There were many different categories of medals awarded by the Adventurers’ Association, ranging from those awarded to beginners to those awarded to the experienced. The “Sword and Wild Beast” medals were awarded to groups and individuals as proof that they were experienced adventurers. The Crimson Wolves were a middle-class mercenary group that held the “Sword and Wild Beast” medal.
「Our opponents are Gawiik’s group; our chances of winning are slim if we fight them directly.」
「I heard that their two strongest fighters are going for the individual matches, so their captain and vice-captain are probably going to act as their advance guard.」
Having been matched against Gawiik’s group in the preliminary round of the tournament, they were now making last minute adjustments and finalizations to their strategy in the waiting room of the arena. The chief and staff officer of the Crimson Wolves had lined up pebbles on the surface of a table to represent their members and the enemy, visualizing everyone’s movements.
「At that point, we'll use this tactic.」
「It’s a tactic we can only use once, but if it goes well, we should be able to take one of them down with the initial surprise attack.」
「After that, we’ll either press our numbers advantage on the side that’s not being covered or decide the match with another swift attack.」
「It’s about time, let’s go.」
Putting all their hopes on a strategy that was more like a desperate gamble, the members of the Crimson Wolves participating in the group battle headed for the fighting stage, leaving the waiting room behind them.
In this fighting tournament sponsored by the royal family, well-known fighters would be crossing swords right from the preliminary round. In addition to the citizens of the imperial capital, many people came from neighbouring towns and villages to spectate.
In large tournaments like these, unknown fighters would be making a name for themselves by proving their worth, and it was even valuable for groups that were recruiting new members to find excellent individuals here.
「Voooh voh~」“There’s so many people~”
「There’ll be even more people in the main event, so you’d better get used to it now, okay?」
The arena a bowl-shaped area dug into the ground with four entrances. Two of the opposing entrances were connected to the underground waiting rooms. The other two were not for the competitors, but were large passages used by beasts and carriages to enter the arena. The passage used by beasts led to their cages in the back, while the one used by carriages was connected to the outside of the arena.
The length and width of the fighting area, covered in hard earth and sand, was two hundred Ruuka. Converting that into units that Kou was familiar with, it was 90,000 square meters.
The two groups of competitors appeared from the entrances and the arena’s announcer raised his voice to announce the commencement of the preliminary round.
「AND NOW -! THE ROYALLY SPONSORED TORTOLUSE GRAND TOURNAMENT’S -! PRELIMINARY ROUND WILL BEGIN!」
A loud cheer came from the audience as Gawiik’s group and the Crimson Wolves took their positions.
Gawiik’s group members spread out into a formation with the composite Golem Kou in the center, Gawiik and Mandel as the advance guard and Lef and Karen in the rear. The Crimson Wolves facing them were in a tightly-grouped formation with four people in the front and two just behind them. The initial distance between the two groups was sixty-six Ruuka; roughly a hundred meters.
「That thing that Gawiik’s group is using, is it a summoned beast?」
「No, apparently it’s a new kind of Golem.」
「I heard that it’s got the personality of a human who was once an adventurer.」
「He’s on the association’s list of adventurers; it seems that abnormal magical technology professor is involved.」
Among the spectators who had come to watch the tournament from the very first battle of the preliminary round, there were quite a few who were knowledgeable about the two groups. They even had some knowledge about the composite Golem that had been seen in the city recently.
Adventurer groups and mercenary bands had come to watch as well as scout their opposition. They were paying close attention to this unusual Golem who had been registered as an adventurer by the Adventurers’ Association as a member of Gawiik’s group.
After a while, the start of the match was signaled. The ones who made the first move were the Crimson Wolves. They were all dressed in light armor, holding a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. With the four members in the front forming a horizontal line and the two behind them following closely, they all began running in together.
「It seems they are aiming to perform a swift attack.」(Lef)
「Lef, aim your ranged magic where they’re grouped up. Karen, aim at their sides to make sure they can’t spread out. Kou, you’re on standby.」(Gawiik)
The two members at the front moved together to open up a line of sight for the members at the back, using ranged attacks to determine their enemy’s movement. They were still out of Lef’s magic’s attack range, so she waited while gathering magical energy. Karen raised her bow and took her aim.
