The preliminary matches against random opponents went smoothly. William wasn’t matched up against any opponents that he had too much trouble against. Lila, of course, won all of her matches. Some of them through the opponents surrendering. Marius actually was matched up against her, and surrendered immediately. William would have made the same choice. It wasn’t required to win all of these preliminary matches. Thus, it was best to save your energy for fights you could win. Marius still won all of the rest of his matches, so he had no issues getting into the main tournament.
Geoff participated in the tournament too. Probably not that he needed or wanted any of the prizes, but because he liked prestige. He liked to win, to be on top. Of course, William could have told him that he wouldn’t actually be on top, because Lila was around, and that would be enough. What William had seen of her battle performance indicated that, if she had to face off against every single one of the thirty-two people in the main part of the tournament, without breaks, he thought she would probably still win. Of course, she would only have to fight five times, and not in direct succession. There was still the chance that William was overestimating her, because she was his friend, and very flashy. However, her perfect win rate so far couldn’t be too far off.
Thus, after several days of preliminary matches (there was only one arena after all), those with the best win rates were placed into a double-elimination tournament structure. Those who were unlucky enough to get matched against Lila… err, against a much stronger opponent near the beginning, would still be able to proceed in the tournament. Again, the point was to reduce how much luck affected proper placing. The reason for having thirty-two participants was that way, they would have to win two matches to get placed in the top eight and win a prize. Even with two wins, if you did not get any further, you would have to pick the prize last.
In William’s case, he was still actually quite lucky. Specifically, Lila was on the other end of the bracket, so he wouldn’t have to fight her until the final match, if he made it that far. Though, honestly, he wasn’t sure if he would fight her even then. Being second wouldn’t be so bad. He could still get one of his top picks. It’s not that he was afraid to fight Lila. Well, okay, he wasn’t that afraid. He just didn’t like getting hurt. While he knew that Lila wouldn’t seriously injure him, it still hurt. The wards had nothing to do with Lila not seriously injuring him. He was sure they couldn’t stop Lila if she wanted to. That might have been because he saw Lila practicing at night once, and she cracked the arena floor. It was a good thing that the floor was enchanted to be self repairing, though William expected they hadn’t thought it would get anything more than scratches.
The first two rounds passed uneventfully for William. He was happy that he would get a prize, but he couldn’t slack off. He wanted some of the better options, after all, so he had to get a higher rank. Plus, his next opponent was Geoff. He seemed to be in even more expensive equipment than normal. In addition, he’d actually managed to beat Marius in the second round. That showed he was serious. He even came up with a good strategy to fight Marius. William wasn’t sure if it would work a second time, but the fact that Geoff actually pulled it off was impressive. William wasn’t confident that he could win.
William could afford to lose once, however, he reserved that for going up against Lila. More importantly, he didn’t want to lose to Geoff. He just wasn’t sure what he could do, since they had been pretty evenly matched, but it seemed Geoff had actually been working on strategies, and not just buying fancy equipment. That was… good, in general, but bad for William. He would have to come up with something before tomorrow, or he would have a very tough fight. William wasn’t even sure what strategies Geoff had to counter him, so he couldn’t come up with any of his own. He’d already tried to reduce the weaknesses he knew about, but that didn’t mean there weren’t things he hadn’t noticed.
William worried about the upcoming match so much that he couldn’t sleep. So, he wandered around the dorm. If only he had equipment to match Geoff’s… However, most of it wouldn’t be useful, and he didn’t have the time to get any. More importantly, he didn’t have the money and didn’t want to ask his parents to spend that much for something like this. Robes would be nice. In terms of staff, William actually wasn’t sure if anything would be better than his oaken one, since he couldn’t use magic. All he could do was hit people with it, so it just needed to be sturdy. No magical staff would have any of the kind of enchantments that would help using it as a melee weapon.
William sighed, and stared off into the distance. Well, there was that staff. The one that had beat its way out of an iron prison. His gaze fell onto the crystal staff in its display case. He couldn’t help but walking up to the glass and pressing his face up to it to get a better view. “If only it wasn’t cursed. I can’t afford to risk getting injured or killed just for this stupid tournament.” He sighed. “You… are cursed, aren’t you?” William didn’t know what he expected to get from talking to a staff, but since nobody was around to hear him, it wasn’t a problem.
