Chapter 125 – The Preliminary Round Begins

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Author: Carrot Sauce Original Source: SFACG Word Count: 3190 characters
Translator: LazyButAmbitious English Source: Re:Library Word Count: 2257 words
Editor(s): Robinxen

The spring in Heian-kyō was cold and filled with damp fog. However, there were eight places in the capital that were particularly lively today.

Even in times like these, most citizens of Heian-kyō did not often get to see life and death battles, especially when they weren’t related to themselves. But when fights occasionally happened, they could purely enjoy watching from the sidelines.

And for more than a month starting today, they would be able to witness such spectacles. The Yoshitsune Memorial Ceremony began as scheduled and the first event was the relatively lengthy and long-awaited Grand Tournament.

Throughout the entire memorial ceremony, frankly speaking, the favorite activity of most men in Heian-kyō was the grand tournament which included the preliminary rounds all the way to the final showdown. Of course, they were here to watch the battles; not to participate.

The enthusiasm, courage, and catharsis gained from such activities could be said to be primitive cruelty, which was out of tune with this elegant city, but…without martial arts, who would be able to protect this elegance?

It was precisely because of this truth that the poor people in Heian-kyō were very enthusiastic about this grand and bloody contest that only took place once in several years!

As for the contestants, it was a road to either heaven or hell

Facing life and death without regrets, willing to gamble and admit defeat— even a samurai with average strength had long grasped an understanding of life and death that far surpassed the vast majority of living beings.

This was the way of the samurai.

Kagami Lily, who was dressed in red and holding a red parasol, walked alone in the streets of Heian-kyō. At this time, more than a week had passed since she and her sisters parted after the cherry blossom ceremony.

Lily wasn’t the first to embark on her own journey, nor would she be the last. It was nothing else but that the time of the Yoshitsune Memorial Ceremony was fixed.

Yuki Mayumi had left early, after which, Lily, Haihime, and Shiu set off together through the teleportation formation. After all, as long as there was room to stand in the teleportation formation, transporting one or several people at a time only costed a single magatama. Before they left, Lily brought more than a hundred magatama that were recently collected by the master craftsman-level shikigami. The efficiency of the master craftsman-level shikigami when mining was really too high. Lily made Kagura sleep first and let Nanako stay in the valley with Kotoka for a few more days.

After returning to the chief advisor’s residence, Shiu, as Lily’s female ninja, was allowed to stay in the manor by Ayaka at Lily’s request. However, she could only live in a place specially arranged to house female ninjas in the outer courtyard of the chief advisor’s manor.

During this period, Lily, Haihime, Shiu, and Nanako had also gone to the Heian-kyō Market for a day, but unfortunately, they didn’t get to appreciate the style of the night market. But according to Yuuta, Kimiko was preparing to reopen the night market soon.

Lily gave the ancient mirror she took from Mino’s Viper to Haihime and sent her off as she left the city, heading further west to start her own journey. After that, Lily returned to the chief advisor’s manor to meditate, practice, and focus on physical training. She also went to observe Kimiko’s Himemiya Sen-no-hana Painting, which was quite rewarding. Now, Lily’s seductive intent was already close to the level of true intent1.

At this time, Kagura and Yuki-Onna had also advanced to the peak of the Permanence Stage through the use of Emishi spirits. But at this time, as long as there were no accidents, there wouldn’t be any chance for them to show their strength. After all, the contest of the Yoshitsune Memorial Ceremony was about achieving victory through real swords. It was absolutely forbidden to use shikigami, arcane arts, hidden weapons, and non-weapon types of arcane tools.

Lily failed to get a semi-final spot from the Fujiwara Clan and would have to participate in the initial preliminary round. According to customs, anyone who was a citizen of the Heian Dynasty could participate without any recommendations or quota as long as they weren’t a demon. That being the case, Lily did not ask Ayaka to make arrangements and came directly with her sword.

The preliminary round took the longest time, a full month.

Eight martial arts dojos were set up in eight different places in Heian-kyō, and each contestant was free to go to any one of them. The competition was held in a ring, and after winning three consecutive matches, one could choose to continue fighting or leave, and no one was allowed to force a challenge.

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Each contestant, before going to the ring for the first time, had to pay five kan in exchange for a bronze identity plate, which was distributed by the court and had a spell inside that could not be imitated.

Each person could only exchange for one bronze plate, and if one exchanged more than once, they would be heavily punished if caught.

Contestants with bronze plates could go up on stage to defend the ring or issue a challenge. If one won, they would naturally get the opponent’s bronze plate, but if they lost, they would have to give up their own bronze plate. However, in a real sword competition, it wasn’t a rare occurrence to get injured and the possibility of losing one’s life was also very high.

These eight rings were open for eight hours during the day, which of course included the daytime of the extended night. There was an hour of rest at noon and in the evening, and they were also open for four hours during the night.

During this period, there were no other restrictions. As long as a person had a bronze plate, they could challenge or defend the ring, but it must be a one-on-one true sword competition. Everything else was optional.

The victor would win all the bronze plates of the loser.

Once in the ring, the number of bronze plates held will be recorded by the onmyojis under the ring and checked every night. The next morning, the top 16 bronze plate holders would be announced on Suzaku Avenue in front of the main entrance of the palace.

If there was a tie for the sixteenth place, it would also be announced together.

In the end, one month later, the sixteen strongest contestants who remained on the rankings would enter the semi-finals. If there was still a tie for the sixteenth place at that time, a mandatory draw would be held to determine the qualifier.

