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Chapter 761: Holy Duel
Translator: Transn Editor: Meh

Weapon shelves were placed on both sides of the platform for the convenience of both dueling parties.

Most common weapons were available, including knives, swords, and whips. For the sake of fairness, neither party was allowed to bring their own weapons. After all, a large clan would definitely be capable of forging superior blades, while a poorer challenger would have to rely on their crude equipment. This disparity would cause the duel to lose its meaning.

However, Thuram knew full well that there were ways around the rules. As a matter of fact, Iron Whip had defeated Osha previously by covertly swapping the provided whips for Blackwater versions. Although the arbiter punished the weapons supervisor later on, the result had already been finalized, and no one would contest a large clan on behalf of a fallen clan.

However, it was completely unexpected that Osha would rise from the verge of death.

Even the strongest of clans now felt pressured by its ferocious might.

This was the first time Thuram had seen the chief of Wildflame look on at the new challenger with a solemn look in his eyes.

"Is every warrior limited to one weapon?" Ashes suddenly asked.

"Err... there's no such rule." Thuram regained his attention. "You're allowed to carry as many as you wish."

"Great, I'm ready." She attached two scimitars around her waist, weighed a large sledgehammer in her hands, and further took up a wooden shield. "These should be enough to last me until the end."

Thuram gulped in amazement. Although he long knew that this black-haired and golden-eyed Divine Lady was extremely powerful, it now seemed like he had underestimated her. Most people required many years of training to use the double-handed sledgehammer, yet she was able to wield it with a single hand and with the ease of a small rapier. She would certainly be a nightmare opponent for any enemy. Clearly, she did not exert her full strength during the conflict in the tavern, or the entire place would have been demolished.

"I'm ready too." Andrea casually chose a short bow and deliberately reduced the number of arrows in the quiver to just 22.

"Get on the platform," Iron Axe muttered.

"Wait!" Thuram froze in surprise. "Just four of you?" He took a glance at the Graycastle warriors behind him. The 50-strong contingent was scattered around the place with their backs against the weapon shelves. They peered vigilantly at the onlooking crowd, with no intention of choosing weapons.

"There's no rule on the number of participants either, right?" Ashes coolly replied. "Four's enough."

According to the rules, the number of participating warriors from each side should be between 15 to 30 people. The upper limit was set out of consideration of the space on the platform. However, there was also a stipulation that the number of participants from the challenger clan should not exceed that of the challenged clan. That meant that if the opponent sent out 15 warriors, Osha would be allowed to send out no more than 15 warriors too.

This stipulation was borne out of a harsh truth: no matter which side won or lost, heavy casualties were expected, and it was common for more than half of the participants to be either critically or fatally wounded. There had certainly been duels in which only one warrior was left standing. Thus, the greater the number of participants, the heavier the losses of each participating clan would be. It was uncommon for one side to send out 30 or more warriors, unless the challenged clan knew beforehand that the challenger clan would not be able to send out an equivalent number of warriors, and might hence use this method to obtain a numerical advantage.

Cut Bone's decision to send out 22 men certainly took into account that even if they lost the duel, there would not be too much impact on their clan's strength. It would not be the end of the world if they lost control of Iron Sand City to the challenger. As long as they still had brave warriors in their ranks, they would have the chance to mount a comeback in the future.

For Osha, the right thing to do would be to send out an equivalent number of participants. Although the Greycastle warriors looked short and frail, and did not seem brave enough for a battle like this, Osha would still have a huge advantage with Ashes around. Her innate strength, while unaffected by God's Stones of Retaliation, would be sufficient to determine the duel's outcome.

But the scenario would be completely different with just four people. The Divine Ladies were certainly adept at leading and helping people to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert, and were rightly revered for that, but that did not mean they were equally suitable for combat. Furthermore, the opponents were more than likely to equip God's Stones of Retaliation, which would easily suppress the Divine Ladies' abilities, such that they might even become weaker than regular people.

If Drow Silvermoon and Andrea lost their combat abilities, only Iron Axe and Ashes would be left to fight. No matter how strong the latter was, it would be impossible for her to handle being surrounded by 20 or so opponents who were each willing to sacrifice their lives in order to secure the victory. With only two hands and two legs, she would certainly not be able to parry every blow.

Thuram had thought all these would be common knowledge to Iron Axe since he had participated in holy duels before. Having not been asked to attend the strategy discussion, Thuram did not pay much much attention to their decisions, in line with the principle that "he who asks less lives longer". Yet, he never expected the latter to be this negligent.

He stood aghast as the four of them walked on to the platform nonchalantly. He shuddered involuntarily and cold sweat began to pour from his forehead. Yet, at the same time, he felt like he was standing naked in a frosty desert... as though the fire "trees" surrounding the place were no longer able to shelter him from the cruel winds.

He should know that he's a member of the Osha clan!

If he fails, would I still have a place in the small oasis? I'll probably not even be able to remain in Southernmost Region!"

"If I'd known, I would have thrown all the clanspeople to him. Then he won't dare to take this sort of risk."

The appearance of the four people on the platform shook the crowd greatly too. Although sending on fewer participants than the opponent was a symbol of confidence and courage, in this case pitching four people against 22 battle-hardened tribal warriors was virtually suicide.

The hissing noises dissipated at once.

The eyes of every onlooker widened, and the apathy on their faces turned into astonishment and dismay.

"Do you confirm that the Osha party shall consist of just the four of you?" In view of such a strange sight, the chief of Wildflame felt compelled to inquire.

"That's right." Ashes grinned slightly. "Let's get on with it. By the way, have you guys written your wills?"

The audience burst into an uproar.

"Who's this lass?"

"She must be delusional!"

"Surely even Divine Ladies won't be able to resist the God's Stone Arrows?"

"Wait, I've a feeling she's serious..."

"I feel the same. She seems to have as much blood on her hands as me."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm a warrior and know this from experience. My heartbeat also says that she's absolutely frightening."

"But there're just four of them!"

"We'll know the answer shortly."

In a matter of minutes, the situation on the sidelines had changed greatly. Everyone's attention was fixed on the platform, and the initial apathy was replaced with a warm excitement. Even if it was a suicide mission, the courage of the Osha party was praiseworthy. And the Ironsand people were never reluctant to show respect for those who were truly brave.

Upon hearing the rumblings from the audience, Thuram began to hesitate. "Are they really confident of victory in spite of the huge numerical disadvantage?"

As a flurry of confused thoughts ran through his mind, the arbiter rang a gong that was hung at one corner of the platform.

"Without further ado, I shall announce that the holy duel between the challenging Osha clan and the challenged Cut Bone clan begins... now!"

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