Loren, an Average from the Blue Tower, walked ahead of them while speaking.
His explanation was quite detailed, unlike the suspicious expression he had shown at their first meeting. Theodore, who knew nothing about the Pupil Tournament, was able to understand it easily.
"The participants received an application and, at the same time, one of the token payments. Now, you are called Theodore, right? You should've received something from the reception desk earlier."
Theo pulled out the item.
It was a gold medal which looked like a coin, but it was attached to a string, so it could be hung around the neck. The number 132 was engraved on it, indicating his registration number.
Loren confirmed it and nodded. "Yes, the participants demonstrate their superiority by leaving this token intact. The loser will be deprived of all the tokens he has, and the number of tokens last owned will become the official record."
Vince said, "This method wasn't used in the past."
"Well, there were several things that happened."
It was a strange story for Vince, who had left Mana-vil seven years ago. Although he had heard news periodically from his friends in the capital, Vince never heard anything about the Pupil Competition.
Loren noticed Vince's attention and quickly opened his mouth, "The root cause is that there are too many participants."
That's right. As the number of participants who joined the magic contest increased, problems occurred. The rise in the number of incoming magicians meant the number of disciples brought with them also increased.
For high ranking magicians, a direct duel was burdensome, so the fight spread unconsciously to the Pupil Tournament. In addition, the goods set as prizes from the Meltor Palace fanned the flames.
"As you know, the competition was originally a round-robin tournament, but that start is too late. The Pupil Competition must be finished before the magic contest starts."
"…So, it became a scramble."
"There are some who say it is barbaric, but I don't think it is a bad change. You can challenge an opponent and lose in the first round because you have no luck."
His words weren't wrong. This competition format had been decided at the end of a rational discussion. Compared to a round-robin, there were advantages and almost no disadvantages.
A competent participant could quickly rise in the rankings by knocking out participants with a large number of tokens, while incompetent participants would fall first. Obviously, this dog-eat-dog type of competition was recommended because it was faithful to the laws of the magic towers.
However, Vince didn't miss the loopholes in rules of this competition format.
"What happens if a person aims for a tired opponent, or a participant gains a moderate number of tokens and then avoids having another fight? Is there a means of urging the participants?"
"Hoh, good points." Loren slightly admired the magician from the Red Tower.
He had never seen Vince's face before, so he had thought Vince was just someone from the countryside. Never would he have imagined that the other person would be famous in the Red Tower. However, it was too late. With a scoff of derision, he pointed to the stadium at which they had arrived.
"I'll explain first. This year's Pupil Tournament takes place in the multi-stadium, Pentarium. It consists of five independent stadiums, with the main space open only in the finals."
"Hmm, they look moderately durable."
"Hahaha! Even if both of us used all our power, we wouldn't be able to scratch the outside wall of the stadium."
Without such durability, the lives of the audience members would be in danger. A 4th Circle magician had strong attack spells which affected a wide area. Like Loren said, the solidarity of Pentarium could be compared to the gates of a large city.
Of course, Vince didn't agree with the words.
Loren spoke up to there and looked back at Vince and Theo. "Well, my explanation ends here. I don't know if it helped you."
"…It was a lot of help. Thank you."
The explanation that Loren gave was truly informative. Vince had to discard all the strategies he had planned for a round robin. One disagreeable point was the reason why Loren was being so friendly.
As expected, the question was resolved in an unexpected way.
"Huhu, that isn't necessary. From now on, it will be your turn to help me." Loren smiled, giving off a sly feeling. He gestured to a boy standing nearby, revealing the reason why he had brought Theo this far. It was closely related to the loopholes Vince had pointed out a little while ago.
"Say hello. This is my disciple and the son of Viscount Gullock, Philip Gullock."
"It is nice to meet you."
However, Vince remained silent.
Loren was uncomfortable by the reaction and said a beat late, "Hmm, cough. It was pointed out last year, but some participants were slow to fight. So, this year, there are a few rules to speed things up."
"Too verbose. Can you cut to the chase?"
"Yes, for example… can a person with only one token deny the challenge of another participant?" Loren asked his disciple Philip, who smiled and applied for a match with Theo.
If this rule was true, then there was no way to avoid a fight. Loren had brought Theodore as a meal for his disciple. It was a cowardly trick taking advantage of the rules.