In the semi-finals, the 16 people who passed the preliminary round and the 16 people who were recommended by the major forces, a total of 32 people, would fight to determine the 8 qualifiers for the finals!

Three bronze plates could be exchanged for one silver plate and three silver plates could be exchanged for one gold plate. Their function was the same as that of the bronze medals. No matter how many plates one had, if they lost a game, they would lose everything. The onmyojis kept all the records so nothing could be hidden. Besides, defeat meant losing the qualifications to continue the competition. If someone deliberately hid any plates, it would be detrimental to the competition and result in severe punishment to the offender. The identity plates would be recorded under the winner’s name and the statistics would be calculated every night, so it would be extremely difficult to cheat.

Of course, for those who got defeated, losing their identity plates was a trivial matter. Not returning as a corpse or cripple could already be considered very good. The rules were still very simple. For Lily, it was enough to challenge the ring every day, get more plates, and stabilize her ranking in the top sixteen.

Lily held a purchased guide map for the preliminary round of the Yoshitsune Memorial Ceremony, which indicated where the eight martial arts dojos were located in Heian-kyō.

There were eight dojos and none held priority over the other. Anyone could go to any dojo or challenge different dojos. The purpose was to earn bronze medals. Of course, there were also some tricks, such as finding a dojo or match that was more suitable for you to fight.

Lily came out of the chief advisor’s manor and looked at the eight martial arts dojos marked on the guide map. She was a little confused and couldn’t tell the difference so picked the closest one.

This dojo was called: The Ring of Sacrifice.

It was on Suzaku Avenue, near the Heian Palace where the terrain was open. It was a central location where the largest number of people gathered.

But on the other hand, among the people who came here, the majority of them were inexperienced newcomers. Experts or veterans tended to choose isolated dojos and avoided the most competitive places.

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When Lily arrived on Suzaku Avenue, she saw that it was already crowded with people. In the center of the avenue was a temporary wooden high platform which was eight meters wide and twenty meters long, with red wooden railing and paper ropes around the periphery.

On one side of the platform, a grandstand that had a folding screen behind it was built. The upper, middle, and junior supervisors of the ring stayed here and it also hosted the seats of similar-ranked people such as inspectors, high officials, and nobles who may come to spectate the battles. There were also a few onmyouji who were responsible for keeping records at the edge of the ring below.

The spectators were already crowded together, but the competition still had a few minutes before starting and the ring was empty.

Lily stood in the back row of the crowd and watched quietly. Since anyone who was unafraid of death theoretically had a chance to issue a challenge, it was hard to differentiate the spectators from the contestants. After all, among the spectators, there were people who resembled various warriors such as monks, ronin, et cetera. Maybe it was possible for a spectator to jump on stage to fight when their blood started to boil.

People were talking and chatting, seemingly calm as if watching the drama that was about to start. However, as the time drew near, the atmosphere became a little tense.

Finally, the time was almost here. Today was the first day of the preliminary round and this ring was one of the central locations. Suddenly, a group of soldiers pushed through the crowd and a few solemnly dressed warriors and public officials made their way to the grandstand, each of whom had their own duties. The warriors would determine the winner and the public officials would monitor the entire process of the competition.

“Look! The one in purple clothes is the Chief Supervisor! He’s the head of the preliminary round’s supervisors and a seventh-rank official! Did he really come here?”

After that, Lily also saw several other gorgeously dressed nobles who went over to the grandstand, supposedly to watch the battle. Among them were two ladies and a young girl.

“Everyone— please be quiet. The first segment of Lord Yoshitsune’s Memorial Ceremony, the preliminary selection stage of the Hero Selection Tournament, officially begins!” The pot-bellied chief supervisor announced in a loud voice.

Immediately after, the taiko drums set up on both sides of the ring were struck by several muscular, middle-aged mourners wearing loincloths. A few strange-looking men also got onto the ring and performed in a disorderly manner, prompting laughter from the spectators. The atmosphere was gradually warming up.

The few clumsy performers soon went down amidst boos and laughter, after which, the junior supervisor got up and announced, “The ring competition has officially started. Which hero dares to be the first to enter the ring?”

The crowd quieted down and the ring remained empty for a while as surprisingly no one went up. Lily watched unhurriedly from a distance. After all, this competition would last for a month.

“I’ll do it!”

A tall, one-eyed man with a large beard and scruffy clothes walked out of the crowd. He had a normal-sized uchigatana on his waist. The bearded man stepped into the ring with his pair of straw sandals and his complexion was dark and tanned.

“Please pay the five kan.” An attendant went up to the edge of the ring and said to him.

“What?! You want money?” The bearded man reached into his chest and felt around for a long time, “Oh, I lost all my money on drinking and gambling last night.”

This caused the crowd to laugh. The attendant threw a confused look at the junior supervisor.

The junior supervisor also shook his head helplessly, “Forget it, forget it. Heroes are not afraid of being born in poverty. According to past practice, if you win the first battle, you will be exempted from paying the five kan. If you lose, you will owe the government five kan, okay2?”

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“Okay! Okay!” The bearded man said cheerfully.

So the attendant took out a round bronze plate the size of a peach kernel and handed it to him.

The bearded man held the bronze plate in his hand and tossed it up and down as he looked from the platform, “What is it? Does anyone want to come up and compete with me?”



References

  1. Robinxen: Bet she still can’t intentionally use it properly.
  2. Robinxen: What a lenient system.

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