this?”
“A suitable opponent for Reito… or, should I say, the Black and Silver Swordsman.”
Reito tilted his head at the photo provided.
It was a photo of a “skeleton.” A type of necromancer’s doll created by necromancers to serve as their servants. The skeleton in the photograph was clad in a black robe with a red jewel-like magic stone on its chest.
“Is this a… skeleton? Oh, but skeletons are Demons.”
“Yes, he is no ordinary skeleton. He is a Lich. Liches are the most powerful type of skeleton.”
Reito had never heard of liches before. He tried to communicate with Airis to ask her what kind of creature it was, but before he could do so, Ferris explained.
“A ‘lich’ is essentially a colloquial term; their original designation was ‘Dead Man’s Puppets.’ Contrary to the dolls crafted by necromancers, these beings are produced by dying necromancers who sacrifice their own lives, forging the most potent spirits of the dead.”
“Spirits of the dead…”
“Do you remember the Rotten Dragon that appeared a while ago? That demon was created from the corpse of a dragon species, but rumor has it that it turned into a skeleton in the process. It seems to be a dead man’s puppet, too.”
“How exactly is this skeleton different?”
Reito had never fought a skeleton, so he did not know what kind of being they were, but he had heard from Dain that they were at least a level 1 or 2 opponent among demons. He told Reito they were weaker than ordinary undead and could be defeated by destroying the “core” inside their bodies, like a golem, or by smashing them to pieces. Still, according to Ferris, liches were different.
“First of all, liches are highly intelligent, even though they are skeletons. They even have feelings, just like a living creature.”
“It’s believed that liches were initially inspired by the legendary revival magic named ‘Resurrection,’ which possesses the power to breathe life back into the deceased. Yet, legends suggest that only heroes, summoned from different realms, have the ability to wield this potent resurrection magic. Inhabitants of this world, it’s said, are barred from harnessing its power. Necromancers, skilled in the art of manipulating death, strive to replicate this revered magical technique using their own prowess. The result? Beings that are resurrected, but only with a fraction of their original strength.”
“That’s how Liches are made?”
“Yes. In a manner of speaking, the ego exists in a reanimated dead doll. This is a big difference from ordinary reanimated dolls. When used on a human corpse, it is said that they have knowledge and memories of their past life.”
“Isn’t that the same things as coming back to life, then?”
Reito could not hide his surprise at what Ferris said. He thought that if such a technique existed, there would be a lot of people trying to revive the dead, but Ferris silently shook her head.
“Yet, the true tragedy lies in whether these resurrected ‘dead dolls’ can retain the personalities they held in life. Most often, upon being reanimated, they lose their sanity. Overwhelmed with hatred for the living, they become violent and unpredictable. There are chilling tales of individuals who have pleaded with necromancers to revive their departed loved ones, only to be fatally attacked by the very beings they so desperately sought to return to life.”
“Like the rest of the undead, the dead dolls hate the living, and their instinct to take away their power is awakened.”
“The terrifying aspect of a lich is that, in the case of humans, they genuinely retain the knowledge and memories they had while alive. So, hypothetically, if a past hero were to be resurrected, an entity possessing that hero’s memories and knowledge would come back to life… at least that’s the expectation. However, upon becoming a lich, they harbor a deep hatred for the living. No matter how much they were revered as saints in their previous life, once they become a lich, they transform into the most malevolent of killers.”
“They’re skeletal in form, correct? If they were resurrected, could they reclaim the powers they possessed in their previous life?”
“Indeed. Resurrecting a swordsman or fighter in such a form might seem counterintuitive. However, their skeletal appearance doesn’t equate to weakness. A lich’s strength primarily hinges on the magical prowess they held in life.”
“For instance, if you were to resurrect a legendary swordsman and a sorcerer, the sorcerer would likely become a much more formidable lich. The strength of a lich directly correlates with the magical prowess of the individual in life. So, someone with immense magical capabilities would give rise to a tremendously powerful lich. Conversely, resurrecting someone with minimal magical strength would result in a far less threatening lich.”
Ferris’s words brought back memories of the Rotten Dragon for Reito. He remembered how even in skeletal form, the dragon possessed immense power. But then again, “Kirau,” a necromancer, was beside the beast during that time, seemingly amplifying its strength. This led Reito to speculate that perhaps the strength of the Necromancer Dolls and the Dead Man’s Puppet was derived from “magical power.” With that thought, he pressed Ferris for more information about his Lich adversary.
“Is this specific lich really tough?”
“I’ve heard he’s quite formidable. While I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, I was informed that the Hailstorm Guild dispatched ten A-rank adventurers to subdue him. And among them, one bore the title of ‘swordmaster’.”
“It appears this individual was initially a lich that the Hailstorm Guild had captured. I wonder why they opted to capture rather than destroy him—although, in essence, he’s already deceased. I’m uncertain if they seized him in an active state, but for some reason, the arena chose to use him as the final adversary. According to the festival’s rules, the fighting pits have sole discretion over the selection of the final opponent…”
Reito studied the image before him. Based on the visual alone, he couldn’t decipher the combat style of the opponent, only seeing an eerie skeletal figure. Ferris seemed just as uneasy about the upcoming match. Initially, she had requested a change of opponent, but the Battle Association firmly declined. Even though she had resisted until the very last moment, news of the showdown between “Luna” and the “Dead Man’s Puppet” had been broadcasted throughout the city.
“The match will take place tomorrow night as soon as the Doubles Matches are over. They’ve even built extra bleachers to bring in more spectators, so we can’t back out them now… I’m really sorry.”
‘It can’t be helped. It’s not Ferris’s fault…”
“It’s just that… I have a really bad feeling about this one. My merchant’s intuition is telling me that this next match will not going to be a good one. But we can’t do anything about it…”
“I want to know more about my opponent so I can prepare for the fight.”
“I wasn’t informed about him either. I don’t understand why they would go to such lengths to hide information about him. What was Maria thinking when she furnished such an opponent?”
Ferris was unusually wary of Reito’s opponent this time even though she had witnessed Reito’s strength. She seemed terrified of the indomitable Lich. Meanwhile, Reito looked at the photos and the documents he was given.
“We asked a few adventurers in the Hailstorm guild to help us, but in the end, no one could tell us who had captured the lich. It seems that the Battle Association had already made their arrangements… but there was one person who gave us information that we were interested in. An adventurer by the name of Mina, I think.”
Reito was surprised to hear Mina’s name. She was a Hailstorm Adventurer who had participated in the match with him the other day, and the materials Ferris gave him were apparently information Mina had given to her.
“The information was originally entrusted to the Hailstorm Guild, but when Mina was training yesterday morning, she saw a senior adventurer carrying a person wrapped in a robe outside the guild building. Perhaps that person was…”
The only information written in the document was the height and build of the person Mina saw, and although covered by a hood, it did not appear to be the height of a Giant or Dwarf. Reito was relieved to at least know that much.