340 We’re already friends
While the names from group C were being called out, the others in the group had gathered and started to look at each other as they noticed something odd.
Nate looked at his own group, then looked at the group around them again, trying to figure out what was wrong. "Why does our group look different?" He asked.
"It's because there's seven of us," Quinn replied.
Suddenly, Nate's heart started to beat. There was an odd amount of people. This often happened due to the number of participants taking part in the tournament. However, more often than not, a few people would drop out, or even a double knockout in cases, this would eventually even up the numbers.
If they had enough people, they wouldn't even bother calling up the substitute since it would just complicate matters. Right now, in the fighting tournament, there must have been an odd amount of people, and when this happens, it means only one thing.
"Alright." The soldier said, holding something behind his back the others couldn't quite see. "As you can see, group C is filled with seven people rather than six or eight, which means one of you won't be fighting today and will be able to move on to the next round, lucky you."
"Damn it," Nate said, stomping the floor. "Damn it, why this group why, why!" He cried. To the others, this would be a blessing, but to Nate, it's seemed like another obstacle trying to get in his way.
The soldier waited until Nate calmed down until proceeding further. He then revealed what he was hiding behind his back, and it was seven small sticks held in his hand with the bottom part covered up. "One of these sticks' bottom half is dyed Red. Whoever chooses this one shall be free from this round. Let's see.." He said as he scanned the room.
"You." The soldier said, pointing at Quinn. "You're first."
Quinn casually walked up to the front. There was no use trying to figure out which one was the red one, so he just picked the one closest to him. The stick was completely clear when pulling out, and there wasn't a red marking at all.
"Yes!" Nate shouted out loud again.
Now Quinn was starting to realize how much Nate wanted to fight him. However, this wasn't like the others, who tried to fight him because he was weak or to try to show off their own skills. It was because Nate thought he was strong.
Thinking about this made him feel a little warm inside. It was a change and a feeling he had never had before. No one hated his guts for being weak, and no one wanted to bully him.
The other participants were called, and they all pulled out clear sticks until, eventually, only the last two participants were left.
"You, you're up." The soldier said, pointing at Nate.
He was happy about this; it meant his fate was going to be in his hands, not of another's. There were now only two sticks left. If he chose the wrong one, then it just wasn't meant to be.
He looked left, he looked right, his eyes darting backwards and forwards between the two sticks.
"Just pick one already!" the soldier said, getting agitated that time was being wasted.
Closing his eyes and turning his head away, Nate finally picked a stick.
"Well, it looks like you won't be taking part in this round then."
Hearing those words made his heart sink, a lump was felt in his throat.
"What!?" Nate said as he opened his eyes and turned his head, only to see that the soldier was no longer standing in front of him and was standing next to the other student instead. When looking at his stick, he noticed it was completely clear. There was no marking at all.
There wasn't time to celebrate for Nate, as the soldier was already leading them all onto the arena floor.
'I knew the world wanted me and you to fight.' Nate thought. 'This was just another sign that nothing was going to get in our way.'
As they exited from the underground tunnel and onto the floor, the cheers were there as usual, and the others were watching above on the large screen.
"Oh, this will be interesting." Said Sam, seeing the screen.
"What do you mean by that?" Vorden asked.
"Well, the reason I've been keeping a close eye on the event so far is that my close friend is in it, and it looks like Quinn, and he is in the same group," Sam replied.
"Friend, judging by how you were hanging around us all the time. I would have assumed you had no friends." Logan replied.
That comment had stung Sam in the heart a bit, but he couldn't deny the fact that if others did know he was hanging around with a bunch of first-years from another base. It really would look like he had no friends.
"Is your friend strong?" Vorden asked.
"You better believe it." Said Sam." Although he's only a Level seven in terms of ability power, you can tell how strong he is based on how he was able to make it this far."
"I look forward to seeing him fight then," Vorden said.
