The first thing that Andre taught me was the importance of edge alignment, turns out it's pretty hard to cut anything when your sword gets stuck in the target or just bounces off after leaving an uneven gash. Ryse took out some magical dummies that could repair themselves at a rapid pace.
Still, the speed at which I destroyed them far outpaced their repair capabilities.
With my strength, even if my swing was awful there would still be enough force behind it to ruin the dummy. When that happened, I would either practice by swinging at the air or by training my footwork under Andre's watchful gaze.
While my skill with the sword was practically nonexistent I turned out to be pretty good at blocking and dodging. For the first in my life, I felt that the ballroom dancing lessons that my father forced me to take were useful. With a few tips from Andre, my feet landed just where I wanted them, most of the time at least.
As long as I could keep my focus I was able to ignore the sensory overload that came with my high stats. However, the moment I could no longer maintain that focus my movements turned disorderly and I would stumble on nothing.
When it came to blocking, I had no trouble intercepting Andre's slashes and thrusts with my higher speed. At some point Ryse joined it, he took out a spear without a point and joined in with Andre who used a long but thin one-handed sword.
The difficulty skyrocketed because it turned out that Ryse actually knew what he was doing, the two of them also cooperated seamlessly. I often found myself having to awkwardly jump over Ryse's spear and block Andre's attack at the same time.
The ballroom hall echoed with the sounds of clashing metal and wood, the piercing screech of our soles against the polished tiles made me cringe every time. This training was particularly deafening to me.
I don't know how long we were at it but at some point, Ryse called out a timeout.
"I can't believe it," He said, supporting himself on his knees and gasping for air, "We are drenched in sweat and out of breath while she is still as fresh as ever."
Andre smiled wryly, he was probably happy that he lasted longer than Ryse. "Let's take a break, what about dinner?" He asked us.
I was about to agree when someone opened the doors, we turned our heads just in time to see a young tall woman storming towards us. She was dressed in the same outfit as Ryse, a wave of long silky black hair whipped in the air with each of her confident steps.
She was roughly a head taller than Marie was, with excellent figure and long legs.
My heart skipped a beat when I realized how pretty her face was with her angular blue eyes, fine eyebrows and delicate lips. Her attractive face contorted into a frown when she saw the scene before her.
"A little girl is bullying you two?" She asked, her voice was soft but had a certain tremble to it.
Ryse scowled at her, "If you think your stamina is so great why don't you try her?" He pointed at me with his chin, "We've been at it entire morning and she hasn't broken a sweat."
The woman scrutinized me from head to toe, a beautiful smile sprang up on her face. "Maybe later, I am Lisa Viento, it's a pleasure to meet you." She said to me.
I nodded my head and also smiled, "Marie Penn, the pleasure is mine."
There was an awkward eye contact that lasted longer than I would dare to admit.
"Hey, hey!" He pointed at Lisa, "Keep your claws off Marie!" He turned to me and said, "She is a predator, don't let her hunt you down!"
Now, this, this was something interesting, I wouldn't mind being preyed on by her.
Andre sighed and muttered under his nose, "It's always the same..."
Lisa snorted, she pouted her lips and said, "Pot calling the kettle black. You are just mad that I have a better track than you do."
She actually winked at me. I was stunned for a moment before grinning and hiding my weapons. My face was burning, Ryse shook his head in disbelief and Andre was smiling wryly, they all seemed to know each other well.
"Oh, Marie, could you show Lisa your scrolls?" Ander asked me, changing the topic.
Feeling grateful that he spared me the embarrassment, I nodded my head and walked up to the table
"Please," I said and beckoned Lisa to come closer.
She approached with a raised eyebrow, "What kind of scrolls?"
Ryse and Andre also walked over, the former grinning. The moment I took out the scrolls I got a feeling of Deja Vu. Lisa inspected the scrolls wide-eyed, instead of screeching as Ryse did, she made more of a "Ho!" sound when she touched [Clarity].
She took a step back in shock when her fingers made contact with [Holy Furor]. "It's actually...?!"
"Yep, light. The last one is too." Ryse said smugly.
I couldn't help but shot him a disapproving look, Lisa was actually acting with more restraint than he did. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself and looked at me in disbelief. I repeated my made up story from before, it took her a moment to digest it.
"Miss Penn, no, Marie, can I test your magical aptitude?" Lisa asked me seriously.
Ryse said, "I am also curious, my portable tester broke and I haven't a spare."
"Please do, I also wish to know myself," I said to Lisa.
Lisa told me to sit down and she pulled up another chair to sit in front of me, Andre and Ryse looked on from the side. I felt a little bit uncomfortable with her sitting so close to me, I don't know what it was but something about her made me feel jittery.
She pulled out the same device that Ryse previously threw at me and held it up with two fingers, it slowly started to softly glow, the glow transforming into radiant gleam over time.
"Calm down and stick out your hand, make sure to not get startled when it touches your skin." She said to me.
