Orisa felt sick.
The sound of the footsteps echoed through the empty corridor, gradually growing more distant as the healer walked away.
Orisa was suffocating. An insufferable lump rose from her stomach to her throat. She was burning on the inside, covered in sweat, and nauseous.
She slowly stood up and leaned against the wall, shivering feverishly. Her legs were trembling while she crawled out of the Infirmary building. Orisa shut her vomit-filled mouth tight with both hands, trying to hold it all back.
Luckily, the last door before the exit was a toilet. She locked herself inside, feeling extremely dizzy as her stomach emptied itself, convulsing violently.
A pale face covered with large beads of sweat looked at Orisa from a mirror. Tears rained down from its bloodshot eyes. She leaned closer to a sink and tried to wash her face, but her hands were still trembling, spilling water all over the place. She had to put her head directly under the flowing water. An ice-cold stream calmed her slightly.
The last bits of her strength left her, and Orisa limply fell on her knees crying. Her body trembled as she hugged her sides, monotonously swinging back and forth.
'Ah, shit, here we go again,' an irritated voice complained inwardly. It was filled with utter disappointment and disgust. 'Stop this crap right now, would you?'
There was no response. Water from the overflowing sink poured down her head, wetting her shivering body further.
'Five minutes ago you were perfectly okay with that abomination ending up dead or crippled, and now what? Just look at yourself. PATHETIC!' The voice was filled with anger and scorn as it spat out each word like dirt, 'all this drama solely because of somebody successfully coming inside that creature!?'
"You don't understand..." She muttered weakly.
'Oh, I understand perfectly,' it mocked Orisa, imitating her own voice: 'Oh my god, how could I do that to a pure, innocent lump of newly created cells!?'
"I was a lump of cells once, too," her voice was bitter and filled with regret.
'So fucking what? Do you honestly believe that her offspring could have turned out a decent person? Stop this bullshit!'
"You don't understand..."
'I know you well, even better than you do yourself, so stop this charade already. Would you rather sacrifice yourself in that case?'
Orisa bit her lip again, covering her face with both her hands. Deep down, she knew that she would do that, and the realization made her hate herself even more. Self-sacrifice for a greater good, to save the lives of millions of people, to end war or protect the world was acceptable for her. But for a pathetic, disgusting whore and her possible child? Never!
'I'm a monster. I deserve every bit of pain and suffering,' she thought, biting her fist to hold down another wave of anxiety.
'Your performance is quite boring. It's time to end this comedy. Cry a bit more for some dramatic effect and move your ass already.'
Orisa sat in a puddle of water, swinging back and forth in self-loathing. Blood trickled down from her bitten fingers, but pain gave her no salvation this time.
She was startled awake from her trance by a monotonous tapping sound. Its source drew closer, and she was able to hear the voices.
"Yes, Supreme Commander."
"Prepare everything for her transfer," Orisa could make out that the voice belonged to a man.
"But she has not accepted your-" that was probably the doctor Orisa met before.
"She will." Said the man firmly, his tone cut down any objections. "Do you know her?"
Orisa gasped upon hearing Tiana's voice and shut her mouth tight to prevent even a hint of a sound from leaving it again.
The tapping sound grew distant, but she still heard another verbal exchange:
"As expected, you are always useless. A shame that your brother perished and left me no choice but to rely on you."
"Yes, father. I truly regret being of no use to you."
The sound of a door closing became a signal, and Orisa darted away after closing the faucets. Her retreat was far from subtle as she left wet tracks whenever she went, but it was of little importance to her now.
She slipped out of the building only to find that it was already pitch-dark outside. After quickly washing under a hot shower, she returned to the dorm.
The door made noise when Orisa closed it, but it was drowned out by her growling stomach. Hitherto reading Toatre looked up from the book and chuckled softly, smiled to her and pointed at Orisa's bed. She followed Toatre's direction to find a small bag sitting on her nightstand. Four big sandwiches lay inside, smelling invitingly with all their freshness.
"Iten and Kanai visited your nest, leaving a boon as proof of their attendance," she murmured and returned to her study.
Orisa greedily stuffed the first piece, almost choking herself. The next sandwich she ate much slower, looking around the room absentmindedly. Onuki was fast asleep, as usual, and her face appeared calm, although with a hint of sadness. Even her dreams gave the girl no salvation.
Orisa turned her gaze away and stumbled upon another, intact bed. The implication hit her like a wrecking ball. She almost choked on the food again, swiftly running out of the room to hide another wave of panic.
The owner of said bed never slept there again.
'I can't go back there,' she thought half an hour later, sitting on the grass near the dorm. Instead of wasting time in an idle self-loathing and depression, she stood up and headed to the gym.
Reasoning that she won't be able to sleep for some time, Orisa took out the Concentration potion. The bottle was almost empty; she slurped carefully, exerting enormous caution to leave the half of what remained for tomorrow's exam. A minute after a pleasant cool feeling cleared her mind and drove away day's mental fatigue and moral exhaustion.
