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Master Pacore the Deathless’ Point of View:

 

It's hard not to skip down the road. If I weren't surrounded by my men, I'd be dancing with joy.

 

“Sir, you’re smiling like that again,” young Jason points out to me.

 

“I can’t help it,” I chuckle.

 

“You’re worrying the men,” Jason reminds me with a strained look on his face.

 

I ignore him and continue to strut down the road with a pep in my step. It isn’t my problem he’s feeling embarrassed walking next to me. Why should I contain myself any more than I already am? I'm keeping up a somewhat respectable appearance, aren't I? When was the last time I was this happy?

 

Was it when I took the fort from General Pitz?

 

No, even that fight didn’t fill me with such delight.

 

Fighting the dragon would probably be the best comparison, but that joy faded quickly after realizing we couldn't best the beast.

 

If we beat the mythical creature like I did General Pitz, it might feel something like the bliss I'm feeling right now. Of course, I can't in good conscience compare the two, but after the dragon, everyone felt helpless while the fight with General Pitz left me… underwhelmed? That's the best way I can describe it. If only she were adequately equipped, now that would've been a good fight.

 

I cock my head to the side and glance up at the woman riding the jelen. Leaning back, I dodge a well-placed kick that would've caught me under my chin. "I told you not to look at me with that disgusting smile!" She hisses down at me.

 

We left the village days ago, and the general's mood has only worsened the closer we get to Drey. I can't in good faith tease her anymore. Maybe my bragging over obtaining young Aaliyah as an apprentice was a touch too far. Anyone would be mad if they found such a gem lying around only to have someone else swoop in at the last second and snatch it before you could pick it up. Wars in Scholl have been started for less, so it's only right I let her vent her anger, but how long will that take?

 

The trip back to Drey feels like it’s taking longer than it should. Seeing how young Jason is trying to distance himself from me, and General Pitz is actively trying to hit me despite the strain it must be putting on her sealed body, my conversation partners have sadly dwindled to zero.

 

I tried to pull the commander into a conversation, but he politely refused me too, stating it was his job to make sure I stay safe. I would've believed that excuse if he didn't take one look at my smiling face and scurry back into formation like he'd seen a ghost.

 

Why must I contain my joy!? What's the point in being the strongest if you can't enjoy the little things in life? Usually, I'd be able to vent this frustration by talking to one of my apprentices, but I'm practically alone with no one to brag to about my recent windfall.

 

Oh, gods!

 

I’ve turned into a young girl in my old age!

 

I bring my hand up, pretending to cough, hiding the grin on my face. It's so much trouble being a pillar of a kingdom, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

As we move forward, the trees slowly start to thin out. And once we exit the forest, it shouldn't take us long to reach Drey. I'll have to explain to Lord Bullok why we were late to return. News of Aaliyah will need to be kept to a minimum as not to endanger her. Luckily for me, his highness sent Kellor to run these lands. The Bullok house are like me and support the young prince in succeeding his father. I can trust Kellor to keep an eye on the village without raising suspicion.

 

I’ll only have a day to get everything in order before we start marching on Blaiton. “Jason, as soon as we make it to Drey, I need you to go to the courier guild and send word for Tabitha.”

 

"Is she the apprentice you were talking about?" Young Jason questions me. "Isn't she one of the people leading your forces in Teeburn?"

 

I smile at Jason; he's been paying attention. Even though Lord Bullok arrived with the other nobles to run everything, young Jason has continued to watch their movements and has inserted himself into the day-to-day operations. When Kellor arrived, I vouched for the young man, but I'm sure his talents haven't gone unnoticed.

 

I recently even debated whether I should offer Jason a position working directly under me when I return to Drey. I'm already bringing one talented child back with me; I might as well make it two. I've truly benefited from this assignment.

 

“She is, and it’s not that big of a deal,” I tell him. “As long as we have the general as a hostage, Olebert won’t risk her unless we push them too far. Our reinforcements continue to further secure Teeburn, and other than a few light skirmishes here and there, the fighting has basically turned into a standstill. Tabitha will have a much more fun time with Aaliyah, rather than standing around doing nothing. She’s like me in that way.”