"So that's why the last one exploded." I murmured under my nose.
"Wait, the last one?" Lisa asked me, confused.
"I threw it at her and it exploded when she caught it," Ryse said to Lisa, he traced his chin.
Lisa glanced at him and venomously said, "Your stupidity always astounds me. The portable testers are way too fragile to throw them around." She turned to me and smiled, "How old are you, Marie?"
"Tw- Fifteen," I said, hoping she would ignore my stutter.
"So young and cute!" Lisa exclaimed. The tester in her hands stopped glowing and she said, "Whenever you are ready."
Feeling slightly nervous, I stuck out my hand and steadied my breath. It wasn't easy, I tried to close my eyes but it only accentuated my other senses. Even when I ignored the salty smell of sweat present in the room, another fragrance stood out for me.
This woman... Instead of calming down, my heartbeat quickened and rumbled in my ears. I shakily stuck out my hand and tried to take another deep breath. Something fell into my palm, it was round and cold to touch at first but it quickly turned sweltering hot.
I couldn't even open my eyes in a time when a deafening explosion jolted my body, I fell back with the chair but something soft cushioned the fall. I opened my eyes and looked over my arm, there was nothing behind me.
An invisible force propped the chair and me back up.
"Too fragile she said, it exploded anyway," Ryse said in a mocking voice.
I looked at Lisa, she gave me a serious look and muttered, "Is this even possible..."
"What is?" I asked nervously.
Lisa looked like she wanted to say something but she shook her head instead.
From the side, Ryse said, "There is no way to know for sure unless we use a proper testing chamber. You might have been born with a rare element or your magical power is explosive in nature. Well, technically there is one more thing but its impossible."
"What last thing?" I asked, holding my breath.
It was Lisa who answered, "These testers were designed for humans, add something into the mix and the amount of natural energy in the body changes."
Andre's eyes gleamed sharply, "Marie comes from the land of heroes. Considering her natural strength, could it be possible that her potential for magic is also very high?"
We sat in silence for a moment, I don't know what they thought about but I didn't like how thin my web of lies was spreading. Lisa suddenly leaned in my direction with a handkerchief in her hand, she gently grabbed my palm and wiped the soot of my skin.
I sat there like paralyzed, my fake confidence crumbled under her touch. I stammered,
Lisa smiled prettily and slightly squinted her eyes at me.
Ryse must have been jealous because he coughed and said, "Where is that dinner you promised, Andre?"
Andre stood up, "Of course, I am sure Lisa is starving after the long road." He turned to Lisa and asked, "You arrived alone?"
She shook her head and also stood up, "With Land but you know him, he is cleaning his helmet."
Finally having some space, I took a deep breath. Curious, I asked, "Is he also one of the Lions?"
"Yes, Land Zastan." Lisa said, "You will meet him soon. Oh, I forgot to ask before, are you actually a part of our team?"
"Yes but don't expect much, I am a terrible fighter," I said to her.
"Don't worry about that, I am sure we will get along," Lisa said to me and stuck out her hand.
I grabbed it and she helped me up, her skin was really soft. We awkwardly stared at each other, holding hands, I woke up and embarrassedly pulled my hand back. Lisa only smiled and followed behind Andre who was already waiting for us at the entrance.
I got a grip of myself and followed, Ryse quickly caught up to me.
"I will make sure to protect you from this predator." He proclaimed.
With a mischievous smile on my face, I muttered, "I wouldn't mind getting hunted."
Slack-jawed, Ryse forgot to walk. "W-wait up, Marie!"
The atmosphere at the dinner was merry if not for some awkward moments initiated by Lisa, I actually started to memorize her moves, she was smooth as butter and I didn't mind learning from professionals. Lisa didn't bother masking her raging homosexuality, I wasn't sure if it was because of her high status or if it was just her personality.
To be honest, I didn't care either way, this was the first time I received this kind of attention from a woman.
The third Lion, Land, also joined our company during the dinner. He was a towering man wearing full plate armor and a helmet shaped like a lion's head, he wore his coat like a cape, tied by the sleeves around his neck. He actually didn't talk at all, instead, he communicated in hums and grunts.
Lisa later revealed to me that Land lost his entire lower jaw years ago and that he simply couldn't talk anymore. His helmet was magically enchanted to give him some comfort and to prevent infections, Land only rarely took it off and never in the presence of other people.
I shuddered at the thought of having to live like this, I didn't even want to imagine how he ate.
Lisa held my hand and said, "Don't worry sweetling, nothing like this will happen to you with me there."
Ryse snorted and violently smacked a cup against the table.
"You are shameless, we are going to fight against Thunder. From when are you strong enough to guarantee anyone's safety in his presence?" He asked, grimly.
The atmosphere instantly turned somber, I clenched my fist, my eyes fixed on the table in front of me. I had so much fun until now that I actually forgot for a moment why I was even doing this. Lisa's fingers squeezed around mine, I felt her hand quivering.
