Chapter 134 - Duel Bid (4)
The tense match ended in an instant. Randolph's trio of lightning strikes had been fast enough to be invisible to the audience. Even the last blow, done from a standstill, had been so fast that an afterimage remained.
"V-Victory!" The voice of the notary rang out one beat later.
The two swordsmen were still standing on the duel stage, but anyone who had seen the previous scene nodded in agreement. Then a frightening sound was heard. Chwaaaak!
Randolph's falchion dug into the right side of the Black Knight, before emerging on the left. There was no one who didn't understand the meaning of that. It was thick plate mail, so this meant the body hidden inside had been sliced in half.
"What? Didn't he only strike twice?"
"My eyes could only see one..."
There was no way to survive from being cut having one's waist cut through completely. The upper half hadn't fallen off yet, but as soon as it did, there would be a fountain of blood. Everyone except for three people were convinced of the Black Knight's death.
'Now, how will you get out of this?' Theodore questioned as he stared at Isaac.
This much damage wasn't enough to kill a senior undead, a death knight. He had suffered quite a lot of damage from the almost master level aura, but the skull, where the death knight's soul was stored, was still intact.
The Black Knight could keep fighting if it so desired. Of course, from now on, Randolph would have a one-sided advantage. If Isaac judged all of this rationally, there was only one conclusion he could make. Unsurprisingly, he reacted as Theodore expected.
"...Dammit! Attendant!" Isaac shouted, rising from his seat.
Then his attendants rushed to cover the body of the Black Knight, who still hadn't collapsed, with a rug. Isaac's intention was to end this situation before someone pointed out that no blood was flowing out from the knight's body.
Theodore knew this, but he didn't want to challenge it and make the situation bigger.
[Hey, Employer.] At that moment, Randolph, who had lost his opponent, walked toward Theodore. [Are you going to leave it alone? Isn't this a chance to expose what that agent is?]
[Well, your words aren't wrong.]
However, Theodore didn't choose that option. It was possible to claim a connection between the Orcus Company and black magic, but that was just cutting off Isaac's path of escape.
Would a rat cornered by a cat bite back? However, the problem was that Isaac wasn't a rat.
[The risk is too large. The death knight hasn't lost strength yet. There is no guarantee that Isaac only has one Black Knight. Additionally, you probably spent a lot of energy in that duel, Captain Randolph.]
[Umm, I can't deny that.]
[It is better to take a step back. I've attained the item I wanted, and I don't know how they will react if I accuse them.]
It was a realistic point. Although there were no apparent injuries, Randolph's physical condition wasn't good since he had used aura without a break.
If the death knight was in a position where he no longer had to hide his power, then Randolph would face a more unfavourable battle without an Aura Ability. Additionally, both Randolph and Theo were dead if one more death knight emerged.
The gamble was too risky, so they should be satisfied with this much.
[...Che, it can't be helped. I understand.] In the end, Randolph stepped back.
Theodore's words were correct, and Randolph was also worried about the actions of the cornered Isaac. So, Randolph descended from the duel stage and placed his falchions back in his sheaths while staring at Isaac. Despite his shabby clothing, Randolph was the winner.
'The skirmish was won, although it was a close call.'
By tacit agreement, the duel between the two bidders ended.
* * *
The attendants of the Orcus Company carried the body of the Black Knight away, while the spectators, who enjoyed the exciting spectacle, vacated their seats. The result was obvious, so they had no interest in the following announcements.
The notary, who watched the two swordsman compete fiercely a while ago, looked between the two bidders and declared, "The 57th underground auction, the duel bid for 'Charlotte's Necklace,' has been won by Bidder Theo's representative, Randolph Clovis. Therefore, the winner of this duel bid is Theo. Do both of you recognize this result?"
"I recognize it."
Unlike Theo, Isaac didn't answer immediately. "......"
"Agent Isaac?" The notary asked him one more time.
Then the answer fell from Isaac's heavy lips, "...I recognize it."
Isaac's bloodshot eyes showed that he didn't like this ending. If a passing child saw the scene, they would burst into tears from fear. His expression was dark, but there was something else it contained which incited a feeling of fear.
However, the notary's declaration wasn't over yet. "In accordance with the rules of the duel bid, the price for 'Charlotte's Necklace' must be paid by Agent Isaac. 300 gold please."
Isaac made a loud noise before pulling out 300 gold and handing the gold over to the notary. It seemed like he wanted to lash out at the notary, but he maintained his patience. This was a common sight for the notary... The losing bidders always screamed or glared angrily at him.
The notary turned to look at Theodore with a weak expression and said, "With this, the duel bid is over. Theo, 'Charlotte's Necklace' is now yours."
After that, a box was placed before Theodore. Just like the first time he saw it behind the glass box, this was the necklace which contained the curse. Charlotte's Necklace... If it entered the hands of a warlock, it would be able to demonstrate the power of a national treasure. After a moment of hesitation, Theodore held the necklace.
However, at that moment...
Agent Isaac's red eyes were staring at Theodore and Randolph with dark emotions flashing in his eyes. This was a warlock who was suppressing the urge to kill both of them right now.
"If you take the necklace like this, one day you will pay for it. It is too late for you to regret it."
Theodore didn't ignore him and nodded. "Those words are correct."
