Chapter 1 Boring introduction - Where is the magic?
The dull sound of gloved fists hitting a sack filled with sand was all she focused on, her own breathing and heartbeat growing distant as her unrelenting assault pummeled into the unfeeling enemy. A beeping sound woke her from the trance, the phone lying on the ground calling for her to stop. Sweat dripped down her brow as she looked around the gym. Picking up the phone, she grabbed her towel and walked towards the exit.
“Bye Mark.” She called out to the bald man engrossed in a conversation near the counter. He gestured to the other man and smiled at her.
“Ilea, hey I just wanted to ask again about the classes. Are you sure you don’t want to try?”
She stopped and looked at him, cleaning her face with the towel, “I appreciate the offer, really. You know I love it but with uni starting next week I just can’t.”
The younger man next to Mark lifted his eyebrows. She was aware of his stare and locked eyes with him until he shifted his attention. “Mark are you kidding me? I’ve been training every day for the past two weeks and you won’t let me join the locals?”
He was obviously upset but Mark just smiled at him, “Jon, I would be careful or she’ll show you the reason why I wanted her to go instead of you or anybody else. Two weeks doesn’t make a tournament ready fighter.” He nodded to Ilea and smiled. Of course he understood but she couldn’t help but feel a little bad about it.
Mark had been there for her but never interrupted other than correcting her form. She had crunched the numbers however and didn’t plan to end up as a thirty year old still working in fast food with a fucked up face to boot. Even if she somehow won at the locals and moved on to become a professional, she wasn’t ready for destroyed knees at the age of forty. The complaining she barely recognized behind her nearly made her stop and reconsider but she had signed up for a different life already. As a hobby, that’s what it will stay.
With what she had in mind she could at least help people with said destroyed knees. Walking out of the gym, she was met by the bright afternoon sun. The walk back to her small one room apartment was brief, her towel dropped on the pile of unwashed clothing near the door. Tomorrow I’ll clean up, I swear. The thought wasn’t meant for anybody in particular, a remainder of the trained shame she should feel at the scene before her.
Sunlight breaking through the half closed blinds illuminated the battlefield of a room that probably hadn’t seen much cleaning in the past couple days or even weeks. Dirty bowls, food packages and bottles littered the table, only interrupted by two screens and a half covered keyboard. The ground was covered in clothes, books and various other things.
Ilea closed her eyes and smiled. It wasn’t the biggest place nor the most organized but hey, it was hers. Undressing on the way to the shower, she reveled in the cold water before searching for her work uniform. “There you are.” Stuffed in a corner of the room, she frowned at the wrinkles on it and threw it on the big pile near the door. Luckily she had three sets, one of them remained washed and at least somewhat straight in the drawer below her bed.
“Good day at shitty fast-food place 87, what would you like to order?” with a monotone voice she greeted the person in front of her.
“Did you just say shitty fast-food place… well whatever… I’d just like a coffee and one of the cheeseburgers. And only a little sugar, I’m on a diet.” the man winked at her as she typed the order into the computer in front of her.
The man shook his head “Your company with the coffee, if that’s on the menu?” He smiled at her
“I’m afraid slavery is illegal sir but I heard the chicken nuggets tell some interesting tales.” She finished her typing as he looked at her with a puzzled expression.
“That’ll be 3.99.” Putting the money into the counter she placed the requested order on the tray in front of her, “Have a wonderful day.” A radiant smile with piercing blue eyes saw the customer off as she shifted her gaze to the next one. ‘Another week…,’ she thought. ‘Well not quite.’
“Hey Ilea, you’re not coming in tomorrow right?” Her colleague greeted her as he took over her place a couple hours later.
“Yes, orientation at college.”
He smiled “Oh interesting, so we’re seeing less of your beautiful face around here from now on? Major?”
She grunted and replied, “Medicine.”
“Oof, that’s a tough one. Didn’t think you’d go that way.” The man said making her rise her eyebrow.
She had thought about a major for a while and definitely wanted to go into the health sector. Nursing school was an alternative but her snarky comments would likely make problems with the doctors. Why not infiltrate their ranks then. Tuition was the same and she could think about it in the first semester. Maybe something with nutrition would be interesting as well. Working in a gym sounds interesting too. Therapy or something. First she had to survive the organizational nightmare that was joining the academic life.
“Might change it after a semester or specialize. A lot of the basic classes overlap.”
He nodded and smiled, as he always did. Philosophy majors had a reputation after all. “Well good luck either way!”
A solid ten hours of sleep after her shift had ended, It would take the full force of the sun to wake up what lay slumbering between the numerous pillows on the bed. Not leaving waking up to chance though, the mechanical device next to the bed sprang to life as the room was filled with noise.
A groan escaped the woman lying in the bed as an outstretched arm swiftly disabled the alarm clock. “Fuuuuck, it’s too early.” going back to sleep, the woman laid there for another fifteen minutes until the first of her five alarms on her phone sprang to life. After another half an hour, the last one was disabled and with another groan Ilea finally managed to sit up on her bed with all of her willpower. “Mornings suck.” She declared to the world and any gods that were listening.
Not quite awake, the woman grudgingly left her warm nest and entered the small bathroom in her flat, her morning autopilot helping her dodge any stray item on the floor. Standing in the shower for ten minutes, her eyes slowly started to open. She nearly slipped when leaving the shower but caught herself in the last second. “Avoided death there…,” murmuring, the woman left the bathroom with a toothbrush in her mouth. Fighting to get her socks on, sniffing on some clothes and lastly going back shirtless to the bathroom, she spat into the sink. This is going to be every single day for years now. Are you ready?
