The severity of Kurdak's injuries were beyond Leguna's imagination. Even with the priest treatment, Kurdak would still take at least half a month to recover enough to leave the bed, and probably several months before he was completely healed.
Vera, Innilis, and Eirinn all cried next to his bed. This man used to be a very active buffoon before, but now he was just a heap of bandages on a bed. The three were even worse because Leguna was fighting the giant next. Vera was confident in Leguna, but she knew Legg had held back in the fight, she couldn't be sure how Leguna would fare if Legg went all out.
Innilis and Eirinn were just plain afraid of the giant. They kept praying Leguna would decide to withdraw from the tournament. In their hearts, though, they knew that he wouldn't. They tried once just in case, though, but didn't put up a fight when it failed.
The round ended that afternoon and the quarter finals began a few days later. Vera had been eliminated in the preliminaries, and Kurdak in the fourth-last round. Eibron was the only amongst Leguna's acquaintances to still be in the tournament. He was to come up against Annelotte next, however. His streak was over.
Tham, a 14-strata knight, the army's representative, one of the Goldeagle Knights' captains; Annelotte, a 14-strata magus, the court magi's representative; Bektor, a 14-strata swordsman, the royal guards' representative, and a corporal in the third royal guard; Yumir, a 14-strata magus and court magi representative; Legg, a 14-strata northern barbarian berserker and earth binder; Ley, a mysterious 14-strata assassin; Eibron, a 12-strata ranger; and Bribahns, a famous 14-strata magus the premier's, Alfreid's, guest, were the eight still in the running.
Leguna scanned the list. Four were representatives of various bodies. The other, Bribahns, wasn't officially affiliated with Hocke, but clearly had deep connections with the empire. Everyone from the empire still in the running were elites, both in terms of strength and position.
These individuals didn't mix with the peasant competitors.
Bribahns didn't bother with Leguna or the two others either. Legg had always been a lone wolf, so he kept himself aloof as well. He knew humans didn't like him and he didn't bother with them either.
Leguna could only chat with Eibron. Unfortunately, he was to face Annelotte, so he, too, would soon no longer be a companion in the tournament.
The tournament wasn't that big of a deal on the continent as a whole, but it stood out in the region. It was the topic of discussion in the region's taverns and bars more often than not.
A few libraries banded together and put out a book on the contestants' backgrounds. Some of the stories more fiction than fact. Not that anyone expected anything to be true.
Leguna, for example, was described as a young man hoping to reclaim his family's fame. The subject of the tale didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He wasn't that popular a contestant, though, and not many pages were spent on him.
Apart from stories, the book contained a rough comparison of the contestants and ranked them based on who was most likely to be the final champion.
Annelotte was the fan favorite, and the authors seemed to share their opinion. Legg was right behind her in second place. It made sense since he'd been the only one to reveal that he was a gifted. Bribahns was third, mostly because of his experience. The other court magi, Yumir, was fourth. Even the northern Chinoans had to admit magic was a force with which had to be reckoned. Even though he didn't have that great a reputation, the authors still ranked him fourth. Even here, the status of a magus was higher than most.
The empire's two other representatives were next on the list. Both were middle-aged. They didn't have Annelotte's talent, but years of training made them very powerful. Coupled with their rich experience, they were far more likely to win in a tough fight than someone like Leguna.
Leguna was seventh. His ranking was given the caveat that it was based on the power he'd revealed thus far and his youth which robbed him of a rich experience. His talent was enormous, so no one knew exactly how well he'd do, but groundless conjecture was beyond the book so he was seventh.
Eibron sat last. His description was more or less the same as Leguna's. Though talented, he was lacked experience. His current rank was mostly luck and not much was expected from him. He was only below Leguna because he had fewer strata.
"These two's luck is out. They won't make it through this round. Ley is going against Legg and Eibron against Miss. Annelotte. The only question is how long they'll last, or if they'll even put up a fight." read the conclusion.
So I can't hide things any longer, Leguna thought as he closed the book.
He would have to go all out to take revenge for Kurdak and make it to the semi-finals. He knew how important it was to keep some power hidden, but he was not going to hold back now. He had to meet Annelotte, and it would be nice if he could impress her with his strength.
Eibron's match was first. Nothing unexpected happened, and he lost quickly.
"She's too strong!" he complained that night.
He was very similar to Leguna, so they got along well, even though they were recent acquaintances.
"Don't beat yourself up, you're not too bad. You lasted five minutes."
Leguna couldn't help but feel a burst of pride, which was written in broad strokes on his face.
"Stop mocking me! You won't last even a minute!" Eibron countered.
"Huh? Says who?"
Leguna knew it was true, he wouldn't last ten seconds, nevermind a whole minute, but his pride wouldn't let him admit it, especially not to another man who'd lasted much longer.
"You don't even get to argue until you beat Legg. He isn't as reasonable as Miss. Annelotte. You won't even get to face Miss. Annelotte. Even if you somehow manage to beat Legg, you'll be just as hurt as Kurdak and you'll have to withdraw from the tournament. Just surrender and spare yourself the pain and embarrassment." Eibron advised.
"We'll find out what'll happen tomorrow," Leguna smiled nonchalantly.
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