Book 2: Chapter 188
Nekdu put down her hammer as she wiped sweat from her forehead.
After finally finishing her work for the day, she looked around for a while. There were no signs of activity in the smithy.
This was natural since everyone had already gone home.
With a loud yawn, she got up from her seat. She grabbed her coat in preparation to head home before something in the corner caught her eye.
It was a cane.
No, did he call it a staff?
It had been four days since she completed it, but the person who had requested its production hadn’t shown his face. She didn’t mind that though. In fact, she actually hoped that he wouldn’t turn up.
That way, she could take the skull of the Ancient Dragon for herself.
That thought caused a laugh to burst from her mouth.
Suddenly, she heard a voice from behind her.
“…what the hell?”
Nekdu turned around.
There, a man whose entire body was covered by a black robe stood. His body was so covered that she couldn’t see anything but his eyes.
She was shocked for a while but it didn’t take her very long to recognise the voice and scratch her head.
“Look who it is. I’ve heard a lot of rumors about you. Worst Fighter in Lirua’s arena, coward, fraud, embarrassment… What was the other one?”
Nekdu snapped her fingers with a nod.
Contrary to her exaggerated actions, her voice remained indifferent.
“I don’t care about my public reputation. I’m just dressed like this because this isn’t the time for me to make an appearance.”
Even though she asked this, Nekdu’s voice remained flat as if she wasn’t the least bit interested. Then, as if she had just remembered something, she asked.
“But what are you thankful for?”
The staff Nekdu had made was already in his hands.
Was it for making that?
It couldn’t be. She hadn’t done him a favor.
He paid, and Nekdu had done the required job. There was nothing for him to be thankful for.
“You told me that you knew refiners capable of dealing with an Ancient Dragon’s heart.”
“Ah, that’s right.”
Nekdu nodded carelessly for a while before suddenly narrowing her eyes as she thought of something.
“You don’t mean…”
“Yes. I listened to your words and decided to search for them. And not so long ago…”
Nekdu realised that the eyes beneath the hood of the robe were shining.
“I found them. The refiner.”
* * *
His head was hot and his heart was pounding.
The blood in his veins was so hot that it felt like it was boiling. No. It felt as though molten iron was flowing through his body….
Bargan clenched the handle of his club tightly.
The loud pulses that seemed to resonate from his heart seemed to flow down to the club in his hand.
That was exactly how he felt at that moment.
It was probably because of the intense excitement filling him at that moment.
Surprisingly, a certain amount of excitement was actually beneficial during fights.
This was because it not only enhanced one’s instantaneous judgement, but it also pushed one’s physical ability to a higher level.
That was exactly what was happening at that moment.
On the other hand, the expression of the Fighter in front of Bargan was extremely sour.
Himba spat on the ground.
He was forcibly suppressing his anger as he stared at Bargan.
When did he become so strong?
Maybe it was because he was nervous, but sweat was starting to build upon his palms. Without letting his guard down, he roughly wiped his hands on his leather coat.
Just like in an encounter with a Dragonling, even a moment’s carelessness was not acceptable.
He didn’t know even when he ran into him at the inn. He didn’t know that there would be a time when he was put in such an embarrassing situation by this son of a bitch.
In the center of the arena before a full audience of spectators no less.
“Do you think that I’m strong?”
Bargan suddenly spoke.
Himba felt as if he had been caught, but instead of showing it, he suppressed his emotions and sharpened his gaze.
“It’s a really pathetic thought. Himba, why don’t you put down your flimsy denial and accept the reality?”
“…what are you talking about?”
Bargan sneered coldly.
“It’s not that I’ve become stronger, it’s that you’ve gotten weaker.”
“What did you just say?”
“You… haven’t grown at all in these years.”
His pride had been thoroughly bruised this time.
Spitting a curse, Himba swung his fist.
He was a man who could be called a giant among Dragonmen. His fists were so large and powerful that he could easily crush boulders with a single punch.
However, that was it.
Himba’s attacks lacked finesse and skill.
It was a simple punch that was filled with emotion.
Excitement and anger were similar emotions, but they were fundamentally different.
Bargan easily avoided the clumsy attack that seemed like it wouldn’t hit him even if he stood still, and raised his club.
A look of shock appeared on Himba’s face, but it was already too late.
Himba was extremely tall and had long arms.
In other words, it would take longer for him to pull his fist back after he had outstretched it.
Bargan’s club hit the back of Himba’s head.
Himba’s eyes instantly rolled back into his head. He staggered a few times like a drunk man before finally collapsing to the ground.
He had a hard skull so he probably wouldn’t die, but he would probably be confined to a bed for a few months.
“Ba-, Bargan wins!”
The referee who was overseeing the match declared the outcome.
At the same time, cheers erupted from the stands.
“Bargan! Bargan! Bargan!”
Compared to the lukewarm reaction when he defeated Kingtan, the crowd was so hot that it didn’t seem like he was a returning warrior.
“I love you! Wanderer-!!”
“Ohhh! I trusted you. Shit!”
The audience members who bet on Bargan were particularly pleased. So in the stands, some were dancing while others were in tears.
This was all familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
Bargan stood quietly in the middle of the arena for a while.
—The moment when they won and received the crowd’s cheers of enthusiasm.
Pleasure that was more addictive than any drug rolled down his spine.
Unable to suppress it anymore, Bargan began to tremble.
Most Fighters could never forget this scene and feeling, so they continued to run to the arena until they died.
‘…I thought that I would never feel this again.’
30 years after leaving Lirua.
Bargan, who thought he would reach the end of his life as a wanderer, was once again receiving the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd in his hometown arena.
In all honesty, he hadn’t expected the crowd to show such a reaction.
This was because Bargan thought he wouldn’t receive any recognition in this city.
But that wasn’t the case.
At least on this island, there was nothing that couldn’t be solved by fighting. As long as one was capable enough, they could even erase their past mistakes.
‘I might be able to make a change.’
His heart raced.
This feeling was different from the excitement of fighting.
A faint glimmer of hope began to rise in his heart.
On Combat Island, honor was the factor that had the most influence. For example, though it might be limited to Combat Island, former Grand Champions had greater influence than even Major City Lords. And naturally, the ripple effect that could come from a single statement of a Grand Champion was beyond imagination.
As a wandering Fighter, no one would care about what Bargan said even if he talked about the match-fixing till he vomited blood.
But what if Bargan became the Champion of Lirua?
Were ‘Champion Bargan’ and ‘Wanderer Bargan’ the same?
Not in the slightest.
It had taken him this long to realise something so simple. On Combat Island, one could achieve anything they wanted simply through fighting.
It was at that moment that Bargan came to a decision.
To climb up from the bottom and deal with the darkness in Lirua with his own hands.