Annelotte and Bribahns's match took place as scheduled. Leguna and the others were also there to spectate the match.
Innilis had managed to get herself a banner somehow and scribbled the words Victory to Sis Annie!' on it. That little girl had screamed and cheered like a simple-minded fan nonstop and caught quite a bit of attention.
The ones that came with her tried not to interact with her as best as they could. They didn't want the other spectators to think that they knew the girl because it was far too embarrassing.
That day would come to be one of the most unforgettable days for Bribahns.
The aloof magus didn't bother to observe Annelotte's match at all. Even when the cheers from the audience sounded overwhelmingly in her favor, Bribahns considered it the ramblings of those who didn't understand magic.
During the day of the match itself, he planned to use his decades of experience to teach the rookie magus a lesson. While he couldn't take on the high-order court magi, he believed himself more than capable of dealing with a girl in her late teens.
According to his plan, he would first dispel Annelotte's spells and toy with her using low-level spells. After that, he would defeat her in the harshest way possible. After he got his way came the most crucial part: he would say to the crestfallen and defeated girl, "Young one, the path of magic has no destination. Perhaps you are limited by certain factors given your age, but as long as you strive hard, your might will definitely not be limited by your stratum. That is the true essence of magic."
Bribahns could almost see the girl's expression of realization, gratitude and agitation before the match even started. Hmm, I heard that the girl boasts magnificent beauty. That expression of hers would be unbearably cute, wouldn't it? If she can humble herself and ask me for guidance, I suppose I wouldn't mind teaching her a dictation trick or two.
But when the match began, the passing of every second unraveled layer after layer of his expectations.
During the start of the match, Annelotte gave him a magus's salute. However, Bribahns didn't return it, being the senior that he was. He had already planned to do that. Since he was going to give her some pointers in magic, a respectful greeting was the least she could do. The beginning had unfolded as he predicted, but never would he imagine that even though he got the start right, the end unfolded completely differently from what he expected. He didn't even get the middle right.
When the announcer declared the start of the match, Bribahns felt his that world had changed.
Annelotte dictated her spells lightning-fast. That girl was either crazy or just that confident. She didn't deploy any defensive barriers from the start and relied on her almost-instant dictation to unleash a fireball spell, blizzard spell, frost arrows and blades, glacial beams and magic missiles. Annelotte was like a machine gun that fired spells. Bribahns was blasted to no end by an endless, rainbow-colored wave of spells from the very beginning.
The old man was like a lone leaf shaking in the storm that was Annelotte. He wasn't able to turn the situation around in the slightest either. Even the defenses he had set up in a panic were shattered by her violent streak. But after that, Annelotte held back and requested him to give up.
How could the prideful Bribahns suffer such humiliation? He roared with anger and launched an attack to the defenseless Annelotte. But at that instant, Bribahns was knocked out by Annelotte's curtain of magic missiles as he was jeered at by the audience.
It was then when the champion of the mid-order segment of the empire's tournament was declared. She was none other than the female magus representing the court magi: Annelotte!
While the match had turned out completely differently from what Bribahns expected, the battle turned out without the slightest bit of suspense for the audience. The rapid attacking speed the glacial girl was an obvious sign for the result that followed.
Bribahns's usage of magic was as clumsy as the average apprentice magus's. The results of the match caused many to wonder whether the old folks who have immersed in the field of magic for decades were actually as strong as they were purported to be.
It wasn't that Bribahns was weak either. He was a magus who had won his way to the finals after all. Even though he didn't meet any elite fighters like Leguna or Legg, he wouldn't have made it to the finals if he were just a mediocre magus.
The reason he had lost so terribly against the glacial girl was solely because she was far too powerful.
Even the head magus of the court magi association didn't think that Annelotte would be that strong. He was a 19th-stratum quasi-mythical magus and was also the master of the first imperial prince, Geoffrey. Even an impressive magus like that couldn't help but tell Emperor Larwin that even he had many things he could learn from Annelotte's match.
From that point onwards, Larwin finally realized how valuable a talent the daughter the galestorm swordsaint Marolyt brought back was. In time, she definitely wouldn't be any less important that the galestorm swordsaint himself!
Larwin wasn't too satisfied with how his eldest son was making moves on Annelotte because even though that girl was at a rather high stratum for her age, she was probably no more than a pretty face given that she had such an impressive and protective father. Larwin didn't want his son to be enchanted by a woman's looks alone.
But after hearing the praise the head magus had for Annelotte, Larwin's attitude completely changed. Not only did he not restrict Geoffrey anymore in that regard, he even began to encourage it in some way. Word from the imperial palace was that Geoffrey was looking for a magus assistant and the ideal candidate for that was the champion of the tournament, Annelotte.
Many others could see the emperor's intentions from that. Even though Geoffrey was a 15th-stratum magus, he only needed an assistant around the 8th stratum for his purposes. Geoffrey might not even be able to defeat the 14th-stratum tournament champion, not to say much about hiring her as an assistant. It was quite apparent that the imperial family was intent on taking Annelotte in as their member given her amazing potential in magic.
Despite that, nobody dared to point out the imperial family's intentions. There were none who were foolish enough to offend the imperial family for that. Given that Marolyt's whereabouts wasn't currently known, as long as he didn't return, nobody would oppose their hiring of Annelotte.
Naturally, word of that was only available to the ruling class of the empire. Small fry like Leguna who lived in cheap inns wasn't able to get that kind of information. So, Leguna continued to live his days nonchalantly with his companions as he waited for the award ceremony to begin.
The award ceremony didn't start right after the tournament as many of the contestants were still recovering from their injuries. Bribahns for instance had his hair burned up completely thanks to Annelotte's fireball and also had two broken ribs thanks to the magic missile barrage. He was still bedridden and required treatment from priests day and night!
A few days later, Leguna and the other contestants finally got the notice from the empire. They were summoned to the palace where Emperor Larwin and Prince Geoffrey would be awarding the contestants who ranked highly in the tournament.
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