The arrows used in this match were fitted with special cylindrical arrowheads with small bumps at the tips, making the attacks with the arrows non-lethal blows.
The length of the bumps at the tips was one Pail, approximately only one and a half centimeters. Even if the target was not wearing armor, it would only cause minor injury.
Karen’s arrows whistled as they flew near the sides of the sides of the Crimson Wolves’ four-man advance guard, restricting their movement. On Kou’s other side, Lef raised her staff and began weaving her magical power together.
「Alright, we’re sticking with the plan! We can ignore the Golem, aim for that Magician!」
The Crimson Wolves had been running at a light pace up until this point, but as they confirmed that the enemy Magician was beginning to cast magic, they broke into a full-speed charge. They took caution against the archer’s arrows as they broke their formation and spread out, giving the illusion that each individual would be moving alone.
The reason they had grouped up initially was to bait out an area attack. Then they spread out with perfect timing to cause hesitation in casting an area magic attack, which would now be inefficient.
Then they engaged Gawiik’s advance guard in two groups of three, at such a close distance that the Magician’s area magic would hit her allies even if she did cast it. Now they were waiting for the Golem to move to back them up.
Facing the Crimson Wolves’ surprise attack tactic, Gawiik and Mandel stood back to back as they fully focused on defending themselves. Karen and Lef’s ability to provide backup for them was limited by their location, the types of attacks at their disposal and line of sight. An area magical attack with reduced power would be ineffective.
「Kou-chan, I’ll leave it to you!」(Karen)
So as not to block Karen’s line of sight, Kou began running to back up Gawiik and Mandel from Lef’s side. As Kou was choosing between the battleaxe and the hammer in his dimensional storage, the Crimson Wolves saw that Kou had begun to move and began to execute the next part of their strategy.
The Crimson Wolves’ leader who had been engaged in battle with Gawiik gave an order. The other two members who had been engaging Gawiik with him turned around with their shields raised and charged towards Karen. In a real battle, such small shields would be little more than cardboard against Karen’s arrows, but these light shields could easily block the arrows that had to be used in this match.
With the shields and armor covering their bodies and jumping to avoid the arrows aimed at their legs, they continued charging forward. Kou stopped in his tracks, seeing the two members of the Crimson Wolves aiming for Karen. As he changed direction to intercept them -
Two more members of the Crimson Wolves who had been engaging in battle with Mandel turned towards Lef in the other direction. The captain and vice-captain of the Crimson Wolves were left engaging Gawiik and Mandel two-on-two. Making sure to restrict their movement, they moved slowly around towards the center of Gawiik’s group’s formation.
The Crimson Wolves just needed to buy time and prevent Gawiik’s advance guard to provide backup for their rear members, so they had no need to engage in earnest. Even though they were less skilled, they could just step back and keep preventing them from moving. While they were doing this, the other four members were attacking the rear members.
The archer and magician would not be able to put up a fight in close combat once the distance was closed. Even though they were facing a group of higher rank, this fact would not change. Once the rear members were defeated, they would have an overwhelming advantage of six against three even with the Golem included. If they steadily pressed their numbers advantage from that point, victory was assured.
Everything had gone according to plan for the Crimson Wolves.
「Voh, voh? Vooh voh...」“H-huh? Where should I…”
Kou was heading to intercept the attack on Karen, but his feet stopped again as he saw the two members heading straight for Lef. If he went to stop them, he would not make it in time to intercept the ones attacking Karen. But if he went to intercept the ones attacking Karen, Lef would be defenseless.
As the Crimson Wolves charged towards their targets, they took a backwards glance at Kou, who was panicking and unable to decide on who to prioritize. Even if it had a human’s personality, a Golem is a Golem, they thought as they turned the caution they had for the Golem towards the Magician.
「Kou-chan, take care of Lef-chan!」
Karen gave the order as if to say that she would take care of herself. Kou turned to face the mercenaries that were trying to slip through towards the back, but he no longer had the time to produce his weapon and attack. Desperately trying to stop their movements, he quickly tried to trip them over with his leg.
However, in his desperation to do something quickly, the movement his body produced was not quite what he had imagined. His leg came out before he could squat to lower it.
Whether this was fortunate or unfortunate, his timing and aim was correct. His movement became a horizontal kick with his left leg that sent one of the mercenaries flying. He rolled two or three times before he stopped moving, apparently unconscious.