"We fought Ash once and we didn't have scrolls of such caliber before..." She said in a small voice that lacked conviction.
Ryse snorted again, "All seven of us were there and we couldn't do anything to him, look what he did to Land. I don't want to be a killjoy but you ought to treat this seriously. We are there on a suicide mission and you are molesting a teenager, have some decency." He stood up, "I am really sorry that you had to hear this, Marie."
Land let out a low "Hm." He waved to us and followed behind Ryse, leaving the dining hall together with him.
Lisa actually retracted her hand, she averted her gaze, I could see shame in her eyes. Now, I didn't mind her advances but I knew better than to say it out loud in a situation like this. Andre stayed silent, I wondered what he thought about this.
Feeling awkward, I broke the silence, "I am going to practice more, every moment matters."
"That's a good idea, will you help, Lisa?" Andre asked.
Lisa nodded her head and shot me a meaningful glance, I think she was being apologetic because she kept her distance after that.
We spent the rest of the day in the ballroom, while I haven't mastered anything during that time, I started to get a hang of my movements. Most of the time my legs listened to me, surprisingly, fighting felt a lot like dancing.
There was a certain rhythm to everything that was happening, the synchronization of my breath with my steps and then my heartbeat. I still had problems with sensory overload but it was getting better, I subconsciously learned to ignore some things.
At some point Ryse and Land joined us, there seemed to be a silent agreement between Ryse and Lisa because they no longer bickered or mentioned the previous situation. Ryse and Land replaced the other two who were running out of breath.
It turned out that despite his heavy armor, Land used two short daggers as his weapons of choice. I shot him a quizzical look but no one bothered to explain why he did so. Well, I say that but Land probably tried to, I just couldn't understand what his grunts meant.
It was already late evening when we were done, all four of them were deathly tired. I only started getting tired in the last hour or so but my clothes were long drenched in sweat.
"Are you even human, what is with that stamina?" Lisa asked me. She plopped down on the chair, her chest heaving.
I furrowed my eyebrows, humans were the only playable race in Lemuria but from what I understood there were other races in this world, probably even hybrids.
"I believe so, both of my parents are," I said.
Land grunted something and Lisa nodded her head at him and asked me, "Who are your parents? They must be famous in your homeland."
I clenched my jaw, there I go lying again. "I don't think so, please don't ask me about that."
Lisa looked disappointed but she quickly cheered up, "Are you staying in the palace with us?"
If looks could kill then Ryse's orange eyes would probably turn Lisa into ashes, he shot her a vicious gaze and turned his head, pretending to ignore her. Land let out a silent grunt, I could tell he was also annoyed.
Andre said to me, "If you want to stay I will arrange a room for you in this instant, it won't lose out to the one you rented in White Stallion."
I thought about it for a moment but I shook my head in the end, I said, "I prefer to stay in White Stallion for the time being. I will come every morning." Under my nose, I muttered, "I wish they had soap though."
Andre shot me a quizzical glance, "Did you ask a servant to bring you some?"
No, no I didn't.
Feeling like a complete moron, I massaged the bridge of my nose and said goodbye. Lisa told me she would pick me up in the morning but I was sure it was just a part of her attack plan. To be honest, with my lack of experience she could gobble me up with ease.
I couldn't keep my focus anymore so I changed CoM back to ninety-seven, everything felt dim and quiet for a few minutes until my brain adjusted again. I really felt the most comfortable with my stats at three.
Victoria was waiting for me in the room, she beamed at me and we had a short talk before I asked the crucial question about soap.
"Of course, Miss, I will bring some fragrant one right away." Victoria seemed to remember something because she added, "Speaking of which, someone gave Miss a dispelling potion instead of soap yesterday, that's why the bathtub stopped working."
Trying to control Marie's face, I said, "I-I see, I don't remember who it was though." It absolutely didn't sound natural but Victoria only smiled.
"Miss is so kind, anyone else would just point out which servant was responsible." She said with a conviction.
I awkwardly rubbed my nose and said, "Hehe, you've seen through me."
Victoria quickly brought me soap, it smelled sweet and was milky white in color, I couldn't tell what it was made of. I told her that she is can go for today because I planned to sleep after taking a bath but she kept insisting to stay.
She even proposed to massage my shoulders as I bathed but I shuddered at the thought.
First of all, I don't think I was able to strip with her looking at me. I never considered myself shy but there wasn't any situation like this in my previous life to confirm it either. Secondly, I was too scared that the situation would get out of control.
My brain really gave me some mixed signals recently.
After getting rid of Victoria, I took a really long and thorough bath. The spot on my palm that Ryse kissed itched the entire day, it was probably all in my mind but I couldn't get it out of my head. I rubbed that spot until my skin turned red, only then did I feel satisfied.
Going to sleep I couldn't help but think about the Lions, the feeling of camaraderie they gave off felt genuine. Lying on my back, I stuck out my hand in the air, CoM's red crystal playfully reflected the dim light.
I smiled, "We will win."