༺ Underground Arena (2) ༻
The arena was silent, but only for a moment.
The audience was taken aback as the Bloody Storm Sword fell with just one blow, but soon they grasped the situation and began to cheer.
“Cr-crazy! Bloody Storm Sword was taken down in one shot!”
“Who did they say that guy was? Iron Fist Ian?”
“The odds were 13 to 1? Darn it! I should’ve bet on that guy!”
“One shot! That’s amazing, Iron Fist!”
Enthusiastic cheers poured out from the stands, but all that came from me was a deep sigh.
Sylvia announced Iron Fist Ian’s victory with a bright smile, but I couldn’t find any excitement in her words.
I could only think about how things had ended up like this.
A few hours earlier.
Sylvia suggested reopening the underground arena as a way to revitalize the stagnant underworld.
“Yeah. Some crazy wizard set fire to the stadium, and the arena had been closed indefinitely while the building was being repaired. Now that the repairs are done, I want to use this as an opportunity to bring customers back to the underworld… but I need your help for that.”
I nodded once, as if to encourage her to continue.
Sylvia went on.
“We need a fighter to create buzz for the arena, right? Someone with overwhelming skill and preferably an unknown rookie. Audiences enjoy it more when there’s a new face, rather than just seeing the same old fighters.”
“…That’s just a superficial reason, though. My real goal is something else.”
I scrunched my face as if to ask what she meant, and Sylvia crossed one leg over the other, giving me a playful smile.
“I want you to crush all the arena fighters mercilessly, as overwhelmingly as possible.”
I didn’t know much about how the arena worked, but I wondered if a rookie suddenly appearing and taking down all the existing fighters would really help boost its popularity.
Even if I become the new champion in the arena, I don’t plan on continuing to compete. I wondered why she would entrust such a task to someone who would obviously leave soon.
As if guessing my thoughts, Sylvia waved her fingers and spoke.
“Opening the arena for promotional purposes is a good idea, but actually, the arena business isn’t really related to me.”
“That’s strange. Weren’t you the real power behind this underworld?”
“I am the real power, just not the ruler. This story is a bit long… Should I tell you the long version or the short one?”
I shook my head lightly.
“Short, just the main points.”
“…Hmm. It’s actually harder to explain it briefly…”
Sylvia crossed her arms and paused for a moment.
“First of all, there are four of us who are the real powers behind the underworld. Me, who runs the brothel, King Rat – the beggar leader, Ulrich – the drug dealer, and Bondman – the loan shark. The four of us manage the underworld together.”
“I heard that one organization manages the underworld.”
“That’s only half true. We’re not exactly led by a boss, but the four of us do form one organization. However, if you look closer, we’re actually busy fighting each other for power every day.”
I could get the idea without hearing more.
Since fighting each other wouldn’t be beneficial in the long run, the four of them probably agreed not to fight like some sort of pact.
But while they might not fight openly, it was obvious that there would be intense secret struggles behind the scenes to take away each other’s power.
This was the general rule when there were four factions gathered in such a small area.
Sylvia awkwardly scratched her cheek as she spoke.
“It’s a bit embarrassing to say this myself, but among the underworld, I’m relatively more conscientious in my management.”
I knew that already. The expressions and atmosphere of the women working there made it clear.
Of course, I knew that the term “conscientious illegal establishment” didn’t fit well, but while the women had the decadent atmosphere unique to those who work in the entertainment industry, they didn’t seem to be forced into their work.
I didn’t know about the past, but at least after Sylvia began managing the place, such things must have ceased.
“But the other three… they’re more vicious and arrogant, maybe because they were already big shots before I entered the underworld. And the arena is a business they’ve been running together for a very long time, so it’s hard for me to interfere.”
“Do you want me to smash it for you?”
“Yes. I want it completely destroyed. If the long-cultivated fighters are ruined, they won’t have any to send out for a while. If things go well, I might even be able to take over the arena business.”
“Then the other three won’t look kindly upon you.”
“We weren’t on good terms from the start. Besides, if you knew the exact number of people who die unfairly in the illegal arena each year, you’d be surprised.”