The other mercenary took a defensive stance without thinking, but in this situation running straight through would have been more correct than standing still.
Deciding that it would be faster to hit him directly rather than use a weapon, Kou used the leg that had kicked the other mercenary to step closer to him and raised his left arm above him.
The crowd erupted in cheers.
The mercenary took a punch that scooped him off the ground from underneath and flew high into the air.
It was more like he had been hooked by the Golem’s fist and thrown upwards than punched. The mercenary hit the ground below and stopped moving. However, to the crowd, it appeared to be a powerful uppercut. Concerned murmurs came from the crowd, such as『Wouldn’t that have crushed his face?』
「What exactly is that Golem?」
「Its movements are ridiculously fast. It’s just like a human, isn’t it?」
By some fluke, he had somehow stopped the enemies attacking Lef. Now Kou ran towards Karen to back her up.
Lef had been gathering magical power to attempt to protect herself from the mercenaries that had tried to attack her, but now she turned it towards the mercenaries attacking Karen and backed Kou up in his interception. Karen, with the skill to aim her arrows accurately at her attackers’ legs, had managed to slow down their advances enough. Now Kou jumped out in front of her to form a defensive wall.
Normally, Golems’ movements were supposed to be much more sluggish. The audience and scouting groups were dumbfounded at the incredible force of Kou’s movements as he sprinted forwards at full speed.
Though the Golem’s mobility was relatively well-known in the imperial capital due to the professor’s experiments, they had never imagined that a Golem could dash like this.
「Nice one, Kou, keep it up!」(Gawiik)
Gawiik called out to Kou as he engaged in fierce battle with the Crimson Wolves’ captain. Though his movement was still restricted, he was constantly forcing him backwards.
As Gawiik encouraged him, Kou thought,『If I make them think that I’m just a close-quarters combat fighter, we’ll have an advantage in our future matches』and tried to think of a way to do so. What came to mind was a fighting stance from his memories from the other world.
Holding his fists close to his chest, he began stepping around lightly, though the noises his feet made were still loud. The golem’s movements were heavy, but he had gotten used to jumping up and down in the one-legged experiment earlier and was now executing this practised movement.
If he showed this fighting style to Sayaka, she would calling it『boxing.』
He tried to throw out light jabs, but with the composite Golem’s arms, the sounds of his high-speed punches were more like “buon-buon.” If these punches landed, they would be devastating. The mercenaries who had come so close to Karen in their plan to attack the rear were stopped completely in their tracks.
「Uoh, that Golem, it can even attack like a warrior?!」
「That’s why its movements are so fast.」
「If you tried to make a regular Golem do those kind of movements it would destroy itself. I’m surprised its body is holding together.」
「Just what the hell is it made of?」
Those among the audience who were knowledgeable about summoned beasts and Golems were in admiration of the composite Golem’s quality that it was showing through its movements. They were also beginning to discuss the possibility of new Golems like this became commonplace, replacing the use of summoned beasts which had problems with the price of the catalysts required and their limited duration.
In any case, the plan to attack the enemies at the back had failed and the morale of the remaining Crimson Wolves had been dampened as they rebuilt their formation. But with the solid combined attacks of Gawiik and Mandel backed up by the support of Lef and Karen, they were pushed into a more and more disadvantageous position.
In addition, their movement was thrown off by the heavy pressure given off from the unusually fast Golem, whose footsteps sounded as if it was ready to jump into them at any time.
Although this was simply the sound of Kou’s poor attempts at boxing footwork, they were unaware of this and thought that he was making feints to pressure them.
「Kuh… A surprise tactic doesn’t work against such a powerful group, after all.」
「Now that it’s come to this, it’s just a matter of how we can show our abilities and leave an impression before we’re defeated.」
Showing how well they could handle opponents of higher rank than themselves would affect their future work, as well. In order to not reveal their hand, Gawiik’s group slowly and steadily pressured the Crimson Wolves, using only their superior individual skill without any flashy moves - and before long, the last one was defeated.
Among the crowd’s cheers, the announcer declared the result of the match.
「And that’s it! The winners are Gawiik’s group!」
Gawiik’s group had safely passed through the preliminary round by defeating the Crimson Wolves.
「Voh vaah~」“We won~”