The confused Randolph and Isaac listened until the end, expecting there to be something more. However, Theodore laughed and smashed their expectations. "You should've just let me win the bid. Didn't you suffer big damages because of the duel bid? I am thankful for the lesson that you taught me."
"You cheeky fellow!" Isaac finally reached the limits of his patience and turned away. His reaction proved that Theodore's words had stabbed him. The Orcus Company's budget was huge, but Isaac would be responsible for the 300 gold he lost.
The notary joined Theo and Randolph in giggling at Isaac's embarrassed retreat.
"Kuhat, this is pretty interesting for a half price commission. That agent's face became as red as tomato."
"Kukukuk, who wouldn't?"
"Huhu, it is fun to laugh."
The two men, who savoured the victory, started to talk seriously after the notary left.
Randolph, who had experienced the death knight's combat power directly, asked Theodore with an unexpectedly serious expression, "Young Master, what will you do from now on? Is the Orcus Company's black magic at a scale we can handle?"
"I have to inform the Magic Society," Theodore replied without any hesitation.
Even if Randolph was almost a sword master and Theo was a 6th Circle magician, it wasn't a problem the two of them could afford to deal with.
The Orcus Company was one of the top three companies in the central continent, and they used taboo black magic. There were all sorts of ways for the warlock to increase the strength of their warriors, so it was better for a national force to be mobilized.
Fortunately, Theodore remembered that he had a liaison. "I will leave a passphrase for an information source of the White Tower. It might take a little bit of time, but the Magic Society will send an investigation team to survey the Orcus Company within a fortnight."
Randolph felt assured and laughed as he knocked on Theodore's shoulder. "As expected from Young Master. You don't have any gaps."
"That isn't true. To be honest, it was a mess." Theodore sighed at Randolph's praise.
This wasn't a false humility. It was by chance that Randolph was in this city, and he hadn't expected the opponent to be a death knight.
The operation had been full of holes from beginning to end. If Randolph had lost this duel, Isaac would've acted to confine him more thoroughly. Numerous possibilities had joined together to give Theodore this victory.
So, Theo couldn't say that it was due to his own skills.
When Randolph saw Theodore's gloomy expression. He quickly changed the topic. "Well, at least we won. Isn't that right? You must've gone through some hard times. Let's have a few drinks and exchange some of the stories that have accumulated."
"...I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that isn't possible."
"Eh? How come?" Randolph was confused by Theodore's grim facial expression.
"We will leave as soon as the sun rises tomorrow. We can't rest easily after poking the Orcus Company."
"I shattered that piece of tin, so isn't it okay for a few days?"
"No, that isn't the case."
The fearful thing about a necromancer was the strength of the undead. An undead which was not completely destroyed would be restored to its original state once it had enough time and black magic power supplied.
If a living person was supporting it, the death knight would be able to recover from the damage Randolph had dealt it in just a few days. There were all types of limitations in a duel, but the undead could exert all its power in a raid in the middle of the night.
This meant they had to get out of the city before the death knight recovered.
"Hoo, then are we just going to wait in the inn tonight? Then it can't be helped."
However, Randolph's grumbles changed Theo's mind. Randolph was a great warrior, so maybe the Orcus Company wouldn't act so easily. Couldn't Theo afford to exchange a few drinks with the one who had brought him the difficult victory?
Theodore made a decision and stated, "Come on, guide me."
"Didn't you want to have a few drinks? Perhaps you don't know any taverns?"
"No, Young Master just..."
Theodore shrugged at Randolph's expression and walked ahead. "Aren't we leaving tomorrow?"
Randolph understood Theo's curt words, and a big smile emerged on his face. He had been born as the child of a prestigious family, but his nature was of a wolf who loved freedom. Now, he would relieve his throat which was dry from the hot fight.
"Okay, then will Young Master be paying?"
"Of course. Thanks to the 300 gold saved today, you can drink until you pass out."
"Kuoh... As expected from Young Master!"
At that moment, Gibra who had been waiting in the distance interrupted them. "Cough! E-Employer, can I join as well?"
Theodore laughed. It was quite awkward to see him acting like this despite his two-meter-tall size. Frankly, Gibra had watched from a distance ever since Theo accepted the duel bid. However, he didn't turn his back on Theo even to the very end. Despite being from the backstreets, Gibra kept his loyalty to Theo.
"I will buy for you too because you didn't run away in the end," Theo said.
Then Gibra, who normally looked at others with a threatening expression, smiled brightly and cheered, "Ohh, thank you. Employer is truly magnanimous!"
"What, this person was hired by Young Master as well? Then we have one more friend to drink with."
"There is a lot to talk about! You must've suffered in the meantime."
The two people, united by their stories about Theodore, walked through the streets of Sipoto.
They had entirely different appearances and voices, but the conversation between the two people was quite good, as their involvement with the stormy Theo acted like the mediator between them. Therefore, the alienated Theodore just laughed and followed behind the two gossipers.
'...This is a good way to end the day.'
It wasn't efficient, but he couldn't enjoy life if he always pursued efficiency.
Theodore thought about Charlotte's Necklace in his pocket and placed his left hand over it. Soon after, it was placed in a blank space. This was the [Inventory] that not even a legendary thief could steal from.
With a more relaxed mind, Theodore decided to enjoy the night of fun.