Chapter 74

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"Alright. There are the rules."

Apparently, even this Manliness Rankings competition had some rules.
Fii took a seat and listened attentively.

"The period for the competition is roughly a month. First, every participant starts with 500 points. During the month, you distribute those 500 points to people who you think are manly. The person who ends up with the most points is the one who is accepted as the manliest man."

"I see~"

The rules were simple and clear.
In other words, you competed in manliness while getting others to acknowledge it.

The boy who explained things handed Fii a new piece of paper.
It was different to the rankings paper from before.

Neat lines were drawn along the page, and there were two columns for names and one for reasons, as well as various other details.

"Use this paper when you want to hand points over. You don't have to write the reason, but it's better to."

"Why?"

"Because handing over points is also manly. That's why if you give a manly reason, you can instead get manliness points from others."

(I see!)

Fii was impressed. So handing over points was a strategy as well.
She asked the boy a question.

"Can you give yourself points?"

In that case, it would be entirely easy to avoid the punishment game.

"It isn't against the rules. But it's not a manly thing to do. You'll stop getting points from the others. It would become impossible to aim for the top."

"A guy who gives himself points because he's afraid of a punishment isn't manly at all."

"A guy who gives points to someone else even though there's a risk of the punishment game is what real manliness is about."

"I seee."

The two boys around her seemed to be boasting of their own manliness.
To be honest, Fii thought that the rules were full of holes, but to these manly boys, it was apparently not a problem.

"Also, you can transfer the points you've gotten to someone else."

"Transfer? Is there really anyone who would do that?"

Fii couldn't think of any benefits at all.

"No, transferring your points to someone else is pretty manly too. Even if it drops your rankings this time, you can expect your rankings to rise next round."

"Transferring all your points to someone else, and waiting for the next round at the bottom. It's pretty damned manly!"

"I see..."

(It sounds like a plain idiot to me...)

It sounded like a valid strategy to the boys.

"But nobody has ever done it, so I've been last every time..."

Unfortunately, Remié stated the reality.
In the end, it was just an interesting idea, and nobody had ever actually done it.

"Whoa, whoa, contenting yourself with being last three times in a row is pretty manly too, yanno. I'll give you ten points."

"Mn. I'm impressed that you haven't tried protecting yourself after three times in despair. I'll give you ten points as well."

With that, a number of boys wrote the lamenting Remié's name on the Fourth Round paper.

"T-, Thank youuu..." he said with moist eyes.

Perhaps he would finally be able to escape last place...

"By the way, Zerius has been 1st, three times in a row."

"Right now everyone is saying that he's got the best chance of winning the Fourth Round too."

Zerius was often the topic of the maids' discussions, but right now he wasn't in the break room.

"That guy is seriously manly, after all."

Another apprentice knight folded his arms as he nodded to himself in thought.

"Yeah. Even I have to acknowledge his manliness."

This time, it was Gorms' turn to fold his arms and nod with a difficult expression.

"Even the way he drinks milk is manly. I was freaking shocked..."

"He's the only one I think is impossible to beat."

"He's probably always gonna be 1st, so people have been saying that they're aiming for 2nd instead."

"He's like the embodiment of manliness."

The boys all praised Zerius one after another.

Fii looked at the name sitting magnificently at first place.
Zerius, who Fii knew as well, was apparently the absolute king of the manliness rankings.
But well, even Fii could assent. That was simply how manly the boy named Zerius was.
He would definitely become a hindrance on Fii's path to the top.

Looking at the rest of the names, she found that Gorms was pretty high up at 5th place, as was Gheith who was at 6th. Slad was decent as well, at 12th place.
And Fii suddenly spotted Doug's ranking too.

"Doug..."

The moment she called out this name, a boy began trembling behind her.

"Why did you join in without telling me?"

On the Round Three ranking sheet, Doug's name was clearly there. It was around 22nd place.
The reason people voted for him were things like

"He's got some dumb parts to him, but he's manly."
"When he gets bossed around by Heath, he reminds me of my dad."
"He's strong."

Even though he joined the Northern Dormitory after Fii did, he had the gall to participate before her.
And not only that, he kept it a secret from her as well.

The dark-skinned boy was glared at by the small one―――who was a girl inside―――and blurted out in panic,

"N-, No, I mean... I thought it wouldn't have much to do you with... I mean you're..."

She stopped him from blurting out her secret with a glare.
Naturally, Doug saw Fii as a girl. How could he have ever imagined that she would want to participate.

But Fii didn't understand his thoughts at all.
She glared viciously at Doug.

"I'll punish you later."

A decisive declaration.

"Yes..."

Doug simply dropped his shoulders and hung his head.

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