Come to think of it, the coachman I saw then testified that they sold the kidnapped demi-humans to the underworld.
Sylvia said she protected the people traded in the brothel and returned them.
But what about those who were traded in places other than the brothel?
What happened to the demi-humans sold as magical experiment subjects or gladiator slaves? Could Sylvia have protected all of them?
Maybe not. I thought that perhaps her desire to take over the arena business might be partly due to that reason.
Instead of asking Sylvia directly for confirmation, I simply nodded my head lightly and said,
“You’re too conscientious to run a business in the underworld.”
“…Hmm, well. I’m not unaware of that.”
“How about running a business above ground? You could do well.”
Though she’s a wanted person, with Sylvia’s disguise skills, she could run a better business even in the light. She wouldn’t have to look after the women in the brothel and engage in illegal activities – with her abilities, she could live a decent life anywhere.
But Sylvia twirled a strand of her hair and gave a shy smile. It was a much more natural smile than the deliberately dangerous and charming ones she often wore.
“Sorry, but this is my home and my hometown. I have no intention of leaving.”
In the end, I accepted Sylvia’s proposal.
‘Bloody Storm Sword Gurun is a servant of Wangcho. He is infamous for his high-level Body strengthening techniques and cruelty. Although he is popular among the audience for having torn and killed 99 people in the arena… most of them were forced to participate in Bloody Storm Sword’s show.’
Bloody Storm Sword Gurun’s jawbone was completely shattered by a solid punch.
Even if taken to a temple immediately, he wouldn’t be able to chew meat with that mouth anymore.
“Bloody Storm Sword Gurun falls with just one hit from Iron Fist Ian’s punch! Victory for Iron Fist Ian! A brilliant opening match!”
‘Black Sword Zellen is drug dealer Ulrich’s hitman. He is famous for killing his opponents by any means necessary. When facing him, it’s a good idea to watch out for hidden weapons and poison.’
As Sylvia described, Zellen’s sword was coated in poison, and during the match, he even scattered dangerous poison powder.
“Why… why! It was a poison that would kill an elephant with just three drops! Why does it have no effect on you?”
“Poison doesn’t work on me because of my constitution.”
“What, that’s absurd…!?”
During the match, I caught all the hidden weapons my opponent threw. I crushed the hidden weapons with my hand, and thrust my tightly clenched fist into Zellen’s abdomen.
Zellen vomited blood from his nose and mouth and fell forward, unable to get up. With his internal bones and organs completely wrecked, he would need at least a few years to recover.
“Black Sword Zellen also falls with just one hit from Iron Fist Ian’s punch! Iron Fist Ian takes his second victory!”
‘He’s the brother of loan shark Bondman, Thunder Dalton. A 5th Circle Lightning Mage, he freely uses lightning magic to burn his opponents to a crisp. Never give him time or distance. If you let him use his magic once, endless lightning will rain down.’
Gwaaarrr! Gwaaar! Gwaaarrrrr!!
I walked forward, taking the shower of lightning with my whole body.
Dalton continuously cast spells and spewed lightning, running away with a pale complexion due to magical exhaustion.
“Uwaaak! Don’t come! Don’t come! Why doesn’t the lightning work on you?!”
“It stings a bit.”
As I did with Bloody Storm Sword, I drove my fist into Dalton’s jaw.
Spinning several times in the air and hitting the ground headfirst, Dalton didn’t move as if he were dead, but he was still faintly breathing.
However, with his shattered jawbone, he won’t be able to cast any more spells.
“Ladies and gentlemen, did you see that! Even Thunder Dalton! By the hands of Iron Fist Ian! With just one hit! With just one punch, he falls!”
“Iron Fist! Iron Fist! Iron Fist!”
After all the matches were over, Sylvia clung to my leg.
“Darling! No, brother! Let’s have just one more match! Just one more match! It’s a shame to end it like this!”
“I said let go.”
“We still need each other’s information, don’t we? I’ll give you a month, no, a year’s free pass to the arena! Please, just one more match!”
I had to firmly suppress my urge to kick Sylvia away.
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