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A note from MelasDelta

Hope y'all are enjoying the holidays :)

Noele gaped for a moment as the dust settled. The wooden beams collapsed, burying Jax amidst the rubble. She tried to work her jaw. “Is he… dead?”

“Dunno.” I shook my head. I glanced towards where the elf had crashed from my punch and shrugged. “He’s honestly pretty durable. I thought the first punch would’ve kept him down for a whole day. But he somehow got back up in only a few hours.”

At least, thanks to him, that awkward silence with Noele naturally came to an end. I really hadn’t been sure what to say about her sister. I probably should have given my condolences, but I felt like I might have said the wrong thing.

It wasn’t just the fact that I was trapped in the Fractured Realm for so long— I had never had to deal with such delicate subjects back on Earth. I had only been a twenty-year-old college student— rather privileged too. I never experienced— and I doubt anyone I knew experienced— anything as heavy as a sister dying to a bunch of evil bandits.

So I would rather not deal with it, rather than deal with it without tact. With Jax’s sudden interruption, Noele seemed to have regained her composure. She glanced towards me, pursing her lips.

“What if he… attacks you again?” she asked apprehensively. “Maybe we should just kill him. He’s not a good person, anyway. I’ve heard bad things about him.”

“Maybe.” I raised my head, considering the thought. “But he hasn’t hurt anyone yet. He even spared your life when he could’ve killed you, Noele.”

“That’s true.” The blonde girl bit her lower lip.

“It’s fine,” I said as I waved a hand off. I glanced towards the collapsed building and spoke dismissively. “This time, he should have learned his lesson.”

I started away from the commotion, heading back to Brynn’s inn to retire for the day. Noele just watched me as I gave her a reassuring look.

“I’m sure he’ll leave us alone now.”

 

—--

 

“Amelia! I challenge you to a duel!” Jax the Forsaken Archer yelled again and again over the next week or so.

As it turned out, the elf didn’t end up leaving me alone. It seemed that the first two punches weren’t enough to get it through his thick skull that he couldn’t beat me. In fact, each time he lost, he was somehow only emboldened to fight me again.

Whether it be when I was walking down market street with Noele…

“Amelia! You have not won just yet!” Jax appeared behind me, an arrow already-nocked onto his bow.

Or whether I was out on a D-ranked job…

“Amelia! Did you think you had beaten me?” the elf screamed as he leapt down from the canopy of trees. “I will not stop until I defeat you—”

It didn’t matter to him. He took every opportunity he got. The moment he recovered, he was back hounding after me like some kind of rabid dog. It didn’t matter what time it was, the moment he found me, he attacked me. Even when I was sleeping.

“Amelia!” Jax shouted as he smashed through my windows. He cackled wildly, vines shooting around him towards me. “Today is the day I shall—”

“It’s night, you fucking insane idiot!” I yelled back as I kicked him out of my room.

He shot out of the broken window, violently tumbling down the streets of Windrip. He crashed and rolled through the dirt road for a minute. Until, finally, he came to a halt when I couldn’t see him anymore.

Each time he attempted to challenge me to a duel, it always ended the same with. With a single hit, he was gone, out of commission for the next six or so hours. And he’d always return shortly after that without fail.

Sighing, I closed my blinds and turned over in bed as the cool outside wind blew into my room. I was going to have to reimburse Brynn in the morning for the broken window. A single thought crossed my mind as I dozed off back to sleep.

This… is starting to get annoying.

I just didn’t understand how Jax wasn’t getting tired of losing at this point.

 

—--

 

This… is so exciting, the thought crossed Jax’s mind the moment he woke up.

He was bleeding. His face smashed in— jaw broken and cheekbone shattered. He gasped, barely able to even breathe as his ribs bent back and squeezed against his lungs. He grabbed a healing elixir and quickly downed it, recovering back to full health mere moments later.

The elf inhaled sharply as he got to his feet. The sun was shining, just about reaching its peak in the sky. He must have been out unconscious for most of the morning, lying out here in the middle of market street.

“That’s Jax the Forsaken Archer, isn’t here? I heard he arrived in Windrip last week, but…”

“What happened to him? I thought he was an S-ranked adventurer— who could have done this?”

“I heard he was defeated by an unranked adventurer in battle—”

Yet, even as a crowd gathered around him— even as the passersby whispered and pointed his way— he didn’t feel an ounce of shame. Jax was never one to care about his reputation, hence why he never bothered to dispel all the false rumors spread about his name. Even the immense aching of his entire body from overdosing on too much potions was but a numb feeling compared to how he truly felt at this moment.

Excitement. This was so exhilarating. He hadn’t been challenged like this in so long. For the first time in over twenty years, the elf felt truly alive.

The last time he even felt remotely close to how he felt now was when he finally became an S-rank adventurer— when he slayed the Guardian Dragon of Zrayl in single combat. Even then, it was an incomparable feeling to this.

This… this reminded him of why he left his village and became an adventurer in the first place. The thrill. The blood coursing through his veins. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest like a master smith hammering away at their magnum opus.

It was the challenge. The threat. It felt so real. The fact that he was so clearly outmatched cemented this. At any point in time, Amelia could kill him if she wanted to. Yet, she didn’t. And Jax took his chances again.

Because he remembered what it was like to be a child facing down an enemy he couldn’t possibly comprehend. One he couldn’t run from— one that could have killed him with a single swing. But against all odds, he won.

Since then, he had been hooked to the adrenaline— to the catharsis that came from killing an enemy stronger than him. It made the level ups far more rewarding. He reminisced luxuriating in that feeling. He sought to feel it again.

