The long-awaited Saturday.
It was the day when the Arcus Tournament was held.


The Arcus Center, where the tournament would take place, was filled with people from all over the country.

“Wow… There are so many people…”

It was so crowded that I couldn’t see ahead.

The Arcus Center here resembled the World Cup stadium from the previous world, in terms of its exterior.

The only difference was the central pillar tower.
From the pillar tower, the host would explain the tournament, announcing its beginning and end.
Sometimes Iris and Cassius would observe the tournament from up there.

There was another difference.
While a World Cup stadium would have only spectator stands surrounding the field, the Arcus Center had gates in the middle of the spectator stands that could transport you to the location where demons appeared.

Since it was a tournament to catch demons, a system was prepared to easily move to the place where demons appeared.

There were four gates, one in each direction.

The Nine members had agreed to meet in front of the gate in the north.
They were all there when I arrived.

“I didn’t expect you to be the last one, May Flotina.”

The Nine members noticed me when Diego spoke.
Galley, Velta, and Clovin just nodded their heads and greeted me without enthusiasm.

“I was delayed because of traffic.
Hasn’t it started yet?”

Then, with a thud, all the lights inside the Arcus Center went out, and only the central pillar tower was illuminated.

Jed came up to me and spoke.

“It looks like it’s about to start now.”

The host on the pillar tower raised a microphone and announced the beginning of the tournament.
The host’s voice echoed throughout the venue.

“Hello, everyone.
Thank you for coming all this way.
We will now begin the 4th Arcus Tournament!”

“Wow!!”

People cheered as the tournament began energetically.
The host explained the details of this tournament.

“The theme of this year’s Arcus Tournament is collecting beads.
It will be divided into the first round and the second round, and only the top 30 participants who collect the most beads in the first round will advance to the second round.”

The participants expressed their disappointment at the small number selected.

“There are so many people here, and they only choose 30… Should we just give up and go home…?”

“They should at least select 100.”

With visible people alone, there were easily more than 300, so 30 felt like a small number.

“In the first round, you must collect as many heart beads from the D-class demon, Bobdagu, as possible.”


The host showed the beads and a tray.

“The beads are the size of a small orange tennis ball.
Please collect them in the provided purple trays.”

The beads were bigger than I expected.
I thought they would be the size of a table tennis ball at most.

The beads were so big that skilled participants might need multiple trays…

“From 10 a.m.
today until 10 a.m.
tomorrow, the first round will be concluded.
You can rest in the individual tents provided.”

All the participants, including me, looked up at the circular-shaped giant clock placed at the top of the pillar tower.
The time was nearing 10 a.m.

“5 seconds, 4 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 1 second… The first round begins!”

The participants hurriedly received trays from the tournament staff and went to collect the beads.

We also received trays and entered the gate.
The gate felt like a short tunnel.

While walking, I examined the tray.
It had a strap, so I could hang it on my back.
I showed Jed that he could do the same with his tray.
Jed followed me and hung the tray on his shoulder.

“Jed, whatever you carry suits you well.”

I smiled warmly at Jed and let Diego know that he could hang the tray on his shoulder too.

Diego looked at me as if he was looking at something very insignificant.

“I won’t carry it.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t look cool.”

Diego, you secretly care about your appearance, huh?

“But Jed looks cool, doesn’t he?”

“….”

Diego glanced at Jed.
His expression conveyed that he found it ridiculous to see a chubby guy like Jed walking with a long tray attached to his back, looking like a model.

“Are you jealous?”

“You’re being disrespectful with your words.”

“What’s so cool about carrying a tray?”

I replied as if I didn’t understand.

“Well, it completes the look.”


“….”

Diego looked at Jed again with a puzzled expression.
Whether he looked now or earlier, it still looked ridiculous.

“This is just not right…”

“Are you jealous of Jed, by any chance?”

Well, Jed is quite handsome, so it’s understandable to feel jealous.

Diego denied it as if it wasn’t true at all.

“You’re saying absurd things.
I’m cooler than Jed.”

“What makes you cooler?”

When I asked innocently, Diego looked surprised and listed the points where he believed he was better than Jed.

“First, my reddish-brown hair stands out more and looks beautiful compared to Jed’s black hair.”

Usually, the protagonist has black hair, which is considered the truth…

“Is that what makes you cool?”

“Of course.
Black hair tends to get lost in crowded places.”