"Kuhuhu, don't think that this is cowardly. Don't magicians from the Red Tower often do this? It is your fault for overlooking the mistake."
However, instead of getting frustrated, Vince just clicked his tongue. Loren, who didn't understand how to be vigilant, had probably just reached the Average status. Thus, he was trying to increase his career through his disciple.
"The Blue Tower is still using such petty tricks. Are you acting like this despite knowing that reputation?"
"What will you do, Theodore? I think the date of the match can be decided by the person who was challenged," Vince asked Theo, blatantly ignoring Loren.
Theo had no intention of avoiding this fight. The fool's disciple didn't seem that great, and above all, his personality wasn't the type to delay annoying things. Rather, Theodore asked Vince, "Professor, is there anything else scheduled for today?"
"Uhh… I booked a restaurant for dinner this evening."
Theodore's eyes shone as he heard the words. In recent years, he had been filling his stomach in the academy's cafeteria. Bergen Academy's meals weren't bad, but they couldn't be compared to a restaurant in Mana-vil.
Theo felt motivated and nodded enthusiastically. "I will finish it as soon as possible."
His first fight in the tournament occurred like this.
* * *
Was it because the competition had yet to really start?
Pentarium, which had four stadiums, immediately started Theo and Philip's match.
The two people each received a robe with three hanging crystals from the host. According to the host's explanation, these crystals would be able to block spells belonging to the 4th Circle and below.
It was the same as the participant's health. Once all three crystals were destroyed, the participant was defeated.
Theo asked the host, "Aren't these quite expensive artifacts?"
"They are disposable, so they aren't that expensive. I heard they are a few gold."
"A-A few gold…" Theo stuttered in amazement.
Philip sneered. "As expected from a hillbilly. It is only a few gold, yet you are making such a commotion."
"I bet you've never earned a single gold coin yourself."
"…It seems like you haven't been educated properly."
The atmosphere between the two people became more tense, but the host approached and pushed them to either side of the stadium.
Ready to fire a spell at any time, they looked at the spectators wrapped in a transparent shield. Theo and Philip were nameless, so there were no people in the stands. There were only Vince and Loren sitting across from each other.
Since that was the case, there was no need to wait any longer.
The host confirmed that the two competitors were prepared and immediately signaled the start of the match.
The 1st Circle magic, Light, was used.
As a small ball of light appeared in the centre, the magic power of each magician started to rise. Philip, who was proud of his superior magic power, acted first. "Icicle Bolt!"
The ice magic caused the ambient temperature to drop rapidly. Icicles formed from the cold air, and dozens of ice arrows soon formed in front of Philip. The strength of the refined ice magic power was temporarily equal to iron. The solid mass meant that the arrows could contain a power which Fire Bolt and Lightning Bolt didn't have.
The blue arrows flew through the air. The speed of the arrows was less than that of actual arrows from an archer, but the wounds caused by the icy bolts were deadly. If one of them hit, Theo's speed would slow down, then he would lost his life with the next one. This was the scary part about ice magic.
However, Theodore countered it without the slightest bit of discomfort. "Shock Wave!"
The arrows were different from the hobgoblin's attack. Straight arrows would lose strength immediately upon colliding with something. Therefore, he had refined the existing Shock Wave formula by making its area wider and improving the way it blocked. In this manner, Theo's magic power blasted against the blue arrows.
Pew pew pew pew puk!
Despite not completely killing their strength, the arrows lost their momentum and struck the ground. A shot which didn't hit its goal was wasted effort. The confused Philip hesitated, and Theodore took the initiative.
Theo promptly aimed his finger, triggering a magic formula which had already been calculated.
Ignite was invoked without an order and suddenly appeared in front of Philip. Even if there was no damage, few people would be able to feel brave with fire right before them. It was no wonder that Philip tried to take a step back.
"U-Uh?" Philip then slipped due to the Grease magic that Theo had activated along with Ignite.
As people usually turned their heads when falling, before Philip could even recover, something hit him in the neck. It was the 2nd Circle attack magic, Wind Cutter.
In exchange for taking the damage, one of the crystals hanging from Philip's robe was broken.
He stared at Theo with a blank face. Theo faced him with a comfortable expression.
Then Theo said, "What? This is tidying up."