Reading over it twice, conflicting emotions bubbled up in Thorn’s chest. The message reopened the painful memory that the last four weeks had dulled. Still, it was not nearly as painful as it had been at first. At least now, Thorn felt like he could actually think about the situation clearly without being consumed with hurt and anger.
Part of Thorn wanted revenge, wanted to crush them into pieces over and over again. But another part of Thorn remembered how much fun he had had with the group initially and longed to restore that relationship. Restless, Thorn looked at the timer. Still another ten hours before he could go back into Nova Terra. Getting up, he headed to the gym. Maybe moving would help him think.
The workout room was an entire floor of the massive building and housed two pools, multiple tracks, an obstacle course, training dummies of all sorts, and a weight training area. Taken aback by how overwhelmingly huge it was, Thorn paused at the door. In the distance, he could see his aunt practicing with one of her guildmates on a large, square platform. If he was remembering correctly, she was named Bluefire.
Wandering over to them, Thorn looked on in admiration at Julia’s skillful use of her halberd. He had trained a bit in using a spear with his taijiquan master, but Julia’s weapon was somewhat different. With a longer, wider blade, she could cut more effectively, creating a whirling storm of blades that served as an offense and defense at the same time.
As he got closer, Thorn noticed that, despite her skill, she was still struggling against her opponent, Bluefire, who was armed with two tonfa. The silver weapons were fast and unpredictable while providing Bluefire with an impenetrable defense. The two women surged back and forth, sending slashes and strikes at each other without any regard for safety.
Finally, Bluefire slipped through the silver net Julia was weaving and, flipping one of her tonfa around to increase her range, landed a solid strike on Julia’s solar plexus, launching her backwards across the room. Seeing her hurt, Thorn was about to run to her when she threw down her weapon angrily and shouted, “I concede.” Instantly, her tired, sweaty figure was refreshed and she stood up, restored to a perfect state.
“Hey, Thorn, coming to train with us?” Julia had seen her nephew come in, creating the slight gap that Bluefire had taken advantage of.
“I’m just checking everything out. I still have about ten hours, so I thought I’d work off some steam.”
“You want to try sparring with Bluefire? She was just saying how she wanted to go for a couple rounds with you.”
“I’d be happy to spar with you,” affirmed Bluefire, tightening her blond hair into a ponytail.
“I don’t know, I’m not super great at controlling myself yet.”
“Oh, come on, give it a try. Bluefire is one of the best PvP players in the game. You’re not going to hurt her. Plus, this room is special, it allows us to use our abilities and skills from Nova Terra. And, when we’re done, it will heal everyone. Just like the sparring rings at the training halls.”
After a bit more prodding, Thorn finally stepped up onto the training ring. As soon as he did, he realized he could summon his weapons and armor again. A glance at Bluefire showed that she was not wearing any armor, so Thorn only summoned his tetsubo and got into his stance. Across from him, Bluefire bounced in place. Seeing that Thorn wasn’t moving, she smiled and flexed her fingers.
“Watch out, I’m coming,” Bluefire warned him. Accelerating suddenly, she dashed toward him, her body weaving unpredictably. Startled by her speed, Thorn swung his tetsubo in a long arc to try and force her back. Undeterred, Bluefire lowered her body until it was almost parallel with the ground and accelerated even faster, darting in under Thorn’s swing and using the force of her dash to smash one of her tonfa into Thorn’s side.
Unable to respond in time, Thorn could only take the blow. Since he couldn’t dodge, Thorn decided to aim for mutual destruction. Switching his grip on his tetsubo, Thorn struck back at Bluefire with the back of his hand. Though confident in her attack, Bluefire still raised her other tonfa to block Thorn’s counterblow.
Seeing the situation, an involuntary cry escaped Julia’s lips. Yet the scene she had imagined never manifested itself. As the blow from Bluefire’s tonfa impacted Thorn’s side, his body barely shivered. Feeling her blow connect, Bluefire was horrified to realize that her impressive strength was not actually that impressive next to Thorn. The attack she hit him with was enough to send anyone else stumbling back, but Thorn simply grunted slightly.
In fact, the rebound from the blow left her hand feeling numb, almost making her lose her grip on her weapon. Dumbfounded, she forgot to dodge Thorn’s counterattack, taking it solidly on her tonfa.
