Red Marshall had a stunned expression on her face as she watched Black Ink's left hand. She knew better than anyone how powerful those arrows she shot were. Due to the limitations of this competition, she had to be more cautious than most. As an archer, her great speed, animal-like reflexes and intuition were all she could rely on. The field wasn't exactly suitable for archers since there were no places to hide or mount a sneak attack. Also the fact that one had to face their opponent before the match began meant that she had to constantly be on the move by using her superior speed. But even then, that would barely do anything to help her. Moving around so quickly made it difficult to fire powerful arrows quite freely. But she was an anomaly.
She had been raised battling beasts of all sizes and strengths, and her master had mostly thrown her into situations where she had to face Magical Beasts with speed equal to or superior to her own! Over her the years, her body had grown so strong and efficient that she could fire powerful arrows from any position. Whether she was upside down or falling over a cliff, she was able to fire her arrows with 98% accuracy and with 70% of her full power. But she was unsatisfied with this result. Although the average archer would be absolutely enthused with such statistics, she was no average archer, and sought to get better. So she trained and trained and developed a technique of her own. It was called the 15 Arrow Deathshot. This skill had been developed after years of research, and allowed her to fire 15 arrows with deadly precision and power. The scariest part about the skill was that with every arrow fired, the momentum gathered in the next would be stronger and would give rise to a more powerful arrow. This was after she understood that different postures allowed her to access more power than she was capable of. In other words, the second arrow was more powerful than the first arrow, and the third arrow was more powerful than the second arrow. It was continuous until the 15th arrow. That was currently her limit. But even then, the 15th arrow already contained about 200% of her maximum power! That was an insane statistic. But who would have thought that it wouldn't be enough to deal with Black Ink?
Black Ink who was silently standing in the center of the field suddenly sprang into life. Like a man parched by the desert sun suddenly finding an oasis, he moved with speed greater than what he had displayed so far. His movement was refined and composed, and his clear eyes filled Red Marshall with a sense of unease. She could tell that he was different from before. Before he was like a hungry beast who had just discovered food and was impatient to feast. But now he was a man who had been through the vicissitudes of life and had several scars to show for it. Right now Black Ink's aura was so calm that it was dangerous. Red Marshall deftly unstrung her bow. Her fingers produced several after images as she quickly unstrung her bow and returned the string to her pocket. She twirled the bow in her hands and it straightened into a rod.
"That is incredible," Mane marveled at the brilliance of the person who made the bow.
"It is. The Red Team comes from the First Class City, Blacksmith City. Over there are several world class craftsmen and women with the ability to make novel and intelligent items like the bow Red Marshall is using" Vital Orange who had been absent all this while appeared next to Mane and Lam and explained.
"It is said that Red Marshall's bow was made using the finest of minerals, and was refined with the most delicate of techniques to make it as flexible as it is strong," Black Hand was also here. As he spoke, Mane and Lam's eyes glowed as they wished for powerful weapons of their own.
"This world is more mysterious than we thought," Hildegarde stated from atop Mane's shoulder, and Mane nodded in reply. Indeed, this world was a fascinating one. There were Soul-Bound warriors, Returning to Origin warriors, and blacksmiths capable of fashioning intelligent middle class weapons. Now Mane was very interested in visiting Blacksmith City.
"Are you interested in going there?" Vital Orange asked with light glowing in his eyes. Mane furrowed his brows upon noticing this. He suddenly realised that Vital Orange didn't tell him this for nothing.
"I am," Mane admitted.
"We can help you meet the best blacksmiths there. Our city has a good relationship with their city." Vital Orange smiled and said.
"So, that's what they wanted," Hildegarde smacked her lips and said. Mane smiled as well since he knew what was going on. Vital Orange may have been interested in getting Mane and the twins to move to The Citadel, and maybe he was intending to invite them after the competition was over. But he had suddenly become more urgent. Which meant that something must have caused him to grow panicked.
"It must be the conversation you had with the City Lord. It seems they really are on opposing sides." Hildegarde analysed, and Mane agreed with her. That was the only thing that had happened recently, and the only thing that could make Vital Orange and Black Hand seek to invite them so soon.
"That must be why they weren't here initially. They must have been sending out information about us." Mane told Hildegarde his thoughts and his blood run cold. To be honest, he was very uncomfortable with the current situation. Although he had a good impression of the Orange Team, that wasn't enough to move to their camp. And he didn't want to be involved in their fight with the City Lord. But it seemed that his fate had already become entwined with this conflict from the moment he agreed to Ivor's request and set out to join the Orange Team.
"I see. Thank you then." Mane nodded and said to Vital Orange, who had a huge smile on his face after hearing Mane's words.
"What a mess," Mane sighed silently to himself as he started to think of a way out of this mess.
Red Marshall darted out of the way to avoid the spear of Black Ink. Her movements were elegant, and none of her energy was wasted. Her cold eyes assessed the enemy before her as she span and swung her rod towards Black Ink's temple.
Black Ink was just as efficient as Red Marshall. He leaned back slightly and thrust his spear towards the base of the rod, and deflected the attack masterfully. Then he twisted his body and thrust his spear forward, not at all affected by the beauty of the woman who was in front of him.
Judging that she couldn't take the attack head on, Red Marshall smartly avoided the attack. Like a string full of elasticity and tension, she kept twisting her body into several strange angles to avoid Black Ink's attacks. Yet the man's spear was like a snake as it tried to coil around her and followed her every movement.
Suddenly, Black Ink flung his spear at Red Marshall. It was done with no warning whatsoever, and Red Marshall never saw it coming. And because they were engaged in close combat, it seemed to be the most unlikely thing Black Ink could have done. Yet he was still able to do so even in such circumstances.
Red Marshall's face grew a bit panicked, as she pulled a bit of distance between herself and Black Ink. She had very little time to avoid the attack, and all she could do was try to save herself from getting any vital organs injured. Yet at the last moment, her face grew resolute, as she charged into the incoming attack.
"Is she crazy?" Lam wondered.
"No. That is the only way she can win" Mane responded. Lam was still a bit inexperienced in battle to comprehend what he was seeing, so Mane explained it to him.
"Since Black Ink has lost his weapon, he would be vulnerable after this strike. If she could get a good attack in, she may come out as the winner."
"May?" Lam asked.
"Well, nothing is set in stone." Mane shrugged and replied.
The spear easily tore through Red Marshall's leather armor, boring a hole through her abdomen. The powerful spear held power so great that it kept on soaring through the air even after piercing through Red Marshall. Red Marshall didn't even produce a squeak. Her eyes were cold, and although her arms trembled slightly from the pain, her charge didn't falter in the least. Like a ferocious beast that had been left with no choice, she gathered power in her rod and struck the stunned Black Ink squarely on his temple.
Black Ink's figure flew through the air and landed on the ground a few meters away. Red Marshall ignored the pain in her abdomen and rushed towards his fallen figure. Her eyes were filled with determination as she approached him, and her speed – although reduced because of her injury – was still impressive. However, a figure appeared next to Black Ink before she could get there. This person was Steel Fist.
She lifted her hand to indicate to Red Marshall that there was no need to continue. Black Ink had been knocked unconscious. The healing team quickly made their way to the fallen Thrasher to assess his injuries. In his state, he was likely severely concussed. Another healing team made its way towards Red Marshall
"Black Ink is unconscious and is unable to continue. Red Marshall wins!"