 

“Is there anything else you need?” Young Jason curiously asks me.

 

“Yes,” my smile turns more savage. “Send word to Grey, tell him I have business to discuss with him.”

 

Jason trembles under my gaze. "Are you going to kill him?" He asks.

 

"I haven't decided yet," I continue to grin. "It depends if he's willing to agree to cancel the contract with Aaliyah or not."

 

"But he runs almost all the trading in the area. You can't just kill him," Jason stresses. “You even said so yourself.”

 

"Then he'll just need to be replaced," I casually reply. Jason groans, probably imagining the chaos that will ensue once we reach Drey.

 

“Might I make a suggestion?” An ethereal voice whispers in my ear. Every soldier stops and draws his weapon. As they've been trained, my men close ranks around me.

 

“No need to fret; I mean you no harm,” the voice continues to resonate in my ears like someone is whispering right into them. I can think of a few spells and skill combinations that would produce such an effect, all of them favored by assassins and spies.

 

I scan the surrounding tree line, but I can't spot our guest. And seeing how my two scouts are still looking around, they haven't found the person either. "If that's true, then you can reveal yourself," I shout.

 

"That wouldn't be smart on my part; your men appear to be a little jumpy." The voice continues to change tone and pitch every few words, making it impossible to tell whether a man or woman is speaking. “I can’t afford to make a mistake in front of Pacore the Deathless.”

“You know who I am.”

 

“I wouldn’t be good at my job if I didn’t,” the voice laughs in my ear.

 

So, whoever they are, they're aware of who I am, and they still approached us. If they were here to kill me, they wouldn't have called out to us before attacking. Are they here for General Pitz? It doesn't feel like that, which can only mean one thing. "What is it you wish to discuss?"

 

The disembodied voice giggles. “I knew you would catch on quick. I’m here to discuss some business with you, Master Pacore, pillar of Scholl.”

"Then get on with it," I growl. "I'm already behind schedule."

 

“I would, but there are too many people around. Why don’t you step into the forest so we can have a private chat?” I have to smile at their nerve. To ask someone of my position to leave their guards behind willingly is a haughty demand.

 

"How dare you! Come out and die, wretch!" The commander shouts into the trees. The only thing he receives from his challenge is a mocking laugh in return that sounds eerily like a dozen children giggling.

 

I have to admit; I find myself curious. "Fine," I agree to the astonishment of my men.

 

“Master Pacore, you can’t!” The commander quickly objects.

 

“It’s fine,” I tell him as I make my way towards the trees.

 

“But sir, what if something happens to you!?” He tries to stop me.

 

I stop and turn on the man. “Are you questioning my authority or my abilities?” Releasing a bit of my pressure, the commander immediately closes his mouth and takes a knee.

 

“I meant no disrespect, Master Pacore,” he bows his head in submission.

 

“Good, then wait here for my return. This shouldn’t take long,” I walk into the forest and leave my men behind.

 

If this is truly a trap for me, I hope it doesn’t disappoint. It would be the first time an assassin asked me to make their job easier, after all.

 

Walking twenty or so feet into the forest, I can no longer see my men in the distance. "This is far enough; come out," I demand.

 

“As you wish.” My hand moves to my sword as a robed figure appears directly to my left, just out of my sword’s range. Their face and entire body are hidden under the large cloak to the point I can’t distinguish any of their features. “Scary, you didn’t even flinch,” the robed figure remarks. It no longer sounds like they’re talking into my ear, but the voice still sounds different every time they speak.

 

Well, it looks like they really are here to talk, and here I was hoping for a bit of excitement. "Who are you?" I ask, ignoring their comment.

 

“You can call me One. I’m sure that is enough for you to guess why I’m here.”

"You work for Silver Herd; it's no wonder you didn't want to talk in front of General Pitz." It appears Silver Herd is trying to play both sides of the conflict; how typical for a merchant company. It makes sense why they wouldn't want to talk to me while General Pitz is around; if word of this gets out, the company would be considered traitors.