"Well, let's just hope your friend and Quinn don't get put together. Otherwise, it would be pretty awkward." Said Layla.
"Yeah, I would feel bad supporting my friend right next to you guys, but as far as I know about Nate, he would be begging to be put up against Quinn."
And that was exactly what Nate was doing. The whole way, as he walked, he had his hands held together, and his eyes closed. He would only rely on his hearing to follow the footsteps in front of him.
Then finally, they came to a halt.
"Alright, Quinn Tallen stage three and Nate Snell." The soldier said.
He couldn't believe it, his prayers were answered, and he was finally going to fight someone worthwhile.
The two got into position and waited for the announcers to call all of the names. This time there were only three platforms, and once again, they had increased in size.
"And finally, on the third platform, we have the unexpected winner from last round, The Cursed Child! And his opponent for today who always seems to manage to pull a win out of the bag, Hardsteely."
The earth user raised the two onto the platform, but Quinn was struck with something after hearing the name. It was about the stage name that had been used.
He had instantly recognized it because it was the first friend he had ever added on the Power fighters VR game.
'These two are the same person.' Quinn was very thankful to Nate. He had given him advice before the portal planet and also taught him a great lesson when it came to fighting. If he ever met this person in real life, Quinn wanted to thank him for his help.
He never thought he would be meeting a person he met through a game this way right now.
When the two walked onto the large fighting area, the happiness on Nate's face could be seen a mile away, and the camera right now was focused on him.
"What's wrong with him?"
"Is he not all there."
The comments about him weren't nice as always, but he didn't care if he was happy he would show it, if he was sad, he would show it. Unlike the others, he wouldn't be fake and would just be himself. What was the point of pretending to be something you weren't?
"Let's get this fight started; show me that purple shadow of yours," Nate said, punching his fist into his other hand. Each time this was done, a loud clanging sound was heard as if metal was clashing against metal.
Quinn smiled at Nate and then raised his hand.
"I forfeit from the fight."
The referee, who was slightly off the side and just outside the arena, was surprised at this; he looked at Quinn for confirmation only to hear him repeat it.
"I forfeit from the fight. He is your winner." Quinn repeated.
"No!" Nate said. "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you refusing to fight me? Is it because you don't think I'm strong enough? Come on. I'll show you right now!" He shouted.
However, Quinn couldn't tell Nate the real reason. Quinn knew he was plenty strong, perhaps one of the strongest people he had met before. When the fight had started, he had received a quest.
[A strong opponent has appeared. Defeat the opponent in front of you to receive an instant level up.]
This was the reason why Quinn decided not to continue the fight. Whether he would win or not only using his shadow abilities was another story but what he didn't want to do was evolve in front of everybody. If he were to win the fight, the process would start immediately, and not knowing its result was too much of a risk.
He could have always fought and then allowed Nate to win at the end but judging from how they fought before, Nate wouldn't have liked that.
"No, I refuse. I don't care. I'm fighting, you know, and you better start throwing back!" Nate said as he walked his way across the arena and towards Quinn.
But the referee had come in between the two of them, stopping Nate midway.
"The contestant has already forfeited. This match is over."
The audience watching was all confused at what was happening as they were unable to hear the conversation going on. Then the announcement was made.
"Hardsteely has been declared the victor due to forfeit." The crowd was stunned by what had just happened, and so were the others in the booth.
But they couldn't be for long, as two more interesting fights were happening by the side and their attention quickly focused on them instead. They could worry about why the other chose to drop out later.
"Please!" Nate said. "Just tell me why you won't fight me."
"I never said I wouldn't fight you," Quinn replied. "We don't have to fight here; if you really want to fight me, we can do it when this event is over through the game Power fighters."
Nate had never thought about this before; he didn't care where they thought; all he wanted to do was have a good fight.
"Wait, what's your ID name?" Nate asked.
Quinn smiled at him once again.
"Don't worry; we're already friends."
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