Book 2: Chapter 193
He was awakened by a bucket of freezing cold water.
His mind was awake, but his body still felt weak.
‘Where… am I?’
Before he even had the chance to look around, he heard a voice.
“It seems you’re still not fully awake yet. I guess the water wasn’t cold enough.”
The voice spoke in a mocking tone. It was a voice he knew.
It was Aram.
He was looking down at him with an empty bucket in his hand.
“Did you sleep well?”
Aram wasn’t alone.
There were about ten Fighters around him.
Swaying slightly, Bargan got to his feet.
“What do you intend to do? Why haven’t you killed me?”
“I told you already. I intend to use you to lure Lukas out. Lord Kangki is very angry. We have to catch him and kill him no matter what.”
“So you plan to use me as bait?”
“That’s a childish plan.”
“Didn’t you know? Sometimes, the most simple and childish plan is the most effective.”
It was sophistry.
Rage practically flowed from Bargan’s eyes. Now that he had regained some of his strength, he should be able to bite through his tongue.
It was at that moment that Aram smiled and opened his mouth.
“Well, even if I say that I don’t think Lukas will reveal himself that easily. That’s why I’d like to make an offer. Please listen to what I have to say. It won’t be bad for you either.”
“Do I look like a man who would negotiate with trash?”
“I know that senior is one of the wisest Fighters on Combat Island. That’s why I decided to bring you here.”
Bargan finally looked around at his surroundings.
They were in the arena, but there was no one in the audience.
Bargan and the Fighters were the only ones in the large, desolate arena.
Then Aram threw something over.
It was Bargan’s weapon, a club.
“The rules are simple… As long as senior wins, then I’ll listen to whatever senior has to say.”
“…you mean you want me to fight all of you?”
Bargan sneered coldly, but Aram frowned in displeasure.
“I still have a conscience. The matches will be completely 1:1. This is our last bit of pride.”
“Please show us that you can get what you want through ‘fighting’.”
“I’ll go first.”
One of the Fighters stepped forward with a determined expression.
Bargan recognised him immediately.
He was the Fighter who had defeated Lukas in the first match.
“To be honest, I still don’t understand what Lord Kangki is thinking. I can’t see why he would consider that scammer as a formidable enemy. I fought him before so I could tell, he’s nothing but a coward and trash.”
“I hope that you, his slave Fighter, are strong enough to satisfy me.”
Bargan looked down.
To put it simply, his physical condition was the worst.
He didn’t even know how he’d fainted in the first place, and the cold water made it feel like he was freezing. He couldn’t put much force in his fingers.
In fact, it wasn’t just his fingers. His entire body seemed to be filled with a sense of exhaustion and weakness.
It didn’t matter if it was the muddy ground beneath his feet, he just wanted to lay down and sleep.
But he couldn’t do that.
Gripping the handle of the club, Bargan glared at Jaihum.
Even if he was in perfect condition, this was an opponent he wasn’t sure he could defeat.
Nevertheless, this wasn’t a situation that would allow him to make excuses.
He should be thankful that it would only be 1 on 1 like Aram said.
“Take it easy, Jaihum.”
“It won’t be fun if you finish it too quickly.”
The Fighter laughed and jeered, but Bargan didn’t let himself be swept away by the atmosphere.
He gathered himself before charging forward.
Jaihum, who had been standing relaxedly in front of him, hurriedly raised his axe to block his attack.
It was strong too.
His axe creaked slightly.
Everyone was surprised. Where did this power come from?
Bargan continued his quick attacks. He smacked the axe endlessly.
The biggest strength of the weapon called a club was its durability.
Because it was blunt and thick, it would not be badly damaged even if he struck it against rocks or metal.
An axe, on the other hand, was different.
It lacked the sharpness of a sword, but it had the advantage of having instantaneous destructive power. Nevertheless, it was, surprisingly, not that durable.
The melee battle in which the weapons constantly clashed against each other continued.
Jaihum was desperate to stop his attack.
‘It’s too late to stop it…!’
From the moment the fight began, he had been on the defensive. And as time passed, he knew he wouldn’t be able to build his momentum easily.
If he had handled this seriously from the start, it wouldn’t have become like this.
It was true that he had looked down on him, but it wasn’t entirely Jaihum’s fault.
Who would have thought that this man, who had been showing such a weak appearance before, could have such an explosive performance?
Unable to endure Bargan’s rising momentum any longer, Jaihum took a step back.
In fact, at first glance, it might seem that Bargan had an overwhelming advantage, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. It was just that, because of his poor condition, he was trying to end the fight as soon as possible.
‘If I don’t take advantage of this opportunity, I might lose!’
Perhaps Bargan’s desperate desire had an effect.
Eventually, cracks began to form on the axe.
Jaihum’s expression became solemn. Just as Bargan was prepared to deal the final blow.
He was forced to halt his swing and step back.
Bargan turned and glared at the Fighters standing at the side.
“What are you doing?”
His gaze was locked onto Aram.