“But I don’t think he would get lost because of his face…?”

Diego ignored my comment and moved on.

“Second, Jed’s skin is pale and sometimes looks pale.
In contrast, I have a healthy complexion that is neither too pale nor too dark.”

“Is having white skin really attractive…?”

“Third, Jed has noticeable dark circles.
Even now, if you look closely, you can see a slight darkness under his eyes.
But I hardly get dark circles no matter how tired I am.”

“Dark circles can also be attractive…”

Diego glared at me.

“Why do you always have a retort at the end of your sentences?”

“But in my eyes, no matter what Jed wears or carries, he looks cool.
Didn’t the Crown Prince even say that he was jealous of me first?”

“….”

Diego seemed to be too bothered to respond and turned his head with a disheveled expression.
It seemed like he had concluded that there was no need for him to boast about his good points to me.

While Diego was looking elsewhere, I asked Jed in a low voice.


“But Jed, isn’t the Arcus Tournament only for people without magic? You have magic, don’t you?”

The guide for the Arcus Tournament clearly stated that anyone except those who possessed magic could participate.

“You just don’t use magic.”

“But still…”

“If it bothers you, you can watch me closely to see if I use magic or not, by my side 24/7.”

By my side 24/7…?

My heart skipped a beat at the thought of being able to be together like that.

Is it really okay? What if I can’t focus because I’m too excited…?

A happy thought made me hum a tune unconsciously.

* * *

The place we arrived at through the gate was beneath a certain mountain.
As soon as we arrived, we saw participants fighting D-class demon “Bobdagu” and collecting beads.

Now that I think about it, it’s quite amusing.
The demon’s name is “Bobdagu”…

The author must have been lazy with naming, as the lower the rank, the more trivial the names sound.

Bobdagu is exactly what it sounds like—a demon with only bones.

Why, during Halloween costumes, isn’t there an outfit with a black background and white bones drawn on it? Bobdagu looked just like that.
Black aura emanates around the white bones.

Whenever I encountered a Bobdagu, I aimed for its right shoulder.
I would swing my sword down on its right shoulder, diagonally towards its heart, and at the same time, the bones of the Bobdagu would split, and the heart bead would pop out.
It was a technique to easily extract the bead.

Pop, clink, clink…

I picked up the bead I obtained by defeating the Bobdagu.
Then I put it in the pouch I was carrying, after setting it down.

“Already halfway there, hehe.”

As I looked at the collected beads with joy and prepared to lift the pouch again, a participant who had been fighting a Bobdagu next to me was pushed back and approached me.

“Damn, it’s just a D-class demon, why is it so strong!!”

Even though it was a D-class demon, it had magical power, so it was natural for it to be strong.

The participant was pushed back further and came close to me, and I couldn’t quickly avoid the situation as I was carrying the pouch.

Right before colliding with the participant, Jed firmly grabbed my hand.

“Jed…?”


“We’ll collide.”

He pulled me towards him and embraced me in his arms.
Thanks to that, I didn’t collide with the participant.

His embrace was cozy.
I tried to calm down my pounding heart, as if it would burst out.

…Is this guilty?

I could have just held my hand, but I chose to embrace him.
Moreover, he hasn’t let go of me even now, long after that moment.

Knowing that I’m doing this while knowing that he likes me, with eyes that see the truth.
This is guilty, isn’t it? Yes, it is.

With my head still in Jed’s embrace, I looked up.

“You know, Jed.
It’s a sin to intentionally make someone feel excited when you don’t even like them.”

Jed looked down at me and lightly smiled.

“Well, I’ll just have to bear the consequences.”

“…Huh?”

I was slightly surprised because I didn’t expect such a confident answer.

As Jed let go of me, I took two steps back immediately.
And before it could get awkward, I lightly retaliated as a joke.

“I’ll pretend not to notice even if you’re punished.”

“I wonder what kind of punishment it will be.”

“Even if it’s a very big punishment?”

“Even if I’m in pain?”

“Well… I might not be able to pretend not to notice that…”

How can I pretend not to notice when I’m in pain? I should take him to the clinic quickly.

A smile appeared on Jedd’s lips again.

“Well then, it seems like it’ll be okay even if it’s a very big punishment.”

Jed approached me and handed me the pouch that I hadn’t managed to lift earlier.

“Let’s go.”

I calmed my excited heart and followed Jed, who was walking ahead.

“Come with me, Jed.”

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