This feeling of becoming stronger.

It was why Jax continued pursuing enemies. Unlike other S-ranks who reached what they thought to be the pinnacle of Vacuos and slowed down, the Forsaken Archer never stopped searching for a way to become even more powerful than he currently was. Because he didn’t become an adventurer to seek out riches, nor did he care for fame.

It was the same reason why he only ever fought alone. Even other S-rank adventurers collaborated from time to time, although adventuring teams and expeditions were incredibly rare at this level. Fighting alongside others would only defeat the purpose of his goal.

And his only goal was to become stronger— to relive that childhood memory of overcoming all odds, surpassing his limits, and winning against an unwinnable opponent. That was why he was so strong. That was why he was on the cusp of reaching SS-rank. He was Level 68 now. One of the highest-leveled individuals in the world.

Perhaps if he defeated Amelia in battle, he could finally reach Level 70. The thought itself made him shiver in excitement.

Jax scanned the faces in the crowd staring at him. He pointed at a random man and snarled.

“You, human.”

The man blinked and backed up, but the crowd receded from him. “M-me…?”

“Yes, you, you incompetent fool,” Jax said as he walked up to the man. “Bring me to Amelia.”

“But I don’t know who that is!” the man exclaimed.

“Figure it out. I need you to tell me where she went.” The elf spun around, walking down the street as he grinned. “I’ll need to prepare for our next duel.”

This time, for certain, he was going to defeat that brown-haired human.

 

—--

 

“What are you doing, Amelia?” Noele asked, and I turned away from the job board.

I looked at the blonde girl as she walked into the Adventurer’s Guild accompanied by Garron. Both of them had been out training again a few miles away from Windrip. They’d just returned from today’s session as they usually did just before the evening.

“I’m just looking for any jobs I can do, I guess.” I shrugged in response and faced the burly man. He was covered in grime and dirt, a few bruises visible on his face. “What happened to you? You look pretty fucked up.”

Until last week, Noele had apparently been losing their sparring sessions since she had refused to use her Skills. But over the last week, she’d been winning more and more frequently. Today, however, didn’t look like just a victory. It looked like it had been total and utter domination from the blonde girl’s part.

Noele scratched the back of her head as Garron groaned. “Oh, well, he asked me if he can try to tank my new… skill? Ability? I’m not sure what to call it. I just call it ‘Glorious Noble Slash’. And—” She gestured at him apprehensively. “You know?”

The Steel Tank sighed as he rubbed his shoulder. “To add insult to injury, Noele was only giving it a tenth of everything she got.”

“I didn’t say that!” the blonde girl protested. “I’m just saying it was barely stronger than a normal [Noble Slash], and what I used against Jax was about ten times stronger than that.”

He shook his head.“I do not understand why you would try to refute what I said only to support it.”

She pursed her lips. “I haven’t been able to recreate that attack, Garron. It was a one-time thing because… of Jax. I don’t know.”

I watched the two bicker as I placed a hand on my chin. When they quietened down, I decided to speak up.

“I’d like to see your Glorious Noble Slash too,” I said as I faced Noele. “You know, since I’m your mentor and all.”

I did feel a little bit bad for not really teaching her much since I took her on as my apprentice. She blinked. Then her eyes widened. She took a step forward excitedly.

“I’d love to—” she started.

But a familiar voice interrupted her. “Amelia!”

I groaned. Noele immediately backed away from me, and Garron stared in shock at the elf standing at the door.

“Halt!” the burly man called out as the adventurers in the guild hall raised their weapons warily. “S-rank adventurer Jax the Forsaken Archer, you are not allowed to duel Amelia in guild property! It is against the rules of the Adventurer’s Guild for any A-rank or above adventurer from partaking in any brawls or fights in an official Adventurer’s Guild.”

Jax narrowed his eyes. He glanced around the room, gaze glazing over the counter where a [Receptionist]— not Justyn— stood, before landing at a second desk with a [Mage]. The elf snorted as he walked into the room. He didn’t instantly attack me, much to my relief.

But he made his intentions to fight me clear.

“As far as I can tell, this is not official Adventurer’s Guild property, human. So get out of my way or I will make you.” The elf’s eyes glinted threateningly as he raised his bow.

Garron hesitated, gulping before he could say his next words. “I—”

And I spoke over him. “Aren’t you getting tired of this by now, Jax?” I asked as I started forward. “You’ve lost a dozen times in a row. If you think I’ve been unfair, attacking you when you’re busy monologuing, then fine. I will wait for you to be fully prepared to duel this time. But I will only accept your challenge on one condition.”

The elf paused. He slowly tilted his head, eyeing me curiously. Then he sneered.

“Very well, I shall hear your request,” he said as he walked up towards me. “But I assure you, this time, I will not lose. This time, I want you to show me everything you’ve got, and I will defeat you. I challenge you, Amelia. And I will adhere to any terms you lay on the table.”

Jax was smirking. So completely full of himself. It was almost like he thought he was the one gracing me with his benevolence. As if he was the one doing me a favor by hearing me out. I sighed and raised a hand out.

“If I win—” I grabbed him by his cloak and pulled him close.

He yelped, trying to back away. But he couldn’t break free. I held onto him with an iron grip as he struggled. Then he froze as I held his gaze. His eyes grew wide as he saw me glaring dangerously into him.

And as I spoke, he trembled.

“Leave me the fuck alone or I’ll kill you.”

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MelasDelta

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