Getting a bus after changing her clothes at home, Ilea watched the houses and streets fly by as she sipped from her third coffee. The woman occasionally staring back at her in the murky glass looked everything but ready to her. “Next stop Silan college.” reacting to the female voice coming from the speakers, she stood up quickly and left the bus. A field of green with a towering structure in the middle of it all spread in front of her as she took in the view, falling in line with the other supposed students having their first day. Seems rather plain. Walking towards the structure, she entered into a hall decorated with various expensive looking furniture. Dozens of other people her age stood or sat around. Some talking, some looking at their phones.
“Ilea!” a shrill voice took her out of her daydream about chocolate when two arms reached around her and hugged her tight.
“...air” She managed to say with the last of her breath. Oblivious to her pleas, her friend kept hugging her, only letting her go just as the world around Ilea became dark. She could swear she felt a cracking of bone.
Breathing steadily she looked at her friend “Rory I told you not to do that.” she said with a weak voice.
“I know I know, I’m just so excited you know! We both made it in! Can you believe it??” Some of the people around them chuckled at the sight but were soon lost again in their own activities.
“Yes, yes in fact I can believe it, we’re here after all Rory.”
Rory only frowned at her “Always so rational. Can’t you FEEL the excitement!” Her friend said
Oh boy this is gonna be a long day…, Ilea’s thoughts were interrupted as an announcer asked the newly enrolled students to enter the main hall. The day went by without any major surprises. Ilea reached her home with her new and fully packed schedule including a bunch of paper she didn’t know what to do with. Her floor was already filled which made her chose the chair instead.
“Why are they not giving us these in digital form?” The mountain of paper was at least a tree’s worth. Something like the fabled internet could really improve the archaic school she had chosen. Sinking into the bed, she checked out the latest trends in cat videos.
Sooner rather than later, a rumbling reminded her of the purest primal need. The thought driving her forward, she forced herself to get up and check the fridge standing in the small kitchen. A single pan covered loosely with an unfitting lid laughed at her, filled with the curry she had tried two days before. It wasn’t a good one.
Adding some more chili and pepper as well as a dash of pure hope, she heated up some of the meal before turning on her computer to check if her favorite producers had uploaded any new videos. Nothing new today, man that sucks. Streaming it is then. another half an hour of indecision later, four episodes of a new show about forging were consumed.
Going to bed Ilea stared at the ceiling with a bit of a frown on her face. Tomorrow the university life starts. Grinding for years on end. To continue grinding afterward. Maybe I should’ve chosen kick boxing after all. Safe and boring isn’t too bad… maybe the excitement would fade if I fought professionally. One day at a time. The thought calmed her down a little, the woman entering her standard state of deep sleep in a matter of minutes, dreaming of fantasy wars, healers on a battlefield and of course chocolate. It was a good night after all.
Waking up to the chirping of birds and the sun shining in her face, Ilea’s eyes slowly opened. Only to be greeted by grass. “What the actual fuck?” she said out loud as she took in her surroundings. Trees all around her, the sun shining through the cracks. She could hear a small stream in the distance. Ok what the hell is going on? The adrenaline of the unexpected situation woke her up far faster than any shower could manage Did someone kidnap me? Or is this a very very bad prank? Maybe one of those famous prankster gluetubers made me his target. looking around herself only trees could be seen Well where’s the idiot screaming “It’s just a prank bro!”
Should I stay here? after ten minutes of waiting and nothing happening, she grew impatient, confusion and fear creeping up on her mind, telling her that this might not be just some unfunny yet harmless prank. Let’s move then I guess. Maybe it’s a new survival show or something. They’ll hear from my lawyer though… as soon as I hire one that is.
Thinking of where to go, she started towards the sound of the stream Where water is, there is life, villages and towns. So I’ll start there I guess. Maybe some human traffickers kidnapped me and somehow weren’t satisfied with me. Why am I disappointed in them not liking what they got? I’m fucking fabulous for fucks sake! Trying to distract herself from the growing urge to panic, she walked towards the stream, the forest seemingly untouched. No sound remotely unnatural could be heard.
It’s not that strange, I’m pretty far out there after all. At least I have my pajamas. Uneasiness apparent on her face, not that there was anyone to see. Ilea walked towards the stream, her only hold in this unfamiliar place. A roar broke the serene atmosphere, nothing like she had ever heard. Freezing in place she looked towards the source. Nothing. Her mind blank as she stood there for a whole minute What was that? What the fuck was that!? A bear? No they sound different, I’ve seen a few videos…, making herself finally move, she sneaked up to a tree and hid behind it.
Whatever I do I need to be quiet and not move, I don’t think my kickboxing will help a lot against a bear. Another roar much closer froze her again, her whole body trembling, the woman could feel her heartbeat trying to hammer it’s way out of her chest.
Running steps were suddenly audible. Huge was the only thing she could think of when the sounds of two running animals came closer. A high pitched cry filled the air and another roar deafened it right after, including all other sound around her. A thud could be heard as the steps came to an end.
A sickening crunch filled Ilea’s ears and then silence. What… what the… fuck… what the fuck…, sneaking a glance around the tree, the woman stopped moving entirely. Her blue eyes fixated on the sight before her. Not even recognizing the smell of urine and the warmth spreading between her legs, a small ding reverberated through her mind as she looked at the dragon before her, biting into whatever mess was left of the creature it killed. Three meters in length, the head of a dragon and no wings, its maw bloody, it looked in her direction.
It’s yellow reptile eyes locked with her blue human ones.
[Drake – lvl ??]
‘ding’ ‘Congratulations! You have learned the general skill [Identify]’
Losing interest, the Drake continued its meal, bones cracking under the strength of its massive jaw. The smell of blood and her own urine suddenly came back to her as her senses seemed to amplify. Run instinct taking over, the woman started to move. Stumbling and slow, every step steadier and faster than the one before.