 

“That’s right, so my boss would appreciate it if you kept this meeting between the two of us,” the robed figure starts circling me, making sure to keep me on my toes.

 

“If you’re here now, I venture a guess, it can only be related to Aaliyah.”

 

"Right again, I guess I don't need to tell you anything," the cloaked figure laughs again.

 

I can't help but find this meeting amusing myself. "I told Aaliyah to tell her friends about me, but I wasn't expecting such a quick response."

 

“Little Aaliyah’s ability is highly valued in the company. Of course, we would respond quickly when she tells us she became your disciple.”

 

“You’re saying I can’t take her as my disciple?” I ask in a challenging voice.

 

“You overestimate us, Master Pacore. Silver Herd doesn’t have the power to disagree with you.” I wasn’t expecting the switch to flattery.

 

"Then why contact me now?" I narrow my eyes at the circling figure. Their steps are light and well placed. No matter which obstacle they move around, they always keep an exact distance away from me.

 

"We were informed you were planning to deal with Lenard Grey. Is that true?"

"I can't have my new student chained down by such a malicious contract, now can I," I grin. "What kind of master would that make me?"

 

The hooded figure pauses mid-step for a moment before continuing to circle me, laughing like they heard the funniest joke ever. It’s grating on my ears for the laughter to quickly shift between a child’s giggle to an old man’s laugh. "You underestimate your new apprentice. She has already stated she would help us if we asked her to, but she ultimately left us to deal with Grey on our own terms."

My eyes widen at the revelation. I thought it was strange how she didn't seem that concerned with the contract she signed; now I know why. Even if I didn't say I would take care of Grey, Aaliyah already had a backup plan. "Then you're coming here to thank me for doing your dirty work for you?"

 

"Under any normal circumstances, that would be the case. However, now is not a good time for Grey to die." Even with the voice shifting, I can hear a bit of disappointment leak through. I guess my hooded friend isn't a fan of sparing Grey either. “Grey waited for your invasion to corner Aaliyah. If you kill him now, our branches in your cities will fall apart. That isn’t good for either of us.”

"What makes you think I can't solve a simple supply chain issue?" I emptily boast. The local supply chains are of great importance to our plans. With each hiccup we encounter, less food will be sent back to Scholl, and more innocents will die.

 

“Then I guess I no longer need to stay,” the robed figure comments with a young girl's voice. The figure starts to slowly inch away, calling me on my bluff.

 

"Wait," I finally call out once they're about to disappear amongst the trees entirely. "You're quite informed," I dryly remark when the figure returns to where they were standing.

 

“Just as you have spies in Blaiton, we have people in Drey. We’re quite aware of your situation. That’s why I was set to negotiate on behalf of the company.” The figure's artificial smug voice fits perfectly.

 

“You’re planning to betray Olebert?” I raise a curious eyebrow.

 

"Not exactly; the stipulation for us helping you is that you need to take Blaiton first. Silver Herd can't be seen as traitors; I'm sure you understand. Once the city is under your control, Silver Herd will 'reluctantly' agree to help you. Once we're reconnected with the Drey and Teeburn branches, Grey's value drops to zero."

 

I hum in thought and stroke my beard. I’m not one to let threats linger nearby, but I’m painfully aware of the current situation. Still, I see how this deal is necessary, even if it favors Silver Herd. “You won’t help me until I take Blaiton? What if we don't plan on attacking the city? We can dig in and hold Drey; what would you do then?" If push comes to shove, I need to know what they will do. My people informed me Silver Herd only operates in four cities. With the battle lines drawn, their market is cut in half; no merchant company could sustain itself after such a reduction.

 

My questions give the robed figure pause. “That would be unfortunate,” they finally answer. "It would make all the trouble we've gone to storing extra foodstuffs pointless. I suppose it will go bad long before we ever sell it all."

“That’s low,” I grit through my teeth.

