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Randidly’s first thought, when walking back into the underground, slightly stumped, was that Azriel must have done or said something on his behalf. But when he looked around, he couldn’t locate the girl. She must be currently fighting. So he begrudgingly sat back down.

It didn’t sit well with him to owe a debt to another, especially to a stranger from one of the larger Styles. His instincts twinged uncomfortably at the thought of oweing another. This effect was compounded after the 3rd round, and an hour or two of waiting, when the list of names was announced to be participating in the “playoff” to determine the final 32.

Randidly’s name wasn’t announced, but both Tertet and Dian’s were.

Due to the fact he wouldn’t be fighting in this round, he was freed with the seeded individuals. This playoff would occur one at a time, rather than 4 at once as it had been in the past. Members of the Tournament staff were currently taking down the 4 stages and setting up one, larger stage, near where the 1st and 2nd stage had been previously, delaying the 4th round of the day for a time.

So Randidly wandered off, wondering what his spear attendants had gotten themselves up to.

****

Helen looked with tired eyes at the back of the head of the woman who made her life absolutely miserable. Her mother was truly beautiful, which was where Helen got her own looks. Unfortunately for her mother, she was born to a poor family without any backing, and was snatched up by a greedy leatherworking family.

But that didn’t stop her mother. She swiftly tamed her new husband, his family, and led them to become the owners of the whole leatherworking district. She did this all on force of will and meanness, as far as Helen could tell.

“Fucking bitch,” Helen muttered, almost instinctively.

Her mother turned and looked at her coolly. “Hel, I’ve seen you’ve come wandering back. Just promise me your virtue is still intact.”

There were about 20 of her cousins and related family members who worked at the leather factory sitting around. All of the croniest fucking cronies, sitting in the stands towards the back, in front of the 3rd stage. The view here was absolutely horrible. But also present were all the young women of marriageable age, made up and in rather expensive dresses.

Candy, meant to lure in riffraff who had a chance of becoming something as a spear user. Her mother was always very clear that the thing that held back their family was the backing of a powerful Style, and it seemed her mother was out hunting for just such a patron.

“Just shut the fuck up.” Helen said irritably, but she still found herself moving to her mother’s side and sitting down next to her. At least if she had come here, she might as well clear some things up. “Mother, I-”

“Really? Who was it?” Her mother said, leaning forward towards her with a serious expression.

Helen’s eyelid twitched. This bitch would be so much easier to deal with if she was a fool. But not only was she so dismissive of Helen… in every other area of life, she had an uncanny ability to sniff out the truth. Not that Helen necessarily wanted to hide the fact she had sex… she didn’t see what all the fuss was about anyway when it came to virginity, but that subject would quickly derail the subject, and Helen had learned from experience to never let her mother dictate the course of a conversation.

“I became a spear attendant. I won’t be returning home.” Helen said, getting it out there.

Her mother ignored her. “Did you take… precautions? Or is there a chance you are pregnant? Don’t you know how this will look-”

“Mother, don’t be a fucking cunt. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I just wanted to make sure you knew, I-”

“Helen, it’s been a while.”

Tiny bugs of creepiness crawled up and down her spine as she turned and saw Kanan waddle up, his arms wide for a hug. Kanan, more belly with arms and legs than person, who had it in his tiny little head that they would be married. The man who had been the first to feel her up when she was 11, and had been the first man ever to lick her ear in public.

The man who her mother had tacitly approved of as a match for her. Helen’s ears burned with fear, shame, and fury. But the fury was slowly growing. And in her heart, Helen knew that he wasn’t even that bad. There were a lot of men that did much more heinous and direct things to young women and girls, seeking to obtain them as one of their wives.

When men had power and women did not, it swiftly became about leveraging that power, and bullying the other party into submission through a show of dominance. With a spear, or without. And to his credit, Kanan was powerful. Rumor had it that he had recently reached Level 30, which was why he did not participate in the regional tournament.

