Chapter 21 – Showdown (1)
Aster0x’s notes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoBa2SyvtpE
| The final quest has been revealed.[Quest objective: Stop the clock tower.]
| At the top of the clock tower lies the power source of the clock. Destroy the
power source, and the clock tower will stop.
The door creaked behind them as the Blue Moon party entered the clock tower.
To their surprise, what greeted them was no sound of ticking gears, or
multitude of traps set for intruders.
Instead, six survivors stood in a loose semi-circle, chattering furiously amongst
themselves. But as they saw Ajest cross into the tower, the tense conversation
rapidly ceased. A silence fell over the tower as all eyes were turned towards
Ajest looked around carefully. “2 eliminated,” she said softly, to nobody in
particular. There were 16 remaining survivors; of them 13 were standing here.
However, it was also clear that the wind mage wasn’t among the 13. Ajest was
now certain that the sniper belonged to Desir’s party.
A soft breeze blew through the room, momentarily interrupting the mounting
tension. Before the Blue Moon party had entered, the other two, more medium
sized parties, had been sizing each other up. They had similar strength and
similar numbers; consequently, it would hardly have been strange if a fight
broke out right then and there.
However, the appearance of the Blue Moon party considerably changed the
situation. The Blue Moon party had the most survivors; the other parties’
leaders weren’t idiots, and it was bluntly obvious that, as smaller parties,
infighting amongst themselves would only be detrimental.
The two parties exchanged nervous glances. Then, without a word, they moved
in unison to block the Blue Moon party’s path.
“All members, form ranks.” Ajest’s dispassionate voice rang out, and the party
moved in unison. 3 tankers moved to the front immediately; behind them stood
2 knights with their swords drawn and ready. A lone mage stood at the back,
and magic formulas quickly filled the air in front of them. Their matching
uniforms and neat, crisp movements gave them a near-overwhelming presence.
But the other survivors had, after all, also made it all the way to the end, and
now they too quickly moved into their own formation. 2 members with shields
moved to the front, with a knight just behind them. Then, behind that, stood 2
archers, with bowstrings drawn, and 1 mage of their own.
Both parties eyed each other cautiously, each waiting for the other to move.
The tension was so thick one could almost cut it with a knife.
Ajest pulled out her sword. A blue light shined from its blade.
A voice rang out from the impromptu party alliance. “The sniper was in the
Blue Moon party, as expected.” The man who spoke began walking towards the
Blue Moon party. 1st year, rank 2. Gabriel Ijente. 3rd circle fire mage.
Ajest raised an eyebrow in response, and asked, “…you were also getting sniped
“Cut the crap. Only the Blue Moon party could possibly have a sniper of that
Ajest narrowed her eyes. It wasn’t because of anything Gabriel had just said,
but rather, she now realized. ‘We weren’t the only ones Desir Arman was sniping.’
He had clearly found the clock tower first. But instead of continuing the quest,
he had instead elected to gather every other party. ‘Does he think he can snipe us
all down? But that doesn’t make sense. He wouldn’t give up his enormous lead on the
quest progression for such a reckless plan.’
Ajest blinked slowly as comprehension dawned on her. “Clearing the quest
wasn’t his objective,” she thought aloud.
Ijente frowned. “What are you talking about?”
Without a word in response, Ajest took a step forward. Her eyes were already
He blinked. She disappeared. A cloud of dust exploded from where she had
stood. In an instant, Ajest’s sword was past him.
There was no warning. Ijente turned to look down at his body. As he did, he
faded into tiny motes of light.
| A contestant has been eliminated. 15 contestants remain.
“Aahhh! The party leader died!”
“Everyone, charge!” The screams ran out from panicked students.
Ajest calmly surveyed her charging opponents, and flicked her sword in her
hand. ‘5 people…and spectators.’ She looked up. She couldn’t see deep into the
dark tower, but it didn’t matter. She knew they had to be there. “All members,
stop Desir’s party’s sniper,” she ordered as she pointed at the stairs.
“All members!? What about these guys right here?” Percival replied,
incredulous at the absurd order.
She looked back over the other survivors. Without hesitation, she cooly
responded, “I’ll take out the five of them myself.”
“All—all five!? By yourself?” he spit out in disbelief.
Ajest never answered him. She had already entered the fight.
A low, whining creak came from the rusted hinges of the door as it swung open.
A silhouette illuminated against the open doorway. As the figure silently drew
closer, it came into view. It was a girl, wearing a strange leather coat embedded
with metal plating. Blood ran down the side of body, leaving a trail of droplets
as she walked. She held a blade in her hand. Blue light glowed along its edge.
Her long, platinum hair was unmarked by blood, striking a sharp contrast as it
flowed behind her.
She examined the three of them as she approached, like a lion stalking its
quarry. Instinctively, his party members shifted back behind him.
“A pointless scheme.” Her voice was ice cold.
Desir’s face froze at the criticism. “It would have worked if not for you.”