 

"We were making plans to trade with you once you took the city; how is it our fault if you fall through? I don't think you forgot how dangerous it is for us to be talking to you. If it ever gets out that we didn't report your whereabouts or General Pitz's location, many would be labeled traitors and killed as an example. I came here to tell you Silver Herd has no problem working with Scholl, but to do that, we need a guarantee that our people won't be labeled traitors in the near future. It shouldn't be hard for the great Master Pacore the Deathless to conquer a city, is it?"

 

To think such a small merchant company would put up such terms fully knowing who they’re dealing with. “And my new apprentice, where does Aaliyah fall into your plans?” I ask with a grin.

 

The robed figure takes a step back, not expecting my relaxed attitude. Do they believe this is the first time I'm negotiating with deserters? Turncoats, spies, I've encountered countless individuals trying to negotiate during war. It's usually impossible to trust anyone who would sell out their own people. The only reason I'm entertaining this deal is that we need their connections and carts. But if they try to use Aaliyah against me, I'll destroy them just like I'll do to Blaiton. After all, I mostly just need their carts.

“She is not a part of this deal,” the robed person briskly answers. “Silver Herd recognizes her potential and won’t jeopardize our relationship with her. The reason we are meeting early like this is because we value our business with her. Silver Herd is betting on Aaliyah’s future growth after all."

 

“She won’t be here for much longer,” I point out.

 

It's hard to notice, but the figure nods in understanding. "That may be true, but we are aware of Aaliyah's personality. We might lose her business in the short run, but my boss is confident she would choose to do business with us in the future. That's the kind of person she is."

 

She's only fifteen, and yet she's drawn in so many people betting on her success. It almost sounds like they're more interested in maintaining their relationship with Aaliyah than they are working with me.

 

I can’t help but laugh heartily at the situation. I’ve just taken Aaliyah as my apprentice, and thanks to her connections, I already have an in with the local trading company.

 

“What’s so funny?” My shady friend asks, nervously taking another step back.

 

"Life in general," I joke. "Sometimes, it feels like the gods are moving things in my favor."

 

“Does that mean you accept our deal?”

 

"Yes, it does," I answer with a smile. "But just to be clear, if you answered any differently regarding Aaliyah or threatened me with her, I would've dismantled your company by myself."

“Then we should get along fine,” the figure retorts. "I'll let my boss know that you agreed." The hooded person slinks back into the forest and quickly disappears.

 

“Not even a handshake?” I complain out loud.

 

“Maybe next time,” a man’s voice whispers in my ear.

 

I don’t wait long to start walking back to my waiting men. I’m still ready to defend myself should this be an elaborate trap, but I doubt it.

 

As soon as I reemerge on the forest trail, I'm assaulted by young Jason and the unit commander's questions. I wave them both away and demand we make way for Drey at double speed.

 

I need to hurry back and prepare.

 

Thanks to Aaliyah and my deal with Silver Herd, I have more incentive than ever to finish my campaign.

 

Blaiton won’t know what hit them!

 

**********

 

Aaliyah’s Point of View:

 

“198!” I bring my axe down in front of me again. My arms are screaming for me to stop while the sweat is pouring from my face.

 

“199!” I swing again, letting the pain in my hands distract me from thinking about my family.

 

“200!” I finish my set, and it didn't help. I'm still thinking over all the options my family has been discussing. I don't want to uproot my family while they insist they follow me to Scholl.

 

“I thought we were supposed to be working together on the engraving ink today?” Sandra complains from over by the forge, pulling me out of my thoughts.

 

"It's no use; she's been practicing like this ever since Pacore left," Master comments from his bench.

 

“Damn,” Sandra swears.

 

“And what’s wrong with my practicing?” I hiss in frustration.

 

"Nothing," Master remarks in a fake tone of voice. "Just the fact you've been straining yourself for four days straight. I know how you feel, but you need to take a break soon."

 

"Do you?!" I snap. "Because we got our asses handed to us without leaving a scratch on that old bastard, and I'm the only one who seems bothered by it!"