It was this man who had just thrown his sword and interfered with the fight.
“You… Didn’t you say that it would be 1 on 1?”
He was breathing so heavily that it was hard for him to speak fluently. Nevertheless, the cold gleam in his eyes didn’t waver.
It might have intimidated others who saw it, but Aram simply smiled.
“I did say that. But I didn’t intervene, senior.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“It’s player substitution.”
Aram pointed to another Fighter.
“We intend to swap our Fighter.”
“Ah. Did I not explain the substitution rule? I apologize for that. But please don’t be angry. This rule can be used fairly by both sides. If you’re having a hard time, why don’t you take a break and swap?”
He said those shameless words with a straight face.
Bargan couldn’t take it anymore and grit his teeth fiercely.
“…you son of a bitch.”
Aram ignored him and continued with a smirk.
“Let’s start round two.”
* * *
How many had it been?
He panted heavily.
Even breathing hurt as it felt as though his lungs and airways had been torn.
He had already exceeded his limits a long time ago. It felt like he could faint at any moment.
Nevertheless, Bargan didn’t give up.
How could he even move at that moment?
Aram was genuinely amazed.
He had already replaced six Fighters, and yet they were still unable to take down Bargan. It looked like he could collapse at any moment, but he never did. Instead, it seemed that his concentration had become focused solely on taking his opponent’s life.
It was clear that Bargan was a Fighter worthy of fighting to the death in the arena.
This was the end.
When Aram turned to look at a man, he nodded and stepped forward.
“I’ll be your opponent this time.”
Bargan wiped the sweat from his eyes as he looked at his next opponent.
And thought that he would not be able to win this time.
It wasn’t that he was giving up before the fight even began.
He knew that anything could happen in battle and the outcome could sometimes only be seen at the last moment.
However, this opponent was different from the others.
It was the 4th ranked Fighter of the Lirua Arena, Kaytai.
Right. It seemed that this guy had also submitted to Kangki.
‘…from the start, there probably wasn’t anyone.’
Anyone who dared to rebel against Kangki.
Kaytai didn’t attack immediately. Instead, he stuck his sword into the ground and opened his mouth.
“Why do you choose to walk down this thorny path? I can’t tell what you’re after.”
“…instead of that, I’d like to ask you. Do you… think that Lirua’s current appearance is right?”
Kaytai spoke with an expression of pity.
“Are we killing anyone? Are we persecuting them or harassing them? We’re not… Lord Kangki simply has a natural sense for commerce. He knows what moments the audience are most excited about. With that perspective, he balanced the entire system and created countless outstanding matches. In fact, Lirua was able to become a major city in only a few decades because of his guidance.”
“Did anyone lose anything in the process? The spectators gained a lot, and so did the Fighters. The fear of losing their lives disappeared and their profits soared tremendously. I think it’s a happy sight for everyone.”
“It’s false happiness.”
“It is falsehood in good faith.”
In this world, there was truth that shined brighter only when it was hidden, and this was an example of that.
“The simple and barbaric fighting in the arena has become a smooth and wonderful system. All of the Fighters in Lirua have accepted it. You are the only one who still refuses to. Everyone is saying that you are wrong, so why can’t you accept it?”
“Because my heart can’t understand it.”
If there was a reason, then that was the reason.
“Kaytai. A lie is a lie. No matter how much you try to cover up your actions, it doesn’t change the fact that you are deceiving the spectators… No.”
There was something far more important than the audience.
And there was something Bargan really wanted to ask.
He wanted to ask not only Kaytai in front of him, but the other Fighters as well.
“You… Are you really fine with it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you really happy participating in matches when the result is already set?”
After going silent for a moment, Kaytai smiled.
“Do you know how much I can earn just by fighting one match now?”
“At least a few million erus. Kuhuhu… It’s an amount that a wanderer like you might never see in their entire life. You can’t even imagine the things you can do with that much money.”
“What can you do?”
That question left Kaytai speechless for a moment.
He never expected him to ask in such a direct manner.
“You can do anything you want. Whether it’s buying a grand mansion, drinking the best wine, or buying pieces of art that you can admire just by looking at them-”
Bargan’s chuckle interrupted him. It was clear that he was mocking him.
Kaytai’s expression became cold.
“Why are you laughing?”
“I’m laughing because of how disgusting you are. You really are a slimy bastard.”
“What did you just say?”
“…it’s not like that.”
Right. It wasn’t like that.
Many people living on other islands scorned fighting as vulgar scuffles.
They exalted the studies that they buried themselves into as noble, and downgraded fighting to lowly fist fights.
But Bargan didn’t agree.
Why did they risk their lives while fighting?
“…fighting is… a desire to be recognised. A desire to leave a name behind. Those with such a desire gather together and fight against each other in tacit agreement with the opponent they respect.”
“It is a desire to show the world that they are the stronger Fighter and to prove that the resolve they have held for their entire lives isn’t wrong.”
True pride could only be achieved after fighting for your life and your belief.