The masks that Martial Artists wore were not meant to protect their face or head, it was meant to protect their identity. Of course, Martial Apprentices got hit in the face and the head regularly thus the masks that Martial Apprentices wore were designed to survive the rigor of Apprentice-Realm combat. Of course, most masks needed heavy maintenance after rigorous extended combat.
Ordinary substances that couldn’t withstand the rigors of Apprentice-Realm combat while the esoteric resources with the tensile strength to be able to completely endure Apprentice-Realm combat were strategic resources that also too scarce to be wasted on masks.
Thus, as well as masks were designed to survive and at the very least stay intact, when faced power and onslaught at effectively the pinnacle of the Apprentice Realm, they simply couldn’t stay intact.
Rui hadn’t even realized that his mask had fallen off until he felt the warm air make contact with his face.
Yet before he could even process his situation, his eyes fell on his opponent, who was in the same predicament.
Golden hair and golden eyes. Perfect, beautiful features.
The man looked like a prince.
Yet it wasn’t his aesthetics that shocked Rui.
“You…!” He murmured in shock. Rui’s mind flashed back nearly two years ago, back to his bodyguard mission in the Basara Mountains. He had fought a bandit group that was routinely ambushing and plundering supply convoys for high-grade esoteric resources.
The leader of the bandit group back then who had managed to escape was the very man before him.
Rui quickly contained his shock as much as he could, pretending it was his own mask slip he was shocked about. He didn’t want the golden man to figure out he recognized his identity.
Meanwhile the crowd had grown extremely excited. The identity of not just one, but two of the strongest Martial Artists of the Martial Games had been revealed in one go.
Rui’s features had instantly given him away. The crowd immediately his identity to the finalist of the Martial Contest.
“Hey, that black hair and eyes. That’s that Apprentice Rui Quarrier fellow!”
“Wait, Lady Freier managed to rope in the finalist of the Martial Contest??”
Rui sighed. There was nothing he could do at this point. He had done his reasonable best hiding his identity.
At the very least, he wasn’t nearly as concerned as he was when he first accepted the representative fighter commission from Nartha. Since then, his goodwill with the members of the Martial Games community had risen, if he was in bad blood with all of them, he would have been extremely concerned.
Furthermore, in the two months he had spent initially in the Martial Games, he had come to realize that basically nothing happened to the fighters commissioned for the Martial Games. Part of this was because no Martial Artist would ever participate in it if there was serious adverse risk to participating in the Martial Games.
Part of the reason was Charles DiVilier. Everyone knew the man loved Martial Art, he went out of his way to ensure that there were no disincentives and incentives. Nobody wanted to make any enemy of a man with the wealth, power and influence that he had.
So why was it this man’s representative fighter was a bandit?
This raised huge red flags in Rui’s mind. But for now, he kept things under a lid. He was enjoying the fight prior, but not he just felt wary. He glanced at Charles and saw the man was staring at him with a knowing a smile. He didn’t seem surprised at Rui’s identity.
Both fighters immediately got their feet as they immediately took their stances against each other.
“It’s very unfortunate that the fighters’ masks have broken.” Charles’ voice boomed. “It would be unfair to expect them to continue when they were unable to conceal their identities the way they originally wanted to.” He continued. “Here at the Martial Games we accommodate Martial Artists when and where we can. This match will be called off for today.”
A wave of disappointment washed over the guests, but none of them dared raise an objection to his words.
Rui’s eyebrows knitted at those words. His identity was already revealed, the mask or not, it didn’t matter. Yet the fact that Charles insisted likely meant that the reason he wanted had nothing to do with Rui’s identity.
Rui turned back to the blond man, scrutinizing him in suspicion.
Did Charles know who he was? Is that why he was stopping the match? He didn’t want even the slightest chance of it being leaked that his representative was a prolific bandit that disrupted economy of the town of Hajin and no doubted affected several of the guests and members of the Martial Games?
Rui didn’t know for sure. He turned back to the blond man, who was turning around to leave.
“Hey.” Rui called out.
The man paused. Meeting Rui’s gaze from the edge of the field of his vision.
“I’m Rui Quarrier.” Rui told him. “May I have the honour of knowing your name?”
He stared at Rui for a few seconds before turning around wordlessly and leaving.
(‘So he won’t bite.’) Rui mused.
He sighed. There wasn’t anything he could do about it frankly. And at the end of the day, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything about it.
He was quite shocked to see the man here, and he was wary and suspicious of Charles. But that was it. The culture of the Martial Games had become a lot more transparent to Rui and this event didn’t really matter all that much.
He would still participate in the Martial Contest every time he wanted to test his prowess against a diverse set of Martial Artists in a serious competitive match.
Soon the matches had ended since there weren’t any fighters left challenge Rui. And the guests mingled with each other freely.
Rui had been bombarded with praises and admiration from many of the guests who had personally taken an interest in the Martial Contest. The reputation that Apprentice Falken had built from scratch in the Martial Games community overlapped with the fame that Rui had acquired in the Martial Contest. His image rose in their minds as many of the guests cozied up to him, trying to get him retain them as clienteles.