 

Master sits up and frowns at me, and I immediately start to feel bad. I know master isn’t happy about the result of our fight either. Expecting a tongue lashing, I close my eyes, waiting for Master to yell at me.

 

It isn’t until I hear a deep sigh that I open my eyes to see Master leaning forward with his head down. "You're right," he admits. Master looks up with a sad expression. "If only I were stronger."

 

"No," I say, putting my axe down and grabbing a nearby clean rag to wipe my face. "As soon as Pacore got serious, we were doomed. Even if we were both stronger, I doubt we would've done much damage to him."

 

"It was that bad?" Sandra asks us in disbelief. "My dad told me you guys lost, but he didn't mention it being so one-sided."

 

“We caught him off guard in the beginning, but after that, he moved like he knew what we were going to do before even we did,” I tell Sandra. I try to clench my fists in frustration, but they're sore from excessively practicing my weapon skills.

 

“And now you have to leave the village?” Sandra hesitantly asks.

 

"Not at the moment… but eventually, yes, I'll have to leave the village with Pacore." The three of us brood in silence, with only the crackling of the forge's fire in the background.

 

I break the silence by growling in frustration. “I’m just so mad!” I yell.

 

Sandra moves over and hugs me. "It's ok to be mad," she tells me.

 

The hug doesn't douse my anger, but it does smother it a bit. "You know that batch of ink is ruined now," I whisper to her.

 

"It's your fault," Sandra playfully pushes away from me and moves to remove the beaker of black sludge from the fire. “This wouldn’t have happened if you were helping me,” she jokingly complains.

 

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Give me a second to go over my status page, and I'll help you with the next batch."

 

“You better,” Sandra threatens me through her mask.

 

Shaking my head, I pull up my Status Page:

 

LV: 73 Experience: 518,017/ 956,780

Health: 2,430/2,430

Stamina 1,431.66/1,650

Mana: 827.42/1,020

Vitality: 243.00

Endurance: 100.04

Strength: 152.01

Dexterity: 150.02

Senses: 62.42

Mind: 65.25

Magic: 102.82

Clarity: 78.80

Status Points: 0

Skills:

Tier 1:

Meditation (LV78), Running (LV77), Blacksmithing (LV72), Hammer Skills (LV60), Axe Skills (LV60), Cleaning (LV53), Chanting (LV50), Mining (LV50), Drawing (LV46), Trading (LV45), Cooking (LV41), Sword Skills (LV39), Dagger Skills (LV34), Acting (LV33), Wood Carving (LV31), Sewing (LV30), Alchemy (LV7), Pugilist Skills (LV7), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV79), Double Step (LV63), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV47), Hammer Arts (LV43), Axe Arts (LV39), Writing (LV32), Intimidating Shout (LV31), Mathematics (LV30), Steady Hands (LV23), Increase Price (LV21), Lower Price (LV20), Sword Arts (LV17), Dagger Arts (LV13), Gourmet (LV7), Marching (LV5), Shout of Valor (LV3),

Tier 3:

Expel Mana (LV62), Mana Manipulation (LV61), Precise Strike (LV40), Double Strike (LV40), Weighted Strike (LV40), Flash Step (LV25), Contract (LV14)

Tier 4:

Mana Skin (LV55), Mental Resistance (LV55), Inject Mana (LV53), Extract Mana (LV34), Magic Blacksmithing (LV28), Empowered Spell (LV14), Air Walk (LV11), Magic Threads (LV9)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV40), Soul Manipulation (LV10)

Tier 6:

Soul Devourer (LV2)

 

Increased Skill Levels

Hammer Skills (LV60) 3,000exp

Axe Skills (LV59-60) 5,950exp

Sword Skills (LV35-39) 9,250exp

Dagger Skills (LV34) 1,700exp

Acting (LV33) 1,650exp

Sewing (LV30) 1,500exp

Double Step (LV63) 6,300exp

Axe Arts (LV39) 3,900exp

Steady Hands (LV23) 2,300exp

Sword Arts (LV16-17) 3,300exp

Mana Manipulation (LV61) 9,150exp

Flash Step (LV25) 3,750exp

Contract (LV8-14) 7,700exp

Mental Resistance (LV55) 13,750exp

Empowered Spell (LV13-14) 6,750exp

Air Walk (LV10-11) 5,250exp

Magic Threads (LV1-9) 11,250exp

Soul Manipulation (LV9-10) 9,500exp

 