On a bright side of her liquid reserves, a quick check of the backpack confirmed that she still had three bottles of the Endless night potion and one more Stamina flask, so at least a few hours of sound sleep were due.
The cool and fresh night air slowly circled in and out of her lungs, further cleansing Orisa's mind.
'What happened today was horrible, but not exactly my fault,' her calm musing was slightly disturbed by a weak and quiet voice that asked her not to shift the blame on others, but she ignored the plea. Her mind now was focused and rational, and only tiny part in the furthest corner retained emotions and kept bugging her, 'That's how it was back then. You were always in the right. Everyone around you was to blame. They were at fault, and you were just unlucky to get dragged into their mess. It's a wrong path that leads to your demise.'
Orisa knew all that even without her conscience's nudging, of course. 'But this time everything will be different. I'm sure.'
She saw them coming out of the gym, and there was nowhere to hide swiftly, nor a way to turn around and escape.
"Oh, dear brother of mine, look at this," a disgustingly sweet voice made Orisa cringe, "isn't that a filthy mongrel that made lady Tiana uncomfortable with its commoner entertainment?"
"Indeed, my sister. I presume some lessons are due," said a knight in black armor.
Orisa tried to get past them quietly, but the brother grabbed her by the shirt and threw a few meters back. Orisa fell on the ground painfully but tried to stand up the same moment.
"Speak when a Noble is addressing you, creature!" The sugar blob shouted angrily and pointed her wand at Orisa:
Orisa quickly fell back on one knee and covered her head with both arms when a golden fist fell on her from above. It hurt much, it really did, but she was surprised to find out that the damage was way far from a bone-crushing hammer she experienced last time. She grunted but slowly got back to her feet and muttered:
"What is it that you are trying, fiendfood? Showing off?" The pink girl spat angrily and aimed again:
Orisa stood still, covering her head with her right forearm, and when the fist came down crashing again, she sensed a noticeable discomfort. Her hand hurt a little, but that was the end of the story. None the less, she muttered again:
Now her right forearm was covered with a thick shield, and when the spell struck her for the third time, only her hand shook a little from the impact.
Orisa smiled in satisfaction and started walking to the gym's door again.
"You smirk bugs me, creature," said the brother and kicked her in the stomach. The impact made Orisa take a few steps back and felt uncomfortable, but her Thickness barrier absorbed most of the damage.
She had time to block the spell with the Force Guard, but the impact made her bend her knees, and her right hand went numb for a few seconds.
'I see no other acceptable solution,’ her calm and cool mind concluded, ignoring the pleas from her conscience to give up and let them win. When another spell forced her on both knees, Orisa finally covered under the horizontal Force Wall that blocked two more spells before the first crack appeared.
The moment Orisa got back to her feet, the brother joined the fray:
He made a punching motion with his right hand and a red pulsing projectile flew forward, ramming into Orisa's chest. She was thrown backward and ended on the ground, coughing in pain. 'And what if I was without Thickness?' She thought to herself, irritated.
'Don't go all out, please,' her conscience pleaded again.
"We are not done talking, creature," muttered the boy angrily, gritting his teeth.
Orisa slowly stood up, popping the joints in her shoulders, and said out loud:
"I wonder, what time is it already?" in a theatrically slow gesture she looked at her left wrist where the Postponer's hand reached its maximum of thirty seconds and shook her head melodramatically, "oh, look at this! Seems like it's time FOR YOU TO FUCKING DIE!" - "Enrage!"
The wave of rage began to engulf her entire being, filling her body with red hot lava. Suddenly, the freezing wind of an immense concentration blew over her molten veins, cooling them down. Effect of the Concentration potion clashed with the Enrage.
A high-voltage jolt ran through her body, and something inside her head clicked. The sensation was akin to adding the last piece of the mechanism that connected everything and made it work, launching engines and turning the lights on. The feeling gave her goosebumps.
Now she was COMPLETE.
Time slowed down considerably. A new, calm and observant but bloodthirsty Orisa looked at the siblings and their slowly changing expressions.
'I can make a Force Wall with one Mana layer. What if I were to add another one and send it flying forward?'
As her hand slowly went up, she noticed that it was not the time that slowed down, but her mind that became much quicker. 'It's a complication. Their bodies are faster than mine, even though my mind is swift.'
The knight took out his sword when Orisa finished building her first spell:
An already familiar Force Wall appeared before her hand, swiftly flew forth and rammed into the sugar blob, smashing her against the building. The girl went limp when the Force Wall dissolved.
A slashing motion of the sword left a crescent-shaped trail that moved in Orisa's direction, but she intercepted it half the way with the Palm Push Strike and completely obliterated the wave, creating a shining cloud of quickly dissolving Mana.