He meant it, truly. After all, his opponent was Ajest Kingscrown. She was the
strongest spellsword in all of Hebrion, and one of the six who had survived to
the very end. When they’d all united under the Expedition’s banner, she had
been the commander, so gifted was she in battle.
Desir had expected her to figure out his plans, to some extent, anyways—it
wasn’t as if his plans had been suddenly, unexpectedly seen through. Rather, he
had made quite the serious miscalculation. “To think that you would take out
every remaining survivor by yourself,” he said softly, in admiring tones.
The fight that Desir had wanted had happened. But Ajest had given him no
room to interfere. The entirety of the Blue Moon party, minus Ajest, had
masterfully obstructed Desir’s party while Ajest single-handedly humiliated the
other survivors. They could do nothing but watch as she subdued them, took
them hostage, and dragged them to a safe area.
“While we kept your party from doing anything, our party captured the
remaining survivors. There’s still over 10 alive,” Ajest stated coldly. Clearly,
there would be no way to even touch the 10 downstairs without going through
Ajest first. Their plan had been utterly ruined. They had one choice left.
“The only thing left is a head-to-head fight.”
Romantica and Pram stood by Desir’s side. Percival and Doneta stood behind
Ajest. Light fell in from a single, tiny window at the far end of the corridor,
illuminating the two groups in a pale, weak light. Each faced the other
wordlessly, straining to read their thoughts from movements of their
silhouettes. The sound of titanic gears grinding as they moved past each other
echoed through the narrow corridor.
“Your party and mine. Defeat me and prove that you’re worthy of the title of
Single Ranker, Desir Arman!”
The gears stopped. Ajest began moving. Magic power swirled around her as her
mana gathered and condensed, taking shape.
Desir immediately began his analysis. He had the ability to deduce what spell
would be cast just by looking at the casting process, before the spell was even
Pillars of ice, elaborately engraved, rose out of the ground, emanating a deep
chill through the air. But Desir’s party felt nothing.
“Hijack complete,” he announced triumphantly. Under Desir’s control, the
magic couldn’t affect his party’s surroundings.
With a hiss, the pillars disappeared into a thick vapor, as Ajest immediately
ended the spell in response. The dense fog filled the corridor, blocking
“They’re coming!” Pram shouted as he stepped forward and swung his rapier.
He felt it land. At the same time, he twisted his head to the right. A sword sliced
neatly through the space where his head had just been. The fog scattered in the
wind, revealing Doneta. Without missing a step, Pram saw Doneta’s improper
stance and thrust the rapier at his stomach.
“Oof!”  Doneta grunted in pain as he twisted back. Romantica immediately
followed up, sending her spell screaming towards him.[Wind Strike!]
The bullet of compressed air exploded, but there was no announcement.
Instead, a gigantic shield appeared out of the dispersing fog. Percival’s sneering
face appeared behind the lowered shield. “Weak as shit for a 2nd circle spell,”
he spit at Romantica contemptuously.
“I’m exhausted after sniping so much, you moron!” Romantica shouted back in
The fog returned, filling the space between them again and erasing them from
each others’ vision. Doneta whispered to Percival, “that swordsman…looks
strong. Be careful.”
Percival scoffed. “You’re just weak, you idiot.” He’d faced Pram once before.
According to his memory, Pram wasn’t a particularly skilled swordsman. His
sword was a bit fast for Beta Class, but that was it. Pram was hopeless; he’d
exhaust himself soon after the fight began.
He charged. “Eat this!” He swung his sword at Pram, but, surprisingly, sliced
only thin air. “What?” Percival stopped, bewildered, as he realized he couldn’t
see anything in the fog. He looked back, just in case, and was nearly hit as he
barely managed to parry Pram’s surprise attack. He ground his teeth. “You
“You did it first.”
The echo of steel on steel rang out through the tower.
Born and raised in the north, Percival’s sword style was wild and savage. He
preferred to use his strength to simply beat into his opponent, without giving
them a moment’s rest and wear them down over time. The Pawn-rank
swordsman’s talent was just starting to bloom and his sword was already fierce.
He attacked at an oppressive speed. At the same time, he protected himself
with his shield as he advanced, like a towering mountain.
Pram was a speed-focused swordsman, much like Percival. Unfortunately, he
had neither the strength nor the force Percival did, which meant, in theory,
that he would be hard pressed to gain an advantage in this fight.
Indeed, to everyone else, it appeared like Pram was getting pushed back. But, to
Percival’s growing discomfort, it soon became clear it was quite the opposite.
Each of Pram’s movements were calculated. At every moment, he would dodge
or parry Percival’s blade with the smallest movement possible, keeping his
positioning tight and constantly looking for openings.
He kept his distance, and warded his opponent off with only the tip of his
sword as he danced gracefully around the room. At this rate, the longer the
fight drew out, the more Pram would be at an advantage.
Pram was well aware of his limits. He avoided letting the duel turn into a
contest of strength, and attacked Percival’s openings whenever he could.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Percival felt his sword getting pushed back. It
was clear that he would lose if this kept up.
Backed against a wall, Percival made a desperate gamble. He threw his shield at