Skill Experience: 105,950exp

Crafting Experience: 9,225exp

Fighting Experience: 1,001exp

 

Total-experience Gained: 116,176exp

 

It's been over a week and a half since I checked my status page, and I know I should be proud of earning so much experience in such a short time, but after my defeat, it feels hollow.

 

My weapon skills have only leveled because of the fight with Pacore and the subsequent training I’ve been forcing myself to do the last few days.

 

I've been practicing Mana Threads constantly since I unlocked it, but now that it's about to hit level 10, its growth has started to slow down. The levels I gained from the contracts with Pacore are bittersweet, and each night since my defeat, I've been trying to raise my soul skills.

 

I crafted another two kaglese spears, one kaglese sword, and four steel spears before Pacore showed up in the village, and since then, I haven't had time to forge anything else.

 

I don't even want to think about the experience I got from fighting Pacore. Master and I treated it like a life-or-death battle, but the amount of experience shows just how little effect we had against him.

 

Sighing, I close out my Status Page.

 

“Stop being gloomy and get over here and help me,” Sandra waves me over. She really knows how to cheer a girl up. While I was going over my Status Page, Sandra was mixing a new batch of engraving ink and putting it into the forge.

 

Step 1 was mixing the herbs together, step two is heating the solution, and step three was adding in crushed magicite. It took us almost a full month just to get the third step correct. Grabbing my notebook from the nearby bench, I review the exact details of the three steps we’ve deciphered so far.

 

Step 1: First, mash the eathrosse into a paste. Then mix 2 ounces of eathrosse paste with 16 ounces of purified water. Dice 5 ounces of devil's poke and add it to the mixture. Lastly, stir the entire mixture until it becomes a purplish-black color.

 

Step 2: The mixture must be heated from the bottom and sides evenly, using a fire around 600°F. The mixture starts binding after seven minutes and finishes after eleven.

 

Step 3: While the heated mixture is still in the forge, add 43 ounces of crushed Magicite to the mixture. Stir rapidly while increasing the temperature to 850°F. Maintain that temperature for five minutes while continuing to stir before removing the mixture and letting it cool.

 

Sandra has already stirred in the magicite, and it should only be a few more minutes before we pull out the beaker.

 

Step 3 was the most challenging step yet because the first half of the step lured us into a false sense of security. It was easy to figure out the mixture needed to remain heated while adding the magicite, and we figured out the quantity needed in only a single day. All we had to do was add small amounts of magicite to the mixture until we put in too much and ruined it.

 

We thought we would have step 3 down after a week, but we were sadly mistaken. The two of us burned through probably a dozen mixtures before we figured out we needed to up the heat in the forge. Then we wasted even more time trying to figure out how long it needed to remain at that temperature, along with the fact that we need to continually stir it along the way.

 

The last part of step 3 was only solved because Sandra was mad after a day of failures and removed the mixture, thinking we were done for the day. Needless to say, we were pissed when the mixture settled properly after we had given up. I have no idea how alchemists figured these steps out from scratch.

 

And because Sandra and I like to torture ourselves, we can’t just give up after all the work we’ve put into everything.

 

I watch Sandra grab the beaker with a pair of tongs and move it over to a metal stand we have waiting nearby.

 

We were supposed to start step 4 five days ago, but that was the day Pacore kicked our asses around the quarry.

 

“What should we try first?” Sandra turns and asks me.

 

"I don't know," I half-heartedly reply. In the instructions Reel brought me, step 4 simply said add mithril, and after the last step, those two words are like a punch in the gut.

