We are led through a dark hall for several minutes in a line. Despite an obvious tension nobody says a word. The awkward silence is filled with the sounds of footsteps and the small flickering of the torches lining the walls. Even Tea has grown silent as he seems to have finally regained his senses and succumbed to the same feeling of tension in the air, looking around nervously.
“We are going to line up in a single row once we get out there, your friend should stand behind you since he’s not fighting.” The man from before whispers to me
Me and Tea nod at his statement. Several moments later we begin approaching a light at the end of the hall, before emerging to an open arena. The floor of the arena surprises me when I see it. Although the area as a whole is shaped as a large circle, the footing is not consistent across the entire floor. The middle is barren and flat with what seems to be dirt, or perhaps packed sand, across it. There are also two grass patches either side, however, with small hills of dirt beneath them.
I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. I wonder if it serves any purpose, or if it’s just to keep the fighting area from looking overly bland.
“Welcome, lucky ladies and gentlemen! Today we have gathered our selected fighters together so they may put their luck to the test! That’s right, today is the day each fighter learns what insurmountable mountain they must overcome to become the new champion!” A loud voice suddenly blurts out startling me in my quiet observation
Upon hearing him my eyes are drawn upward towards the stand where, although scattered and sparse, there are people sitting and watching us. Even though I say that there still seem to be a couple hundred people or so. Even still the seating feels so incredibly empty, I wonder just how many this arena can fit?
“The fighters this time around are fierce! Among them are legends, heroes, monsters in the most literal sense! No matter who your fighter of choice is, I’m sure they are going to have a rough time!” The voice continues
It’s a loud, echoey, and slightly distorted voice. The voice sounds like it belongs to a man and at that an incredibly high energy one. The kind of voice you would imagine hosting a game show, or perhaps being on the radio. Infectiously energetic.
As some of the fighters begin to stop and stand in formation we try our best to follow suit. Embarrassed by my own clumsiness as I attempt to fall into line with those either side of me, I begin to look around to assure myself that I’m not alone. Although it backfires rather heavily. Although there are a few people with obvious inexperience, most hold themselves with the poise and demeanor that shows how heavily rehearsed their actions are. I blush as I look out into the small crowd of people watching me stand out in my inexperience.
There is something that I can’t help but wonder. Why isn’t the Yuusha in this crowd? Isn’t he participating?
“It pains me to say it, but seeing as many of our talented contestants have busy schedules we are going to have to skip the festivities and get straight down to business!” The voice yells out in excitement
On cue, a large cloth is released and let to unfurl in front of us revealing a bracket tailored into it. At the bottom are a series of odd symbols, ones that don’t seem to match the general style of the words I’ve seen thus far. No curves, just angles, and bland in appearance with only a few variations among them.
“Fighters! Step forward and draw your number!” The voice excitedly announces
Number? Are those symbols numbers then? I suppose that would make sense actually. One symbol is as simple as a single horizontal line, whereas some are complex groupings. I suppose the complex ones must be larger numbers, where the horizontal one is probably “1”. It’s odd though, 1 is the only number not on the same level as the rest on the bracket. It doesn’t connect with the brackets until the final round for some reason. Does that mean 1 is a seeded fighter? In that case is it already decided who number 1 is going to be?
“Psst! It’s your turn!” The gentlemen that helped me earlier whispers to me
I realize that I had zoned out looking at the bracket when he does and blush as I rush up to the box people have been drawing a number from.
I stare at my number for a moment. I… have no clue which one this is supposed to be. I suppose I just have to look for it up on the bracket.
“Please show me the number to confirm your place.” The attendant holding the box instructs
Convinced that I have memorized the symbol temporarily at least I do as he instructs.
“Very good. Feel free to keep your number. Please return to the line.” He instructs in a professional and unattached manner
I return to the line as instructed, and the person after me walks up in turn. The rest of the ceremony was rather bland, as it was mostly spent with people walking up and picking a number. I spent the entire time trying to memorize and decipher the numbers on the bracket. If for no other reason out of boredom.
“Aaaaaand the numbers are selected! We will now replace the numbers with the names of their respective fighters!” The excited voice yells out again after a long silence
He snaps his fingers over whatever he is using to project his voice, and on his queue, the angles and lines begin to warp of the hanging fabric to form letters far more familiar looking. Considering I don’t see any Japanese up there, I suppose they must have all the names written in the same language.
“Hey, do you have any idea who the guy I’m fighting is?” I lean in and ask the man who is quickly becoming my new friend
“Ya, I recognize his name. It’s that fellow up there.” He says pointing above and behind me
When I turn to see what he is pointing at I nearly have a heart attack, as the face of a very large bearded man is squeezed into the archway trying desperately to see the bracket. After the initial shock, however, I have trouble deciding whether it looks cute or sad. He even has his hands grabbing the arches either side of his face to try and get a bit further in.
“Ah! Not again!”
Though I suppose he might have been trying a tad too hard, cause he ended up crushing one of them in his hand.
Of course, it would be him. I have the devils luck after all.
“Out of curiosity who is that in the number 1 position?” I ask trying to pretend I didn’t see anything
“Didn’t you know? Hark is the name of the Yuusha that was summoned a few weeks back.” He explains with a confused look
Why didn’t I see that coming? He was the king’s candidate, wasn’t he? Leave it to the combo of a Yuusha and a king to cheat in something like this.