"So... Why do you want to come again?" Liri asked, strapping her boots on in her dark Hunter's Guild bedroom.
"I want to watch." Lise replied with a smile, standing by the doorway.
"Is that a problem?" Lise crossed her arms.
"... Do what you want."
"Perfect! I'll wait for you outside." Lise skipped away, leaving Liri to sigh in the darkness. Beside her, Casira slept peacefully.
"... Hey." Or so Liri thought, as she looked up and saw that the warrior had turned and was facing her.
"I..." Casira breathed in deep. "I wanted to apologize."
Liri stopped. She looked up at the warrior with wide eyes.
"I wanted to say I was sorry, I, uh, I was out of line. I didn't know you and..."
"No need." Liri quickly tied the Silver Straight Sword to her belt, stood and left the room, leaving Casira to mutter "dammit" behind her.
Hate was something Liri was used to. She could deal with it, put walls up and force herself to get over it. Whatever that was, whatever Casira had just tried to do, Liri didn't think she could handle it.
She walked quietly out of the Hunter's Guild, the sounds of light snores filling the ambiance as she caught up with a waiting Lise.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to be ready for, honestly." Liri admitted as the pair started to walk out into the cold night streets.
"I'm sure you'll do great!" Lise smiled widely.
"Uh... Thanks?" Liri eyed Lise for a moment. She couldn't understand how someone could be so happy all the time. Especially since not too long ago, Lise had seen a person die right in front of her. Did she just not care?
A short walk later they were back at that alley, where this time, Aleah waited patiently with her back to the opposite building's black wall.
"You are here early. Were you eager to begin?"
Liri couldn't respond, as something appeared above Aleah's head.
Activities like these will raise your attributes proportionally to the amount of time spent in the activity. Doing this contributes to your level EXP, but to a far lesser extent than real combat!
1 DEX Per 1 Hour
1 EXP Per 1 Hour
(These numbers may vary from one person to another!)
Good job so far, Liri!
The prompt disappeared just as Liri read the last line.
Wait. Aleah was still taking, but Liri couldn't hear her over the rambling in her own mind. Did that message just say my name?
"Um... Liri? Is everything okay?" Aleah asked.
"O-Oh! Sure, sure. I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I was telling you that the training we will be taking part in is largely based on this book I have with me. The Art of Dueling. I have been studying this for years, I feel that I have a solid grasp of its content."
"Okay, let's get started." Liri stood up straighter.
"Alright." Aleah smiled. "Ready your blade."
Liri unsheathed the Silver Straight Sword clumsily.
"Be patient." Aleah quickly instructed. "No matter what you're doing, slashing, or just taking out your blade. The first step is to calm down. Breath in and let your worries out."
"Okay..." Liri nodded.
"So, you want to hold the sword up with the tip of the blade level with your eyes. Hold it straight, keep it steady." Liri shifted as Aleah continued. "There are several different possible stances, each one has different advantages and strengths, just whether or not you hold your sword with one hand or two hands has implications. But as far as I can tell, you are the careful type, so this is the best for you."
It took a few minutes for Liri to adjust her body according to Aleah's instructions and to understand why she was doing so. Although she ended up feeling stiff, she did notice she had much more control over the blade. Before long, Aleah was standing in front of her with a similar stance.
"Good. You look like a proper duelist. Now, there's three kinds of attacks. Thrust, swing, and feint. Each attack has a purpose, but also has a counter. Thrusts are easy to dodge, but hard to block, swings are the opposite, and feints set up other attacks, but if the opponent reads them correctly, you could lose the fight then and there."
Aleah took Liri through the process, indicating the correct angles and the amount of strength that had to be used to make an attack effective. They locked blades a few times, as was Aleah's way of demonstrating how it felt to perform every move.
Aleah had brought with her some kind of curved, thin blade. It was strange, but just as royal-looking as the princess was.