 

“If you’re not going to help me, go mope over by your master,” Sandra narrows her eyes. I can’t read her expression under her mask, but I'm sure she's frowning.

 

“I’m fine,” I groan.

 

"No, you're not," Sandra rebukes me. "And the quicker you realize that, the faster I'll get my friend back."

 

“This is the first time I failed,” I whisper dejectedly.

 

“You’re overexaggerating,” Sandra huffs.

 

“She really isn’t,” Master comments from his bench.

 

Sandra’s eyes widen. “You’ve never failed at something before?”

 

I almost absentmindedly say ‘not in this life’, but catch myself before I do.

 

“You have to have given up on something!?” Sandra drills me.

 

I shake my head no. "I've always powered through until I eventually succeeded. There were a few close calls, but everything turned out alright in the end. I always managed to grow stronger to meet the challenges at hand, but not this time," I hang my head.

 

"That's honestly a little scary," Sandra tries to poke my side playfully, but she doesn't have the Strength to get through Mana Skin. "But I think I figured out what has you so bothered," her cheery voice gets me to raise my head again.

 

“I’m bothered because I lost.”

 

"Nope, that's not it," Sandra shakes her head. "The reason you're having such a hard time accepting your loss is that you think you'll never manage to beat Pacore."

 

"What?" I ask, dumbfounded.

 

Sandra patiently explains herself. "You've already told yourself you'll never beat Pacore. Usually, you never give up until you succeed, but now that you have, you feel terrible."

 

“I haven’t given up!” I protest.

 

“Oh yeah?” Sandra challenges me with her eyes.

 

“I’ll punch him the next time I see him,” I tell her.

 

Sandra just shakes her head again. "That's not what I'm talking about. Tell me 100% honestly, can you see yourself beating Pacore in a fight, ever?"

 

I want to shout yes, but the word doesn't come out.

 

“See,” Sandra moves in and gives me another quick hug.

 

Holy crap, she’s right! Sandra just Dr. Phill’d me.

 

But when did I tell myself I would never beat Pacore? I told myself I would kick his ass, but that was more of a way for me to rebel against him. I’m not even sure if I meant it.

 

I try to imagine fighting Pacore again, and the first thing that comes to my mind is me lying on my back with his sword pointed at me while I'm weak and helpless. I don't want to feel this way, but like I said after I finished my practice swings, I can't help but feel that any chance I have at fighting him is doomed to fail.

 

“I think you’re right,” I finally squeak out in a quiet voice.

 

“That’s ok,” Sandra consoles me. “Now you can move past it.”

 

I wish it were as easy as she said. "I'm not sure if I can," I admit. "You didn't see him fighting us; we outnumbered him, we were faster, stronger, it didn't matter. He was covered in magic items!"

 

“And what about your magic items?” Sandra questions me.

 

I frown, “We don’t have stuff like that.”

 

“But if you did, would you have lasted longer?” Sandra grins at me. “If you had a few years of training, would he still be able to dodge all your strikes?”

 

“Pacore sounds like a legend,” Sandra continues. "I know you're strong, but did you really consider it a fair fight between the three of you? I bet he had an emergency magic item that could've saved his life even if you managed to hurt him. How many years do you think he's spent fighting? If you had all of that…, do you think you would've stood a chance?"

 

“Maybe,” I answer.

 

"That's a start!" Sandra exclaims. "Now help me figure out step 4, so you can make your own crazy awesome magic armor.”

 

"Alright," I agree, with a smile starting to return to my face.

 

I'm not ignorant to what Sandra just did, but sometimes you need people to spell something out for you to understand properly. She's right; if I feel inadequate when I compare myself to Pacore, I just need to continue to grow stronger until that feeling disappears. And when it does, I'll rechallenge Pacore, and when I do, I'll win.

 

“Let’s figure out step 4,” I smile at Sandra.

 

“Now you’re talking!” She exclaims.

 

Sandra is going to make a great mom; I know it.

 

And I’ll grow stronger too and be the best aunt I can be.

 

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A note from kosnik4

5,500 words.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter and is having a great weekend. 


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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