The night-time red-light district had a surprising amount of information about adventurers.
Being an adventurer was a fickle job. There were days when profits were big, days when they were next to nothing, and moments when a split decision meant the difference between life and death. Because of this, most male adventurers were drawn to the nightlife of the city, to forget about the fleetingness of their line of work.
In this place they would lose the earnings of that day, and maybe let a few secrets slip out.
Sem was well aware of these habits, after all, he could be a representative of such men.
“I see… So there was that.”
“That’s right. There’s actually a lot of men out there that were tricked by that light headed girl.”
It was a hostess bar that Sem frequented, ‘The Spirit of Spring’.
This time, Sem was there at Nick’s request, being poured drinks by Melissa, a women with whom he got along with.
Karan was shocked that he would go to such a place to have fun while she studied, but Sem told her this was an important job, before he walked through the door.
“Are you involved with that Claudine or something, Sem? She uses her male friends like bodyguards and goes around cheating men, you know?”
His job was to look into Claudine’s behavior.
If she was willing to go to her favorite cafe and do something close to marriage fraud, maybe her bad behavior attracted more attention than they thought.
Sem decided to follow up on this idea by going to various places and asking about her, but in the first place he went to, information started pouring out like water from a bucket with a hole.
“There are some awful people out there.”
Said Sem, while holding back a smile.
“No kidding. It’s because of people like her that people doubt totally safe places like ours.”
“Do you know of anyone that has been victimized by her?”
“Ah… This is a secret but… There was this adventurer that stopped by like every weekend named Duffy and…”
“Ah, like, I’m so thirsty…”
“Oh alright. Drink whatever you like.”
“Thank you so much! There’s also Koln and Rolls, and a dwarf from the blacksmith street named Jisten.”
“Four people… I see.”
Sem had a grin on the inside as he listened.
The useful information just kept coming.
“Haven’t there been any lawsuits or challenges to a duel?”
“There’s been some duels but, you know, Leon is like really strong, and he wins pretty much everything.”
“Wait, are you trying to like, punish Claudine or something?”
“Don’t act all innocent… But be careful, that guy Leon that’s her bodyguard or boyfriend or something, is really strong. And their friend named Beck is creepy.”
“Are they that dangerous?”
“I don’t really know a lot about it, but people say they have like a trump card or something. Apparently that’s how they beat a guy as strong as Duffy…”
“Duffy is a C rank adventurer, so he’s no pushover. People say that Leon guy has great instincts, like he has eyes on the back of his head.”
“But it’s not just brawls right?”
“Yes, They do weird tests or quizzes or something, but he doesn’t lose that either. It’s not fair that he’s not only strong but has a good mind too. Ah, he’s good at gambling and popular with women too,
But, you know, he’s made a bunch of enemies, so he only willingly approaches weak guys.”
“If you want to know more you have to ask Duffy directly. But watch what you say, because it looks like that whole thing hurt his pride pretty badly.”
“Don’t worry about that, I’m a former priest.”
“A bad priest. But you might be more reliable than the order of the sun.”
Said Melissa with a smile as she poured Sem another drink, who happily drank it.
“About that order of the sun… They protect the peace around here right?”
“They’re, like, a bit pushy and arrogant, so they’re not really well liked… Ah, there are rumors that they’ve been after Leon, but who knows.”
“Hm, I see…”
“The order of the sun doesn’t really want to get involved so they won’t say.”
“No, it’s fine. Thank you very much… Do you want another drink, Melissa?”
“Oh? Like, thanks.”
Melissa prepared another drink for herself, and Sem lost himself in thought.
[I got a lot of useful information out of her, so I’ll go out tomorrow too. I never thought I would become good at this conspiracy stuff…]
Sem laughed at himself, as he thought about how he was doing the same sort of thing as the person that framed him.
Strangely enough, Sem didn’t find this unpleasant. Fighting a conspiracy with a conspiracy was no a bad thing.
Time went by quickly, and soon enough, it was time for the duel.
Nick and the others did all the preparations they could, and headed towards the roof of the adventurer guild Fishermen, where the duel would take place.
There were two venues set up.
One was very simple, it was nothing more than four white lines forming a square, and crude markers marking where the competitors would be out of bounds.
It was not like they would be disqualified or lose points if they stepped outside, but if they did, the audience would be allowed to push them back inside.
It was not possible to get away without giving up, and the lines where there for the sake of this savage rule.
The two competitors were standing-by on two opposite sides.
“It’s been a while little Nick. I’m surprised you didn’t just run away.”
“That’s my line.”
The atmosphere was tense, and it seemed like they were about to come to blows at any second, before the match even started.
This time, they weren’t allowed to wear boots or clothing on their upper bodies, let alone bring equipment or weapons.
Both were naked from the waist up, and burning with fighting spirit.
“Leon, don’t let that loner act like he owns the place!”
“Nick! Rip the tail right off that cheating cat!”
People that saw Nick’s way of doing things as peculiar and didn’t like his actions sided with Leon. Meanwhile, those that knew what Leon had been doing, cheered for Nick.
There was feverish excitement all around, not just inside the square.
While the men stood in the midst of this violent atmosphere, some had serious expressions on their faces, and were close to two tables and chairs were set up outside the white square, facing each other. Two girls with sat at them.
“…Ahh, just start already. Don’t you think so too?”
One had chestnut-color hair, and was the image of a girlish girl.
She was Claudine of the Steel Tiger Crew, and she sounded bored as she picked a split end of her hair.
The other girl was Karan, and she wasn’t the least bit interested in what Claudine had to say.
She had her eyes closed and was concentrating on what she studied so quickly in the previous days.
“…You’re so serious. Boring…”
“Stop it with those useless provocations. We’ll be starting soon, but the boys go first.”
Wilma’s voice echoed throughout the roof.
The sun was at its highest point, and the boys’s shadows distinctly rose in the ground.
“Attacks to the eyes or below the belt, magic, and weapons are forbidden. The match will be decided by a ten count, fainting, or submission. Obviously, killing is also not allowed.
Other than that, punch, kick, and throw all you want.”
“Alright.” “Ready when you are.”
Nick stepped forward as soon as he heard Wilma’s commanding voice, and attacked Leon with a viciously fast hook, but…
“Oops! That was close”
Leon dodged as if he was expecting it, and back stepped away.
“…Aren’t you going to attack?”
“What’s the rush? The match just started.”
Leon provoked Nick, who stepped forward once again and delivered a left jab, that Leon strongly guarded against.
Leon wasn’t strong, he devoted his entire attention to deflecting attacks.
Nick started attacking with more precise and short blows, but Leon put up his arms to guard, and avoided critical damage.
When Nick’s attack stopped, Leon attacked with a low kick.
But Nick safely dodged by stepping back.
“Eh, what? Do you hate kicks?”
There was a breathing sound, and at that exact moment, Leon targeted Nick’s midsection with a kick.
Beast people’s explosive power easily outclassed regular people’s, and Nick guarded by tightening his midsection.
“Kuh… I knew it.”
“You’re just buying time.”
Nick purposefully guarded against this kick, and let his posture falter just a little, to show an opening, but Leon didn’t get close, in fact, he stepped back to survey the situation.
Leon was probably attacking just enough to not make it obvious that he had no intention to go on the offensive, and was just focusing on guarding and dodging to take the fight to the next round.
This stalemate continued, until Wilma rang the bell, signaling that the time was up.
The direction of the match was now in Karan and Claudine’s hands.