A loud sound echoed across the ring as the silver tonfa broke in half. Under Julia’s stunned gaze, Bluefire broke apart into little lights, disappearing into the air. A blue light shot down from the ceiling to reveal Bluefire, as good as new, outside the ring. Impassive, Thorn put his weapon away and stepped down out of the ring, sighing mentally as Bluefire flinched back.
“Did...did you just die?” Julia asked Bluefire, barely able to get the question out.
“Yes.” Bluefire sighed, depressed about how quickly the fight had ended.
“But didn’t you block?”
“The force was overwhelming, activating a crushing blow.” Eyeing Thorn contemplatively, Bluefire asked, “What is your class, Xavier? My weapons give me significant damage reduction, but you smashed them like they were nothing.”
“Actually, I don’t have a class,” admitted Thorn sheepishly. “I’m just naturally strong.”
“Naturally strong might be the understatement of the century. Naturally strong doesn’t let you break a defensive weapon and one-shot a melee class. I mean, my defenses are not the best in the game, but come on.”
“Haha, I think you were so stunned that your attack did not do anything to him that you forgot to dodge.” Julia laughed, remembering Bluefire’s stunned face.
“Please, you would have been too. I hit him with everything I had, and he didn’t even feel it.” Bluefire stared accusingly at Thorn. “I want another round.”
Five hours later, an exhausted Thorn threw himself down on the platform, causing it to shake. After constantly sparring for hour after hour, he was entirely spent and covered in bruises. While Bluefire had never been able to deal any real damage to him, every one of her strikes left Thorn aching. It had been hard to keep up with her speed, but Thorn found his reaction time getting better and better as they fought. Already quick for someone his size, Thorn found it easier to respond to Bluefire’s sudden movements as they practiced together.
Standing to the side, Julia waved her hand, and a white light fell on Thorn’s giant figure, filling him with energy and healing his bruised body. She had always thought that Thorn would do well in Nova Terra, but the last five hours had completely upended her view of the game. Thorn was like a mountain, entirely immovable. Against a blunt weapon like Bluefire’s, Thorn was practically invulnerable.
“With good enough armor, he would be invulnerable against bladed weapons, too,” Bluefire said, seeming like she was able to read Julia’s thoughts. “If he had a bit more training and experience, he very well could be the most dangerous melee fighter in the game. Even without a class. I just can’t get over how solid he is.”
“How are you feeling, Xavier?” Julia asked as Thorn rose to his feet.
“I’m feeling pretty good. It is convenient that the system can reset us so we don’t have to wait for the bruises to heal. Plus, I feel like I am getting a better grasp on how actual combat works. So far I have done a lot of brawling, but all of my fights end quickly, so it is hard to actually practice.”
“Well, I think you are just fine.” Bluefire tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You have the most ridiculous advantage in strength, reach, and stability. You just need to practice anticipating your opponent’s movements. Even though I couldn’t do anything to you, remember that I am one of the better melee combatants in the game. Most other people are not as quick as I am.”
“Hah, listen to her.” Julia rolled her eyes. “You just spent five hours attacking him without dealing any real damage.”
“What, you want to give it a try?” Bluefire sneered. “I bet you wouldn’t last more than ten seconds.”
“Actually, I was wondering, is there a place to train against abilities? Or magic?” Thorn asked. “I ran across some players who had some pretty crazy abilities. I don’t know if I would have any chance against them.”
“Sure, let’s give it a try. Bluefire, do you want the first round?” Julia asked, looking at her blonde friend.
“Yeah, why not? Maybe I can get some of my honor back,” Bluefire joked, stepping onto the platform and readying her tonfa again. With a low shout, she summoned a blue flame that covered her weapons. “Watch out, big guy, these things are dangerous,” she warned Thorn, waving her flame covered weapons.
The mystical fire dancing along the edge of the tonfas radiated a dangerous feeling, so he readied himself, watching them carefully. Bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet, Bluefire tapped her weapons together rhythmically before suddenly dashing forward. Each footstep left a burning imprint in the ring’s floor as she moved forward inhumanly fast.