"The way you use your feet makes as much of a difference as how you use your hands. You do not want to step too far out or you will be swept. But, keeping your legs too close together makes you vulnerable to being overpowered." She placed her hand on Liri's thighs, separating them herself. For some reason, Liri found her body heating up. "Here," she said, taking a step back. "Just right. Now, move with me, stay in that position but try to shift your body to match mine. Stay right in front of me."
Everything Aleah said made Liri stop and think. How would her past fights be different if she had known about these details? She certainly would have stood a better chance against the assassin, but could she, maybe, have taken down the beasts in the mountains without Lise's help?
An hour passed in a flash, as noted by a message that appeared over Liri's head.
Gained 1 DEX Point!
She was sweating, breathing heavily as the most minimal of tasks given to her were hard to perform. Well, rather, hard to get used to. Aleah, on the other hand, was still smiling, calm and elegant.
"That is enough for today." Aleah said, sheathing the blade she brought with her. Liri did the same.
"Really?" Liri asked, panting. "It doesn't feel like any time passed."
"That's how things are when you're focused. I'd bet she disagrees with you though." Aleah tilted her head to the left. Liri turned and found that Lise had fallen asleep, sat on the tavern's steps. Aleah walked up to her, crouching down and giggling at the girl's expression. "She does not trust me." Aleah said with a smile.
"... Yeah, it seems that way." Liri shrugged.
Aleah stood and walked up to her.
"I cannot blame her for it. Many citizen's view of Saedryn is distorted. If someone went up to you and insulted the Five, I am certain you would have the same reaction."
"I don't really care for the Five." Liri took a step back.
"Truly? The Five deities who guard our world from horrors unknown? You care not for them?" Aleah asked.
"If my life's proof of anything, I think the feeling's mutual."
"I see..." Aleah placed her hand under her chin. "Then, I have a question."
"Why will you fight for Torasan then?"
"What do you mean?" Liri asked in return.
"You had said that you've too much on your mind due to the coming invasion. That said, you are not from here, you do not believe, or rather, you do not support any religion, I take it. Why fight? Why not look for the first carriage out and flee?" There was something about the way Aleah asked that question that irritated Liri. Her tone was implying that she already knew the answer.
Liri placed her back against the next building's wall, looking down at her feet.
"Because some day, I just want everything to stop."
"What do you mean?" It was Aleah's turn to ask. She seemed surprised.
"I don't want to fight. I don't want to be a Hunter or a warrior or whatever. I... Now that I know it's an option, I just want to have a place where I can sleep and eat in peace." Liri sighed. "I've been 'fighting' my whole life. I don't care for it. I do it because I need to, but really, I just... I don't know how to explain it better."
"No, I feel you have made yourself clear." Aleah replied, her smile gone. "You want peace. Not peace between lands, but peace for yourself. Still, that doesn't explain why you won't run. If i am understanding you correctly, any place would do, right? So, take a carriage and leave."
"How long would it last?" Liri asked.
"I do not follow." Aleah blinked.
"I ran from Ora. Now, the same is happening here. I could run from here too, but then the same would probably happen elsewhere. I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life running." Liri shook her head. "As much as I don't want to, I have to find out who's doing this, because I think, the only time I'll be able to rest is when they're dead."
"Ah..." Aleah smiled again, that same understanding smile that was slightly irritating to Liri. "I see. Well, I have kept you long enough. Tomorrow?"
"Sure. Same time?"
"Yes." Aleah bowed. She put her mask back on and walked past Liri, into the darkness. "Goodnight."
Liri didn't respond.
What the hell is my life turning into?
A light breathing took her out of her thoughts. Lise was still huddled against the stairs. Well, no sense in waking her. Liri placed her hands under Lise's legs and picked her up carefully. Holding her against her back, she started walking back to the guild.
A few minutes later, she was opening the door to her bedroom with Lise on her back. She let the girl down on her own bed and quickly fell onto hers.
... It could happen any time now. Liri thought. Tonight. Tomorrow. Will I be ready?
Those were her last thoughts as she went to sleep, exhausted. On one of the other beds, Lise opened her eyes.
"So, that's it? Peace?" Lise said, with no one awake to hear her. "... If I can do anything to help, I will."