He did know, however, that he didn’t expect it to glow. Specifically, it glowed blue for a few moments. That… had never happened before, as far as he knew. William looked around. Not that anybody would be up and around, but maybe someone was messing with him. He saw nobody. “You… did you just glow?”
After a moment, it glowed again. The same color, the same period of time. “Are you trying to tell me something?” William wasn’t sure. It glowed again, in the same manner. However, it could be happening naturally. William noticed it was a regular pattern, and possibly not in response to his questions. It might just be reacting to the sound in general, too. What could he do to determine if it actually understood? “Can you… glow a different color?”
William hadn’t actually expected that to work. After all, the staff was blue, so it glowing blue wasn’t actually anything special. It might be the only color it could glow… and it was probably just responding to sound, for some reason. The staff glowed blue. William started to think of other things he could try. Then, the color shifted to purple, then red. “You… understand me? If you can, glow blue. Blue will be yes, red will be no.”
Immediately, it glowed blue. William grinned. It was either a lucky coincidence, or it actually worked. “This may be a rude question, but are you cursed?” Then, the staff glowed. However, it kept switching between red and blue. “Do you mean… sort of? Purple can be ambiguous, or both yes and no.” It glowed purple. “Right, so… you’re partly cursed?” Purple again. “Is it your curse that makes you hit people?” Red. That… actually caused William to pause. The curse didn’t cause it to hit people. “You hit people because you wanted to?” Blue. “Is it because they were bad?” Purple. “… Did you just not like them?” Blue.
So, the staff hit people because it didn’t like them. Wonderful. “You can control your own actions, then?” The staff glowed blue, and also moved around on its pedestal. “Then… is your curse something else?” Blue. William wanted to know what it was, but he didn’t even have a good guess. He decided to satisfy some of his other curiosity. “Can you glow even more colors? Having more responses available would be nice.” Blue. Then, the staff’s glow moved through most colors William could think of. “That’s pretty awesome.” Since it wasn’t a question, there wasn’t a response. “Umm, it doesn’t bother you that I’m asking a lot of questions, does it?” Red. “That… could be interpreted a few ways, actually. Let me rephrase that. Is asking lots of questions okay?” Blue. “Good. It’s kind of hard to communicate with just yes or no answers.” Blue.
“It’s actually pretty cool to see what you can do, but I actually have something important to ask. See, there’s a duel I have to go to tomorrow, and I was wondering, can you help me?” William prepared to run away in case it decided to be upset, and bash his head. There was only glass between him and it. Fortunately, it just glowed blue. “You’ll help me? That’s great. Actually, though, even though I look like I’m a wizard, and technically am, I can’t use magic. So, mostly I’d be using you to hit people. Is that okay?” Blue. Well, William hadn’t really expected it to object to hitting people.
“Umm, do you have a name?” After a few moments, the staff glowed red. “No name, huh. Do you want a name?” The staff turned blue. “Okay, I’m not very good with names, but I’ll come up with a few, and see if you like them.” William pondered for a moment, but couldn’t think of any good names. All he could think of was “Headbasher” and “Staff of Destruction” and other stupid things. Then he giggled to himself. Well, he could ask. “Do you like puns?” Blue. “Okay, let me try to explain this. The name I thought of is ‘Chris’.” He said Chris in English. “It’s a name from… another language I know. It sounds like the first part of crystal in that language, and since you are a crystal staff… I thought Chris might be a good name. Is that okay?” There was no response for a few seconds, then the staff rapidly flashed blue many times. “Does that mean you really like it?” Blue. “Then, from now on, your name is Chris! Though, I guess we can change it if you change your mind. So, how do we get you out of there, Chris?”
The answer was immediately apparently, as Chris smashed through the glass… on the opposite side from where William was. Then, he flipped end over end, moving around the display case, and stopped next to William. “Umm, is it alright to carry you?” Blue. Well, here was the moment of truth. Hopefully, the staff wouldn’t kill or maim him. Though, he supposed it could have done that at any point. He picked up the staff. William couldn’t sense magic, but he knew as soon as he picked up Chris that it was very magical. Not that he couldn’t tell that before, what with the glowing and moving around on its own. The staff… Chris, actually felt different than he had thought. The hexagonal shape seemed like it would dig into his hand, but it didn’t, and instead it seemed like it would just make it easier to keep his grip. It was quite nice.