Within half a second, she was right in front of Thorn, a strike flying directly at him. Startled by her increase in speed, Thorn fell back half a step, raising his weapon to block. With a loud clang, the weapons impacted one another, and the two players bounced apart. His hand numb from the force of the blow, Thorn estimated that the mystical flames had tripled Bluefire’s attack speed and doubled her strength.
Under his watchful gaze, Bluefire chanted some arcane words, causing the fire that flickered along the edges of her weapons to burst out, forming blades that extended almost two feet beyond her hands. Warning bells started ringing in Thorn’s head as he looked at the flickering blades.
“Those look dangerous,” Thorn blurted out, as Bluefire began to bounce again.
“You have no idea.” Julia smirked at Thorn’s nervous tone.
Completely focused, Bluefire sprinted forward again, her blades slashing out with ever increasing speed and ferocity. As he warded off the first few blows, Thorn felt that the attack was manageable, but that quickly changed. The attacks came in faster and faster, causing Thorn to retreat. Every time he successfully blocked an attack, a chunk of his weapon would fly off, carved out by the mystic blades. Fed up with his passive position, Thorn gritted his teeth and struck out, ignoring a stab coming toward his side.
Her eyes flickering, Bluefire abandoned one of her strikes to deflect Thorn’s counter attack while her other blade continued toward his chest. Feeling her blade bite into Thorn, Bluefire smiled in triumph. Once her blade connected, it was over. Yet the fight failed to follow her predictions as Thorn’s counter attack continued toward her, despite the growing stab wound in his side.
The moment his attack approached her weapon, she knew she was in trouble. Before it even connected, she could feel the compressed air from the tetsubo pushing her back. “If that hits, I’m dead,” Bluefire thought. Decisively abandoning her attack, she yelled out an arcane command and disappeared in a flash of flame, reappearing a moment later twenty feet away.
Losing his target, Thorn stumbled to the ground, falling to one knee. The flame blade that hit his side had cut deep and the blue flames continued to lick at him. Grimacing, Thorn clapped a hand over the wound as he stood to his feet. Despite patting the burning area a couple of times, Thorn found that the flames did not go out, instead continuing to burn painfully.
“Poison Flame doesn’t stop burning unless you get magical healing,” Bluefire remarked as she watched Thorn try to put the flame out.
“Huh, really? That is pretty cool. Do they go out if you are defeated?”
“Um, yeah. I guess. They go out if I unsummon my blades. But how are you still standing? Most people who get hit with them are rolling on the ground within seconds.”
“Really?” Thorn looked at Julia, who was doing nothing to conceal her utter amazement. “It’s just a stinging feeling. Sort of like a hot electrical shock. I mean, it hurts, but it is manageable.”
“Ah. Forget it.” Bluefire shook her head in defeat, unsummoning her blades. “I don’t want to fight anymore. You’re absolutely ridiculous. A total cheat. This is so unfair.”
“Haha,” Julia laughed happily as she waved her hand, restoring both of the combatants to peak form. “Isn’t he amazing? Xavier, I knew that Nova Terra would suit you. Not everyone can force Bluefire to put her blades away.”
“Hmph. I could have won, it just would have taken a bit,” Bluefire grumbled.
“Thank you very much for sparring with me.” Thorn clasped his fists in a traditional martial arts salute, bowing his head slightly toward the complaining lady. “It is very helpful for me to face such skilled opponents.”
“No problem, Xavier. I noticed that you were surprised when you saw my blades. Have you not had much experience with magic?”
“I haven’t. I’ve seen people use it, but I have not really fought against it before.”
“Well, why don’t we change that?” Bluefire turned to Julia, “Xavier still has a few hours before he can go back into Nova Terra. Why don’t we call Odele and Jasmine so he can get some practice in? It would be good for them too; they have been getting pretty lazy recently.”
“That is a great idea! Thorn, Odele and Jas are two of our best casters. I’ll call them over, and they can give you a rundown on how to fight against a caster as a melee combatant. Though you better get some armor on, their attacks pack a serious punch.” Julia pulled up her messaging interface as she spoke, sending a quick text.
Excited, Thorn equipped his armor as he waited. He had been feeling a bit depressed about his loss to the group at Embersplit Mine. Taking a deep breath as two women walked into the gym, Thorn greeted them and got into his stance. A deep excitement burned in his chest. He had never felt more alive.
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.