Not that this greasy sleaze would have even made it. He was the type that relied on the move he had inherited from his Style, and a concentration of his statistics in Strength to win fights. In the past it had inspired some kind of dread inside her… but no longer. She had changed in the last month, experiencing a ridiculous level of growth in a short time, gaining at least 60 skill levels. And that was only on her own Skillset.

Some of Helen’s rapid thoughts of disgust and fury must have appeared on her face, because Kanan’s gaze swiftly turned cold. “I’ve been patient thus far, but if you continue like this-”

“Now Kanan,” Her mother began placatingly, but Kanan simply shook his head and stepped towards Helen, his eyes narrowed. Her mother shot Helen an annoyed glare, simply aggravating Helen further.

“If you don’t kindly accept my generosity, Helen, I will no longer be polite.” Kanan growled.

Feeling that things were devolving very quickly and deciding she was satisfied with it, Helen simply drew her spear. “Stay away from me, you fat fuck. I hope someone spits you like a pig and roasts you alive.”

Everyone froze.

Her mother’s face slowly drained of color, which was decidedly enjoyable for Helen. It had been a long time since her mother had been made speechless. Everyone knew of Helen’s anger issues, but she usually had it bottled up, and let it explode later. The fact that she had just said something like that here, in front of this man from the tiny Style that her mother had eyes on, shocked everyone.

Ikaas hid her face in her dress in shame, as the one who had brought her back.

Kanan was a pot of boiling water, about to explode. “You--!”

But he was interrupted. “Heeeeeeeellllleennnnnnnnnn”

The male spear attendant stumbled forward, holding one of the Ghosthound’s mugs, still obviously quite intoxicated. He blinked at the scene, and then opened his mouth. Then he closed it again, and his face became quite perplexed.

“Errr…. Am I interrupting something….?”

“It’s a private family matter. Please be on your way, sir.” Helen’s mother asked in an extremely dismissive tone, shooting a disgusting look at Helen, and Helen could hear her mother wondering why she had spent time with such degenerates and alcoholics.

And then Helen had a rather embarrassing, but amusing idea.

“No, no, mother, he’s involved. This man is… the father of your grandchild. Family, meet… ah…” Helen abruptly realized that she didn’t know his name, so she simply shrugged. “Well, we are both spear attendants for the same man, so we just spent a lot of time together.”

Helen’s mother looked like she was going to be ill. The male spear attendant looked puzzled, but smiled good naturedly around at all the pretty women giving him shocked looks, enjoying the attention.

“WHAT?!?!” Kanan bellowed, drawing his spear. “You dare touch my betrothed!”

They were starting to be loud enough to attract the attention of others, and nearby watchers began to slowly edge away. Luckily there was a lot of flat space in the stands, perhaps just for this reason. Fights were rather common, especially when the competition became more serious.

And especially when Claptrap was beginning to drum up fanatical support for the contestants, Helen added to herself. Soon there would be quite a few fights breaking out.

But the fact that the first was over her virtue was a bit…

Well, it was honestly amazing, but Helen kept her face carefully schooled. Although there really wasn’t any tension to the situation, as she knew in her heart that she could defeat Kanan herself if it was necessary, being fought over wasn’t a bad feeling.

Still, her heart sank at the fact that it was the male spear attendant that was doing the fighting. Helen turned to the stages and pursed her lips. Based on the schedule distributed by the referees, Randidly wouldn’t be among the people who were forced to fight in the final play off. Which meant that her time was much more well spent leaving this farce and going to find him…

The male spear attendant’s eyes focused, with apparent difficulty, and he considered Kanan. “You, are-”

Then the male spear attendant burped, vomiting a bit onto the ground in front of him.

‘My fucking hero.’ Helen thought sourly to herself. ‘This is all getting a bit silly…’

“You will die…” Kanan swore, and then charged forward, spear raised.

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