Cold. The stone floor provided a bed of ice for Liri to shake against as a man kicked her head.
The first time, she'd screamed and clawed, the second time, less so, but she'd managed to land a solid punch on one of her attackers. This time, the third time, her golden eyes were empty and her dry lips a thin line as she gazed up into the slowly moving clouds she could barely see beyond tall-reaching buildings.
Cold. No pain, no anger. That was all she felt as fists and kicks rained down on her.
"Aye," the man standing above her said. He had one tooth, a hairline that was at the top of his head and a lazy eye. "She ded or sometin'?" He asked a friend to his left.
"What it matteh?" The man replied with a sadistic smile.
"Heh, righ." He kicked her again for good measure.
"Ya done mahe?" Another man asked.
"Yeh. We're done 'ere."
Liri could have chosen to stay silent, but as they stood to leave, the words wouldn't stay in her lungs.
"I'm going to kill you." She whispered. There was no anger behind her words. She spoke as though it were prophecy.
"HA!" The three of them laughed heartily. "Find us if ya wanna keep this up. Yer lucky we don't just stick a nail in yer throat and leave ya here to bleed." One of them replied, but Liri didn't turn her head to see which. "Actually, gimme a sec boys, let me clean the pipes."
The next thing Liri saw was the sky blocked out by a skeletal-looking man with his cock out. Before she could turn away, as if she had the energy to, the man was pissing on her bare stomach. Lucky. A part of her thought. At least my shirt won't get too dirty.
As the man retreated, Liri was surprised to feel liquid rolling down her swollen face. She was amazed that crying was still something she could do. That they hadn't taken that away from her along with whatever pride she still had left.
"You're worthless." Those were the first words Liri could remember hearing. She wasn't sure if she heard it from the orphanage she'd been tossed out of, or from the family that had left her at the said orphanage. But she was sure that had been said to her. It was one of the few memories she still had of that damned place. She had no friends there, no one who cared about her existence.
She only ever learned how to read and write because the elders would force her to do their work for them. Those two words became more and more ingrained in her mind day after day. And even when she slightly forgot the world seemed to want to remind her of that. As she laid on the floor, a small puddle of urine to her left, words appeared above her.
Effect Gained: Mildly Injured
Movement slowed. Mental effects may vary.
She nearly smiled. These damn messages were always so helpful. She wished she could turn them off, as right now, they came across as nothing but a cold-hearted joke.
Effect Gained: Starving
HP will deteriorate gradually. Leads to death.
This one, in particular, she saw all too often.
After a long time laying there, with a grunt, she got on one elbow and slowly propped herself to her knees. That alone almost had her breathing heavy.
Effects: Starving, Mildly Injured
With a thought, the message disappeared. At least this one was convenient like that. She started walking aimlessly, her ankle hurt, she limped out of the alley and into the public street. She paid no mind to the civilians whose faces wrenched back every time they caught a whiff of her.
Automatically, she stuck a hand out as a civilian walked too close to her.
"Spare a coin?" She asked.
"Ugh, fuckin' street rats." The man said, but all Liri registered was the coin that was deposited in her cupped hands. One silver. Not enough to buy anything, but it was a start.
She kept it up, pestering whoever she could find. Occasionally, her body would let out a quick shiver, as if it was afraid the earlier events were happening again. At a point, she garnered four coins. Enough for a soup at a kiosk near the front of Ora.
A sound halted her step though. The sound of gates opening. She turned hurriedly pacing up the street, maneuvering between equally nosy citizens to see the source of the commotion. Finally, climbing on top of a few wooden barrels and cringing due to her hurt ankle, she saw what had drawn such a large crowd.
Four people on horseback rode into the city. All of them were dressed in strange-looking armor, some of it mismatched. Adventurers. Ora was not unlike most other nations in their adoration for adventurers, hell, some argued it was better to be a respected adventurer than to be a rich noble. Ora, however, took it a step further, by having its own Adventurer's Guild.
At the front was a woman with long, blonde hair that fell onto the horse she rode. Her eyes were confident, narrowed onto the horizon. An ax rested at her waist, a weapon she could clearly carry with ease if her muscled arms were any indication. Tied to her horse was the skull of a large beast. She was probably the leader of the group. Some information appeared above her head.
Liri couldn't hide the awe in her eyes. She moved on to the one behind her. A nearly-bald man with a brown beard and a scarred face. He looked just as tough as the woman but traded the elegance for intimidation. Especially with that giant battleax at his back.
Behind him, a girl dressed in skin-tight green leather. She smiled and waved at everyone they passed with a cheerfulness Liri didn't know existed. Liri noticed a few daggers on her waist.
Finally, the last member rode in. He seemed to be the youngest of them, with a barely-formed beard and a body that had not yet seen too much battle. One large book clung to his belt, flopping with the wind.
As his horse galloped forwards, the man waved back and forth at the people around him. Several women shrieked an action that caused his face to flush red. Liri watched them draw closer, and soon enough, they were right next to her, passing by.
The battlemage, the last one, locked eyes with her. Liri subconsciously took a step back, feeling unworthy under the pressure of such a gaze.
He waved at her, and Liri found herself slowly waving back.
These were the people who mattered. These were the people who were worth something. These were the people she could never hope to be.