The next thing Orisa saw was a figure of the knight a few meters away from her with his sword glowing red in a thrusting motion. 'He is really quick. Used a distraction to come closer. I need to change his trajectory or block the sword.'
While her body was much slower, Orisa still had her Mana flow that was almost entirely thought-based. She pushed Mana outside, splitting it in two directions with both Mana layers. Two Force Walls were made in quick succession, and she aligned them at an acute angle to the boy's trajectory. When his sword met the first wall, it cut through the barrier easily. The blade's path, however, was already altered because of that, and it lost most of its impulse, too. It harmlessly brushed against the second wall's surface without dealing a significant amount of damage, and the knight crashed into the wall with a loud thud.
"Palm Push Strike!"
Her target was two meters away, and part of the attack power decayed because of this distance, but the boy's black armor still got bent from the strike, making him cough out some blood and groan in pain.
Orisa was hammered into the ground by a powerful strike, barely avoiding any critical injuries, although something cracked slightly in her left shoulder. On the bright side, the sister now was panting heavily after overexerting herself on a Greater spell.
On the day of their group training, she came up with another spell thanks to Nana's help. The spell was based on her Force Wall and conjured three similar barriers around a target, trapping it inside a triangle-shaped prison. Sadly, she couldn't use it from a long range, and each barrier in its structure was weaker than her normal Force Wall.
The brother became trapped inside the spell, and Orisa dashed to the sister, covering her own head with the Force Guard. She saw fear and panic on sugar's face as the girl tried to come up with something and failed miserably in the face of Orisa's quickly approaching palm.
"That's enough," - "Lesser Dispel!"
A loud and stern voice made Orisa stop in her tracks a mere three two meters away from the girl. The feeling of her engines turning went away when her Enrage and other spells were dispelled. Luckily, the Concentration potion's effects were not magical and still coursed through her body.
Lieutenant Reezpauzo stood at the corner of the gym's wall with arms crossed, and he looked extremely annoyed, even mad.
"This creature attacked us!" The victim of severe mental trauma cried out.
"I saw everything, and can testify in the court if needed," he spat these words and came closer to the group. Seeing the girl was not content with his reply, he added in an even more commanding tone, "I'm acquaintance with both your father and Supreme Commander. One more word and I'm reporting your behavior to them. Now, get lost. It's an order from the superior officer."
Orisa observed the retreat of the grumbling siblings and turned to face Lieutenant when a fist flew to her face and threw her to the ground.
"What the hell were you thinking!?" He shouted angrily and showered her with saliva, "one wrong move and next morning you are executed for an assault of nobles. What if I didn’t pass by!?"
He fumed with rage. Orisa slowly gazed up to see his expression while pondering these words. Blood slowly dripped from her nose, but she paid it no heed, thinking calmly, 'Why is he so focused on me? I doubt that the officers here care that much about every cadet.'
"Thank you for stopping me, Lieutenant," she said while trying to sound grateful.
"As long as you understand," his rage subsided and he offered his hand to help her up.
The bleeding stopped and she felt much better. Seems, there were injuries she failed to notice in the heat of the battle, for her Thickness was far from bulletproof.
"What are you even doing here this late?" He asked half surprised, half upset.
"Went for a training session. Can't sleep."
"Ah, yes, I heard about your incident," his voice softened a bit.
"Perhaps you heard that she was pregnant?"
"My ears still hurt after witnessing the scolding healer Angela gave your captain," he chuckled slightly after replaying new sweet memory inside his head. "Don't worry too much. After signing up with any Noble house, she would have been forced to have an abortion anyway."
Trying not to think about the situation again, Orisa nodded quietly and asked another question looking at the Lieutenant intently:
"Are you really familiar with Supreme Commander?"
"You would never know," he let out a dry laugh and opened the gym's door, "go on and show me your arsenal."
Orisa entered the building with a furrowed brow, doubting the whole situation. 'Why is he so focused on me? Is it curiosity for freaks or something else?'
When they entered the room, she turned around to confront him:
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but it all makes me wonder as to why you are so concerned with me?"
"Something a little out of the ordinary, you know, in our boring daily grind," he shook his head tiredly, "don't think too much about it. I'll take a quick glance. Maybe throw a pair of ideas or comments and leave. Other things to attend to."
She was thoroughly unconvinced but had no formal reason to decline his request. Deep inside Lieutenant's eyes, she saw caution and wariness, and his body language displayed a degree of tension.
Half an hour later Lieutenant Reezpauzo left the building and headed to the rendezvous point beneath a lightning-charred tree. After bending down on one knee in front of a dark armored figure, he spoke in a revering tone:
"Greetings, my Lord. Here is my report and a formal invitation for tomorrow's exam," he handed two white envelopes with both hands.
Both envelopes quickly disappeared inside hunter Nowanzi Goalo's armor, and he addressed his follower:
"Was there anything out of the ordinary?" his voice was deep and radiated with power and authority.
"I think you will find my report quite amusing, My Lord."